The U.S. Senate blocked a measure to extend spy agencies' bulk collection of Americans' telephone records early on Saturday, leaving the fate of the program uncertain days before its June 1 expiration. By a vote of 54-45, the Senate failed to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to advance a bill that would have extended for two months provisions of the "USA Patriot Act" that allow the collection of vast amounts of telephone "metadata."
A 20-week abortion ban has finally passed the House, four months later than expected. It has already produced alarm about its supposedly dire consequences, but the conventional wisdom is that the bill will be killed in the Senate. Democrats will likely vote against the bill in lockstep, and the Republican majority alone cannot overcome a filibuster—much less a veto.
The Senate passed a pair of trade protection measures Thursday, and voted shortly afterward to start debate on the fast-track bill that President Barack Obama needs to secure his massive and controversial free-trade initiatives with Asia and Europe. One measure, which reauthorizes trade preferences for some African countries, faced little opposition, and passed by a vote of 96 to 1. But the second, a customs and trade enforcement package, was approved more narrowly, with 78 voting in favor and 20 opposed.
One of the most common objections to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade deal the Obama administration is hoping to complete in the next few months, is its lack of rules against currency manipulation. Critics such as Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) charge that for more than a decade, Japan and China have been stockpiling dollars in an effort to artificially reduce the value of their currencies. That allegedly gives them an unfair advantage in international markets. These members of Congress want to add rules to the TPP (which doesn't include China but includes Japan and could set a precedent for future trade deals) to stop countries from depressing the value of their currencies.
A group of pro-trade Senate Democrats announced on Tuesday that they will vote against a fast-track trade measure, effectively blocking the bill from being debated by the Senate. After a lengthy meeting on Tuesday, the Democrats said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had not guaranteed sufficient concessions on worker protections. With McConnell refusing to budge, Democratic leaders predicted that they can muster 41 votes to block the bill this afternoon, after both parties plot further strategy at private party lunches.
The Pacific trade agreement faces its first test in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday in a knife-edge vote that may hold the key to President Barack Obama's diplomatic pivot to Asia. "This is going to be an old fashioned cliffhanger," said a senior Senate Democratic aide. The Senate vote is one of a likely series of congressional hurdles to be overcome that will hinge on the support of a handful of Democrats. The White House has launched a campaign blitz directed at them in support of granting the president authority to speed trade deals through Congress.
Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch has finally been confirmed by the Senate to succeed Eric Holder, becoming the nation's first African-American woman to hold the position. 56 senators voted to confirm Lynch, including 10 Republicans — among them Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) himself.
The Senate voted Thursday, 56-43, to approve the nomination of Loretta Lynch to serve as U.S. attorney general, ending a more than five month-long political impasse that had stalled her bid to become the first black woman to lead the Justice Department. Lynch, 55, grew up in the shadow of the civil rights movement in North Carolina, where her family had preached for generations. Most recently, she prosecuted terrorists, mobsters and white collar criminals as the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, a district that covers 8 million people.
The U.S. Senate could vote this week on President Barack Obama's nomination of Loretta Lynch to be the next attorney general, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday. The vote on Lynch, a federal prosecutor nominated in November to head the Department of Justice, could come now that there is a deal between Republicans and Democrats on an unrelated bill clamping down on domestic human trafficking, McConnell said.
Well, this isn't good: Corporations now spend about $2.6 billion a year on reported lobbying expenditures – more than the $2 billion we spend to fund the House ($1.16 billion) and Senate ($820 million). Those numbers come from political scientist Lee Drutman, author of the book The Business of America is Lobbying, who notes, over email, that they've fallen slightly out of date. In 2014, the House's operating budget was $1.18 billion, and the Senate's operating budget was $860 million. That pays for, among other things, all congressional staff.