After Russian military forces entered Crimea over the weekend, American and European leaders are planning their responses to their rival’s aggression. Congressional leaders in both parties and both Chambers of Congress are mapping out initiatives to provide the President with the resources for an American response to the crisis. Senator Robert Menendez, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced that the committee is drafting legislation providing for $1 billion in economic assistance to Ukraine, which would lose Russian aid if it moves closer to the European Union. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor also said that he would support economic aid but cautioned that any such legislation should be free from controversial provisions. Although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid agreed that the President’s intention to send $1 billion to Ukraine was appropriate, he urged that the United States should work in coordination with Europe. “The most important thing is for us—the United States—to make sure that we don’t go off without the European community”, he told reporters. In the end, Reid’s suggestion that the President find consensus among foreign leaders might prove the most difficult. Many European countries also rely on Russia for oil and export food to the country, making it difficult for them to impose sanctions on their rival.
The Tea Party movement turned five this February, and many commentators wondered what would become of it. Will it fizzle out, as some expect? No, answers columnist Michael Barone. He likens the Tea Party to the Democratic Party’s peace movement in the 1960s and 1970s. That movement helped change the face of the Democratic Party, moving it decidedly towards less pro-war policies, bringing out new political aspirants, and dismissing incumbents. Likewise, the Tea Party movement has deeply affected Republican policies and has led to the rise of a new generation of successful politicians like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. “The Tea Party obituaries, like Mark Twain’s, are premature”, Barone concludes.
If the Republicans take the Senate next year, they’d do things a little differently, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell says. Among other things, Senator McConnell says that he would consider reinstituting the filibuster for Executive and Judicial Branch nominees. Last year, much to the consternation of the Republicans, most Senate Democrats voted to lower the threshold to end debate on Executive Branch and non-Supreme Court Judicial Branch nominees from 60 to a simple majority of 51. The move was particularly controversial because they used the so-called nuclear option to enact the change with a simple majority, bypassing the 67-vote requirement to cut off debate on a change in the rules. In addition to the possible reinstitution of the filibuster, Senator McConnell indicated that he would also empower congressional committees to a greater degree than they are today and permit greater freedom to amend legislation on the Floor.
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