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.
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.
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 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.
With HealthCare.gov's problems piling up last week, a small coalition of Democratic senators formally urged the Obama administration to extend the deadline for enrolling in a health plan beyond March 31, 2014, which is when the enrollment period ends now. They said that, given the website's problems, an extension only makes sense. People should be given enough time to sign up for coverage.
Cory Booker, the charismatic Newark mayor who won a national following via Twitter and his own heroics, was elected to the U.S. Senate Wednesday. Booker, a Democrat, defeated Republican Steve Lonegan, the former mayor of Bogota, N.J., in a special election to fill the seat held by Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died in June.
Senate Democrats are meeting Thursday, after Majority Leader Harry Reid brings a bunch of executive nominations to the floor to start the filibuster showdown. The cloture clock will expire Tuesday morning, and then senators—on both sides of the aisle—have to make a choice. Republicans have to decide if they risk Democrats pulling the nuclear trigger by blocking these nominees, and Democrats have to decide if they do indeed pull that trigger.