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April 19, 2014

Posts in "Procedure"

April 8, 2014

Leahy Defends Senators’ Role in Vetting Judges in Their States

Senate Luncheons 42 060413 445x297 Leahy Defends Senators Role in Vetting Judges in Their States

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy has again come to the defense of allowing home-state senators to block the nominations of federal judges in their states, even when the senators are Republicans.

The Vermont Democrat penned an opinion piece for Sunday’s Rutland Herald after the newspaper picked up a New York Times editorial calling for the end of the “blue slip” consent process under which the Judiciary Committee declines to move forward with nominees for the federal bench until the home state senators sign off.

“The blue slip is just a piece of paper and could be eliminated today, but that would not change the importance of home state senators’ support for confirming judicial nominees to the states they represent. As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I have worked tirelessly to get judicial nominees confirmed. I cannot recall a single judicial nominee being confirmed over the objection of his or her home state senators,” Leahy wrote. ”The blue slip process reflects this reality, and those who care about the courts and who want qualified judges confirmed should not overlook this fact.”

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April 2, 2014

Unemployment Benefits Extension: 4 Republicans Switch Votes on Filibuster

unemployment003 011614 445x296 Unemployment Benefits Extension: 4 Republicans Switch Votes on Filibuster

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Four Republicans voted to bring an unemployment benefits extension to the floor last week but then voted to filibuster the bipartisan deal on Wednesday.

Dan Coats of Indiana, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania all voted Wednesday to block the bipartisan agreement led by Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nev.

Joining Democrats to pass the bill were Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Dean Heller of Nevada, Mark S. Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rob Portman of Ohio. They helped put the measure over the top, narrowly topping the 60-vote threshold, 61-38.

Final passage could be as early as Thursday.

We’ve posted the Senate clerk’s tally sheet showing how all the senators voted:

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Unemployment Extension Bill Advances Narrowly in Senate

reid 020 040114 445x320 Unemployment Extension Bill Advances Narrowly in Senate

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 2 p.m. | The Senate’s deal to revive an extension of unemployment benefits passed a key procedural test — barely — Wednesday morning.

Senators voted to limit debate 61-38 — and thus get beyond any filibuster threats — on the five-month deal hashed out by a coalition led by Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R -Nev.

Six Republicans joined with all of the Democrats — Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Dean Heller of Nevada, Mark S. Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rob Portman of Ohio. Portman and Kirk had voted to filibuster a deal in February. Four Republicans who had voted to bring the bill to the floor last week switched and voted to filibuster the deal Wednesday: Dan Coats of Indiana, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania.

The procedural vote required the agreement of 60 senators.

Full story

March 29, 2014

Unemployment Extension: How Did Your Senator Vote?

Updated 8:18 p.m. | The Senate next week will consider giving final approval to an unemployment benefits extension, thanks to a procedural vote Thursday.

Given the wide national interest in this story,  we’re posting the full tally sheet and a breakdown of the bipartisan 65-34 vote to end a filibuster against bringing the legislation up for debate.

The vote came 89 days after benefits expired late last year. Supporters of the bill said that as of today, 2.24 million Americans have been cut off.

There are more hurdles to clear before the Senate can pass the bill, not to mention a wide disparity with House Republicans leadership that leaves it an open question whether the legislation would ever reach President Barack Obama’s desk.

Full story

March 26, 2014

Unemployment Benefits Headed for Senate Vote (Updated)

reid 227 032614 445x296 Unemployment Benefits Headed for Senate Vote (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated: 1:45 p.m. | The Senate is moving ahead Thursday with much-anticipated votes on an extension of unemployment insurance benefits that lapsed at the end of last year.

With backing from at least five Republicans, the bill should get the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster on bringing the bill up for debate.  It’ll still face the likelihood of another filibuster before final passage, expected next week. 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.

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GOP Could Force Vote to Negate Obamacare Carve-Out for Unions

luncheons tw008 111313 445x297 GOP Could Force Vote to Negate Obamacare Carve Out for Unions

Thune signed on to a letter criticizing what the GOP is calling an Obamacare “carve-out” for labor unions. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Republicans have at least one arrow in their quiver to force an uncomfortable Obamacare vote for Democrats seeking re-election in 2014.

That’s one takeaway from a new letter signed by 25 GOP senators led by John Thune of South Dakota, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. The letter sent to Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Burwell criticized an exemption from a re-insurance fee for self-insured health plans, calling the maneuver a carve-out for labor unions that run such plans.

“We demand that the rule be immediately rescinded or we will consider using options such as the Congressional Review Act … to stop the rule from going into effect. The CRA is an important backstop against executive branch excess and overreach,” the senators wrote. “It is regulations such as this one that demonstrate why a Republican-led Congress enacted this law in 1996.”

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March 5, 2014

Democrats Defect, Sink Obama’s Civil Rights Pick (Updated) (Video)

Updated: 2:17 p.m. | Seven Senate Democrats joined Republicans to block President Barack Obama’s pick of Debo P. Adegbile to lead the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division amid a controversy over his legal defense of convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Adegbile’s nomination needed a simple majority to cut off debate but the chamber voted 47-52 against him, with Obama ripping the vote as a “travesty.”

Democrats Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Chris Coons of Delaware, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and John Walsh of Montana all voted no. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also voted no in order to preserve his right to reconsider the vote. If Adegbile had mustered just two more votes plus Reid, Vice President Joseph Biden was on hand to cast a possible tie-breaking vote.

It’s the first presidential pick to be blocked since Democrats changed the Senate’s rules via the “nuclear option” to block filibusters of nominees.

President Barack Obama called the vote “a travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant.”

Obama said Adegbile had impeccable credentials and “unwavering dedication to protecting every American’s civil and Constitutional rights under the law.”

“Mr. Adegbile’s personal story – rising from adversity to become someone who President Bush’s Solicitor General referred to as one of the nation’s most capable litigators – is a story that proves what America has been and can be for people who work hard and play by the rules.  As a lawyer, Mr. Adgebile has played by the rules.  And now, Washington politics have used the rules against him.”

Powerful law enforcement groups and Republicans opposed the nomination, with the Abu-Jamal case at the heart of the controversy.

Obama mentioned the issue but not by name.

“The fact that his nomination was defeated solely based on his legal representation of a defendant runs contrary to a fundamental principle of our system of justice – and those who voted against his nomination denied the American people an outstanding public servant,” Obama said.

The nomination also has exposed the political risk for Democrats of deploying the nuclear option.

Sarah Chacko contributed to this report.


Joe Biden Could Be Tiebreaker for Debo Adegbile Vote

Biden 01 041713 445x315 Joe Biden Could Be Tiebreaker for Debo Adegbile Vote

(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has made an appearance at the Capitol for the Senate’s procedural vote on Debo P. Adegbile to head the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

The vote is expected to be extremely close and could require Biden to vote.

When asked by CQ Roll Call when Biden arrived Wednesday morning if he was there to break a tie, the vice president said, “If I have to.”


March 3, 2014

Snow Delays Senate Votes for Another Day

Monday’s snowstorm will delay the Senate’s work for another day.

Over the weekend, senators agreed to push back a scheduled vote to limit debate on the nomination of Debo P. Adegbile to be the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Now, that vote and those already scheduled to follow won’t take place until 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, according to a senior Democratic aide.

The Senate’s scheduled to come into session at 2 p.m. Monday, and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., are both around. The pair has a meeting scheduled for later Monday afternoon with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Full story

February 24, 2014

Senate Hears Washington’s Words Once Again

climate007 011414 1 445x296 Senate Hears Washingtons Words Once Again

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Senate returned from the Presidents Day recess by reprising one of the chamber’s greatest — and perhaps most ironic — traditions.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, was recognized for the annual reading of George Washington’s Farewell address. In the lengthy speech, the nation’s first president warned “against the baneful effects of the spirit of party.”

As to be expected, King was repeating Washington’s words to a largely empty chamber on a Monday afternoon before many of his colleagues had returned to the Capitol.

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism,” Washington said. “The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.”

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February 20, 2014

Murkowski Warns Alaskans Ending Filibusters Could Be Dangerous

military presser001 110613 445x297 Murkowski Warns Alaskans Ending Filibusters Could Be Dangerous

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A little less than a week after a Senate floor standoff on raising the debt limit, a key Republican at the center of the storm was back in her home state warning of the possibility of future Senate rules changes.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski last week had resisted efforts to make hers be the 60th vote in favor of limiting debate on suspending the debt limit, telling reporters “nobody likes to be 60.”

Murkowski appeared before the Alaska Legislature on Wednesday for a wide-ranging address, which included some discussion of the concern Democrats might do away with filibusters, allowing more liberal senators to enact legislation unpopular in Alaska.

“It may only be a matter of time before this Senate majority ends the right to filibuster legislation all together,” Murkowski said. “Think about what that might mean for us trying to keep ANWR from permanent wilderness status.”

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.

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February 13, 2014

Reid Spokesman Explains Secrecy in Debt Limit Vote

reid022 020414 445x296 Reid Spokesman Explains Secrecy in Debt Limit Vote

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Republicans requested that the Senate clerk not call out how Republicans were voting on Wednesday’s key debt limit vote to make it easier for GOP leaders to convince their colleagues to change their votes, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday.

“After the vote began, it was quickly clear that Republican leaders were struggling to deliver enough votes to clear the 60-vote hurdle upon which they had insisted instead of a simple majority, and a potentially catastrophic default suddenly seemed possible,” Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson told CQ Roll Call in a statement. “At Senate Republicans’ request, the clerk did not call the names during the vote to make it easier for Republican leaders to convince their members to switch their votes.”

A vote tally sheet obtained by CQ Roll Call suggests six Senate Republicans switched their votes on the cloture motion. Earlier Thursday, Capitol Hill reporters protested the decision to keep the votes secret during the nearly hourlong tally.

Reid went along, Jentleson said.

Full story

6 Republican Senators Switched Their Debt Limit Votes (Image)

Six Senate Republicans switched from “nay” to “aye” on the critical vote allowing the nation’s debt limit to be extended, a copy of the official Senate vote tally sheet provided to CQ Roll Call on Thursday suggests.

The tally sheet is the only record of which senators may have switched their votes because the Senate clerk — in a break with tradition — didn’t name names during the nearly hourlong vote. Capitol Hill reporters are protesting that change, still within the rules, as lacking transparency.

The actual tally sheet that Senate clerks use to manually record votes is available to interested parties in the Capitol, and CQ Roll Call has posted a PDF copy.

Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming, John Cornyn of Texas, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, John McCain of Arizona and John Thune of South Dakota appear to have switched their votes from “nay” to “aye.” It is possible that some of the markings on the page are due to clerical error.

As reported Wednesday, several of these senators had emerged together from the GOP Cloakroom to flip their votes at the same time, after Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and John Cornyn of Texas joined together to push the tally over the 60-vote threshold.

But this sheet suggests that McConnell had not actually cast a vote before indicating support of the debate-limiting motion.

cloturepages 6 Republican Senators Switched Their Debt Limit Votes (Image)

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