Tag Archives: Chuck Grassley

Senators Admit Congress Really Sucked In 2013

Joint Session of Congress

The Huffington Post

[...]

Below are the full reactions of senators, lightly edited for clarity:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

“That’s a good question. We were not attacked, uh, to the extent that we were on 9/11.

“We showed a level of dysfunction that has seldom been reached. Maybe the only other time was before the union dissolved. The good things are that it could have been worse. The final story on 2013 for me is it could have been worse.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)

“What good happened? A lot of the things Obama wanted to get done didn’t get done, like he wanted to avoid sequestration, which would have put one and two-tenths trillion [dollars] back into spending.

“That’s very positive. We got 17.2 trillion in debt, and you don’t want to add another one trillion and two-tenths to it.”

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)

“Well, the government isn’t completely closed, is it? What good happened this year? I only have three years left, that’s what happened that’s good.”

(Why was it so bad?) “That’s all about leadership. If you have good leadership, you have good progress. If you don’t, you don’t. And that’s not a partisan statement — that’s both sides.”

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.)

“Oh, man. That’s the toughest question I’ve had all year.

“It is surprisingly hard. This is the most frustrating year of any of my years in the Congress — House or Senate — because so few major issues went addressed, starting with the fiscal situation, and then bumping along through all the crises and so forth. What good happened this year? The best thing that happened this year is that we finally got word late last night [Dec. 19] that we’re going to be done. I think we all believe that it can’t get worse than this year, so maybe next year will be better.”

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)

“That’s a really, uh … you know, look, from my perspective, not a great deal. I mean our foreign policy, our credibility around the world is continuing to shatter. Look at Syria. I can’t think of a lot of good, I really cannot. I have to tell you, this year in many ways for me has been one of the most productive. But as I leave here and look at just overall what’s actually happened, it’s not been a good year for the United States, so it’s hard for me to think of much. I’m sorry. I’m usually very upbeat and optimistic. I’m sorry.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), walking with Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.)

Rubio: “What good happened this year? Well, I’ll get back to you.”
Casey: “We got a budget bill!”
Rubio, yelling as elevator doors close: “We’re still America — that’s what’s good!”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)

“We finally got a semblance of a budget. We had the student loans — try to get some stability to that, lower interest rates. And we were able to drive both sides further apart. I don’t know if that’s good, but that’s what happened. That’s facts.

“With [Republican Sen.] Susan Collins, we were able to put a bipartisan group together. We got the governors caucus started, which is really bipartisan, so we’ve got to see if we can carry that and hopefully get a little better direction to get things accomplished. It’s gonna happen if you have relationships, so you have to work on that.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)

“We elevated the stories of survivors of sexual assault to make it a national debate and make sure victims’ voices are heard. It was one of my highest priorities.

“I have lots of personal successes, but those are all for [sons] Theo and Henry. I think that’s it.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), walking with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)

Whitehouse: “We cleared the filibuster away from nominees …”
Wicker: “We were not attacked by foreign governments.”
Whitehouse: “The economy continued to improve.”

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)

“There are a lot of good things. You know, we’re all blessed. This country’s blessed. We’re still standing. There’s a lot of things where people said the sky is falling, but it hasn’t fell.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)

“What good happened this year? [Chuckle, pause, asks if that means with his family or the Senate.] A good report from the president’s review committee on the NSA.”

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.)

“Give Lizzie, my press secretary, a call, and we can set something up.”

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.)

“My son did great in soccer and cross country. When you said good, I immediately thought of home, not Washington, D.C.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

“You know I think, uh, I’m having trouble trying to come up with something good. I think it’s good that we have exposed the surveillance of Americans without a warrant, and we’re going to try to do something about it. It seems like there’s some consensus in that direction.”

[It's pointed out that his example is actually rather negative.] “I tried to turn it into a positive. You know, really, we abandoned the sequester caps, and really, I go home disappointed with the year.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

“I think that the budget thing was good. I think that will avert another shutdown. I can’t think of a hell of a lot of things besides that, to be honest with you. The observers say it’s the least productive Congress in history, and I don’t disagree with that. We did some good stuff on that defense bill. Did some good stuff on that. I’m digging for the pony here.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)

Murphy: “The Red Sox won the World Series.”
Booker: “That’s painful. That’s bad!”
Murphy: “Cory Booker got elected to the United States Senate.”

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.)

“What good? [Chuckle] Well, you really threw me for a loop. Oh, God. We did pass some bills — the WRDA [Water Resources Development Act] bill. There’s a whole series of bills that people worked on — the compounding [pharmacies] bill — they worked pretty hard on. These are bills that did not make the front page or even the first five pages, but they’ve made a big impact to the folks that really care about them. In fact, I even have a list of eight or nine of them, but they really haven’t attracted any attention. On those bills — they were bipartisan — we worked hard, mostly on the HELP [Health, Education, Labor and Pensions] Committee.

“You know, everybody talks, ‘Where’s the farm bill? Why didn’t we get all of the high-profile stuff?’ — and then turning the Senate into the House, which is a bad thing, and our response. Everybody focuses on that. But I think there’s a reservoir of commitment here, on tax reform, on the tax extender package, and other things that really count. Foreign policy is a big one. I just think you have to understand that there are two very different opinions and philosophies here on the part of Republicans and Democrats, but we can occasionally build a bridge. And we’ll keep doing it in spite of 2014, which happens to be an even-numbered year, and you know what happens then.”

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)

“What good happened this year? Well, I think a lot of Senate relationships were strained by what happened late in the year, but I think they’re going to survive. In the Senate, those relationships and friendships matter because you only have 99 colleagues. And, uh, uh, most of the good things that happened for me were with my family and friends, and while people had their challenges generally, this was a good year for my family and for most of the people I know.”

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.)

“I had a lot of good experiences with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, in getting amendments, working together on amendments and bills, and getting them passed by the Senate. I think the Senate took on a lot of tough issues. If you look at what the Senate passed, it was a number of big issues, from budget to immigration, and gun control was up, and I think the list goes on and on.”

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.)

“I think we’re getting close on the farm bill. Obviously passing a budget. I think ENDA [Employment Non-Discrimination Act] was a good outcome, immigration reform. I think as we focus on all the negative, there were some pretty amazing things. I don’t think anyone felt we were going to do comprehensive immigration reform. ENDA had been hanging around for a long time. And I think the budget, as I understand, is the first time since 1986 that a divided Congress has produced a budget. I tend to look at the good side of things. There was plenty bad, though.”

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska)

“We passed a budget for the first time in four years. … That’s not a bad thing. We got a defense authorization. A lot of appointments done. The economy, I think the economy, we saw the report yesterday — 4.1 percent GDP — better than people expected. Economy’s better, retail sales are up, consumer confidence is up, and deficit is down. That’s good news.”

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine)

“Number one, getting the first budget in four years. And I don’t know if you were aware, but I just learned this is the first budget out of a divided Congress, with the House [under a] different [party], since 1986. I think that’s significant. It wasn’t the most picturesque process in the world, but it was done though bipartisan negotiation. That’s a big deal. That’s a very big deal. Getting the defense bill done, I feel positive. We had some good bipartisan work on immigration. We had some good bipartisan work on student loans. So there were some bright spots. Not a very productive year — I’m not going to argue that.

“I think this whole business with the rules, we need to have some continued discussions. It’s trying to find the right balance between respecting minority rights and not facilitating obstruction.”

[He's asked whether he's still glad he ran for the Senate last year.] “Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. You’re dealing with public policy at the highest level, and for a person like myself who’s curious, likes public policy and likes to try to fix things, it’s a great place to be. I’ve had some very frustrating moments. The shutdown, the vote on [gun] background checks was a downer, but by and large, I feel pretty good.”

Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.)

“I think a number of things. We’re right on the verge of getting the farm bill done, we’re piecing that together. We got the WRDA [Water Resources Development Act] bill done. So really a lot of things have gotten done when you take away the budget issues. That’s really where we, you know, where we have a problem agreeing — in the amount of money we’re going to spend in the future and increase taxes, increase revenue to get those dollars. That’s really where the concern is at.

“I’d like to have seen a lot more things voted on. I don’t have any problems at all casting votes. I think the amendment process needs to be fixed, [so] members can offer amendments. That’s how you avoid what happened with the military pay issue that we’ve got, how things like that are allowed to go forward. That doesn’t happen if everybody’s consulted.”

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GOP’s latest shutdown delusion: They missed the Obamacare negotiations!

Barack Obama, Chuck Grassley (Credit: AP/Susan Walsh/Jacquelyn Martin)

Salon - Joan Walsh

I had the good luck of debating former Newt Gingrich flack Rick Tyler on MSNBC Sunday. It was good luck, because it forced me to encounter one of the ways Republicans are lying to the country about their defund/delay/repeal Obamacare hostage-taking. Tyler insisted shutting down the government was reasonable recourse for his party because the Affordable Care Act was “rammed through in the middle of the night without a single Republican vote.”

I Googled “Obamacare” and “rammed through” to find that’s a regular GOP talking point, of course. I also found the single worst piece of punditry on our current political crisis, by Michael Barone on Real Clear Politics, using the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to indict President Obama and the Affordable Care Act. I’ll get to that in a minute.

First, let me demolish Tyler’s claim that the ACA was “rammed through” Congress without deliberation or debate, part of  a pattern of Obama failing to negotiate with Congress. Well, I knew that was a lie, and I said so to Tyler and host Karen Finney. In fact, the ACA was the result of more than a year of Congressional committee hearings in which progressive ideas like single payer or a public option were jettisoned, and hundreds of GOP amendments to the law were accepted, in exchange for zero Republican votes. Sen. Max Baucus, in particular, drove an eight-month bipartisan process via the Senate Finance Committee in which he and ranking Republican Chuck Grassley held dozens of hearings, released joint “policy option” papers and finally presided over 31 meetings lasting 60 hours with the so-called “Gang of Six” – Baucus and Grassley plus Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) — to try to hammer out a compromise that would attract GOP support. (A Twitter friend shared this helpful history of the Finance Committee’s tortuous process.)



But it wasn’t until I read the Finance Committee summary of its work on the ACA that I fully experienced the inanity of Tyler’s argument. It’s actually painful to read. In fact, it was the administration’s determination to compromise, and to let the centrist Baucus drive the process, that led Democrats to head into the disastrous August 2009 recess without an actual bill they could tout, let alone defend – and that vacuum was filled by Tea Party hatred at town halls that Rep. Todd Akin (remember him?) appreciatively labelled “town hells” for Democrats.

And of course it was August when Grassley echoed Sarah Palin’s death panels lie and claimed Obama wanted “to pull the plug on Grandma.” Still, Baucus worked to reach a deal with him, accepting his amendments to the final bill passed by the Finance Committee, along with amendments by Enzi, Snowe and other GOP members. But he never won a single vote from them. Despite that history of desperate efforts to find common ground and win over Republicans, Republicans lie and say it didn’t happen.

The main reason for GOP intransigence, of course, especially in the Senate, was Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s widely publicized determination to hold his caucus together to deny the new president any victories on his agenda. On health care in particular, McConnell himself told the New York Times, “It was absolutely critical that everybody be together because if the proponents of the bill were able to say it was bipartisan, it tended to convey to the public that this is O.K., they must have figured it out. It’s either bipartisan or it isn’t.”

Former Utah Sen. Bob Bennett admiringly compared the minority leader to a healthcare reform saboteur in an interview with Josh Green. “McConnell knew the places to go, around the tank, and loosen a lug bolt here, pour sand in a hydraulic receptacle there, and slow the whole thing down,” Bennett told Green.

Against this backdrop, Tyler’s claim that the Affordable Care Act was passed without negotiation is farcical. But if he hadn’t made that silly claim, I never would have Googled “Obamacare” and “rammed through” to find the worst piece of mainstream punditry on our disastrous political dysfunction. On Real Clear Politics last week, Michael Barone had the gall to use the bipartisan coalition that came together behind the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to indict the president for, that’s right, “ramming through” Obamacare.

Because Lyndon Johnson worked to get Republican votes for the bill, Barone argued, once it became law, “white Southerners largely acquiesced. Traditional Southern courtesy replaced mob violence. Minds and hearts had been changed.” And that’s what would have happened with the ACA if only Obama were LBJ. Or something.

If Barone really believes “traditional Southern courtesy replaced mob violence” after the Civil Rights Act passed, he needs to get out more. He ought to talk to the siblings of James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, as I did last week, who were murdered in August 1964 after the bill passed; or the survivors of ugly violence at the March 1965 Selma marches, from John Lewis, who had his skull fractured, to the families of Rev. James Reeb and Viola Liuzzo, who were killed for taking part; or the families of Jonathan Daniels or Samuel Younge, or any of the many civil rights martyrs killed after the Civil Rights Act passed.

Sadly, Barone has become a joke. But is it any accident that he casts Obamcare opponents in the role of (vanquished) Jim Crow defenders? Just this weekend an unnamed Republican congressman compared his side to the Confederates who blundered their way into the Battle of Gettysburg. He told the Washington Examiner’s Byron York: “I would liken this a little bit to Gettysburg, where a Confederate unit went looking for shoes and stumbled into Union cavalry, and all of a sudden found itself embroiled in battle on a battlefield it didn’t intend to be on, and everybody just kept feeding troops into it,” the congressman said. “That’s basically what’s happening now in a political sense.

Um, OK. I’ve gotten in trouble for pointing to the role of race and racism in driving the GOP’s anti-Obamcare crusade. But I’m not the one comparing them to Confederates or the Jim Crow South.

Whether or not it’s racism, the disrespect for this president continues to amaze me. Tyler himself derisively told me and Finney that “the president doesn’t understand his job, or isn’t very good at it.” That’s pretty rich, coming from Newt Gingrich’s former flack. Neoconfederates or nihilists, take your pick. They intend to destroy this president, and if they have to take down the economy too, so be it.

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Filed under Right Wing Extremism, Right-Wing Propaganda

The right gets confused by its own lie

The right gets confused by its own lie

Salon

Right-wing groups claim Congress is exempted from Obamacare. But five months ago, they had a very different story

A good lie never dies, and so it is that we get Texas Sen. Ted Cruz telling Mary Matalin, sitting in for Laura Ingraham, Monday: “I think it is disgraceful that President Obama, in just a lawless move, just exempted Congress [from Obamacare].”

“If Congress gets a pass on Obamacare, you should, too,” the conservative group Freedomworks, which has been leading the push to defund the health law, demands. Then there’s John Cornyn, the number two Senate Republican, along with the Wall Street Journal editorial board and  Fox News, not to mention former senator and current Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint, and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, and all the rest. A Washington Times columnist even called it “treason.”

Sadly, but not surprisingly, they’re all lying to you. Congress did not, and never has, “exempted” itself from Obamacare. Here’s the New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn, one of the smartest writers on health care policy anywhere:

As is often the case with these arguments, this one contains an element of truth. Obamacare really does treat congressional employees differently from other people. But that’s because of an amendment written by Senator Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican. The amendment—almost certainly a political stunt designed to embarrass the Democrats—created an ambiguity in the law that the Obama administration had to clarify. Last week the administration issued a ruling and, sure enough, it is getting political grief over it. But there’s no reason it should.

Grassley offered an amendment that would kick members of Congress and their staffers off the federal employee health plan and make them enroll in the new health insurance exchanges, which are mostly for individuals who don’t get employer coverage. If not for his amendment, their insurance scheme wouldn’t have changed at all. Republicans expected Democrats would vote it down, thus giving them an opening to attack the law, but Democrats called the bluff and passed the amendment.

But what wasn’t resolved, until last week, was whether members of Congress and their employees would still get the money the government had been contributing to their health insurance premiums as their employer. Last week, the administration ruled: They would get to keep the employer contribution. That’s it.

So, in fact, members of Congress are still going to be required to use the Obamacare-created health insurance exchanges. That’s why Politifact called the exemption myth a “Pants on Fire” and FactCheck.org wrote, “No. Congress members and staffers will be required to buy insurance through the exchanges on Jan. 1.” For more, check out Ezra KleinSteve Benen, and Jon Chait, who calls it a “toxic combination of ignorance and bad faith that has characterized the right’s approach to Obamacare.”

Don’t believe the liberal or even mainstream “liberal” media? Then take it from FreedomWorks. That’s right, the very same conservative advocacy group that’s now telling conservatives to “ready your pitchforks” over the alleged congressional exemption once said the polar exact diametrical opposite.

No, Congress Is Not Exempt From Obamacare,” reads the headline from an April 28 blog post on the group’s website from Loren Heal, who writes of the controversy over the Grassley Amendment:

Congress is not only covered by Obamacare, but members and staff can be offered only plans that are either created by Obamacare or are offered through an exchange. That isn’t how the law works for most people, but it’s not exempting anyone — it’s more restrictive.

In fact, FreedomWorks was so sure then that Congress wasn’t getting an exemption that they demanded “Politico print a retraction” after writing “a carefully crafted story” that claimed members of Congress were in secret talks to exempt themselves from Obamacare. “It isn’t true,” Heal continued. He was right then when he debunked it. That’s how we know they’re lying, and not just ignorant.

 

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Filed under Affordable Care Act, Obamacare

John Boehner, Eric Cantor to meet Newtown families

Eric Cantor and John Boehner are pictured. | AP Photo

Sandy Hook families are keeping pressure on lawmakers to expand background checks. | AP Photo

Politico

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) will meet this week with the families who lost relatives in the Newtown, Conn., shooting.

The meeting will be Thursday, during the group’s most recent swing through Washington, D.C.

“Speaker Boehner’s heart goes out to the victims of this senseless tragedy, and their families,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said. “He wants to hear their stories and talk about ways to reduce the culture of violence in our country.”

The Republican House hasn’t attempted to tighten gun laws in the wake of the shooting — and has shown little appetite to do so. GOP leadership has prepared some options if the Senate passed tighter gun restrictions, but a move to tighten background checks on commercial gun sales failed in March.

House Republicans have privately considered renewing the current background check system, promoting legislation to deal with violence in society. They would also consider moving a Republican gun control bill drafted by Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Chuck Grassley (Iowa).

Families of several Sandy Hook shooting victims arrive on Capitol Hill this week to try and resurrect the gun control debate.

A nonprofit group called Sandy Hook Promise, which was created in the wake of the shootings is intended to spark a legislative dialogue and action on guns, is bringing to the Hill members of seven families of Sandy Hook Elementary School victims, a spokeswoman confirmed to POLITICO.

The families will meet with members of both the House and the Senate and will be pushing the background check legislation and the House companion bill. The families will also begin discussions with lawmakers on mental health legislation.

The nonprofit will host Nelba Marquez-Greene, Neil Heslin, Nicole Hockley, Terri and Matthew Rousseau, Bill Sherlach, David and Francine Wheeler, and Mark Barden, whose family was the subject of a long profile in The Washington Post on Sunday.

The return to Washington by the families will occur on Tuesday and Wednesday and was first reported by The Associated Press.

The Capitol Hill lobbying comes the same week as the six-month anniversary of the mass shooting. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, will lead a moment of silence for victims in Newtown on Friday at 9:30 a.m., which will kick off a national bus tour by Mayors Against Illegal Guns to lobby members of Congress to support background checks.

The Senate’s background check legislation authored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) failed in April, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has indicated he plans to huddle with Manchin and Vice President Joe Biden on ways to revive the legislation.

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Filed under John Boehner, Newton Massacre

GOP Freaking Out About Obama’s Attempt To Fill Empty Court Seats

Mcconnell Grassley Lee

Former Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) suggested that the Republican Party “ought to put a sign on the national committee doors that says ‘closed for repairs’ until New Year’s Day next year — and spend that time going over ideas and positive agendas.”

I’m in full agreement with Senator Snowe.

The president is doing nothing more than trying to fill four vacant seats on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Huffington Post

Republican senators are fuming about President Barack Obama’s attempt to fill empty seats on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, charging him with “court-packing” and alleging that his push to confirm nominees is all politics.

But not only is Obama not “court-packing” — a term describing an attempt to add judges to a court with the goal of shifting the balance, not filling existing vacancies — but Republicans’ efforts to prevent Obama from appointing judges amount to their own attempt to tip the scales in their favor. What’s more, some of the GOP senators trying to prevent his nominees from advancing previously voted to fill the court when there was a Republican in the White House.

As it stands, the powerful D.C. Circuit has 11 seats, three of which are vacant. Obama has signaled plans to put forward nominees for all three open slots as soon as this week. But Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and other Republicans are pushing legislation that would eliminate those seats and keep the court where it is: with eight judges, four of whom were appointed by Democrats and four of whom were appointed by Republicans.

Grassley has argued that the court simply doesn’t need to have three more judges because it has a lighter workload than other circuit courts — a stance that Democrats say overlooks the fact that the court is second in stature only to the Supreme Court and takes on particularly complex cases. But Grassley has also suggested that Obama is trying to pack the court.

“I’m concerned about the caseload of this circuit and the efforts to pack it,” Grassley complained during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week, charging the administration — six times – with court-packing. Of course, Grassley was quickly corrected by a colleague, who said that court-packing isn’t about filling existing vacancies.

Still, Grassley isn’t alone in making these charges. During floor remarks last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused Democrats of plotting with the White House “to pack the D.C. Circuit with appointees,” and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) worried aloud that Democrats may “decide to play politics and seek — without any legitimate justification — to pack the D.C. Circuit with unneeded judges simply in order to advance a partisan agenda.”

Continue reading here…

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Filed under United States Senate

Obama To Nominate 3 For D.C. Circuit Court Of Appeals, Setting Up Filibuster Fight

This is long overdue.  Kudos to Senator Harry Reid for his persistence in bringing the GOP’s perpetual acts of obstructing the president’s agenda to the forefront.

The Huffington Post

President Barack Obama plans to nominate three judges to a critical federal court in a move that The New York Times says “will effectively be daring Republicans to find specific ground to filibuster all the nominees.”

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is considered nearly as powerful as the Supreme Court and is known as a proving ground for potential high-court nominees. The three vacancies are part of a staffing crisis that has plagued the judiciary, as Obama’s nominees have been bottled up in the Senate by GOP obstruction. And while he has had to wait longer than past presidents to have judges approved, he has also nominated them at a slower pace.

A Senate Democratic aide said that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has been pressing the president to make such a move to raise the pressure on Republicans. “That is what Reid has been pressing for and why we cleared Sri last week,” the aide said, referring Sri Srinivasan, who was recently approved for the Court, reducing the gap from four to three. He was approved 97-0 once Republicans dropped procedural objections.

A major reason Obama has tapped fewer judges, HuffPost’s Jen Bendery recently reported, has to do with Senate tradition, which requires home state senators to put forward a slate of acceptable nominees from which the president chooses. But GOP senators have declined to put forward a slate. In some cases, they have then subsequently complained about the slow pace of nominations.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) recently slammed the idea that Obama would fill all the D.C. court vacancies as “packing the court,” but was quickly corrected by a colleague, who noted that the term refers to an attempt to increase the number of judges on a panel in order to tip the balance, not to fill existing vacancies.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made a similar charge. “The whole purpose here is to stack the court,” he said on the Senate floor during debate over obstruction and Srinivasan’s nomination. “The real issue here is I guess [Reid] disagrees with the rulings on the D.C. Circuit.”

Obama’s move coincides with Reid’s increased attention on Senate rules related to nominations. All indications are that there will be a showdown in July that could result in Democrats implementing the so-called “nuclear option,” which would eliminate the ability to filibuster nominations.

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Filed under President Barack Obama, Sen. Harry Reid

SENATE KILLS BACKGROUND CHECK AMENDMENT

 

Background-Check Amendment Fizzles

The Huffington Post

The Senate failed to muster sufficient support Wednesday for a gun-buyer background check bill that’s supported by nearly 90 percent of Americans, voting the measure down in a procedural vote that likely dooms any major legislation to curb gun violence.

The measure — painstakingly crafted by the bipartisan duo of Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) — was seen as the key to getting the first measure in decades to address the sorts of mass slaughters that so recently horrified the country in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six teachers were gunned down, and in Auroro, Colo., where moviegoers where killed in a theater.

The amendment failed 54 to 46, falling short of the 60-vote threshold needed to break a filibuster of the measure, even as victims of the Sandy Hook shootings watched from the Senate gallery and activists at a vigil outside the Capitol read the names of people slain since then, hoping to prompt action.

Passage of the background check amendment had been seen as key because it represented a bipartisan agreement in a highly polarized debate, and would have preserved a major part of the overall bill that many advocates against gun violence saw as a minimum step toward stemming gun massacres.

Stronger measures up for a vote also appeared headed for failure, including a ban of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. The only significant steps that all sides agreed on were stemming illegal trafficking of weapons and improving mental health efforts.

The background check measure would have expanded the current check system to cover sales of weapons on the Internet and at gun shows.

Democratic aides privately conceded that with the failure of background checks, the rest of the bill would likely go down. One described it as a “pyrhic victory,” noting that a majority of the Senate backed the bill that is so popular outside the halls of Congress. “It’s the farthest we’ve come,” said the aide, speaking on background to talk freely.

The aides saw little hope of it being resurrected, although leaders kept that option open.

Opponents argued that the expanded check system would have laid the groundwork for a national registry of gun owners, although the measure expressly forbid such a step with a 15-year jail sentence for anyone who tried to do that.

They also called it a useless step that would achieve little.

“Expanded background checks would not have prevented Newtown,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Neb.) said.

But Toomey said his amendment would have at least been a modest step in the right direction.

“The goal was to see if we can find a way to make it a little bit more difficult for people who have no legal right to have a gun for them to obtain it,” Toomey said. “That was the goal.”

The Seante failed to meet it.

 

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Filed under Gun Control Legislation, Gun Lobby

Top GOP Senator: Native American Juries Are Incapable Of Trying White People Fairly

In Washington, DC it’s no secret that Senator Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is not very bright.

Think Progress

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

Republicans have offered a number of reasons why they oppose the Violence Against Women Act. Some think it’s unconstitutional. Others argue that it’s just a meaningless bill with a patriotic title.

On Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) added a new one: Native Americans supposedly aren’t capable of holding fair trials.

Last week, Grassley was one of just 22 senators—all Republican men—who voted against reauthorizing VAWA. During a town hall meeting in Indianola on Wednesday, a woman asked him to explain his vote. Grassley responded that the legislation is unconstitutional, a belief shared by at least five of his colleagues.

Since the Constitution guarantees citizens the right to a trial among a jury of peers, Grassley reasoned that white men would be deprived of their rights if those who were accused of violence against Native American women had to appear in a tribal court. “On an Indian reservation, it’s going to be made up of Indians, right?” Grassley said. “So the non-Indian doesn’t get a fair trial.”

GRASSLEY: One provision that non-Native Americans can be tried in tribal court. And why is that a big thing? Because of the constitutionality of it, for two reasons. One, you know how the law is, that if you have a jury, the jury is supposed to be a reflection of society. [...] So you get non-Indians, let me say to make it easy, you get non-Indians going into a reservation and violating a woman. They need to be prosecuted. They aren’t prosecuted. So the idea behind [VAWA] is we’ll try them in tribal court. But under the laws of our land, you got to have a jury that is a reflection of society as a whole, and on an Indian reservation, it’s going to be made up of Indians, right? So the non-Indian doesn’t get a fair trial.

Watch:

There is actually no requirement that juries reflect “society as a whole.” The Sixth Amendment requires juries to be drawn from the “State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed,” and Supreme Court decisions establish that criminal defendants also have a right to a jury which is “drawn from a fair cross section of the community,” where the trial court convenes to hear their case. But this does not entitle anyone to be tried by a jury that reflects the whole of American society.

A person who is tried in Vermont is likely to have an all-white jury because over 95 percent of Vermont is white. Similarly, a person who commits a crime in the Navajo Nation will face a jury of Native Americans because the population of the local community is made up of Navajo people. There is no reason to believe that Navajo jurors are any less impartial than white Vermonters, and Grassley is wrong to suggest otherwise.

Grassley went to great lengths to tell attendees that he had supported VAWA in the past. “I support 98 percent of what’s in the bill,” he said. If it weren’t for his belief that Native Americans’ are incapable of conducting a fair trial, perhaps he would have voted for it again.

If you want Congress to reauthorize VAWA, sign ThinkProgress’ petition here.

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Senate Passes Violence Against Women Act, With No Help From 22 Republican Male Senators

Score one more point against the GOP winning over the women’s vote in 2014 and 2016…

Think Progress

The Violence Against Women Act reauthorization passed through the Senate on Tuesday afternoon, by a vote of 78 to 22. Of those opposing the legislation, all 22 were Republican men. Every female Senator supported the bill.

Among the most notable votes against the bill were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). Here’s a look at all 22 opponents of VAWA:

VAWA expired during the previous Congress, and because of Republican opposition to provisions for Native Americanundocumented, and LGBT victims of domestic violence, the different versions approved by the House and by the Senate were never reconciled, and the bill died without final passage at the end of 2012.

Since its inception in 1994, VAWA has established a system for helping women in danger. The law created the National Domestic Violence Hotline, made stalking illegal, and helped drive down the number of partner homicides.

Two Senators — Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) — also offered significant amendments to the VAWA bill. Grassley’s amendment stripped all Native American, LGBT, and undocumented victim protections. It was voted down on Thursday of last week. Cornyn’s, aimed exclusively on the bill’s language relating to tribal lands, failed on Monday.

Last week, eight Senators voted against even moving to debate on the revived legislation, and they are among those who voted against its passage. Four of them did so because their radical interpretation of the constitution precludes federal protection for domestic violence victims.

The version passed by the Senate today will next go to the House for a vote, where it is expected to encounter some difficulties, particularly over the protections of tribal women included in the bill.

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N.R.A. DEFENDS RIGHT TO OWN POLITICIANS (Andy Borowitz)

lapierre-nra-boro.jpg

The New Yorker

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, National Rifle Association C.E.O. Wayne LaPierre warned that the N.R.A. would vigorously oppose any legislation that “limits the sale, purchase, or ownership of politicians.”

“Politicians pose no danger to the public if used correctly,” said Mr. LaPierre, who claims to have over two hundred politicians in his personal collection. “Everyone hears about the bad guys in Congress. Well, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a vote is a good guy with a vote. I’m proud to be the owner of many of those guys.”

Mr. LaPierre’s comments drew a sharp rebuke from Carol Foyler, a politician-control advocate who has spent the past twelve years lobbying for stricter limits on the sale of politicians.

“Right now, a man like Wayne LaPierre can walk right into Congress and buy any politician he wants,” she said. “There’s no background check, no waiting period. And so hundreds of politicians are falling into the hands of people who are unstable and, quite frankly, dangerous.”

In addition to limiting the sale of politicians, Ms. Foyler said, it is time for society to take a look at the “sheer number” of politicians in the U.S.: “There’s no doubt that we would be safer if there were fewer of them.”

For his part, the N.R.A. leader ended his testimony by serving notice that he would “resist any attempt” to take away the hundreds of elected officials he says are legally his.

As if to illustrate that point, he clutched Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) close to his chest and bellowed, “From my cold, dead hands.”

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