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July 31, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

House approves more funds for the cash for clunkers program. Blue Dogs soak up health insurance company cash. Judiciary Committee votes for crack/powder cocaine parity. And letters urging votes against cap and trade forged by lobbyists. That and more in today's roundup of links on Congress.

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Big Deal?

July 31, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

The AP this morning is reporting that liberals, Blue Dogs and every Democrat in between on the E&C Committee have struck a deal on the health care bill. Essentially, the Blue Dogs get to keep the concession they won earlier in the week requiring the government to negotiate rates for their public insurance option directly with private companies. The main thing liberals and moderates in the Energy and Commerce Committee seem to have won today is an agreement to restore subsidies to low income households for buying health insurance. With this deal in place, the committee is expected to pass the bill later this afternoon.

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The Progressive Health Care Bloc

July 30, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

The fact of the matter is that when you shift the legislation over to the right to satisfy conservatives, you lose liberal votes on the left. In this case, the deal Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman [D, CA-30] Democrat brokered with the Blue Dogs appears to be losing more votes for the bill than it has gained. The deal is designed to satisfy the 40 Blue Dogs who outlined their concerns with the bill in a letter three weeks ago. We know that only 4 of the 7 Blue Dogs on the E&C Committee agreed to the deal, so it's likely that outside of the committee, the deal would win the support of, say, 30 Blue Dogs.

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I'm thrilled to announce today the release of our biggest, most comprehensive update yet. We've redesigned every nook and cranny of the website with a focus on bringing more clarity and comprehension to the obscure legislative puzzle that is Congress. Besides the new design, we're also going public with a bunch of new features today that make it easier for people to turn their browsing and research of bills before Congress into powerful political action, instantly. The site improvements we're launching today are a big step towards fulfilling our mission of opening up the lawmaking process and creating a more participatory political environment.

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Democrats Strike a Health Care Deal

July 29, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

As you've probably heard by now, the Blue Dog Democrats that have been delaying progress on the health care bill (H.R. 3200) for two weeks straight have finally struck a deal with the Democratic leadership and are allowing the bill to move forward. The bill has been blocked in the House Energy and Commerce Committee by seven Blue Dogs with a list of 10 objections, some of which go to the heart of the legislation's key proposals. Today's deal will allow the committee mark-up to go forward and the bill to pass out of committee.

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Update: PASS ID Act

July 29, 2009 - by Isabelle Cutting

Following up on a previous post, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee approved the PASS ID Act today, a step towards replacing its unpopular and defunct predecessor, the 2005 REAL ID Act.

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No Health Care Votes 'til September

July 28, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

I've been unable to access OpenCongress all day due to a pesky DNS error, so please excuse me for not updating earlier. Most of the day, anyways, there wasn't much to say about Congress' progress on health care other than it didn't seem like they were making any progress. In the House, the Blue Dogs continued to mull Waxman's compromise offer, and in the Senate, the Finance Committee continued dropping key democratic provisions from their version of the bill. But finally, some of what appears ...

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Are You a "Natural Born" Citizen?

July 27, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

There's been a lot of discussion on OpenCongress of late regarding natural born citizens, and whether President Barack Obama meets the criteria. But a few months ago, another piece of legislation also ruffled some feathers: the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2009 (H.R. 1868). Our summary of the legislation says, "This bill would eliminate birthright citizenship for children born to undocumented immigrants in the United States. Current U.S. law automatically recognizes any person born on American soil as a natural born citizen."

This description was challenged by several readers, who argued there are very specific circumstances required for “natural born” classification.

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UPDATE: Salon notes that later on Monday night, the resolution passed unanimously, with Bachmann voting in favor. This afternoon, the House was moments away from approving a resolution to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the entry of Hawaii into the Union that contains language declaring that President Obama was born in the state. But at the very last second, Rep. Michele Bachmann [R, MN-6] swooped in and rescued the birthers from legislative defeat. Here's the video from Think Progress: ...

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Congress Links

July 27, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Senate Finance Committee skips the public option. House Democrat readies an anti-birthers bill stating that President Obama was born in Hawaii. A countrywide executive tells Congress that Sens. Dodd and Conrad were both made ware they were getting special treatment with their loans. And Congressional Quarterly releases their 2010 House outlook report. That and more in today's roundup of links on Congress.

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Arlen Specter, Loyal Democrat (For Now)

July 27, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Nate Silver at Five Thirty Eight has been tracking Sen. Arlen Specter's [D, PA] votes in the Senate since his switch from the Republican party to the Democrats in April. In the first month or so after becoming a Democrat, Specter was voting with his new party about two-thirds of the time on these Contentious Votes. While there are some less loyal Democrats -- say, Ben Nelson of Nebraska -- who only vote with their party about half the time, this was certainly less than what most Democratic obs...

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This Week in Congress: Crunch Time

July 27, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Today begins the House of Representatives' final week in session before they are scheduled to leave for a five-week recess. They have a full legislative floor schedule set out in front of them, but this week in the House is really going to be about just one thing: health care reform. Click through for more on what's up with health care, as well as the House's complete legislative schedule for this week.

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Congress Links

July 24, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Lots of debate over Congress' August recess. Geithner defends his regulatory overhaul plans. Minimum wage goes up. And the House acts to end a 21-year ban on funding for needle exchange programs. That and much more in today's roundup of links on Congress.

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Drama

July 24, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

I don't know if anyone is still bothering to follow the emotional roller coaster that is the health care negotiations in the House, but for what it's worth, The Hill is now reporting that talks are back on track: Hours after calling their chairman a liar, Blue Dogs on the Energy and Commerce Committee stood by that chairman’s side and announced together that the once-collapsed healthcare negotiations are back on track. “The chairman and I would like to retract some of the things that we sai...

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Franken Scores His First Legislative Victory

July 24, 2009 - by Donny Shaw