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July 29, 2014

Posts by Humberto Sanchez

163 Posts

July 28, 2014

Bernie Sanders’ New Title: Dealmaker

veterans 300 072814 445x296 Bernie Sanders New Title: Dealmaker

Sanders and Miller hold a news conference announcing the VA deal Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Bernard Sanders didn’t seem a likely suspect to bridge Washington’s toxic partisan divide and cut one of the most significant deals in years.

But the Senate’s lone socialist and a potential 2016 presidential candidate did just that — negotiating a deal over the weekend to tackle wait times at the Department of Veterans Affairs and clear his biggest legislative test since he took over the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee gavel last year.

The Vermont independent’s compromise with House Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., would provide $17 billion to the agency with $5 billion offset with savings and fees elsewhere. In a brief interview after a Monday news conference announcing the deal, Sanders reflected on the difficulty of the deal.

“I learned that it’s very, very, very hard; that there are a lot of moving parts; that there a lot of people you have to pay attention to,” he said. “In this case with the VA, the administration, the Democrats, with Republicans and a whole lot of individuals within those entities. It’s tough stuff.”

So often, Sanders has been on the outside looking in, railing against the powers that be — like when he gave an eight-and-a-half hour speech on the Senate floor in 2010 torching the extension of tax cuts as “Robin Hood in reverse.” The speech, which generated widespread attention and is also known as the “filiBernie,” was published as a book in 2011.

But Sanders, who calls himself a democratic socialist and caucuses with the Democratic Party, said he wants to legislate, not just pontificate. He attributes his negotiating skills to his time as the first socialist mayor of Burlington, Vt.

“When I took office, people who supported me on the city council, we had two out of 13 and I had to make things happen while being in the minority, so I do know how to negotiate fairly,” Sanders said. “Negotiation is part of the political process. I certainly have been prepared to do that since day one.”

Asked how he balances his progressive views with his role as a legislator, Sanders said there is no recipe. “I do the best I can,” he said.

With regard to the VA, Sanders pushed hard for expanding the agency’s own facilities — and wanted to ensure that veterans weren’t used as pawns in the ongoing spending fight between the parties.

“By which I mean [Republicans would say], ‘Yeah, we will fund veterans health care, but we will cut Head Start or education,” Sanders said. “That I did not want to see, and that did not happen.’”

Sanders repeatedly said he believes that most Americans think taking care of veterans is part of the cost of war. And he had an advantage, given that failure to act would have been bad politically for both parties.

During the news conference, Sanders was quick to note how rare a deal — any deal — is in Washington.

“The United States Congress today, in my view, is a dysfunctional institution,” he said. “There is major issue after major issue where virtually nothing is happening.

“The important point is we are here together having done something that happens quite rarely in the United States Congress,” Sanders said. “I am proud of what we have accomplished.”

The deal is one of the biggest expansions of government since the GOP takeover of the House, with $10 billion to launch a program to allow veterans to seek private medical care if they have unreasonable wait times or if they live more than 40 miles from a facility.

The compromise also includes $5 billion for additional doctors, nurses and upgrades to facilities, although not nearly as much as Sanders wanted.

“I think we are [to] going have to be back discussing these very same issues sooner than I would liked to have seen,” he said.

But the deal also included funding to extend a scholarship to include surviving spouses of members of the armed forces who died in the line of duty, a bipartisan provision to let all veterans qualify for in-state tuition under the Post-9/11 GI bill, and language that extends an about-to-expire program that provides housing for veterans who are struggling with traumatic brain injuries.

Sanders and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who co-sponsored a veterans measure that passed the Senate last month, heaped praise on each other.

“John and I see the world very, very differently,” Sanders said. “But John made it clear that it was vitally important that this legislation be passed; that it would be an obscenity if it were not passed by the time we got out of here for recess.”

McCain reciprocated in a statement of his own, saying Sanders’ “tenacity and passion on behalf of America’s veterans cannot be questioned.”

The deal nearly didn’t happen, after talks collapsed last week over Republican objections to adding funds funds for doctors, nurses and facility improvements.

Miller, who had acting VA Secretary Sloan D. Gibson before his panel on July 24, had argued it made no sense to provide the agency funding for that purpose because it already had job openings that it couldn’t fill.

Miller offered Sanders $10 billion for veterans to seek private care, as well as for leases and authorization for 27 new major VA medical facilities. But Sanders rebuffed the offer and rejected calls from Miller to convene the conference.

Sanders and Miller agreed to restart talks over the weekend.

Asked late last week what it was like negotiating with the Senate’s foremost liberal, a visibly frustrated Miller said jokingly, and somewhat angrily: “Wonderful.”

But jokes aside, Miller said there is no personal animus between the two.

At the news conference Monday, Miller warmly thanked Sanders for “working in good faith throughout the entire process.”

“Sen. Sanders and I differ about certain things, but one thing we do agree about is that the veterans of this country deserve the best quality health care that they can get in a timely fashion,” Miller said.

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this article.

July 25, 2014

Walsh on Plagiarism: ‘I Made a Mistake’ But Not Due to PTSD

walsh 109 021114 445x294 Walsh on Plagiarism: I Made a Mistake But Not Due to PTSD

( Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. John Walsh said he “made a mistake” when he plagiarized portions of his Masters’ thesis and dismissed possible affects of post-traumatic stress disorder possibly playing a role.

“I was going to the United States Army War College, I had to write a strategic research paper and I made a mistake,” the Montana Democrat said Friday on KMMS AM Radio in Bozeman, Mont.

“It was an unintentional mistake when I put the paper together,” Walsh said. “It was a 14-page paper. There were 96 citations that I identified in the paper. Some of those citations were identified incorrectly and some of the comments that I left in the paper I did not put a citation against. So I made a mistake on my paper. It was an unintentional mistake.” Full story

By Humberto Sanchez Posted at 4:57 p.m.
Politics

July 24, 2014

VA Talks Collapse (Updated) (Video)

sanders 027 040913 445x296 VA Talks Collapse (Updated) (Video)

Sanders (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 1:08 p.m.  | Talks on a fix for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health care crisis have collapsed, after the lead Senate Democratic negotiator accused the top House GOP negotiator of a “take-it-or-leave-it gambit.”

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., said House Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., has signaled he has abandoned talks after calling a noon meeting of the conference committee in an effort to ram a GOP plan through.

Sanders told CQ Roll Call he did not plan to attend the noon conference meeting called by Miller.

“It’s not a conference. A conference is when two sides agree to meet. This was decided at 10 last night by the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs,” Sanders said, adding he would be prepared to talk with Miller over the weekend.

After Sanders and Senate Democrats opted not to go, Boehner sent out a statement blasting them.

“In the wake of the shocking scandal at the Veterans Administration, the House passed a bipartisan VA reform and accountability bill, and we’re ready to complete work on an agreement the president can sign. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats refused to even show up and discuss bipartisan solutions, preferring instead to talk behind closed doors. That is shameful. If President Obama cares about America’s veterans, he needs to pick up his phone out in California and tell Senate Democrats to get to work.”

Sanders blasted the move in an earlier statement of his own.

“Instead of working constructively toward a compromise, Miller unilaterally called a ‘conference committee meeting’ to unveil his take-it-or-leave-it gambit,” Sanders said in the release. “This is a sad indication that the House leadership is not serious about negotiations.  We don’t need more speeches and posturing. We need serious negotiations — 24/7 if necessary — to resolve our differences in order to pass critical legislation.”

On the Senate floor, Sanders said Miller’s move was a low point in the talks.

“This is a proposal that nobody on our side has seen,” Sanders said. “My understanding is that he then wants to take this to the House on Monday and [hold] a vote.”

“Any sixth grader in a school in the United States understands that this is not negotiation, this is not what democracy is about,” Sanders continued.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has also been involved in the talks, agreed that negotiations are in a difficult period, but suggested Sanders go to the noon meeting prepared to negotiate in calm fashion.

“I hope we could go to this conference at noon today and listen to the various proposals,” McCain said in an effort to save the talks.

Sanders asked McCain to sit down with Miller and the ranking members to work out a deal.

“I’d be more than glad to do that,” McCain said, adding he hoped agreement could be reached Thursday.

Durbin Puts His Mark on Defense Bill

durbin003 061714 445x299 Durbin Puts His Mark on Defense Bill

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Waging war on smoking, for-profit colleges and tax loopholes may sound like odd subjects for the military spending bill, but not when you consider who is wielding the gavel.

In an era without earmarks, Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin has used his perch atop the powerful Defense Appropriations Subcommittee to put his stamp on several of his priorities, like increasing the accountability of for-profit schools getting federal tuition dollars through the Pentagon.

“If you’ve been bored and watched C-SPAN, you’ve probably heard me on the floor talk about this a couple times. This is serious,” the Illinois Democrat said at last week’s Appropriations Committee markup. “Corinthian Colleges is about to fail and go bankrupt. It’s going to cost the United States over a billion dollars when this for-profit school goes under.”

Full story

July 23, 2014

Bob Dole, Veterans Groups Push Disabilities Treaty

vet presser053 072314 445x298 Bob Dole, Veterans Groups Push Disabilities Treaty

Former Senate Majority Leader Dole, R-Kan., speaks with Sen. Ayotte, R-N.H., after a news conference urging the Senate to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Despite remaining short of the 67 votes needed to ratify the United Nation’s disability treaty, disabled veterans groups are pushing for a vote to identify the holdouts.

Former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., at a press conference urging ratification, said the treaty is a no-brainer to help veterans.

“I just hope the Republicans will take another look and support this treaty,” Dole said.

“This is a common sense thing … so … the people in wheelchairs can have the same rights when they travel overseas as able-bodied persons.” Full story

By Humberto Sanchez Posted at 2:33 p.m.
John McCain

July 22, 2014

Reid: ‘Absurd’ Obamacare Decision Vindicates ‘Nuclear Option’ (Video)

Senate Democrats are hoping their use of the “nuclear option” to end a Republican blockade of circuit court nominees last year will help overturn a 2-1 appeals court ruling with the potential to gut Obamacare tax subsidies for millions.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., blasted the court’s ruling that Congress only wanted to provide tax subsidies in states with their own exchanges an “absurd” move by “two activist Republican judges.”

The administration plans to appeal the ruling to the full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which now has more Democrat-appointed judges after the nuclear option blew up GOP attempts to filibuster Obama’s nominees. Full story

July 21, 2014

Nomination Backlog Frustrates Administration, Democrats as August Looms

A pileup of nominations — particularly for scores of would-be U.S. ambassadors — has the Obama administration pushing hard for Senate action ahead of the August recess, while senators want to get home to campaign before the midterms.

There are 224 executive and 29 judicial nominations awaiting Senate action, according to the White House, including many whose lives have been on hold for a year or more. The Senate last year used the “nuclear option” to change the rules so a simple majority can confirm most nominations — and that move has shrunk the judicial backlog.

But a backlog has built up in executive branch nominees, including 56 ambassadors.

Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to voice concern over the pileup, and a State Department spokesman said the former Massachusetts senator was expected to speak by phone with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Monday while traveling in the Middle East.

“We hope the Senate will come to agreement to confirm nominees before heading into recess,” Assistant Secretary Doug Frantz said in a statement Monday. ”There is plenty of time remaining in July to do so, particularly if they can reach an agreement to approve the career nominees in a block as Secretary Kerry has proposed.”

“We are redoubling our efforts on ambassadors,” said a senior Senate Democratic aide. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Democrats are about to threaten the August break to confirm them.

“These ambassadors are America’s front lines, fighting to defend our interests abroad — our security interests, our national interests, and our economic interests,” Reid said last week. ”Right now, there are gaping holes in our nation’s front lines. … A quarter of all American embassies are without an ambassador.”

After the rules change, Republicans retaliated by slow-walking numerous nominees; the rules change allowed a simple majority to advance nominees but kept in place time limits that allow Republicans to force Democrats to burn days of floor time to get to a final vote.

“Some Senate observers say that Republicans are stalling these nominations as payback for the rules changes instituted by the Senate,” Reid said. “Let me see if I can wrap my head around this — Republicans are stalling executive nominees vital to our national security to get back at Democrats? To get back at me? Stalling these nominees is jeopardizing America’s interests abroad. It is damaging our nation’s role in global affairs. It is damaging our national security. Is this conjured-up political retribution worth harming the U.S.?”

Republicans say Democrats only have themselves to blame.

“Their complaint assumes there should be no consequences for Majority Leader Reid breaking the rules of the Senate to change the rules on the processing of nominations,” the Senate Republican Policy Committee wrote in an issue brief. “The consequences of that act were predictable. Senator Obama predicted the consequences himself when a rules change was contemplated in 2005, saying, ‘If they choose to change the rules and put an end to democratic debate, then the fighting, the bitterness, and the gridlock will only get worse.’”

The nominations backlog in the ambassadorial ranks has been a recurring topic of discussion at the regular State Department press briefings in recent weeks.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki likened the Kerry proposal to accelerate career appointees to the way the Senate treats military promotions.

“And just to not to put too fine a point on it, obviously for America to continue to play a strong role in the world, we need equal treatment for diplomats, we need to have ambassadors and our representatives on the front lines in these countries around the world,” she said on July 9.

Asked if the nuclear option has contributed to the backlog, Psaki dismissed the contention.

“There has been a logjam in the Senate on the Senate floor about nominations and legislation long before … Majority Leader Reid moved forward with the nuclear option several months ago. That was put in place because there was a complete deadlock on getting anything done in the Senate at all,” she said.

Democrats have also highlighted delays of top veterans’ officials — some waiting more than a year for confirmation even as the crisis at the Department of Veterans Affairs unfolded.

Numerous other would-be officials are awaiting their fate. If they don’t get confirmation before the August recess, they’ll be waiting months longer for confirmation — or be stalled forever — given that the Senate will have a limited schedule before the November elections and faces a lame-duck session where floor time will be at a premium.

At some point, Senate Democrats could deploy the nuclear option again to cut down on what the Senate aide calls the “slow-motion temper tantrum.”

At the beginning of this Congress in January 2013, the chamber adopted a bipartisan agreement that reduced the post-cloture debate time for certain nominations. That agreement will expire at the end of the year.

If they manage to maintain the majority, Democrats would have to either negotiate time rules with Republicans or use the nuclear option again.

Given the mounting frustrations, “If it comes to a head, the caucus will be more supportive,” the aide predicted.

Correction 6:42 p.m.

An earlier version of this post misattributed the quote from the Republican Policy Committee.

 

July 17, 2014

Putin Should Pay if Malaysia Airlines Jet Was Shot Down, McCain Says (Video)

mccain 028 090413 445x303 Putin Should Pay if Malaysia Airlines Jet Was Shot Down, McCain Says (Video)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If it’s determined that Ukrainian separatists shot down the Malaysia Airlines plane that crashed in Eastern Ukraine Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin should face consequences, Sen. John McCain said.

The Arizona Republican said it’s too early to know exactly what happened to the plane that reportedly crashed near the Russian border.

“It’s an outrageous and incredible act of terrorism that people [should] be held responsible and not only be people directly responsible, but indirectly,” McCain said when asked about reports the plane was shot down. “And if these are … separatists, which are also Russian, Vladimir Putin should be paying a heavy price. But I am not concluding yet that until we find out all the information.”

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, said he expected a briefing Thursday.

President Barack Obama announced Wednesday new sanctions targeting Russian businesses in retaliation for Putin’s actions on Ukraine.

July 16, 2014

Durbin Wants Defense Spending Bill on the Floor, but Isn’t Optimistic

durbin elshami 294 093013 445x296 Durbin Wants Defense Spending Bill on the Floor, but Isnt Optimistic

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin would not concede that the only way forward for fiscal 2015 appropriations is a continuing resolution, but he wasn’t very optimistic.

Asked if the regular process of handling bills one at a time was dead, the Illinois Democrat said ”I hope not, but it really looks tough.”

Durbin’s comments come a day ahead of a scheduled full committee markup of the fiscal 2015 defense spending bill. In addition to his leadership role, Durbin serves as chairman of the Defense subcommittee, which considered the measure on Tuesday.

Full story

Democratic Leaders Plan to Bypass Wyden on Internet Sales Tax Combo Bill (Video)

durbin 114 021114 445x302 Democratic Leaders Plan to Bypass Wyden on Internet Sales Tax Combo Bill (Video)

Durbin wants states to be able to collect sales taxes on online transactions for out-of-state purchases. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Democratic leaders plan to do an end run around Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden and combine House-passed legislation extending a moratorium on taxing Internet access with a Senate-passed proposal to require online retailers to collect sales tax.

“I think it’s fair to say the two are going to be together,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters Wednesday.

The Internet Tax Fairness Act passed the House Tuesday by a voice vote. The Marketplace Fairness Act passed the Senate last year, shepherded by Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo.

“There is a deadline, Nov. 1,” Durbin said. “The Internet Tax Freedom Act would expire. States and localities would be able to tax the Internet, which is something none of us want to see; I shouldn’t say none of us, most of us don’t want to see that happen.

“So now we have suggested to the sponsors and supporters of that measure that if they join it with Marketplace Fairness that we have might have a great package to get done on time,” Durbin continued. Full story

Obama’s Embrace of GOP Highway Fix Frustrates Senators Pushing Long-Term Deal

murphy 026 040913 445x330 Obamas Embrace of GOP Highway Fix Frustrates Senators Pushing Long Term Deal

Murphy has been pushing a gas tax hike to bolster the Highway Trust Fund. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A group of Senators focused on forcing action on a new highway bill expressed disappointment with President Barack Obama for backing a House-GOP stopgap measure that they argue would encourage kicking the can down the road. Full story

July 15, 2014

Harkin’s HELP Committee Shows Off the Lost Art of Legislating

harkin 041 020713 445x326 Harkins HELP Committee Shows Off the Lost Art of Legislating

Alexander, left, and Harkin have racked up legislative victories on the HELP Committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Ask Sen. Tom Harkin about his committee’s work this Congress and he’s ready to rattle off a key statistic.

“Fourteen bills. More than any other committee in the Congress. Fourteen bills signed into law.”

The retiring five-term senator — who hails from a vastly more productive era — might seem at first blush an unlikely candidate to break through in the most dysfunctional Congress ever. Harkin is an unabashed Midwestern liberal. But he’s also proved adept at reaching across the aisle on issues that don’t always make the front pages — such as the Workforce Investment Act reauthorization — a major overhaul heading to the president’s desk.

To hear Harkin tell it, much of the opportunity for success comes from having an old-school legislator as a partner.

“First of all, I have a good ranking member in Lamar Alexander. While we disagree on things, we’re able to work together and find common ground and get it done,” the Iowa Democrat said. Alexander, who became the top Republican on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee this Congress, learned the ropes under a fellow Tennessean, the late Majority Leader Howard Baker.

“That’s just it. We just work. It takes work. It takes time,” Harkin said last week, as leaders in both parties hailed the WIA.

It also takes discipline.

Harkin rejected the idea of adding an unemployment extension he and other Democrats supported to the re-authorization. “We worked five years on it and it’s a good bill and we are not going to let it get screwed up by anything,” Harkin said when the bill headed to the floor.

Alexander said the HELP committee has a history of focusing on areas where common ground between the parties can be achieved, including under the leadership of the previous chairman, the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

“I’m proud of the progress we’ve made and I’ll give Sen. Harkin a good deal of the credit,” Alexander said. “Ideologically, we are very different, but we both know that our job is to get a result where we can. We have a huge jurisdiction. Sen. Kennedy used to say that we have about 40 percent of the jurisdiction of the Senate. And I think we’ve produced more legislation that has been reported to the floor and become law than any other committee.”

The House cleared the workforce investment agreement with an overwhelming 415-6 vote on July 9.

“The Workforce Investment Act had been stuck, literally, for 10 years. And finally, especially due to the work of Sen. Murray and Sen. Isakson, it passed,” Alexander said, lauding Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., for running point.

“I think what you saw was both of us sit down and work with our counterparts across the aisle to find common ground and achieve something that was really important to our country. And that is how we work,” Murray said.

Alexander also highlighted the work of longtime committee members Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., and Richard M. Burr, R-N.C., who helped pass the Child Care Development Block Grant, which helps low-income families.

“I think part of the solution is that we look for areas where we can get a result, and we have good participation from other members of the committee. It’s not just a two-man show,” Alexander said.

Other HELP Committee measures that have become law this Congress include a reauthorization of the toll-free number for the poison control center and promoting access to epinephrine pens in schools. Harkin has more he wants to get done before retiring, but getting his education agenda to move could be quite a struggle. There’s more of a partisan divide on that issue than some others he’s handled.

“I’m working on the higher education bill. I’ll have it out in September. I don’t know know, maybe lame duck,” Harkin said. “Maybe.”

If he does, it might be testament to the relationships he’s built.

In 2011, he told CQ Roll Call that President Barack Obama didn’t seem to enjoy the give and take of the Senate.

“If I only dealt with my Republican colleagues only on an issue basis, I probably never would get anywhere,” Harkin said then. “But I deal with them on a human basis, too.”

Alexander said he had particular issues with the Democratic view on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act — also known as No Child Left Behind.

“Like on kindergarten through the 12th grade, my view of the Democratic bill is that it creates a national school board. We simply don’t agree so we had competing bills. On higher education, we may have some different opinions,” Alexander said. “But where we can agree we’ll work together.”

But Alexander also pointed out his recent effort with Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., to simplify the process of applying for and receiving federal financial aid to attend college. Their bill would eliminate the current 10-page Free Application for Federal Student Aid and replace it with a simple, two-question postcard.

At a meeting of the National Governors Association on July 11, Alexander stood up and showed the current student aid form to demonstrate its length.

“Because it’s a bipartisan effort, I think it has a much better chance of actually getting a result,” Alexander told CQ Roll Call. “So we are not just interested in making speeches, we are interested in getting a result and where we can we will and where we can’t, we’ll lay those items aside and go on to something else.”

Harkin’s also continuing to focus on early learning legislation, pushing for floor time.

But his other baby, the appropriations bill that funds the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, is stuck in a broader morass as Democrats seek to avoid contentious amendments.

Asked about the chances to consider that bill, Harkin said: “I have no idea. I really don’t know.”

“I think the CR that we have in September is going to be short-term, probably until December or something,” Harkin said. “And then after we come back in the lame duck we’ll work on a longer bill, and hopefully it will not be a CR, but it will actually be an omnibus.”

And naturally, one that includes his bill.

When Harkin retires at the end of this Congress, Murray — who has been bolstering her legislative bona fides this Congress — could be in position to take his dual gavels at HELP and the appropriations subcommittee that funds the programs HELP oversees. But she declined to say whether she would.

“All those questions will be answered at some point, I am not ready [to] yet.”

July 10, 2014

Reid: Unemployment Extension Could Get Attached to Supplemental

unemployment 047 020614 445x296 Reid: Unemployment Extension Could Get Attached to Supplemental

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday he hopes senators get a chance to add an unemployment extension to the $4.3 billion emergency spending bill.

“Well, there’s a chance,” the Nevada Democrat said when asked about the odds Sen. Jack Reed would be able to attach an unemployment extension to the supplemental.

Reed, D-R.I., said he wants to use the emergency spending bill as a vehicle for the unemployment extension.

“I would hope so, he deserves that,” Reid continued when asked whether Reed would be able to offer his amendment. “He and Heller deserve that.”

Reed and Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., have been advocating for bringing back emergency unemployment compensation benefits since they expired in December and have drafted two five-month long unemployment extension bills, including one that passed the Senate in April.

Reid noted that the earlier efforts haven’t gone anywhere.

The Republican-run House never considered the first measure, arguing it does nothing for job creation.

“We are losing some of our enthusiasm when the Republicans simply, other than Dean Heller, just turn a blind eye to these people who are suffering,” Reid said.

In the meantime, a bill that at one point had been considered a leading contender to carry an unemployment extension — a job training overhaul — has blitzed through both chambers.

Related stories:

Obama Knocks GOP on Unemployment Extension, Tax Cuts for Wealthy (Video)

No Unemployment Extension Add to Job Training Bill

Boehner’s Move on Unemployment Extension, Reid Says

Will Obama Call Boehner on Unemployment Extension?

Perez Offers to Negotiate Unemployment Extension With Boehner

Senate Passes Unemployment Benefits Extension

Unemployment Extension Vote Not Worrying House Republicans

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Senate Filibusters Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Bill

hagan 114 061714 445x275 Senate Filibusters Bipartisan Sportsmens Bill

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The bipartisan sportsmen’s bill championed by endangered Sen. Kay Hagan became another election year casualty today with a majority of the Senate refusing to end debate.

The North Carolina Democrat’s measure, which would expand hunting and fishing access on federal land, was falling well short of the 60 votes to invoke cloture and end debate on the measure, as a number of Democrats joined Republicans to rebuff Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid after he moved to block amendments. Just 41 voted in support of cloture and 56 opposed.

Despite having broad bipartisan support, Republicans turned their nose up at the package after the Nevada Democrat filled the amendment tree yesterday, blocking the ability to get votes on their amendments.

Reid had urged Republicans to give him a reasonable list of amendments to approve that would lead to passage of the bill. He was concerned Republicans were more interested in scoring political points than in legislating. A slew of politically charged gun rights amendments had been filed to the proposal.

The scenario has played out increasingly in recent months as both parties seek to position themselves ahead of the November midterms.

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By Humberto Sanchez Posted at 12:35 p.m.
Guns

Rubio Calls for Obama to Help Vet in Mexican Jail

rubio 065 0601114 445x296 Rubio Calls for Obama to Help Vet in Mexican Jail

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., voiced concerns Thursday about a Mexican judge’s decision to return Afghanistan war veteran Andrew Tahmooressi to jail for breaking Mexico’s strict gun laws.

“I am very dismayed by the judicial order to continue detaining Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi in Mexico,” Rubio said. “Sgt. Tahmooressi has been languishing in a Mexican prison long enough.”

Tahmooressi is from South Florida, according to Rubio’s office.

“My office met with Sgt. Tahmooressi’s mother in Florida last week and has been in contact with the family from the start of this ordeal,” Rubio continued. “We remain committed to doing whatever we can to assist them during this difficult time.”

Rubio also called on action from President Barack Obama to help secure Tahmooressi’s release. Full story

By Humberto Sanchez Posted at 12:20 p.m.
Marco Rubio
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