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Coburn vs. Big Corn

June 14, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Sen. Tom Coburn [R, OK] has stuck his neck out and is forcing a vote today on an amendment (identical to S.871) to repeal ethanol tax subsidies. Ethanol subsidies cost the government atlas $5 billion per year and they are opposed by groups like the Sierra Club and Clean Water Action on environmental grounds and by groups like Koch Industries on grounds that they distort energy market forces. On the other side, however, are Big Ag corporations like Monsanto, whose Roundup-resistant-corn-seed sales have skyrocketed under the subsidies, and they seem to be winning.

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Following the adoption of Sen. Jon Tester's [D, MT] local foods amendment last week and Michael Pollan's big endorsement in the New York Times today, the FDA Food Safety and Modernization Act looks set to pass the Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] is telling senators to "expect a late night of voting on the bill" tonight, and when all is said and done, the bill will likely have the support of a large, bipartisan majority of the Senate and win final approval. It's looking likethe food safety overhaul might be the Democrats' last big legislative victory before handing half off the Congress back to the Republicans.

UPDATE: The cloture motion on the substitute amendment has passed, 69-26.

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McConnell Backs Earmark Ban

November 15, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell [R, KY] has reversed course and will now back Sen. Jim DeMint's [R, SC] earmark moratorium for the 112th Congress. A vote on banning earmarks will be held privately in the GOP conference meeting scheduled for tomorrow, but if doesn't pass there, DeMint and his main ally, Sen. Tom Coburn [R, OK], will force a vote on the moratorium on the Senate floor Wednesday as an amendment to the food safety bill. But is the moratorium really a good idea, or just a political stunt?

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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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The Senate is already way behind on passing the unemployment insurance and tax extenders bill and it's not clear that any of the pending compromises will bring them to the 60 votes they need. To make things worse, Sen. Tom Coburn [R, OK] is now using an infamous dilatory procedure known as a "clay pigeon" to force votes on dozens of amendments. Roll Call ($) reports:

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Earlier today, Sen. Max Baucus [D, MT] brought up an amendment to the bill (H.R. 4851) to extend the extension of the deadline from May 5th until June 2nd. It also would extended the other expiring programs in the bill until June, like COBRA health benefits, national flood insurance and the 21% scheduled Medicare payment cut. Additionally, it would pay benefits back retroactively for those whose have lapsed over the past couple weeks because of congressional inaction.

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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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Health Care Reform's Public Wellness Measures

April 6, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Outlets like the New York Times and Miller-McCune have done a good job of documenting the many easily overlooked policies aimed at improving public wellness embedded in the Affordable Care Act (H.R.3590). These policies range from mandatory calorie counts on chain restaurant menus to the infamous tax on indoor tanning. Are these measures a responsible move by the government to improve public health or another example of out-of-control nanny statism? Here is a closer look at some of these provisions. Take a look and I'll let you decide.

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Because Congress failed to pass an extension before taking off for April recess, thousand of unemployed Americans will have their only source of income, unemployment insurance benefits, cut off starting today. That's a big deal when 15 million Americans are out of work and Tim Geithner is saying things like, "[the unemployment rate] is going to stay unacceptably high for a very long time."

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No Deal on Extending Unemployment Benefits

March 26, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

As the House was wrapping up health care reform last night, the Senate was engaged in a face-off over extending the filing deadline for unemployment benefits, which is currently set to happen on April 5th.

The sticking point: Democrats want to pass a one-month extension of the deadline, which will cost about $10 billion, without any plan to pay for it. Republicans, lead by Sen. Tom Coburn [R, OK], want to extend the deadline and pay for the it with unused money form the stimulus bill.

Coburn is objecting to a unanimous consent agreement on quick passage of the Democrats' bill that was approved by the House last week (H.R.4851). Besides the unemployment deadline, the bill would temporarily extend a slew of other expiring programs -- COBRA health benefits for the unemployed, the national flood insurance program, funding for furloughed highway workers, and a delay in a scheduled 21% cut in Medicare payments to doctors.

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Highlighting Deficit Spending

March 9, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Every politician loves an easy way to show their support for "transparency" and "fiscal responsibility." The Hill

In a rare 100-0 roll call vote, the Senate adopted an amendment offered by Sen. Tom Coburn [R, OK] that would create a running tally on the secretary of the Senate's website of any new mandatory spending that isn’t paid for through offsetting spending cuts or tax increases.

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Congress Links

February 4, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Congress is clearing out ahead of an expected snow storm today but lawmakers did manage to accomplish a few things before skipping town. Here are a few articles and blog posts on note from today:

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The Week Ahead in Congress

January 24, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Still no path forward for health care reform. House Democrats have a light legislative schedule this week, and they will hear Obama's State of the Union address on Wednesday. The Senate's going to be voting on a slate of controversial deficit amendments and on confirming Fed Chief Ben Bernanke to another term.

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Congress Sends Public Lands Bill to President

March 25, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

The House today approved the landmark Omnibus Public Land Management Act, designating 2 million acres of land in 9 states as wilderness areas. I blogged about the legislation before, when the House narrowly defeated the measure by two votes. Through a bit of parliamentary maneuvering, however, the Senate took up the Legislation again as a substitute amendment. Basically, they took the text of S.22 and dropped it into H.R. 146 (see the full text and changes here). The effort to approve H.R. 146...

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