For 15 years, Senator Carl Levin has taught Americans how our tax system really works. Hearings by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), which he heads, have exposed modern accounting alchemy that turns the black ink of domestic profits into the red ink of tax-deductible expenses. Levin has shown how profits can be shipped tax-free to the Cayman Islands and, amazingly, how Apple figured out that profits booked in Ireland could be hidden from tax authorities of both Ireland and the United States in a cloak of invisibility. He exposed tax favors that were supposed to create jobs but ended up destroying them. He made Swiss bankers who solicited tax evasion on American soil squirm, destroying their claims that criminal conduct was the work of rogue bankers.
Republican senators are set to meet today to figure out one of those big things they need to figure out before the next Congress: whether to undo the “nuclear option” on executive and judicial nominations. This was procedural maneuver that majority leader Harry Reid made, finally, about a year ago, eliminating the 60-vote threshold to invoke cloture on judicial and executive branch nominations (except for Supreme Court justices). Reid triggered the move after years of Republicans filibustering more or less every nominee of any import for no reason other than to irritate Democrats and gum up the work of agencies and benches that Republicans do not care for. It was a much-needed modernization of the chamber’s rules in a polarized age.
Assuming Democrats and Republicans agree on a bill to fund the government by Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner has told his members that they will recess after that. Despite Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s annual threats to keep the upper chamber in session through the holidays, the Senate is scheduled to do the same. But it shouldn’t. Instead, Reid should keep the Senate in session until Republicans take over next year in order to confirm as many executive branch and judicial nominees as possible.
Obamacare crossed the 7 million sign-ups milestone before the midnight deadline Monday, sparking angst and introspection among conservative policy wonks about the future of their quest to wipe the health care law off the books. Central to their dilemma is the emerging discovery that many people will end up benefiting from Obamacare. Despite the health care law's problems, unanswered questions and unknown costs, it can hardly be denied that millions of American are slated to reap the benefits of its insurance subsidies, the Medicaid expansion and beefed-up consumer protections.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday that Republicans may have helped Russia annex Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in a surprisingly sharp attack ahead of a test vote on a bill authorizing more U.S. sanctions on Russia and $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine. Outlining the Senate's agenda after a one-week recess, the Nevada Democrat said the first item would be the Ukraine bill that Republicans blocked just before lawmakers went on break. He urged Republicans to consider "how their obstruction affects United States' national security as well as the people of Ukraine" and said their delay of any congressional action "sent a dangerous message to Russian leaders."
Senators planning to stay up all night Monday talking about climate change say the marathon session is the "opening salvo" in a renewed effort to pass legislation curbing greenhouse gas emissions. "We have a simple message for all Americans: We're not going to rest until Congress acts on the most pressing issue of our time," said Sen. Brian Schatz, a freshman Democrat from Hawaii, who organized the all-nighter on the Senate floor.
The GOP's latest attempt to mess with Obamacare just took a huge hit. Republicans have been coalescing around legislation to scrap a program in Obamacare known as risk corridors that they deride as a taxpayer "bailout" of insurance companies. But now Congress' official scorekeeper says the program will save money and eliminating it would increase the deficit.
Republicans may need immigration reform to avoid extinction in the long run, but there's a growing fear within the party that bringing it up now -- as House GOP leaders have laid the groundwork to do by releasing a pro-reform blueprint -- would depress conservative voter turnout and damage their standing in the 2014 elections. "No way it happens. I just don't see it going anywhere," said one House Republican aide, speaking candidly on condition of anonymity. "I think 2014 is a slam dunk to us otherwise and this would really piss off the base."
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