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Financial Reform Amendment Voting Begins

May 5, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Remember last week when Senate Republicans filibustered beginning debate of the financial reform bill three times in three days over objections to a liquidation fund that they said would be used in the future for bailouts? Well, the fund was officially removed on Wednesday by a an overwhelming vote of 93-5. That makes everyone happy -- the Republicans who called it a bailout, the banks who didn't want to pay into it, and the Democrats who didn't really care much about it and would rather have Republican cooperation.

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The Senate today came one step closer to extending unemployment benefits after failing to do before the Easter recess and causing 200,000 unemployed people per week to have their benefits expire. Today's vote was on a motion to overcome a Republican filibuster of debating H.R.4851, the Continuing Extension Act of 2010. The bill would extend the filing deadline for people who are eligible for the next tier of unemployment insurance until May 5, 2010. It would not create a fifth tier of benefits.

Today's vote was approved 60-34 with Sen. Scott Brown [R, MA], Sen. Susan Collins [R, ME], Sen. Olympia Snowe [R, ME] and Sen. George Voinovich [R, OH] voting with the Democrats to defate the filibuster

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When financial reform negotiations broke down a couple weeks ago, Sen. Bob Corker [R, TN] (pictured at right) was the one to stand up and say that a bipartisan bill was still possible. Last week, when the Republicans refused to participate in the mark-up of the bill, Corker called it "a very large strategic mistake," adding that financial reform "is an issue that almost every American wants to see passed." But today he announced that he "absolutely cannot support" the bil.

Senate Democrats, as we know, need to pick off at least one Republican, in addition to holding their own party together, to overcome an inevitable Republican filibuster. They have basically three options -- find a Republican other than Corker who may be willing to vote for the bill, negotiate down some of the provisions to a point that Republicans can support it, or call the Republicans' bluff and just bring the bill to a vote.

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Last April, Sen. Jay Rockefeller [D, WV], the Chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, introduced the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 to his committee. The goal of the bill was to develop a public-private plan for strengthening national security in the case of internet-based attacks. But it stalled almost immediately because of a controversial provision that would have give the President unilateral authority to declare a cybersecurity emergency and then shut down or limit access to parts of the internet without any oversight or explanation.

A couple weeks ago, Sen. Rockefeller partnered with Sen. Olympia Snowe [R, ME] to introduce a major revision to the bill that, among other things, made changes the emergency "kill switch" provision. The revision was adopted by the committee last Thursday and the bill was approved. It's now ready for consideration by the full Senate, but it's not clear that the revision would actually prevent the President from gaining basically the same powers that would have been given to him in the original bill.

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Senate Breaks Filibuster on HIRE Act

March 16, 2010 - by Eric Naing

For a second time, the Senate is expected to vote on an $18 billion jobs bill known as the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment, or HIRE, Act (H.R.2847).

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Has a new day dawned in the Senate? On Monday night, five Republicans helped to hand Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] a big and much-needed victory by joining with Democrats on defeating a Republican filibuster of his $15 billion jobs bill. The bipartisan 62-30 vote came even after Reid scaled the bill back last week by removing some unrelated tax cuts, which were popular with Republicans, and an unemployment insurance extension, which is popular with everyone in Congress.

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It's a common refrain from Republicans in the year since the $787 billion stimulus became law: trash it in public but accept or even beg for the money for their districts in private.

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Senate Confirms Labor Solicitor

February 4, 2010 - by Eric Naing

After nearly ten months of waiting, the Department of Labor finally has a solicitor. The Senate today, in a party-line vote of 60-37, confirmed Patricia Smith, President Obama's nominee to serve as the department's top lawyer. All 58 Democrats as well as Sen. Joe Lieberman [I, CT] and Sen. Bernie Sanders [I, VT] were needed to overcome a Republican filibuster blocking Smith. But with Scott Brown expected to join the Senate soon, Democrats will lose that 60th vote and will have to court at leas...

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Dems Reach Out (Again) to Snowe on Health Care

January 29, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

We know generally that the Democrats are working behind the scenes to try to find a way to pass health care reform. But what, in particular have they been doing? One thing, apparently, is talking to Sen. Olympia Snowe [R, ME], the only Republican in the Senate who has expressed any interest in voting for the bill: Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said Friday that she has been in conversation with Democrats and Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus about a way forward on health care reform. "I h...

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A Closer Look At The Senate's Jobs Plan

January 27, 2010 - by Eric Naing

The omnipresent refrain in Washington for the past few months has been “jobs, jobs, jobs.” Possibly terrified of the wrath of the unemployed voter, Senate Democrats are now making progress in crafting a jobs bill.

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Will Cap-and-Trade Go the Way of the Public Option?

December 27, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Now that they're just about done with removing the public option from the health care bill, several of the same conservative Democrats in the Senate are working on removing the central component -- cap and trade -- from the climate change bill.

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A Public Option, Stupak Amendment Trade-Off?

November 10, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

With pro-choice, anti-public option Sen. Olympia Snowe [R, ME] wielding heavy influence in the Senate's health care negotiations, a trade-off of the House bill's provisions seems likely.

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Snowe and Party Discipline

October 13, 2009 - by Paul Blumenthal

Are Republicans in the Senate better able to maintain partisan discipline due to internal rules? The answer is most definitely yes.

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This Week in Congress: The Markup

September 21, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

With a full plate of 564 pending amendments, Sen. Max Baucus [D, MT] will take his health care bill to the full Senate Finance Committee this week to begin the actual process of debating and voting. This week's committee markup is the Senate's best chance for finding a bipartisan compromise on a health care bill that can pass under regular procedure.

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First Senate Dem Comes Out Against the Public Option

September 2, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Yesterday, Sen. Blanche Lincoln [D, AR] became the first Democrat in the Senate to say flatly that she would vote against a health care bill that includes a public health insurance option.

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