Senate

In defense of a “do-nothing” Senate…

Yesterday, the Washington Examiner reported that the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats and led by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), is the “laziest” in 20 years based on the number of laws they’ve passed and time they’ve spent in session:

For those who need proof that the Senate was a do-nothing chamber in 2011 beyond the constant partisan bickering and failure to pass a federal budget, there is now hard evidence that it was among the laziest in 20 years.

In her latest report, Secretary of the Senate Nancy Erickson revealed a slew of data that put the first session of the 112th Senate at the bottom of Senates since 1992 in legislative productivity, an especially damning finding considering that it wasn’t an election year when congressional action is usually lower.

For example, while the Democratically-controlled Senate was in session for 170 days, it spent an average of just 6.5 hours in session on those days, the second lowest since 1992. Only 2008 logged a lower average of 5.4 hours a day, and that’s when action was put off because several senators were running for president, among them Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain.

On the passage of public laws, arguably its most important job, the Senate notched just 90, the second lowest in 20 years, and it passed a total of 402 measures, also the second lowest. And as the president has been complaining about, the chamber confirmed a 20-year low of 19,815 judicial and other nominations.

Many conservatives have taken this as another opportunity to knock Reid and his Democratic counterparts. And while there is no doubt in my mind that Senate Democrats would pass more bills if they didn’t have to work with House Republicans, you’re not going to find me complaining about this.

Buffett Rule fails in the Senate

Despite the push from President Barack Obama, his campaign team, and Democrats, the 30% tax on millionaires — dubbed the “Buffett Rule” — unsurprisingly went down yesterday evening in the Senate:

The Senate rejected consideration Monday of the “Buffett rule ,” a key election-year Democratic initiative that would impose a minimum tax rate on those making more than $1 million per year, as a philosophical debate over taxes that will define this year’s elections occurred on Capitol Hill.

Democrats were unable to get the 60 votes necessary to break a filibuster and proceed to a full consideration of the measure, with the Senate voting 51 to 45 to move ahead. The vote was largely along party lines, although Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) voted with Democrats to allow the measure to proceed and Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.) voted to block it.

As noted above, it was mostly a party line vote, but if you want to see how your Senators voted you can view the roll call here.

Unfortunately, the vote doesn’t mean the end of this charade over tax hikes. We’ve noted before that the Buffett Rule wouldn’t have brought in much in terms of revenue, approximately $47 billion over 10 years — or just under $5 billion annually; less than half a day of spending. And that small amount of revenue would literally be nothing compared to the trillion dollar budget deficits we’ve seen coming out of Washington in recent years.

Senate to take up Buffett Rule today

At some point today, the Senate will take up the so-called “Buffett Rule,” the proposed tax on higher-income earners that President Barack Obama and Democrats say is a matter of “fairness” in the tax code. No one expects that the proposal will pass, and even if it did, the House wouldn’t take it up.

President Obama has been discussing the Buffett Rule on the campaign trail, backing off earlier assertions that it would help raise revenue in a significant way. Recently, he claimed that Ronald Reagan, an iconic figure in the conservative movement, would have supported the proposal:

President Barack Obama said the White House proposed “Buffet Rule” could be named the “Reagan Rule,” referring to former Republican President Ronald Reagan as a “wild-eyed, Socialist, tax hiking class warrior.”

“This president gave another speech where he said it was ‘crazy’ — that’s a quote — that certain tax loopholes make it possible for multimillionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary,” Obama said at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building Wednesday. “That wild-eyed, socialist, tax-hiking class warrior was Ronald Reagan.”

Obama floated the idea of renaming the “Buffet Rule,” which would require individuals making over $1 million annually to pay at least 30 percent in federal income taxes.

“If it’ll help convince folks in Congress to make the right choice, we could call it the ‘Reagan Rule’ instead of the ‘Buffett Rule,’” Obama said.

Senate conservatives roll out Medicare reform

It looks like we’re headed toward another budget battle, and it may include some more intra-party squabbling as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) may have some push back from Senate conservatives.

Rep. Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee, previewed his soon to be released budget in a trailer(!) last week. In the video, which you can watch below, Ryan says:

Let me ask you a question: what if your President, your Senator and your Congressman knew it was coming? What if they knew when it was going to happen, why it was going to happen and more importantly, what if they knew what they needed to do to stop it from happening and they had the time to stop it? But they chose to do nothing about it, because it wasn’t good politics?

What would you think of that person? It would be immoral.

This coming debt crisis is the most predictable crisis we’ve ever had in this country. And look what’s happening.

This is why we’re acting. This is why we’re leading. This is why we’re proposing - and passing out of the House - a budget to fix this problem: so we can save our country for ourselves and our children’s future.

Part of the proposal will include reforming the “fee-for-service” model in Medicare, but other aspects of the budget haven’t been released. Here is the video, what the Weekly Standard calls the “best presidential campaign ad of 2012,” while lamenting the candidacy “could have been”:

Chances for GOP control in the Senate just got tougher

Republicans had hoped that they would not only maintain or build on their majority in the House in 2012, but also take control of the Senate since a number of Democrats are up for re-election this year. While that prospect is still in play since the GOP only needs four seats for a majority in the Senate, it just got a bit tougher.

As you know, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) decided against a bid for re-election. The writing was on the wall for him. Polls showed him down to prospective Republican challengers, thanks to his votes for the stimulus and ObamaCare; not to mention that he is a Democrat in a “red state.” But former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE) has talked into running by Senate Democrats after promises were made to him.

Cook Political still has the at “Likely Republican” and no polling has come out since Kerrey announced his candidacy, but he does present a more formible challenge for Republicans.

Republicans were dealt a more serious blow in Maine this week after Sen. Olympia Snowe, who generally viewed as a moderate, announced that she wouldn’t run for re-election. There has been some speculation that Ron Paul supporters booing her when she showed up at the GOP caucus last month may have had something to do with her decision. This is now listed as a “Toss Up” by most observers.

Club for Growth releases congressional scorecard

The Club for Growth, a DC-based free market advocacy group, released its annual scorecard yesterday showing the most taxpayer friendly members of Congress in 2011. The Club scored 59 votes between the two chambers, including the repeal of ObamaCare, cutting market distorting energy subsidies, and a wide range of spending cuts.

While several members in each chamber scored 90% or higher, I’ve listed the top 10 from the Senate and the top 12 from the House. You’ll most likely recognize many of the names, and you’ll also probably wonder where some members fell in the rankings; so I’ve listed some of interest further down the post.

Club for Growth Senate Scorecard

  • Tom Coburn (R-OK): 100%
  • Jim DeMint  (R-SC): 100%
  • Ron Johnson (R-WI): 100%
  • Mike Lee (R-UT): 100%
  • Rand Paul (R-KY): 100%
  • James Inhofe (R-OK): 99%
  • Orrin Hatch (R-UT): 99%
  • Kelly Ayotte (R-NH): 98%
  • Pat Toomey (R-PA): 97%
  • Marco Rubio (R-FL): 97%

Club for Growth House Scorecard

  • Justin Amash (R-MI): 100%
  • Jason Chaffetz (R-UT): 100%
  • Jeff Flake (R-AZ): 100%
  • Trent Franks (R-AZ): 100%
  • Tom Graves (R-GA): 100%
  • Tim Huelskamp (R-KS): 100%
  • Jim Jordan (R-OH): 100%
  • Raul Labrador (R-ID): 100%
  • Doug Lamborn (R-CO): 100%
  • Mick Mulvaney (R-SC): 99%
  • Scott Garrett (R-NJ): 99%
  • Joe Walsh (R-IL): 99%

Members of Interest in the Senate and House

1,000 days since the Senate passed a budget

Perhaps one of the most basic functions of any legislative body is to pass a budget, but the United States Senate has apparently forgotten this core part of governance. The Heritage Foundation put out a new video yesterday noting that it has now been 1,000 days since the Senate had passed a budget — dating back before long before Republicans took control of the House:

Obama’s power grab over recess appointments

Over the last year, the National Labor Relations Board has rightly riled Republicans and business owners alike due to its suit against Boeing. The suit, which sought to prevent the airline manufacturer from opening a new plant in South Carolina, had support from union thugs bosses and Democrats — including ex-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but was recently dropped after an agreement was reached; however, the precedent was set.

The damage continued last month as the NLRB forced through new rules that would, as Labor Union Report explains, “[strip] of due process from the minority of employers who challenge the validity of a union’s petitioned-for voting unit.”

Given these controverisal moves, you’d think President Barack Obama would tread carefully in an election year. But in an unprecendented move yesterday, he appointed three new members to the NRLB, bypassing the Senate confirmation process:

Jon Stewart on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)

On Wednesday, Jon Stewart covered the Senate’s passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which contains language that would allow the federal government to detain American citizens indefinitely without formal charges or trial.

Listen carefully and call your members of Congress:

Congress must shoot down the defense authorization bill

A few days ago, I wrote that the compromise is the Senate over the detainee language in the defense authorization bill was a good thing. Well, after reading more about it, it’s clear that Americans are still in danger of being detained indefinitely by their own government without formal charge, as Sheldon Richman of the Foundation for Economic Education explains at Reason:

Permit me to state the obvious: The government shouldn’t be allowed to imprison people indefinitely without charge or trial. It shouldn’t be necessary to say this nearly 800 years after Magna Carta was signed and over 200 years after the Fifth Amendment was ratified.

Yet this uncomplicated principle, which is within the understanding of a child, is apparently lost on a majority in the U.S. Senate. Last week the Senate voted 61-37 in effect to authorize the executive branch to use the military to capture and hold American citizens indefinitely without trial—perhaps at Guantanamo—if they are merely suspected of involvement with a terrorist or related organization—and even if their suspected activity took place on U.S. soil.

The provision, which is included in the National Defense Authorization Act, was drafted without a public hearing by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.). Sen. Mark Udall (D- Colo.) sponsored an amendment to remove the power, but the amendment was defeated. A related provision requires that terrorism suspects who are not citizens be held by the military rather than being tried in a civilian criminal court. (The executive branch can waive this requirement after certifying to Congress that the waiver is a matter of national security.)


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