I know a lot of you out there are waiting on the Senate to take up legislation extending unemployment insurance to 99ers and other exhaustees, but it looks like this week will instead be used to hold a couple politically-charged votes on a bill that Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] doesn't even plan on finishing until after the November midterms. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the immigration-related DREAM Act are scheduled for debate and votes this week as amendments to the 2011 Defense AUthorization Act, which Reid said on Thursday most likely won't be completed until the lame-duck session.Read Full Article
It was a short first work week back for Congress, and next week will be short too. The House comes back into session Wednesday and the Senate comes back on Monday, but won't be voting on anything until Tuesday. Here's your weekend roundup of links on Congress -- what's driving the debates and shaping the political landscape. Have a good one!Read Full Article
Sunlight Foundation has just launched their latest tool for getting at the web of influence surrounding our elected officials, and it's definitely worth checking out -- Influence Explorer. It's a dirt simple way to get all the key info on the connections, financial or otherwise, between politicians, organizations and powerful people at both the state and federal level.Read Full Article
Publicly-funded congressional campaigns are about to move one step closer to becoming a reality. The Fair Elections Now Coalition announced this afternoon that the House Committee on Administration has scheduled a mark-up session of Rep. John Larson's [D, CT-1] Fair Elections Now Act, which would allow federal candidates to finance their campaigns with public funds rather than having to spend their time fundraising from special interests and corporations. The bill has been sitting in Congress for four years. This will be the first time it has advanced in the lgislative process at all, and it will likely lead to a full House vote in the coming weeks.
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Congress enacted a stand-alone border security bill this summer. Now they're going to vote on a bill from the opposite side of the "comprehensive immigration reform" universe -- the DREAM Act -- that would create a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrnts that serve in the military or earn a college degree.Read Full Article
Since June 29th, Senate Democrats have been stymied by Republicans on a bill (H.R. 5297) that would give small business $12 billion in tax breaks and a $30 billion lending fund in order to encourage new hiring. Today, a couple Republicans gave in, providing the Democrats the votes they need to overcome GOP opposition and move the bill towards final passage.Read Full Article
There's been a lot of attention paid to the 372 bills that have been passed by the House this session, but are dying in the Senate because of record filibustering and divisiveness. But did you know that the House is sitting on their own stack of unfinished legislation? According to an original research from OpenCongress research assistant Hilary Worden, the Senate has passed 44 bills that are still awaiting follow-up action from the House.Read Full Article
Time to start paying attention again. It's mid-September, the "August" recess is officially over, and Congress is coming back into session today to get back to taking care of the people's business.
Clearly, there are some enormous issues facing Congress as they return. The unemployment rate is creeping back up (it's at 9.6% and is expected to stay high for some time), long-term unemployment is off the charts, and the expiring 2001 Bush tax cuts need to be dealt with. That's not to mention the 372 bills that this session of Congress has started working on but never finished, which deal with such critical issues as climate change, post-Citizens campaign finance reform, and food safety.Read Full Article
As we mentioned last week, The Hill recently reported that there are 372 bills that have been passed by the House but not yet been acted upon by the Senate. Which chamber is at fault for this? Is the House wildly passing superfluous bills, or is the Senate failing to keep up with matters that need to be addressed? For the most part, the latter. According to our analysis of data from OpenCongress and GovTrack, the House has passed many broadly popular bills that are stalling in the Senate for reasons other than their content.Read Full Article
A district court judge in California has preempted Congress and ruled "don't ask don't tell" unconstitutional, calling it a facial violation of the First and Fifth Amendments. Even though President Obama favors repealing the policy, which bans gay men and women from serving openly in the military, the ruling puts the administration in a bit of a bind.
Normally, the President would appeal any district court decision that strikes a federal statute, and, as Jason Mazzone at Balkinization explains, in this case, the administration has additional legal reasons to appeal -- shoring up the requirments of what constitutes a facial challenge, and showing deference to the military in a time of war. On the other hand, Obama and leaders in the military both want the policy repealed, and they are probably worried that Congress won't act on the repeal while the Democrats still hold enough of a majority to get it passed.Read Full Article
The big credit card reform bill (H.R.627) that was passed by Congress and signed into law last year by President Obama was designed to end absuses and deceptive practices in the consumer credit market. It did not apply to teh business credit card market. However, there's nothing stopping credit card companies from marketing their business cards to individuals. After all, anybody can be a sole proprietorship, and it's up to the card comapnies to decide who qualifies. According to USA Today this is exactly the loophole card companies are using to dodge the new consumer protections:Read Full Article
First and foremost, the payroll tax holiday, an idea favored by most Republicans and that probably would have been swallowed without too much bitterness by most Democrats, is now, reportedly, off the table. At this point, here's what the new Obama stimulus package is looking like:Read Full Article
Remember that in-the-works Obama jobs proposal I wrote about the other day? Given that deficit hawks in the Senate have recently forced the Democrats to pare a $123 billion jobs bill back to a $33 billion unemployment insurance bill (H.R.4213), and that they have been blocking a $30 billion small business jobs bill (H.R. 5297) for over a month, I expected this new proposal to be pretty mild. But according to a report out tonight from Lori Montgomery at the Washington Post, the bill that the White House is preparing to unveil may cost the government as much as $400 billion in lost revenue:Read Full Article
Three more cases are sent to the ethics committee, Reid hopes to get an energy bill through the Senate after the midterms, and more in today's Congress links.Read Full Article
Having pushed aside energy/oil spill legislation until the lame-duck session, the weeks between when Congress reconvenes from the August recess on September 13 and before they adjourn for election season in October will be focused on one thing -- saving the U.S. economy from slipping deeper into recession. There's a small business jobs bill on tap (H.R. 5297), a vague plan to do something with the expiring Bush tax cuts, and now, according to the Wall Street Journal, a new jobs package from the Obama Administration.Read Full Article