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December 21, 2014

Posts in "Filibusters"

December 10, 2014

Senate GOP Wrestles With Whether to Undo the Nuclear Option

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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)

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Debo Adegbile Nomination Withdrawn, Returns to Private Practice (Updated)

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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

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(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

July 16, 2014

Ronnie White Reaches Federal Bench — 17 Years Later (Video)

Roughly 17 years after first being nominated, Ronnie L. White is finally on his way to becoming a federal judge in Missouri.

The Senate confirmed White, 53-44, to a seat in the Eastern District of Missouri after limiting debate earlier in the day with 54 affirmative votes, short of the 60 that used to be required for cloture before Democrats used the “nuclear option” in 2013 to effectively change the rules.

White’s nomination during the Clinton administration eventually fell on a party-line vote in 1999, 45-54. Republicans had the majority in the Senate at that time. Ahead of Wednesday’s action, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., called the original vote “a grievous error.”

Full story

July 9, 2014

Gun Politics Overtake Hunting Bill

Gun politics appear all-but-certain to destroy any chance of advancing a bipartisan hunting, fishing and conservation package — and with it, a chance for Sen. Kay Hagan and other endangered Democrats to tout their bipartisan legislative bona fides ahead of the November elections.

The package had huge initial support on a test vote, but like so many other bills this Congress, it quickly devolved into a standoff over politically charged amendments. A fight over gun control isn’t what Democrats had in mind when they brought the bill to the floor, but that’s what they got.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., wants to broadly expand firearm access within the District of Columbia, and numerous other amendments by Republicans would expand access to firearms and ammunition, cheered on by the group Gun Owners of America. That group has blasted the bill as a “fake ‘pro-gun’ bill designed to re-elect endangered anti-gun Democrats up in 2014 in pro-gun states,” and the “Harry Reid Preservation Act.” Full story

May 22, 2014

McConnell Wants to Keep Filibuster if GOP Gets Majority

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(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., doesn’t favor getting rid of the filibuster — even if the GOP takes the majority next year. But he stressed that Democrats have set a precedent for changing the Senate rules on a simple majority vote.

“I think the supermajority requirement in the Senate has been important to the country,” McConnell said, adding that he believe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has done “a lot of damage” to the institution. Full story

May 21, 2014

Paul Predicts Democrats Will Back Barron, Doesn’t Plan Extended Speech (Updated) (Video)

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:15 p.m. | Sen. Rand Paul wore comfortable shoes to work today, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to hold the floor for hours.

The Kentucky Republican told a small cadre of reporters gathered just off the Senate floor following a 31-minute speech contesting the Obama administration’s use of drones for targeted killings of Americans that he didn’t think he could stall confirmation of David J. Barron to be a First Circuit appeals court judge.

“They wouldn’t give me the extensive time today,” Paul said. “I am going to speak probably right before the vote and try to convince some people. I don’t think I’m having much luck though.”

Full story

May 20, 2014

Rand Paul to Take the Floor to Again Contest Drone Policy, White House to Release Memo (Updated)

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Paul appears set to take the floor to again protest drone policy. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 7:25 p.m. | Sen. Rand Paul intends to take the Senate floor Wednesday to contest the nomination of David J. Barron to be a federal appeals court judge, though it doesn’t appear the Kentucky Republican will halt Barron’s confirmation.

That’s in part because the White House plans to release the legal justification for the government’s use of unmanned drones to target U.S. citizens, according to Sen. Mark Udall.

“This is a welcome development for government transparency and affirms that although the government does have the right to keep national security secrets, it does not get to have secret law,” the Colorado Democrat said in a statement. “I am proud the Administration appears to have heeded my call and committed to abide by a recent Second Circuit Court ruling and publicly release this memo. With this decision, I am now able to support the nomination of David Barron to the federal bench.”

It’s unclear exactly how long Paul plans to speak about Barron and the drone program Wednesday, but staffers around the Capitol are preparing for a late Wednesday session.

The drone issue is the same subject that prompted last year’s the #standwithrand filibuster of John O. Brennan’s nomination to be CIA director. Barron wrote memos justifying the Obama administration policy when he served as acting assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel.

“I rise today to oppose the nomination of anyone who would argue that the President has the power to kill American citizens not involved in combat,” Paul plans to say on Wednesday, according to an excerpt from his office. “I rise today to say that there is no legal precedent for killing American citizens not directly involved in combat and that any nominee who rubber stamps and grants such power to a President is not worthy of being placed one step away from the Supreme Court.” Full story

Reid Hints at ‘Nuclear’ Summer Over Debate Time (Video) (Updated)

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:30 p.m. | On the morning of his Republican counterpart’s primary back home in Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he would not change the chamber’s rules in his absence.

But Minority Leader Mitch McConnell might well be advised to be prepared for another floor standoff over consideration of nominations, even if its unclear just how much the

Reid took to the floor to reprise familiar complaints about GOP delays of nominations, although some of his examples didn’t appear to be held up today.

“I don’t plan on changing the rules today again, but how much longer can we put up with this? Even law enforcement officers … even law enforcement officers, as I’ve indicated here, they’re holding them up for no reason,” Reid said. “You don’t hear people coming down here giving speeches about what horrible people the president selected to be the U.S. attorney in Louisiana, New Mexico and Connecticut, not a word. They just hide behind their obstruction.”

But not long after, the Senate locked-in a unanimous consent agreement setting up consideration of the three U.S. attorneys on Wednesday, with confirmation for each possible by voice vote.

Full story

May 15, 2014

Reid Responds to Obama’s Comment on Changing Filibuster

“Does he know we already did that?” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid quipped when asked about a comment President Barack Obama made Wednesday about changing the Senate’s filibuster rule.

Obama told a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee audience in New York that changes are needed to “how a filibuster works.”

“We have made significant progress with regard to judges, tremendous progress,” Reid said. Full story

May 12, 2014

Energy Bill Filibustered, Keystone Pipeline in Limbo After Reid Blocks Amendments

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Portman and Shaheen co-authored an energy efficiency bill but it was filibustered in a dispute over amendments. A deal to allow a vote on the Keystone pipeline fell through as a result. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans blocked an energy efficiency bill after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid repeatedly blocked Republican efforts to vote on five energy amendments Monday — and the GOP rejected an offer to vote on the Keystone pipeline instead.

The 55-36 vote highlights the reality in today’s Senate — 60 votes are needed for legislation. And Reid has been very reluctant to give Republicans votes on amendments that could put vulnerable Democrats on the spot ahead of the midterm elections.

Reid repeatedly offered up a vote on the Keystone XL pipeline if the energy efficiency bill passed, but that wasn’t enough for Senate Republicans. Full story

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