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Congress Tamps Down on Annoying Commercials

September 30, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Come 2012, climate change, unemployment, the broken U.S. immigration system, and campaign-finance corruption may very well be unaddressed national catastrophes as a result of Senate gridlock. But, hey, at least watching TV will be a little less irritating. Maybe.

The Commercial Advertising Loudness Mitigation Act has been kicking around Congress for a few years now thanks to Rep. Anna Eshoo [D, CA-14]. Yesterday, before adjourning for the midterms, the Senate passed it under unanimous consent, following up on the House's passage of it last year and moving it forwards toward becoming law.

 

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This afternoon Sen. Debbie Ann Stabenow [D, MI] called for the Senate to pass, under unanimous consent, the "Americans Want to Work Act." The bill would add a fifth tier of unemployment insurance benefits in states with unemployment rates above 7.5%. The fifth tier would give an additional 20 weeks of benefits to unemployed people who have exhausted all of their available unemployment insurance benefits and have not yet found a job.

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Coburn Joins the Blockade

September 29, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Sen. Jim DeMint's [R, SC] decision to block all bills not cleared by his office by last night isn't the only thing keeping the Senate from following up on the 372 House-passed bills that are scheduled to die in a few weeks without action. From The Hill:

The feud between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) flared up again Wednesday over Coburn’s objection to a bill protecting sharks.

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Chalk one up for enhanced congressional oversight of secret intelligence programs. In the Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal year 2010 that was passed under unanimous consent in the Senate on Monday night and is expected to go through the House of Representatives on Wednesday, there's a provision that would number of lawmakers who have to be informed about covert intelligence operations that the CIA is engaged in.

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Sweeping Up

September 28, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

All the news on the Senate these days is about that odd offshoring bill that seemed to be designed to fail, in every respect, and was rejected this afternoon. Less attention is being paid to all the stuff the Senate is actually getting done. For example, they passed 16 bills by unanimous consent last night. That's a pretty heavy haul for the typically slow-moving, hyper-obstructionist Senate. And there's even some substantial stuff in there. Take a look:

 

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Getting Serious About Unemployment

September 27, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

This Wall Street Journal report illustrates why the Democrats are losing the support of the unemployed even though it's the Republicans who have continually stood in the way of extending unemployment benefits:

The Senate will consider a bill this week aimed at discouraging U.S. businesses from outsourcing jobs overseas, a plan that Democrats describe as an effort to fight unemployment but which Republicans deride as a pre-election political maneuver.

Democrats admit they don't have enough votes to defeat a possible attempt by Republicans to block the bill. But they hope that bringing the issue to the Senate floor will underscore their concern about unemployment, now at 9.6%.

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The Week Ahead

September 26, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Just one week left before Congress leaves Washington until some time after the midterm elections in November. The official adjournment date is still set at October 8th, but rumor has it that both the House and Senate have decided privately to try to adjourn on Friday, October 1st. Here's a look at what they are going to try to get done this week before they leave.

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Congress Links

September 24, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

It's the end of a pretty non-eventful week in Washington D.C. I think Kargo X sums up the situation best: "The Senate isn't able to pass anything, so everybody goes home. They'll be back next week to not pass anything, and then they'll go home for even longer."

Even though nothing's moving past the great Senate wall in Congress these days, there's still plenty to talk about. To that end, here are your weekend links. Rest assured knowing that all of this great content will be fueling more than a few smug conversations on the political fundraising circuit this weekend.

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Renewable Energy Legislation Comes Back to Life

September 24, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

When the Senate abandoned their climate bill earlier this year, the renewable energy standard (RES), which was the other big provision in it besides cap-and-trade, seemed to die with it. The provision would have required utilities to produce more of their power from clean sources like wind and solar, but It wasn't brought back in the scaled-down energy package that Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] put together from remnants of the dead climate bill. "The numbers that we have indicate that those votes are not there," Reid said in July regarding a RES.

Now, a, bipartisan pair of senators is out to prove Reid wrong. On Tuesday, Sen. Jeff Bingaman [D, NM] and Sen. Sam Brownback [R, KS] introduced a stand-alone RES bill that would mandate 15% of power to be generated by renewables -- not 20% like the climate bill -- and they're now up to 25 co-sponsors. Significantly, four of the co-sponsors are Republicans, which is a big deal considering the lack of aisle-crossing in the Senate the past few months.

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Rep. Berkley Tells 99ers to Keep Waiting

September 23, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Finally, something like a real update for all the 99ers and unemployed exhaustees out there. Unfortunately, it's not very good. Via Arthur Delaney at HuffPo:

Rep. Shelley Berkley [D, NV] has introduced legislation (H.R. 6091) to help the "99ers" -- people who haven't found work after exhausting all 99 weeks of unemployment benefits available in some states -- but her first priority is preserving those 99 weeks.

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The Other Vote in the Senate Today

September 22, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The DISCLOSE Act vote is going to get most of the attention in the Senate today (and for good reason), but there's something else interesting on the calendar as well -- a "resolution of disapproval" regarding a recent rule update from the National Mediation Board that eases the union formation process for airline and train workers.

The resolution is S.J.Res.30, and it may well be the only bill in Senate to be co-sponsored by all 41 members of the Republican caucus.

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Senate Patches the SEC FOIA Loophole

September 22, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

About a week after the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill was signed into law, government transparency watchdogs found a heinous provision in the bill that seemed to allow the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to deny Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests for information pertaining to an "examination, surveillance, or risk assessment” of banks and other financial comapnies. A group of groups wrote to the bills' sponsors, Sen. Chris Dodd [D, CT] and Rep. Barney Frank [D, MA-4], saying that the provision was "undermining the bill’s overarching goals of more transparency and accountability" and asking that they pass another bill to remove it.

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"Don't Ask Don't Tell" Repeal Hits a Wall in the Senate

September 21, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

As expected, the motion in the Senate to begin debate of the 2011 Defense bill, which contains a provision repealing "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and would be the vehicle for a possible DREAM Act amendment, was rejected this afternoon, 56-43. Sixty votes were needed to approve the motion.

Arkansas' two senators, Democrats Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, joined every Republican in voting it down. Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] technically voted "no" as well, but only in order to preserve his right under Senate rules to bring the motion to a vote again at some point in the future.

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DADT, DREAM, and Midterm Politics

September 21, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

So, moderate Republicans Snowe, Collins (pictured at right) and Brown are all going to vote no today on the motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the Defense Bill. That means no chance to vote on the DREAM Act and no chance for enacting a "Don't Ask Don't Tell" repeal.

While some Republicans are certainly being hypocritical in their sudden purity about amendment germaneness and open debates, but the Democrats are also being a little disingenuous here. Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] has set particularly stringent limits on how long the pre-midterms Defense bill debate can be and what amendments can be voted on because he wants to leave D.C. as soon as possible to get into full-time campaigning. If he allowed the Defense bill debate to cut a week off of the campaign season, it's likely that there would be enough support in the Senate today to move forward with the bill and, hence, with DADT and the DREAM Act.

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Here we have yet another example of an oddball bill in Congress being used, inappropriately, as evidence for something unpopular that "the government" is supposedly trying to do.

The Debt Free America Act, which would replace the individual income tax with a new 1% tax on every consumer financial transaction, was introduced in the House of Representatives on Feb. 23, 2010 by Rep. Chaka Fattah [D, PA-2]. It has zero co-sponsors, hasn't seen any movement in the legislative process, and is going nowhere. Yet there is suddenly a bit of buzz around it. It's been creeping up the most-viewed bill list on OpenCongress and this week has been viewed more times than major bills like the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, the House climate change bill, and the DISCLOSE Act. Most of the views are coming from search engines, presumably because of rumors that are circulating via email, like this one collected by Snopes.com:

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