GOP Senate’s first 100 days

GOP Senate’s first 100 days

By Alexander Bolton – 09/12/14 06:00 AM EDT

Republicans are putting together an agenda for the first 100 days of 2015 in case they win control of the Senate.

Authorizing the Keystone XL oil pipeline, approving “fast-track” trade authority, wiping out proposed environmental regulations and repealing the medical device tax top their list.

“Those would all be positive things. You could come up with a list of very positive things and all of us are thinking about those,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who is poised to become chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee under a GOP takeover.

Other Republicans echoed Corker.

“Those are four things that could happen that I believe would be great for the economy and enable us to move forward on a bipartisan basis,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said during a Thursday breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor.

GOP senators insist they are not “measuring the drapes” after six years in the minority.

Still, they’re preparing for what could be a brief, intense window of activity before 2016 presidential politics begin to dominate the landscape.

“We will have to be prepared if we are in a position to govern,” Corker said. “You got to think about those things you’d like to produce.”

To move their objectives, Senate Republicans must win in November and then work with a Democratic minority. Even in a best-case scenario, the party will be well short of a 60-plus majority able to block Democratic filibusters. But Republicans believe many of their priorities could be embraced by Democrats.

Legislation endorsing the Keystone pipeline included Democratic Sens. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Jon Tester (Mont.) among its co-sponsors.

And a bill to repeal the medical device tax has six Democratic cosponsors, including Sens. Al Franken (Minn.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Kay Hagan (N.C.) and Donnelly.

“We should be able to do that in the first 30 days,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said of the measure.

On regulatory reform, they note that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) halted action on the energy and water development appropriations bill earlier this year because he feared centrist Democrats were inclined to support an amendment curbing regulations on coal.

Centrist Democrat Joe Manchin (W.Va.) introduced legislation at the beginning of the year requiring that new greenhouse gas standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency be realistically achievable by coal-fired power plants.

Portman has introduced legislation that would require independent agencies to publish the assessed costs and benefits of proposed new rules deemed to be economically significant. Democratic Sen. Mark Warner (D-W.Va.) has co-sponsored the measure.

Trade is another possible area of bipartisanship — with the president.

President Obama called for bipartisan trade promotion authority in his State of the Union address in January, though Reid, who has a close relationship with organized labor, put the kibosh on the request by declaring his opposition to “fast-track.”

Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of the Republican leadership, said Obama might back both Keystone and fast-track legislation approved by a GOP Senate.

“Both of them if they were on his desk would be hard things for the president not to agree on,” he said.

Republicans say they want to pass a budget in the first half of next year that would include special procedural instructions known as reconciliation to smooth the way for broader tax reform and entitlement reform.

Under reconciliation, the majority party can pass legislation through the Senate with only a simple-majority vote instead of the 60 votes usually required. Democrats used it in 2010 to pass changes to the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who is poised to become chairman of the Budget Committee if the Senate flips, said the majority party “has an obligation to lay out a financial plan for America.”

Portman, who served as director of the Office of Management and Budget under former President George W. Bush, said special procedural rules in the budget could “provide for something on the revenue side, which could lead to tax reform [and] something on the spending side, which could lead to some of the necessary changes to our incredibly important but unsustainable entitlement reform.”

Sessions said he hopes Democrats who pursued a grand bargain on tax and entitlement reform in 2011 could be persuaded to sit down at the negotiating table next year.

“We’re going to be working toward it,” he said of entitlement reform. “There’s no doubt about it that serious legislative reform of things like Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlement programs, food stamps, would need some bipartisan support.”

Senate Republicans want to dispel the image painted by Democrats over the past four years that they are obstructionists bent on grinding government to a halt.

They want to show they can get legislation passed after years of frustrating gridlock.

“One guy is blocking all the legislation — that’s the majority leader. If we get rid of him, then the spigot opens an we start passing legislation again,” said a Republican leadership aide, referring to Reid.

Democrats counter that Republicans are to blame for the stalemate. They say Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) intentionally blocked business with several hundred filibusters to enable GOP candidates to run against a dysfunctional institution.

Analysis: U.S. budget deal could bring truce, minimize shutdown threats

Analysis: U.S. budget deal could bring truce, minimize shutdown threats

By David Lawder and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON Sun Dec 8, 2013 11:28am EST

A view of the Capitol Building in Washington October 15, 2013. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

A view of the Capitol Building in Washington October 15, 2013.  Credit: Reuters/Joshua Roberts

(Reuters) – A minimalist U.S. budget deal that congressional negotiators hope to reach in coming days will do almost nothing to tame rising federal debt, but it could usher in a nearly two-year fiscal truce, minimizing the risk of future funding crises and government shutdowns.

If the accord comes together, it would blunt some of the automatic “sequester” spending cuts and set funding levels at around $1 trillion for fiscal 2014 and 2015 for government agencies and programs from the military to national parks.

Such a deal would not address an increase in the federal borrowing limit, which is expected to come up again by the spring, leaving conservatives a pressure point to try to exploit. Continue reading “Analysis: U.S. budget deal could bring truce, minimize shutdown threats”

Budget Negotiators Agree on One Thing: Avoiding Another Shutdown

Budget Negotiators Agree on One Thing: Avoiding Another Shutdown

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, has introduced a bill to end government shutdowns.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, has introduced a bill to end government shutdowns. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Congressional budget negotiators on Wednesday attempted to temper expectations for a big deal, and lawmakers dug in along party lines on the issue of continuing sequestration.

The bicameral budget conference committee, put into place as a condition of reopening the government after the recent 16-day shutdown, held its first official meeting Wednesday and each of the 29 members spoke on the need to reduce the federal deficit. While Democrats and Republicans largely disagreed on how to get there, they largely agreed on one idea: think small.

“I don’t think we’re going to do a grand bargain here,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. “Let’s at least do a good bargain for the American people.” Continue reading “Budget Negotiators Agree on One Thing: Avoiding Another Shutdown”

Working Families Tell Lawmakers: ‘Protect Our Future’

AFL-CIO Now

01/30/2013 Mike Hall

 Photo by Katelyn Hartford

After Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-Ohio) office ignored requests from Columbus-area families to meet and talk about the kind of budget policies he and other lawmakers are pushing that would hurt both working people and the recovering U.S. economy, they decided to drop by anyway.

The Wednesday action outside Portman’s Columbus office was just one of dozens of “Protect Our Future” demonstrations around the country. The events focused on rejecting any benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid; closing loopholes for Wall Street and the richest 2%; and canceling the sequestration crisis lawmakers like Portman, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and others created for themselves and the rest of the country. Continue reading “Working Families Tell Lawmakers: ‘Protect Our Future’”