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."
Sunday, on CBS’ Face the Nation, the junior senator from the State of Oblivion said—and I’m not making this up—“I didn’t threaten to shut down the government the last time. I don’t think we should ever shut down the government. I repeatedly voted… to fund the federal government.”
Republican Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) released Thursday what is arguably the most complete Obamacare replacement plan offered by their party to date. It is a piece of legislation that, like the Affordable Care Act, aims to increase access to health care and drive down costs.
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) on Wednesday introduced legislation to require food stamp recipients to produce a valid photo ID every time they purchase food with their Electronic Benefits Transfer card. Under the Food Stamp Fraud Prevention and Accountability Act, anyone caught using someone else’s EBT card illegally would be banned from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. "Using a photo ID is standard in many day-to-day transactions, and most of those are not exclusively paid for by the taxpayer dollars," Vitter said in a press release Wednesday. "Food stamps have more than doubled in cost since 2008 and continue to grow in an unsustainable way.
Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn confirmed Thursday night that he will not serve out his full Senate term and intends to step down after 2014 due to deepening health problems. In a statement, Coburn acknowledged that he is battling a serious recurrence of cancer and said he would continue to fight for his priorities during the remainder of his time in office.
Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma announced Thursday night he will leave Congress two years before his term ends as he battles cancer. Coburn, first elected in 2004, is one of the Senate's leading fiscal conservatives and known for his zeal in rooting out wasteful government spending. In a statement, Coburn played down his health issues and said he had always intended to serve no more than two terms.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) will retire at the end of the current session of Congress. Coburn, who has been in Congress for a total of 15 years, annoounced his decision on Thursday evening. "I've had a lot of changes in my life," Coburn said in an interview with The Oklahoman, which first reported the news. "This is another one."
Days after 1.3 million Americans lost their unemployment benefits, the U.S. Senate is set to vote this morning on moving forward with a three-month extension bill. Cloture on the bill, which would need five Republicans to make it across a 60-vote filibuster-proof threshold, last night had public backing from only three.
The Republican Party, which should have the wind at its back, enters 2014 in disarray bordering on open warfare. President Obama and the Democrats have had, let’s face it, a bumpy few months. The debut of the Affordable Care Act was not quite the hair-pulling, garment-rending, world-historical disaster that some critics claim, but it was — and remains — messy enough to buff the shine on the GOP’s badly tarnished brand.
The Obamacare website is open for business. But the Charlton Memorial Hospital in Folkston, Georgia, is closed. Because Republicans in half the states have blocked the expansion of Medicaid, funds to public hospitals with large uninsured populations have been slashed. So far, at least five public hospitals have been closed this year and 5,000 hospital employees have been laid off nationwide. The closures are expected to worsen in the coming years.
The change the Senate made today is small but consequential: The filibuster no longer applies to judicial or executive-branch nominees. It still applies to bills and Supreme Court nominations.
House Republicans are outraged, outraged! over the fact that some people with health insurance are getting cancellation notices from their insurers. They have a "fix," a bill from Rep. Fred Upton, chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee that's really just another repeal bill in sheep's clothing. Upton's bill would allow insurance companies to continue to offer the existing, crappy policies that were in effect as of January 1, 2013. Upton's bill also allows insurance companies to cancel those policies at will, and try to push people into more expensive ones. A big win for insurance companies, maybe not so much for the people Republicans say they want to protect.
An entire section of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s 2013 book Government Bullies was copied wholesale from a 2003 case study by the Heritage Foundation, BuzzFeed has learned. The copied section, 1,318 words, is by far the most significant instance reported so far of Paul borrowing language from other published material. […] In this case, Paul included a link to the Heritage case study in the book’s footnotes, though he made no effort to indicate that not just the source, but the words themselves, had been taken from Heritage.