December 12, 2013

Progress in House, but contentiousness continues in Senate

Republicans try to block the president’s nominees, but the votes come through.

By Laurie Kellman
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – A budget agreement between key Republicans and Democrats. Even President Barack Obama was on board. All without anyone threatening to repeal this or shut down that.

click image to enlarge

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., left, and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., announce a tentative agreement between Republican and Democratic negotiators on a government spending plan, at the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday.

The Associated Press

Related headlines

Gridlock, however briefly, took an early holiday in the bitterly polarized, Republican-run House.

But across the Capitol, the high-minded Senate remained in the grip of some of the worst partisan warfare in its history after majority Democrats curbed the Republicans’ power. A round-the-clock talkathon is the result, putting no one in the mood for cooperation. Majority Leader Harry Reid threatened to shorten the Senate’s cherished Christmas vacation if need be.

A Republican called his bluff. “What’s new about that? What’s even threatening about that?” challenged Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb.

Traditionally effective prods to action are often less so in the divided, crisis-managed Congress. Lawmakers have lurched from sequester to shutdown over spending, national health care and more in the three years since Republicans won control of the House with a sizable group of newcomers reluctant to compromise. Their approach proved costly – to the nation’s credit rating, to Congress’ standing among voters and to the GOP, which took the brunt of public blame for the partial government shutdown in October.

The scene has been no better in the Senate. What remained of that chamber’s deliberative nature blew apart last month when majority Democrats, citing GOP obstructionism, curtailed the Republicans’ power to block some presidential nominees. Republicans have tried this week to do what they can to protest, but Reid’s slate of 11 nominations didn’t appear in peril. Early Thursday morning, the Senate approved the first of those, voting 51-44 to confirm Cornelia “Nina” Pillard to the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Obama praised the confirmation of Pillard, the second judge seated on the D.C. Circuit this week, noting that Pillard would give the court five active female judges for the first time.

“Throughout her career, Ms. Pillard has displayed an unwavering commitment to justice and integrity,” Obama said.

Democrats continued their promised march of confirmation votes on Thursday morning, approving Chai Rachel Feldblum to be a member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by a vote of 54-41. Two Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted for Feldblum.

The string of roll calls continued Thursday with a 70-29 vote confirming Elizabeth A. Wolford to be a U.S. district judge for the Western District of New York, a 79-19 vote confirming Landya B. McCafferty for a district judgeship in the U.S. District of New Hampshire, and a 57-41 vote to confirm Patricia M. Wald to be a member of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. Procedural votes and confirmation votes on district judges and other government officials were planned throughout the day.

Amid the marathon of confirmation votes, Republicans used another tool to poke Democrats and slow nominations by invoking a rule that can stop Senate committees from meeting if they start more than two hours after the chamber convenes for the day. Republicans were able to scuttle three scheduled meetings on nominations – two of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and one of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Still, with the 2014 midterm election year fast approaching, there was something unexpected this week: Instead of the standoffs, demands and disrespect that have become routine, key Republicans and Democrats announced a budget deal. Authored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and quickly endorsed by Obama, the agreement would avert another government shutdown in January and reverse $63 billion in across-the-board spending cuts. It would offset the higher spending with $85 billion over a decade from higher fees and modest curbs on government benefit programs.

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)