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The Week In Review

April 23, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Democrats and Republicans are still trying to work out a deal ahead of Monday's cloture vote on Sen. Chris Dodd's [D, CT] financial regulation bill. Meanwhile, some surprising support from the energy industry has brightened the prospects of a proposed climate change bill from Sen. John Kerry [D, MA], Sen. Lindsey Graham [R, SC] and Sen. Joe Lieberman [I, CT]. And to further complicate things, a controversial anti-immigration bill in Arizona will likely be a catalyst for another round of debate on immigration reform. Expect more on all these issues next week. Until then, take a look at what we've been up to at OpenCongress this week.

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Remember that "controversial" procedure tactic known as budget reconciliation Senate Democrats used to break a Republican filibuster and pass an amendment to the health care reform bill? Well, the Democrats are setting themselves up to use budget reconciliation again next year. This time it won't be for helping people get health care, but for helping people get jobs. The Hill reports:

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Sen. Bernie Sanders [I, VT] yesterday forced a vote on an amendment on breaking up the big banks in the Budget Committee mark-up of the 2011 budget resolution. The amendment didn't pass, but it came closer than I think even Sanders expected. It was rejected on a 12-10, bipartisan vote, which Sanders in a press release called "a strong signal of the growing momentum behind proposals to dismantle financial institutions that dominate the U.S. economy."

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Congress Links

April 22, 2010 - by Eric Naing

The gauntlet has been thrown down on financial regulation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] today filed for cloture on the financial regulation bill (S.3217). Senate Democrats have made some headway on the issue with several Republicans signaling their willingness to negotiate. Reid's action means that Republicans now have until Monday to decide if they're going to uphold a filibuster to block the bill or allow it to be debated. It's amazing how quickly this debate has moved this week and I'm sure there are more surprises ahead. If you want to catch up, take a look at today's Congress Links.

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Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] filed for cloture on the financial reform bill today, meaning that the Senate can move forward with a vote to begin debating on Monday. Under Senate rules, if there is an objection to a unanimous consent request to bring up a bill for floor debate, as is the case with the financial reform bill, at least 16 senators must sign and file a cloture petition on the motion to proceed to the bill. After 30 hours, the Senate can vote on whether or not to invoke cloture. The cloture vote is set for Monday, April 26 at 5:00 p.m. ET and will require a supermajority of 60 votes to pass.

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The Congressional Budget Office has released their "score" for the financial reform bill (a.k.a. the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010), and it looks like more good news for the Dems. Reuters reports:

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Congress Links

April 21, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Will there really be bipartisan cooperation on financial regulation? A Senate committee vote offers a glimpse of hope. The Senate Agriculture Committee today approved a sweeping bill regulating derivatives on an almost party-line vote. The “almost” qualifier is key. Sen. Chuck Grassley [R, IA] surprised many by breaking with his party to vote the bill out of committee. Granted, there is still a long, long way to go on this bill and Sen. Chris Dodd's [D, CT] broader regulation bill but this could be the first of many cracks in Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell's [R, KY] strategy of unanimous opposition. For more, check out today's Capitol Links.

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An Amendment to Break up the Big Banks

April 21, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

There has been an ongoing partisan spat in the Senate recently over whether or not the financial reform bill as prepared by Sen. Chris Dodd [D, CT] would actually end bailouts. Politifact has shown that Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell's [R, KY] statement that the bill "actually guarantees future bailouts of Wall Street banks" is false, but there is more ambiguity over whether the resolution authority provision in the bill is actually strong enough to guarantee that there will never again be bailouts of too-big-to-fail banks.

Sens. Sherrod Brown [D, OH], Ted Kaufman [D, DE], Bob Casey [D, PA] and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse [D, RI] today announced that they are proposing legislation that I think everyone can agree would end once and for all the problem of having to bailout failing banks that are too big to fail.

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What Happened to Auditing the Fed?

April 21, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

One of the great political success stories of the past couple years has been the audit the Fed movement. Starting with an unlikely partnership between the far-right Rep. Ron Paul [R, TX-14] and far-left lawmakers Rep. Alan Grayson [D, FL-8] and Sen. Bernie Sanders [I, VT], the push to open up the Federal Reserve to a complete government audit for the first time ever (H.R.1207) has attracted more than 300 co-sponsors in the House and was included in the House's financial reform bill that was approved last December.

But now that financial reform has moved into the Senate, the audit the Fed proposal has disappeared from the bill and there is virtually no talk of trying to put it back in. Instead, the Senate financial reform bill as written by Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd [D, CT] includes a section that looks deceptively like a Fed audit, but would actually do nothing to open up the Fed or remove the special audit restrictions that have allowed the Fed to operate in secrecy for decades.

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When the Senate whittled down a $174 billion jobs bill from the House to a mere $15 billion bill, one of the many ideas to hit the cutting room floor was a $23 billion fund to prevent layoffs in education. Last week, Sen. Tom Harkin [D, IA] revived the idea and introduced it as a standalone Senate bill.

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Congress Links

April 20, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Yesterday, it looked like the House was moving forward on the D.C. voting rights bill and Senate Democrats would have to go it alone on financial regulation. But today is a brand new day in Congress. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer [D, MD-5] this morning announced that gun control politics has shelved the voting rights bill in the House for the year and now Senate Democrats and Republicans are back at the negotiating table for financial regulation. For more on this and other issues, check out the latest edition of Capitol Links.

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Senate Considers Faster FOIA Act

April 20, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Federal agencies have a mixed record when it comes to processing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in spite of a renewed, government-wide commitment to the law. And now, a move to reduce the amount of time the government takes to process FOIA requests has advanced in the Senate and is getting some high profile and bipartisan support.

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Congress Links

April 19, 2010 - by Eric Naing

It's financial reform week and things are looking mighty similar to the health care debate. After weeks of fruitless negotiations, Senate Republicans are poised to put up a unanimous opposition to not only the bill, but also to allowing the bill to even come up for debate while Democrats are going it alone. The difference is that Democrats now lack the 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster. For more on this and other issues, take a look at today's edition of Congress links.

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With the congressional Democrats expecting big losses in the mid-terms, they are making a final push to get Washington D.C. a full-fledged voting member in the House of Representatives. But the Republicans, who hold enough votes in the Senate to filibuster anything they want, are forcing the Democrats to accept a trade-off most of them find odious-- they'll only let the D.C. voting rights bill go through if it includes a gutting of the district's gun control laws.

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Bills on the Floor this Week

April 18, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Nearly two years after the collapse of Wall Street, Congress is finally ready to work on fixing the regulatory flaws and systemic issues that caused it. Senate Democrats are expected to start debating their financial reform bill, called the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010, later this week. The bill would create a process for the government to seize and break up failing financial firms, create a new consumer protection agency specifically for financial products, reform the derivatives market, and more.

As of right now, every single Republican has committed to filibustering a motion to bring the bill to the floor. That means that the Democrats will have to either agree to an open amendment process or change the bill in order to get the 60 votes that will be needed to even begin debate. We'll be watching the negotiation closely on this blog. For now, here's what else is happening in Congress this week.

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