September 26, 2013

Boehner doesn't expect shutdown, but is wary of Senate action

He expects no shutdown, House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday. But he's also not inclined to deal with a budget passed by the Senate that includes funding for Obamacare.

Asked if he would accept such legislation, Boehner said, "I do not see that happening."

So would he attach something to it, like defunding Obamacare?

Boehner wouldn't say. "I made it clear now for months and months and months, we have no interest in seeing a government shutdown.  But we've got to address the spending problem that we have in this town. And so there will be options available to us.  There is not going to be any speculation about what we're going to do or not do until the Senate passes their bill," the Ohio Republican said.

He would not get specific. "We're not going to have a discussion about the CR (continuing resolution), to speculate about the CR, until the Senate finishes their bill," he said. That's expected Saturday. 

But Boehner stressed he did not see a shutdown coming. "No, I do not expect that to happen," he said.

Unless Congress agrees on a spending plan by Oct. 1, parts of the government could begin shutting down.

Poll: "The partisan divide over the health care law is stark"

Americans are divided over whether Obamacare should survive.

A new United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection poll found 49 percent thought Congress should not end the program. Those people liked the expanded health insurance protection.

But 44 percent thought the law should be repealed because it's too expensive.

The findings in many ways reflect what's going on at the Capitol--Republicans want to defund Obamacare. Democrats don't.

"The partisan divide over the health care law is stark," says a poll analysis. "More than three in four Republicans, 77 percent, said the program should be repealed. Meanwhile, 72 percent of Democrats said it should remain in place. Independents are closely divided: 46 percent favor repeal and 45 percent oppose."

To read more:

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 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."

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.

Americans want compromise, Gallup finds

Americans want compromise.

A new Gallup poll released Monday found 53 percent want their political leaders to compromise, more than double the number want them to stick to their beliefs.

Congress is currently sparring over how to fund the federal government after Oct. 1. The House of Representatives Friday passed legislation to defund Obamacare while keeping the government running, but the Democratic-led Senate is expected to reject the health care provision.

Constituents don't want all this bickering.

"There has always been a fine line between a representative's sticking to his or her principles in congressional debates and votes, and in some instances being willing to compromise those principles in order to reach an agreement," Gallup said in an analysis.

"The American people at the moment clearly tilt toward the sentiment that their representatives -- as a whole -- should compromise on important matters, even if it means voting against a particular representative's principles. Of course, these sentiments are measured in reference to Congress as a whole without respect to specific issues. It's quite possible that Americans would feel their particular representative should not compromise on issues of great importance to them personally"

The pollster noted that Congress' approval ratings remain low. "Gallup surveys show that the primary reason Americans give for their disapproval is indeed that Congress won't compromise and manage to find agreement on issues," it said. "The current data suggest that if Congress is unable to find a way to avert a government shutdown or doesn't deal with the debt ceiling, its approval rating has little chance of getting better, and a significant probability of dropping even lower."

To read more:

September 22, 2013

Pelosi: Hillary Clinton "certainly more prepared" than other recent presidents

Hillary Clinton would assume the presidency better qualified than her husband, Barack Obama or George W. Bush, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi told CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday.

Pelosi emphasized that she has great respect for Obama, but noted Clinton has been Secretary of State, a U.S. Senator and held other positions. Obama was in his first U. S. Senate term when he was elected president in 2008.

Pelosi doesn't know if Clinton will run. But, the California Democrat said, "when she does she will win.  And when she becomes president, she'll be one of the best- equipped, best-prepared people to enter the White House in a very long time.

"She has, by dent of her experience as a senator, as a secretary of state, as a first lady herself, participating in the way she did -- certainly, with all due respect to our president, and I think he's magnificent and wonderful and a blessing to us, but certainly more prepared than President Obama, certainly more prepared than President Bush, certainly more prepared than President Clinton"

Would she be more prepared than Vice President Joe Biden?

"Well," said Pelosi, "I'm saying the presidents that we have had. Joe Biden is very prepared, and I think President Bush Sr. was prepared.  He had been a vice president.  But I'm talking about recent memory of presidents that we have had.

"You know, Joe Biden would be very prepared as well.  But you asked me about Hillary Clinton."

Pelosi was asked if she would prefer Clinton over Biden as president.

"I always have a little habit of saying, when you're serious about running, I'll be serious about it.  But I think it would be magnificent for America to have a woman president.  And by the way, incidental, more importantly, very qualified," she said.


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

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