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 votes 54-44 to restore Obamacare funding

The Senate Friday moved an important step closer to passing a budget that would keep the government open past Tuesday while restoring Obamacare funding, as it voted 54 to 44 to restore Obamacare funding to the fiscal 2014 budget.

The House of Representatives had stripped the funds in a vote last week.

Earlier Friday, the Senate voted 79 to 19 to cut off any a debate led by the plan’s opponents.

A final vote on the budget is expected later Friday afternoon.

The votes in the Democratic-controlled Senate set up a showdown with the Republican-led House.  The House last week approved a stopgap budget that defunds the 2010 health care law. Senators from both parties have warned that keeping that provision will lead to a partial government shutdown, since the Senate will never approve it.

The House, though, is remaining resolute. It plans to meet Saturday to consider the Senate action, and so far, has shown little inclination to pass a budget that keeps the Obamacare money intact.

Unless Congress agrees on a budget plan by Monday night, the government will run out of spending authority Tuesday.

The Senate votes followed an often tense week of debate that featured a 21 hour, 19 minute talkathon Tuesday and Wednesday led by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Democrats, though, argued that the conservative effort made little sense; Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., urged colleagues Friday to strip the budget bill of "ideological riders."

September 24, 2013

Cruz: DC coverage "like reading the Hollywood gossip pages"

The Senate talkathon over defunding Obamacare is on, led by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and he has some thoughts about himself.

He cited "more than a few attacks from our friends on the Democratic side of the aisle and also from our friends on the Republcian side of the aisle.

"I told my wife I now pick up the newspapers each day to learn just what a scoundrel I am and just what attack will have come," he said, "some on the record and some, the ones that often even better are the anonymous ones."

Don't make this a battle of senator versus senator, Cruz urged. "It's like reading the Hollywood gossip pages. That's how this issue is covered," he said.

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."

August 31, 2013

Congress will return to debate Syrian mission

President Barack Obama said Saturday that though the American military is ready to strike Syrian targets, he' first wants Congress to debate and vote on the mission.

"We should have this debate, because the issues are too big for business as usual," he said in a statement from the White House Rose Garden.

Obama has faced growing skepticism from American people and little support from Congress.

But most members have stopped short of outright opposition; they want more information and they want a say.

Continue reading "Congress will return to debate Syrian mission" »

August 05, 2013

Christie, Clinton hot; Congressional leaders not

Chris Christie and Hillary Clinton are hot. Congressional leaders, cold.

Those are among the findings of a new Quinnipiac poll released Monday. The survey asks people to rate their feelings toward major political figures.

Christie, the Republican govenor of New Jersey, registers 53.1 degrees, followed by Clinton, the former Secretary of State, at 52.1. Next is freshman Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a Democrat, at 49.2 President Barack Obama rates 47.6.

The four top congressional leaders are all at the bottom: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, 33.8; House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, 36.7; Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, 37.5 and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, 38.4.

"Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's score is not surprising given her lengthy political career and especially strong support among Democrats and women," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. 

"But Gov. Christopher Christie's rating is impressive given that  his experience - less than four years as governor - pales compared to Mrs. Clinton' s resume.  What is interesting is that only two of the 22 figures rate better than the absolute middle of the scale, not exactly a ringing endorsement of the nation's political establishment."

July 23, 2013

Basketball fan Obama welcomes Louisville Cardinals to the White House

It’s been more than 25 years since the Louisville Cardinals’ men basketball team visisted the White House. But on Tuesday, when the team finally returned to celebrate its winning season, they were greeted by a genuine basketball fanatic who just happens to be president of the United States.

President Barack Obama took a break from talking about hefty topics like the economic downturn and an immigration overhaul Tuesday to welcome the NCAA champions to the White House to celebrate the team’s success on and off the court.

“We’re here to celebrate a Louisville team that always played hard, that always worked together, that stayed focused on one singular goal -- to bust my bracket,” joked Obama, standing behind the team, clad mostly in dark suits and red ties.

Continue reading "Basketball fan Obama welcomes Louisville Cardinals to the White House " »

White House calls student loan deal 'a win for students'

President Barack Obama is calling for support for a student loan interest rate plan that links rates to the market, even though some Democrats in the Senate oppose it.

A fact sheet the White House put out today calls the bipartisan loan plan "a win for students." The plan calls for linking rates to the 10-year Treasury note once a year, plus a markup to cover government costs. That would lower rates on Stafford loans this year for all undergraduates from 6.8 percent to 3.86 percent, and for graduate students from 6.8 percent to 5.41 percent.

The White House calculates that the average undergraduate borrows $6,922 for one academic year and will save about $1,545 over the life of that loan. The administration also released estimates for the average amount borrowed and saved in interest by state.

Continue reading "White House calls student loan deal 'a win for students' " »

July 17, 2013

House tries, for 38th time, to roll back or eliminate parts of new health care law

For the 38th time, the House of Representatives has tried to roll back or end parts of the 2010 health care law.

By a 251-174, largely party line vote, the Republican-dominated House voted to delay by a year the individual mandate. Most people will have to obtain health coverage next year or face a penalty.

By a 264-161 vote, the House agreed to a similar delay in the employer mandate, a delay the Obama administration has already announced.

The Democratic-led Senate is unlikely to pass either measure. Republicans will urge them to do so, though.

Continue reading "House tries, for 38th time, to roll back or eliminate parts of new health care law" »

July 11, 2013

Congressional leaders plan July 31 ceremony to honor '63 March on Washington

Congressional leaders joined together Thursday to announce a special ceremony planned later this month to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

The civil rights march will be recalled at the Capitol's Statuary Hall July 31. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., sent a letter to colleagues about the event.

“This year, with your help, we have dedicated statues of civil rights greats Rosa Parks and Frederick Douglass,” they said.

“Their courage in the face of injustice inspired generations of Americans, including the more than 250,000 people who gathered at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, for the March on Washington.

"Widely considered to be the pinnacle of the civil rights movement, the March demonstrated how broad the movement for equality had become and symbolized what would become a sea change in our society’s attitudes and our nation’s laws.”


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

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