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On Tuesday afternoon, Democrats called on the Senate to pass the Unemployment Insurance Stabilization Act under the expedited unanimous consent procedure. As expected, Sen. Scott Brown [R, MA], acting on behalf of all Republicans, objected and will force a full-fledged debate on the issue that will likely last several weeks and be rolled together with unrelated tax issues. Federal unemployment benefits expire today for millions of long-term unemployed workers.

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Kagan Confirmed

August 5, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Obama's latest Supreme Court nominee, Elana Kagan, was officially confirmed by the Senate on Thursday afternoon by a vote of 63-37. She'll be sworn in on Saturday, marking the first time in U.S. history that three women have served on the court simultaneously.

As the NYT reports, this wasn't exactly a slam-dunk confirmation:

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In their attempt to wrangle enough Republican votes to pass the financial reform bill, Democrats have dropped a $19 billion tax on big banks and hedge funds. Senator Scott Brown [R-MA] in particular raised objections to this provision, believing that the cost would be passed on to customers.

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The Brown Infidelity

June 21, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Sen. Scott Brown [R, MA] has taken more money from the financial industry recently than 95% of the Senate despite having no official positions of power and not even being a member of the Banking Committee with jurisdiction over financial reform legislation. In May, Sen. Brown gave Democrats the 60th votes they needed to break a Republican filibuster of the financial reform bill. But now as the bill is going through the conference committee, he's using his leverage as a crucial swing vote to fight for carve outs that would benefit the financial companies who have been funding him.

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Last week, the House of Representatives and a key Senate committee cast historic votes in favor of repealing "don't ask, don't tell" and allowing gay men and women to serve openly in the military. The repeal is included in the Fiscal Year 2011 Defense Department Authorization bill, which contains funding levels and policy directives that the military must follow. The Obama Administration supports Congress's actions on repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," but they are dead set against another item that some members of Congress want to have included in the authorization bill, and if it is, the Administration says they will veto the whole bill, including the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal.

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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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The Senate today came one step closer to extending unemployment benefits after failing to do before the Easter recess and causing 200,000 unemployed people per week to have their benefits expire. Today's vote was on a motion to overcome a Republican filibuster of debating H.R.4851, the Continuing Extension Act of 2010. The bill would extend the filing deadline for people who are eligible for the next tier of unemployment insurance until May 5, 2010. It would not create a fifth tier of benefits.

Today's vote was approved 60-34 with Sen. Scott Brown [R, MA], Sen. Susan Collins [R, ME], Sen. Olympia Snowe [R, ME] and Sen. George Voinovich [R, OH] voting with the Democrats to defate the filibuster

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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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Senate Breaks Filibuster on HIRE Act

March 16, 2010 - by Eric Naing

For a second time, the Senate is expected to vote on an $18 billion jobs bill known as the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment, or HIRE, Act (H.R.2847).

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McCain and Lieberman's Nightmarish Detention Bill

March 13, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

One of Congress's most notoriously hawkish duos, Sen. John McCain [R, AZ] and Sen. Joseph Lieberman [I, CT], recently introduced legislation in response to President Obama's decision to try Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day airplane bomber, in a criminal court. Their proposal, which they are calling the Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention and Prosecution Act, would empower the U.S. military to arrest anyone, U.S. citizen or otherwise, who is suspected of terrorist associations and detain them indefinitely, without right to a trial.

Here's my analysis with links to specific sections of the actual bill text and a few excerpts of key sections.

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Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Kent Conrad [D, ND] said he thinks the procedural plan Democrats have settled on for their health care bill is unworkable. If they can't find another way, health care reform is "dead," Conrad said.

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Has a new day dawned in the Senate? On Monday night, five Republicans helped to hand Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] a big and much-needed victory by joining with Democrats on defeating a Republican filibuster of his $15 billion jobs bill. The bipartisan 62-30 vote came even after Reid scaled the bill back last week by removing some unrelated tax cuts, which were popular with Republicans, and an unemployment insurance extension, which is popular with everyone in Congress.

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The Incredible Shrinking Jobs Bill

February 18, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] is scrambling to find the votes for a pared down jobs bill, which itself was a pared down version of a jobs bill passed last year by House Democrats. To make a long story short, the House last December passed a $154 billion jobs bill (H.R.2847) prompting the Senate to consider a smaller $80 billion jobs bill, which Sen. Reid further shrank to a $15 billion jobs bill after complaints that the previous bill contained too many concessions to Republicans. ...

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Why the Sudden Rush to Seat Scott Brown?

February 3, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Ever since his victory on Jan. 19, Senate-elect Scott Brown [R, MA] has been scheduled to officially become a senator on Feb. 11. Today he asked to be seated sooner -- tomorrow, to be exact -- and Senate Democratic leaders and Massachusetts' Democratic Governor agreed to do so. What's up with Brown's sudden request to be seated early? Marc Ambiner explains: "They're moving forward with controversial issues and nominations. These are votes where his vote is the deciding one," an outside Bro...

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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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