The Senate cut off debate on the motion to proceed to consideration of the unemployment benefits extension bill on Tuesday. Cloture was invoked with a 60-37 vote. Republican Senators Dean Heller, a cosponsor of the bill; Kelly Ayotte; Dan Coats; Lisa Murkowski; and Rob Portman all sided with the Democrats on this vote; no Democrat opposed it. The bill extends unemployment benefits for three months, costing $6.4 billion. Most Republicans voted against the cloture motion since the bill does not contain spending cuts to avoid adding to the budget deficit. Two Republicans who voted for cloture indicated that they might vote against the final version if benefits are not paid for. Democrats have countered that the extensions have not traditionally been paid for in the past.
Yesterday, the Senate also voted to confirm Janet Yellen as the Chairwoman of the Federal Reserve. Yellen, who will take control of the Fed in February, will be the first woman to hold that office. She was confirmed 56-26, with many Senators absent due to inclement weather. The Federal Reserve has over $4 trillion in assets that it has purchased in the process of “quantitative easing,” an attempt to inject money into the economy to kick-start it; the Fed will have to eliminate some of these holdings, a process Yellen will oversee.
While the full Senate has confirmed Yellen and started to act on the jobless benefits, they are still waiting for the spending bill for this year. The House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rodgers and Ranking Member Nita Lowey and their Senate counterparts Chairman Barbara Mikulski and Ranking Member Richard Shelby were planning on meeting on Tuesday to come to an agreement on the remaining points of contention. They are tasked with drafting a law that will provide $1.1 trillion for the government’s expenses. One of the biggest hang-ups is how much money to provide for Obamacare. Congress needs to pass a bill by January 15, but it is likely that they will be a little tardy.
Ask any Washingtonian who uses public transportation, and they will probably have a number of complaints about Metro, as the mass-transit system is called. The year 2014, however, brings a number of changes, including the introduction of the Silver Line, which will eventually reach Dulles Airport; the DC Streetcar; and new trains for Metrorail. Members of Congress from both Washington, DC, and Maryland recently received a sneak-peek of the new railcars. Maryland Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, Maryland Representatives Steny Hoyer and Donna F. Edwards and DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton all had the opportunity to take a look at the new cars. The cars are still being tested and are set to debut later this year. Following a crash in 2009, Congress passed the first Federal law regulating rail safety in mass transit systems.
Although we generally stick to congressional news on this blog, every so often we’ll poke our heads around the other two branches. Today we turn to the Executive Branch, since the first Presidential election took place on this day in 1789, 225 years ago. As we all know, George Washington became our first President, in what was hands-down the least contentious election in our history: The Electoral College voted for Washington unanimously. John Adams was elected Vice President. Only 10 of the 13 former colonies participated (Rhode Island and North Carolina had not ratified the Constitution yet, and New York did not send electors in time). Only six of the participating states had popular participation, and only 1.3 percent of the population voted, partly because the numerous requirements to vote prohibited many from the polls.
And for our latest blog post: Flattening the Rules: The Implications of the Senate’s Nuclear Option