Archives for Capitol Hillbillies

Boehner ends a tough year on a high note

It says a lot about House Speaker John Boehner’s rough 2013 that even friends debate when the low point hit. Some say it was Jan. 3, the first day of the 113th Congress. With the Ohio Republican’s family watching from the House gallery, a dozen defiant GOP lawmakers refused to back his bid to be re-elected speaker. The mini-rebellion fell short but it delivered an embarrassing rebuke from conservatives. To others the nadir came in September. That’s when Republicans ignored his advice and embraced a politically disastrous strategy of partially shutting down the government in a futile effort to force
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Year’s end also brings end to 55 tax breaks

  In an almost annual ritual, Congress is letting a package of 55 popular tax breaks expire at the end of the year, creating uncertainty — once again — for millions of individuals and businesses. Lawmakers let these tax breaks lapse almost every year, even though they save businesses and individuals billions of dollars. And almost every year, Congress eventually renews them, retroactively, so taxpayers can claim them by the time they file their tax returns. No harm, no foul, right? After all, taxpayers filing returns in the spring won’t be hurt because the tax breaks were in effect for
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Snowden’s claims of ‘victory’ slammed by lawmakers

Members of Congress said Sunday they weren’t impressed with Edward Snowden’s recent publicity blitz calling for an end to mass surveillance and declaring that he’s already accomplished his mission. Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California acknowledged that Snowden has kindled an important public debate, but he said the former National Security Agency leaker should have stayed in the United States to demonstrate the courage of his convictions. Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Snowden’s release of classified documents jeopardized the safety of troops in Afghanistan and gave nations such as China and Russia
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Can water projects unify a divided Congress?

Big multimillion-dollar water projects, once a favorite target of good-government reformers who made them a poster child of political pork, are back in vogue as a rare force of concord in a dysfunctional Congress. Republicans and Democrats who found little common ground in 2013 are rallying around a bill they hope to pass early next year authorizing up to $12.5 billion over the next decade for flood diversion in North Dakota, widening a Texas-Louisiana waterway, deepening Georgia’s rapidly growing Port of Savannah and other projects. That’s the Senate bill’s total. The House version would cost about $8.2 billion. Negotiators are
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Slicing up the trillion dollar budget pie

As Washington empties out for the holidays, a final budget fight will play out in the nearly empty Capitol building as congressional staffers parcel out more than $1 trillion to fund everything from cybersecurity to student loans. Unlike the knock-down budget battles that paralyzed government for much of the year, this debate will largely take place within what one lobbyist calls a “cone of silence” with Republicans and Democrats aiming to minimize discord as they race to set spending levels for thousands of individual government programs. It’s a chance for Congress to demonstrate that it is capable of doing its
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Manchin: Obamacare may suffer ‘complete meltdown’

President Barack Obama’s healthcare law could have a “meltdown” and make it difficult for his Democratic Party to keep control of the U.S. Senate next year if ongoing problems with the program are not resolved, a Democratic senator said on Sunday. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has urged delaying a penalty for people who do not enroll for health insurance in 2014 under the law, told CNN that a transitional year was needed for the complex healthcare program, commonly known as Obamacare, to work. “If it’s so much more expensive than what we anticipated and if the coverage
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Budget deal passes Senate, ready for Obama’s signature

Congress sent President Barack Obama legislation Wednesday scaling back across-the-board cuts on programs ranging from the Pentagon to the national park system, adding a late dusting of bipartisanship to a year more likely to be remembered for a partial government shutdown and near-perpetual gridlock. Obama’s signature was assured on the measure, which lawmakers in both parties and at opposite ends of the Capitol said they hoped would curb budget brinkmanship and prevent more shutdowns in the near future. “It’s a good first step away from the shortsighted, crisis-driven decision-making that has only served to act as a drag on our
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McConnell attacks Democrats over defense bill

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that his Democratic counterpart is barring any GOP changes to pending defense legislation because he “can’t stomach a vote on Iran sanctions.” In a blistering speech on the Senate floor, McConnell railed against Democratic leader Harry Reid for changing Senate rules to limit the GOP’s ability to filibuster and complained that Reid was jamming a comprehensive, $632.8 billion bill through the Senate without allowing any amendments. The bill cleared one hurdle later Wednesday as the Senate voted 71-29 to move ahead on the legislation. Final passage was expected late Thursday. Reid insists that
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Three House veterans leaving Congress

Three veteran members of the House of Representatives, two Republicans and one Democrat, announced their retirements just as the 2014 congressional campaign season starts to heat up. Republican Representatives Frank Wolf of Virginia and Tom Latham of Iowa, along with Democratic Representative Jim Matheson of Utah, made their separate announcements on Tuesday as Congress was winding up its legislative activity for the year. All three seats are considered competitive in the November, 2014 elections, when Republicans will try to expand their majority in the House and Democrats will attempt to capture control of the 435-member chamber. Wolf, 74, and Latham,
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Budget deal creates split among Republican leaders

Senate Republican leaders are criticizing a bipartisan budget deal, parting ways with their House counterparts who shepherded the measure through that chamber last week. The split makes it harder for the Republican Party to present a united front as it approaches the midterm election year. And it shows that even modest tweaks in tax and spending policies trigger strong reactions in conservative circles. Still, senators in both parties say the budget deal should have enough votes to pass and become law, perhaps by Wednesday. And some GOP activists play down the House-Senate divide’s implications, saying it’s driven by internal congressional
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