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Congress reconvenes from their July 4th recess on Monday and one of their first orders of business will be extending unemployment insurance benefits for the more than 2 million Americans who have had their benefits cut off over the past month due to congressional inaction. Here's a step-by-step rundown of what to watch for over the next several days as the pieces fall into place for getting the extension out of the Senate and signed into law so that millions of unemployed workers can finally get some relief.

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Replacing Byrd

July 8, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

UPDATE: Good news for all of you waiting for Congress to pass the unemployment insurance extension -- the AP is reporting that West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw has issued the ruling that Gov. Manchin requested on whether he could hold a special election for Sen. Byrd's seat on the 2010 ballot. Manchin had said he would wait on the ruling before appointing an interim senator to fill the seat. As I reported below, the ruling wasn't expected until some time next week.

Now that the ruling is in, it's possible that Manchin will appoint a replacement before the end of the week so they they can be sworn in to the Senate on Monday. The interim senator is expected to give Senate Democrats the 60th vote they need to overcome a Republican filibuster of the unemployment insurance extension and move it forward towards becoming law.


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Congress Links

July 8, 2010 - by Hilary Worden

A Senator marks himself as a "no" vote on Kagan, Obama makes two other recess appointments, the Pentagon surveys on "Don't Ask Don't Tell", and more. It's your daily link roundup for Thursday, and your comments are welcome.

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Congress Links

July 7, 2010 - by Moshe Bildner

President Obama temporarily appointed Dr. Donaly M. Berwick to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  The recess appointment does not have to be confirmed by the Senate, but will expire in 2011, when the Senate will have to approve the President's selection. (NY Times)

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) announced that the US is prepared to use "military actions", if it must, to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.  (AP)

Senate Democrats are expected to try again to extend unemployment benefits when Congress reconvenes on July 9.  Senate Democrats have so far been unable to break the Republican filibuster preventing them from passing such a bill.  It has been 36 days since these benefits were allowed to lapse. (Christian Science Monitor)

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Congress Links

July 6, 2010 - by Moshe Bildner

With the House and Senate both out of session until Friday, July 9th for their "Summer District Work Periods," it's been a comparatively slow week for news on Congress. Here are some links to hold you over until next week, when Congress gets back to work and things pick up a bit.

For starters: there may be more left-right agreement on stimulus spending than meets the eye -- at least outside of Congress, reports Ezra Klein in the WaPo. Click through for a baker's dozen more links with unparalleled scintillating Congressional analysis.

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Despite polling data showing that Americans are more concerned about the jobs situation, most Members of Congress seem to be convinced that the federal deficit will be the top issue in the fast-approaching mid-term elections. The House and Senate recently stripped billions in aid for states from their mini-stimulus bill, and they're even struggling to pass an extension of unemployment insurance benefits, typically the least controversial form of stimulus spending.

Last week, a few House Democrats proposed a solution for helping states deal with their budget shortfalls without increasing the federal deficit. Rep. Bill Delahunt [D, MA-10] introduced a bill, co-sponsored by 4 other Dems, that they are calling the "Main Street Fairness Act." The bill would allow states to require online retailers and other mail order businesses to collect and remit sales taxes. According to Delahunt, states are expected to lose about $18.6 billion in sales taxes to internet retailers this year, and by 2012 they are expected to lose $23 billion annually.

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If you asked the House of Representatives right now to approve $37 billion to continue the war in Afghanistan indefinitely without a plan in place for winding it down, the answer would be "no." But through some carefully considered procedural maneuvering last night , Democratic leaders in the House managed to pass their war spending bill, reject attempts at setting a withdrawal timeline, enact a broad budget enforcement resolution that will guide all discretionary spending for 2011, and even throw in billions of dollars (fully offset) in unrelated domestic spending. 

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Congress Links

July 1, 2010 - by Hilary Worden

Elena Kagan, immigration reform, Cuba, the deficit, and more in today's Congress Links.

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As expected, the House of Representatives this afternoon passed their stand-alone unemployment insurance extension bill (H.R. 5816). The vote wasn't even close. 270 congressmen voted in favor of the bill, including 29 Republicans, and only 153 voted against it. But the Senate has adourned for the July 4 recess and the bill will have to wait until they come back in mide July to make its way through that chamber.

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In their attempt to wrangle enough Republican votes to pass the financial reform bill, Democrats have dropped a $19 billion tax on big banks and hedge funds. Senator Scott Brown [R-MA] in particular raised objections to this provision, believing that the cost would be passed on to customers.

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Sen. Ben Nelson [D, NE] crossed the aisle last night and gave Republicans the final vote they needed to block the Democrats' attempt to extend unemployment insurance. The Democrats had the support of 59% of the Senate for their extension bill, but Nelson's defection allowed the Republicans to sustain a filibuster of the Democrats' attempt to move the bill to the floor for an up-or down vote. Breaking a filibusters requires a 3/5ths majority, or 60 votes.

Since Nelson is now standing between millions of unemployed Americans struggling to stay afloat until the extension is passed (most likely in mid July) and the immediate relief Democrats are trying to provide, it's worth being aware of his reasoning. Below is a long excerpt from a statement he released the day before he blocked the Senate's last attempt to pass an extension:

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Another UI Vote Tonight?

July 1, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The Iowa Independent is reporting that Sen. Tom Harkin [D, IA] thinks another vote in the Senate on the unemployment insurance extension is possible tonight: "Another vote on a bill to extend federal unemployment insurance benefits for the long-term unemployed may come to the floor of the Senate as early as Thursday night, according to U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa."

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For the fourth time in a month, Senate Democrats on Wednesday night failed to win enough votes to overcome a Republican filibuster of a bill to extend unemployment insurance benefits (H.R. 4213). After the failed vote, the Senate adjourned for recess until July 12th.

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