Chad’s Morning Brief: Unemployment Benefits Advance, Chris Christie Signs DREAM Act, and Other Top Stories
Here is your Morning Brief for the morning of January 8, 2014. Give me your feedback below and tune in to The Chad Hasty Show for these and many more topics from 8:30 to 11am. Remember, you can listen online at KFYO.com or on your iPhone/Android with the radioPup App.
Unemployment benefits have been a big battle lately in Washington, D.C. The battle has been so large that yesterday caught Democrats by surprise. According to POLITICO, the debate to extend unemployment benefits took a surprise turn when 5 Republicans joined with the Democrats to end the GOP filibuster and advance the bill.
The Senate begins an even tougher task after a surprise vote on Tuesday to break a GOP filibuster of legislation extending unemployment benefits.
That is: Finding a way to pay for the measure.
Democrats were able to secure six Republican votes to advance the three-month extension of unemployment benefits, nabbing just the 60 votes that are necessary to move ahead. But now they must work with centrist Republicans to strike a bipartisan accord that would offset the legislation’s $6.5 billion cost, a tall task in a Senate still brimming with partisan divisions.
But it’s not at all clear that the Republicans who sided with Democrats to break the filibuster will vote for final passage. Two of them said Tuesday they would likely oppose it without the offsets they are seeking.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he spoke to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on Tuesday about finding spending cuts or new revenue to pay for the bill — McDonough told Reid he’d “run the traps” on it. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has also begun discussing pay-for proposals with Democrats.
Though Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) seemed buoyed by Reid and McDonough’s openness to find a way to fund the bill, Reid warned that there’s no such thing as easy money in this political climate.
“If they come with something that’s serious, I’ll talk to them. But right now everyone should understand, the low-hanging fruit is gone,” Reid said.
Senate Democrats hope to hold a vote on final passage by the end of the week ahead of work on a government spending bill that must pass before Jan. 15.
Several Republicans voted to advance the bill with the expectation that the Senate will find a way to pay for it and perhaps make structural reforms to the unemployment insurance program. Republicans will have another opportunity to block the bill before it can move to final passage, and may eventually vote to scuttle the bill if they are dissatisfied with the amendment process.
GOP Sens. Dan Coats of Indiana and Rob Portman of Ohio — who supported breaking the filibuster — said they would likely end up opposing the legislation if money is not found to pay for it.
“I voted to proceed with the debate over how to address unemployment insurance with the hope that during the debate the Senate will agree to pay for the extension and work to improve the unemployment insurance program so it works better to connect those unemployed with available jobs,” Portman said.
In return for several Republican “yes” votes, Democrats began to back away from their position that the legislation should not be paid for, a key development for the legislation to not only clear the Senate but also for its future in the Republican-controlled House.
“Best choice: Pass it, no strings attached, get it done, get it done quickly. Second-best choice: Finding a reasonable pay-for that can work on both sides of the aisle,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “I would caution people that that’s easier said than done.”
The 60-37 vote shocked key Democrats, who appeared ready to strafe the GOP with charges of obstruction should the legislation stall on the floor. On Monday, President Barack Obama lobbied lawmakers ahead of the close vote and spoke to Collins, who voted to advance the bill, and reached out to Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who opposed it. During a Tuesday speech, Obama called on Congress to send him a bill to sign.
”The Senate is a complicated place,” Obama said. “All they’ve agreed to so far is that we’re actually going to be able to have a vote on it. They haven’t actually passed it. So we’ve got to get this across the finish line.”
The Democratic Party is charging forward with a legislative agenda strong on solving the nation’s widening income inequality and Democrats believed a failed unemployment insurance vote would have offered them yet another opportunity to chide Republicans during an election year.
But that didn’t happen, as GOP Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Dean Heller of Nevada, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Coats, Collins and Portman joined with Democrats to break the expected filibuster.
“It was in the balance until the very last moment. I was hopeful, but I guess being Irish I’m always expecting the worst. So yeah, I was surprised,” said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), who wrote the bill with Heller.
Senate Democrats declined to suggest a pay-for that they believe can generate bipartisan enthusiasm, but they quickly ruled out a proposal from McConnell to delay Obamacare’s individual mandate for a year to pay for the extension of jobless benefits. Reid blocked McConnell’s request for a vote on the issue.
Several Republicans who would otherwise be supportive of a benefit extension said that they worried the Reid would further stifle their amendments during debate on the bill. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said shortly before the vote that he was “not at all comfortable” with voting against the bill but said he felt he had no choice given the “total dictatorial behavior” of Reid.
“I’m terribly uncomfortable [that] a majority leader, on an issue such as this, will not even allow an amendment to be considered,” McCain said. Asked how the bill might move forward, McCain replied: “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask the dictator.”
Even if the Senate is able to pass a bill, the measure still must go to the House. House Republicans haven't been receptive yet.
NJ DREAM Act
The race for 2016 hasn't officially started but moves potential candidates make now could show what type of candidate they will be after the midterms. When it comes to the all important Hispanic vote, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie might have show his hand. As POLITICO writes, Christie signed New Jersey's version of the DREAM Act yesterday.
Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday was joined in celebrating the passage of the New Jersey DREAM Act by a bipartisan coalition of state politicians, calling it an important step toward “maximizing” the state’s investment in public education.
“[O]ur job, I believe, as a government, is to give every one of these children, who we have already invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in, an opportunity to maximize that investment,” Christie said Tuesday at the signing ceremony in Union City, N.J.
With the law — which extends in-state tuition benefits at public universities to undocumented students — Christie fulfills a campaign pledge he made leading to his November re-election as governor.
The legislation did not, however, come without a dose of partisan wrangling. In December, Christie threatened to veto the bill if it included financial aid provisions, which drew drew criticism from the bill’s architects. A compromise was passed through the assembly and signed by the Republican governor on Dec. 20.
“The fact is that the tax payers in this state have made an enormous investment in these people, and the question is: do we want to maximize our investment through giving them nothing more than an opportunity?” Christie said.
Tuesday’s ceremonial signing brought together several key politicians who helped push the bill into law, including New Jersey Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D) and state Sens. Teresa Ruiz (R) and Brian Stack (D).
“Today, New Jersey becomes a more welcoming and inclusive state for immigrants and their families,” Sen. Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a written statement. “This commonsense policy will ensure that New Jersey high school students aren’t denied a college education and the chance to pursue the American dream.”
Other Top Stories:
9:05am- Republican Candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Jerry Patterson
9:35am- Larry Williams of Williams Brake Tune and Tire
These and many more topics coming up on today’s edition of The Chad Hasty Show. Tune in mornings 8:30-11am on News/Talk 790 KFYO, streaming online at kfyo.com, and now on your iPhone and Android device with the radioPup App. All guest interviews can be heard online in our podcast section after the show at kfyo.com.