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Switching Sides

April 30, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Making things a little more official seeming, Sen. Arlen Specter [D, PA] today moved his Senate desk from the Republican side of the chamber to the Democratic side. CQ: As the eighth most senior Democrat, his desk now sits in the second row of the center-most section of the majority party’s desks, behind Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois. Specter now shares a row with Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, the longest-serving senator ever, and si...

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Durbin's Cramdown Amendment

April 30, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Opponents to cramdown generally argue that allowing judges to modify mortgages for homeowners who enter bankruptcy would create ongoing uncertainty for mortgage lenders and would lead to higher interest rates for future borrowers. But Senator Durbin's cramdown amendment (.pdf), which was defeated today by the Senate, contains language specifically designed to prevent that kind of problem. Fist, in Section 503, entitled "Authority to Modify Certain Mortgages," it specifies that only mortgages ...

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Intern at OpenCongress

April 30, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

We're looking to hire interns for this summer in our Washington, DC and New York City offices. We have paid and unpaid positions available, full-time and part-time. We're looking for people with a wide range of skills, from web development and graphic design to researching legislation and communications. If you have a basic interest in politics and government, there is probably a position that could work for you.

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All Carrot, No Stick

April 29, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

It's looking increasingly likely that cramdown, a provision giving judges the power to reduce mortgage principals and interest rates for homeowners in bankruptcy, will be removed from the the housing bill (H.R. 1106) this week by the Senate. Of the two avenues for reworking troubled mortgages in President Obama's housing plan, cramdown is the one that would not give more taxpayer money to banks. It would be free of cost to taxpayers while the other avenue, incentive payments for voluntarily lo...

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Sebelius Confirmation Rounds Out Cabinet

April 29, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

Despite a few setbacks, President Barack Obama was able to fill out his Cabinet one day shy of his 100th day in office, with the Senate's confirmation of Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Sebelius was the target of some opposition from Republicans due to her record of support for abortion rights.

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The Cybersecurity Act

April 28, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

“America’s vulnerability to massive cyber crime, global cyber espionage, and cyber attacks has emerged as one of the most urgent national security problems facing our country today,” says Sen. Olympia Snowe [R, ME]. "If we fail to take swift action, we, regrettably, risk a cyber-Katrina.”

To deal with the issue, she has teamed up with Sen. John Rockefeller [D, WV] and introduced into Congress the Cybersecurity Act of 2009. Since it's introduction on April 1st, it has moved up the OpenCongress most-viewed bills list into the top five, and here's why: it would give the President unilateral authority to shut down the internet.

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Specter Goes Democrat

April 28, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Saying that the Republican party has moved too far to the right, Sen. Arlen Specter [R, PA] is switching parties immediately and will run for reelection in 2010 as a Democrat. Huge news:

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Taking out the Flu Pandemic Money

April 27, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

I always love showing off our bill text comparison tool, which displays changes to bills as they go through the legislative process in crossed-out red for striken text and green for text that has been added. The Huffington Post's reporting that the GOP stripped flue pandemic preparedness money from the stimulus (H.R. 1 ) gives me a perfect opportunity to do so. Taking a quick look at the Senate amendment (2) version that was pushed by Sen. Susan Collins [R, ME], Sen. Ben Nelson [D, NE] and o...

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Transparency Kills Apathy

April 27, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Clay Johnson of Sunlight Labs was on NPR with Andrea Seabrook recently to talk about what's happening with government data and the internet, both within government and outside of it. He gives a mention to OpenCongress as well as some of the recent Apps for America contestants - Filibusted, Legistalker, and Know thy Congressman - and has some great thoughts on how 21st century technology is changing governance. Give a listen. ...

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Saying Thank You

April 27, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

I've been writing a bit about Rep. Luis Gutiérrez's [D, IL-4] bill that would put what amounts to a generous 391 percent cap on payday loan interest rates and the pawn shop industry's campaign against it. Mike Lillis of the Washington Independent has the campaign finance perspective: Of the 21 individuals who donated more than $21,000 to the Illinois Democrat in the first quarter of this year, 15 represent the pawnshop industry, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commi...

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The Great Cramdown Debate

April 27, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

It's hard to believe that the insolvent banks, after all the taxpayer money they have been given by the government, could still have enough political clout to kill legislation in Congress. This week's vote on cramdown, as an amendment to the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009, will be a major test of that power.

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President Signs Service Legislation

April 23, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, authorizing the largest expansion in federally-subsidized service in almost 2 decades. The bill enjoyed bi-partisan support in the House and Senate, and paves the way for a major increase in the number of volunteers across the American population.

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Cracking Down on the Credit Card Companies

April 22, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Congress is switching gears a bit, turning their attention from hearings on the financial crisis to markups on legislation that would protect consumers against credit card companies. The House Financial Services Committee today approved a bill, the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights, that seeks to restrict interest rate hikes, penalties and fees. The vote was 48-19, with 9 of the 29 Republicans in the Committee voting in favor. All Democrats supported the bill. Click through for a full summary.

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Audit the Fed

April 21, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Year after year in Congress, Rep. Ron Paul [R, TX-14] has introduced a bill to abolish the Fed (H.R. 833). It has never made any legislative progress or attracted much support. This year, however, Rep. Paul has introduced a toned-down version, along with the original, that is gaining co-sponsors quickly and could actually get a vote this session -- the Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2009.

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Trans-inclusive Hate Crimes Bill Moving Forward

April 20, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a.k.a. the Mathew Shepard Act, has been introduced in every session of Congress since 1997. The bill would make several changes to federal hate crime laws, chief among them an expansion of the law to include violent acts motivated by the actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim.

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