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Reid Goes Nuclear

October 7, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

All week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell [R, KY] have been in a procedural battle over the American Jobs Act. McConnell has been trying to force a vote on the bill in the form of an amendment to the China currency bill that is currently before the Senate in order to show that the Democrats don't even have their own caucus in order on it. Reid says he's willing to vote on the jobs bill, but not in the form of an amendment. He offered to move from the China currency bill to the jobs bill so the Senate can have a full debate and he can offer amendments to help shore up the Democrats. McConnell rejected the offer.

On Thursday afternoon it appeared that McConnell was going to win, sort of. He was planning to force a vote on a motion to suspend the Senate rules that require amendments to be germane and move to his amendment (i.e. the jobs bill). It wouldn't be a vote on the jobs bill, but it would be a vote on voting on the jobs bill, and in his mind that would be enough for justify good talking points.The Senate Parliamentarian determined that McConnell's move was legit and ruled it in order. That's when Reid pulled out the "nuclear option":

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Bill Intro'd to Help You Move Your Money

October 6, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

As big, taxpayer-supported banks jack up fees on their customers, Rep. Brad Miller [D, NC-13] has introduced legislation to ensure that customers can easily close their accounts and mover their money elsewhere. The bill, titled the Freedom and Mobility in Mobile Banking Act, would require banks to allow customers to close their accounts at any time and help them transfer their direct deposits and automatic bill-pay settings to a new bank.

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Dems Revise Jobs Bill to Make it Fail Less Hard

October 5, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

At this point there are basically two conceivable ways for Obama and the congressional Democrats to get their jobs bill, the American Jobs Act, through Congress this year. They could cut it down dramatically to things that could potentially get bipartisan support, like the payroll tax holiday and the unpaid job training program for the unemployed, or they could go hardball and threaten to withhold appropriations and shut down the government. This morning, Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] (pictured) announced what he intends to do. He's going with none of the above, choosing the purely political option instead.

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All Hope for Jobs Bills is Dead

October 4, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The Senate is currently making progress on bipartisan legislation designed to shrink the U.S. trade deficit with China and restore up to 2.8 million domestic manufacturing positions. Yesterday, a majority of both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate voted to invoke cloture on the China trade bill, a.k.a. the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act, and they're expected to pass it by the end of the week. But that will be the end of the line for the bill.

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It's Still a Democracy for the Rich and Connected

October 3, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Last week I wrote about how the deficit supercommittee has so far held the majority of its meetings in complete secrecy. Well, as it turns out, that's not exactly true. According to Politico, the committee members have choosen a select group of citizens to give special access to their private meetings to. You and I just happen to not be on the list.

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The Week Ahead in Congress

October 3, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Congress comes back today, and they're actually going to be working on a bill that could create jobs and is bipartisan, so stands a chance of becoming law this session. The bill is the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act of 2011. It would put new saction on China for manipulating their currency and making their exports cheaper and their imports more expensive. The U.S. trade deficit with China that has been caused at least in part by artificially manipulated Chinese currency has cost us as many as 2.8 million manufacturing jobs over the past decade. This bill could help restore those positions. The bill is being taken up in the Senate starting today and is expected to pass by a wide margin later in the week.

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Bill Introduced to Allow Robocalls to Cell Phones

September 30, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Two powerful congressmen recently introduced a bill with strong corporate backing to legalize robcalls to cellphones. The bill, which has been titled the "Mobile Information Call Act" would amend the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which restricts robocalls to any phone service "for which the called party is charged for the call," including cell phones, by adding an exemption for calls that are "made for a commercial purpose that does not constitute a telephone solicitation." The bill would also pre-empt all state-law restrictions on such calls.

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Must Keep the Threat Alive

September 29, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Earlier today Congress officially disposed of the most recent budget standoff that was threatening to shut down the government. And without skipping a beat, they also began prepping for the next one.

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Supercommittee Meeting Secretly

September 28, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The "public access and transparency" rules that the deficit supercommittee adopted when they first convened contain a major loophole. If they want to block the media and the public out of their meetings, all they have to do is vote to do so and they can operate in total secrecy. Not surprisingly, invoking that loophole seems to have become their standard operating procedure.

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Chinese Currency Bill Up Next

September 27, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

When Congress comes back next week, they're not going to move directly to the Obama jobs bill. Instead, they're going to take up a different measure that could potentially lead to U.S. job creation and is more likely to pass -- the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act of 2011.

The bill is designed to give the Administration authority to take corrective action against artificially undervalued foreign currencies, particularly the Chinese renminbi. It is widely believed that the fair market value of the renminbi is being supressed by the Chinese government in order to give them an advantage in foreign trade. According to a new report from the Economic Policy Import, the U.S. trade deficit with China has killed 2.8 million American jobs since 2001. It's likely that many of those job positions, which were in manufacturing, could be recreated if the renminbi were valued more fairly.

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Things Are Not As They Seem

September 27, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

On January 1, 2013, a perfect storm of major federal policy shifts are set to occur. The Bush tax rates are scheduled to expire, raising taxes on all income earners. The debt-ceiling trigger -- assuming the supercommittee gridlocks -- would go into effect, causing massive cuts to government across the board. And a host of other tax credits important to businesses and the middle class are scheduled to expire as well. It's no coincidence that all of this is happening right after the 2012 elections. It's designed, on some level, to facilitate a grand bargain to extend the status quo that can be passed by an unaccountable lame-duck Congress (and possibly President), with the maximum amount of time before voters will get another chance to weigh in.

Ryan Grim has a fantastic piece outlining how things may go down:

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Shutdown Averted

September 26, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

After FEMA announced earlier in the day that it could stretch its remaining disaster funding out through Friday, the end of the fiscal year, the Senate reached a deal that will keep the government open and operating, for now at least. The deal sidesteps what was the sticking point -- whether or not extra FEMA funding for the rest of the year should be offset with cuts to other programs -- and, once passed by the House, will keep the government funded until November 18th.

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The Week Ahead in Congress

September 26, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Last Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] refused to let the Senate vote that day on his amendment to the House spending bill. Republican and Democratic leaders needed the weekend to cool off a little bit and then work through this," he said. "There is a compromise here." According to the Washington Post, however, the two sides made "no progress" over the weekend. So now here we are, with the government set to shut down in five days and FEMA about to run out of disaster relief funds tomorrow, but still with no agreement on how to pass the spendin

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As expected, the Senate this afternoon voted to table (i.e. kill) the House's stopgap funding bill by a vote of 59-36. The disagreement is over a provision that would partially offset funding for the FEMA disaster relief fund, which is running dry due to all of the natural disasters we've experienced rover the summer. Senate Democrats and some Republicans argue that approving disaster-relief offsets would set a bad precedent that could delay Congress from getting aid to victims of future disasters. Without the bill, FEMA will run out of funds as early as Tuesday and the entire federal government will shut down on Friday at midnight.

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Senators Say DOJ is Lying About the PATRIOT Act

September 22, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

It's always nice to see members of Congress challenging secrecy, lies, and privacy violations from the executive branch. As Charlie Savage reports at the New York Times, Democratic Senators Ron Wyden [OR] and Mark Udall [CO] wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday accusing him of using secret legal opinions to miselad the public on how the PATRIOT Act is really being used.

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