It's been nearly three months since congressional Republicans allowed extended unemployment benefits to lapse, despite independent warnings that this would cost the national economy hundreds of thousands of jobs. Since then Senate Democrats have brought multiple extensions to the floor for a vote, but in each instance, the bills failed due to Republican filibusters.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said Wednesday that he will need to "pull out all the stops" to get enough GOP support for a 6-month extension to unemployment benefits that could come up for a vote next week.
"I have to pull out all the stops to try to pick up another Republican vote, it's not Democrats I have to worry about," he said. "It's getting the Republicans to allow these millions of people who are desperate long-term unemployed a shot in the arm."
Weather in the nation's capital has affected the calendar, but Reid's office expects a vote next week, either Wednesday or Thursday.
For those struggling to find jobs, every day counts. About 1.3 million Americans lost their benefits when the GOP opposed an extension a few days after Christmas, and 72,000 more are added to that total per week.
Why will the latest Democratic effort succeed where the others failed?
Attorneys are not supposed to be judged by the crimes of their clients. It's a basic American principle that eluded the U.S. Senate today.
The Senate voted 47-52 Wednesday to reject controversial nominee Debo Adegbile as an assistant attorney general.
Seven Democrats voted against moving forward with President Obama's nomination of Adegbile, which the Fraternal Order of Police and other groups opposed because of his involvement in the defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981.
Adegbile's nomination had 48 votes -- two shy of a tie, which Vice President Biden would have broken in the nominee's favor -- but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had to switch his vote for procedural reasons.
Every Republican in the chamber voted against Adegbile, and they were joined today by seven Democrats. It's the first defeat for an Obama nominee since the so-called "nuclear option" was executed last fall.
Any in this instance, it's pretty easy to argue that Adegbile deserved better.
When it comes to checks and balances with intelligence agencies, responsible oversight is key. But it's important to remember that in the American system of government, Congress has oversight authority over the Central Intelligence Agency -- and it's not supposed to be the other way around.
The CIA Inspector General's Office has asked the Justice Department to investigate allegations of malfeasance at the spy agency in connection with a yet-to-be released Senate Intelligence Committee report into the CIA's secret detention and interrogation program, McClatchy has learned.
The criminal referral may be related to what several knowledgeable people said was CIA monitoring of computers used by Senate aides to prepare the study. The monitoring may have violated an agreement between the committee and the agency.
This won't exactly bolster the spy agency's reputation, following some high-profile missteps, which Rachel highlighted on last night's show.
The first time House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) tried to hear testimony from Lois Lerner, the former head of the IRS' tax exempt division, she asserted her Fifth Amendment rights, as expected. Today, Issa brought Lerner back, knowing she wouldn't testify, but wanting to put on a little election-year show for the cameras anyway.
But as the above video makes clear, the interesting development wasn't Lerner's decision not to testify, which everyone already knew would happen, but the heated confrontation between Issa and the committee's ranking member, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).
For about 15 minutes, Issa, already well aware of the fact that Lerner wouldn't answer his questions, strutted for the cameras, pushing his favorite talking points about the discredited scandal.
When he was done, Issa decided to abruptly end the hearing. When Cummings sought an opportunity to speak, Issa invited everyone in attendance to leave. When Cummings proceeded anyway, Issa cut off the power to the congressman's microphone.
"I am a member of the Congress of the United States of America!" Cummings shouted. "I am tired of this."
Former Defense Secretary Bob Gates, a veteran of the Bush and Obama administrations, talked with David Ignatius yesterday about developments in Ukraine, but in the process, raised a larger point about the political debate.
On Ukraine, Gates acknowledged what's plainly true: the U.S. has limited military option and Russia seems to "have the same high cards," regardless of what we do.
But Ignatius also asked the former Pentagon chief about the near-constant sniping from congressional Republicans.
Gates, a Republican himself, urged the GOP senators to "tone down" their criticism and "try to be supportive of the president rather than natter at the president."
Gates can be an emotional person when he talks about national-security issues, as any reader of his recent memoir, "Duty," can see. And he showed some of that emotion when he said, near the end of our conversation: "It seems to me that trying to speak with one voice -- one American voice -- seems to have become a quaint thing of the past. I regret that enormously."
Reading the comments reminded me of the not-too-distant past, when Republicans had a very different perspective about how elected officials should conduct themselves during a foreign policy crisis.
For many Republican politicians, opposition to the Affordable Care Act is pretty straightforward: the law should be repealed in its entirety. The end. But for many others, especially those involved in competitive statewide elections, it's not quite that simple.
Yes, "Obamacare" is unpopular, creating an obvious incentive for conservative politicians to run against it, but wholesale repeal is unpopular, too. For that matter, many of the individual provisions of the ACA enjoy broad public support, and as enrollment totals grow, firm stands against the law are tantamount to promises to strip families of their health care benefits on purpose.
It's left some politicians trying (and failing) to walk a tightrope. Take North Carolina's Thom Tillis, the leading Republican candidate in a crowded field for the U.S. Senate.
Tillis opposes the Affordable Care Act, except for the popular parts, which he'd like to keep. He vaguely supports the alternative plan presented by his home-state ally Sen. Richard Burr (R), but not really.
Yesterday, Greg Sargent flagged a recent comment Tillis made during a radio interview, in reference to the Democratic health care law:
"I think there's a lot of things we can do if we focus on a systematic approach to eliminating the bad, and the majority of the stuff that is in Obamacare is bad, because it's not fiscally sustainable. It's a great idea that can't be paid for."
This is what political professionals like to call "off-message."
Under normal political circumstances, it's quite unusual to see a powerful political leader go out of his or her way to blast prominent political donors. But these aren't exactly normal political circumstances, and for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Charles and David Koch are more than just politically engaged contributors.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took to the floor on Tuesday to denounce the spending -- now up to $14.5 million -- by Charles and David Koch on Senate races, the latest attempt by Democrats to raise the profile of the free-spending conservative brothers in advance of the November election.
Reid has never been shy, but the Nevada Democrat was especially aggressive during his floor remarks yesterday. "What is un-American is when shadowy billionaires pour unlimited money into our democracy to rig the system to benefit themselves and the wealthiest one percent," he said of the Koch brothers,
The majority leader added, "The Koch brothers and other moneyed interests are influencing the politics in a way not seen for generations. Republican senators have come to the floor to defend the Koch brothers' attempt to buy our democracy. Once again, Republicans are all in to protect their billionaire friends. Not only have Senate Republicans come to the floor to defend the Koch brothers personally, they have again and again defended the Koch brothers' radical agenda -- and it is radical, at least from the middle-class perspective."
Congressional Republicans, Reid concluded, are "addicted to Koch."
As if to prove the point, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) quickly followed Reid's remarks with a hearty defense of the Koch brothers, reinforcing the impression that the Kochs have become the GOP's key institutional ally.