Internet sales tax passes Senate
This week, the Senate voted 69 to 24 to approve internet sales tax legislation – known as the Marketplace Fairness Act. The legislation passed by a wide bipartisan margin, with 46 Democrats joining with 21 Republicans and two independents.
House supporters of the legislation hoped the strong bipartisan support would push the bill forward in their chamber, however, after the Senate vote Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) threw cold water on those hopes. In an interview with Bloomberg TV, Boehner said that he probably couldn’t support the legislation in its current form.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the legislation, said his committee will take a “more thoughtful approach” than the Senate.
Immigration reform update
Consideration on more than 300 amendments to the comprehensive immigration bill began in the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, and the panel rejected an amendment to the measure that would have required the federal government to control the U.S.-Mexico border for six months prior to granting legal status to any undocumented persons, the Associated Press reports.
House Republicans lay out summer agenda
This week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) sent a memo to House Republicans detailing the GOP’s agenda for May and previewing what will be priorities for House Republicans over the summer.
Republicans in the House will consider legislation regarding construction of the Keystone Pipeline (H.R. 3 – The Northern Route Approval Act); SEC accountability (H.R. 1062 – The SEC Regulatory Accountability Act); Debt prioritization (H.R. 807 – The Full Faith and Credit Act) in the month of May. In addition, the House leadership plans to consider legislation relating to over-time pay flexibility, funding of research into children’s health issues, as well as legislation regarding student loan interest rates. Cantor also announced that the House would hold another vote on full repeal of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).
Over the summer, Cantor told his House colleagues:
“I expect a heavy legislative workload in the summer months leading up to the August recess. In addition to the expected discussion and actions on the debt limit, Hal Rogers and the Appropriations Committee will begin the process of funding the government through an open appropriations process; we will ensure that our men and women in uniform are given the tools they need to defend and protect our freedoms by passing the Department of Defense authorization bill thanks to Buck McKeon and the Armed Services Committee; we will continue to bring legislation forward with the help of Fred Upton and Doc Hastings and their respective committees to address the high cost of energy; and we will consider a Farm bill produced by the Agriculture Committee and Frank Lucas. We have a busy legislative agenda planned this summer and our schedule will undoubtedly require further additions.”
On Wednesday, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA), held hearings on the terrorist attack in Benghazi on September 11th of last year that left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stephens.
The hearings are the first in a series of hearings being held by Republicans in the House on the events leading up to, during and after the attacks. In an emotional testimony, career foreign service officer Gregory Hicks described the frantic moments of the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound. Hicks was critical of the U.S. response, and alleged that he was later punished by the State Department for being candid.
Republicans have pushed hard on Benghazi, with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) invoking Watergate in his claim that the administration was not being truthful about the events. Democrats have countered that the hearings are part of what they believe is a politically charged partisan witch hunt.
Observers on both sides of the aisle believe that the Benghazi hearings and the fallout could impact not only the Obama administration but also any potential Presidential aspirations of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Second term Cabinet updates
Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee decided not to show up to the Thursday vote on the confirmation of Gina McCarthy to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. By keeping the committee from reaching a quorum, they hoped to block the vote.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) said Wednesday that the full Senate should vote soon on the nomination of Ernest Moniz to serve as Secretary of Energy.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) denounced Labor secretary nominee Thomas Perez on the Senate floor this week, calling him a “crusading ideologue.” Perez’s confirmation vote in a Senate committee, which was scheduled for this week, has been delayed again, this time until May 16. Republicans may be laying the groundwork for a possible filibuster.
The uneven cost of healthcare
This week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released 2011 pricing for the 100 most common procedures from more than 3,000 hospitals across the country. The CMS data shows how much hospitals charge for various common healthcare services, suggesting that payments vary widely from region to region and even hospital to hospital just miles from each other.
Click here for an interactive New York Times map.
South Carolina 1st District Special Election – On Tuesday, former Governor Mark Sanford (R-SC) completed his political comeback with a victory over the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert to fill the seat left vacated by Tim Scott’s appointment to the U.S. Senate.
Georgia – Rep. John Barrow (D-GA) announced that he would not seek the Democratic Senate nomination in 2014. Barrow, a popular centrist, was considered the Democrats best shot at a competitive race to replace retiring Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA). Democrats in Georgia have now turned their attention to attempting to recruit the daughter of long-time former Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA).
Several other prominent GOPers, including King’s colleague Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA), have also declined to run.
President 2016 – Because it’s never too early
A look ahead:
Monday, May 13 -- The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on Brian Deese’s nomination to be the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget at 3:00 p.m. in 342 Dirksen.
Wednesday, May 15 -- The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management will hold a hearing on Saving Taxpayer Dollars: Freezing the Federal Real Estate Footprint at 10:00 a.m. in 2167 Rayburn.
Washington by the numbers:
1,000 – The number of cherry tomatoes that were delivered to Speaker John Boehner’s office by presente.org on Tuesday, protesting the chairmanship of Rep. Don Young (R-AK).
Some of the worst D.C. traffic can be found on the Francis Scott Key Bridge, named for the man who wrote the national anthem. Some wags affectionately refer to it as “The Car Strangled Spanner.”
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