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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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Congress Links

April 12, 2010 - by Eric Naing

All the buzz in Washington is about the 47 world leaders who have descended upon the city for president Obama's Nuclear Security Summit. But in the Senate, lawmakers are also buzzing about unemployment benefits once again. In a familiar refrain, Democrats are trying to overcome the objections of a key Republican to pass a short-term extension for the now-expired benefits. Check out today's edition of Congress Links for more on this topic and others.

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Delay Slayer

April 12, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] has taken a lot of slack for not being a tough enough leader. But when it comes to killing filibusters, he's the toughest majority leader ever, reports Roll Call (via Political Wire):

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Getting Tough on Wall Street

April 12, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Politico reports that some Democrats are preparing a big push to strengthen financial reform legislation when it comes to the Senate floor in a couple weeks:

A group of Democrats, joined by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, are planning an aggressive spring offensive to strengthen key provisions of the financial reform bill - and daring Senate Republicans to vote against them.

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The Week Ahead in Congress

April 12, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Spring break is over. The Senate comes back to work today after a two-week break to take on a huge slate of unfinished business. Confirming a new Supreme Court Justice, ratifying a new nuclear arms treaty with Russia, finishing financial reform, immigration reform and climate change legislation, and extending unemployment benefits are all looming before the Senate right now.

The House comes back to work tomorrow, though having already passed hundreds of bills that are lingering in the Senate, their work load will be significantly lighter. We'll be covering it all on this blog, but before we get ahead of ourselves, here's an what Congress is up to this week.

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The Week In Review

April 9, 2010 - by Eric Naing

The hits just keep coming. On top of financial reform, climate change, unemployment benefits and the ratification of a nuclear arms treaty, lawmakers now have the nomination of a replacement for the retiring John Paul Stevens waiting for them when they get back. If the acrimony over the nomination of Justice Sotomayor is any indication, expect this to be another brutal slog. But even though Congess is in recess, OpenCongress has been plenty busy. Here's what we've been up to this week.

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How a Treaty Moves Through the Senate

April 9, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Now that President Obama and Russian President Medvedev have signed the New START treaty on reducing nuclear stockpiles, the Senate has to take it up and either ratify it or reject it. Treaties follow a different course in the Senate than legislation, and since they don't come around that often, here's a nice refresher provided by the White House on how it happens:

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Working the Agency That's Enacting the Law

April 8, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

People generally think of Members of Congress as influencing policy through committee work, floor debates, public advocacy, and other stuff that might be on C-SPAN or proudly announced in a press release from their office. But, I'm sitting here reading through the Federal Trade Commission's rule to ban deceptive marketing of "free" credit reports, as required by Congress in the credit card reform bill, and it's a great example of the type of work that lawmakers do to influence policy that, while technically disclosed to the public, flies way beneath the radar of anything anyone is paying attention to.

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Congress Links

April 8, 2010 - by Eric Naing

The to-do list awaiting lawmakers when the return to Washington next week continues to grow. The latest addition to the list is ratification of the new strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia. To ratify a treaty, at least 67 senators need to support it. Past arms reductions treaties have been overwhelmingly bipartisan affairs, but we'll have to see whether this vote will follow suit. Anyway, here's today's edition of Congress Links.

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Which Senators are Flush with Finance Cash?

April 8, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

"The banks -- hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created -- are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place." - Sen. Dick Durbin [D, IL].

In a few weeks, the banks' "ownership" of Congress will be put to the test. The Senate is going to take up comprehensive financial regulatory reform legislation in May -- this is the main bill the banks are spending their political capital on to fight, and the Senate is where they are hoping to use their influence and make it friendlier to their business.

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Native American Health Care Reform

April 8, 2010 - by Eric Naing

The passage of the Affordable Care Act (H.R.3590) was a very big deal to more than just Vice President Biden – it also represents the successful culmination of years of work on behalf of Native Americans and their allies in both parties. Peppered throughout the bill are numerous provisions that permanently reauthorize and extend a landmark health care law governing American Indians and Native Alaskans that expired in 2001.

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Congress Links

April 7, 2010 - by Eric Naing

There are only a handful of days left until Congress once again opens for business and it looks like lawmakers will have a lot on their plate. Discussions on financial regulation and climate change will of course resume, but other domestic issues like mining safety and national security issues like Afghanistan and nuclear policy must also be tackled. And to top it off, it looks like there will be a few battles over judicial nominations as well. To prepare, take a look at today's edition of Congress Links.

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Change of Heart?

April 7, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Sen. Richard Shelby [R, AL], who just two weeks ago said that "safety and soundness [of banks] trumps...the consumer finance whatever," is all of a sudden championing a stand-alone Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA), the Washington Post reports:

Staff members for Sen. Richard C. Shelby (Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Senate banking committee, sent a proposal to their Democratic counterparts last week that would create an independent consumer financial protection agency, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

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Congress Links

April 6, 2010 - by Eric Naing

The House and Senate may still be out of session, but plenty of events are happening that will demand Congressional attention when everyone gets back to Washington. Until then, please take a look at a few other articles and blog posts of note in today's edition of Congress Links.

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The Budget Reconciliation Cycle Begins Anew

April 6, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The Democrats' foresight to included health care reform instructions in the 2010 budget resolution was what really gave them the edge they needed to get their bill out of Congress and signed into law. When Congress comes back on April 12, the 2011 budget resolution will be one of the top items on their agenda. Jon Walker at FireDogLake, who calls reconciliation instructions the "best hope for progressive legislation," is starting to think about what reconciliation items the Dems might include in this year's budget bill.

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