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July 19, 2010 - by

Obama calls on Republicans to support an extension of unemployment insurance benefits. A Senate committee votes to allow private rockets in space. The Medicare doc-fix issue may come up in the post-election lame-duck Congress. And Harry Reid gets ready to introduce his big energy bill this week. All this and more in today's roundup of links on Congress.

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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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Congress Links

July 15, 2010 - by Moshe Bildner

  • After three Republicans joined Democrats in ending debate on the Financial Regulations bill, the Senate voted 60-39 to pass the bill, and send it to the President to sign into law. (TPM)
  • Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is opposing TARP-watchdog Elizabeth Warren to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (HuffPo)
  • Today, debate began in Congress over whether to extend the Bush era tax cuts, or let them expire at the end of this year.  The 10 year cost of the cuts is estimated at over $1.6 trillion.(Politico)
  • In a USA Today opinion piece, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) announced that despite what he calls Elena Kagan's "stonewalling", he will vote to confirm her to the Supreme Court. (USA Today)
  • The House Natural Resources Committee approved a measure that would impose tougher environmental safeguards on deep-sea oil drilling, as well as ending some of the industry's tax exemptions. (LA Times)
  • Learn al about that bill, the CLEAR Act, here. (OpenCongress)
  • The climbing federal deficit has some in congress - including Democrats - publicly contemplating changes to Social Security, including possibly raising the retirement age.  (Wall Street Journal)
  • The House and Senate have passed resolutions attempting to raise the number of federal employees who telecommute. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD-3) said the nation stands to gain financial, environmental, and even security benefits by having government workers work from home. (AP)
  • The Washington Independent reports that the Senate is expected to vote to extend unemployment benefits next Tuesday, after Sen. Robert Byrd's (D-WV) replacement is sworn into office.  (Washington Independent)

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UPDATE: Senate Passes Financial Reform

July 15, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

UPDATE: The bill has officially been passed. It now gets sent to President Obama, who is expected to sign it into law this afternoon. Original post below...

As expected, the Senate this afternoon voted 60-38 to end debate on the landmark Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protections Act. The vote on final passage of the bill, whiconly requires a simply majority of 51 "ayes," is expected later this afternoon.


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Conyers' Deficit-Neutral Jobs Bill

July 14, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

If I had to pick the top three factors in U.S. politics right now I would say the unemployment situation, concern about the deficit, and distrust of the financial industry. Remarkably, Rep. John Conyers [D, MI-14] (pictured) has introduced a bill this session that seems to fall on the popular side of all three of these issues. It would be deficit neutral, dramatically reduce unemployment, and levy a new tax on the riskiest Wall Street transactions. The bill is called the 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act. Here's how it would work.

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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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Congress Links

July 13, 2010 - by Moshe Bildner

  • Conservative commentary site "Dakota Voice" uses OpenCongress's Head-to-Head Voting comparison tool to compare Rep. Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) to the Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-08). Check out our comparison tool here, and Dakota Voice's analysis here.
  • Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) announced yesterday that though he objects to new deficit spending to extend unemployment benefits, the cost of tax cuts should "never have to be offset"  (The Washington Post)
  • Democrats are seeking to end Bush era tax cuts for those who make over $250,000.  (The Washington Post)
  • Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, urges Congress to provide states with more funds to states in order to prevent the layoff of thousands of teachers.  (USA Today)
  • The Newark Examiner uses an OpenCongress blog post to explain why the emergency unemployment benefits have stalled in the Senate, and when they're likely to be passed. Check it out here.
  • Progress Illinois is linking to OpenCongress to explain the steps needed after obtaining the 60th vote to pass unemployment benefit extensions.  Check it out here.

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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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