Senate

It’s time for some accountability: House of Representatives passes Audit the Fed bill

The House of Representatives passed, by an overwhelming margin, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act (H.R. 24), a measure that would require a meaningful audit of the United States’ central bank.

There was some question whether House Republican leaders would bring the measure to the floor for a vote, but, thanks to grassroots efforts to encourage members to cosponsor the bill, its popularity couldn’t be ignored. The Federal Reserve Transparency Act, which had gained more than 218 cosponsors, passed the lower chamber in a 333 to 92 vote.

“For the past 100 years, the Federal Reserve, a quasi-government agency, has acted under a veil of secrecy – controlling our monetary policy and thus, our economy. While in recent years, the Fed has been granted a greater role in overseeing the regulation of our financial system, current law specifically prohibits audits of the Federal Reserve’s deliberations, decisions, or actions on monetary policy,” said Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), who introduced the measure in January 2013. “This lack of accountability and transparency has led to grievous consequences — and it must end.”

Barack Obama punts on immigration until after the election to help vulnerable Senate Democrats

Make no mistake about it. President Barack Obama’s decision to delay an executive order on immigration has nothing to do with Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) recent statement that immigration reform could happen next year, with a new Congress and, possibly, a Republican Senate. It has everything to do with the mid-term election and concerns of vulnerable Senate Democrats, who have urged the White House to delay action:

Abandoning his pledge to act by the end of summer, President Barack Obama has decided to delay any executive action on immigration until after the November congressional elections, White House officials said.

The move is certain to infuriate immigration advocates while offering relief to some vulnerable Democrats in tough Senate re-election contests.

Two White House officials said Obama concluded that circumventing Congress through executive actions on immigration during the campaign would politicize the issue and hurt future efforts to pass a broad overhaul.
[…]
The officials said Obama had no specific timeline to act, but that he still would take his executive steps before the end of the year.

The last two paragraphs in the excerpt above are contradictory. President Obama realizes that an executive order would make it difficult to pass immigration reform in his remaining two years. But he still plans to do something before the end of the year, anyway. That doesn’t make any sense.

Leftist Hollywood superstars are giving big money to help Democrats keep the Senate

It’s not exactly breaking news that Tinseltown is full of people who are friendly to Democrats. Hollywood elites were big boosters of Barack Obama in both of his presidential campaigns. In 2012 alone, celebrities shelled out nearly $700,000 (and probably more) to Obama.

Hollywood is once again playing a role in an election, this time around writing checks for Democrats as they struggle to keep control of the Senate this fall. One of the main recipients of celebrities’ largess is Alison Lundergan Grimes (D-KY), who is taking on Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY):

[Grimes’] donor list reads like a who’s who of Tinseltown: producer J.J. Abrams, Ben Affleck, comedian Jack Black, “Avatar” director James Cameron, Nicolas Cage, Danny DeVito, Cameron Diaz, [Leonardo] DiCaprio, Jennifer Garner, director Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Jerry Seinfeld, Mike Myers and “Mad Men’s” Jon Hamm, all giving $5,200 each, the maximum amount an individual can give to a single candidate in a two-year election cycle.

Other Grimes donors include DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, Woody Allen, Ted Danson, America Ferrera, Leonard Nimoy, [Barbra] Streisand, “West Wing” writer Aaron Sorkin, Ben Stiller and Chris Rock.

While several other Democrats have received campaign contributions from Hollywood, Grimes’ campaign has brought in the most, with contributions totalling $100,000, according to The Hill.

Oh, look, Mary Landrieu used a taxpayer-funded jet to attend a campaign fundraiser

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has been caught with her hand in the taxpayers’ cookie jar. CNN reports that Landrieu’s Senate office was billed $3,200 for a November charter flight from New Orleans to Lake Charles so she could attend a campaign fundraiser:

Landrieu spent more than $3,200 in taxpayer money to fly 400 miles round trip from New Orleans to Lake Charles, Louisiana, where she attended a $40-per person fundraising lunch with hundreds of women, according to Senate records and Landrieu campaign information. It is illegal to spend government money campaigning.

Landrieu’s campaign spokesman, Fabien Levy, said in a statement that the charter company mistakenly billed Landrieu’s Senate office instead of her re-election campaign. Levy said the campaign noticed the error a few weeks ago and asked the company to refund the Senate office and bill the campaign, which the company did. Levy said Landrieu’s re-election campaign paid for the flight August 4, almost nine months after the November 8 trip.

Using taxpayer funds for campaign purposes is, of course, illegal. Landrieu’s office says that they noticed the error — at the end of July, some nine months after the trip. Conveniently, her office caught the indiscretion just before USA Today published a story on the $1 million worth of charter flights senators took last year. Landrieu was one of the top abusers, taking $47,000 worth of taxpayer-funded charter flights.

Although Landrieu’s office has dealt with the problem, some believe that she should still be held accountable for the “oversight”:

Ted Cruz says the new and improved USA FREEDOM Act would end the NSA’s unconstitutional spying program

The new version of the USA FREEDOM Act rolled out on Tuesday by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has picked up the support of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who announced the addition of his name a cosponsor.

The latest version of the USA FREEDOM Act, a compromise Leahy worked out with the White House, would end the National Service Agency’s bulk metadata collection program as well as add a civil liberties panel to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to provide some much-needed oversight.

Cruz hailed the measure a bipartisan approach to ending NSA spying.

“Republicans and Democrats are showing America that the government can respect the privacy rights of law-abiding citizens, while at the same time, giving law enforcement the tools needed to target terrorists,” said Cruz in a press release on Tuesday. “The USA FREEDOM Act of 2014 ends the government’s bulk record collection program and implements other necessary surveillance reforms.”

“Importantly, it also sends a strong signal that a bipartisan coalition in Congress is working to safeguard our privacy rights,” said Cruz. “I am honored to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle toward delivering this bill to the President’s desk for his signature. We need to protect the constitutional rights of every American.”

Harry Reid is why Congress can’t get anything done: Senate leader says House border bill is a vehicle to pass immigration reform

There are 358 House-passed bills collecting dust in the Senate because Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) won’t bring them up for a vote in the upper chamber. Of course, when the two houses of Congress are controlled by competing parties, there’s naturally going to be disagreement on issues facing the country and subsequent legislative gridlock.

But even when there is agreement on an issue, someone tries to take advantage of the situation, only further complicating the legislative process. That’s what Reid did yesterday when he suggested that the House border bill could be used as a vehicle to pass Senate’s immigration reform package:

Reid said the policy changes would give him an opportunity to attach the comprehensive immigration reform bill that the Senate passed last year with the support of 14 Republicans.

“If they pass that, maybe it’s an opening for us to have a conference on our comprehensive immigration reform. If they’re finally sending us something on immigration, maybe we can do that,” Reid told reporters after a lunch meeting with his caucus.

“We’ve been looking for something to do a conference on. Maybe we can do it with that,” Reid said.

Lawmakers targeting the NSA’s unconstitutional spying have a big card to play if Obama and Congress don’t get behind reform

Privacy advocates are closely watching discussions in the Senate over the USA FREEDOM Act, a measure originally intended to end the NSA’s unconstitutional bulk data collection program and protect Americans’ civil liberties. They’re hoping that a strengthened version of the bill will pass the Senate Judiciary Committee, and they may get their wish:

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the lead Senate sponsor of the original USA Freedom Act, has repeatedly expressed disappointment in the House-passed version of the bill.

He has pledged to “fight for a stronger USA FREEDOM Act” that bans bulk data collection.

Other pro-reform committee members have joined Leahy’s calls.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said he is “very hopeful” that Leahy will move ahead with his version of the USA Freedom Act.
[…]
Harley Geiger, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said these calls for stronger reforms from Senate Judiciary Committee members, including the Chairman, are “very encouraging.”

Geiger said he is “optimistic that they will make improvements to [the House-passed USA Freedom Act], but the precise nature of improvements is still being discussed.”

Obama’s disastrous EPA rules could mean that he’s already conceded that Democrats will lose the Senate

Politico published a long piece on Sunday that shed some light on President Barack Obama’s state of mind now that he’s realized that his time in the White House is running out. The story is full of interesting insights from people close to or with knowledge of how the White House functions and reacts to the headaches that have arisen over the last year.

One of the more telling parts of the story was a comment President Obama made in November during a meeting with vulnerable Senate Democrats amid the disastrous rollout of the federal Obamacare exchange, Healthcare.gov (emphasis added):

According to several participants, [Alaska Sen. Mark] Begich and his colleagues demanded to know how committed Obama was to fighting for the Senate majority. Obama was known as a fierce competitor when his name was on the ballot, not so much when it was not.

“I don’t really care to be president without the Senate,’’ Obama said, according to attendees, signaling that he knew the health care debacle created resentment among Democrats and that he wanted to make amends.

Mary Landrieu backs Harry Reid, officially digs her own grave in Red State Louisiana

Mary Landrieu and Harry Reid

Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu just left a major opening for conservatives in her state, when it comes to her re-election bid this fall. As observed before, if the GOP takes the Senate decisively in November, conservatives might not come out in force in Louisiana to defeat her. This relies on her being forced to face a run-off in December.

Since she’s been selling herself as a moderate, this might have been a possibility for her to remain in the Senate, in spite of any Republican gains in that chamber. However, she recently decided to say something on camera that really should cause conservatives in Louisiana to squash her hopes of an anemic turnout among their ranks.

Yes, that was Landrieu saying that she would back Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader because she can work with him. If that isn’t something to make Louisiana conservatives think twice about skipping the ballot box in the elections, then the party leadership there has much bigger problems to address.

Strategically, it may not be necessary to replace Landrieu, if the GOP lands a decisive majority in the Senate due to other races. However, it would be foolhardy to leave this race alone in that case. Any supposedly moderate Democrat that is publicly stating that she’s willing to back Reid isn’t as moderate as she’s been leading her constituents to believe. If the Louisiana GOP does not use this and any other comments Landrieu makes like this in the months leading up to the election, it is their own fault if they do not manage to replace her.

Obama is so out of touch with reality he’s blaming the Framers of the Constitution for the rejection of his unpopular agenda

President Barack Obama is now blaming the framers of the Constitution for his political problems. At a recent fundraiser, he lamented the Constitution’s design and structure of the Senate, calling it a “disadvantage” for his agenda and the Democratic Party:

At a Democratic fundraiser in Chicago Thursday night, Mr. Obama told a small group of wealthy supporters that there are several hurdles to keeping Democrats in control of the Senate and recapturing the House. One of those problems, he said, is the apportionment of two Senate seats to each state regardless of population.

“Obviously, the nature of the Senate means that California has the same number of Senate seats as Wyoming. That puts us at a disadvantage,” Mr. Obama said.
[…]
The president also blamed “demographics” for the inability of the Democratic Party to gain more power in Congress, saying Democrats “tend to congregate a little more densely” in cities such as New York and Chicago. He said it gives Republicans disproportional clout in Congress.

“So there are some structural reasons why, despite the fact that Republican ideas are largely rejected by the public, it’s still hard for us to break through,” Mr. Obama said.

The structure of the Legislative Branch was forged out of the Connecticut Compromise — “compromise,” there’s a word about which President Obama knows nothing — that was essential to breaking gridlock at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. States got proportional representation based on population in the House and, to settle concerns of smaller states, the Senate was compromised of two members from each state.


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