It is a bad sign when the leader of the United States Senate sounds something like an actress with bizarre feelings of entitlement. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer pulled off this dubious feat with his statements about U.S. policy towards Israel, what he perceives to be anti-semitism, and public opinion about Israel’s attack on Gaza. His remarks resembled those of actress Julianna Margulies, whose infamous rant differed only in its lack of politesse. Of course, a senator has better political sense and more awareness than an entertainer, but aside from the manner of delivery, their thought processes don’t differ very much.
A crowd of protesters swarmed outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Kentucky home after the Republican leader said he would move to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. About 100 protesters gathered outside McConnell’s Louisville home on Saturday after he said he would push for a Senate vote on filling the seat with the presidential election is less than seven weeks away, the Louisville Courier Journal reported. The demonstrators called out “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Mitch McConnell has got to go,” “vote him out” and ditch Mitch.”
Passed last week in a 284-149 vote in the House, split heavily along party lines, the two-year compromise budget deal reached between President Trump and Democratic leadership has passed the Senate Thursday, 67-28. The $2.78 trillion ($1.48 trillion military spending) measure lifts the cap on the size of the US debt. This is an increase over the already-passed NDAA for 2020, and military spending will now outpace the entire rest of discretionary spending. Since the expansion of the debt amounts to spending more money that the government flat out doesn’t have, this legislation also authorizes the Treasury Department to issue more debt in the form of bonds to raise money to cover the difference.
Since a factional battle broke out between Democratic and Republican parties last weekend, the US Senate has failed to pass a disaster relief bill that allocates federal money to recovery projects in all areas of the country recently affected by fires, floods, tropical storms and other natural disasters. The failure to approve this funding has left more than a million Puerto Ricans with drastically-reduced food stamp payments, one year and seven months after Hurricanes Maria and Irma struck the US territory.
Single-payer reform is in the news — and in the U.S. House and Senate. One hundred twenty-three Congresspeople have signed on as co-sponsors of H.R. 676, the single-payer legislation in House of Representatives, and 16 Senators have formally endorsed S.1804, the Senate version. (Disclosure: H.R. 676 was closely modeled on the Physicians for a National Health Program reform proposal published in JAMA, for which we served as lead authors). While both bills would cover all Americans under a single, tax-funded insurance program, they prescribe different provider payment strategies. The Senate version largely adopts Medicare’s current payment mechanisms...
Activists have sent Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) 3,000 coat hangers, referencing back-alley abortions, in their efforts to persuade her to vote against the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The mail-ins accompany TV ads aimed at swaying the senator’s vote and pledges to fund her Senate opponent in 2020 if she votes to confirm Kavanaugh, The Associated Press reports. The centrist Collins is seen as a critical swing vote in Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing and has said she wouldn’t vote to confirm a nominee who was hostile to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that legalized abortions.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to testify privately about Russian interference in the 2016 election. We know this because WikiLeaks, well, leaked the letter. The intelligence panel won’t verify whether the request is real. But if it is, and Assange officially agrees to be interviewed about possible collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, it would be a big deal. Here’s why: After members of Russia’s military intelligence unit hacked and stole emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta, they handed them over to WikiLeaks. Assange’s organization then slowly disseminated them to the public, keeping the emails constantly in the news cycle during the 2016 presidential election.
Tuesday’s debate and vote in the U.S. Senate on whether to end (technically whether or not to vote on whether to end) U.S. participation in the war on Yemen can certainly be presented as a step forward. While 55 U.S. Senators voted to keep the war rolling along, 44 voted not to table the resolution to end it. Of those 44, some, including “leaders” like Senator Chuck Schumer, said not a word in the debate and only voted the right way once the wrong way had won. And conceivably some could say they were voting in favor of having a vote, upon which they would have voted for more war. But it’s safe to say that at least most of the 44 were voting to end a war — and many of them explicitly said so.
As the clock ticks on the effort to restore net neutrality, advocates see hope in using the midterm elections in the US to hold elected representatives feet to the fire of the public's demands. Net neutrality is a policy that guarantees internet service providers (ISPs) will treat all data fairly without blocking or "throttling" certain data streams. In December, the Federal Communications Commission voted to undo a 2015 rule that enshrined the policy. But polls show that net neutrality receives bipartisan support. A University of Maryland poll from December showed that 83 percent of US voters support the "open internet", and some legislators are listening. Senator Ed Markey introduced on Tuesday a Congressional Review Act (CRA), a measure that allows Congress to use an expedited legal process to review new regulations, to reverse the FCC's decision to end net neutrality.
The Senate has received the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) official notice of measures to scrap net neutrality rules, two congressional sources confirmed. The notice is one of the first procedural steps in starting the 60-day deadline Congress has to stop the FCC’s net neutrality repeal with the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The House must also receive notice, and it must be published in the Federal Register for the rest of the process to start. Sources said that it has yet to be determined when this will happen but noted it could be as early as Friday or next week. After the 60-day deadline, Congress would no longer be able to use a CRA resolution to stop the FCC’s plan from continuing. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who is spearheading the CRA in the Senate, currently has 50 votes, including Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), but is still one vote short of what’s needed to pass the measure.
Stunning lobbyists, net neutrality supporters are now one vote away from winning a Senate vote on a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to overturn the FCC’s unpopular repeal of net neutrality. All 49 Senate Democrats are now co-sponsoring the move, and Susan Collins (R-ME) has said she plans to support it. With victory in the Senate increasingly likely, Internet activists are setting their sights on the House, where they plan to wage a fierce battle to hit the simple majority needed to force a CRA vote to the floor. Today Rep Mike Doyle (PA-14) unveiled the names of 82 original cosponsors of his CRA resolution in the House. Including Doyle, the list totals 83 and includes House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, increasing the chances that House Democrats will line up behind the move. A simple majority is needed to force a vote to the floor in the House.
The fight for a free and open Internet gained new hope this week as Senators met a critical threshold under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to force a vote on last month’s rule change by the FCC. The Senate will vote within 60 legislative days on whether to vacate an FCC decision to scrap common carrier status and give full control of the Internet to the big telecoms. Internet support groups say the CRA holds out hope for the Internet to remain in the public domain, but in order to help see it through, constituents must contact their U.S. Senators and urge them to support the CRA to overturn the Net Neutrality vote. The Internet had been classified as a public utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934 until the FCC voted 3-2 on December 14 to deregulate it. The FCC subsequently published new rules reclassifying it as an “information service,” so it could justify handing control of it to the telecoms.
Markey's bill likely won't restore the net neutrality rules in the end, even if it passes in the Senate. Forcing a vote will be more difficult in the House, where Republicans hold a larger majority. Even if the bill passes both the Senate and House, President Trump is likely to issue a veto in order to let the FCC's net neutrality repeal go forward. Still, Markey's resolution could pass in the Senate if all Democrats and two Republicans vote in favor of it. A vote would keep net neutrality in the spotlight as Democrats prepare to make the repeal a campaign issue in the November elections. Democrats haven't said when they will try to force a vote on Markey's resolution, but US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has promised to make it happen. Last month, noting that legislation to reverse the repeal "doesn't need the support of the majority leader," Schumer said, "there will be a vote."