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The Week Ahead in Congress

November 13, 2012 - by Donny Shaw

Today is day one of the lame duck -- that biennial tradition in which Congress, including dozens of lawmakers who were just given the boot by voters, come back into session one more time to try and finish up the year’s work. Lame duck sessions are notorious for producing results that are satisfying to basically no one. There’s no reason to expect anything different this time around.

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9/11 Health Care Bill Passes Congress

December 23, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Capping off an unusually productive lame duck session, the congressional Democrats have finally won passage of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The bill, which would provide health care benefits and financial compensation for first responders at Ground Zero who were exposed to toxins and are now sick, had been the subject of a partisan stand-off for years. Republicans in the House and Senate blocked the bill earlier this year, but yesterday, after everyone from Jon Stewart to Rudy Giuliani to Fox News' Shep Smith joined the chorus calling for the bill's passage, Republicans backed down and let the bill go through.

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Killing Financial Reform by Defunding the Regulators

December 21, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

There was something odd about the death of the omnibus appropriations bill last week. The bill would have funded the government at the exact level requested by the Republican leadership and of the oft-criticized earmarks in the bill, the top beneficiaries would have been Republicans. The bill was produced through a long, bipartisan, and mostly agreeable committee process.

So why did the Republicans suddenly turn against it?

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DADT Repeal Passes, Will Become Law

December 18, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

By a vote of 65-31, the Senate has given final approval to the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010, sending it to President Obama to be signed into law. The bill will end the 1993 policy banning non-heterosexual individuals from serving openly in the military, bringing the U.S. into parity with the rest of the NATO, all of the European Union and most of the developed world whose laws already protect the rights of servicemembers regardless of their sexuality.

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As things were coming together for Democrats on the tax bill in the House, the omnibus appropriations bill was falling apart in the Senate. Last night, Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] announced on the Senate floor that nine Republicans who who had said they would support the bill had changed their minds and were now planning to vote against it. That left the Democrats with too few votes, and Reid with no choice but to pull the bill from the floor.

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The Democrats' epic cave-in on the Bush tax cuts is now complete. Late Thursday night, by a vote of 277-148, the House of Representatives approved a deal brokered by President Obama and congressional Republicans to extend, for two years, the Bush tax cuts for all income levels in exchange for a one-year extension of the filing deadline for federal unemployment insurance. Because the version passed by the House is identical to the bill passed by the Senate earlier this week, it will be sent to Obama immediately and is expected to be signed into law later today.

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Obama-GOP Tax Bill Set to Pass the House Today

December 16, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

UPDATE 4: After more than 6 hours of delay, the Democrats passed a slightly revised rule by a 214-201 vote. The new rule doesn't change how many or which amendments will be voted on, it just allows for a separate up-or-down vote on the bill even if the estate tax amendment passes. The original rule would have deemed the bill passed once the amendment is passed.

 

Original post below. I'll be rolling updates on this post, so check back again shortly for more (and follow along on Twitter)...

The House Rules Committee met last night to hammer out the rule that will govern today's House debate of the Obama-GOP tax bill, and, as expected, they're protecting it by allowing only one amendment vote. There will be no votes on letting the upper-income tax rates expire, making the payroll tax provision less regressive, lengthening the unemployment insurance filing extension, or adding an extra tier of benefits for the 99ers. The only vote allowed will be on an amendment to raise the estate tax from the Senate's very low level to the almost-as-low 2009 level as set by Bush, and House leaders are whipping against this because they don't want to have to send the bill back to the Senate.

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Earmark Hypocrisy At Its Best

December 15, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Jamie Dupree has a great catch from a press conference held earlier today by Sen. John Thune [R, SD] and Sen. John Cornyn [R, TX] to bash the omnibus spending bill. Together, Thune and Cornyn have sponsored 71 earmarks worth several hundred million dollars in the omnibus, yet they're trying to play both sides of the coin -- requesting earmarks and then prominently announcing they will vote against the bill that contains them, even though they know it's likely to pass.

Reporters at the press conference didn't miss the irony here, and they drilled the senators on it pretty heavy. Read the painfully awkward transcript below:

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The Senate Omnibus Arrives

December 15, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

On top of the tax deal, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the DREAM Act and the nuclear arms treaty, Congress has to pass spending legislation by this weekend to keep the government funded and avoid furloughs of federal employees. The House passed legislation last week to simply continue the current funding levels through the rest of the fiscal year, but the Senate wants to do it in a way that looks something like the regular appropriations process. That means we're looking at thousands of earmarks, pet projects, and policy tweaks via budgeting.

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While Obama's Bush tax cuts deal stews in the Senate, Democrats in the House are kickstarting a last-ditch effort to pass a repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" before the lame duck session ends. House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer [D, MD-5] and Rep. Patrick Murphy [D, PA-8] are introducing a stand-alone repeal bill today that will be identical in wording to the Senate's stand-alone bill (S. 4023), and they plan on bringing it to a vote in the House Wednesday before they move on to the tax cuts.

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Changing the Senate's Tax Bill

December 13, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The Senate is now in session and they are about to start voting on Obama's plan to extend the Bush tax cuts for all income levels in exchange for extending unemployment benefits for 13 months, and some other stuff. It's expected to pass easily and will be sent to the House for follow-up action, probably on Wednesday. House Democrats have pretty much given up on the idea of walking away from the deal, which they almost unanimously disapprove of, and letting the tax cuts expire. Instead they will hold votes on amendments and see if a majority can agree on any changes. If not, they'll pass it as is.

National Journal explains how the House will choose amendments to vote on:

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Hot on the heels of Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee's [D, TX-18] statement Thursday on the House floor that an extension of unemployment insurance for 99ers should be added to Obama's tax deal, the Congressional Black Caucus has announced that adding 99ers relief is essential for winning the support of their members. "The CBC has reached a consensus on three areas that we believe we can unite behind, Rep. Bobby Scott [D, VA-3] said at a press conference on Friday. "First, we support the 13-month extension of unemployment insurance benefits, but we all agree that we also ought to extend benefits for the so called 99ers -- those who are exhausting the benefits they have."

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Finally, a sign that at least someone in the crew of House Democrats leading the revolt against Obama's tax deal with the Republicans is fighting to add additional weeks of unemployment benefits. In a floor speech yesterday calling for "a reasoned conversation," Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee [D, TX-18] argued that a middle-income tax relief package should include a new tier of unemployment insurance benefits for those who have exhausted all available benefits. Jackson-Lee is among the 53 Democrats who signed a letter expressing opposition to the Obama tax deal.

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Hollywood, Rum, and Tax Cuts for the Rich

December 10, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Late Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] unveiled the final version of the Obama tax cut deal and scheduled a vote for Monday morning to start the debate. The bill contains all of the big items I outlined earlier this week -- a two-year extension of all Bush tax cuts, one-year extension of unemployment insurance, a payroll tax holiday, etc. -- but it also contains dozens of smaller tax items designed to sweeten the deal and secure support of wavering Democrats. Many of the new tax additions are in the area of renewable energy, which David Dayen point outs is what the Bush Administration put in the TARP bill to get it through the Senate.

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House Dems Revolt, Vote Down Obama's Tax Deal

December 9, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Dec. 9th, 10:30 pm ET  - as per the news sources cited on our micropublishing account, the Senate is adjourned until tomorrow, with no roll call votes planned. Sen. Reid announced that a first cloture vote on the tax deal will be held 3pm Monday. As of tonight, Cox radio reporter Jamie Dupree has led the way with his summary of the tax deal.

Earlier: the Senate rejected cloture for the Defense Authorization bill (S. 3454 - aka #NDAA), which includes a repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (aka #DADT). Details of how the vote went down on the Twitter machine. 

Full #NDAA roll call details will be available Friday Dec. 10th... there's no technical reason why vote results can't be available in real-time, except that CSPAN and the Library of Congress refuse to make their data fully open. If you appreciate our user-friendly explanations of the baffling vortex that is the U.S. Senate, please make a tax-exempt donation. Updates ongoing tomorrow.

Previously: in a nearly unanimous internal caucus vote this afternoon, House Democrats made it clear that they're not going along with the tax cut deal that Obama has negotiated with Republicans. Click through for the background as we work to make the legislative wrangling of the past 24 hours more clear.

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