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July 3, 2015

July 1, 2015

Six Senators Demand Ex-Im Bank Liquidation Plan

Cruz, Lee and Rubio are among those pushing for a liquidation plan for the Export-Import Bank. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Cruz, Lee and Rubio are among those pushing for a liquidation plan for the Export-Import Bank. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Ex-Im Bank supporters were wrong if they thought the bank’s opposition would trail off after the charter’s authorization expired on June 30.

Six Republican senators Wednesday demanded a plan for “orderly liquidation” of the bank in a letter to Chairman Fred Hochberg.

Ex-Im supporters felt modest comfort Tuesday knowing that a lapse in the charter’s authorization didn’t mean total demise, as it could still service existing accounts until Congress voted for reauthorization — if Congress voted for reauthorization.

But the letter points out that one of the few allowable actions the bank can take without reauthorization is to “exercise certain functions for purposes of orderly liquidation.”

And like sharks circling a fresh batch of chum in the water, the gang of six demanded details of the plan, such as identifying which employees are part of the liquidation plan, justifying why their continued employment is necessary, producing a report on the dissolution of the Board of Directors, ending the administration of the bank’s website and other mortal remains.

The gang of six includes three presidential candidates, Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky; one of the most vulnerable candidates up for re-election in 2016, Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania; freshman Ben Sasse of Nebraska; and Mike Lee of Utah. They’ve given until July 15 for a response.

Don’t expect a positive response from the administration. President Barack Obama tweeted Wednesday afternoon that he’s still optimistic Congress will reauthorize the bank.

The letter’s text is included below:

July 1, 2015

The Honorable Fred Hochberg

Chairman and President, Export-Import Bank of the United States

811 Vermont Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20571

Dear Chairman Hochberg:

We write regarding the recent expiration of the Export-Import Bank’s (Ex-Im Bank) authorization, which expired on June 30, 2015. As you know, the Ex-Im Bank’s charter has not been re-authorized by Congress. As provided by law (12 U.S. Code § 635f), the Ex-Im Bank is permitted certain legal authorities, such as the ability to:

  •         Acquire obligations prior to this the date of termination;
  •         Assume liabilities prior to this date for obligations that mature after the date of termination;
  •         Issue bonds or other debts that mature after the date of termination; and
  •         Continue as a corporate entity and exercise certain functions for purposes of an “orderly liquidation.”

However, according to the Comptroller General, “once a termination or sunset provision becomes effective, the agency ceases to exist and no new obligations may be incurred after the termination date.”  Therefore, even though the Ex-Im Bank is fully funded through the end of the fiscal year, it is now prohibited from acquiring new obligations, assuming new liabilities, and issuing new bonds and debts.

Given the unique nature of your agency’s termination, we write to request clarity on your plan for an orderly liquidation, including:

A timeline for completion of orderly liquidation;

  •         A report on which employees are participating in the orderly liquidation and why it is necessary certain people remain employed during an orderly liquidation;
  •         A report on the dissolution of the Ex-Im Bank’s Board of Directors;
  •         The return of the Ex-Im Bank’s properties to the General Services Administration (GSA);
  •         The end of the administration of www.exim.gov;
  •         The continuance of servicing existing Ex-Im loans, obligations that have not completely matured, direct loans, or loan guarantees acquired or issued before sunset date; and
  •         Estimated savings on federal funding through September 30, 2015, through the orderly liquidation and wind-down of the Ex-Im Bank’s operations.

Moreover, the Comptroller General said that “payment of obligations incurred prior to the termination date is usually made by a successor agency, or by another agency pursuant to an Economy Act, 31 U.S.C. Sec. 1535, agreement entered into prior to the termination date.”   We respectfully request which agency will be deemed your successor agency and, additionally, would like the estimated payments of obligations incurred.

We would appreciate a timely response on these important questions by July 15, 2015. Thank you and we look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

Marco Rubio

Ted Cruz

Mike Lee

Ben Sasse

Pat Toomey

Rand Paul

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Kaine, Warner Question Shutdown of Security Clearance System

Virginia's senators are asking Archuleta about security clearances. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Virginia’s senators are asking Archuleta about security clearances. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Virginia’s Senate delegation wants answers about the shutdown of an Office of Personnel Management system for handling security clearances.

A significant number of constituents of Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner either work for the federal government or as contractors in positions that require valid security clearances to do their jobs.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 4:05 p.m.
Policy

McConnell Once Wanted Reagan on $10 Bill, Now Says Replacing Hamilton Is ‘Terrible Idea’

McConnell says taking Alexander Hamilton off the $10 bill is a "terrible idea."(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

McConnell says taking Alexander Hamilton off the $10 bill to make way for a woman is a “terrible idea.” In 2004, he talked up doing the same to make room for Ronald Reagan. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When Ronald Reagan died, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., proposed replacing Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill with the Republican president.

But McConnell slammed the Treasury Department’s plan to replace Hamilton to make room for a woman when asked about it Tuesday.

“A really bad idea, which is not to say that some woman or women in American history shouldn’t be honored, but the last person who ought to be removed from currency is the person who basically founded the American banking system and created the financial system for the United States, Alexander Hamilton,” McConnell said in a local TV interview.

Full story

June 30, 2015

Support for Puerto Rican Bankruptcy Builds

Schumer, D-N.Y., talks with reporters after the Senate policy luncheons in the Capitol, May 5, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc.

Schumer wants Congress to authorize Chapter 9 bankruptcy for Puerto Rico. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Puerto Rico’s slide toward Chapter 9 bankruptcy continues to gain momentum; Sen. Charles E. Schumer announced Tuesday his intention to introduce legislation allowing such a move.

The New York Democrat, along with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., is bringing to the Senate the companion bill to the measure Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner, Democrat Pedro R. Pierluisi, introduced in the House. Full story

Democrats Want Domestic Terrorism Probe After Charleston Shootings

Blumenthal is among the Democrats wanting a domestic terrorism probe after the Charleston shootings. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Blumenthal is among the Democrats wanting a domestic terrorism probe after the Charleston shootings. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Charleston, S.C., shootings have prompted six Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to push for hearings on domestic terrorism.

Spearheaded by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and the top Democrat on the committee, Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the senators point to statements by alleged shooter Dylann Roof before the massacre at the black church.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 11:08 a.m.
Democrats, Policy

June 29, 2015

In Washington, Ted Cruz’s ‘Truth’ Will Make Him More Enemies

A new book by Ted Cruz slams a number of his colleagues in what he calls the "Washington cartel." (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A new book by Cruz — “A Time For Truth” — slams a number of his colleagues in what he calls the “Washington cartel.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

When their presidential bids failed, senators as liberal as Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and as conservative as Barry Goldwater of Arizona returned to Capitol Hill and had productive — if not legendary — careers.

But Sen. Ted Cruz’s new book is the latest indication he has no plan to be a member of such a club if his run for the White House doesn’t go as planned. He is running against what he’s taken to calling a “Washington cartel.”

As to be expected from a senator who has openly sought to undermine GOP leadership, “A Time for Truth” does not pull punches, leading off with anecdotes about one of the more bizarre sequences of events in recent Senate history: the day the clerk’s microphone was turned off for a crucial vote on raising the debt limit.

Full story

June 26, 2015

Mike Lee’s Missed ‘Fast-Track’ Vote Causes Discord, Confusion

Lee and Cornyn talked Monday, a day before the trade vote. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Lee and Cornyn talked Monday, a day before the trade vote. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Mike Lee had said he supported a stand-alone measure to revive Trade Promotion Authority, but when the vote was called, the Republican was still in Utah.

The speculation was that Lee avoided a floor vote after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, announced in an opinion piece that he would reverse course and oppose the bill, demanding a commitment to shut down the Export-Import Bank and making other requests for amendments. But, to hear Lee’s office tell it, the decision to miss the vote was due to a family commitment — seeing his sons back in Utah, who had just recently returned from Mormon missions.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 7:38 p.m.
Policy

Gay Marriage Supporters Turn Focus to ENDA

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Baldwin and Merkley were among those signing on to a statement calling for additional action on gay rights. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Having achieved marriage equality in Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision, supporters of gay rights are making clear there’s still much work to do, including on employment discrimination.

“In dozens of states, a couple can marry in the morning, announce their union in the afternoon, yet lose their jobs or be evicted from their apartment by the day’s end. Just as we needed Congress to pass legislation to fully realize the promise of previous Supreme Court decisions recognizing fundamental civil rights, Congress must act to fully realize the promise of today’s ruling by introducing and passing legislation to finally provide comprehensive federal non-discrimination protections to LGBT Americans,” said a broad coalition of civil rights groups and lawmakers, including Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

Full story

Menendez: Suspend Iran Nuclear Talks if Iran Won’t Budge

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Menendez is asking new questions about Iran’s intentions in the Iran talks. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A Democratic senator who has led calls for stronger sanctions against Iran is joining Republicans skeptical of the country’s intentions when it comes to the ongoing talks over nuclear capabilities.

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Sen. Robert Menendez said the United States should step back from multinational nuclear negotiations with Iran.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 1:04 p.m.
Iran

June 25, 2015

In Highway Debate, Durbin Channels His Inner Jamie Whitten

Durbin is dubious the GOP will stick to their budget levels in appropriations bills. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Durbin said the Finance Committee needs to find highway money. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin and other Democrats have praised the efforts of the Environment and Public Works Committee on a six-year highway bill, but are stressing that the Finance Committee needs to find the money for a full authorization measure.

“It’s time for my friend Orrin Hatch to step up and be chairman. Make some tough decisions. Help us move forward in the Senate with a bill,” Durbin said.

Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, has held several hearings on the issue of funding and financing for surface transportation programs, but the panel has yet to come up with what might be $90 billion in revenue sources needed to pay for the Highway Trust Fund beyond existing user fees.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 3:57 p.m.
Policy

Next Obamacare Battle? The 2016 Election (Video)

Graham, R-S.C., speaks with reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday, April 21, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Graham said Obamacare will be the key domestic issue. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold subsidies for people to purchase health insurance forestalls the need for Republicans in Congress to take action on the law, pushing the issue as a substantive matter into the 2016 election cycle.

The candidates are embracing the shift.

Full story

June 24, 2015

Mississippi Senators Defend Jefferson Davis

A statue of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy and a Mississippi senator, has a prime spot in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A statue of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy and a Mississippi senator, has a prime spot in National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Mississippi’s two senators are ready to change the state flag, but they still honor and defend Jefferson Davis, the man who served as the president of the Confederacy and whose statue stands prominently in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tossed Jefferson Davis under the proverbial bus Tuesday — calling for the Davis statue in Kentucky’s Capitol to be moved to a museum — part of a wave of efforts across the nation to roll back Confederate symbols after images emerged of Dylann Roof, accused of killing nine in a racially motivated massacre in Charleston, S.C., posing with the Confederate battle flag. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 7:08 p.m.
Potpourri

Senate Votes to Send Trade Promotion Authority to Obama

McConnell succeeded in sending Trade Promotion Authority to Obama's desk.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

McConnell succeeded in sending Trade Promotion Authority to Obama’s desk. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After no shortage of fits and starts, the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s trade agenda — Trade Promotion Authority — is finally heading to his desk.

The Senate voted 60-38, to clear a measure that would revive “fast-track” Trade Promotion Authority. That vote was not in doubt, with the bill having gotten the critical 60 votes needed to limit debate on Tuesday.

“This bill will help farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and entrepreneurs throughout our country get better access to foreign markets and allow them to compete on a level playing field,” said Finance Chairman Orrin G Hatch, R-Utah. “This bill will help give these job creators – and the workers they employ – greater opportunities to grow their businesses which will help create a healthier American economy.”

Full story

Confederate Flag Aside, Other Symbols Are Everywhere

The Mississippi state flag, which includes the Confederate battle flag as part of its design, hangs in the U.S. Capitol along the Senate subway. The state's two senators called for changing the flag design Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Mississippi state flag, which includes the Confederate battle flag as part of its design, hangs in along the Senate Subway tunnel. The state’s two senators called for changing the flag design Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Confederate flags in South Carolina and Mississippi have garnered much of the public’s attention following the murder of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, but they aren’t the only symbols forcing politicians to judge the line between heritage, history and intimidation.

Full story

By Matthew Fleming Posted at 4:05 p.m.
Potpourri

Lawmakers Seek Live Supreme Court Audio of Gay Marriage, Obamacare Decisions

Grassley and Durbin want live audio of the release of the King v. Burwell decision. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Grassley and Durbin want live audio of the release of the King v. Burwell decision. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Ahead of key Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage and Obamacare, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers is making a plea to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., to provide a live audio feed of the release of the opinions.

The signatories of a new bicameral letter to Roberts include Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley. The Iowa Republican has long joined the Senate’s leader on the letter, Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., in pushing for televised coverage of Supreme Court proceedings.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 12:40 p.m.
Policy

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