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Yesterday I wrote about the Senate's latest attempt to actually do something about the unemployment crisis. Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] called on the Senate to proceed to the bipartisan Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011, which reauthorizes the Economic Development Administration to make grants to struggling communities for the purpose of creating and retaining jobs. Yesterday the Senate did something they rarely do these days -- they actually agreed to drop a pending filibuster and move to debate the bill by unanimous consent. That's progress, but here's the problem. The bill has already been loaded up with dozens of unrelated, controversial amendments, and if senators exercise their right to insist on holding votes on them, there is almost no way this non-controversial, bipartisan jobs bill will survive.

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The Senate began debating legislation to reauthorize and extend the the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technical Transfer (STTR), two of the federal government's largest research and development programs, on March 10. More than a month later, the Senate is still not finished with the bill. That's slow even by Senate standards, especially considering that we're in the middle of a jobs crisis and it's about as close to a "jobs bill" as we've seen recently. So what's the problem?

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House Votes to Defund Planned Parenthood

February 18, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The Republican House of Representatives took their latest shot at limiting access to abortions today by passing an amendment to their 2011 government funding bill that would defund Planned Parenthood. There amendment has some big problems, however, and it's very unlikely that it will become law.

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The Obama Administration has appealed the recent court ruling suspending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." They want a more orderly repeal to be legislated by Congress after the military completes a study on how to prepare for the change. But the problem is that the study isn't due out until December 1, and the Democrats probably aren't going to have the votes to get this done in the next session. So if Obama and congressional Democrats really want DADT to end, they have to stick around in December and get it done.

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UPDATE, 9:45 p.m.: I'm traveling, so a little late with the updates here, but it looks like this finally passed earlier this evening by a vote of 59-39. The bill now moves back to the House of Representatives for one more vote. They are expected to hold that vote tomorrow and the bill will most likely be signed into law tomorrow as well.

UPDATE, 5:45 p.m.: The Senate is voting right now on 5 Republican amendments to the bill and will vote on final passage of the bill after these votes. None of the amendments are expected to pass. Under Senate rules, the final vote on passage must happen before 9 p.m. this evening. You can follow along with the votes live on C-SPAN 2.

Original post below...

After 6 weeks of failure and delay, the Senate this afternoon finally voted to end a Republican filibuster of the unemployment insurance extension bill, allowing it to move forward towards final passage and becoming law. The Senate still has to take one more vote on the bill, but the motion they passed this afternoon was the big hurdle that, until now, they had been unable to overcome. The bill is now virtually guaranteed to be signed into law this week.

Read the rest of this post for everything you need to know on what's in the bill, what isn't, and what happens next on its journey towards becoming law.

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For the fourth time in a month, Senate Democrats on Wednesday night failed to win enough votes to overcome a Republican filibuster of a bill to extend unemployment insurance benefits (H.R. 4213). After the failed vote, the Senate adjourned for recess until July 12th.

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Just One Vote

June 30, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

A single senator now stands between millions of unemployed Americans and the extension of unemployment insurance benefits they need in order to feed their families and gas up their cars to get to job interviews.

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It's going to be a big day in both chambers of Congress on the issue we've been tracking steadily on this blog for weeks -- extending unemployment insurance benefits for the millions of unemployed individuals who have had their payments cut off since late May. Here's what you need to know to follow today's votes.

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Despite shaving another $22 billion off the price tag of H.R. 4213, the unemployment insurance, jobs and tax extenders bill, the Democrats this afternoon failed for the third time in three weeks to defeat a Republican filibuster. As a result, Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] is giving up and moving onto other legislative matters. "We can't pass it until we get some Republicans... It's up to them," Reid said.

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Joe Lieberman's [I-CT] controversial cybersecurity bill, the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010, was approved by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs this afternoon. Though some senators on the committee raised concerns over certain sections, today's committee action means that the bill will now move to the Senate floor.

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After consulting with lobbyists yesterday to see what it would take to win a few Republican votes, Senate Dems are back with their latest revision of the H.R. 4213, the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act. Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] has already filed cloture on the revised bill, and according to the congressional record, "a vote on cloture will occur on Friday, June 25, 2010."

Cloture is a procedural motion to overcome a filibuster that requires 60 votes to pass. According to reports, the Democrats have been within two votes of passing the cloture motion for several days now. This latest revision is designed to shore up support among Democratic and Republican moderates to win those crucial two votes. At this point, all indications are that it hasn't worked.

So what has changed in the latest revision?

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Since late May, the Senate has been stymied by a piece of must-pass legislation, H.R. 4213, that combines a 6-month unemployment insurance extension, billions in tax credits designed to protect jobs, billions in aid for states struggling to pay for Medicaid, and tax hikes on wealthy individuals and corporations. The bill, which has been pared down several times already, costs $55 billion, which failed roll call after failed roll call has shown to be just too much for Senate moderates and conservatives to swallow this close to the midterms.

But the Democrats are committed to passing the unemployment insurance extension, and they are once again paring down the bill to round up support among moderates and overcome a Republican-led filibuster. According to CQ Politics, here's what they are looking at now for savings:

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Latest on the Unemployment/Tax Extenders Bill

June 21, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

This from subscription-only CongressDaily is at least not bad news for those of you hoping that the Senate will pass legislation extending the unemployment insurance filing deadline this week: "Senate Democrats are back at the drawing board, working again this week to pass a version of a bill extending tax breaks and unemployment benefits and other programs after they lost cloture votes on two versions last week. [...] Democrats still want to extend unemployment benefits, which have been expiring for tens of thousands of Americans since the start of the month. But aides said it is too soon to say what else will be included in the package offered this week."

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Several bills to address cybersecurity lapses have been introduced in this session of Congress only to stall over concerns that they would give the President broad powers to step in and shut down access to the internet at will. But Sen. Joe Lieberman [I, CT] is taking another stab at writing a bill that he thinks can move forward and become law. He recently introduced the bipartisan Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010, but does it do enough to assure that civil liberties will be protected in the case of an emergency?

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Dems Win Big Financial Reform Vote

May 20, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Having won over Sen. Scott Brown [R, MA] and having Sen. Arlen Specter [D, PA] back in the chamber to place his vote, the Democrats today found 60 votes and passed cloture on their financial reform bill. That means that a final vote on the bill requiring a simple majority of 51 votes must take place within the next 30 hours.

The bill, called the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010, attempts to fix regulations of derivatives, create new consumer protections for financial products, and set up an orderly liquidation process for winding down failing systemically risky financial institutions to avoid future bailouts, and much more. A summary of the bill as filed (without the dozens of floor amendments that were added) can be found here (pdf).

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