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May 25, 2015

Posts in "Filibusters"

May 20, 2015

As Many #StandWithRand, Edward Snowden Sits Alone

Rand Paul launched an attempt to filibuster an extension of NSA surveillance powers Wednesday, but doesn't back clemency for Edward Snowden, the contractor who exposed the scope of the programs. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rand Paul launched an attempt to filibuster an extension of NSA surveillance powers Wednesday, but doesn’t back clemency for Edward Snowden, the contractor who exposed the scope of the programs. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

If time heals all wounds, then Edward Snowden needs more time to get right in Washington.

Snowden is exiled in Russia, having been charged with espionage and no sign that President Barack Obama will grant him clemency.

On Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul launched a long floor speech hoping to end the bulk data collection programs that Snowden exposed. Most of the bipartisan coalition of senators who aided Paul in relief did so while promoting a bill that would end one of the programs — the one collecting telephone metadata. And a few weeks ago, a federal court ruled the program violated the law.

But still, Snowden still sits alone. No senators on Wednesday said their perception of the former National Security Agency contractor had softened or changed since he two years ago leaked to the media data exposing the scope of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.

Comments around the Senate ranged from outright contempt to calling him a criminal whose actions may have led to some good. But no one defended him. Full story

Rand Paul Takes the Floor to Contest NSA Surveillance (Updated) (Video)

Paul toured Independence Hall on Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Paul toured Independence Hall on Monday and vowed to “filibuster” an extension of the NSA’s surveillance powers. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 2:44 p.m. | At approximately 1:18 p.m. Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul took to the Senate floor for what’s best described as an extended oration about the Fourth Amendment.

Unlike Rand Paul’s filibuster of the choice of John O. Brennan to head up the Central Intelligence Agency in 2013, which was designed to protest the Obama administration’s use of drones, the Kentucky Republican isn’t really holding up Senate business this time since the chamber is sitting through an “intervening day.”

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April 14, 2015

Senate’s To-Do List Keeps Getting Longer (Video)

McConnell outlined an extremely busy legislative calendar. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

McConnell outlined an extremely busy legislative calendar. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A debate over Iran may highlight the Senate’s agenda, but it already seems like there might be too much to do.

Sen. Bob Corker’s efforts to get broad support for bipartisan legislation to provide a role for Congress in reviewing a final international agreement with Iran about nuclear weapons appears to have paid dividends. And the Corker legislation seems to be on an expedited path to the floor after a markup set for Tuesday afternoon. Full story

March 24, 2015

Lynch’s Republican Backers Holding Firm

Lynch appears to have a narrow majority backing her nomination. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Lynch appears to have a narrow majority backing her nomination. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

GOP supporters of President Barack Obama’s pick to be the next attorney general are sticking by her, meaning Loretta Lynch is still on track for confirmation — if she can ever get a vote.

That’s even as announced Republican opposition to Lynch continues to mount with the nomination sitting on the Senate calendar, effectively held hostage as part of the dispute between the parties about abortion-related language contained in a bill designed to combat human trafficking.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., became the latest Tuesday morning to join the list of lawmakers opposing Lynch.

Full story

March 18, 2015

Klobuchar’s Office Says Aide Knew of Hyde Language in Trafficking Bill

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s office has conceded that a Democratic staffer was aware of the contested language in a bipartisan bill to combat sex trafficking that’s been stuck on the Senate floor.

An aide to the Minnesota senator, who is the primary Democratic co-sponsor of the legislation introduced by Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, provided a lengthy statement explaining the situation following a report by The Associated Press. The full statement appears below:

Full story

March 17, 2015

McConnell’s Dreams of New Senate Dashed for Now (Video)

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s best-laid plans for a Senate renaissance have so far fallen flat — and the gridlock is starting to wear on his conference.

Republican Mark S. Kirk of Illinois, who faces a serious re-election challenge in 2016, says his own conference shoulders responsibility for the lack of productivity.

Kirk spoke with reporters in the Capitol Tuesday, not long after a vote to limit debate on what had started as a bipartisan bill to combat sex trafficking fell a few votes short of the 60 needed amid an ongoing dispute over the GOP’s insertion of an anti-abortion funding provision.
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February 13, 2015

GOP Senators Also Pushing to Nuke Filibusters, Says House Lawmaker

Mo Brooks, R-Ala., speaks during a news conference with House and Senate members on immigration on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Brooks said GOP senators are also asking McConnell to change the filibuster rules. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House conservatives are increasingly pushing the Senate to “go nuclear” and change filibuster rules so that a Department of Homeland Security funding bill blocking the president’s executive action on immigration can move forward. But according to one GOP lawmaker member, it’s not just the House pushing for that change.

Alabama Republican Mo Brooks told CQ Roll Call Friday that he had spoken to senators supportive of changing the filibuster rules. Full story

February 11, 2015

GOP Senator Wants to Wave the White Flag on DHS Funding

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Facing a potentially tough re-election battle, Illinois Republican Mark S. Kirk has had enough of the standoff over funding the Department of Homeland Security and wants the Senate to pass a clean bill.

“Yeah, I think in the end,” Kirk said when asked if Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should have the Senate pass a DHS spending bill without language designed to block President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Full story

December 10, 2014

Senate GOP Wrestles With Whether to Undo the Nuclear Option

Graham wants Republicans to defuse the nuclear option. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Graham wants Republicans to defuse the nuclear option and return the 60-vote threshold on nominations. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After crying foul when Democrats used the nuclear option to essentially eliminate the filibuster for most nominations, Senate Republicans are wrestling with whether to change it back.

Republicans, who will take over the majority next Congress, met Tuesday evening to discuss the matter, but reached no decision on a course of action. Full story

November 21, 2014

Politically Connected Ambassador Nominees to Get Floor Votes

When the Senate returns from Thanksgiving, the first pressing business will be confirming a pair of President Barack Obama’s nominees who might not stand a chance in a Republican-led Senate.

The Senate is set to vote on Dec. 1 to limit debate on the nominees to be ambassadors to Argentina and Hungary, both of whom were criticized early this year for not knowing much about the countries in question. Neither nominee is a career diplomat. They’re both major Obama campaign contributors.

Full story

September 29, 2014

Cornyn Warns Against Confirming Holder Successor in Lame Duck (Video)

Cornyn (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Cornyn (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn said Monday the debate over replacing Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will “take a lot of oxygen out of the air” for the post-election lame-duck session.

“There’s so much ill will already, this would just poison the well even further,” the Texas Republican said in an interview with the editorial board of The Dallas Morning News.

“Right now I think [Democrats] are probably making a calculation because there’s some things I think they would like to do no matter what happens. We’ve got some of these tax extender provisions that expired a year ago that are sort of sitting there waiting … that have bipartisan support,” Cornyn said. “There’s a lot of nominations, judicial and others, that I think they would like to move through in the lame duck, especially if Republicans win the majority, as I hope we do.”

Full story

September 15, 2014

Debo Adegbile Nomination Withdrawn, Returns to Private Practice (Updated)

Adegbile. (Courtesy WilmerHale)

Adegbile. (Courtesy WilmerHale)

Updated 12:14 p.m. | Having seen his Senate confirmation blocked by members of President Barack Obama’s own party, Debo P. Adegbile has withdrawn from consideration to be an assistant attorney general.

“Debo Adegbile has withdrawn himself from consideration for a position at the Department of Justice, and we are actively working toward announcing a new nominee for the post,” a White House spokesperson told CQ Roll Call.

Formal word of the withdrawal comes after the law firm WilmerHale announced Adegbile’s move back to private practice Monday morning. Adegbile has joined as a partner.

Full story

September 7, 2014

McConnell Hints at Prolonged Campaign Finance Debate

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Democrats are facing the prospect of Republicans voting to prolong debate on a campaign finance constitutional amendment, a move that could interfere with Democrats’ plans for a barrage of pre-election votes on issues from student loans to the minimum wage to equal pay for women.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has already scheduled a Monday evening vote to cut off debate on taking up a proposal sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. to amend the constitution to effectively overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which threw out many limits on campaign spending on First Amendment grounds. Republicans vehemently oppose the amendment and it seemed, at least at the outset, that Democrats were planning for a quick defeat.

“Their goal is to shut down the voices of their critics at a moment when they fear the loss of their fragile Senate majority. And to achieve it, they’re willing to devote roughly half of the remaining legislative days before November to this quixotic anti-speech gambit,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote in Politico opinion piece posted late Sunday.

His complaint is more than a complaint — he has assigned an extended period of time beyond the few hours of debate that would happen if his party simply voted “No” on Monday. So reading between the lines, McConnell may be hinting the GOP will allow debate to continue and, therefore, use procedure to lock Democrats into a prolonged debate.

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

Senate Set to Confirm Ambassador to Possible Malaysia Airlines MH17 Crash Investigator (Video) (Updated)

Updated 6:59 p.m. | The Senate is set to confirm a new U.S. ambassador to an international body that’s been responsible for investigating airplane crashes such as Malaysia Airlines MH17.

Roll Call reported on the vacancy earlier Thursday, and now the Senate has reached an agreement for a Monday evening vote on confirmation.

That’s as the crash of the Malaysia Airlines flight in Eastern Ukraine reported to have had Americans on board may require an independent investigation. As reported by Roll Call’s Five by Five, U.N. International Civil Aviation Organization, which investigated the 1983 shoot-down of a Korean Air Lines flight, has a nominee awaiting Senate confirmation.

Full story

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