Posts tagged with "Senator Jeff Merkley"

President Biden comes out in favor of changing Senate filibuster rules

March 18, 2021

President Biden said this week that he supports bringing back a requirement that senators must be present and talking on the floor to block bills, as Democrats explore ways to smooth the path for their policy agenda by revising the legislative filibuster rule, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The comments—made on Tuesday, March 16— marked a shift for Biden, who represented Delaware in the U.S. Senate for 36 years and previously had said he would prefer to preserve the filibuster rather than get rid of it, as some Democrats have advocated.

“I don’t think you have to eliminate the filibuster, you have to do it what it used to be when I first got to the Senate back in the old days,” President Biden said in an ABC News interview. You had to stand up and command the floor, you had to keep talking.”

Asked if that meant he is supporting bringing back the talking filibuster, an idea backed by a growing number of Democratic senators, Biden responded: “I am. That’s what it was supposed to be.”

The president’s remarks came the same day on which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) threatened to grind the Senate to a halt if Democrats make any changes to the filibuster, the Journal reports.

“This chaos would not open up an express lane to liberal change. It would not open up an express lane for the Biden presidency to speed into the history books,” McConnell said in a speech Tuesday. “The Senate would be more like a hundred-car pileup. Nothing moving.”

Democrats are at least two votes shy of the 51 needed to kill off the legislative filibuster—a step that would clear the way for them to pass sweeping legislation on voting rights, immigration, gun regulations and other measures unlikely to attract bipartisan support.

As an alternative, Senate Democrats are exploring a return to traditional talking filibusters, like the one famously depicted by Jimmy Stewart in the 1939 film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” The idea was floated recently by West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a centrist Democrat, who, like President Biden, has said he is adverse to abolishing the filibuster entirely but open to revisions.

Today, senators can filibuster a bill without talking at all. They don’t even have to show up in the chamber. Now momentum is building to tweak the rules, at least, to make filibustering harder.

Senators don’t have to stand for even one minute to shut down the Senate,” said Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, in a speech on the Senate floor Monday. “All they have to do is threaten it, phone it in, catch a plane, go home from Washington, and come back Monday to see how their filibuster’s doing. ‘Mr. Smith phones it in.’ That wouldn’t have been much of a movie, would it?”

Democrats blame a 1975 rule change that allowed absent senators to count against the 60 votes needed to end debate on a bill and proceed to final passage. They say it made filibusters less costly to the minority.

“What’s the pain?” asked Manchin on Fox News last week.

Manchin’s support for reinstating the talking filibuster isn’t new. In 2011, he was one of 46 Democrats who voted in favor of a proposal by Senator Jeff Merkley (D., Oregon) that would have required senators to take the floor and make remarks to block legislation. No Republicans voted for it, and the measure failed.

Had it passed, it would have allowed the Senate to enter a period of extended debate if a simple majority of senators voted to end debate on a bill. Senators who wanted to block legislation would have had to ensure that at least one of them was on the floor presenting arguments or the majority could move on to final passage with 51 votes.

Merkley said he isn’t wedded to his 2011 approach. “There are many nuances of different ways that it could be done,” he said. “And I’m not ready to say any one way.”

Research contact: @WSJ

Trump Administration plots crackdown by Feds in Democrat-managed cities nationwide

July 22, 2020

The crackdown by federal law enforcement in some American cities is about to ramp up and go national, according to interviews by The Daily Beast with “knowledgeable Trump Administration sources.”

The move is President Donald Trump’s latest effort to use Customs and Border Protection officials, as well as the Department of Homeland Security—an agency created after 9/11 to protect the country from terrorism—to intimidate and remove protesters, without the approval of local or state authorities.

What’s more, both The Daily Beast and Fox News noted, Portland and Kansas City were just the beginning.

Among the list of cities— “all run by liberal Democrats”—in which the president said on July 20 he intends to “quell protests” are New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Oakland, and Detroit.

As previewed by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows over the weekend and President Donald Trump on July 20, the Administration intends to send federal law enforcement into Democrat-run cities—whether those cities want federal police help or not. Multiple sources expected Chicago, a flashpoint of white anxiety, to be a focus, as the Chicago Tribune first reported.

Indeed, it is rumored a force of 150 DHS agents will be deployed to Chicago this coming weekend.

In Portland, Customs and Border Protection agents, kitted out in military-style camouflage uniforms and obscured insignia, detained unarmed and largely peaceful protesters in unmarked vans and used pepper spray, tear gas, and batons against them. Oregon’s governor, both of its U.S. senators, and Portland’s mayor have denounced the federal deployment as an unwanted escalation. Its attorney general has sued DHS and the U.S. Marshals Service.

“What is happening in Portland—armed occupation by federal agents—is totally unacceptable,” Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) told The Daily Beast. “Donald Trump’s unconstitutional test run in Portland cannot be the precursor to a nationwide invasion of cities across the country. Republicans and officials at DOJ and DHS need to think long and hard about whether they want to be party to this gross abuse of power.”

Wyden and his fellow Oregonian in the Senate, Democrat Jeff Merkley, on Monday introduced an amendment to the annual defense authorization to disallow the federal law-enforcement deployment. Their amendment, supported by Oregon Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici, restricts federal efforts at crowd control to the “immediate vicinity” of federal property unless requested by local authorities and bans the use of unmarked vehicles or obscured insignia.

According to The Daily Beast, “Trump’s full-on embrace of this type of election-year posturing came after a brief period earlier this summer when the president flirted with emphasizing supposed police reform and related criminal-justice matters, in his increasingly uphill fight against presumptive 2020 Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Naturally, Trump quickly grew bored with playing the role of reformer.”

These days, his campaign is sounding a different tune. “Many presidents have used the military to stop riots, so this is nothing new and in accordance with the law,” said longtime New Hampshire State Representative Al Baldasaro, the New Hampshire co-chair of Trump 2020. “Our police have taken a beating, and they don’t deserve this. I fully support what President Trump is doing,” he continued, adding that Trump should quickly send “federal help” to other cities such as “Chicago [and] Detroit.”

In Chicago, where police reactions to Black Lives Matter protests have been violent, a Fraternal Order of Police president requested Trump’s assistance. That move drew strong rebuke from local elected officials. Mayor Lori Lightfoot, often the subject of ire from the protesters, has said she doesn’t want outside federal law enforcement assistance.

“We don’t need federal agents without any insignia taking people off the streets and holding them, I think, unlawfully. That’s not what we need,” Lightfoot said Monday. 

Research contact: @thedailybeast

As Florence nears landfall, DHS diverts $10M in FEMA funds to cover cost of ICE detention centers

September 13, 2018

Just as political pundits are predicting that the president’s response to Hurricane Florence—forecast to be the strongest storm “in decades”—will either make or break the GOP’s chances in the midterm elections, disturbing news has been released by The New York Times.

In a September 12 report, the Times reveals that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) transferred nearly $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to a budget document released by a Democratic senator on September 11—diverting funds from the relief agency at the start of the hurricane season that began in June. The story hits comes even as Florence barrels toward the East Coast.

The document, which was released by the office of Senator Jeff Merkley, of Oregon, shows that the money would come from FEMA’s operations and support budget and be transferred into accounts at ICE to pay for detention and removal operations. The document also shows that the Department of Homeland Security transferred money from accounts at Customs and Border Protection that pays for border fencing and technology.

Merkley, appearing Tuesday night on  MSNBC’S The Rachel Maddow Show, said the Trump administration was taking money from FEMA’S “response and recovery” and “working hard to find funds for additional detention camps.” The senator has been a vocal critic of the administration’s immigration policies.

The document casts doubt on DHS’s denials that such a transfer occurred. “Under no circumstances was any disaster relief funding transferred from @fema to immigration enforcement efforts,” Tyler Q. Houlton, an agency spokesperson, said on Twitter. “This is a sorry attempt to push a false agenda at a time when the administration is focused on assisting millions on the East Coast facing a catastrophic disaster.”

Holton added that money transferred from FEMA could not have been used to pay for hurricane relief efforts because of “appropriation limitations.”

“DHS/FEMA stand fiscally and operationally ready to support current and future response and recovery needs,” he said.

The release of the budget documents showing the money transfers between FEMA and ICE came after President Trump in an interview called last year’s hurricane response efforts by FEMA in Puerto Rico an “unsung success”

“The job that FEMA and law enforcement and everybody did working along with the governor in Puerto Rico, I think was tremendous,” Trump told the media.

In an early Wednesday morning Twitter post, the POTUS doubled down on the agency’s performance and got a jab in at San Juan officials: “We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan). We are ready for the big one that is coming!”

New data show that nearly 3,000 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria and many people continue to live without power on the island. An after-action report by FEMA released in July found that they agency vastly underestimated how much food and fresh water it would need, the Times said—as well as how hard it would be to get additional supplies to the island.

Research contact: @nytimes