Gridlock in the Senate, progress in the House

Budget agreement reached by key Republicans and Democrats in House; no sense of cooperation in Senate
Associated Press
Dec 12, 2013

A budget agreement between key Republicans and Democrats. Even President Barack Obama was on board. All without anyone threatening to repeal this or shut down that.

Gridlock, however briefly, took an early holiday in the bitterly polarized, Republican-run House.

But across the Capitol, the high-minded Senate remained in the grip of some of the worst partisan warfare in its history after majority Democrats curbed the Republicans' power. A round-the-clock talkathon is the result, putting no one in the mood for cooperation. Majority Leader Harry Reid threatened to shorten the Senate's cherished Christmas vacation if need be.

A Republican called his bluff. "What's new about that? What's even threatening about that?" challenged Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb.

Traditionally effective prods to action are often less so in the divided, crisis-managed Congress. Lawmakers have lurched from sequester to shutdown over spending, national health care and more in the three years since Republicans won control of the House with a sizable group of newcomers reluctant to compromise. Their approach proved costly — to the nation's credit rating, to Congress' standing among voters and to the GOP, which took the brunt of public blame for the partial government shutdown in October.

The scene has been no better in the Senate. What remained of that chamber's deliberative nature blew apart last month when majority Democrats, citing GOP obstructionism, curtailed the Republicans' power to block some presidential nominees. Republicans have tried this week to do what they can to protest, but Reid's slate of 11 nominations didn't appear in peril. Early Thursday morning, the Senate approved the first of those, voting 51-44 to confirm Cornelia "Nina" Pillard to the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

President Barack Obama praised the confirmation of Pillard, the second judge seated on the D.C. Circuit this week, noting that Pillard would give the court five active female judges for the first time.

"Throughout her career, Ms. Pillard has displayed an unwavering commitment to justice and integrity," Obama said.

Democrats continued their promised march of confirmation votes on Thursday morning, approving Chai Rachel Feldblum to be a member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by a vote of 54-41. Two Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted for Feldblum.

The string of roll calls continued Thursday with a 70-29 vote confirming Elizabeth A. Wolford to be a U.S. district judge for the Western District of New York and a 79-19 vote confirming Landya B. McCafferty for a district judgeship in the U.S. District of New Hampshire. Procedural votes and confirmation votes on district judges and other government officials were planned throughout the day.

Amid the marathon of confirmation votes, Republicans used another tool to poke Democrats and slow nominations by invoking a rule that can stop Senate committees from meeting if they start more than two hours after the chamber convenes for the day. Republicans were able to scuttle three scheduled meetings on nominations — two of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and one of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Still, with the 2014 midterm election year fast approaching, there was something unexpected this week: Instead of the standoffs, demands and disrespect that have become routine, key Republicans and Democrats announced a budget deal. Authored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and quickly endorsed by Obama, the agreement would avert another government shutdown in January and reverse $63 billion in across-the-board spending cuts. It would offset the higher spending with $85 billion over a decade from higher fees and modest curbs on government benefit programs.

What's more, House conservatives didn't kill it outright, although some grumbled about the spending levels. Liberals, meanwhile, complained that the deal would not include an extension of unemployment benefits set to expire Dec. 28 for 1.3 million Americans.

But the deal survived the day.

The negotiators spoke Wednesday of finding common ground, however narrow, in pursuit of a larger goal.

"On balance, my view is this is a step forward," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. "A small one, but a step forward."

Ryan told the House Rules Committee, "We have shown that we can work together."

In the Senate, it wasn't immediately clear whether Republican conservatives would follow their House counterparts and grudgingly accept the Ryan-Murray budget, or rebel against it.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who like Ryan is counted among his party's presidential contenders, criticized the deal. "'I think to walk away from the already agreed-upon reductions in spending that were so difficult to achieve, I think opens the floodgates that really threaten to put us right back in these spending habits, and really, we're going to continue to have a government that spends more money than it takes in," he said.

In any case, GOP senators were focused Wednesday and early Thursday on doing what they could to protest the Democrats' change in Senate rules. On Nov. 21, Democrats pared the threshold for stopping filibusters from 60 votes to a simple majority. The lower threshold applies to nearly all presidential nominations but does not affect nominated Supreme Court justices or legislation.

On Monday, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., objected to Reid's request for unanimous approval of 76 nominees, including Janet Yellen, Obama's choice to head the Federal Reserve. Also on the list are Jeh Johnson, Obama's choice for Homeland Security secretary, and Deborah Lee James, for secretary of the Air Force. Most of the nominations, though, are for middle- or lower-level posts like ambassadors and federal judges.

On Tuesday, Republicans invoked a little-known rule to postpone a committee vote on the nomination of John Koskinen, Obama's choice to head the Internal Revenue Service.

Reid had set in motion the votes for 11 of the nominees, most of them non-controversial. Late Wednesday, he asked for unanimous consent to waive some of the required debate time and begin voting at 9 a.m. EST Thursday morning. Republicans objected, and an all-night talkathon began. If Republicans refuse to give up their allotted debate time, the Senate could be in session continuously into Saturday — or longer.

"If we have to work through Christmas, we're going to do that," Reid warned from the Senate floor.

"The Republicans are wanting to waste more of this body's time, this country's time," he added. Senate aides carted in Listerine, fruit, chocolate and mints for what appeared to be a long night ahead. "We are here ... looking at each other, doing basically nothing, as we have done for vast amounts of time, because of the Republicans' obstructionism."

"This isn't about obstructionism," fired back Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. "You limited our rights."



Darwin's choice

For the award winning Barack Obama.....

"You can keep your insurance" pledge named MSN's "LIE OF THE YEAR"

For coasterfan, big dog, deertracker, and all you other obamabots...!


I read an article on this very topic. It gave a list of lies made by every President since 1960, and made careful distinction between lies that were big lies which hurt the American people, and small lies that had a much smaller actual effect.

On the list of big lies that hurt the US:
Nixon Watergate
Reagan Iran-Contra affair
Bush Weapons of Mass Destruction

On the list of small lies:
Clinton Monica Lewinsky
Obama you can keep your insurance

Here's how you know if something is REALLY newsworthy: ALL of the media outlets report it, rather than just those who lean Right or lean Left.

If an actual scandal with Obama ever occurs - something on the level of Watergate, WMD or ignoring pre-9/11 warnings about Bin Laden attacking the US with airplanes - then we'll listen. Until then, you're quite obviously making mountains out of molehills.


Re: "On the list of small lies:"

Only if like you, your health ins. is guaranteed by OH taxpayers.

Did you purposefully leave this BIG LIE off your list?

"We are not about to send American boys 9 or 10 thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves."

- Lyndon B. Johnson


So you find Obummer lying about obamacare to the American people no big deal? Wow you are delusional. This entire law was based on a lie period!

Darwin's choice

Spin obamabot, spin like the ballerina you are!!

All this week Obama has been under fire! Biggest liar award, selfies, patronizing with communist criminals, and the best is ruining that obesity program reaching for a Danish......Hahahahaha!!!!


Budget deal:

The Dems don't ask for major tax increases and the Repubs don't ask for cuts in entitlement spending, i.e. status quo, in order to get 'em both up to the 2014 mid-term elections.

There ya go, ya got your bi-partisan compromise while the country continues to stagger toward financial Armageddon.


Lets not forget nothing to curb entitlement spending but cuts for the pensions for military personnel. Stinks to high heaven.


Repubs tend to cut all the wrong things, don't they? Sorry veterans, sorry poor folks, sorry unemployed folks, we need to provide tax breaks/subsidies for millionaires and oil companies.

Darwin's choice

So coasterfan, and harville, tell us all again about this "obamacrare"!!

There is NOT ONE person who has a PAID for CONTRACT.

Go peddle your crap somewhere else.


Compromise is not a bad thing. Apparently, the sensible Republican majority finally realized that acquiescing to a self-destructive teaparty contingent not only hurt America, but hurts the Republican brand.

Whining from the Right about the deficit/economy would mean more to us on the Left if those on the Right hadn't been so curiously silent while their party took us from a budget surplus in 2000 to a growing multi-trilion dollar deficit by 2004. If you're the party that turned the wagon around, and gave it a huge push down the hill, then stood by silently watching, I think you deserve credit for that.


Re: "budget surplus in 2000 to a growing multi-trilion dollar deficit by 2004,"

Ancient and largely irrelevant history as the federal debt ceiling continually climbs to new heights.


If you read the agreement the only place they seem to be cutting is from retired military, the same group has taken it in the shorts with cuts every year since I retired. Don't you think it is time for other groups of American's to sacrifice a little? I am no completely opposed to some changes in retirement benefits but come on, the changes over the past 5 yrs have resulted in a $3K/yr hit to my wallet while the politicos keep blowing money. If you are gonna hit me in the pocket, at least show me you are serious about decreasing our nations debt.

AJ Oliver

This is a rotten deal for progressives. The Dems sold us out by not letting the Bush tax cuts for the ONE % expire. I'm gonna call my senator and ask him to filibuster it.


Re: "The Dems (snip)"

Actually, the deficit is declining BECAUSE fed tax revenue is up.

Whatdoyasay that we not 'rock the boat' until we get this economy back on somewhat of a stable foundation so we can decrease Fed. Resv. intervention?

Hopefully, there'll be plenty of time to "soak the rich" in the New World Order before the ultimate sovereign debt collapse.


It would be cool if you are right about this. Unfortunately, your party doesn't really have a history about getting things right, as far as the economy is concerned. Taking care of the 1%? Now THAT'S something they are really good at...


Re: "Taking care of the 1%? Now THAT'S something they are really good at..."

And the rich Dems continue to pay lip service with OPM.

Often asked and NEVER answered:

Why are 7 of the 10 richest members of Congress Dems?

Feigning altruism with borrowed and printed money must pay well eh?

Still NOT a Repub.

The New World Czar

Four out of the top five wealthiest counties in the nation (by median household income) are in the DC metro area...given the nation has more than 500 counties, I'd say we know who is taking care of the 1%. The Democratic party (and the RINO Republicans) need DC and DC needs them to sustain their acquired lifestyles.


Actually, you're the opposite of a RINO. You profess to not be a Republican, yet literally every post is anti-Democrat and pro-Republican. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's a duck. Start quackin' buddy :)

It matters not that 7 of 10 richest members of Congress are Dems. Like Warren Buffet, Dem congressmen support policies that help the other 99%, which is why they are Democrats and not Republicans. I don't care how rich they are; I care how they vote.


Re: "anti-Democrat and pro-Republican."

More like anti-fiscal liberal and pro-fiscal conservative.

If and when a fiscally conservative Dem ever rises up, I'll most likely support 'em.

As I've written before: When the Dems put forth legislation for an annual wealth tax of 1-3% of their TOTAL assets (like France) THEN I 'may' believe their "soak the rich" nonsense.


Re: "I don't care how rich they are; I care how they vote."

While 'voting' for programs while using other people's money (OPM). lol

Nice dodge of the question - typical.

Continue to blindly support the American Ruling Class (nomenklatura).

Regarding rich Dems:

"Who you are speaks so loudly I can't hear what you're saying."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

AJ Oliver

Shame on Marcy Kaptur and Bob Latta for voting in favor of the turkey budget. It's time to primary pols who sell us out. BTW, although there are many Goopers and conservatives that I respect, I could never give their movement general support because they have been on the wrong side of every major reform movement for the past century and a half - from ending slavery, to women's rights, to min. wage, to regulating banks and polluters, child labor, civil rights, rights of the accused, and much more. And, UGH !!, Rush is their hero !


AJ, you are exactly right that conservatives have been on the wrong side of every major reform movement over the past century. Lately, it's women's rights, abortion, gay rights, and Obamacare.

That's why I don't really worry about all the junk they're saying about Obamacare. Social Security and Medicare faced the same silly non-stop propaganda assault, and soon enough became supported by both parties, after people had a chance to see that it really did work, and the propaganda was proven to be bunk.

They aren't worried that Obamacare won't work - they're worried that it WILL work. Which is why they were trying everything they could think of to defund it. After all, if it's so bad, and destined to fail, why not just let it fail, and say "I told you so?"


Re: "they're worried that it WILL work."

Dream on.

Obam☭are is yet another in a long line of progressive-socialist unfunded entitlement liablities, paid for on the backs of future taxpayers that will ultimately implode.


Actually with the problems that some doc's have with obamaSCARE reimbursment rates, that have their own practices,outside of hospitals. They won't be accepting patients that have obamaSCARE plans. They can't afford to keep open. They are going into cash for work done or a concierge practice. We will see as more of the roll out happens. When the companies insurance falls under obamaSCARE and all reimbursments rates are under obamaSCARE, then we will see if it works or not. As far as GP's and OBYGN's go I will be very surprised if there will be enough still taking insured patients under obamaSCARE rates to cover the demand.

The other problem will be when folks actually experience the high deductable many of the less expensive bronze and silver plans have. When a family has to pay, out of pocket the first $5,000, $7500, or $10,000 before the insurance kicks in... it won't be popular.

The folks who have been singing the praises of obamaSCARE prices have been using the bronze plan prices, and those are the ones with the higher deductables. It is the only way to cut the monthly premium, raise the deductable. TANSTAAFL There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. It is all scheduled to come into being end of 15 begining of 16. It will be an interesting election that year, same with 14, with just the small percentage of folks who buy their own insurance compared to those who get theirs thriough work. The ones getting it through work , many will end up with bronze plans, with the high deductables.


Wow, such historical ignorance from a former professor, is pretty appalling.

To which party did Lincoln belong? (Hint, it starts with 'R')

Which party held a filibuster AGAINST the Civil Rights Act? (Hint, it starts with 'D')

This offers some insight into why there are so many college grads working minimum wage jobs.


100 years ago. "Hey, Look the Democrats will remedy the situation and alleviate the poor, I think I'll vote for them."
Today."Hey, Look the Democrats will remedy the situation and alleviate the poor, I think I'll vote for them."
When some people grow a brain they might learn that repeating the same actions will often return the same results. i.e The poor get poorer and the rich get richer for voting for the same lip service party.


One thing is certain: the Republicans will not only never help the poor, they won't even try. Furthermore, they'll continually fight any efforts made by the other party to help.

Currently, they want to cut funding for food stamps, curtail unemployment benefits, and cut funding to Medicare. It's kind of silly for you to call out Dems for something for which the GOP does a stunningly poor job.

You and I differ, donegan. You apparently think Dems are dumb because they don't see things the way you do. I think Reps are intelligent, but purposely act in ways that help only themselves. One party is caring, the other is cruel and selfish.


It is a fact that the Democrats have a voting base due to ill informed constituents. The inequity between the rich and poor has exploded under this admin yet you still think the Democrats are for the poor, That is not only dumb it is insanity on a national level. The republicans are novices compared to the Democrats when it come to fooling people into believing they will get help from them. You blame everyone else for the shortfalls of your own party. Face it you support a party who cares nothing for you and would gladly trade you to the Chinese to feed their own bank accounts, Oh wait with the TPP they will have did just that.
"I don't care a straw for your newspaper articles, my constituents don't know how to read, but they can't help seeing them d**ned pictures." Historical Democrat Politician


Re: "the Republicans will not only never help the poor, they won't even try."

And Pres. Obama "locked in" 98% of the Bush era federal income tax cuts for lower and middle class why?


"One thing is certain: the Republicans will not only never help the poor, they won't even try."

Year after year, conservatives vastly outpace leftists in charitable giving.

The real difference is, Republicans believe that, if you want to help the poor, you should VOLUNTARILY give YOUR OWN money to do so. Democrats believe that you should FORCIBLY confiscate other peoples' money to do so.

Leftists are fond of justifying big government by saying "government is just a word for things we do together," but the correct form of that maxim would be that government is a word for things we are FORCED to do together, while private sector organization, for profit or not, is just a term for things we do together VOLUNTARILY.