Reid, McConnell deal progresses, conservatives express skepticism

It appears that there is a deal in the works between Senate leaders that would temporarily raise the debt ceiling and fund the federal government while yet another “super-committee.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have been working behind the scenes since a bipartisan compromise offered by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) fell apart over the weekend. The two leaders are cautious because whatever they agree to has to pass the House of Representatives.

“We have had an opportunity over the last couple of days to have some very constructive exchanges of views about how to move forward,” said McConnell from the Senate floor on Monday. “Those discussions continue, and I share [the] optimism that we’re going to get a result that will be acceptable to both sides.”

The basis of the deal, according to various media reports, is a Continuing Resolution that funds the federal government until January 15 and extending the debt ceiling until February 7, though some outlets are reporting February 15. The sticking point for Senate Republicans is maintaining the sequester cuts and the $988 billion funding level for FY 2014.

There are also some minor changes to ObamaCare that are being considered, but Politico notes that negotiations on those provisions could fail, which would take the controversial law off the table.

Rand Paul: Obama, Democrats “have rejected every compromise”

 Re-Open the Federal Government

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) gave an impassioned plea on Wednesday to his Democratic colleagues to approve measures passed by the House of Representatives to reopen parts of the federal government affected by the government shutdown.

Paul, a likely candidate for the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2016, countered arguments that Republicans are unwilling to negotiate to end the government shutdown and slammed the “farce” of closing federal memorials and monuments.

“We’ve offered request after request to reopen the government. We’ve offered to negotiate. From the other side, we hear, we will not negotiate. We will not compromise. And we will not reopen the government,” said Paul from the Senate floor. “We have offered 13 different compromises today to reopen the government. We are willing to open the government, and they say, oh, you must agree to everything or we will open nothing. We will not compromise, and we say to them, why don’t we open the parts of government that we agree to?”

BREAKING: Shots fired at the U.S. Capitol

 Gunshots at the Capitol

Editor’s note: Updates at the bottom of the post.

Details are still coming in through news outlets and people on the scene via Twitter, but U.S. Capitol Police has confirmed that shots were fired either in or near the Capitol building in Washington, DC. CSPAN reports that a Capitol police officer was injured.

The Capitol and adjacent House and Senate office buildings have been locked down. Employees in the House received this “shelter in place” e-mail urging them to stay inside their offices or to seek shelter at the nearest available location:

SHELTER IN PLACE. Gunshots have been reported on Capitol Hill requiring all occupants in all House Office Buildings to shelter in place.  Close, lock and stay away from external doors and windows.  Take annunciators, Go Kits and escape hoods; and move to the innermost part of the office away from external doors or windows.  If you are not in your office, take shelter in the nearest office, check in with your OEC and wait for USCP to clear the incident.  No one will be permitted to enter or exit the building until directed by USCP. All staff should monitor the situation. Further information will be provided as it becomes available.

Stay tuned for updates.

[2:53pm] Hill staffers have been sent a second email: “The United States Capitol Police are continuing to investigate the police activity. All occupants are directed to shelter in place until further notice. Additional information will be provided as available.”

[2:55pm] Reports are that the gun shots came from the direction of the Rayburn House Office Building, perhaps near the United States Botanical Gardens, which is adjacent to the United States Capitol building.

House Democrats kill spending bills to keep open national parks, Veterans Affairs

Tuesday, the first day of the government shutdown, started out with Senate rejecting a proposal from the House of Representatives to enter into a conference committee to discuss differences between the two chambers on the Continuing Resolution (CR).

House-appointed conferees held a photo op in which they sat at the table across from empty chairs where their Senate counterparts would be sitting if they had agreed to negotiate. “We sit ready to negotiate with the Senate. #FairnessForAll,” tweeted House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), attaching the photo below.

 Majority Leader Eric Cantor -- (@GOPLeader)

House Republicans decided on another round of action to work through disagreements on ObamaCare by bringing up stop-gap spending measures that would end the disruption of certain parts of the federal government.

The House went into session early yesterday evening, planning to take up three separate spending measures to fund the National Park Service, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the District of Columbia, which is under the purview of Congress.

House Democrats chided Republicans for not passing a so-called “clean” CR before the government shutdown and overwhelmingly opposed the measures, leading to their defeat.

House, Senate unable to agree on stop-gap spending measure, government shutdown begins

government shutdown

The federal government has shutdown for the first time in almost two decades as the House of Representatives and the Senate were unable to reach an agreement on a stop-gap spending measure to fund the government until mid-December.

It wasn’t for lack of trying. The Senate came into session around 2pm on Monday and rejected the Continuing Resolution (CR) passed by the House on Saturday night/Sunday morning. Senate Democrats opposed the measure because it would have delayed ObamaCare for a year.

Various Democratic senators explained from the floor that they had no intention of making changes to ObamaCare, insisting that their compromise was the spending levels by which the government would run. House Democrats said the same in their speeches in from the floor of the lower chamber.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) floated a one-week spending measure to give the chambers more time to workout their differences. But that idea was rejected by his counterpart, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

Senate passes stop-gap spending measure, funds ObamaCare

 David Freddoso via Twitter (@Freddoso)

The United States Senate approved a cloture motion cloture to end debate on the Continuing Resolution, allowing Majority Leader Harry Reid to offer an amendment to strike the language that would defund ObamaCare from the measure.

In a 79 to 19 vote, the Senate ended debate on the Continuing Resolution (CR), with 25 Republicans joining all 54 Democrats (including two Independents who caucus with the majority) in advancing the measure. Just 19 Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), voted against the cloture motion.

A conservative news outlet reported on Thursday that as many as 30 Senate Republicans would vote with Cruz, who spoke for over 21 hours early this week against ObamaCare. Some observed that Senate Republicans were waiting for Reid to get 60 votes before they voted with Cruz.

Shortly after ending debate, a motion to wave points of order concerning the budget passed by a vote of 68 to 30. This was necessary because the CR violated the spending limits set in the Budget Control Act of 2011, appropriating roughly $20 billion more than the law allows.

Kerry will sign U.N. Arms Trade Treaty

Despite bipartisan opposition in the United States Senate, Secretary of State John Kerry has signed the United Nations’ controversial Arms Trade Treaty, which gun rights supporters fear is a backdoor way to advance strict gun control measures:

Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday signed a controversial U.N. treaty on arms regulation, riling U.S. lawmakers who vow the Senate will not ratify the agreement.

As he signed the document, Kerry called the treaty a “significant step” in addressing illegal gun sales, while claiming it would also protect gun rights.

“This is about keeping weapons out of the hands of terrorists and rogue actors. This is about reducing the risk of international transfers of conventional arms that will be used to carry out the world’s worst crimes. This is about keeping Americans safe and keeping America strong,” he said. “This treaty will not diminish anyone’s freedom. In fact, the treaty recognizes the freedom of both individuals and states to obtain, possess, and use arms for legitimate purposes.”

Many gun rights supporters believe that the treaty will serve as a backdoor for more strenuous gun control measures than what is currently being pushed by the White House. In particular, there is a requirement for countries to track gun ownership of small arms to the “end user” (gun registration).

Top 10 Longest Senate Filibusters

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) spoke for 21 hours and 19 minutes between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning because Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) wouldn’t raise the vote threshold to amend the Continuing Resolution (CR) from a simply majority (51 votes) to 60 votes, giving Senate Democrats the ability to strike language defunding ObamaCare without Republican support.

The filibuster, which has existed for more than 200 years, has long-been used as a tool to slowdown or prevent passage of legislation with which members disagree.

Below is a brief look at the top 10 filibusters in Senate history. While Cruz’s control of the floor wasn’t technically a filibuster in the true sense, as he couldn’t stop the already scheduled cloture vote on the motion to proceed, it would rank fifth on the list.

10. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) — 8 hours, 39 minutes (2003)

Ted Cruz: Conservatives embarrassed to vote in 2006, 2008

Ted Cruz

The general consensus from conservatives is that Republicans lost their way during the Bush years as spending and the size of government grew larger and larger. “We deserved to lose” was a frequently heard refrain from fiscally conservative Republicans who hope some time in the political wilderness would bring them back to their limited government roots.

It’s unsurprising that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) reflects upon those years in much the same way, but he takes these comments a step further in a profile in GQ, where the freshman Texas senator explains that conservatives felt “embarrassed” to vote in 2006 and 2008, when Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was the Republican Party’s nominee:

For a party in the midst of some serious soul-searching, Cruz offers a simple, reassuring solution: Forget the blather about demographic tidal waves and pleas for modernization; all Republicans need to do is return to their small-government, anti-tax fundamentals. “I don’t know a conservative who didn’t feel embarrassed voting in 2006 or 2008,” Cruz told me—a remark that’s sure to endear him even more to McCain. “I think the Republican Party lost its way. We didn’t stand for the principles we’re supposed to believe in.”

Cruz and McCain haven’t seen eye to eye since the former joined the Senate at the beginning of the year. McCain called the trio of senators — Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Cruz — who protested via filibuster the Obama Administration’s drones policy “wacko birds.”

House Republicans may alter CR after Senate sends it back

Eric Cantor and John Boehner

It doesn’t sound like the legislative wrangling over the Continuing Resolution (CR) will be over once the Senate acts. The Hill notes that some House Republicans have indicated that they may amend the measure, sending it back to the Senate, further increasing the prospects over a government shutdown:

Senate Democrats have vowed to remove a provision in the House-passed continuing resolution (CR) that withholds money from President Obama’s healthcare law. If they send back a “clean” version, House leaders would have to decide whether to accept it, or amend it and send it back across the Capitol.

“I don’t think we’re going to accept a clean CR,” Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.) said.
“I don’t think that’s the end of the negotiations,” Boustany said. “We may have a shut down temporarily.”

Two members of the leadership team, Reps. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Steve Southerland (R-Fla.), said it was more likely the House would try to amend the spending bill rather than accept the Senate’s version.

“I think it’s more likely that we would edit that rebound and send something back over that was more in line with our values, and I don’t think a clean CR necessarily is that,” Southerland said.

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