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Posts tagged ‘Mitch McConnell’

High anxiety hits Senate over raising debt ceiling


Reported

Senators are growing anxious that they might have to vote to raise the nation’s debt ceiling in a matter of weeks given new estimates that the government could hit its borrowing limit earlier than expected. The debt limit was exceeded earlier this year, and the Treasury Department is now taking steps known as “extraordinary measures” to prevent the government from going over its borrowing limit.

Lawmakers had hoped they would be able to avoid the politically painful vote to raise the debt ceiling until the fall — and that it could be packaged with other legislation to fund the government and set budget caps on spending. But that could be much more difficult if Treasury’s ability to prevent the government from going over its borrowing limit ends in mid-September — just days after lawmakers would be set to return from their summer recess.

“I think we need to hustle to a caps deal as soon as we possibly can and include the debt limit in it, no doubt,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The debt limit has been far from the front page and has been essentially put on the back burner as lawmakers debate the treatment of migrants at the border and battle over nominations and spending bills. Members of the Appropriations Committee on Tuesday were openly skeptical about whether their colleagues would jump on the issue.

“The question is, will anybody act until the urgency is on top of us?” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). “We need to avoid the brink.”

Failing to raise the debt ceiling would be a catastrophic move that could roil worldwide financial markets. Shelby said the mere possibility that the debt ceiling could be breached in September should give “more sense of urgency” to Congress taking quick action, while Capito said it was not in “anybody’s best interest to have that fight in September up against the debt limit.”

A study released this week by the Bipartisan Policy Center said there was a “significant risk” that the government could reach its debt limit in early September unless Congress raises the cap. The estimate was a shift from its previous forecast, which estimated the debt limit could be reached in October or November, which would give Congress more breathing room.

The earlier timeline comes after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Congress in May that the debt ceiling increase could happen in “late summer.”

Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said it would be “preferable” for Congress to deal with the debt ceiling before leaving for the August recess, adding that a mid-September deadline “puts a lot of pressure” on lawmakers to act.

“We could write a caps deal and attach the debt limit to it, to kind of get those issues resolved before August, which I think would be in everybody’s best interest,” Thune said.

Getting a deal done this month leaves little room for error, and few are optimistic such a timeline will be met. The House is scheduled to leave town on July 26, while the Senate is set for vacation on Aug. 2. Lawmakers would return after Labor Day, on Sept. 9, which could give them less than a week to cobble together a deal.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday didn’t rule out action on the debt ceiling this month.

“We’ll see how those conversations go. We certainly do not want any default on the part of the full faith and credit of the United States of America,” she said. “That’s never been what we’ve been about, but there are those on the Republican side who have embraced that again and again. So, we’ll see.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appeared confident during a weekly leadership press conference that lawmakers wouldn’t let the United States default on its debt, but he didn’t offer a clear pathway to approving a debt ceiling increase.

“Time is running out, and if we’re going to avoid having either short- or long-term CR or either a short- or long-term debt ceiling increase, it’s time that we got serious on a bipartisan basis to try to work this out and not have the kind of chaos that goes along with our inability to come together on these important issues,” McConnell said. A CR, or continuing resolution, would fund the government at current spending levels.

Asked if Congress had to raise the debt ceiling before the August recess, McConnell sidestepped the question, saying lawmakers are in close contact with Mnuchin about the timeline but that he doesn’t “think there’s any chance that we’ll allow the country to default.”

Broader budget talks on the debt ceiling and government funding unraveled last month, with the White House floating a one-year CR and debt ceiling hike. Senate Republicans are hoping to jumpstart the negotiations with new meetings as soon as this week, though nothing was on the books as of Tuesday afternoon.

The spending deal is also crucial, as spending cuts triggered by an earlier budgetary law would snap into effect in January if Congress does not approve new spending levels. The debt ceiling fight has always had an earlier deadline, but the new estimates are moving it up further.

Shelby argued that it makes sense to link the two issues but didn’t rule out that the debt ceiling could get a stand-alone vote, or be attached to another must-pass bill, in a time crunch.

“The path is a good question,” Shelby said. “You could raise the debt ceiling without getting a caps deal, but it makes more sense to me that if you can run them parallel, they are two big issues staring us in the face.”

 

Democrats plot strategy to win back Senate


Written

Democrats plot strategy to win back Senate
© Greg Nash

Democrats planning their bid to win back control of the Senate will run hard against the Washington swamp next year, repurposing one of President Trump’s most effective campaign messages from the 2016 election as their own.

Top party operatives are poll-testing messages aimed at winning over voters who are fed up with a gridlocked capital, searching for ways to build an advantage among swing voters who may still like Trump, but not the senators who are seeking reelection in 2020.

And while Democrats could not convince some of their best-known candidates to forgo long shot presidential campaigns in favor of bids for Senate seats, the party will now rely on a once-unorthodox stable of candidates with little or no experience in elected office. 

It is a strategy reminiscent of 2006 and 2018, when House Democrats ousted Republican majorities on the backs of candidates with unusual profiles. This year, the stable of Senate Democratic candidates includes more women and veterans than has been typical in recent cycles.

“In races around the country, there are strong Democrats stepping up to run who fit their states and will be a breath of fresh air with new perspectives to bring to the Senate,” said Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), who heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

When former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D) opted against challenging Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Democrats turned to M.J. Hegar, a veteran and businesswoman who lost a closer than expected bid for Congress last year. 

In Iowa, another former congressional candidate, Theresa Greenfield, is Democrats’ preferred candidate against Sen. Joni Ernst (R), though she faces a primary fight.

Arizona Sen. Martha McSally (R) will face Mark Kelly, the retired astronaut making his first run for public office. In North Carolina and Maine, Democrats recruited two state legislators to challenge Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). 

Those candidates will pitch themselves as fresh-faced outsiders who can shake up a corrupt and broken political system — even if, as is the case in Texas, Iowa and North Carolina, the favored Democratic candidate has lost a race before.

“In this race for Senate, it’s time for somebody who will stand up and fight, to build an economy that works for everybody, for the health care that each family deserves, and to reform the corrupt political system in Washington,” former North Carolina state Sen. Cal Cunningham (D) said in a video announcing his bid to unseat Tillis.

Complicating matters for Democrats, only two states that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 have incumbent
Republican senators today: Maine and Colorado. To win back the Senate majority, Democrats must win states like North Carolina, Arizona, Iowa and even Texas — all states that gave Trump their electoral votes three years ago and where he remains either popular or at least competitive today.

That has Democrats also focusing on a different villain: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Several Democratic groups are testing whether portraying Republican senators as McConnell’s minions can be effective. 

Those surveys and public polls show McConnell is surprisingly well-known, and not in a good way. 

A Harvard-Harris Poll survey conducted in May pegged McConnell’s favorable rating at just 23 percent, lower than Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), at 36 percent, or Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), at 27 percent. His unfavorable rating stood at 44 percent, lower than Pelosi’s 50 percent but higher than every other politician tested except Trump, Clinton and Vice President Pence.

In a poll conducted for the Democratic group End Citizens United, Global Strategies Group found reading messages against McConnell moved voters toward Democratic candidates more effectively than messages against Trump or the Republican Congress at large.

“Mitch McConnell is beholden to special interests and he’s blocking progress on everything from making prescription drugs more affordable to addressing political corruption to making health care more affordable,” said Patrick Burgwinkle, who heads communications for End Citizens United.

McConnell appears twice in Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon’s (D) video announcing her bid against Collins. Greenfield lumped Ernst and McConnell together in her own video. In Texas, Hegar called Cornyn “that tall guy lurking behind” McConnell.

More than half of the 295 advertisements the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is currently running on Facebook show McConnell’s image or mention his name.

Attacks against national party leaders are nothing new to Republicans, who spent several cycles using Pelosi as shorthand to tie every prominent Democratic challenger to liberal San Francisco values.

Republicans aren’t convinced that McConnell will be the poison pill that they saw in Pelosi.

“You use party leaders in midterms to polarize an electorate when you have registration advantages in the state or district. In a presidential election the electorate is polarized and motivated. The middle isn’t making a decision to show up for a presidential election based upon a three-way bank shot in the side-pocket about whether a senator serves in the same conference as somebody else,” said Josh Holmes, a longtime Senate Republican strategist and top aide to McConnell.

“The reality for him is that any resource spent attacking Mitch McConnell is a resource that is not used to attack his Republican colleagues, and that’s just the way he likes it,” Holmes said.

But Democrats hope the focus on corruption can be the beginning of a discussion of other issues, too: That health care costs rise because of pressure from special interest groups or that gun safety legislation has not passed because of the power of the National Rifle Association.

Democrats “can make the case that Mitch McConnell and special interests in Washington are the ones preventing these priorities from being addressed,” Burgwinkle said.

Mitch McConnell pushes forward with rule change to speed lower-level confirmations


Reported by    Monday, April 1, 2019 at 8:30pm

No change for SCOTUS, Appeals Court, Cabinet and senior nominees, “[b]ut for most other nominations – for the hundreds of lower-level nominations that every new president makes – post-cloture debate time would be reduced from 30 hours to 2 hours.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cldpQa_kCwI

Mitch McConnell has been a bad boy (in the eyes of Democrats) according to my email inbox:

PFAW Statement on McConnell’s Threatened Rules Change: A Naked Power Grab Based on Lies and Distortions

WASHINGTON — In response to Mitch McConnell’s threat to break the Senate’s rules yet again in order to expedite GOP efforts to confirm as many of Donald Trump’s nominees as possible, People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker issued the following statement:

“There’s literally no one in the world with less credibility to accuse Democrats of obstructing the confirmation process than Mitch McConnell. His latest effort to break the Senate’s rules is a naked power grab based on lies and distortions. By attempting to speed up Republicans’ confirmation machine, Senator McConnell is trying to ensure that nominees to lifetime seats on the federal bench receive as little scrutiny as possible. That’s not because of Democratic obstruction—the Senate has confirmed almost the same number of district court nominees for Donald Trump as it did for President Obama, and far more circuit court nominees. It’s because time and again these nominees have been shown to be embarrassingly unfit. But Senator McConnell’s answer isn’t to find better nominees; it’s just to make sure there’s less transparency for the entire process.

“Judicial nominees, if confirmed, serve for life. And several of the nominees awaiting votes have frighteningly extreme records when it comes to opposing reproductive freedom, attacking the rights of LGBTQ people, undermining voting rights, and enabling torture. Rushing these nominees through the process would be profoundly irresponsible.” …

So what’s all the hysteria about?

McConnell is finally doing what has been threatened for over a year, to reduce floor “debate” time to get around Democrat obstruction where they invoke 30 hours of debate even for non-controversial non-debatable nominees. That drags out the process interminably.

McConnell explained the problem in a Politico Op-Ed, Time to Stop the Democrats’ Obstruction:

It took six months of partisan delays — and several railroad accidents — before Democrats let the Senate confirm a federal railroad administrator, even though none of them actually voted against the nominee in the end.

It’s been 354 days and counting in Senate purgatory for the president’s nominee to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Two-hundred eighty-seven days and counting for the under secretary of state for management. Noncontroversial lower court nominees have languished for weeks and weeks — for no discernible reason — before they, too, were confirmed unanimously. These are just a few examples of the historic obstruction Senate Democrats have visited upon President Trump’s nominees for two years and counting.

Since January 2017, for the first time in memory, a minority has exploited procedure to systematically obstruct a president from staffing up his administration. This new, across-the-board obstruction is unfair to the president and, more importantly, to the American people. Left unchecked, it is guaranteed to create an unsustainable precedent that would see every future presidency of either party obstructed in the same mindless way.

The Senate needs to restore normalcy. And this week, we will vote to do just that….

… in President Trump’s first two years? We had to hold a stunning 128 cloture votes to advance nominations. Our Democratic colleagues made the Senate jump over five times as many hurdles as in the equivalent periods in the Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations combined….

The all-encompassing, systematic nature of this obstruction is not part of the Senate’s important tradition of minority rights. It is a new departure from that tradition.

Here is McConnell’s statement, made on the floor of the Senate, in part:

“So today, I am filing cloture on a resolution that takes that bipartisan effort as its blueprint. This resolution from Senator Blunt and Senator Lankford would implement very similar steps and make them a permanent part of the Senate going forward. The Supreme Court, circuit courts, cabinet-level executive positions, and certain independent boards and commissions would not change.

“But for most other nominations – for the hundreds of lower-level nominations that every new president makes – post-cloture debate time would be reduced from 30 hours to 2 hours. This would keep the floor moving. It would facilitate more efficient consent agreements. And most importantly, it would allow the administration — finally, two years into its tenure — to staff numerous important positions that remain unfilled, with nominees who have been languishing.

“This resolution has come up through regular order, through the Rules Committee. And next week, we will vote on it. It deserves the same kind of bipartisan vote that Sen. Schumer and Sen. Reid’s proposal received back during the Obama Administration. I understand that many of my Democratic colleagues have indicated they would be all for this reform as long as it doesn’t go into effect until 2021, when they obviously hope someone else might be in the White House. But they’re reluctant to support it now.

“Give me a break. That is unfair on its face. My Democratic colleagues were more than happy to support a similar proposal in 2013 under President Obama. They whisper in our ears privately that they’d support it now if it took effect in 2021. But they can’t support it now, especially under these unprecedented circumstances, simply because we have a Republican president. So look, fair is fair. Members of this body should only support reforms that they would be ready to support in the minority as they are in the majority. Put another way, if my side is in the minority two years from now, I don’t think this will be unfair – it will not disadvantage us in the wake of a new Democratic president. This is a change the institution needs, a change the institution made already basically with a two-year experiment when President Obama was in office. This is a reform that every member should embrace — when their party controls the White House and when it does not control the White House.

This should help speed along the process, particularly for judicial nominees. There remain many empty seats to fill, and Republicans want as many as possible filled prior to the 2020 election, just in case.

Here are the numbers on vacancies from Carrie Severino as of March 25, 2019:

Current and known future vacancies:  167

Courts of Appeals:  10

District/Specialty Courts*: 157

Pending nominees for current and known future vacancies:  66

Courts of Appeals: 6

District/Specialty Courts*:  60

 

More Politically INCORRECT Cartoons


JERRY BROUSSARD PICK OF THE DAY POLITICAL CARTOON: “FANTASTIC IMAGE BY LISA BENSON

 

 

 

Mitch McConnell Gets Bad News… Asked To Step Down


Reported 

URL of the original posting site: https://www.westernjournalism.com/conservatives-demand-mcconnel-step-down-as-senate-leader/?

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has been hit with a heavy vote of no confidence from conservative groups around the country. On Wednesday, leaders from several conservative organizations called on McConnell to abdicate his position, citing a list of broken promises he made to Republican voters.

They are calling on not only McConnell, but also members of his leadership team, to step down.

“You and the rest of your leadership team were given the majority because you pledged to stop the steady flow of illegal immigration,” states their letter to McConnell, according to Fox News. “You have done nothing. You pledged to reduce the size of this oppressive federal government. You have done nothing. You pledged to reduce, and ultimately eliminate the out-of-control deficit spending that is bankrupting America. You have done nothing. You promised to repeal Obamacare, ‘root and branch.’ You have done nothing. You promised tax reform. You have done nothing.”

Disgruntled conservatives held a news conference in Washington, D.C. to address their concerns and desire to see the leadership team dissolved.

“We call on all five members of the GOP Senate leadership to step down, or for their caucus to remove them as soon as possible,” Ken Cuccinelli, the president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, said at the conference.

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The Senate Conservatives Fund, founded in 2008 by former Senator Jim DeMint, has worked for years to elect more conservative GOP candidates to the upper chamber in Congress. The group has regularly clashed with the more moderate wing of GOP leadership. The SCF wasn’t the only group calling for McConnell to vacate his position.

Members from FreedomWorks, For America and the Tea Party Patriots also joined the chorus in demanding GOP Senate leaders step aside after failing to enact conservative legislation, despite voters giving the Republican Party full control of Washington, D.C. on Election Day.

This is not the first time conservatives have called on McConnell to step down as majority leader, but the ferocity of Wednesday’s press conference certainly puts an added weight on Republican lawmakers to get things done this legislative session.

The letter and press conference come as congressional Republicans are currently working to enact tax reform. GOP leaders so far have not succeeded in repealing Obamacare, failing several times to push through their own GOP health care bills. Republicans are hoping tax reform will be an issue the entire party can rally behind.

“If this was a football team, and you’d lost this many times, you’d start seriously considering firing the coaches,” said For America President David Bozell.

Despite all agreeing that they’d wish to see McConnell go, many conservative leaders are not certain who they would like to see as a replacement.

“If I had to pick someone, I’d love to draft like Pat Toomey maybe,” FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon said, referring to the GOP Pennsylvania senator. “There’s a lot of different people out there who I think could unite this caucus and actually lead on some issues.”

Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots group, said she could see herself supporting Georgia GOP Senator David Perdue. “I’m from Georgia, so I’m not opposed to him,” Martin explained, touting the junior senator’s extensive business background as a former CEO.

Conservative candidates are taking notice as well. As the 2018 election cycle begins to heat up, many pro-Trump candidates are hoping to gain traction by displaying stronger support for the president.

“With rare exception, GOP senators blocking Trump’s agenda are impediments we can not afford. Double that for Senate leaders,” Ron Wallace, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Virginia, said in a statement to Western Journalism.

Wallace is an insurgent candidate hoping to win the GOP primary and take on incumbent Democrat Senator Tim Kaine. Wallace is running on a pro-Trump platform and believes it’s imperative the GOP majority pass what they promised to do.

“The American People voted for Tax Cuts, Border Walls, Rapid Growth, Excellent Law Enforcement, and Better Education. I expect strong proactive policies to make those outcomes possible and deliver cost-effective solutions, by whatever means may be necessary,” he said.

House passes budget, paving way for tax reform


Reported

House passes budget, paving way for tax reform

 

The House passed its 2018 budget resolution Thursday in a party-line vote that represents a step toward its goal of sending tax-reform legislation to President Trump. In a 219-206 vote, lawmakers approved a budget resolution for 2018 that sets up a process for shielding the GOP tax bill from a filibuster in the Senate.

A total of 18 Republicans voted against the resolution, along with all the Democrats who were present.

GOP lawmakers hailed the vote as meaningful because of the tax measure.

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“We haven’t reformed this tax system since 1986. We need to pass this budget so we can help bring more jobs, fairer taxes and bigger paychecks for people across this country,” Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said during House floor debate.

Democrats lambasted it for the same reason.

“This budget isn’t about conservative policy or reducing the size of our debt and deficits. It’s not even about American families. This budget is about one thing — using budget reconciliation to ram through giant tax giveaways to the wealthy and big corporations — and to do it without bipartisan support,” said Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee.

The budget reconciliation rules would allow Republicans in the Senate to pass tax reform without any Democratic votes, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) can only afford two defections. Republicans used the same strategy for ObamaCare repeal but failed, and are hoping for a better outcome on taxes.

Yet there are already signs of trouble, with some Republicans questioning whether the tax proposal would add too much to the deficit, and others balking at plans to eliminate a deduction for state and local taxes. The tax plan is now estimated to add $1.5 trillion to the deficit over a decade, but that figure would grow if the state and local tax deduction is not eliminated.

Republicans have yet to secure a major legislative win despite having unified control of government. They hope to secure a tax win by the end of the year, which is an ambitious timeline.

The GOP tax reform framework unveiled last week would cut the top tax rate for the wealthy and lower taxes for businesses. The proposal would consolidate the current seven individual tax brackets into three, with rates of 12 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent. Committees may choose to establish a fourth rate above 35 percent for the wealthiest Americans. The current top individual rate is 39.6 percent. 

House Republicans are far behind schedule in passing the budget, which is normally approved in the spring. Thursday’s vote comes five days into the new fiscal year, and a month after the House passed all 12 of its spending bills for 2018. 

The government is operating under a temporary spending measure that runs out on December 8. Congress and Trump must strike a new deal to prevent a shutdown after that deadline. The House budget is in many ways an opening bid in that battle. 

Like the already-passed spending bills, it would increase defense spending by $72 billion, and cut nondefense spending by $5 billion. The Senate’s plan keeps overall funding levels steady.

It also includes plans for trillions of dollars in spending cuts over a decade, including from programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, but does include enforcement mechanisms to enact those plans. The budget outline, for example, assumes the adoption of a House-passed ObamaCare repeal bill that has not advanced.

The House budget leaves no room for tax reform to add to the deficit. Instead, it provides instructions for $203 billion in spending cuts from welfare programs in areas such as nutritional assistance and education. 

To unlock the reconciliation rules for tax reform, lawmakers will likely have to go to conference to sort out differences with the Senate’s budget resolution. The upper chamber’s version is being marked up in committee Thursday and is expected to move to the Senate floor in two weeks. 

The Senate budget carves out $1.5 trillion in possible tax cuts for the reform effort, a figure the House is expected to agree to. The Senate is not expected to accept the $203 billion in mandatory cuts from the House budget, but House Budget Committee Chairman Diane Black (R-Tenn.) said she will fight to keep them in. 

Senate approves resolution condemning white supremacist groups


Reported

Senate approves resolution condemning white supremacist groups

The Senate easily passed a resolution on Monday condemning white supremacist organizations and urging President Trump to speak out against hate groups. The resolution — introduced last week by Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) — cleared the upper chamber by unanimous consent. 

The Senate measure formally condemns “the violence and domestic terrorist attack” that occurred last month around a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. 
 
In addition to urging Trump and the administration to publicly push back against hate groups, the resolution urges Trump and his Cabinet to “address the growing prevalence of those hate groups in the United States.”
 
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Senators want Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Homeland Security to investigate “all acts of violence, intimidation and domestic terrorism” by white supremacists, white nationalists or associated groups and prevent them “from fomenting and facilitating additional violence.” 

 
The resolution formally gained the backing of 55 senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), before it passed the Senate on Monday night. 
 
Trump received widespread criticism for his response to violence in Virginia last month, including saying during a press conference that both what he called “alt-left” and white nationalist groups and there were “very fine people” on both sides.
 
The rally began began as a protest against the Charlottesville City Council’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, but turned violent and led to the death of one counter protestor. 

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