Senate

Sen. Baucus wins fight to prevent trademarking of Montana's state slogan

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) last week announced that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has ruled that it would not allow anyone to trademark Montana's state slogan, "The Last Best Place."

"To try to auction off one of our most beloved sayings is just plain wrong. 'The Last Best Place' belongs to all Montanans and is not for sale," Baucus said.

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Monday: Student loans in the Senate, suspension bills in the House

The Senate meets at 2 p.m. to resume consideration of S. 2343, the Stop Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act.

Senate Democrats will be looking to move the bill ahead this week in order to provide a viable alternative to a House-passed bill. The Senate bill keeps the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans at 3.4 percent for another year, and pays for it by capturing more payroll taxes from high-income earners.

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Senate hearings: State voting rights, housing finance

A Senate subcommittee will meet Monday in Ohio to examine a state voting law that Democrats say could make it more difficult to vote.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) will preside over this hearing, the third over the last several months to press the issue of how state laws might make it difficult for minorities, students, the elderly and others to vote.

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Sen. Bill Nelson shows cautious openness to Rubio DREAM Act alternative

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) showed a reserved openness to backing Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-Fla.) Republican alternative to the DREAM Act.

"If that's the only thing we can pass, then I'm certainly open to it," Nelson said Thursday at the University of South Florida, according to The Associated Press. "But that's not going to solve the problem because once the child — or now-grown student — gets through, what's going to happen to them? Are they going to sit here in legal limbo? Are they going to have to go back to their country of origin and get in line to then come back? Well, at that point they think of themselves as American."

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Sen. Kirk leaving rehab facility three months after suffering stroke

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) is leaving the rehabilitation facility where he had most recently been recovering from a stroke he suffered in January.

He will continue his recovery at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago while living at home.

Kirk was hospitalized in January after suffering a ischemic stroke. He subsequently underwent surgery to relieve brain swelling as a result of the stroke.

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Secret Service tells Grassley: No sensitive info leaked in Colombia prostitute scandal

U.S. Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan told Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) this week that he does not believe any sensitive information was leaked as a result of the prostitution scandal that has prompted calls for investigation into both the Secret Service and the Defense Department.

"The Secret Service has no information to suggest that sensitive information was compromised during the Colombia trip," Sullivan wrote in a May 1 letter that Grassley released Wednesday. "The Secret Service can speak to the investigation into the conduct of Secret Service personnel.

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Durbin to assess new Ohio voting law in Monday hearing

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) will preside over a Senate subcommittee field hearing Monday that explores the extent to which state voting laws make it more difficult to vote, and he will focus on a new Ohio law, HB 194.

It is one of several state laws that Durbin and other Democrats say restrict the right to vote. He said that law hampers early voting by reducing the number of early voting days from 35 to 17 and makes it harder to vote absentee.

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Dem senator says Republicans still not arguing in 'good faith' on student loan interest rate debate

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) accused Republicans of not arguing in "good faith" on debating how to keep college student loan interest rates from doubling.

Brown's comments come less than a week after the House passed legislation aimed at keeping the interest rate on Stafford student loans at 3.4 percent. The rate is set to double to 6.8 percent on July 1 if legislators don't pass a bill stopping the increase. After some conservatives initially expressed opposition to keeping the rate from doubling, the House passed legislation stopping the rate increase.

Ahead of passing that legislation, conservative groups pressured Republicans to avoid dealing with the interest rate. Democrats strongly criticized that pressure and President Obama also called out Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), who said that she had "very little tolerance" for people who complain about graduating with large college tuition debt.

"The House has shown, I think, their less-than-real interest at keeping these interest rates at 3.4," Brown said Wednesday in a conference call. "We know the initial reaction of the House from several of their spokespeople, several of their most conservative House members was just to let the interest rate double, so I don't think they're acting in particularly good faith here."

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Sen. Shaheen urges Cabinet offices to provide information on spending in wake of GSA scandal

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) called on all 15 Cabinet offices to provide her with information on conference spending in the aftermath of a Government Services Administration excessive spending scandal.

"In light of the recent discovery of wasteful and inappropriate spending on conferences at the General Services Administration, I am sure you recognize the need for thorough scrutiny of these expenditures," Shaheen writes in the letter sent out to all 15 inspectors general of the Cabinet agencies. "I request that you provide my office with any investigations of conference spending your office has produced and, if you have not examined such spending in detail, that you perform an audit of any questionable conference expenses to ensure taxpayer funds have been spent in accordance with federal law and regulations."

Shaheen's letter comes after revelations broke about excessive spending by the GSA including a 2010 conference in Las Vegas that cost $822,000 in taxpayer money.

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