Midterm Elections Looming Large in Senate Agenda

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) speaks to members of the media after the Senate Democratic weekly policy luncheon November 19, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Michael Catalin
Feb. 9, 2014, 7:34 a.m.

Fully 10 months be­fore a vote is cast, the Sen­ate is in full elec­tion mode, with both parties shift­ing the ac­tion to fit their strategies.

The Demo­crat­ic ma­jor­ity is put­ting for­ward its vul­ner­able in­cum­bents to pro­mote pop­u­lar bills, while keep­ing the Sen­ate’s agenda fo­cused on a cadre of eco­nom­ic is­sues that force Re­pub­lic­ans to take un­flat­ter­ing votes. Re­pub­lic­ans, mean­while, have a more fa­vor­able elect­or­al map and are fol­low­ing an anti-Obama­care script while at­tempt­ing to tie Demo­crats to the most un­pop­u­lar parts of Pres­id­ent Obama’s re­cord.

On the eco­nom­ic front, Demo­crats have held five votes on un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance (sev­en if you count Re­pub­lic­an pro­ced­ur­al mo­tions). On Thursday, Re­pub­lic­ans blocked both a paid-for and an un­paid-for three-month ex­ten­sion. The is­sue united Demo­crats and gave them an op­por­tun­ity to pound Re­pub­lic­ans.

Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id, for ex­ample, stood near a tele­vi­sion prop that showed the num­ber of long-term un­em­ployed, which stands at more than 1.7 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Demo­crat­ic es­tim­ates.

“From the time I walked in here till now, we have 102 new people be­cause of Re­pub­lic­ans’ ob­struc­tion,” he said.

Demo­crats aren’t done with the is­sue. Re­id prom­ises to bring it up again, along with a min­im­um-wage hike and a bill to en­sure equal pay for wo­men do­ing equal work as men.

But that’s just a piece of what Demo­crats are do­ing. Polit­ic­ally vul­ner­able Demo­crats are also pro­mot­ing pop­u­lar pieces of le­gis­la­tion.

On Monday, for ex­ample, Sen. Mark Pry­or of Arkan­sas is the lead spon­sor of a bill get­ting a vote next week to undo the un­pop­u­lar mil­it­ary cost-of-liv­ing-ad­just­ment meas­ure that passed as part of the Decem­ber budget deal. Also this week, the Sen­ate might take up a bill co­sponsored by Demo­crat­ic Sen. Kay Hagan of North Car­o­lina and Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. The Bi­par­tis­an Sports­men’s Act has a num­ber of pro­vi­sions, in­clud­ing one that per­mits elec­tron­ic duck stamps and ex­empts lead fish­ing tackle from cer­tain reg­u­la­tions.

Sen. Mark Be­gich of Alaska has come to the fore as a lead­ing pro­ponent of the Key­stone XL pipeline, an is­sue that di­vides the Demo­crat­ic caucus. Last week, after the State De­part­ment’s en­vir­on­ment­al re­port found the pipeline would not sig­ni­fic­antly af­fect cli­mate change, Be­gich called on the White House to green-light the pro­ject.

“We’ve cleared all the hurdles,” Be­gich said. “It went through the en­vir­on­ment­al pro­cess. It’s re­solved a lot of the is­sues. So I don’t know what the biggest hang-up is here. We should get this done.”

Sen. Mary Landrieu, who faces a tough con­test in Louisi­ana against GOP Rep. Bill Cas­sidy, helped pass a bi­par­tis­an bill that pre­vents flood-in­sur­ance premi­ums from spik­ing. It’s an is­sue that provides her a point of con­trast with the White House, which has said it op­poses parts of the law — though it stopped short of say­ing the pres­id­ent would veto the le­gis­la­tion.

Demo­crats also got a polit­ic­al boost late last week when Montana Gov. Steve Bul­lock named Lt. Gov. John Walsh as in­ter­im suc­cessor to Max Baucus, who was con­firmed as Obama’s am­bas­sad­or to China on Thursday. Walsh’s ap­point­ment gives him a head start in a race against in­cum­bent GOP Rep. Steve Daines in a red state.

“John is the kind of guy who may not agree with the party on every single is­sue, but he has the self­less­ness and cour­age to al­ways do what he thinks is right for Montana, and that is ex­actly the kind of lead­er­ship we need here in the U.S. Sen­ate,” Demo­crat­ic Sen­at­ori­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee Chair­man Mi­chael Ben­net said in a state­ment.

For their part, Re­pub­lic­ans are again jab­bing Obama over the In­tern­al Rev­en­ue Ser­vice, which last year ad­mit­ted to pro­fil­ing tea-party groups seek­ing 501(c)(4) status — groups whose fo­cus must primar­ily be so­cial wel­fare, not polit­ics.

Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell, locked in his own reelec­tion fight with primary and gen­er­al op­pon­ents, is call­ing on the IRS to back down from a pro­posed reg­u­la­tion that would change how the agency cal­cu­lates polit­ic­al activ­ity when de­cid­ing 501(c)(4) status.

“The Obama Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­posed rule has al­most noth­ing to do with ac­tu­al tax policy. It’s more about mak­ing har­ass­ment of its polit­ic­al op­pon­ents the of­fi­cial policy of the IRS. And that’s com­pletely un­ac­cept­able,” Mc­Con­nell said last week.

What We're Following See More »
DOWN FROM POST-CONVENTION NUMBERS
Monmouth Has Clinton Up Seven
2 minutes ago
THE LATEST

In a new Monmouth University poll, 46% of likely voters support Clinton and 39% back Trump, with 7% supporting Libertarian Gary Johnson, and 2% backing Jill Stein of the Green Party. That's down from a poll taken right after the Democratic convention, in which Clinton led by 13 points.

Source:
DEBATE PREP
Clinton Advisers Talking to Psychologists, Trump Ghostwriter
20 minutes ago
THE LATEST

“Hillary Clinton’s advisers are talking to Donald J. Trump’s ghostwriter of The Art of the Deal, seeking insights about Mr. Trump’s deepest insecurities as they devise strategies to needle and undermine him in four weeks at the first presidential debate, the most anticipated in a generation. ... Her team is also getting advice from psychology experts to help create a personality profile of Mr. Trump to gauge how he may respond to attacks and deal with a woman as his sole adversary on the debate stage.”

INFLUENCED BY NUKES, POLLUTION
Scientists Declare Dawn of Anthropocene Epoch
2 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

"Humanity’s impact on the Earth is now so profound that a new geological epoch—the Anthropocene—needs to be declared," according to a panel of scientists. "The new epoch should begin about 1950, the experts said, and was likely to be defined by the radioactive elements dispersed across the planet by nuclear bomb tests, although an array of other signals, including plastic pollution, soot from power stations, concrete, and even the bones left by the global proliferation of the domestic chicken."

Source:
EPI-PEN PRICES
House Committee Investigating Mylan
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has requested documents from the CEO of Mylan, "the pharmaceutical company under fire after raising the price of EpiPens more than 400 percent since 2007." Meanwhile, top members of the Energy and Commerce Committee are pressing the FDA on the lack of generic competition for EpiPens.

Source:
×