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Members walk down the steps of the House side of the US Capitol after voting on the Keystone XL Pipeline, Nov. 14, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Tentative deal comes together ahead of shutdown deadline

12/10/14 08:00AM

With a deadline looming over a possible government shutdown -- current federal spending expires tomorrow at midnight -- House and Senate negotiators have been working on a compromise package for a while now. The plan was to wrap up a deal over the weekend. There were rumors the agreement would be released on Monday morning.
Which soon became Monday night. Then Tuesday morning. Finally, last night, as Suzy Khimm and Benjy Sarlin reported, the bicameral compromise was unveiled.
House and Senate leaders have reached a bipartisan deal to avert a government shutdown, agreeing to fund most operations through September of next year. [...]
Republicans won some significant victories in the deal: While most domestic spending remains flat, the spending bill cuts funding for the IRS and Environmental Protection Agency, and it guts a significant provision in the Dodd-Frank Act.
We'll explore some of these policy details later this morning -- the Wall Street Journal had a handy round-up of some of the package's highlights (or lowlights, depending on one's perspective) -- but for now let's focus on some of the procedural questions, because with one day remaining before the deadline, the overarching question is whether or not the government is going to shut down tomorrow at midnight.
The answer is, probably not, though success is hardly assured.
The way forward is largely consistent with what House Republican leaders had in mind all along: nearly all federal operations will be funded through the end of the fiscal year in September 2015. The exception is the Department of Homeland Security, which will be funded through February 2015, allowing GOP lawmakers another chance for a standoff over President Obama's immigration policy.
But -- and this is where things get a little tricky -- lawmakers took so long to pull this deal together that they may have to vote today or tomorrow to extend existing funding for just a few days, giving Congress time to jump through the procedural hoops and approve the compromise unveiled last night.
All of which leads to my favorite quote of the week.

Inside the Cromnibus and other headlines

12/10/14 07:08AM

Overseas, torture report prompts calls for prosecution. (NY Times)

What's in the $1.01 trillion spending bill? (Washington Post)

Congressional spending deal blocks pot legalization in DC. (Washington Post)

Michele Bachmann bids farewell to Congress. (The Hill)

North Dakota regulators order treatment of crude oil to make it less volatile as it travels over the rails. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Missouri sets state execution record after killing 10th prisoner this year. (NBC News)

Detroit's emergency status is officially ending. (Detroit Free Press)

Hong Kong police are about to clear out the city's main protest camp. (AP)

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Clock ticks as House posts budget bill

Clock ticks as House posts budget bill

12/09/14 09:52PM

Rachel Maddow reports on progress made in the House on a massive spending bill that has finally been agreed upon by House leadership, leaving 48 hours for the House and Senate to pass it and get it to President Obama to avoid a costly shutdown. watch

Pardons would label torturers as criminals

Pardons would label torturers as criminals

12/09/14 09:42PM

Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, talks with Rachel Maddow about how President Obama can label Bush-era torturers as criminals by pardoning them if his administration isn't going to otherwise hold them accountable for their illegal acts. watch

No reckoning for Bush-era torture

No reckoning for Bush-era torture

12/09/14 09:20PM

Rachel Maddow points out that despite presidential candidates in 2008 who seemed likely to seek prosecutions for the architects and practitioners of U.S. torture policy under the Bush administration, there has been no reckoning beyond today's report. watch

Ahead on the 12/9/14 Maddow show

12/09/14 08:04PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Anthony Romero, executive director, ACLU
  • Andrea Mitchell, host, MSNBC's Mitchell Reports, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent

And here's executive producer Cory Gnazzo with how the show is coming together:

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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 12.9.14

12/09/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Some deadlines can be moved: "It's the last few days before a pre-holiday deadline, so Congress is doing what it does best: procrastinating. Congress could be poised to give itself a few extra days to fund the government before the current spending package - which expires on December 11 - runs out."
* In the meantime: "Congressional leaders are expected to unveil a massive $1.1 trillion spending agreement later Tuesday and then race the clock in hopes of approving the deal before a spending deadline late Thursday night."
* There's no shortage of detailed overviews of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on Bush/Cheney-era torture. I found the NYT's timeline approach to be quite good.
* Iraq: "U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Baghdad on Tuesday to consult with Iraqi government officials and confer with U.S. commanders about the campaign to defeat Islamic State fighters. In remarks to a group of U.S. and Australian soldiers, Hagel said the U.S. wants to help Iraq regain the territory it lost to Islamic State militants earlier this year, but said the only lasting solution must come from the Iraqis themselves."
* A surprising 9-0 ruling: "The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled unanimously that a temp agency was not required to pay workers at Amazon warehouses for the time they spent waiting to go through a security screening at the end of the day. The workers say the process, meant to prevent theft, can take as long as 25 minutes."
* Speaking of the high court: "The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected BP's challenge to a settlement agreement over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, which the oil giant said allowed certain businesses to get payouts despite being unable to trace their losses to the disaster."
* FOIA: "Legislation to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act passed the House of Representatives unanimously back in May, and similar legislation gained unanimous approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee last month. But now Politico reports that Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has placed a hold on the legislation that could block it from getting approved this year."
* This is what's become of congressional oversight: "At one point in the hearing, Issa asked Gruber, 'Are you stupid?' 'No, I don't think so,' the economist said."
* It's a real fight: "Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) made clear on Tuesday that she is not swayed by supporters of Obama administration nominee for Treasury undersecretary for domestic policy Antonio Weiss."
The sun begins to set behind the US Capitol in Washington, D.C.

House approves Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act

12/09/14 04:35PM

Given just how little actually happens in Congress, and how many good bills die for no apparent reason, it's easy to get a little cynical about what's possible in the area of federal legislation.
Once in a while, though, a good idea actually passes. Take this afternoon, for example.
The House on Tuesday passed legislation to help prevent suicides of people who served in the military.
Passed by voice vote, the bill would require a third party to conduct an annual evaluation of suicide prevention programs at the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) and Defense Department.
The measure was sponsored by Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), and enjoyed the enthusiastic support of veterans' groups including the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). There is no roll call to link to because support was broad enough that the bill passed by voice vote.
To be sure, this wasn't the highest-profile legislation to be taken up this year, and there wasn't much of a lobbying campaign against it, but when worthwhile bills, which will make a real difference in the lives of people who deserve our support, are able to advance in this Congress, it's cause for some relief.
And the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act is a worthwhile bill.