Congressional Digest

PRO & CON UPDATES


    Senate Adopts Modest Filibuster Reforms

By , Editor,
January 28, 2013
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In its first votes of the 113th Congress, the Senate adopted several rule changes designed to make it easier to bring bills and nominations to the floor for a vote. The changes, which were broken into two separate resolutions, were based on a bipartisan agreement reached between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV-D) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY-R) in response to a growing chorus of calls for filibuster reform. It is hoped that the new rules, though modest, will help to some extent to break the legislative logjam that characterized the last Congress and to action on the…

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    President Obama Is Inaugurated to Second Term

By , Editor,
January 21, 2013
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On Monday, President Barack Obama stood before the west steps of the U.S. Capitol building and took the presidential oath of office as part of the 57th presidential inauguration ceremony. Technically, President Obama’s second term began Sunday, when he took the oath at the White House, as the 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution mandates that the newly elected president assume office before noon on Jan. 20. With that date falling on a Sunday this year, however, the formal inauguration ceremony was moved to Monday. By taking the oath twice this week, President Obama has now recited the presidential oath…

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    President’s Gun Proposals To Face Mixed Response on Capitol Hill

By , Editor,
January 17, 2013
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At a White House announcement on January 16, President Obama unveiled the Administration’s proposals to curb gun violence in America: 23 Executive actions that the President signed off on immediately, and a number of measures that he will send to Congress next week. The proposals are based on the recommendations of Vice President Joe Biden’s task force on gun safety, formed after the December school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Major components of the President’s package include: A ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. Congressional action is required to change the law, and Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA-D) is introducing…

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    Chief Justice’s Annual Report: Budget Cuts and Judicial Vacancies

By , Editor,
January 04, 2013
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On December 31, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts released his annual Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary —a State of the Union address, as it were, for the Judiciary Branch. In the 16-page document, the Chief Justice — in a writing style much more conversational than he uses in his Court opinions — discussed judicial efforts to keep a tight budget and the need for judicial vacancies to be filled promptly, and summarized of the workload of the various courts in the Federal system. He even spent several pages on the history of the Revolutionary War-era frigate the U.S.S….

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    New Leadership in Foreign Affairs

By , Editor,
December 29, 2012
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President Obama’s nomination of Senator John Kerry (MA-D) to be the next Secretary of State likely paves the way for Senator Robert Menendez (NJ-D) to replace Kerry as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Menendez is currently the third-ranking Democrat on the committee; however, the committee’s second-ranking Democrat, Senator Barbara Boxer (CA-D), already heads the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and cannot chair two committees. Senator Kerry, who first came to the Senate in 1985 and has had a seat on the Foreign Relations Committee ever since, became chairman in 2009. Recently, his focus has been on Afghanistan,…

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    Accountability Review Board Issues Report on Benghazi Attack

On Wednesday, the State Department Accountability Review Board (ARB) charged with investigating the September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, issued its report. It found that “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department” resulted in a security posture at the consulate that was “grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.” It also stated that, because of budgetary concerns, a few State Department managers in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Bureau of Eastern Affairs favored “restricting the use of resources as a…

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    The Impending Debate on Filibuster Reform

By , Editor,
December 12, 2012
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On January 3, 2013, 100 senators and 434 representatives (there is one vacancy) will take the oath of office and become the 113th Congress of the United States. Senate Democrats picked up two additional seats in the 2012 elections, giving them a 55-vote majority, including the two Independents, who are expected to caucus with the majority party. With the Republicans holding 45 seats, and Vice President Joe Biden’s tie-breaking vote, it might appear that the Democrats have a comfortable cushion; but under the current filibuster rules, any senator can still stall a vote and demand a supermajority of 60 votes…

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    Supreme Court to Hear Gay Marriage Cases

By , Editor,
December 07, 2012
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The U.S. Supreme Court has granted certiorari in two cases dealing with the issue of gay marriage. In United States v. Windsor, the Court will consider the constitutionality of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Court tackles the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the State. The Court’s action sets the stage for a highly contentious, closely watched legal battle — the first time the High Court has directly addressed the issue of gay marriage. Oral arguments are expected in March, with a decision by the beginning of summer. Future issues of Supreme…

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    Could the Court Revisit Health Care Reform?

By , Editor,
December 04, 2012
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The Supreme Court’s landmark series of decisions on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in June of this year may not be the last word on the matter. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court instructed the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to rehear a lawsuit challenging the law’s mandate that companies and organizations with more than 50 employees provide health care or pay a penalty. Although the Supreme Court had upheld the requirement that all Americans have insurance or pay a fine (technically, a tax) — the so-called individual mandate — it declined to rule…

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    The Implications of Election Day 2012

By , Editor,
November 10, 2012
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On Tuesday, Americans went to the polls across the country to vote. Elections were held for president, every seat in the House of Representatives, and one-third of the Senate. The result is that the political playing field in Washington will look much the same as it has for the past two years. President Barack Obama was re-elected to a second term by a solid margin in the Electoral College. Democrats will continue to hold power in the Senate, adding two seats to give them a 55-45 majority (assuming Bernie Sanders (Socialist Party) of Vermont and newly elected independent Angus King…

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