September 29, 2013

Next move in budget battle is up to the Senate, and Democrats are pessmistic

     The next move in the budget shutdown crisis is up to the Senate.  It is expected to reject the House’s Sunday action, which will then send the budget—with no delay in health care or any of the other add-ons—back to the House.

        It’s going to be rejected again and we’re going to face the prospect of shutting down, again," Senate Assistant Majority Leader Richard Durbin, D-Ill., told CBS' "Face the Nation."

    Asked if he thought a shutdown was likely, Durbin said,  “I’m afraid I do,” after watching the House debate and vote early Sunday. The House voted to fund the government through November 15, delay implementing Obamacare for a year and repealing the 2.3 percent medical device tax.

    Here's where things stand at the moment:

Continue reading "Next move in budget battle is up to the Senate, and Democrats are pessmistic" »

September 27, 2013

Senate back Monday at 2, House GOP caucuses Saturday at noon

The Senate will return at 2 p.m. Monday, the last day of the fiscal year.

The House of Representatives is scheduled to meet Saturday, but the action will first come when Republicans meet privately starting at noon.

They have the potential for drama, since the Senate Friday approved a stopgap budget plan that includes Obamacare funding. House Republicans are balking at the Obamacare money.

But the Republicans differ on tactics. Some want to try again to push stripping the money, some don't. If the House does pass legislation that needs Senate approval, though, it'll have to wait till Monday to see if the Senate goes along--and the Senate's Democratic leaders have said they will not accept any dilution of Obamacare.

September 26, 2013

An unusual partisan war on the Senate floor.

The Senate is slated to vote on cutting off debate on budget legislation Friday--and so far, that's what it will do.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to move up the vote to Thursday, but a small group of Republicans said no. That led to a highly unusual partisan clash on the Senate floor, with Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., questioning Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

Cruz led a 21 hour, 19 minute talkathon Tuesday and Wednesday, but then voted to cut off debate, along with the other 99 senators.

"I don't think we've had a 21-hour filibuster and then the person carrying out the filibuster voted for the issue they were filibustering," Corker said.

Cruz explained that Corker made a "misstatement" suggesting that Cruz and others changed their position. The vote was to cut off debate on the motion to proceed to the bill, a motion Cruz supported.

Corker would not relent. Finally, he charged, "It's my understanding that the reason that we're putting this off is because they would like for people around the country that they have notified to be able to watch."

Final votes are expected Friday.

September 25, 2013

Senate will move faster on budget

The Senate will move a bit faster than expected on the fiscal 2014 budget bill.

Lawmakers agreed late Wednesday not to use all the debate time allotted on the motion to formally proceed to the bill. As a result, the Senate agreed by voice vote to consider the measure.

That could mean another long debate. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada quickly moved to cut off a talkathon. A vote on that cutoff, or cloture, is likely Friday. If it gets 60 votes, there could be 30 more hours of debate.

That would set up final vote late Saturday. The bill currently defunds Obamacare, but Democrats are expected to restore the money.

Senate vote set for 1 p.m.

The Senate plans to vote around 1 p.m. on whether to cut off debate on budget legislation, ending, at least for now, the marathon talkathon that's been going on since Tuesday afternoon.

Here's some guidance from the Senate Majority Leader's office on what comes next:

"Under Senate Rule 22 (the cloture rule), at noon today the Senate will automatically begin a new legislative day. In practice, this means that the chair will briefly interrupt any senator who is speaking on the floor, the clerk will read a communication to the Senate, and the chair will lead the pledge of allegiance. Once that is done, the Senate will be in a new legislative day. If Senator Cruz remains on his feet, he will still have the floor.

"One hour later, at approximately 1 pm today, the Senate will proceed to vote on cloture on the motion to proceed to the House CR (60 vote threshold). Since this timing is set by rule, this vote will occur regardless of who is speaking on the floor. If cloture is invoked, the Senate will proceed to up to 30 hours of debate followed by a vote on the motion to proceed (simple majority).

"The 30 hours of post-cloture debate time is structured by rule. Senators are permitted to speak for up to 1 hour each. If Republican senators yield their hour to the Republican manager or Republican leader, the manager and leader may yield up to 3 hours to one senator. Any additional commitment of time would require unanimous consent."


September 23, 2013

McConnell won't vote to block funding bill that includes defunding Obamacare

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday he won't vote to block the 2014 budget bill, which now includes defunding Obamacare.

The first vote on cutting off debate is likely Wednesday. The bill at that point would include the defunding measure. Those funds, though, are expected to be restored later, and McConnell made it clear he opposes putting the money back in.

Here's a statement from his press office:

"Senator McConnell supports the House Republicans’ bill and will not vote to block it, since it defunds Obamacare and funds the government without increasing spending by a penny. He will also vote against any amendment that attempts to add Obamacare funding back into the House Republicans’ bill.

"If and when the Majority Leader goes down that path, Washington Democrats will have to decide—without hiding behind a procedural vote—whether or not to split with their leadership and join Republicans and their constituents in opposing the re-insertion of Obamacare funding into the House-passed bill."

Reid starts Senate clock, saying "We're on automatic pilot"

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid formally filed cloture, or limiting debate, Monday on the 2014 budget legislation, setting up the first big vote no later than noon Wednesday.

"We're on automatic pilot," Reid, D-Nevada, told the Senate.

His action formally starts the clock running, allowing debate, efforts to cut it off and ultimately votes. If the process is followed to the end, it is likely to mean a final vote on the fiscal 2014 budget, minus the Republican effort to defund Obamacare, late Sunday.

In the meantime, Reid said, "People can talk all they want. There's no way that we can be prevented from having that vote," referring to the Wednesday vote to cut off the first round of debate, which needs 60 to pass. "We'll have conversation."


How the clock might tick as the fiscal year approaches

If you're planning your week around Congress' consideration of a fiscal 2014 budget, here's a guide to what may be coming next.

Keep in mind that it's all tenative. A last minute compromise, or one side's sudden decision to drop its opposition, or bad weather, for that matter, could change everything.

But at the moment, here's the plan:

Monday: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, formally takes steps to cut off debate on a motion to proceed to House continuing resolution. The CR, as it's called on Capitol Hill, would keep the government running at the start of the new fiscal year Oct.1, but also defund the 2010 health care law.

Wednesday: Vote on cutting debate likely in the morning. Sixty votes will be needed to limit debate. Democrats control 54 of the Senate's 100 seats. If the Senate gets 60, and as of now that's expected, 30 hours of debate are permitted.

Thursday: 30-hour clock runs out, probably around 6 p.m. Senate would then vote on motion to proceed to the budget bill. That motion requires 51 votes to pass.

If it passes, Reid is expected to file an amendment to the CR stripping out the defunding of health care language. He also is likely to invoke a procedure that will bar other amendments, and also seek to limit debate on the bill itself.

Saturday: Senate vote on limiting debate on the CR bill, probably in late morning. If the debate cutoff gets at least 60 votes, Senate would have a maximum of 30 more hours of debate.

Sunday: 30-hour clock runs out, probably in late afternoon. Senate would then take two votes: One on stripping the defunding amendment, then another on the "clean" CR. Each needs 51 to pass.

Sunday night/Monday: Houseof Representatives gets the "clean" CR. They then have until11:59 p.m. Monday night, roughly 24 hours, to figure out what to do before the fiscal year ends.

September 19, 2013

Reid: "Any bill that defunds Obamacare is dead, dead, dead"

Forget any chance that defunding of Obamacare will go anywhere in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday.

"So in case there's any shred of doubt in the minds of our House counterparts, I want to be absolutely crystal clear.  Any bill that defunds Obamacare is dead, dead.  It's a waste of time, as I said before.  In fact, I told the speaker that last week," the Nevada Democrat told a news conference.   

"I'm disappointed that he's decided, from what I've heard, that he's going to move forward with full knowledge that it's a futile effort.  They're simply postponing the inevitable choice they must face:  Pass a clean bill to fund the government or shut it down."

Democrats reiterated that theme throughout the day. "I do think there's a widespread view among the Republican mainstream that this is a dumb strategy.  Many of them, you know, have voiced that to me.  But we'll have to wait and see what happens," said Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Chairman Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

The House of Representatives plans to vote Friday on a stopgap budget that would defund the 2010 health care law.

September 17, 2013

Outlook for gun control still bleak after Navy Yard shootings

        The events at the Navy Yard have evoked some sympathy for revisiting the gun control debate--but it's still unlikely to go anywhere.

        "We're going to move this up as quickly as we can, but we've got to have the votes first. We don't have the votes. I hope we get them, but we don't have them now," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, told a news conference Tuesday.

          The Senate failed earlier this year to get enough votes to cut off debate on legislation beefing up background checks. Reid was asked Tuesday if he wound consider narrowing the scope of that measure.

            "We would hope it would have the votes. And I would be willing to do that. Anything we can do to focus attention on the senseless killings that take place," he said.

.            "We want to stop people who are felons from being able to purchase a gun. That's what that's all about."


"Planet Washington" covers politics and government. It is written by journalists in McClatchy's Washington Bureau.

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