113th Senate Republicans

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  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.

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