The Senate is back in business today, and one of the biggest items Congress will have to face soon is the omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year. The spending bill will top $1 trillion, in accord with the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, passed at the end of last year. The government is set to run out of money on January 15, but the House and Senate Appropriations Chairmen are meeting to work out the final compromises, including funding for Obamacare.
Another important piece of legislation is the bill to extent unemployment insurance for the 1.3 million people whose benefits expired at the end of 2013. Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Republican Senator Dean Heller of Nevada are pushing for a bill that will provide additional unemployment checks for another three months, which they say will give them additional time to hash out a year-long bill. Republicans in the House and Senate have said they would support the bill if lawmakers can find a way to pay for it. Director of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling said on Monday that President Barack Obama believes the bill should pass “right away, with no strings attached”. If all Senate Democrats vote in unison, they will still need to attract at least five Republican votes for cloture to cut off debate.
Currently, the Democrats are still working on attracting votes for cloture, but sometime in the future it may not be necessary. In November of last year, the Senate Democratic majority eliminated the filibuster for most Executive and Judicial Branch nominations, making the complete elimination of the filibuster all the more likely in the future. Over the weekend, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that he is not currently thinking about using the nuclear option to eliminate the filibuster for legislation, but it wasn’t an absolute “no”. “We’re not there yet,” Reid said on Face the Nation. Such an action would have far-ranging consequences, even to the point of costing the Democrats their majority. Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen has argued that a lower threshold for cloture means the fight for the Senate will become all the more competitive, since grassroots Republicans will be more inclined to support more electable candidates, since the majority will be able to repeal Obamacare.
Last week we brought you an article about how John Boehner had the best year in Washington in 2013. Today we bring one in a similar vein, arguing that he even won the shutdown. The Atlantic’s Molly Ball argues that Boehner “chose to prolong the shutdown and take the short-term pain in order to increase the prospects of order down the road.” In the end, his actions earned him the respect of his conference and more time to negotiate a favorable budget.
And for our latest blog post: Flattening the Rules: The Implications of the Senate’s Nuclear Option