Senate

By the way: McConnell: For going nuclear before he was against it

Daily Kos

Harry Reid is having a fun day:

By filibustering 10 qualified judicial nominees in only 16 months, our Democratic colleagues have broken this unwritten rule. This is not the first time a minority of senators has upset a Senate tradition or practice and the current Senate majority intends to do what the majority in the Senate has often done: use it’s constitutional authority under Article 1, section 5 to reform Senate procedure by a simple majority vote.

In two sentences 2005 McConnell destroys all of 2013 McConnell’s arguments. Just like that. What a difference a Democratic president makes.

The rules have changed: Reid pulls trigger on nuclear option

Attribution: Center for Digital Discourse and Culture

For the past few years, Senator Harry Reid has been reluctant to use the “Nuclear Option” to break  the current Senate “filibuster” rules  and return the filibuster back to a “simple majority” rule.  Kudos to Sen. Reid.

Daily Kos

Kaboom! Republicans dared Harry Reid to do it, and he just did, finally. The Senate has voted to change the filibuster rules, 52-48. Democrats Carl Levin, Joe Manchin, Mark Pryor voted against changing the rule.

The new rule that will allow just a simple majority vote for all nominees except for the Supreme Court. For the remainder of this Congress, President Obama’s nominees will only need 51 votes to be appointed. What that means immediately is that, while the Republicans continue to play games to delay action on the Defense Authorization, the nominations of Patricia Millett, Nina Pillard, and Roberts Wilkins to the D.C. Circuit can move forward. So can the nomination of Rep. Mel Watt to the federal housing agency. In other words, the Senate can start functioning again. At least on nominations.

This will likely just further enrage Republicans, making them even more obnoxious and obstructionist. So next stop, ending the filibuster on legislation. That will probably happen at the beginning of the next Congress, January, 2015.

 

Three reasons filibuster reform might actually happen today

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Sen. Harry Reid – (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

This must be done soon.  Preferably, today.  Enough is enough from the Teapublican filibusters in the senate.

The Washington Post – Wonkblog

Filibuster reform might actually happen this time. In fact, it might happen today.

Harry Reid is poised to end the filibuster against executive-branch appointments and judicial nominations. Could Democrats back out at the last minute, as they have so many times before? Absolutely. But there’ve been three big changes in Senate Democrats’ outlook since the last time filibuster reform failed.

1. Filibuster reform is just another word for nothing left to lose. Back in January, the best arguments against filibuster reform had nothing to do with filibuster reform. They had to do with the rest of the Democrats’ agenda.

“Speaker John Boehner said the House wouldn’t consider legislation from a post-filibuster reform Senate. It’s very likely that a real filibuster reform fight would’ve destroyed the Democrats’ agenda in the coming months — think immigration and gun control.”

But gun control died in the Senate. And it turned out that Boehner refused to consider the Senate’s immigration legislation regardless of the filibuster’s status. Now, with President Obama’s political capital at a nadir, it’s clear that there’s no second-term agenda to protect in the near future, and they’re may not even be a Democratic Senate majority after 2014.

So in pure “getting-things-done” terms, Democrats are faced with a choice: keep the filibuster and get nothing done. Change the filibuster and get nothing done aside from staffing the federal government and filling a huge number of judicial vacancies with lifetime appointments.

2. Democrats believe Republicans will shred the filibuster as soon as they get a chance. The main reason filibuster reform typically fails is that the majority party is scared of what will happen when the minority party gets into power. But Senate Democrats just watched Republicans mount a suicide mission to shut down the government. Their confidence that Republicans will treat the upper chamber’s rules with reverence is low, to say the least.

This has led to some fatalistic thinking about filibuster reform: If Republicans are going to blow the filibuster up anyway, Democrats might as well take the first step and get some judges out of the deal.

3. Senate Democrats feel betrayed by Republicans. It’s hard to overstate the pride senior Senate Democrats took in cutting their January deal with Senate Republicans. That kind of good-faith dealmaking, they said, was exactly how the Senate is supposed to work. Some even argued it was a sign that immigration reform, gun control, and other top Democratic initiatives might pass.

But then Republicans filibustered more judges and executive-branch nominees. And the pride top Democrats took in their deal to avert filibuster reform has turned to anger that Republicans made them look like trusting fools. “Just talked to at least 10 Senate Dems about filibuster reform, including some who previously opposed it,” tweets the Huffington Post’s Jennifer Bendery. “Just one opposes now.”

Morning Maddow: November 15, 2013

House Speaker John Boehner (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Wisconsin Assembly votes in a late-night session to reinstate voter ID. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

House Speaker Boehner continues to insist that ENDA is not necessary. (The Hill)

Anti-abortion forces pressure vulnerable Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) to take a stand on the 20-week ban. (News&Observer)

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) won’t let the World Congress of Families meet in a Senate room. (BuzzFeed)

Louisiana elects a new Congressman tomorrow. (AP)

Washington state woman arrested for carrying a bomb, leaving another one behind at home. (Kitsap Sun)

China will loosen its one-child policy, abolish re-education camps. (NY Times)

Harry Reid Eviscerates John Boehner, ‘Nobody knows what he’s talking about.’

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 3.45.28 PM

I totally to agree with the Senate Majority Leader…

PoliticusUSA

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is fed up with Speaker of the House John Boehner. Reid let loose in an interview, and claimed that nobody knows what Boehner is talking about.

In an interview with Fusion, Sen. Reid didn’t pull any punches when talking about Boehner and immigration reform. Reid said, “I’m stunned. How could anybody in good conscience tell one group he’s trying to do immigration reform, and a few minutes later, say ‘I’m not going to do anything about a conference?’… I mean, this House of Representatives might just as well not exist. They don’t do anything. And then to do this intellectual yoga drill where nobody knows what he’s talking about is like some of the yoga moves I’ve tried and can’t do.”

The Senate Majority Leader was talking about immigration, but what he described fits Speaker Boehner on every issue. Boehner says the economy and jobs are his top priority, but he refuses to pass any jobs bills. No matter what the news is on the ACA, Boehner repeats his same talking points that the law is a failure and must be done away with.

Harry Reid flat out said that Boehner and the House Republicans were worthless. Reid is frustrated because Boehner has consistently went back on his word, refused to act, and punted every single crisis that his caucus has created over to the Senate to solve.

It isn’t just that House Republicans don’t do anything. It is also the fact that when challenged on not doing anything, Boehner and company respond with a bunch of incoherent gibberish that makes no sense.

The House might as well not exist. Besides trying to destroy Obamacare more times than Pinky and the Brain tried to take over the world (with the same rate of success), what have they done?

The answer is nothing. Harry Reid is sounding like he is sick of it, and that he is more than ready for a functioning House of Representatives that he can work with in the future. More than anyone else in America, Harry Reid might be wishing for Nancy Pelosi to take back the gavel in 2014.

 

McConnell smacks down tea party groups: They mislead for profit

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky speaks to reporters as lawmakers moved toward resolving their feud over filibusters of White House appointees on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 16, 2013.CHARLES DHARAPAK/AP

It appears Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) may have finally acquired a new set of cajones.  

As much as I don’t like McConnell, kudos to him for finally standing up to those folks in  the house and senate who wish to end government as we know it and profit from their destructive tactics in the process. 

MSNBC

Sen. Mitch McConnell is done playing nice.

McConnell smacked down the tea party in an interview with Wall Street Journal opinion writer Peggy Noonan published Thursday evening.

The Tea Party is made up of people who are “angry and upset at government,” the Senate minority leader said, but they’ve been mislead by their leaders.

“They’ve been told the reason we can’t get to better outcomes than we’ve gotten is not because the Democrats control the Senate and the White House but because Republicans have been insufficiently feisty. Well, that’s just not true, and I think that the folks that I have difficulty with are the leaders of some of these groups who basically mislead them for profit,” he said.

When the tea party helped Sen. Rand Paul defeat a McConnell-approved candidate in a Kentucky Republican primary in 2010, McConnell made nice with the Senate’s tea party wing and looked to shore up his right flank, hiring a Paul-family friend, Jesse Benton, to run his re-election campaign. A tea partier challenged him from the right, but McConnell leads in polls by a 47 points.

Then the shutdown hit and all bets were off—McConnell quickly became a target when he brokered a deal with Democrats to reopen the federal government without taking down Obamacare.

And the chips fell swiftly.

The Senate Conservatives Fund, founded by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, slammed McConnell, endorsed his Republican primary challenger, and later began running ads against McConnell.

“So now Mitch McConnell is negotiating the Republican surrender,” the group’s executive director,Matt Hoskins, said. “He gave the Democrats a blank check back in July when he signaled he would do anything to avoid a shutdown and now Democrats can demand whatever they want. It’s humiliating.”

The Tea Party Nation withdrew their endorsement of the Senate minority leader in his primary race; the Senate Conservatives Fund endorsed McConnell’s tea party challenger. Western Representation PAC, a tea party-aligned group, slammed McConnell in a fundraising email titled “A Parliament of Traitors and Whores.”

Even Sarah Palin wrote a Facebook post pointing fingers at McConnell and his reelection race.

“We’re going to shake things up in 2014,” she wrote in part. “Soon we must focus on important House and Senate races. Let’s start with Kentucky.”

So, with little tea party support left to lose, McConnell is hitting back.

The Senate Conservatives Fund “has elected more Democrats than the Democratic Senatorial Committee over the last three cycles,” he told the Journal.

And that race in Alabama, where a birther, tea party activist lost to a conservative business-interest-aligned Republican?

That was a significant election, McConnell said, explaining that Republicans can’t govern if they can’t win elections. And to win, parties must “run candidates that don’t scare the general public, [and] convey the impression that we could actually be responsible for governing, you can trust us—we’re adults here, we’re grown-ups,” he said.

But McConnell isn’t worried about the primary challenge his tea party opponents are hoping to make more difficult.

“I don’t wanna be overly cocky, but I’m gonna be the Republican nominee next year,” he told Noonan.

Senator Paul and the disappearing transcripts

MSNBC – Michael Yarvitz

As examples of his plagiarizing from Wikipedia and other sources pile up, Rand Paul’s Senate office now appears to have started scrubbing his Senate website to make it harder to get the text of his speeches.

The screen grab below shows what it used to look like if you went to his website to watch his “State of the Union” response, containing the block of text plagiarized from an Associated Press article. You could follow along with the transcript of the speech typed out below. You can see the page says, “Below is a video and transcript of his speech.”

That full transcript was still up as of October 14, according to Google’s cache of the page. Now it’s gone. “Below is a video  of his speech,” the page reads. So, yes, you could transcribe the video yourself if you want to search for whether the words he used came from someone else, but Rand Paul’s office won’t make it so easy for you anymore.

 

The Obamacare sabotage campaign

The opposition was strategic from the start. | AP Photo

Politico – TODD S. PURDUM

“The GOP faithful then kept up their crusade past the president’s reelection, in a pattern of “massive resistance” not seen since the Southern states’ defiance of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.”

To the undisputed reasons for Obamacare’s rocky rollout — a balky website, muddied White House messaging and sudden sticker shock for individuals forced to buy more expensive health insurance — add a less acknowledged cause: calculated sabotage by Republicans at every step.

That may sound like a left-wing conspiracy theory — and the Obama administration itself is so busy defending the indefensible early failings of its signature program that it has barely tried to make this case. But there is a strong factual basis for such a charge.

From the moment the bill was introduced, Republican leaders in both houses of Congress announced their intention to kill it. Republican troops pressed this cause all the way to the Supreme Court — which upheld the law, but weakened a key part of it by giving states the option to reject an expansion of Medicaid. The GOP faithful then kept up their crusade past the president’s reelection, in a pattern of “massive resistance” not seen since the Southern states’ defiance of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.

The opposition was strategic from the start: Derail President Barack Obama’s biggest ambition, and derail Obama himself. Party leaders enforced discipline, withholding any support for the new law — which passed with only Democratic votes, thus undermining its acceptance. Partisan divisions also meant that Democrats could not pass legislation smoothing out some rough language in the draft bill that passed the Senate. That left the administration forced to fill far more gaps through regulation than it otherwise would have had to do, because attempts — usually routine — to re-open the bill for small changes could have led to wholesale debate in the Senate all over again.

But the bitter fight over passage was only the beginning of the war to stop Obamacare. Most Republican governors declined to create their own state insurance exchanges — an option inserted in the bill in the Senate to appeal to the classic conservative preference for local control — forcing the federal government to take at least partial responsibility for creating marketplaces serving 36 states — far more than ever intended.

Then congressional Republicans refused repeatedly to appropriate dedicated funds to do all that extra work, leaving the Health and Human Services Department and other agencies to cobble together HealthCare.gov by redirecting funds from existing programs. On top of that, nearly half of the states declined to expand their Medicaid programs using federal funds, as the law envisioned.

Then, in the months leading up to the program’s debut, some states refused to do anything at all to educate the public about the law. And congressional Republicans sent so many burdensome queries to local hospitals and nonprofits gearing up to help consumers navigate the new system face-to-face that at least two such groups returned their federal grants and gave up the effort. When the White House let it be known last summer that it was in talks with the National Football League to enlist star athletes to help promote the law, the Senate’s top two Republicans sent the league an ominous letter wondering why it would “risk damaging its inclusive and apolitical brand.” The NFL backed off.

The drama culminated on the eve of the open enrollment date of Oct. 1. Congressional Republicans shut down the government, disrupting last-minute planning and limiting the administration’s political ability to prepare the public for the likelihood of potential problems, because it was in a last-ditch fight to defend the president’s biggest legislative accomplishment.

“I think my Republican colleagues forget that a lot of people are enrolling through state exchanges, rather than the federal exchange,” Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) noted last week. “And if it wasn’t for the fact that many Republican governors, including my own,” failed to set up state exchanges, “then we wouldn’t be putting so much burden on the federal system.”

In fact, putting an excessive burden on the federal government was the explicit aim of the law’s opponents. “Congress authorized no funds for federal ‘fallback’ exchanges,” the Tea Party Patriots website noted as long ago as last December. “So Washington may not be able to impose exchanges on states at all.” The group went on to suggest that since Washington was not equipped to handle so many state exchanges, “both financially and otherwise — this means the entire law could implode on itself.”

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Biden To Swear In Cory Booker On Oct. 31

Nj-senate--2

Senator-Elect Corey Booker – AP Photo / Julio Cortez

This is good news for Democrats…

TPM LiveWire

Vice President Joe Biden will swear in Sen.-elect Cory Booker (D) next Thursday, a White House official confirmed to TPM.

Booker, the former mayor of Newark, will take the oath of office administered by Biden at noon.

Booker won the special election for deceased Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s (D-NJ) Senate seat roughly two weeks earlier. Booker replaces interim Sen. Jeff Chiesa (R-NJ), who was appointed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) to fill Lautenberg’s seat in June after Lautenberg’s death.

The Newark Star-Ledger first reported the news of Booker’s swearing in.

 

Q&A: What’s the state of the debt limit fight today?

Congress had until Sept. 30 to raise the debt limit to avoid a partial government shutdown. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Washington Post

Confused by all the crazy ups and downs of Washington over the government shutdown and debt ceiling? Here’s a five-minute primer on what’s happening.

What’s going on right now?

Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are in a mad dash to finalize a deal to reopen the government and avoid breaching a Thursday deadline to raise the federal debt ceiling. (The debt ceiling is scary and gets its own primer here.)

When will they reach the deal?

Hopefully today.

What will the deal involve?

Details are still up in the air, but it’s likely to have a four main elements:

– Reopen the government and fund it through Jan. 15, 2014.
— Raise the debt limit through Feb. 7, 2014, but allow federal borrowing to continue for a few weeks longer.
— Require additional measures, favored by Republicans, to ensure that people who receive financial help in buying health insurance under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act are being honest about their income.
— Set up a negotiating committee to try to come up with a longer-term budget plan so we don’t go through this again early next year. The committee would be expected to issue budget recommendations by Dec. 13. Should it fail, agencies would have more flexibility to implement the deep cuts to domestic and Pentagon spending, known as sequestration, that took effect earlier this year.

When would the government open and the crisis be over?

As soon as both houses of Congress pass the deal and President Obama signs it.

When will the deal pass the Senate?

A deal could be passed as soon as Wednesday if all senators agree. If a single senator refuses to allow an immediate vote on the measure (looking at you, Ted Cruz), it could take several days. Cruz is reportedly being pressured by his Republican colleagues not to hold up any vote.

Will the deal pass the House?

(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Big choices ahead for the Speaker. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Hard to say. When a Senate deal was progressing on Tuesday, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) unveiled his own proposal that nearly undermined all the movement in the Senate. But that effort failed, and Boehner has in the past allowed a vote on critical legislation when he is facing a deadline. Any Senate measure would likely pass the House with the support of most Democrats and a substantial number of Republicans.

That sounds pretty uncertain to me.

Unfortunately, true.

How long do lawmakers have to get the deal done?

It really should get done by Thursday. That’s when the government no longer can borrow any money and basically will be running on fumes. That’s the day we hit the debt ceiling deadline.

After the debt ceiling deadline is breached, there might be a couple of days, or even a week, of breathing room, as the Treasury Department uses up whatever’s left in the federal piggy bank.

But soon enough, there won’t be enough money to make all payments, and the Treasury  might have to delay or suspend Social Security checks, food stamps and tens of billions of dollars in payments. In effect, the government would begin defaulting on its obligations.

Treasury would have only daily tax receipts to pay for the government, which amount to only 70 cents for every dollar of federal spending over the next month. And that could cause financial market chaos and a recession.

It sounds like the world doesn’t actually end tomorrow if Congress takes more time to figure things out.

That’s correct — at least due to a government default. There could always be a massive asteroid or alien invasion that does end the world.

Be serious. What is the precise date when Congress has to act to make sure we avoid lots of economic problem?

The sooner the better, but we don’t have an absolute fixed date. Federal finances tend to be unpredictable. Markets could freak out at any time, though we can’t say with certainty when that will happen.

Assuming this deal makes it through, who’s won and who’s lost?

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

He can be giddy. But just a little. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

What a simplistic way of thinking about things! But since you asked, it seems pretty clear in this round of the budget wars, President Obama and the Democrats will have outmaneuvered their Republican opponents.

House Republicans decided to shut down the government in hopes of major changes t othe health-care law. None is in the offing.

Senate Republicans reluctantly went along with that strategy — at least for a while. In the meantime, the GOP brand was badly beaten up in the polls.

Prognosticators now guess that Republicans could have a very hard time winning the Senate in 2014 — even though the electoral map is stacked against the Democrats. But the House still looks safe for the GOP.

Meanwhile, Obama and Democrats stayed firm to their view that they would not pay a “ransom” in order to accomplish the basic tasks of keeping the government open and raising the debt limit.

Hold up one second. Hasn’t Obama been forced to compromise to raise the debt ceiling and open the government?

Not really. Obama is giving the flimsiest of fig leaves to the Republicans — a promise to do a better job ensuring that people who report their income to get help buying health insurance under the health-care law are actually reporting their income properly. There were already some assurances in the health-care law, so all the president is promising is an additional layer of scrutiny.

So is it all wonderful for Obama and Democrats?

Nope. The truth is that for all the drama, they’re getting little out of this deal. They don’t roll back the deep spending cuts known as sequester — a policy that is eating away at domestic priorities like education and research and development. They don’t get new money to spend on jobs or an immigration bill.

They just get a political win. And they avoid an economic disaster.

Once this crisis is over, what happens next?

Well, per the outlines of the agreement, both Republicans and Democrats would assign lawmakers to a committee to hash out a broader budget plan for the coming year. These joint efforts have not had success in the past, and we’ve gone years without a formal budget.

But hope dies hard. For Democrats and Republicans alike, the basic question in the committee will be whether they find a way to roll back the sequester, which is due to launch a new round of budget cuts in January.

Democrats hate the sequester, because it’s basically the opposite of the vision of domestic investment they’ve long campaigned on. Republicans are more ambivalent, but there are many in the GOP who don’t like how deeply it cuts Pentagon spending.

The most likely path to replacing part of the sequester is to make cuts to mandatory spending — like healthcare programs or farm subsidies — instead. On a practical level, Republicans and Democrats agree that mandatory spending is better to cut since it’s the long-term driver of our debt. But mandatory spending has pretty entrenched constituencies — such as the elderly or farmers — which makes such cuts difficult to achieve.

A bigger budget deal — the elusive “grand bargain” — could also be considered as part of the conference. But any discussion of significant changes to mandatory spending usually leads Democrats to insist on new taxes, which has been a deal-breaker for the GOP.

What happens if the committee fails to come to an agreement and we’re back in January with new deadlines?

Most likely, neither side will want a new fight over government funding or the debt ceiling with the mid-term elections fast approaching. So they’ll just extend everything once again, leaving (albeit more flexible) sequester cuts in place, and the voters will decide what they want come November.

Like that’s worked well in the past.

Fair point.