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Progress in the Senate

November 8, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

While the House is out on recess, the Senate is doing something quite remarkable this week -- they're voting on a bipartisan basis to advance bits and pieces of President Obama's jobs bill. But while this is certainly progress and a net positive, the incredibly limited scope of what they're advancing, compared with the enormity of the crisis facing the economy, also underscores just how dysfunctional Congress is.

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Last night, 60 Minutes aired an interview with former lobbyist Jack Abramoff that describes just how deeply and systemically corrupt the lawmaking process in Washington D.C. is. Here's the sad, sad truth about Congress, straight from the horse's mouth.

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The Week Ahead in Congress

November 7, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The House is on vacation again this week, but the Senate will be in session, and they actually have a pretty full schedule. They'll kick things off with a cloture vote on a House-passed bill that would stop a rule that is scheduled to take effect requiring the government to withhold 3% of payments to federal contractors. If they achieve cloture on that, they'll vote on an amendment to it that will be another piece of the Obama jobs bill. On Tuesday, they'll pause everything to vote on two Republican resolutions of disapproval -- one that would reverse the FCC's net neutrality regulations and one that would eliminate EPA rules require power plants to reduce their sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions.

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Should Congress Be Afraid of Online Piracy?

November 4, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

One of the only things Republicans and Democrats in Congress seem to agree on these days is passing legislation aimed at stopping copyright infringement on the internet. For years, members of Congress from across the political spectrum with financial backing from copyright industries have been pushing for new powers for the government and copyright owners to restrict channels for sharing content online. Just last week a bipartisan bill was introduced in the House, the Stop Online Piracy Act, that would criminalize a lot of really standard YouTube behavior and allow copyright holders to block access to websites without a court order. By all accounts, the bill is going to be fast-tracked through Congress in the coming weeks. But is copyright infringement on the internet even a real problem?

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Dems Intro Bills to Extend Unemployment Insurance

November 4, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

With all jobs bills dead and the supercommittee almost certain to deadlock, Democrats in both chambers have introduced stand-alone legislation to protect the hardest-hit victims of the recession -- the long-term unemployed.

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For decades, the least democratic federal legal institution in the United States has been custom tailoring the body of laws that have the most profound influence on the functioning of our democracy. In 1976 the Supreme Court ruled that political donations are a form of speech and deserve First Amendment protections. In 2010 they ruled that corporations are people and gave them power to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections without having to disclose anything. A new constitutional amendment in the Senate seeks to regain control of campaign finance laws for Congress and state legislature.

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Supercommittee Eyes Social Security Cuts

November 1, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The supercommittee bill will have even stronger protections than budget reconciliation bills. It can't be filibustered or amended on the floor, and, most importantly, there are no restrictions on what can be included in it. Five of the six Byrd-Rule restrictions are about ensuring that reconciliation bills are actually relevant to budgetary matters. The sixth, however, is about protecting Social Security. Nothing that recommends changes in Social Security can be done through budget reconciliations. Since the Byrd Rules were enacted by Congress in 1985, any legislation affecting Social Security has been filibusterable -- until now.

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