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July 31, 2014

Posts in "Harry Reid"

July 29, 2014

Senate Passes Highway Patch Boehner Plans to Reject

wyden011614 445x296 Senate Passes Highway Patch Boehner Plans to Reject

Wyden’s transportation amendment passed. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Senate Tuesday approved a short-term patch to keep funds flowing to highway projects through Dec. 19, but Speaker John A. Boehner has already promised to strip the Senate provisions and send the House-passed bill right back.

After the Senate’s version of the bill passed 79 to 18 — Finance Committee ranking member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah called it a “free vote…because the House is going to send this right back, they are going to strip everything out — after they’ve left” for the August recess.

Boehner is playing hardball.

“I just want to make clear, if the Senate sends a highway bill over here…we’re gonna strip it out and put the House- passed provisions back in and send it back to the Senate,” the Ohio Republican told reporters Tuesday morning. Full story

July 28, 2014

Reid Open to Separate Funding for Israel, Wildfires and Border in Pre-Recess Rush

reid mikulski 023 010714 445x310 Reid Open to Separate Funding for Israel, Wildfires and Border in Pre Recess Rush

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The pre-recess rush began Monday with a plea from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

“Leaving here with Israel being naked as they are, with these wildfires raging and a crisis at the border, it would be a shame if we did nothing,” the Nevada Democrat said on the Senate floor.

Those three priority items would get emergency funding under a measure introduced last week by Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md.

Full story

July 22, 2014

Senate Needs ‘Magic’ to Complete Pre-Recess Agenda (Video)

reid 234 072214 445x313 Senate Needs Magic to Complete Pre Recess Agenda (Video)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate might just have too much to do before departing for August recess.

But, it is a chamber where “magic” all-too-often occurs on Thursday evenings, and senators might need it come July 31. There’s no shortage of big ticket items on the legislative agenda of Majority Leader Harry Reid, including funding for the crisis involving unaccompanied migrant children, stopgap highway funding and the ongoing issues at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Full story

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.

 

Reid Predicts Veterans’ Health Bill Will Fall, Fears Gridlock on Border Supplemental (Video)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday predicted Congress would fail to pass a fix for the veterans’ health crisis  — and worried the same could happen with the border supplemental to address the child migrant crisis.

“We had a big show here, not long ago, where we provided $35 billion to help veterans. We’ve spent trillions of dollars in two wars, unpaid-for by the way. That’s what President [George W.] Bush wanted, and that’s what he got,” the Nevada Democrat said in a floor speech.

Full story

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

Reid Doubts Unemployment Extension Will Come Up in Highway Bill Debate

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would work as quickly as possible to advance a highway funding patch, but an unemployment extension isn’t likely to get a chance to hitchhike on it.

“The highway bill has to move forward, and I’m going to do everything I can to expedite it as much as I can, quickly,” the Nevada Democrat told reporters.

He signaled that he did not think extraneous items would be attached to the must-pass bill, regardless of which version advances. ”I doubt it” Reid said when asked if an unemployment insurance extension would be a piece of the Senate’s highway bill debate.

Full story

Will Congress Take August Recess Before Relieving VA Health Crisis? (Video)

reid 092 0501314 445x297 Will Congress Take August Recess Before Relieving VA Health Crisis? (Video)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A few weeks ago, it would have been unthinkable that Congress would leave for August recess without sending a VA health care bill to President Barack Obama’s desk.

But Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would not rule out that possibility of gridlock over how to alleviate the crisis at the Department of Veterans Affairs as House and Senate conferees continue to talk.

“I would think if the, this conference goes on much longer, I think [the House] should just take what we’ve passed in the Senate,” the Nevada Democrat said. “It was a good piece of legislation, and it passed overwhelmingly here.” Full story

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

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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

Reid Says Border Already Secure (Video)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid asserted bluntly Tuesday ”the border is secure.”

The Nevada Democrat was citing comments made during Tuesday’s caucus luncheon by New Mexico Democrat Martin Heinrich.

Asked about a bipartisan, bicameral proposal from a pair of Texas lawmakers, Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn and Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar, Reid said that based on what he had seen, “the answer from me is no, I won’t support it.”

Full story

July 10, 2014

Reid: Unemployment Extension Could Get Attached to Supplemental

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(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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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

Harry Reid Torches House Leaders Over VA, Lawsuit, Benghazi (Video)

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Republican leaders are acting like one-time LA Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, “kicking dirt at the umpire” to distract the nation, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday morning.

The Nevada Democrat torched GOP leaders for pursuing “stunts” such as a lawsuit against President Barack Obama and for spending $3.3 million on the select Benghazi committee.

Reid, who also accused House Republicans of blocking a deal to fix the Department of Veterans Affairs, recalled Lasorda’s legendary fights with umpires, which he said were often stunts intended to distract from other problems on his team.

And he said GOP leaders are doing the same thing.

“They’re searching desperately for something, anything, to keep the radicals within their own caucus over there, keep them happy,” Reid said. “That’s hard to do, as we’ve seen. And they want to do this to divert the American people’s attention … from their very own inaction.

“You don’t have to take my word for it. No one has to. Because conservative pundits are falling over themselves to consider this ploy. Even last night Sarah Palin — what did Sarah Palin say? She said, ‘Don’t bring a lawsuit to a gunfight. There’s no room for lawyers on the front lines.’ That’s Sarah Palin.”

Reid added, ”the tea party House is content to put on a show, to kick a little dirt, a big expensive show.”

Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 11:22 a.m.
Harry Reid

July 8, 2014

Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Bill Sparks Gun Control Duel

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Durbin says the measure could spark a fight. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call Photo)

A bipartisan bundle of hunting and fishing legislation could get shot down by a partisan battle over gun control.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has drafted an amendment limiting the circumstances under which veterans can be denied access to firearms because of mental illness, a proposal the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat said would prompt a response from advocates of stricter gun control.

“If we open this to a gun debate, we’re going to hear both sides,” Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin told reporters Tuesday.

“We’re working on it,” the Illinois Democrat said when asked about drafting an amendment favoring more stringent policy regarding firearms. “Mr. Coburn has decided he wants an amendment. He wants to expand the carrying of firearms across America. Many of us want to reduce … the firearm violence across America.”

An effort by Durbin and the Democrats to push the issue comes as Chicago officials are grappling with a new wave of gun violence over the weekend. But the fight is heating up given that Coburn is just one of the Republicans with pro-gun amendments.

Full story

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