Posts tagged with "Majority Leader Chuck Schumer"

Voting legislation blocked—again—in Senate as Republicans unite for filibuster

October 22, 2021

Senate Republicans unanimously filibustered a major bill known as the Freedom to Vote Act (S. 2747) on Wednesday, October 2—legislation that would allow automatic and same-day voter registration, and also would make Election Day a holiday, NBC News reports.

The 49-51 vote on the procedural motion was short of the 60 needed to advance the legislation to the next stagemarking the second time this year that Republicans have prevented a Democratic-backed voting bill from moving forward.

The measure had full Democratic support Wednesday after the party scaled back an earlier, more expansive bill to win the backing of centrist Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia).

All 50 Democratic-voting senators backed the bill, but Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) changed his vote to “no” to allow him to request another vote in the future, a common procedural maneuver.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) had vowed on Tuesday that Republicans would oppose the measure, saying, “It is my hope and anticipation that none of us will vote for this latest iteration of Democratic efforts to take over how every American votes all over the country.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the Republican who has been most willing to engage with Democrats over voting rights, explained her vote to block the bill earlier, saying she was more interested in the House-passed John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R.4).

According to NBC, The Freedom to Vote Act would allow automatic and same-day voter registration and no-excuse mail voting. It would give states flexibility in implementing some provisions, like early voting, and make Election Day a holiday. It also would seek to protect federal election records and insulate nonpartisan state and local election officials from undue interference.

Schumer had said the bill was a “balanced” and “common sense” proposal to protect the right to vote from restrictive state laws, including those inspired by former President Donald Trump’s false claims about a stolen election.

“Across the country, the big lie—the big li —has spread like a cancer,” Schumer said Wednesday before the vote. “The Freedom to Vote Act would provide long overdue remedies for all these concerns.”

President Joe Biden said in a statement after the vote that the Senate “needs to act to protect the sacred constitutional right to vote, which is under unrelenting assault by proponents of the Big Lie, and Republican Governors, Secretaries of State, Attorneys-General, and state legislatures across the nation.”

“It is urgent,” he added. “Democracy — the very soul of America — is at stake.”

Biden’s statement did not mention making any changes to the long-standing filibuster rule that requires 60 votes for most legislation to proceed in the Senate. Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) have indicated that they are unwilling to alter the rule.

Schumer had framed Wednesday’s vote as merely a step to begin debate, and he had promised that Republicans would “be able to offer amendments” to change the bill as they see fit.

A Senate vote in June to advance the For the People Act, a broader voting rights bill, was split 50-50 along party lines—falling short of the 60 votes it needed to advance.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Republicans block government funding, refusing to lift debt limit

September 29, 2021

Senate Republicans have blocked a spending bill needed to avert a government shutdown this week and a federal debt default next month—moving the nation closer to the brink of fiscal crisis as they refused to allow Democrats to lift the limit on federal borrowing, The New York Times reports.

With a Thursday, September 30, deadline looming to fund the government—and the country moving closer to a catastrophic debt-limit breach— the stalemate in the Senate represents another bid by Republicans to undercut President Biden and top Democrats at a critical moment.

Republicans who had voted to raise the debt cap by trillions when their party controlled Washington argued on Monday, September 27, that Democrats must shoulder the entire political burden for doing so now, given that they control the White House and both houses of Congress.

The GOP was calculated to portray Democrats as ineffectual and overreaching at a time when they are already toiling to iron out deep party divisions over a $3.5 trillion social safety net and climate change bill, and to pave the way for a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure measure whose fate is linked to it.

The package that was blocked on Monday, which also included emergency aid to support the resettlement of Afghan refugees and disaster recovery, would keep all government agencies funded through December 3 and increase the debt ceiling through the end of 2022. But the bill fell far short of the 60 votes needed to move forward in the Senate on Monday.

The vote was 48 to 50 to advance the measure. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, was among those voting “no,” a procedural maneuver to allow the bill to be reconsidered at some point. But there were no immediate details about next steps.

The resulting cloud of fiscal uncertainty marked yet another challenge for President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders, who are facing a daunting set of tasks as they press to keep the government funded, scrounge together the votes for the infrastructure bill—also slated for a vote on Thursday—and resolve their disputes over the broader budget plan.

Without passage of the legislation, Biden’s agenda and his party’s fortunes would be in peril, a prospect that Republicans appeared to relish, The Times said.

“We will not provide Republican votes for raising the debt limit,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, repeating a warning he has issued for months. He added, “Bipartisanship is not a light switch—a light switch that Democrats get to flip on when they need to borrow money and switch off when they want to spend money.”

“This isn’t your typical Washington fracas,” Schumer said, adding, “it’s one of the most reckless, one of the most irresponsible votes I have seen taken place in the Senate.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Senate introduces text of bipartisan infrastructure package

August 4, 2021

The U.S. Senate introduced the long-awaited text of its bipartisan infrastructure bill on Sunday, August 1—aiming to pass the massive measure this week, NBC News reports.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said he would push forward with amendments to the legislation, which senators were finalizing through the weekend.

“Given how bipartisan the bill is, and how much work has already been put in to get the details right, I believe the Senate can quickly process relevant amendments and pass this bill in a matter of days,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

The measure—H.R. 3684, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—includes roughly $555 billion in new spending to build roads, public transit and other priorities of President Joe Biden, which would inject a windfall of money into a series of transportation projects that have long enjoyed support from both parties.

The bill, which is 2,702 pages, includes $110 billion for roads, $39 billion for public transit and $66 billion for rail. It has measures aimed at reforming Amtrak, “revolutionizing” a transportation grant program and enhancing the electrical grid. Other provisions target drinking water infrastructure, broadband affordability and reducing ferry emissions.

Speaking on the Senate floor, members of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who worked on the bill said that they had overcome their differences to craft legislation that would modernize the country’s outdated infrastructure.

“So many people have given up on the Senate,” said Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) “They have given up on Congress. They have given up on our ability to be able to do the big things. This is big. This is a big deal.”

Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) added that the group had followed a commitment to focus on “core” infrastructure—instead of a far more expansive set of proposals initially advanced by the White House—and to not raise taxes.

“We kept to those two principles,” he said.

The Senate voted 67-32 on Wednesday to defeat a filibuster and begin debate on the agreement, a sign that it has broad support in the chamber. Among the 17 Republican supporters in that vote was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).

According to NBC News, Schumer said that once the bill was passed, he would move to a budget blueprint for an even more massive $3.5 trillion measure to fund Democratic priorities on climate, health care and the economy as senators work to finish up legislative work before their summer break begins next week.

The Senate’s infrastructure legislation faces trouble in the House amid pushback from Transportation Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), and progressives who say it doesn’t do enough to invest in public transportation, water and tackle climate change.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) has insisted that the larger measure must be passed before the House, which already has left for its recess, will even consider the bipartisan infrastructure deal. The larger bill will give Democrats skeptical of the Senate agreement a chance to address their priorities.

Biden voiced his support for the infrastructure measure Sunday, tweeting that the deal “is the most important investment in public transit in American history and the most important investment in rail since the creation of Amtrak 50 years ago.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

‘Long overdue’: House passes Barbara Lee’s 2002 AUMF repeal

June 21, 2021

The House voted on Thursday, June 17, to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF)—a measure that that empowered then-President George W. Bush to invade Iraq—and that was fiercely resisted by just one lawmaker, Representative Barbara Lee (D-California), who did not believe the commander-on-chief should receive blanket approval to wage war.

Progressive Democrats issued fresh calls to end “forever wars” after the legislation, H.R. 256sponsored by Lee— easily passed in a 268-161 vote. Representative Elaine Luria of Virginia was the sole Democrat to vote against the repeal, Common Dreams reported.

In a statement welcoming the vote, Lee noted that—while it originally targeted the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq—the AUMF has repeatedly been used to justify other attacks, including the 2020 assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.

“Two decades after casting the single ‘no’ vote against the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, we have seen every administration since utilize the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs to conduct war far beyond the scope Congress ever intended,” she said.

“Let’s be clear,” Lee continued. “U.S. military operations carried out under the 2002 AUMF officially concluded in 2011 and this authorization no longer serves any operational purpose. As long as it remains on the books, the law is susceptible to further abuse by any president.”

“The fight to end forever wars has been a comprehensive movement from advocates and activists,” she said, “and without their work, we wouldn’t be in this position today.”

According to the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the vote was “long overdue.”

“That AUMF was based on a lie,” the CPC tweeted, “one that resulted in hundreds of thousands of lives lost, including civilians, U.S. service members, journalists, and humanitarian workers.”

The House vote also drew praise from the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), which called it reflective of “momentum toward ending the era of ever-expanding war.”

“Today’s vote shows the power of the people who demand an end to the endless wars,” said Diana Ohlbaum, FCNL’s senior strategist and legislative director for foreign policy. “Democratic and Republican legislators alike recognize that their constituents want them to take responsibility for deciding if and when our country goes to war.”

Now, supporters of the repeal resolution are looking to the Senate, which Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said would vote on such a measure. Legislation from Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) and Todd Young (R-Indiana) to repeal the 1991 and 2002 AUMF is set for a markup next week, said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey).

According to Common Dreams, addressing that effort, Lee said she was “thrilled to see the Senate build on our momentum in the House to end forever wars” and would “continue working with Sens. Kaine and Young to get this legislation across the finish line to President Biden’s desk for a signature.”

“It’s far past time to put matters of war and peace back in the hands of Congress, as constitutionally intended,” she said. “We are finally on the cusp of achieving that goal.”

Research contact: @commondreams

Justice Department official to step down amid uproar over leaks inquiry

June 15, 2021

John Demers, the Trump-appointed head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, is expected to step down at the end of next week, according to a person familiar with the matter—a departure that was arranged months ago, but that now comes amid widespread backlash over DOJ investigations into leaks of classified information that began under the administration of the former president, The New York Times reports.

Demers is the longest-serving Senate-confirmed official from the Trump Administration to remain at the Justice Department during the Biden presidency.

John Carlin, the second in command in the deputy attorney general’s office—who, himself, left the agency in April—had before his own departure asked Demers to remain at the department, according to the person. Lisa O. Monaco had just been confirmed to serve as the deputy attorney general, and the three officials had a long history of working together on sensitive national security cases.

In response, Demers asked to leave by summer, and the two men eventually agreed that he would stay on through June 25, the Times’ source said.

But , the Times notes, Demers’s departure also comes as Democrats and First Amendment advocates have attacked the Justice Department following revelations that prosecutors supervised by Demers seized the records of reporters from The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN and of classified information.

The department’s inspector general announced an investigation on Friday into the matter.

While it is common for the Justice Department to try to find out who shared classified information with the media, it is highly unusual to secretly gather records from the press and lawmakers. The prosecutors also prevented the lawyers and executives of the Times and CNN from disclosing that records had been taken, even to their newsroom leaders, another highly aggressive step.

Such moves require signoff by the attorney general. But. Demers and his top counterintelligence deputies in the division would typically be briefed and updated on those efforts.

Much of the spotlight on national security cases during Demers’ three-year run focused instead on the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller, III, who ran the Russia investigation, the Justice Department’s highest profile and politically fraught national security matter.

But Demers’s ability to skirt controversy ended in recent weeks as the revelations about reporters’ record seizures and the gag orders came to light.

Justice Department officials say that all appropriate approvals were given for those orders, meaning that the attorney general at the time, not Demers, signed off.

Former Attorney General William P. Barr approved the decision to seize records from CNN and The Washington Post in 2020, people with knowledge of the leak investigations have said. But it is unclear who approved the request for email records from Google that belonged to Times reporters. The request was filed with a court days after Barr left,although he could have signed off on it before leaving.

A Justice Department spokeperson declined last week to identify whether Barr or his successor, former acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen, approved that move.

Leak investigators in 2018 also obtained data from Microsoft and Apple that belonged to Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, including Representatives Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, both of California. Mr. Schiff is now the panel’s chairman.

In those instances, the Justice Department also told the technology companies not to inform customers about the subpoenas until recently.

The data was collected and the gag orders were imposed on the tech companies weeks before Demers was confirmed to lead the National Security Division.

Still, some Democrats demanded answers about what he knew about the leak cases. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, called on Demers on Sunday, June 13,  to testify before Congress.

Research contact: @nytimes