Top Issues From This Week -- June 28, 2013
Senate passes comprehensive immigration reform
On Thursday, the United States Senate passed the "Gang of Eight" compromise comprehensive immigration reform bill by a vote of 68 to 32. Fourteen Republicans joined 54 Democrats in passing the legislation.
The 14 Republicans who voted for immigration reform were: Alexander (TN), Ayotte (NH), Chiesa (NJ), Collins (ME), Corker (TN), Flake (AZ), Graham (SC), Hatch (UT), Heller (NV), Hoeven (ND), Kirk (IL), McCain (AZ), Murkowski (AK), and Rubio (FL)
Supporters of the bill expressed pleasure at the wide-bipartisan margin, even though some supporters – most notably Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) – had hoped to get 70 or more votes in order to put pressure on the House to act.
House unlikely to take up Senate immigration bill
Despite the "Gang of Eight" bill’s passage in the Senate by a comfortable margin, House Republicans continue to insist that the chamber will not take up the Senate bill.
In an appearance on FOX News, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that while the border security measures that were added to the Senate bill bring it closer to the House’s position, he still insists the House will not take up the Senate measure:
“We’re not going to bring up the Senate bill, we’re going to do it our own way, on our own very methodical way, because we want to make sure we get this stuff right,” Ryan said. “We want to have real triggers on the border, real triggers on what we call the e-verify.”
While Ryan appeared to put the brakes on the Senate compromise, he continued to voice support for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants – a key component of any potential compromise legislation.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) echoed Ryan’s sentiments at a closed door meeting of the GOP House conference on Wednesday where he described the Senate bill as “dead on arrival” in the House.
House Republicans not interested in gay marriage fight
In the wake of the landmark Supreme Court ruling this week that overturned a portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Republicans in the House appear uninterested in engaging further in this fight.
After President Obama declined to defend DOMA in court – after initially doing so – House Republicans stepped forward to defend the law. After the court’s 5 to 4 ruling Wednesday, however, House Republican leaders signaled that they are moving on from the issue.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said in a statement that while he is “disappointed in the ruling,” he said further debate would occur in the states not in Washington, “a robust national debate over marriage will continue in the public square, and it is my hope that states will define marriage as the union between one man and one woman.”
Boehner’s sentiments were echoed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) who said, “I’m disappointed in this decision, and the marriage debate will continue in the states.”
President Obama unveils climate change proposal
After failing to get Congress to pass his previous climate change proposals, this week President Obama unveiled a new climate change proposal – one that bypasses Congress all together.
President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop by next June the first U.S. regulations designed to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, which are responsible for about a third of U.S. greenhouse gases. These new rules are very likely to result in the closing of some existing coal-fired plants – a move that would likely raise electric bills for many Americans and a move that was roundly criticized by Republicans and Democrats in coal-producing and coal reliant states.
West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin was one of the loudest critics of the President’s proposal. In an interview on FOX News, Manchin said of Obama’s proposal, “It is just so irresponsible. We’re looking for an all-in energy policy that basically secures our nation, makes us less dependent on foreign oil or foreign energy. And we can do that, but we’ve got to use everything we have, in balance with the environment and economy. That’s all we ever said. … They’re declaring war truly on jobs, on American jobs.”
In somewhat of a surprise, President Obama also seemed to leave the door open to approving the Keystone XL pipeline – a move that is strongly supported by Republicans and strongly opposed by environmentalists. President Obama said he would approve the Keystone XL project, which would bring oil from Canada's tar sands to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, only if the pipeline resulted in no "significant" increase in greenhouse gases — a benchmark interpreted in sharply different ways by the project's backers and opponents.
Despite the almost unified opposition of Republicans in both chambers and the opposition of a number of coal-state Democrats, it is unclear if there is anything opponents of the Obama plan will be able to do to stop it.
On Tuesday, the Senate easily confirmed Hyatt Hotel heiress, Penny Pritzker, to be Secretary of Commerce. The final vote was 97 to 1, with only Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) voting against her confirmation.
On Thursday, the Senate confirmed former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx to serve as Secretary of Transportation. Foxx was confirmed by a 100-0 vote of the Senate.
IA: Ex-Reliant Energy CEO Mark Jacobs (R) is forming an exploratory committee "adding a deep-pocketed businessman to the growing" GOP field seeking to replace retiring Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA).
MA: On Tuesday, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) defeated first-time candidate Gabriel Gomez in the special election to fill the seat vacated when former Senator John Kerry (D-MA) was elevated to Secretary of State. Markey defeated Gomez by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent. Earlier in the year, it appeared Gomez was poised to replicate the special election success of former Senator Scott Brown (R-MA). In the end, however, the deep blue roots of the Massachusetts electorate proved too much for Gomez.
2016: Because it is never too early
Adding to speculation that he is considering a 2016 bid, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) will "headline a barbecue" hosted by the South Carolina GOP in Columbia on Friday. Paul's trip "will also include listening sessions in Spartanburg and Columbia before the barbecue."
A look ahead:
The House and Senate will be in recess for the July 4th holiday next week.
Washington by the numbers
369 – The number of days the U.S. did not have a Commerce Secretary leading up to Penny Pritzker’s confirmation on Tuesday.
“Mitt Romney’s former campaign manager has launched a super PAC to stop Hillary Clinton from becoming president … which makes sense because if there’s one thing Romney’s campaign is good at it is stopping someone from becoming president.” – NBC’s Jimmy Fallon