Senate Confirmations Up Following Nuclear Option

The Senate Democrats voted to eliminate the filibuster for Executive Branch nominees and non-Supreme Court Judicial Branch nominees last November, and they have been able to confirm nominees at a much faster rate than before. Burgess Everett of Politico reports that the body has nearly doubled the rate of confirmation. “Over a roughly equivalent period during the 113th Congress, the Senate confirmed 36 district and circuit court judges before the rules change and 68 after”, he writes. Increasing the rate of confirmation will increase the President’s influence over the nation’s laws for years to come since judges enjoy lifetime appointments. Although the rate of confirmation has increased, Republican Senators have used what procedural tools they have to halt the process. The minority objected to the use of the nuclear option to changes the Senate rules since it was a controversial parliamentary maneuver that achieved the reforms with a simple majority rather than a supermajority.

 Politico: How Going Nuclear Unclogged the Senate

Super PAC Disclosures Show Democrats Attract Wealthy Donors

Democrats have friends in high places, it appears. A number of super PACs recently released their financial disclosure forms for July, and records show that a number of wealthy people made large donations to Democrats. For instance, Tom Steyer, a hedge-fund manager notable for his efforts to battle global warming, gave $500,000 to the Democratic Senate Majority PAC. Long-time donor George Soros gave the same amount to the House Majority PAC. Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg split his donations, giving both to the Democratic Senate Majority PAC and to groups supporting Republican Senators Thad Cochran and Lindsey Graham. Although Democrats are the beneficiaries of significant donations, Scott Bland and Adam Wollner of National Journal write, “There’s still plenty of conservative money out there; it’s just that more of it is going toward nonprofits, which don’t have to disclose their donors.”

National Journal: Soros, Steyer Spend Big in Bid to Rescue Democrats’ Majority

Members of Congress Divided on Response to Islamic State

The execution of American journalist James Foley shocked the world but Congress as a whole has not coalesced around a response to deal with the Islamic State (IS), the terrorist group that perpetrated the murder. President Barack Obama has authorized airstrikes, and some Members of Congress have called for an expansion of the use of force. For instance, Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas, who serves on the House Intelligence Committee, said, “The president’s current path of action has been far too limited to make a difference.” Another House Intelligence Committee Member Representative Adam Schiff of California, a Democrat, said, “The mission already crept a bit,” and “The administration would be wise to not get sucked in”. According to Cameron Joseph and Martin Matishak, writing for The Hill, some Democratic Senate candidates in difficult races, like Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Alison Lundergan Grimes of Kentucky, are supporting the President’s airstrikes in Iraq.

If Congress does come together to support further action, the government might have support from an unlikely source: Syria, which has become a base of operations for the Islamic State. The Foreign Minister of Syria, Walid al-Moallem, said on Monday that the country would allow American airstrikes in its territory if the governments establish “prior full coordination”. The American government has previously rebuked the Syrian regime for its repressive actions in the course of its civil war.

Associated Press: Foley’s Death Isn’t Changing Views in Congress

The Hill: Dem Candidates Back Obama on Iraq

CBS News: Syria Welcomes U.S. Strikes Against ISIS There, with Conditions

Bonus Item: Which Parts of the Capitol Were Burned When the British Set Fire to DC 200 Years Ago?

During the War of 1812, the British set Washington ablaze, and a fire destroyed portions of the U.S. Capitol, which was then under construction. Much of the interior was badly damaged, but the building itself survived since the materials used, like marble and sandstone, were not flammable, and a rainstorm helped contain the blaze.  National Journal‘s Brian McGill has created an interactive graphic which shows viewers what portions of the Capitol was damaged. He has also created a map showing the British troops’ route and the locations of buildings damaged in Washington.

National Journal: 200 Years Ago Today Washington Was On Fire

And for our latest post: Perry’s Veto Case: A New–and Potentially Dangerous–Form of Judicial Review?