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Congress Links + Unemployment Benefits

July 21, 2010 - by David Moore

Elena Kagan gets approved by The Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Schumer (D-NY) is rated the most active member of Congress. House and Senate Dems go back-and-forth over the delay of the food safety bill.  And President Obama urges Congress for legislation on equal pay for women. Not to mention the major unemployment bill (H.R. 4213), which is of course our most-commented-on and most-tracked bill by users over the past month.

For all the best info: peruse the bill's latest news and blog coverage from around the Web, see the highest-rated user comments, visit our community-generated Benefit Wiki project to better understand how it affects your state, read our helpful past coverage of the bill's long journey, and send us your questions: writeus at opencongress dot org.  All this and more in today's roundup of links on Congress.

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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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The Week Ahead in Congress

July 18, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The big item on the agenda this week will be the unemployment extension bill that's been stuck in the Senate for the past month and a half. Sen. Robert Byrd's [D, WV] interim replacement, Carte Goodwin, is going to be sworn-in to the Senate on Tuesday at 2:15, and immediately afterwards, he will vote with 57 other Dems plus Republicans Snowe and Collins in favor of "cloture," which will end the filibuster and allow the bill to move forward towards final passage.

As I explained Friday, after they pass cloture, the Senate will still have to take one more vote on the bill (within 30 hours of passing cloture) before they can send it over to the House of Representatives for the final vote before it is sent to Obama for his signature. As you'll see in the schedule below, the House is already anticipating having the bill sent over to them from the Senate sometime this week. This whole thing should be wrapped up by the end of the week. In the meantime, when they're not working on the unemployment bill, both chambers will be voting on all kinds of other stuff, like small business loans, safer oil drilling technology, and helping Haitian orphans. Take a look for yourself below.

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Update on Tuesday's Unemployment Vote

July 16, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

As some of you have noted in the comments, in my post last night on what's been going on with the unemployment bill, I came to the wrong conclusion about which bill -- H.R. 4213 or H.R. 5618 -- would be getting a vote on Tuesday. Because, as I explained, Senate Democrats had been setting up the procedure for bringing H.R. 5618 to the Senate floor directly (skipping the committee process), I figured that was the bill they were planning to move forward with. However, shortly after publishing the post, new information was posted on the Senate calendar that indicated H.R. 4213 would actually be the bill getting a vote.

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Meet Sen. Byrd's Replacement

July 16, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The Associated Press is reporting that West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin will appoint his former chief legal counsel, Carte Goodwin [D], to fill the seat of the late Sen. Robert Byrd [D, WV] for the rest of this session. Manchin is scheduled to make an official announcement on the appointment later this afternoon.

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With all the work that's been going on in the Senate this week on financial reform, the small business lending bill and other things, it may seem like the Democrats are doing nothing on the unemployment insurance bill while they wait for an interim senator from West Virginia to be announced. But that's not the case. On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, Senate Dems executed two important procedural actions that will ensure that when the new senator is seated and they can take up the bill, they can take the quickest route possible under Senate rules to get it passed.

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Politico reports:

“If Governor Manchin does what he has indicated to me he will and we’ll have a new senator to replace Senator Byrd, then we’ll vote Tuesday morning sometime on the unemployment extension,” Reid said.

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MSNBC is reporting that West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (pictured) will appoint an interim replacement for Sen. Robert Byrd [D, WV] by Friday at 5 p.m. ET. Previous reports suggested that he might wait until Sunday to do so. This means that Senate Democrats could -- if they choose to -- keep the Senate in session over the weekend, swear in Byrd's replacement right away and begin voting on the unemployment insurance extension bill as soon as she is seated.

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Congress and the 99ers

July 13, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The 99ers are the true victims of the jobless recovery. Yes, millions of people who have been out of work for months are struggling right now because Congress has let the extended benefits period expire, but a couple weeks from now that will be extended and those people will see their benefit payments return, including retroactive reimbursements for any payments that were put on hold. If they can find a job before the 99-weeks-max benefit period expires under the currently-pending extension (H.R. 5618) on November 30, 2010, in a sense, the system will have worked at helping them weather this crisis. But for those who are not able to find a job by then, they will join the ranks of the 99ers who, so far, have seen nothing but neglect from the people in charge of U.S. economic policy.

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Apparently West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin's chat last night with election attorneys in his state didn't convince him to go ahead with appointing an interim replacement for Sen. Robert Byrd [D, WV] before the legislature meets on Thursday. Here's the latest on the situation, from the AP:

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The Week Ahead in Congress

July 12, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

As Congress returns from their week-long vacation this afternoon, all the big items on the Democrats' legislative agenda remain stuck in the Senate where the Democrats are one vote short of overcoming Republican filibusters due to the passing of Sen. Robert Byrd [D, WV].

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The two big items in the Senate right now -- the unemployment insurance extension and the financial reform bill -- are basically on hold until West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin appoints an interim replacement for the late Sen. Robert Byrd [D, WV]. The Democrats need a senator voting from Byrd's seat in order to reach the 60 votes they need to break Republican-led filibusters of these measures.

But it's sounding like the Dems will not have a replacement for Byrd when they come back next week. This afternoon on MSNBC, Gov. Manchin said that he will wait until after a special session of the West Virginia state legislature clarifies the law in regards to the next election to fill Byrd's seat before he appoints an interim replacement. Transcript and video are below.

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Congress reconvenes from their July 4th recess on Monday and one of their first orders of business will be extending unemployment insurance benefits for the more than 2 million Americans who have had their benefits cut off over the past month due to congressional inaction. Here's a step-by-step rundown of what to watch for over the next several days as the pieces fall into place for getting the extension out of the Senate and signed into law so that millions of unemployed workers can finally get some relief.

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Replacing Byrd

July 8, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

UPDATE: Good news for all of you waiting for Congress to pass the unemployment insurance extension -- the AP is reporting that West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw has issued the ruling that Gov. Manchin requested on whether he could hold a special election for Sen. Byrd's seat on the 2010 ballot. Manchin had said he would wait on the ruling before appointing an interim senator to fill the seat. As I reported below, the ruling wasn't expected until some time next week.

Now that the ruling is in, it's possible that Manchin will appoint a replacement before the end of the week so they they can be sworn in to the Senate on Monday. The interim senator is expected to give Senate Democrats the 60th vote they need to overcome a Republican filibuster of the unemployment insurance extension and move it forward towards becoming law.

 

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As expected, the House of Representatives this afternoon passed their stand-alone unemployment insurance extension bill (H.R. 5816). The vote wasn't even close. 270 congressmen voted in favor of the bill, including 29 Republicans, and only 153 voted against it. But the Senate has adourned for the July 4 recess and the bill will have to wait until they come back in mide July to make its way through that chamber.

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