Immigration reform update 1: All eyes on the House
This week, a bipartisan group of House members announced they had a framework for a deal on immigration reform. The bipartisan working group, however, grew smaller as conservative Republican Congressman Raul Labrador (R-ID) announced he could not sign off on the deal and would author his own proposal instead.
Labrador cited the failure to include language preventing newly legalized immigrants from obtaining subsidized healthcare as the reason for his withdrawal from the group.
The loss of Labrador complicates efforts to pass immigration reform in the House. Labrador was seen as an important emissary to conservative Republicans in the chamber, many of whom are incredibly reticent to support immigration reform.
Even with a deal in principle, however, there will not be legislation filed in the House until legislative language is drafted and agreed to.
Immigration reform update 2: Senate floor debate to begin
Floor debate on comprehensive immigration reform may begin as early as Monday, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filing a motion to invoke cloture on Thursday afternoon.
Supporters of the bill are hoping to garner 70 or more votes in the Senate, however, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), one of the lead negotiators in the Gang of 8 that crafted the compromise legislation, warned earlier in the week that the bill – as currently constituted – may not have the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster. Rubio went even further, threatening to vote against the legislation himself, if additional border security measures were not adopted.
Analysts are still confident the legislation will receive the votes necessary to overcome a filibuster and pass in the Senate.
Obama selects Rice as national security adviser
Tom Donilon, President Obama's national security adviser, is resigning and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was named as his replacement. The appointment does not require the advise and consent of the Senate.
In appointing Rice as his new national security adviser, President Obama appears to be taking two big risks at once: openly defying Republicans who have made her the centerpiece of the Benghazi scandal and embracing a new interventionist view of the world that may get him in hot water with his own base. At a time when there are calls from foreign policy hawks in both parties to intervene in Syria, the Rice appointment could provide some clue as to the direction of President Obama’s foreign policy for the remainder of his second term.
Verizon forced to turn over phone records
On Wednesday night, the British newspaper The Guardian broke the story that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting the telephone records of tens of millions of American customers of the telecom company Verizon.
The Guardian obtained a copy of an order granted by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) that shows that, “for the first time under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of U.S. citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.”
Civil libertarians on both sides of the ideological spectrum reacted strongly to the story. Leaders from Republican Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) to former Democratic Vice President Al Gore criticized the Obama administration’s program.
However, a bipartisan chorus of voices, such as Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), defended the administration’s program.
House passes two appropriations bills: Obama threatens to veto
This week, the House of Representatives passed the annual appropriations bills for Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security. The Veterans Affairs bill passed 421 to 4 and the Homeland Security bill passed the House by a vote of 245 to 182.
Despite the wide margins, the White House said that while the bills passed are close to what the president wants, his advisers recommend a veto unless there is a broad deal on government spending that replaces $109 billion in automatic sequestration cuts slated for next year.
The House is proceeding on the assumption the sequestration will remain in effect. Using a topline of $967 billion, the bills would increase military spending compared to the sequester but dramatically cut other areas. The labor, health and education bills are to be slashed by 18 percent below the sequester. The Senate, on the other hand, is proceeding on the assumption the sequester cuts are turned off, and is using a $1.058 trillion topline figure.
Internet sales tax and prospects for passage in House
The prospects for House passage of the internet sales tax legislation already passed by the Senate, hit a road bump this week in the form of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). Goodlatte said on Thursday it is unlikely that the House will pass the Marketplace Fairness Act. Goodlatte said it was his preference that states should reach an agreement so Congress does not have to get involved. He said House Republicans will work on their own version of the bill that protects consumers.
Missouri – 8th Congressional District special: Missouri State House Speaker Pro Tem Jason Smith (R) defeated state Rep. Steve Hodges (D) in the special election to replace former Rep. JoAnne Emerson (R-MO) who resigned earlier this year.
Iowa – Ex-United States Attorney Matt Whitaker (R-IA) officially announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. On Monday, Whitaker is hoping to succeed retiring Democratic Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA).
Michigan – Ex-Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R-MI) announced on Monday she was putting together a campaign strategy and policy team and intends to file to run for the U.S. Senate by July 1st. Democratic Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) announced he would not seek another term in 2014.
New Jersey – Long-time Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) passed away on Monday at the age of 89. Lautenberg was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1982 and was one of the most influential liberal voices on Capitol Hill. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) set a special election for October of 2013 and appointed New Jersey State Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa (R-NJ) to serve until the special election. Chiesa has already indicated he does not intend to run in the special election.
A look ahead:
Wednesday, June 12 – The House Budget Committee will hold a hearing on the Defense Department's FY2014 budget at 1:00 p.m. in 210 Cannon. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey are scheduled to testify.
Wednesday, June 12 – The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on "Cybersecurity: Preparing for and Responding to the Enduring Threat" at 2:00 p.m. in G-50 Dirksen.
Thursday, June 13 – The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Geoffrey Pyatt to be the ambassador to Ukraine at 2:15 p.m. at 419 Dirksen.
Thursday, June 13 – The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s Water and Power Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the progress made by Native Hawaiians toward stated goals of the Hawaiian Homelands Commission Act at 2:30 p.m. in 366 Dirksen.
Washington by the numbers
$49 MILLION – The amount of money the IRS spent on 225 conferences from 2010 to 2012, including $50,000 to produce a Star Trek video and to teach line dancing, according to an inspector general’s report.
“We launched a sustained 'shock and awe' bombing campaign on your country, reduced your already-stressed infrastructure to rubble, and unleashed a bloody sectarian conflict that even now costs your country hundreds of lives per month and THIS is how you repay us?” – Jon Stewart on China reaping huge oil contracts from Iraq.
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