Senate

Senate Republican Tax Bill Will Repeal Obamacare’s Individual Mandate

Senate Republicans will add the repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate to the tax bill, Senate leaders said Tuesday afternoon. President Donald Trump urged the Senate in a tweet Monday to add the repeal. Sen. Rand Paul said on Tuesday morning that he would push for the move. Sen. Tom Cotton also indicated that he supported putting the repeal in the bill. Now, Republican leaders are confirming that the repeal will indeed be part of the bill and that they have enough votes for it to pass through the Senate. “We’re optimistic that inserting the individual mandate will be helpful,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn and Sen. John Thune also told reporters that the repeal would be included. The savings from the repeal would “be distributed in the form of middle-income tax relief,” Thune said. Thune also said that the bill had 50 votes in the Senate, enough to pass with a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence if done under rules that allow for the passage of certain bills by a bare majority. A repeal of the individual mandate would save $338 billion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis. “Repealing the mandate pays for more tax cuts for working families and protects them from being fined by the IRS for not being able to afford insurance that Obamacare made unaffordable in the first place,” Sen. Cotton said in a statement, according to the Hill.

YES!!!!  🙂

Senate Democrats Push Gun Control Within Hours of Texas Church Shooting

Senate Democrats called for the passage of gun control laws within hours of the November 5 church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The senators include Bob Casey (D-PA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Chris Murphy (D-CT). All five expressed their gun control desires via Twitter. Casey called for Congress to “take action” but did not explain what gun control could have stopped the Sutherland attacker. Sen. Durbin also tweeted that “Congress must act,” but he did not explain what those actions should be. Sen. Blumenthal also called for action without providing any explanation as to what that action ought to be. Sen. Feinstein struck a similar tone, tweeting: “When will we decide that we can’t accept massacres in our places of worship, schools, or at concerts? When will we actually DO something?” Sen. Murphy used his tweets to hurl invectives at senators and House members who oppose punishing law-abiding gun owners over the heinous actions of a criminal: “Can you sleep tonight, colleagues, when the price of gun lobby goodwill is this – blood soaked church and school floors, city streets?” Following the October 1 Las Vegas attack, Sen. Murphy called for universal background checks. Such checks already exist at all retail points of sale, and Murphy wanted to expand them to all private sales too. Ironically, the Vegas attacker passed background checks repeatedly in order to acquire his firearms.

But, to these self-righteous, agenda-driven Senate Dems using this horrific event to shamelessly grandstand, the facts do not matter.  They have no real solutions.  They’re just emoting, and playing on the emotions of the low-information voters (i.e. their constituents), to support their extreme liberal, anti-gun agenda.  That’s all this is.  It’s all from their worn-out playbook.  Seize on a tragedy, and play on people’s emotions to further their liberal agenda.  Sad, but not surprising…

Senate confirms Amy Coney Barrett to bench; Democrats had questioned her ‘orthodox’ Catholic faith

The Senate confirmed a Catholic woman Tuesday to sit on an appeals court seat over the opposition of Democrats, sparking complaints from Republicans who said they fear some in the chamber are imposing religious tests that would deny faithful Catholics a chance at judgeships. Amy Coney Barrett, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, was cleared on a 55 to 43 vote, with all of the opposition coming from members of the Democratic Caucus. Just three Democrats joined the GOP in backing her nomination to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals: Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia. She was the first of three women, and four appeals court nominees total, that Republicans intend to confirm this week. “I assume that all three of these impressive women will receive strong support from our Democratic colleagues, who never seem to miss an opportunity to talk about a ‘War on Women,’” Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mr. McConnell on Tuesday. Ms. Barrett, a devout Catholic, drew questions about her faith during her confirmation hearing last month. Sen. Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat, asked her if she was an ‘orthodox Catholic’ while Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, told Ms. Barrett ‘the dogma’ lives loudly within her. And on Monday, Republican senators alleged Democrats of ‘Catholic bigotry’ in their refusal to support Ms. Barrett’s confirmation, saying their attempt to mount a filibuster against her was proof. But Mr. Durbin said he was only asking Ms. Barrett about her academic writing where she used the term ‘orthodox Catholic’ and he wondered what she meant by that. He also said his opposition to her wasn’t because of her faith, but rather because she hasn’t spent enough time in a courtroom. “I’ll let my record speak for itself about the numbers of Catholic nominees that I have appointed to the bench,” he said on the chamber floor Tuesday. “I don’t believe she has sufficient experience to be a circuit court judge.” Progressive groups didn’t say Ms. Barrett was unqualified based on her faith, but worry she will rule against women’s right to abortion access and gay rights. “Professor Barrett’s past statements and writings show a strong, personal bias against reproductive freedom and LGBTQ rights. And more broadly, her record demonstrates a dangerous lack of deference to long-standing precedent and judicial restraint,” said Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “If Donald Trump succeeds in packing the courts with judges who share his hostility to civil rights, we will lose one of the only remaining checks our nation has on his virtually unlimited powers, and the consequences will be felt for decades to come,” said Sharon McGowan, strategy director for Lambda Legal. Mr. Durbin also said he will reject the other three circuit court judges this week. One of those, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen, who is nominated to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, overcame an attempted filibuster by Democrats on Tuesday in a 60 to 38 vote. Mr. Durbin said he rejects Justice Larsen because she was on the list of 21 judges suggested to Mr. Trump during his campaign as potential Supreme Court nominees by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation to fill the vacancy after the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in 2016. “Clearly, those right wing organizations are confident that they will like her rulings if she is confirmed,” he said. Colorado Supreme Court Justice Allison Eid for the 10th Circuit and Stephanos Bibas for the 3rd Circuit are also set to receive confirmation votes by the end of the week, according to Mr. McConnell. The Senate confirmed Trevor McFadden for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday.

McConnell Advances Six Judicial Nominees, Base and Republicans Push for More

Senate Republicans confirmed one federal judge on Thursday and set the stage to confirm five more judges next week, including to federal appeals courts across the nation. While these are victories for President Donald Trump, conservatives caution senators that this week’s developments are a good start, but not enough to satisfy them when it comes to the federal courts. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed for cloture on five judicial nominees, one to the federal trial court in Washington, D.C., and the other four to the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Third, Sixth, Seventh, and Tenth Circuits. The federal appeals courts are just one step down from the U.S. Supreme Court. The appellate nominees are: Stephanos Bibas for the Third Circuit, Joan Larsen for the Sixth Circuit, Amy Coney Barrett for the Seventh Circuit, and Allison Eid for the Tenth Circuit. Larsen is currently a justice on the Michigan Supreme Court, and Barrett is a professor at Notre Dame Law School. They had confirmation hearings in September and made it through the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) on October 5, but had been stymied there for the past three weeks. Bibas is a professor at University of Pennsylvania Law School, and Eid is a justice on the Colorado Supreme Court. They both had hearings in SJC last week, and were voted out of committee Thursday morning These nominees are considered especially important because Larsen and Eid was two names on President Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court picks. These two—both women—are considered possible contenders for the seat of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, should her seat become vacant during the next three years. The trial court nominee for whom McConnell filed cloture is Trevor McFadden, slated for final confirmation on Monday to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The four appellate court nominees will then follow. Speaking on the Senate floor on Thursday, McConnell lamented that despite the fact that “the well-qualified men and women the president has nominated enjoy substantial bipartisan support, Democrats are abusing Senate rules and precedent to create “partisan procedural hurdles” that cannot deny the ultimate outcome of confirmation but can burn up hundreds of hours of time that could go to other priorities. Facing relentless pressure from Republicans to confirm President Trump’s nominees, McConnell promised on the Senate floor, “We will confirm these nominees. You can count on it.” Some nominees are still in limbo after today’s moves, most notably Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras, who was nominated for the Eighth Circuit. Stras is still held hostage in the SJC because Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) refuses to return a blue piece of paper with a check mark to Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Conservative leaders insist, however, that they will not be fully satisfied until McConnell reinterprets Senate rules and changes Senate practice to remove the remaining roadblocks on President Trump’s nominees, mainly on the Senate floor rather than a committee. Judicial Crisis Network Chief Counsel Carrie Severino discussed the chief roadblock, pointing out that allowing 30 hours of post-cloture debate on every nominee is consuming massive amounts of Senate session time, slowing the confirmation rate of judges to a crawl. McConnell’s actions on Thursday do not fix that problem, and he will have to hold 50 of his 52 Republicans together to affirm any change to the 30-hour standard. Sen. James Lankford is pushing to reduce post-cloture debate to eight hours, while some conservatives argue that debate on all nominees—judicial and executive—should be limited to two hours. Thursday’s actions illustrated the post-cloture problem, as the Senate confirmed Judge Scott Palk to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma by a 79-16 vote, but only after consuming a couple days of the Senate’s debate time. Palk had actually first been nominated by Obama. With Senate Democrats using the 60-vote requirement to end filibusters as a tool for blocking some legislation and with moderate Republicans proving unreliable when it comes to passing all remaining legislation in the 52-48 Republican-controlled Senate, the White House and the president’s allies are increasingly looking to big wins in judicial nominations to give the president a series of accomplishments going into the 2018 midterms. The Senate had confirmed merely seven of President Trump’s 56 judicial nominees before today’s action. After these nominees, that number will stand at 13. The president still has another 89 judicial nominations to make to fill all current vacancies, with more coming soon.

Senate passes $4 trillion budget in crucial step for Trump’s tax overhaul

Senate Republicans powered their budget through Thursday night, adopting a fiscal year 2018 plan that would clear the path to get a massive tax deal done relying only on GOP votes, setting the stage for Republicans’ next big-ticket agenda item. The budget passed on a 51-49 vote. While the vote is far from a guarantee of success for tax reform, it’s a crucial first step that GOP leaders had to clear. “Tonight we completed the first step toward replacing our broken tax code by passing a comprehensive, fiscally responsible budget that will help put the federal government on a path to balance,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Already months overdue — the fiscal year began Oct. 1 — the budget calls for about $1 trillion in discretionary spending this year, and envisions deficits of $641 billion. But even Republicans said those numbers were probably irrelevant, and it will take a bipartisan deal later this year to set actual spending levels for 2018. Instead, the goal of the budget was to set up what’s known as the “reconciliation” process, which allows big financial measures to pass the Senate by majority vote, without having to overcome a filibuster. Democrats used reconciliation to ease passage of Obamacare in 2010, and Republicans used it to pass tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. The GOP also tried to harness it for the Obamacare repeal effort earlier this year, but were unable to get enough support from within their own ranks.

This is a HUGE first step.  But, only a step.

Senate confirms Trump’s solicitor general Noel Francisco

Senators on Tuesday approved Noel Francisco to be solicitor general, giving President Trump a new chief courtroom lawyer just ahead of a packed Supreme Court term. The Senate’s 50-47 vote split along party lines, with Democrats objecting to the skilled Mr. Francisco, whose biggest victory in private practice was defeating former President Barack Obama’s attempted power grab over presidential recess appointments. Now, Mr. Francisco finds himself in the position of defending Mr. Trump, who is fighting a long list of court battles over everything from immigration to environmental policy. “From amnesty cities to DACA to travel bans to transgender bans, the Trump Administration faces defining moments before the court. It needs a solicitor general at the helm that supports its policies and priorities,” said Jonathan Turley, law professor at George Washington University. He said the confirmation will also bring needed relief to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been leading the Justice Department with “a truly skeleton staff.” Mr. Francisco will now be able to help shape courtroom strategy for the department. Carrie Severino, chief counsel at the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, said Mr. Francisco will have his first test in three weeks when the Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the travel ban case Oct. 10, since Mr. Francisco previously worked with the Justice Department on it. “It’s a case he’s already familiar with,” she said. “I think it’s likely he’s actually arguing it.”

Lankford’s Proposed Senate Rule Change Could End Gridlock on Trump’s Judicial Picks

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) has a proposal to change to how the Senate confirms presidential nominees for federal judgeships and the executive branch. It would break the gridlock that has sparked a nationwide campaign to staff the bench and federal government. A record number of President Donald Trump’s nominations to fill top positions in the federal government—including key positions such as those in the State Department, Defense Department, Treasury Department, and Justice Department—are being slow-walked in the U.S. Senate, preventing the three million employees of the federal government from carrying out vital parts of the president’s agenda. Article II of the Constitution requires that all federal judges and high-ranking administration officials are nominated by the president, and then must be confirmed by the Senate. By mid-July in each of the four previous administrations (Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama), the average number of Senate-confirmed appointments was 190. For President Trump, that number was 50. “But the minority can force the full 30 hours of debate time provided within the rules, which they have repeatedly demanded,” Lankford explains in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. “At the current rate, it will take 11 years to fill the executive branch.” When cloture is invoked to stop a filibuster, Senate rules technically allow another 30 hours of debate before a final vote. Senators typically give back most of that time because the battle is lost. Instead of following that convention, Senate Democrats are using all 30 hours before allowing the Senate to vote and move on to the next item of business. Many commentators thought that this form of obstruction would end with the “nuclear option.” Democrats in 2013 reinterpreted the Senate’s filibuster rule (Rule XXII) not to apply to any presidential nominations to the executive or judicial branches, with the Supreme Court being the sole exception. Senate Republicans abolished that extension earlier this year, resulting in the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch. The situation is just as bad in the federal judiciary, where only a handful of 140 judicial vacancies have been filled with President Trump’s nominees. This has led to the Judicial Crisis Network launching a nationwide campaign with grassroots groups using the handle #GridlockReform, pushing senators to bring nominees to the Senate floor for an up or down vote. Lankford cites Judge David Nye as an example of this obstruction. President Barack Obama originally nominated Nye for a federal judgeship. Nye did not make it through the confirmation process before Obama left office, so President Trump re-nominated him as a gesture of bipartisanship to Senate Democrats. Every Senate Democrat finally joined all the Republicans to confirm Nye by a unanimous vote of 100-0, but only after consuming all 30 hours of debate. The solution? According to Lankford, “First, we should reduce floor debate time for executive nominees from 30 hours to eight or less. The Senate could debate and vote on five or more nominees a week, instead of just one or two.” Lankford notes that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) agreed to this arrangement when he was majority leader. “It worked then, and it would work now,” he declares. “Second, we should lower the vote threshold on the ‘motion to proceed,’ which begins legislative debate and amendment consideration, from 60 votes to 51,” Lankford continued, explaining that almost every bill in the Senate requires two 60-vote approvals, one to begin debate and one to end it. Requiring only 51 votes to start debate would still protect minority-party rights by requiring 60 to move to an up-or-down vote, but move the process along. Such a change would also ensure that senators could no longer duck a tough issue by not letting it come up for debate. Coupled with Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) discretion to end the abuse of “blue slips” to filibuster nominees, such a change could lead to swift votes on judicial nominees, with the likely result that every one of President Trump’s picks would be confirmed. No word yet on whether Senate Republicans will use their votes as the majority to enact these changes.

These ideas are eminently reasonable.  And, the GOP won’t retain control of the Senate forever.   So, now is the time to enact such common sense changes to their cumbersome rules which prevent anything from getting done.  Kudos to Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) for starting this conversation.  Hopefully, when the Senate returns from it’s recess, they’ll make these changes their first order of business….so that they can get down to business and start approving these qualified Trump nominees.