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April 17, 2014

Posts in "Filibusters"

April 15, 2014

Filibuster Unconstitutional? D.C. Circuit Denies Appeal, Cites ‘Speech or Debate’ Flaw

Advocates asking the judiciary to declare the filibuster unconstitutional were dealt a major setback Tuesday by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court said it lacked jurisdiction because Common Cause and the House lawmakers associated with bringing the lawsuit had sued the wrong party.

“In short, Common Cause’s alleged injury was caused not by any of the defendants, but by an ‘absent third party’ — the Senate itself,” the court held. Full story

April 14, 2014

‘Nuclear’ Nominations Aftermath Slows Senate to Crawl

reid 225 032614 445x294 Nuclear Nominations Aftermath Slows Senate to Crawl

( Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Just how many of President Barack Obama’s nominees will get confirmed this year? If last week is any indication, the answer may depend on whether Democrats once again employ the “nuclear” option to effectively change the Senate’s rules.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made a big deal last week about scheduling nomination votes on the Friday before recess, but with senators in both parties eager to jet out of town, the Nevada Democrat was forced to punt.

“We are slogging through these nominations,” Reid said April 10 on the Senate floor. “It is kind of slow because of the inordinate amount of time that we are caused to eat up.”

Reid pondered on the floor whether he should have gone even further on rules changes last year, given the Republican slow-walking of nominations whose confirmations have become a fait accompli, and he lamented that a minimum wage debate he hoped to have on the Senate floor before the break was delayed as a result. Full story

April 11, 2014

Senate Switcheroo Crimps Travel Plans

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Thursday night’s unplanned — but predictable — shift in the Senate’s vote schedule meddled with plans of senators who actually planned to show up for work Friday.

While it’s not clear how many Republicans planned to be at the Capitol had votes gone forward late Friday, the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee certainly did.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa drove himself back to the Capitol complex at around 8:30 p.m., on Thursday.

Standing outside the Dirksen building, Grassley said he had returned to pick up materials for his trip back to Iowa for the two-week recess, having expected to be in Washington until after a series of nomination votes that were slated to start at 5 p.m. Friday.

“I was going to come back to the office and vote and fly out tomorrow night. Now, I’ve got to come back to the office and get the stuff I left here,” Grassley said.

Full story

Burwell Should Expect Tough Questions, Easy Confirmation

484062777 445x304 Burwell Should Expect Tough Questions, Easy Confirmation

(Via AFP/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama said Friday he assumes the Senate will easily confirm Sylvia Matthews Burwell to replace Kathleen Sebelius as secretary of Health and Human Services — and he’s almost certainly right.

But that doesn’t mean Republicans aren’t relishing the idea of re-litigating the health care law once again under the bright lights of a nomination hearing.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, promised a “fair and thorough vetting process” and already signaled the Affordable Care Act will be his target, calling it “an unmitigated disaster.” Full story

April 10, 2014

‘Nuclear’ Fallout Slows Senate, Briefly Delays Recess (Updated)

oversight005 022614 445x296 Nuclear Fallout Slows Senate, Briefly Delays Recess (Updated)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 8:30 p.m. | Fallout from last year’s “nuclear” rules change trumped the proverbial smell of jet fumes in the Senate this week, but only for a while.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had called a live quorum to summon senators to the floor and declare on the official record what he had said earlier in the afternoon, that he wouldn’t punt on the nomination of Michelle T. Friedland to be a judge on the Ninth Circuit.

“We’ve wasted so much time that we could be working on important issues, and Republicans come to the floor [and say], ‘We want amendments,’” Reid said. “One reason we don’t do that kind of stuff is cause we spend so much time on this.”

Later in the day, Reid set a series of nomination votes for 5 p.m. Friday, but Senate Democrats say it is now anticipated those votes will be postponed until April 28, in what represents a retreat for Reid.

Full story

Reid: Recess Won’t Start Until After Judicial Nomination Vote

reid031114 445x298 Reid: Recess Wont Start Until After Judicial Nomination Vote

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is in no mood to delay a scheduled confirmation vote for a Ninth Circuit judicial nominee — warning he’ll keep the Senate in session Friday if Republicans don’t consent to an earlier vote.

“We’re not punting,” the Nevada Democrat told CQ Roll Call when asked if the confirmation vote on President Barack Obama’s choice of Michelle T. Friedland for a seat on the Ninth Circuit would be put off until after the two-week recess.

The Senate voted, 56-41, to invoke cloture and thus limit debate on that nomination earlier Thursday, with Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska joining Democratic caucus members in voting for cloture.

Full story

April 9, 2014

Republicans Block Pay Equity Bill (Updated)

Updated 12:45 p.m. | Senate Republicans filibustered a debate on a Democratic pay equity bill backed by President Barack Obama Wednesday.

Sixty votes were needed to allow the bill to be debated on the Senate floor, but Republicans refused to allow the bill to come up for debate after complaining Democrats weren’t allowing votes on their amendments. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, also broke with his typical party leanings and voted with Republicans against cloture.  The vote was 53-44, with Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., joining Republicans as a “no” in order to preserve his right to reconsider the vote.

King explained his vote in a lengthy statement. “This particular bill, in my view, fails to address the real causes that are driving the wage gap,” he said. “In addition, the bill could impose substantial burdens on businesses in justifying pay differentials,” he said, adding that there are better ways, like raising the minimum wage, to address the gap.

No Republican voted with the Democrats. Three Republicans did not vote: Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, John Cornyn of Texas and Ted Cruz of Texas. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 11:41 a.m.
Filibusters, Policy

March 25, 2014

Unemployment Extension Vote Likely Delayed Until Next Week (Updated)

unemployment 047 020614 445x296 Unemployment Extension Vote Likely Delayed Until Next Week (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 7:53 p.m. | With a squeezed calendar, the Senate will likely not hold a final vote passing a bill reviving emergency unemployment insurance benefits until next week.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he plans to turn to the bipartisan unemployment extension compromise as quickly as possible under Senate rules, but there’s business to tend to first — namely an aid package for Ukraine and several pending judicial nominations.

“We’ll finish the judges in 24 hours. Under the new rules, we can do that fairly quickly,” the Nevada Democrat said. “I’m going to start unemployment right on the tail of Ukraine.”

Later in the day, Reid set up votes Wednesday on several nominations and Thursday on the Ukraine legislation. If senators follow the normal schedule and depart for the weekend Thursday afternoon, the bulk of the debate won’t happen until next week.

Full story

March 24, 2014

Ukraine Aid Advances in Senate but Cruz, Barrasso Push for Votes on Amendments

A bill to provide aid to Ukraine cleared a procedural vote Monday evening, as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, signaled he would not object to expediting the bill if he gets a vote on an amendment striking the International Monetary Fund provision.

But Senate Democrats may not have an incentive to allow any amendments votes on the bill given that they likely have the 60 votes needed to clear any procedural hurdles. If both sides stand their ground, that would mean the Senate would likely next vote around midnight Tuesday.

“Its silly that we are running the [cloture] clock when we got 78 votes” to advance the bill, said a senior Senate Democratic aide. Full story

March 13, 2014

McCain Rails GOP on Ukraine Bill: ‘Don’t Call Yourself Reagan Republicans’ (Video)

Sen. John McCain hammered Republicans on the Senate floor Thursday for refusing to pass by unanimous consent a Senate Foreign Relation Committee bill which would provide economic aid while imposing sanctions on Russia.

“What has happened? Where are our priorities? You can call yourself Republicans, that’s fine, because that’s your voter registration. Don’t call yourself Reagan Republicans,” the Arizona Republican said.

Full story

March 5, 2014

Democrats Face Perils of Controversial Nominees in ‘Post-Nuclear’ Senate

Not even Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. could convince an in-cycle Senate Democrat from his home state to switch his vote and support embattled Department of Justice nominee Debo P. Adegbile.

In the view of Democratic optimists, Biden had made a rare and impromptu appearance at the Capitol on Wednesday to cast a potential tie-breaking vote for Adegbile. But in reality, Biden served as the last-ditch salesman from the administration, futilely chatting up members such as Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., inside the Senate chamber. Coons was one of seven Democrats to join Republicans to block Adegbile from being the next  assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ.

The scene on the floor underscored a new political reality for Senate Democrats. In a “post-nuclear option” world where up-and-down votes now reign, Democrats often will carry the full burden of filling administration posts — and the Republicans will not be afraid to make political gold from tenuous straw to do it.

Full story

February 28, 2014

Mumia Abu-Jamal Case Reverberates in Senate Nomination Fight

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A protestor stands next to an image of Abu-Jamal in 2012. (AFP/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama’s nomination of Debo P. Adegbile to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has unleashed a decades-old racial feud centered on the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal that threatens to cross partisan lines and give credence to Senate Republican worries that more controversial nominees will be confirmed since Democrats eased the process last year.

The Senate is scheduled to vote on cloture on the Adegbile nomination Monday evening. Adegbile, senior counsel for Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., previously worked for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which helped commute the death sentence of Abu-Jamal, a black nationalist who was convicted and sentenced to death in 1982 for the murder of white Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.

Senate Democrats control 55 votes in the Senate and only need 51 to clear the hurdle. But it is likely to be close, as one of their own, Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania announced Friday he would oppose the nomination, and several Democrats up for re-election in swing or conservative states might think twice about wading into the hornets’ nest that surrounds Abu-Jamal.

The case goes back to a dark period in Philadelphia history, when the MOVE group of black separatists clashed frequently with the Philadelphia political and law enforcement community.   Full story

February 26, 2014

Holds Lose Their Power in Senate

randpaul050113 600x422 Holds Lose Their Power in Senate

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In a post-nuclear Senate, holds on nominees aren’t what they used to be. And Republicans’ newfound powerlessness to stop President Barack Obama’s picks is starting to get to the GOP.

Take, for instance, Sen. Rand Paul’s opposition to the nomination of Dr. Vivek Murthy to be surgeon general. The Kentucky Republican has blasted Murthy’s pro-gun-control views, as well as his involvement with the campaign operation Doctors for Obama.

“As a physician, I am deeply concerned that he has advocated that doctors use their position of trust to ask patients, including minors, details about gun ownership in the home,” Paul said in a Wednesday letter announcing an intended hold on the nomination.

Up until the “nuclear option” deployment last year, Paul could have blocked the Murthy nomination by mustering the support of Republican senators and getting the 41 votes needed to sustain a filibuster. That’s no longer the case. Now, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., can get almost anyone he’d like confirmed with only votes from his own caucus, though he may have to overcome procedural obstacles that eat up precious floor time.

Full story

February 24, 2014

GOP Demanding Iran Sanctions Vote in Military Sexual-Assault Debate

Senate Republicans are objecting to a set of votes on addressing the issue of sexual assault in the military without a vote on imposing stiffer sanctions against Iran.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., offered a proposal that would have set up competing votes on limiting debate on two proposals that would change the way the military handles prosecutions of alleged incidents of sexual assault in the armed forces, a floor debate that wasn’t held as part of the Senate’s consideration of the current fiscal year’s defense policy legislation.

Those proposals are championed by Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, with separate coalitions. Reid’s proposal did not have a date certain for action.

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., offered a counterproposal that would have added a vote, with a similar supermajority threshold, on providing for additional sanctions against Iran proposed by Sen. Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill. That’s a move the Obama administration has strongly opposed, saying that even a Senate vote could undermine negotiations over that country’s nuclear capability.

Full story

February 18, 2014

Reid Set to Reap More ‘Nuclear’ Spoils

unemployment 047 020614 445x296 Reid Set to Reap More Nuclear Spoils

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is putting the pedal to the metal to confirm President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees.

Senate Republicans had begun to wonder when the Nevada Democrat would force the issue. He could have chosen to do so at any time, since the precedent set when he deployed the “nuclear option” in November eliminated the ability of a minority of senators to block nominations.

But to advance nominees without a consent agreement, Reid must still file cloture and burn valuable time. He did that before recess began, setting up debate-limiting votes on four Obama nominees to be district judges for when the Senate returns Feb. 24. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, one of the leading GOP voices in the world of rules and precedents, last week said he would prefer that Reid just go ahead and get the procedural gears in motion.

Full story

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