The Senate yesterday handed the President a sorely disappointing loss in refusing to cut off debate on the nomination of Debo Adegbile who had been tapped to lead the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. The nomination was scuttled because Adegbile worked on an appeal for convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. Seven Democrats joined with the minority Republicans to block the nomination. Five of those Senators came from states that often vote Republican. One, Senator Bob Casey, came from Pennsylvania, where the crime took place; and another, Senator Chris Coons, hails from the neighboring state of Delaware. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid supported Adegbile but voted against cloture as a parliamentary tactic so that he could potentially bring up the nomination again in the future.
Last November, the Senate Democrats used the so-called nuclear option to eliminate the filibuster on nominations for the Executive Branch and Judicial Branch (except the Supreme Court). Following the change, only 51 Senators were needed to cut off debate rather than 60 as it was before. The cloture vote was the first time a nominee has been rejected under the new rule. “Wednesday’s vote demonstrated the political risk in such a maneuver more clearly than any other roll call tally”, wrote Meredith Shiner and Humberto Sanchez of Roll Call.
The House was prepared to vote on providing assistance to Ukraine on Thursday. The law would allow the United States to provide about $1 billion to the embattled country. Money has already been allocated to the State Department for foreign aid, but Ukraine has not been among the countries eligible for assistance; the House bill would specifically authorize Ukraine as a recipient. The law will likely pass the House quickly, but it is unclear how long it will take to get through the Senate. The Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are working on a bill to aid Ukraine, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated that he was as yet unsure of how it would it would fit into their schedule.
What kind of bill Congress produces on Ukraine remains to be seen, but the Senate Republican Policy Committee has made a number of recommendations. It suggests aiding the Ukrainian government and military; refusing to hold this summer’s G8 meetings in Sochi, Russia—along with downsizing to the G7, sans Russia; and rescinding travel visas for certain Russian officials. “Republicans — in concert with some Democrats, including those on the House Foreign Affairs Committee — are doing precisely what the loyal opposition should do: Identify the challenge, propose its own solutions and implore the other party to get on board”, Jennifer Rubin writes in her Washington Post opinion blog Right Turn.
On Wednesday, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill to promote energy conservation. The legislation was a team effort by Republican Representative David McKinley of West Virginia and Democratic Representative Peter Welch of Vermont. The bill provides rewards for landlords and tenants who save energy. It passed by a large margin of 375-36. In the Senate, Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio are attempting to push a corresponding bill in the Senate.
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