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Mitch McConnell
  • Payroll Tax Cut Drowns in Senate Saucer

    If I remember my apocryphal historical similes correctly, George Washington once asked Thomas Jefferson, "why did you just now pour that coffee into your saucer before drinking it?"

    When Jefferson responded, "to cool it," Washington explained that, for the same reason, "we pour our legislation into the Senatorial saucer…" and then we pour the other party's legislation into the saucer…and then we add some ice…and then we just dump the whole thing because who do these people think they are, demanding legislative coffee when Congress could be focused on renaming post offices?

    The Senate late Thursday rejected competing partisan visions for extending a temporary tax break that benefits virtually every American worker, clearing the way for more serious negotiations over how to cover the cost of the tax cut. All but a handful of Democrats voted in favor of their party's proposal, but in a surprising turn, more Republicans voted against the GOP plan than in favor of it.

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) predicted this week that a majority of his conference would vote for the party’s plan to extend the payroll tax cut. The vote suggests that rank-and-file Republicans remain divided on the merits of keeping the tax cut, leaving their party vulnerable to criticism from Democrats that they would raise taxes on the middle class as Americans are struggling economically.

    The Democratic version of the payroll tax cut extension, which would have cut the  payroll tax from 6.2% to 3.1% next year, while extending the cut to employers and levying a 3.25% surcharge on income over $1 million, was rejected by a vote of 51 in favor and 49 against.

    Because the Senatorial saucer requires an affirmative vote of 60 baristas before anyone can even debate drinking the brew, and *deep breath* the makeup of the Senate is such that in theory, Senators representing only 12% of the U.S. population could block legislation supported by Senators representing the other 88%, and…okay, let's just accept that the Senate isn't a saucer at all, but more like a spittoon — shiny and historically curious but mostly anachronistic and disgusting.

    Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    Tags: Mitch McConnell, Money, Senate, Taxes
  • Harry Reid Goes Nuclear, Say People Who Don't Own Dictionaries

    Most everything you need to know about the U.S. Senate can be encapsulated in one fact: it's a legislative body that looks down on smartphones and electronic voting, but maintains a row of snuff boxes and a brass spittoon. The atavism extends to Senate procedure, which relies mostly on the unanimous consent of 100 Senators and the use of a 60-vote cloture requirement, rather than on something so plebeian and democratic as majority rule.

    But sometimes, the Senate stops being hopelessly archaic and starts getting real

    In a shocking development Thursday evening, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) triggered a rarely used procedural option informally called the "nuclear option" to change the Senate rules.

    Reid and 50 members of his caucus voted to change Senate rules unilaterally to prevent Republicans from forcing votes on uncomfortable amendments after the chamber has voted to move to final passage of a bill.

    Reid’s coup passed by a vote of 51-48, leaving Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fuming.

    The surprise move stunned Republicans, who did not expect Reid to bring heavy artillery to what had been a humdrum knife fight over amendments to China currency legislation.

    Wait, what? Harry Reid obtained an artillery-fired tactical nuclear warhead and unleashed a barrage of hell-fire on a knife-wielding, but otherwise unsuspecting, Republican caucus? Now that's a story.

    Unfortunately, the scene that played out on C-SPAN was a lot less exciting than the carnage and destruction envisioned by some analysts. Traditionally, after 60 Senators have agreed to cut-off debate on a piece of legislation, Senators are still allowed to introduce amendments, including amendments not related to the purpose of the underlying bill. The goal is to embarrass the majority party — sure, we'll vote on the currency manipulation bill, but first let's see you vote against this Hugs and Tax Cuts for Family Farmers and Small Business Owners Act of 2011.

    By over-ruling a decision of the Senate presiding officer and parliamentarian, Senate Democrats set a new precedent, limiting amendments after cloture has been invoked. Potentially, the same procedure could be used in future sessions to eliminate the filibuster, rather than limit post-cloture debate.

    But other than those subtle details, last night's Senate kerfuffle was exactly like a nuclear holocaust.

    Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    Tags: China, Filibuster, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, Senate
  • Federal Reserve Ignores GOP Legislators' Request to Let America Suck It

    Earlier today, top Senate and House Republicans sent an heartfelt earnest plea to Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke to please please please consider doing absolutely nothing to boost the U.S. economy or make any attempt to do anything that might accidentally foster job growth

    Even though the financial markets have been counting on the Federal Reserve to take action, Republican Congressional leadership sent a letter to the Federal Reserve chairman on Tuesday evening urging it not to engage in further stimulus…

    "We have serious concerns that further intervention by the Federal Reserve could exacerbate current problems or further harm the U.S. economy," said the letter, signed by four of the top Republicans in Congress: Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader; Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Senate Republican whip; House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.

    It's a really inspiring letter. I strongly recommend reading the whole thing. I'm pretty sure that school children will be memorizing it instead of the Gettysburg Address in future generations.

    But, you know, that Bernanke guy's a well known treasonist, and you just can't argue with those people. So, he went ahead and announced that the Fed would be buying $400 billion in bonds and selling as much in debt. Which, I'm assuming means something to somebody because stuff happened

    The dollar rebounded against the euro and other major currencies Wednesday after the U.S. Federal Reserve announced new plans to help boost the American economy.

    The central bank said it will buy long-term Treasurys and sell short-term securities to help spur growth. The plan could lower rates for mortgages as well as those for consumer and business loans. The plan was expected by investors.

    Well, that sounds good so far, but it's still waaaaay to early to tell. Hopefully — and I know we're all really pulling for this — there won't be any significant long term economic or employment benefits to Bernanke's plan.

    Nothing aggravates an already dismal national mood more so than having to wake up early on a Monday morning and go to work. Ugh!

    Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    Tags: Ben Bernanke, Eric Cantor, Federal Reserve, House of Representatives, John Boehner, Jon Kyl, Mitch McConnell, Republicans, Senate, Stimulus, Unemployment
  • Jon Stewart on Barack Obama's Jobs Bill Plan

    Oh, right! Barack Obama's jobs plan. Yeah, yeah… that big speech he made last week with all the standing and the clapping. Are we still doing that?

    Coverage continues after the jump.

    The Daily Show airs Monday through Thursday at 11/10c.

    Read More »

    Tags: Barack Obama, Economy, Eric Cantor, House of Representatives, John McCain, Jon Stewart, Mitch McConnell, Republicans, The Daily Show, Unemployment, Video
  • Huge Majority of Americans Unhappy with Congress for Some Obscure Reason

    So, this debt ceiling deal that President Obama and congressional Republicans concocted to get America on the path to recovery. I mean, I know it's a little early to tell for sure, but how's that working out so far?

    The Dow tumbled 512 points on Thursday, its biggest point drop since Dec. 1, 2008. It's in the red for the year and has fallen more than 10% below the 2011 closing high in April, putting the measure squarely in correction territory.

    Oh, but that doesn't mean… Does it?

    It has been three decades since the United States suffered a recession that followed on the heels of the previous one. But it could be happening again.

    Hmmmmm… I see.

    But people have to know that the the President and Congress — in taking us to the brink of financial ruin before deciding to cut trillions of dollars of spending, without bringing in any additional revenue,  in a time of extreme economic hardship — were acting in what they believed was the best interest of the nation, right? I mean, people have to know that!

    A record 82 percent of Americans now disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job — the most since The Times first began asking the question in 1977, and even more than after another political stalemate led to a shutdown of the federal government in 1995.

    More than four out of five people surveyed said that the recent debt-ceiling debate was more about gaining political advantage than about doing what is best for the country. Nearly three-quarters said that the debate had harmed the image of the United States in the world.

    Republicans in Congress shoulder more of the blame for the difficulties in reaching a debt-ceiling agreement than President Obama and the Democrats, the poll found.

    Okay, but people still think that John Boehner's tan looks totally boss! Right? Right?

    Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    Tags: Barack Obama, Debt, Democrats, Dow Jones, Economy, Eric Cantor, Harry Reid, House of Representatives, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, Polls, Republicans, Senate, Wall Street