The Democratic-controlled Senate today voted to invoke the so-called nuclear option out of frustration over Republicans who have been blocking President Barack Obama’s nominees.
The controversial move is a rules change that could make a partisan environment even more divisive because it takes away the right for the Senate’sminority party to filibuster.
Under the old rules it took 60 votes to break a filibuster. The change now allows most filibusters of Obama nominees to be stopped with 51 votes — a simple Senate majority.
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Mitch McConnell met privately on Tuesday with House Republicans in an attempt to stiffen their spines and preserve the party’s leverage in the next government shutdown fight.
The Senate minority leader urged GOP members, including committee chairmen, who arevoicing strong concerns with the painful military cuts under sequestration to hang tough and stand by the austerity spending level of $967 billion.
“I wish the budget conference well, but I do hope that at the end of the day we’ll support the Budget Control Act. It’s the law of the land,” McConnell told reporters afterward. “It sets out [spending] caps to be achieved. We know that it’s been highly successful. We’ve reduced for two years in a row for the first time since the Korean War. I think it’s a bad idea to revisit a law that is actually working and reducing spending for the government. Within those constraints, I wish them well. … I hope they will comply with the law.”
If everything goes as planned, gay rights history will be made on Thursday in the Senate.
Senate Majority LeaderHarry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday set up the the final series of votes for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — which prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity — culminating in a vote final passage on Thursday afternoon if the bill passes a key, 60-vote threshold procedural test in the morning.
Senate passage of ENDA seemed more and more likely Wednesday after the Senate unanimously accepted an amendment by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) protecting religious groups exempted under the legislation from government retaliation. That amendment likely secured the vote of several other Republicans pushing for that language, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Official portrait of United States House Speaker (R-Ohio). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Few voters would be surprised to learn Speaker John Boehner came out against a Senate bill banning discrimination against LGBT employees For Republicans, that’s a problem.
On Monday night, the Senate voted to open debate on The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, overcoming a filibuster with 61 votes thanks to support from a handful of Republicans. Not a single Republican Senator delivered a speech opposing its passage. President Obama is campaigning for the bill in the run up to the final vote, which is expected later this week.
Politically, voting “yes” should be a no-brainer. While support for gay marriage only recently crossed into majority backing, the margin is overwhelming for workplace protection. Republican pollster Alex Lundry found 68% of respondents supported its passage in September. Not only that, about to 8 in 10 respondents assumed incorrectly that such anti-discrimination measures were already in place. Both these results track closely with an earlier poll by the liberal Center for American Progress in 2011.
But majority support, even overwhelming majority support, isn’t good enough for the House GOP on ENDA. Just as it isn’t good enough on immigration or keeping the government funded without incident.
“The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs,” Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, said in a statement.
While not an entirely new position for Boehner, who has claimed in the past that existing employment laws provide sufficient protection for LGBT Americans, his renewed criticism means ENDA will likely not get a vote in the House this year.
2012 was a banner year for women in Congress, ushering in a record-high number of women to the House and Senate.
Next year may be an equally good year for female governors.
Thirty-six states will hold governor’s elections next year, and Democrats have top female recruits in at least five states who are poised to be their party’s nominee and competitive in the general election. Coupled with the four female governors who are running for reelection – three Republicans and one Democrat – observers say 2014 could see gains for women as states’ top executives.
“This is a year of opportunity at the gubernatorial level,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University. “I think that there has been increasingly more and more attention paid to the issue of women in politics … there is some real potential here for growth.”
Harry Reid (D-NV), United States Senator from Nevada and Majority Leader of the United States Senate (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Washington is deadlocked as it enters the 14th day of a partial government shutdown that has already led to furloughs of 350,000 federal workers, canceled military training missions and slowed economic growth. Now, the United States is just days away from losing its ability to borrow money and faces the prospect of defaulting on its bonds.
Following multiple talks between Republican congressional leaders and President Barack Obama over the past two weeks, the negotiations are now focused on Senate leadership from both sides of the aisle. Senate Majority LeaderHarry Reid and Minority LeaderMitch McConnell launched last-ditch negotiations over the weekend to end the spending and debt stalemate, but they may not be able to reach an agreement that can pass both the House and Senate.
The spending measure now goes to the Senate, which is expected to strip the provision defunding Obamacare and then send the plan back to the House.
Without a new spending plan before the current fiscal year ends on September 30, the government would have to begin shutting down because Congress had failed to authorize continued funding for the new fiscal year that begins October 1.
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There’s a new normal in the Senate–at least for now.
Democrats and Republicans came to an agreement on filibuster rules Tuesday morning, averting threats of a Harry Reid “nuclear option” (and the GOP ire that would have come with it), allowing most of the president’s nominations to proceed unobstructed. The deal’s bottom line is that Democrats will leave filibuster rules in place and Senate Republicans will confirm nominations of several Obama cabinet members. The deal is considered a win for the president. But while the nuclear option was averted this time, it remains on the table for future conflicts.
Majority Leader Harry Reid explained to Chris Hayes on Tuesday night that he needs to keep that option. “I have to have the ability to protect not only the Senate, but the country…Listen, they wanna filibuster, let them filibuster. And we’ll override those filibusters and if they get too out of hand, we’ll revisit all of these things again.” This is the third time the nuclear threat has been given in the past two and half years, but Reid felt comfortable saying that the three-plus hour long meeting in the Old Senate chambers on Monday night marked “a new norm” for the Senate.
Use of the nuclear option has been brought up twice before during Reid’s leadership. While an important tool to break through gridlock, the nature of D.C. politics means that as much as it can help, it can also hurt. “There’s recognition on both sides that the shoe can be on the other foot rather quickly and that people in the majority today will be in the minority tomorrow, and vice versa,” saidTexas Republican John Cornyn. The GOP attempted to invoke this tactic in 2005.
Reid reportedly also began that caucus meeting Thursday “by apologizing to his colleagues for cutting bipartisan deals to avert the nuclear option, including at the beginning of this year.”
But the siren song of a deal is always there, and Reid needs to resist it. He needs to remember—and remind his caucus continually—that they’ve been down that road too many times already, and it doesn’t work. He needs to fight any attempt in his caucus to splinter off into some “gang” that promises it will be different this time, really.
It’s time for Reid to finally do this. It’s time for him to force Republicans to either let the Senate function again, or lose their power to block the president’s nominees. Tell him so. [QUOTE]