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Senate Dems Abandon Filibuster Reform

January 25, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The Democrats' cave-in on reforming the filibuster in the Senate appears to be complete. According to reports, Senate Rules Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Schumer [D, NY] is bringing a proposal to his fellow Democrats this afternoon that would do nothing to address the recent explosion in senators using procedural rules to kill bills just by threatening to filibuster. It apparently includes three minor changes in the Senate rules and is accompanied by a gentlemen's agreement to start behaving more reasonably, sometimes. Here's what's in it.

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September

August 13, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Chuck Schumer [D, NY] took time out of his day back in D.C. yesterday to talk with reporters at The Hill about the Senate's legislative agenda for when they come back into session on September 13:

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Schumer and Cardin Play Senate

August 12, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Acting on behalf of the full United States Senate, two senators took the afternoon out of their August recesses and returned to the Capitol this afternoon to pass a $600 billion border security bill, honor the late Sen. Ted Stevens, and advance legislation to protect guns from being taken by claimants in bankruptcy proceedings. You can watch the full 30-minute session and find more info about the legislation that inspired this mid-August-recess session by clicking through to read this post...

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A Quick Session for Strike Forces and Border Drones

August 11, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Congress just can't seem to give up legislating this August recess. Like the House did on Tuesday, the Senate is going to come back into session on Thursday after having adjourned last week for recess to pass a couple pieces of legislation. On the docket for the day are a border security bill and a resolution honoring the memory of former Senator Ted Stevens.

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Sen. Chuck Schumer [D, NY] told a local NY news station last week that he is working on a bill to extended unemployment insurance benefits for individuals who have exhausted all 99 weeks of the federal benefits that are currently available to them. But he didn't say anything about when it would be introduced or what it would look like. Any senator can introduce any bill he or she likes. Here are a few things to look for when Schumer introduced his bill to tell whether it is a viable proposal that may become law, or jut another bill dropped in the hopper and destined to die in committee.

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On Wednesday, the House announced its list of thirty-one conferees, and like their Senate counterparts, the House conferees are bringing massive amounts of finance industry campaign contributions to the negotiating table. According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, for the 2010 cycle alone, these representatives have collected an aggregate of $6,192,618, for an average of over $199,000 each. This number is substantially higher than for the House as a whole, where the average representative has received closer to $113,000, or over 40% less.

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Sen. Charles Schumer [D, NY] essentially announced the death of climate change legislation yesterday when he revealed the Democrats' plan to take cap-and-trade out of their energy bill and vote on it as a stand-alone amendment. Cap-and-trade simply does not have 60 votes to break a Republican filibuster. But that doesn't mean climate change won't be dealt with soon. The EPA has been given authority to regulate carbon dioxide and they have made it clear that they will use that authority if Congress doesn't pass a climate bill.

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Wall Street's Majority Leader

May 20, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

If you think the Senate has a pro-Wall Street tilt right now, just wait until the current Majority Leader is defeated and the next in line takes over. The Washington Post is running a piece today on the many reasons why the Senate's current number-three Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer [D, NY], is the most likely candidate for the position after/if current Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] is defeated in the November mid-terms, not the progressive number-two, Sen. Dick Durbin [D, IL].

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Reining in the Debt Settlement Industry

May 11, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

As the financial crisis turned into an economic crisis, people began losing jobs and personal debt exploded, television and radio ads promising to help you settle your debt for a fraction of what you owe have became more and more prevalent. Not surprisingly, the growth of debt-settlement industry is mostly predatory in nature, and in some cases their business models are outright fraudulent.

Sen. Charles Schumer [D, NY] recently introduced a bill to rein in these companies, called the Debt Settlement Consumer Protection Act. It would create new disclosure requirements in customer contracts, prohibits a number of abusive tactics, limits the fees companies can charge customers, and more.

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Under the financial reform bill that the Senate is currently debating (the Restoring Financial Stability Act of 2010), payday lenders would be subject to new regulations promulgated by the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to ensure that their services are "fair, transparent, and competitive." Depending on how aggressive the Bureau ends up being, the rules could severely limit the terms under which payday lends could do business.

But while the underlying bill isn't good for the payday loan industry, an amendment being proposed to it from Sen. Kay Hagan [D, NC] could be more damaging. It would ban payday lenders from giving out new loans to customers who have already taken out six payday loans or have been under loan obligations for more than 90 days in the past year. 

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When the Senate whittled down a $174 billion jobs bill from the House to a mere $15 billion bill, one of the many ideas to hit the cutting room floor was a $23 billion fund to prevent layoffs in education. Last week, Sen. Tom Harkin [D, IA] revived the idea and introduced it as a standalone Senate bill.

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Which Senators are Flush with Finance Cash?

April 8, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

"The banks -- hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created -- are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place." - Sen. Dick Durbin [D, IL].

In a few weeks, the banks' "ownership" of Congress will be put to the test. The Senate is going to take up comprehensive financial regulatory reform legislation in May -- this is the main bill the banks are spending their political capital on to fight, and the Senate is where they are hoping to use their influence and make it friendlier to their business.

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As Health Care Winds Down, Immigration Emerges

March 12, 2010 - by Eric Naing

As Democrats were wrapping up -- or so they thought -- the health care bills last winter, two hot button social issues threatened to derail everything: abortion and immigration. With Democrats once again at the health care finish line, abortion has already resurfaced and now immigration has reemerged.

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Democrats Preview Citizens United Bill

February 12, 2010 - by Eric Naing

While others have proposed unrealistic constitutional amendments to counter the Citizens United decision, two top Democrats have finally unveiled the party's official response limiting the influence of corporate money in campaigns.

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Congress Links

February 3, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Here is Wednesday's look at some articles and blog posts of interest: General Electric and Comcast are throwing money at key lawmakers on panels that will hold hearings on the companies' upcoming merger. Congressmen who have received donations from the companies include Rep. Rick Boucher [D, VA-9], Sen. Charles Schumer [D, NY], Sen. Orrin Hatch [R, UT], Rep. Terry Lee [R, NE-2], Rep. Charlie Melancon [D, LA-3] and Rep. Cliff Stearns [R. FL-6] (The Hill) In 2006, Sen. John McCain [R, AZ] sai...

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