Politics October 30, 2015: Senate passes budget deal in night session, sends it to Obama to sign

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Senate passes budget deal in night session, sends it to Obama to sign

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, October 30, 2015, 8:19 AM MST

The Senate passed the two-year budget and debt ceiling bill, but more than half of the Republicans voted against it, the bill needs to be signed by President Barack Obama before Nov. 3, when the country reaches its borrowing limit, Oct. 30, 2015
The Senate passed the two-year budget and debt ceiling bill, but more than half of the Republicans voted against it, the bill needs to be signed by President Barack Obama on Nov. 3, when the country reaches its borrowing limit, Oct. 30, 2015
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Politics March 28, 2015: Retiring Harry Reid names Schumer successor amid tributes to his Senate career

Retiring Harry Reid names Schumer successor amid tributes to his Senate career

March 28, 2015

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV announced Friday morning, March 27, 2015 in a YouTube video message posted on Twitter that he will retire in 2016 opting out of running for reelection after five terms in the Senate…

Politics February 28, 2015: Congress passes one week DHS funding but talk of coup to oust Boehner as speaker

Congress passes one week DHS funding but talk of coup to oust Boehner as speaker February 28, 2015

Congress may have come at the 11th hour with a one-week funding continuing resolution stopgap spending bill for Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before the midnight deadline on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015, but it may have caused lasting damage…

Politics February 27, 2015: Senate passes clean DHS bill House bill faces problems DHS shutdown possible

Senate passes clean DHS bill House bill faces problems DHS shutdown possible February 27, 2015

The Senate has done their end to ensure that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not shutdown at midnight, Friday, Feb. 27, 2015. Friday morning the Senate passed two bills, one clean $40 billion DHS funding bill that passed…

Politics February 27, 2015: Senate to vote on clean DHS bill House opts for stopgap bill to avert shutdown

Senate to vote on clean DHS bill House opts for stopgap bill to avert shutdown February 27, 2015

Republicans in the Senate and House still cannot agree on the best bill to avert a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) shutdown. The only thing they agree upon is they will pass bills preventing its shutdown on Friday, Feb. 27…

Politics February 25, 2015: Senate advances DHS funding bill unclear if House will follow as Boehner balks

Senate advances DHS funding bill unclear if House will follow as Boehner balks February 25, 2015

Senate Republicans and Democrats have resolved their differences regarding the $40 billion bill funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and on Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 25, 2015 they overwhelmingly voted 98 to 2 in favor of advancing the bill to…

Politics February 24, 2015: McConnell caves in offers Democrats clean DHS funding bill to avoid shutdown

McConnell caves in offers Democrats clean DHS funding bill to avoid shutdown February 24, 2015

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acquiesced to the Democrats demands on Tuesday afternoon Feb. 24, 2015, and is offering them a clean bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the rest of the 2015 fiscal year. McConnell…

Politics February 23, 2015: McConnell offers Senate Democrats DHS funding bill compromise to avert shutdown

McConnell offers Senate Democrats DHS funding bill compromise to avert shutdown February 23, 2015

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY offered Senate Democrats an olive branch for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) $40 billion funding bill on Monday, Feb. 23, 2014. McConnell will separate the bill from the amendments repealing President…

Politics February 23, 2015: Senate Democrats vote down DHS funding for 4th time Obama warns against shutdown

Senate Democrats vote down DHS funding for 4th time Obama warns against shutdown February 23, 2015

The clock is ticking for Congress to pass a bill funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before the Feb. 27, 2015 deadline, but still Senate Democrats are not willing to move to push the $40 billion spending bill beyond…

Politics February 11, 2015: Boehner tells Senate Democrats to get off their ass pass the DHS funding bill

Boehner tells Senate Democrats to get off their a** pass the DHS funding bill February 11, 2015

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH used some colorful language to express what he thinks of the Senate Democrats during the weekly GOP leadership Press Conference on Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015. A day after the Senate sent back…

Politics February 4, 2015: Senate Democrats again block bill funding DHS halting Obama’s immigration action

Senate Democrats again block bill funding DHS halting Obama’s immigration action February 4, 2015

Senate Democrats are learning to play the defensive game just fine. For the second day in a row, the entire party rallied together and voted against the Republicans’ bill funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), but with…

Politics December 13, 2014: Senate passes $1.1 trillion spending bill after Ted Cruz forced Saturday session

Senate passes $1.1 trillion spending bill after Ted Cruz forced Saturday session

By Bonnie K. Goodman

After being pushed into a rare Saturday session on Dec. 13, 2014, the Senate passed with a vote of 56 to 40 the large 1.1 trillion-dollar CRomnibus spending bill for the rest of the 2015 fiscal year, late…READ MORE

Politics November 20, 2014: Emperor Obama outlines executive amnesty for nearly 5 million illegal immigrants

Politics November 20, 2014: Obama announces immigration executive actions in speech, McConnell vows battle

Politics November 17, 2014: Never mind government shutdown Obama is looking to be impeached or sued by GOP Congress over immigration reform

Politics November 13, 2014: Obama to announce immigration reform executive actions next week, ignores GOP

Politics November 13, 2014: McConnell unanimously voted as Senate majority leader, Reid agrees to compromise

Politics November 5, 2014: Republicans take control of the Senate win 52 seats in 2014 midterm elections

Politics September 17, 2014: House passes spending bill and authorization to train and arm Syrian rebels

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House passes spending bill and authorization to train and arm Syrian rebels

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, September 17, 2014, 11:09 PM MST

The House of Representative passed a bipartisan continuing appropriations resolution funding the government and an ammendment to arm and train Syrian rebels, Sept. 17, 2014
The House of Representative passed a bipartisan continuing appropriations resolution funding the government and an amendment to arm and train Syrian rebels, Sept. 17, 2014
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Politics September 5, 2014: August jobs report shows unemployment benefits extension still necessary

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August jobs report shows unemployment benefits extension still necessary

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, September 5, 2014, 2:39 PM MST

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised to put the unemployment benefits extension bill to a vote the August jobs report might convince him to put to a vote before the midterm elections campaign break, Sept. 5, 2014
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised to put the unemployment benefits extension bill to a vote the August jobs report might convince him to put to the vote before the midterm elections campaign break, Sept. 5, 2014
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Politics August 4, 2014: Highway Trust Fund bill passes the Senate ends unemployment extension funding

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Highway Trust Fund bill passes the Senate ends unemployment extension funding

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, 

August 4, 2014, 5:14 PM MST

The Democratic Senate passed, and President Barack Obama signed the Highway Trust Fund bill which takes away funding for the unemployment benefits extension bill, Aug. 1, 2014

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Now that the Senate passed and President Barack Obama signed the Highway Trust Fund extension bill on Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, the payment method for the unemployment benefits extension bill has been permanently taken away. The highway bill uses pension smoothing and customs fees to pay for the short-term extension lasting until May 2015. The unemployment benefits extension bill’s co-authors Senators Jack Reed, D-RI and Dean Heller, R-NV had been planning to use since March 2014 when they first unveiled their bipartisan bill, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2014. Meanwhile Reed and Heller are working to find new funding, and unfortunately the 3.2 million long-term jobless will have to wait another five weeks until the Senate returns on Sept. 8 from the August recess to see any real possible action on the bill.

The highway and transportation bill, the MAP-21 Reauthorization had two different incarnations in the House and Senate; the bill had to pass by Aug. 1 if not transportation funding would have been cut by 28 percent with “100,000 transportation projects” and “700,000 construction jobs” on the line. Since so many jobs are at stake, it has been deemed a priority to President Obama, the GOP House, and Democratic Senate. The bill’s importance and funding methods come at the expense of the unemployment benefits extension bill and the over 3.2 million Americans that desperately want to see the bill pass and benefits renewed.

The unemployment benefits extension’s bill’s authors Jack Reed, D-RI, and Dean Heller, R-NV have been trying to get their bill added as a supplemental to must pass bipartisan bills, including the Highway Trust Fund bill, and the emergency border crisis spending bill, both efforts have proved fruitless. Although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV was open to adding the extension to either bill it never happened.

The Highway Trust Fund bill first passed the Senate on Tuesday, July 29, 2014, with a vote of 79 to 18. The Senate passed their own version of the bill forgoing the House’s version. The primary reason the House’s bill was refused was their choice of funding sources, which the Senate considered a “gimmick.” According to the Associated Press, “Lawmakers” think “it will cost the government money in the long run and undermine the financial stability of pension funds.” Instead, the Senate wanted to make “it harder for people to claim tax deductions and credits they don’t qualify for.”

Republicans usually object to pension smoothing, including when it was being used for the unemployment benefits extension, but this is the second time in this year they have used it to fund bills. The Highway Trust Fund has always been paid for by the 18.4-cents-per-gallon gas tax, but the tax is too low and can no longer support it, the Democratic Senate wanted to raise the tax for a long-term bill, but the House Republicans and President Obama oppose the idea.

The Senate added a bipartisan amendment sponsored and authored by Tom Carper, D-DE, Barbara Boxer, D-Ca and Bob Corker R-TN “stripping” the bill of the funding of the questionable funding sources, lowering its price tag to $8.1 billion and making the extension last on until Dec. 19, 2014. The point was to make the House agree to a long-term bill during the lame-duck session after the midterm elections in November. The amendment passed 66 to 31.

The fact that the Senate refused the House’s bill at first seemed like the only good news for the unemployment benefits extension because it appeared to ensure the funding sources were still available for the bill. Later in the week, the House decided to refuse the Senate’s revised bill forcing the Senate to agree to the funding meant for the unemployment benefits extension.

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH promised if the Senate passed their own version of the bill the House would just send it back, the original way they passed it. Boehner warned; “I just want to make clear, if the Senate sends a highway bill over here with those provisions, we’re going to strip it out and put the House-passed provisions back in and send it back to the Senate.” The House did reject the Senate-passed version with a vote of 272 to 150 held on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2014. Since Majority Leader Reid promised President Obama will have a passed bill by the Aug. 1 deadline the Senate had no choice but to pass the House bill with a vote of 81 to 13.

The House version of the highway funding bill drafted by the Republican majority, and sponsored and authored by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) is a temporary short-term bill extending funding until May 2015. The $10.8 billion bill is being funded the same way as the unemployment benefits extension bill had planned to be paid for, through pension smoothing and customs fees. The unemployment benefits extension bill also will cost $10 billion for the five-month extension that is planned in the Reed-Heller bill.

In contrast, the Democratic-controlled Senate’s bill sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) proposed to fund their bill by pension smoothing and raising taxes, mainly the gas tax. The Senate had two bills, one provides a long-term solution, but without Republicans agreeing to raise taxes the two parties might never come to an agreement on the bill. The second bill is an even shorter term bill, last only until December and paid for with tax increases. Majority Leader Reid wanted the Senate to vote on all three versions of the transportation bills, saying; “My intention is have votes on all three.”

The House of Representatives passed the Highway Trust Fund Extension bill; H.R. 5021: Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014 on Tuesday, July 15, 2014. The House passed highway trust fund extension bill takes away the funds from pension smoothing and increasing customs fees that Reed and Heller had been planning to use. The eEven more bad news is the fact that the bill passed with bipartisan support 367 to 55.

With so many jobs on the line, if the highway bill fails to be renewed, the bill had the reluctant support of President Barack Obama and the Democratic Senate as well, leaving the unemployment benefits extension almost doomed to failure. Senate Finance Committee ranking member Orrin Hatch, R-UT admitted the Senate has no choice if they are to meet the deadline; “Congress needs to act immediately to prevent a shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund … Thousands of jobs are at stake here. The only viable solution is for the Senate to take up the House bill and pass it. … We don’t have any other options if we want to get this done before the recess.”

Over three million long-term jobless Americans have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks, they need the benefits to survive. Although the total unemployment rate keeps falling each month, the long-term jobless rate remains virtually the same with high numbers at 3.2 million for July. The long-term unemployment fell by 293,000 and in total has dropped 700,000 in the past three months since March, and declined by 1.1 million since July 2013.

There are, however, still 3.2 million unemployed for six months or more, and compromise 32.9 percent of all unemployed Americans. Older workers, women and younger workers within service and blue-collar jobs with only a high school diploma are the most affected. The Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program expired on Dec. 28, 2013, the EUC program usually has been renewed as long as the long-term jobless rate is above 1.3 percent. Here it is eight months later with long-term unemployment essentially not and Congress is no closer in fact further from passing an extension than it was then.

When the House passed the Highway Trust Fund Sen. Heller acknowledged that it was going to difficult to find new funding that Republicans would approve of, saying; “That’s going to be an issue.” Heller spoke to Congressional Quarterly’s Roll Call about finding new funding for the bill and not giving up. Heller said, “Jack [Reed] and I had a conversation last week just trying to figure – you know there are no pay-fors left out there – trying to figure out how we can move this thing forward. We haven’t given up, we are just still trying to figure out what our next move is.” With a five-week recess, they are bound to find a way to fund the bill, the more difficult problem is how to get the Senate and House to pass the extension.

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Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.

Politics July 21, 2014: GOP highway fund bill takes away funding from unemployment benefits extension

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GOP highway fund bill takes away funding from unemployment benefits extension 

July 21, 2014, 12:34 PM MST

The House of Representatives has taken away funding sources for the unemployment benefits extension with their version of the highway trust fund bill, July 15, 2014
The House of Representatives has taken away funding sources for the unemployment benefits extension with their version of the highway trust fund bill, July 15, 2014
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Politics July 16, 2014: Reid open to adding unemployment extension to Obama’s emergency spending bill

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Reid open to adding unemployment extension to Obama’s emergency spending bill 

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, July 16, 2014, 9:23 PM MST

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded that he is open to Sen. Jack Reed's request to add the unemployment benefits extension or any ammendment to the border crisis emergency spending bill, July 10, 2014
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded that he is open to Sen. Jack Reed’s request to add the unemployment benefits extension or any amendment to the border crisis emergency spending bill, July 10, 2014
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Politics July 9, 2014: Heller blames Obama for unemployment benefits extension failure

Heller blames Obama for unemployment benefits extension failure

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, July 9, 2014, 11:53 AM MST

Sen. Dean Heller, R-NV blames President Barack Obama for the unemployment benefits extension not passing as opposed to the House Republicans, July 7, 2014
Sen. Dean Heller, R-NV blames President Barack Obama for the unemployment benefits extension not passing as opposed to the House Republicans, July 7, 2014
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Politics June 6, 2014: Reid promises to put new unemployment benefits extension deal to a Senate vote

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Reid promises to put new unemployment benefits extension deal to a Senate vote

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, June 6, 2014, 5:48 AM MST

Senate Majority  Leader Harry Reid promises to put any new unemployment benefits extension bill to a vote when a deal is reached, June 5, 2014; the first Senate passed bill expired on May 31, 2014 without the House putting it to a vote
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promises to put any new unemployment benefits extension bill to a vote when a deal is reached, June 5, 2014; the first Senate passed bill expired on May 31, 2014 without the House putting it to a vote
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