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House GOP Paints Itself Into a Corner on Payroll Taxes

December 20, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Having voted 89-10 to approve an extension of payroll tax cuts, unemployment benefits and dome other policies that are scheduled to expire on January 1st, the Senate has recessed for the year and gone home for the holiday recess. All that the House has to do to make the bill officially ready to be signed into law is hold a simple up-or-down vote on the Senate's bipartisan bill. But during a 3 a.m. meeting of the House Rules Committee last night, the Republican majority devised a different plan -- twist the voting procedure so that the Senate's bill can be rejected while allowing the Republicans to save face by technically voting "aye."

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All Hope for Jobs Bills is Dead

October 4, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The Senate is currently making progress on bipartisan legislation designed to shrink the U.S. trade deficit with China and restore up to 2.8 million domestic manufacturing positions. Yesterday, a majority of both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate voted to invoke cloture on the China trade bill, a.k.a. the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act, and they're expected to pass it by the end of the week. But that will be the end of the line for the bill.

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As expected, the Senate this afternoon voted to table (i.e. kill) the House's stopgap funding bill by a vote of 59-36. The disagreement is over a provision that would partially offset funding for the FEMA disaster relief fund, which is running dry due to all of the natural disasters we've experienced rover the summer. Senate Democrats and some Republicans argue that approving disaster-relief offsets would set a bad precedent that could delay Congress from getting aid to victims of future disasters. Without the bill, FEMA will run out of funds as early as Tuesday and the entire federal government will shut down on Friday at midnight.

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Republicans Unveil Fall Jobs Agenda

August 29, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Since Congress has been on August recess, the U.S. has lost its prime credit rating for the first time in history, the Congressional Budget Office has dramatically lowered their unemployment recovery expectations, and more economists have come out with predictions of a double-dip recession. Given all that, it seems reasonable to think that Congress might come back from recess ready to put aside the partisanship and forge a compromise to create jobs and begin stabilizing the economy. The Republicans in the House of Representatives today unveiled their fall agenda -- let's take a look at what kinds of fresh ideas they've come up with over the past month.

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How They Voted on the Debt Bill

August 2, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The House of Representatives last night passed a bill to raise the debt ceiling and cut spending by a vote of 269-161. Most Republicans voted in favor of the bill, while Democrats were split evenly, 95 in favor and 95 against. To find out who your Rep. is and see how they voted, plug your info into our zipcode lookup tool. Then, once you are shown their name, visit the roll call pageand do a page-find for their name to see how they voted.

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Released this week, OpenCongress version 3 features Contact-Congress: the easiest way to send an email to all your members of Congress. Now, you can write a letter to your senators and representative on one webpage, set it to public or private, send it immediately over email, and then track your correspondence in a transparent public forum.

Here's a quick-fast summary of the state of the debt ceiling debate: on Friday afternoon, the House passed the GOP leadership's bill (as an amendment to S. 267), 218-210; this afternoon (Sat.), the House rejected Sen. Reid's Democratic version of the debt ceiling bill (as H.R. 2693, sponsored by Republican Rep. Dreier in the House for parliamentary reasons), 173-246; and while the Senate was projected to vote on Sen. Reid's bill around 1am Sunday, Talking Points Memo and others are reporting the vote has been postponed by Senate Dem Leadership until Sunday afternoon.

So write your members of Congress and let them know what you think about H.R. 2693, the Senate Democratic debt ceiling bill. It's easy-to-use: find out who represents you in Congress simply by entering your street address and send them an email now. Using OC's custom Message Builder, you can bring over the helpful OC bill summary, as well as the most-commented sections of bill text, and add personal stories for a more compelling communication. Click through for the latest in the debt ceiling debate and simple how-to's on sharing your correspondence with other constituents in your area using MyOC Groups.

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House Passes Debt Ceiling Bill

July 29, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

After failing Thursday night, Speaker John Boehner [R, OH-8] brought his debt ceiling bill back to the floor Friday afternoon with an amendment appealing to far-right Republicans, and passed it. The final vote was 218-210, with zero Democrats voting in favor and 22 Republicans voting "no." The bill now goes to the Senate where it is expected to be rejected later this evening. Click through and the read the full post for what happens next with the debt debate. 

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After five hours of twisting arms and trying to persuade conservatives into voting "yes" with offerings of pizza, at 10 p.m. Thursday evening House Speaker John Boehner [R, OH-8] pulled his debt ceiling bill from the House floor. The bill has been sent back to the Rules Committee for tweaks and will most likely be brought to the floor again on Friday for a second vote attempt. In its current form the bill does not have the 216 votes it needs to pass.

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The Boehner Plan

July 26, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

As usual, when Congress does something that's actually important, they do it the least transparent way possible. This time around it's the Boehner debt plan, which calls for trillions in cuts to social spending and a "super Congress" for reforming taxes and entitlements in exchange for allowing President Obama to raise the debt ceiling through the end of the year. It's a plan that was negotiated 100% behind closed doors, and it's not being introduced through the regular legislative order, thereby hindering the public's ability to read it and contact their elected officials with feedback.

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Dealing WIth Libya

June 3, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

House Republicans have finally decided on how to deal with the growing discontent over that pesky, probably unconstitutional war in Libya. They're going to put the Dennis Kucinich [D, OH-10] withdrawalresolution that they pulled from the floor earlier in the week because it might have passed back on the calendar for a vote Friday. But they're also going to hold a vote on a new, non-binding resolution, from Speaker John Boehner [R, OH-8], that criticizes that Obama for not go through the proper channels in authorizing the war and requiring him to provide Congress with detailed info about the rationale behind getting involved. The strategy: give anti-war and constitutionalist Reps. something meaningful to vote for, but also give middle-of-the-road Reps. a way to allow Obama to continue his war but still be able to tell their constituents that they voted against it.

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Defense Bill Larded Up With Earmarks

May 23, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Republicans took over the House on promises to cut pork spending and eliminate earmarks. But according to Donna Casatta at the Associated Press, some of the Republican House freshmen whose elections were premised on these promises are now pushing additions to the Defense Authorization bill that are designed to direct federal funds to corporations and defense interests in their districts. "The additions look suspiciously like the pet projects that Republicans prohibited when they took over the House and that the new class of lawmakers, many with tea party backing, swore off in a promise to change Washington's spending habits," writes Casatta.

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We already know that the House Republicans support increasing the debt limit. All but four of them recently voted in favor of a budget blueprint that calls for adding $9 trillion to the debt subject to limit over the next decade. Yet somehow they have convinced Obama and the Democrats that they have to get something in return, like spending cuts that make tax increases less likely, in exchange for actually voting for the debt limit increase they've already endorsed.

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Cutting Defense Cuts

May 10, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The Washington Post had an important article yesterday reminding us how hard it is for Congress to think independently about spending cuts when it affects politically-active corporations:

The panel’s subcommittees last week voted to prohibit a proposed increase in fees paid by retired service personnel for Tricare, the military’s health program; set the stage for possible recompetition of the controversial engine for the Air Force F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; and required studies before the Marine Corps can go ahead with a new proposed amphibious landing craft to replace the multibillion-dollar Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV).

The subcommittees have also added funds to programs that the Pentagon did not seek. For example, $425 million has been added to the proposed budget to keep production lines open for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and the Abrams M1 tank. The Pentagon had proposed shutting down those lines for three years to save money.

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The Alternate Engine That Just Won't Die

May 5, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

For years, both parties in Congress insisted on funding the $500-million-per-year F-35 alternative engine program that nobody besides the defense contractors that benefit from it seem to want, not even the Pentagon. Then, earlier this year, against the wishes of Speaker Rep. John Boehner [R, OH-8], a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and freshman Republicans won an amendment to the 2011 spending bill to cut funding for the program. But now that appropriators have begun working on spending bills for 2012, they're trying to secure funds for the program once again.

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More on the Republicans' Open Data Letter

April 29, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

As David mentioned earlier, the House Republican leadership's letter directing the Clerk of the House to improve how they release legislative data online is a big deal. It means that the House is serious about catching up with the standards and expectations of modern information users, both developers and consumers. It's also a sign that Congress is becoming more comfortable with loosening its grip on information about its activities and beginning to appreciate the value of unleashing it as public data into the wilds of the internet.

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