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Sen. Cornyn Warns of World War III

March 30, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

And it's not related to the global financial crisis or nuclear proliferation, but to the ongoing recount for one of Minnesota's Senate seats. Manu Raju for the Politico reports: Texas Sen. John Cornyn is threatening “World War III” if Democrats try to seat Al Franken in the Senate before Norm Coleman can pursue his case through the federal courts. Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, acknowledges that a federal challenge to November’s elections could take “y...

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Stopping Future Bonuses

March 30, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

While the 90-percent bailout bonus tax bill has basically stalled out in the Senate, there's a new bill coming to the floor of the House this week that is designed to block future bonuses - like the $1 billion in AIG bonuses scheduled for later this year - from being paid out. House Progressive Caucus member Rep. Alan Grayson [D, FL-8] is teaming up with New Democrats member Rep. James Himes [D, CT-4] on a bill, the Pay for Performance Act, to freeze executive bonuses at companies receiving bailout money until they are in a position to start repaying the government.

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In February, President Obama announced a plan to help families with troubled mortgages stay in their home. One of the key components of the plan, giving judges the power to modify loans for homeowners in bankruptcy, requires approval from Congress (H.R. 1106), but Senate moderates are threatening to block it for now and to push for a weaker version of the provision down the road.

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Reforming Health Care in the Budget

March 26, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

I linked to a piece earlier this week by Ezra Klein explaining the budget reconciliation approach to pushing contentious legislation through the Senate. Well, yesterday Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) left open the option of passing health care reform legislation with the reconciliation process:

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Congress Sends Public Lands Bill to President

March 25, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

The House today approved the landmark Omnibus Public Land Management Act, designating 2 million acres of land in 9 states as wilderness areas. I blogged about the legislation before, when the House narrowly defeated the measure by two votes. Through a bit of parliamentary maneuvering, however, the Senate took up the Legislation again as a substitute amendment. Basically, they took the text of S.22 and dropped it into H.R. 146 (see the full text and changes here). The effort to approve H.R. 146...

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March 24, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Campbell Brown at CNN endorses the Sunlight Foundation's Read the Bill campaign, which simply asks that all non-emergency legislation be available online for 72 hours before debate. As part of the campaign, OpenCongress put together a custom feed that automatically tracks bills in Congress for which the time of the full bill text being available to the time of the bill's initial consideration is less than 72 hours. I just checked the list of rushed bills, and I see that it is growing. ...

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DREAM Act Coming Up Again

March 24, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

It looks like Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) is going to reintroduce the DREAM Act early next week. It's a controversial piece of legislation that would grant temporary residency for graduating high-school students who are immigrants and are not legal residents. Students who comply would be granted a six-year temporary residency, and if they obtain a degree or fulfill a military service requirement, they would earn permanent residency.

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Specter a "No" on EFCA

March 24, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Breaking from CongressDaily ($): Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., will vote against a cloture motion to limit debate on the Employee Free Choice Act, business groups said today. Keith Smith, who directs labor policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, said his group expects Specter to announce his decision in a floor speech early this afternoon. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said it also was expecting the announcement. Specter's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Sp...

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If you're following the debate over health care reform or climate change, Ezra Klein's piece on the budget reconciliation process is a must read. I know, it sounds dull, but it is probably the Democrats' best chance of passing health care or climate change bills this session, so you ought to get to know it. The basic idea is that there exists a process for allowing an up-or-down vote - 51 votes, not the 60 we are used to - on legislative proposals by attaching them to the annual budget. Sen. ...

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More on the GIVE Act

March 23, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

The GIVE Act, which Avelino wrote about here, is scheduled for an initial vote today in the Senate. Basically, the bill would expand funding for AmeriCorps and establish other volunteer corps to deal with specific areas, like clean energy, education and health. The bill has been getting a lot of attention on OpenCongress (almost all negative) and has been making the rounds in the blogs. It's currently the second most-viewed bill on OpenCongress and the most-blogged about bill on the web. A ...

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House Approves 90% Bailout Bonus Tax

March 19, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

As you have probably heard, the House this afternoon passed a bill (H.R. 1586) to impose a 90 percent tax on bonuses to employees at financial institutions that has received bailout money. The bill would levy the tax on any bonuses from bailed out firms paid out in 2009 to individuals with incomes over $250,000.

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House Approves National Service Legislation

March 19, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

The House yesterday approved it's version of an expanded volunteer/national service package, one of President Barack Obama's priorities for the legislative calender. The Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education (GIVE) Act sailed through the House by a vote of 321 to 105. The Senate is expected to vote on a companion piece, the Serve America Act, next week.

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Energy and Climate Change Primer for the 111th Congress

March 18, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

The AIG bonus scandal is burning through the media universe, but Congress is also continuing work on the legislative agenda. Some of the big pieces in the coming months will be on the energy front. New details were recently released about a proposed renewable energy standard (which would require utilities to produce a percentage of their power via renewable sources, like solar and wind). How that RES bill will move through the House and, more importantly, the Senate, is a bit confusing and very political. So, here's an OpenCongress primer on the looming energy/climate change battle.

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Lincoln-Obama Bible Resolution

March 18, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Here's another of those bills in Congress that come along every once in a while and ride the line pretty heavy between church and state: H. Con. Res. 34 - Calling upon the Capitol Preservation Commission and the Office of the Architect of the Capitol to place the Lincoln-Obama Bible on permanent display upon the Lincoln table at the Capitol Visitor Center for the benefit of all its visitors to fully understand and appreciate America's history and Godly heritage. On the one hand, it's propos...

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AIG Bonuses and Tracking Changes in the Stimulus

March 17, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

By comparing the Senate version of the bill to the final conference version of the bill that was signed into law, Jane Hamsher shows that a provision to block bonuses retroactively on TARP contracts, inserted by Dodd in the Senate bill, was actually taken out by the conference committee.

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