Senate

Coburn plans six small-government additions to Senate small-business bill

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) indicated this week that he will try to attach six small-government amendments to the small-business reauthorization bill that the Senate is considering this week.

Coburn on Monday said he would seek to suspend the rules and get these amendments approved by unanimous consent, which will require senators to agree to include them even though they are not germane to the bill at hand, S. 493.

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Senate confirms 14th nominee, first Latino circuit judge

The Senate unanimously confirmed Jimmie Reyna as the first Latino member of the federal appeals court on Monday and, in doing so, confirmed its 15th judicial nominee of the year.

Last year at this same time the Senate had only managed to make two confirmations.

Prior to the vote Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, came to the floor to praise Senate Majority Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for insisting the Senate vote on at least one judicial nominee each week. He urged Reid to maintain the regular schedule through out the year.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is based in Washington and has its jurisdiction based wholly upon subject matter rather than geographic location.

The Senate adjourned at 6:22 p.m. on Monday and is set to convene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

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March Madness rivalry gets play on Senate floor

Freshman Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) on Monday jokingly taunted fellow freshman Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) about the NCAA men’s basketball championship.

Coats bragged hat Indiana's Butler Bulldogs would be triumphant over the University of Connecticut Huskies in Monday night’s game. And he didn’t give Blumenthal much of a chance to respond.

“I could extol of Butler for quite some time and take advantage of you,” Coats told Blumenthal, who was sitting at the dais as acting Senate pro tempore during the discussion. Blumenthal was unable to respond to Coats because under Senate rules, the senator acting as president pro tempore is not allowed to engage in floor conversations. 

“Butler has been a dream and a joy for those of us in Indiana,” said Coats, who revealed that he and Blumenthal had placed a gentlemanly wager on the game consisting of a collection of edible products from their respective states.  

“I'm looking forward to receiving your part of the bargain delivered to my office,” Coats said. 

The Butler Bulldogs will tip off against the Connecticut Huskies at 9 p.m. Monday.

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McConnell touts administration's reversal on terrorist trials

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sought Monday to convert into political points the Obama administration's reversal on the trial venue for accused 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

“I would like to note a welcome development on the war on terror,” McConnell said in a floor speech. "Incredibly enough, today the administration is announcing it has changed course."

Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Monday that the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks would be tried before a military commission at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base rather than in civilian court, as the administration had hoped. In 2009 Holder announced that the trial would be held in New York City, prompting a bipartisan outcry from lawmakers in that state.

“For the last two years, the Obama administration has actively sought to bring the 9/11 plotters into our communities for civilian trials," said McConnell. "It was a completely horrible idea that rightly drew overwhelming bipartisan opposition from the American people and from their elected representatives here in Congress," McConnell said. 

"It’s the right outcome to a long and spirited debate," he said.

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Reid warns time is 'extremely' short to avert shutdown

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) warned Monday that time is “extremely short" to avoid a government shutdown.

“Time we have left is extremely short,” said Reid in a speech on the Senate floor. “The window in which we can avoid the terrible consequence of a shutdown is closing.”

Reid added that the time left to broker a compromise should be “measured in hours” not days, and noted that negotiations are not yet where they should be.

He once again blamed Tea Party element of the Republican caucus for poisoning the negotiations and refusing to compromise.

“They stomp their feet and call compromise a dirty word,” the Democratic leader said.

The continuing resolution that is currently funding the government will expire on Friday. President Obama is scheduled to host Reid, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the House and Senate heads of the budget committees at the White House on Tuesday.

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Sanders says US should adopt laws mandating five-week vacations

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) suggested the U.S. ought to adopt European-style laws mandating employees receive five or six weeks of vacation time.

“We should begin to look at other countries in Europe where people get, by law five, six weeks paid vacation,” said Sanders in an appearance on Bill Maher’s HBO show Friday. 

“Let’s be clear, the people in our country, as the middle class declines, are working longer hours for low wages,” said Sanders. “There are jobs now being offered that provide virtually no vacation time at all. And in America we should understand this. Our people are now working almost the longest hours of any other major country on earth. People are under stress. They’re exhausted.”

As the only self-proclaimed socialist in the Senate, Sanders often speaks out on the Senate floor about workers' rights and his belief that America’s middle class is in decline. 

Sanders's appearance on “Real Time” can be viewed here.

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Featured upcoming House committee hearings

The House will stage hearings next week on several issues sure to generate controversy, including the exploration of a possible link between government-sponsored broadcasting and terrorism and improving the bullion coin programs of the U.S. Mint.

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Upcoming Senate committee hearings

Senate Committees will engage in a number of housekeeping items next week, including confirmation hearings for several administration nominees. They also will begin discussion on topics that could take center stage in the Senate later this year, including biofuel in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and border security in the Committee on Homeland Security.

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