Posts tagged "US Senate"


On Wednesday morning, Senate Republicans blocked Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s Paycheck Fairness Act, which aims to reduce workplace discrimination against women. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell argued that the bill has nothing to do with women, and that Democrats are simply making show votes for their "powerful pals on the Left." 

Leading up to the Senate debate, both Democrats and Republicans trotted out women to talk about how their political parties help them. The White House is currently under scrutiny for paying female staffers 88 cents on the dollar compared to their male co-workers. (The most widely cited statistic on the matter say that women earn 77 cents for every dollar men make, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.) So the GOP has tried to paint the Paycheck Fairness Act as hypocritical. Democrats responded by claiming Republicans don’t care about women at all. We will keep hearing this rhetoric all the way to the midterms. 

As Alan Fram at the Associated Press notes, this is the third consecutive election year where Democrats have brought up a paycheck fairness bill. And Democrats have certainly made the issue about women this time, claiming that Republicans who oppose the bill oppose equal pay for equal work. In practice, the bill would make it harder for employers to pay women less than men (more regulation) and easier for aggrieved workers to sue. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised to bring the bill up for another vote before the midterms. He repeated the party line today, sighing, "For reasons known only to them, Senate Republicans don’t seem to be interested in closing wage gaps for working women." 

Source: Allie Jones for The Wire

h/t: Keith Brekhus at PoliticusUSA


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture on a House bill that the Senate will use as a vehicle to pass an unemployment insurance extension likely by Friday.

Reid filed the motion to end debate on H.R. 3979, the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act, which the House passed earlier this month.

H.R. 3979 aims to exempt volunteer firefighters and EMTs from being considered full-time employees under ObamaCare mandates. Reid will use that bill as a way to send a five-month unemployment insurance (UI) extension bill back to the House.

Since Reid filed cloture, that would set up a vote as soon as Friday but Democrats are hoping to reach an agreement to hold the vote Thursday evening.

Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) have put together a plan that would provide retroactive benefits to more than 2 million people who lost federal help after the program expired on Dec. 28.

The Senate has failed to pass two other UI extensions, but this time the legislation has five Republican cosponsors, meaning it could overcome the 60-vote threshold of a filibuster.

It would use several offsets to pay for the $10 billion cost of extending the benefits, including pension smoothing provisions from the 2012 highway bill, which were set to phase out this year, and extending customs user fees through 2024.

The Senate deal also includes an additional offset allowing single-employer pension plans to prepay their flat rate premiums to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).

The measure would also prevent millionaires and billionaires from receiving the federal benefits.

The proposal also includes language pushed by Collins to strengthen reemployment and eligibility assessment (REA) and re-employment services (RES) programs, which provide help to unemployed workers when they enter their 27th week of benefits.

Despite the likelihood of Senate passage, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said he won’t consider the Senate deal because it doesn’t include job-creating measures. But Senate passage will put pressure on Boehner to do something.

The emergency federal program kicks in once workers who continue looking for a new job have exhausted benefits, usually after 26 weeks.


DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley is apologizing to Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley for comments recorded during a fundraiser in Texas in which the Democrat inferred Iowa’s senior senator was unfit to be Judiciary Committee Chairman.


(Credit: DonkeyHotey)

In reaction to a $3 million ad buy by Senate Majority PAC, a spokesman for Koch Industries accused the group of “negative cynical, divisive, and dishonest attacks” against Charles and David Koch.

A Koch brothers aide is blasting Democrats for big ad buys in battleground states that go on the attack–the very same things the Koch brothers, themselves, do.

An aide to the Koch brothers on Friday ripped into a massive Democratic ad buy that attacks the billionaires across five Senate battleground states.

In reaction to a $3 million ad buy in Colorado, North Carolina, Arkansas, Michigan and Louisiana by Senate Majority PAC, a spokesman for Koch Industries accused the group of “negative cynical, divisive, and dishonest attacks” against Charles and David Koch.

This is even more laughable given the recent disclosure that the Kochs put big money into the Florida congressional race that David Jolly eked out with big out-of-state dollars, testing an anti-Obamacare strategy.

And Republicans are singing the praises of the Kochs.

Republican senators are beginning to more pointedly defend the Kochs, exemplified by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) telling constituents this week that the brothers “are two of the most patriotic Americans.”

This is a good argument for publicly-financed elections.

Pat Robertson: God shut off D.C. power as a ‘fun’ way to punish Dems for climate lies (via Raw Story )

Television preacher Pat Robertson on Thursday explained that God had caused a brief power outage in Washington, D.C. to mock Senate Democrats who held a late-night discussion about climate change. The office of the Architect of the Capitol said on Wednesday…

h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW

Right-wingers derailing America for their own goals, episode #233,233.

h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW 

EARTH TO TED CRUZ AND MIKE LEE: Your anti-marriage equality bill will fail big. 

WASHINGTON — With the Senate planning to take up a bill next month that would raise the minimum wage, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said Wednesday that he and most of his fellow Democrats would be unwilling to strip out a raise to the “tipped” minimum wage, as the restaurant industry is asking for them to do.

"We’re not going to do this without a significant increase to the tipped minimum wage," Brown said on a call with reporters, emphasizing that he wouldn’t vote for minimum wage legislation without the increase.

Under federal and state laws, restaurant owners can pay servers and other tipped employees less than the standard minimum wage — and as little as $2.13 per hour — leaving diners to make up the difference through gratuities. Under heavy lobbying from the restaurant industry, the federal tipped minimum wage hasn’t been raised from $2.13 in more than 20 years.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) would raise the standard minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and peg it to inflation, while setting the tipped minimum wage at 70 percent of that rate, in perpetuity. The tipped minimum wage is currently just 29 percent of the standard minimum.

The restaurant lobby, however, has opposed the Democratic legislation, leading to concerns that restaurant workers could once again be carved out of a minimum wage hike, if such a raise even comes to pass.

The National Restaurant Association has warned that raising the tipped minimum wage would cost restaurant jobs. The D.C.-based lobby and its state affiliates have successfully fought off such raises in the past, including in 1996 with the help of former GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain. That year, the tipped minimum wage was split off from the standard minimum wage during a Democratic-led increase under President Bill Clinton.

The tipped rate hasn’t budged since, unbeknown to many diners and even members of Congress, Brown noted.

"This NRA is about as powerful as the other NRA," he said, alluding to the National Rifle Association, "and we’re not gonna cave to them on this."

The Republican-controlled House hasn’t shown any desire to move the Miller bill, although Democrats like Brown are hoping the minimum wage will become a campaign issue in this year’s mid-term elections.

"The good news here is that — and I can’t speak of course for all of my colleagues — but I’m convinced the great majority of my Democratic colleagues are pretty incensed that this hasn’t been increased in 20 years," he said. "I have spoken maybe five or six times to the caucus about the tipped minimum wage, and people are very aware of it, when they weren’t in the past."

Brown said he plans to put forth a resolution in the Senate declaring this Thursday — Feb. 13 — “2.13 Day,” as a reminder of the stagnant tipped minimum wage.

Saru Jayaraman, co-director of the workers’ group Restaurant Opportunities Center United, joined Brown on the call Wednesday, saying that the low tipped minimum wage has left diners to subsidize an increasing share of servers’ salaries.

"This industry over the last 20 years has demanded repeatedly that customers pay their workers’ wages rather than they themselves," Jayaraman said. "We really at this point demand that the system change. No worker should be dependent on living off the mercy of customers."

h/t: Huffington Post


The crucial point about this outcome,… is that it will be the direct result of the decision by Dems — in the last two debt limit fights — to refuse to negotiate with Republicans.

Greg Sargent

The end of days for the Tea Party influence:

“The era of economic hostage taking and ransom demands should finally be behind us,” Senator Patty Murray told me today. “House GOP leaders have finally bowed to the reality that they need to put uncertainty and drama behind them and put the economy ahead of their party’s political tactics.” Also, as Jonathan Bernstein notes, this reflects a GOP recognition that the Tea Party must be marginalized, not placated.

h/t: Giles Goat Boy at Daily Kos 

John Walsh, no relation to the America’s Most Wanted host, will be Montana’s next Senator by that state’s Governor Steve Bullock (D). 

Roll Call’s Emily Cahn:


The bill would have extended the benefits for three months at a cost of $6.4 billion, paid for with a gimmicky offset — which has had bipartisan support in the past — known as pensionsmoothing. The bill includes an idea pushed by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) to prohibit people with a gross income in the preceding year of $1 million or more from receiving unemployment insurance benefits. Coburn voted to filibuster the bill anyway.

The reality is a large number of Republicans want the program to end but don’t want to say so because it’s popular. First enacted in 2008, amid economic free-fall, it provides insurance to Americans who are looking for work for up to 99 weeks. It expired on Dec. 28.

A follow-up vote Thursday to extend the unemployment benefits for three months, without a pay-for, also failed 55-43.

"We are one Republican vote away from restoring unemployment insurance for 1.7 million Americans," Reid said after the votes. "Let’s get this done. Tell me what is needed to get this done."