Category Archives: Committees

DOMA Repeal Has Enough Votes for Committee Passage

New support for “legislation that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act assures that the necessary votes are in place for a favorable Senate committee vote on the measure as advocates maintain hearings should take place first before advancing the bill,” the Washington Blade reports.

Last week, the Respect [for] Marriage Act, legislation sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that would repeal the 1996 anti-gay law that prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage, gained two additional co-sponsors: Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.).

Kohl’s support for the legislation is critical because he’s a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and would have a vote when the roll is called to move the legislation to the floor. Lynn Becker, a Kohl spokesperson, said the senator had previously considered DOMA a state issue.

Meanwhile, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), another member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has also said she’d vote for repeal of DOMA in committee, although she’s stopped short of co-sponsoring the legislation. Last month, the Minnesota Independent reported that the senator would back the Respect for Marriage Act.

In a statement provided to the Washington Blade, Klobuchar confirmed that legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act has her support.

The support from “Kohl and Klobuchar means that the Respect for Marriage Act has at least 10 votes in the Senate Judiciary Committee — enough to advance the bill to the Senate floor.”

Timing of any vote is uncertain:

Despite having the votes in the Senate Judiciary Committee, imminent plans that exist for the Respect for Marriage Act in the panel are unclear. Erica Chabot, a Senate Judiciary Committee spokesperson, said she was unable to communicate with Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) during the congressional recess about his plans.

Advocates working “to advance the legislation say hearings should take place before the bill is sent to the Senate floor to follow regular order and build additional support.”

Even if the bill “is reported to the Senate floor, significant hurdles remain in passing the legislation.”

Ending a filibuster in the Senate requires 60 votes, so at least seven Republicans would have to vote in favor of ending debate on the measure.

More information on Feinstein’s bill here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Committees, Marriage Equality

Johanns Also Interested in Ensign’s Finance Committee Seat

Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE) “is expressing interest in the Finance Committee seat currently held by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), whose resignation from the Senate becomes effective May 3,” Roll Call reports.

Johanns spokesman Steve Wymer confirmed Wednesday that the Nebraska Republican would like to replace Ensign on the coveted panel. But Wymer indicated that Johanns is cognizant that he is not the only Republican angling to land on Finance, popular for its expansive policy reach and spot from which to raise campaign funds.

“Sen. Johanns has put in for Finance since day one in the Senate and looks forward to hopefully getting a seat on the panel at some point, but he is mindful of seniority issues,” Wymer said.

Leave a comment

Filed under Committees

DeMint Expresses Interest in Replacing Ensign on Finance Committee

Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) would be interested in replacing Senator John Ensign (R-NV) on the Finance Committee, a spokesman tells Roll Call.

"Senator DeMint is very interested in serving on the Finance Committee and has requested it every time since he was elected," said his spokesman, Wesley Denton. "This is where entitlement reform will be written to balance the budget, it’s where Obamacare will be repealed, and it’s where our tax laws will be reformed to ensure that America remains the best place in the world to do business. … He understands the seat will be filled by the Republican Leader and Senator DeMint will respect his decision."

Improved chances:

But DeMint’s chances improved Wednesday after Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who Republican aides on the Hill expected to get the nod, removed his name from consideration to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.

Isakson is the ranking Republican on the ethics committee. Ensign cited the panel’s continuing investigation in his decision last week to leave the Senate. His resignation is effective May 3.

Leave a comment

Filed under Committees

Committee Republicans Seek Open Budget Process

Senate Republicans serving on the Budget Committee sent a letter to Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) today “urging him to drag the budget process into the light of day — or at least onto the Internet,” POLITICO reports.

In the letter obtained by POLITICO, the senators ask Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, to post his 2012 budget proposal online at least three days before the committee marks up the bill. In recent years, the budget has been “presented, marked up and passed out of committee in less than 48 hours.”

The GOP senators also want Conrad to hold a series of public meetings where they can offer amendments to the budget plan.

“Having an open, public process in the Senate allows the American people to directly participate in the decision over how we spend their money,” the senators wrote. “The American people do not, and should not, trust Washington with their tax dollars — for years it has frittered away those tax dollars and brought our nation to the brink of insolvency.”

Response:

Conrad’s office responded to the letter saying the Republicans aren’t asking for anything new. "The Budget Committee has always had a completely open mark-up process for the budget resolution," said Stu Nagurka, Communications Director, Senate Budget Committee in a statement.  "And Chairman Conrad understands the urgency of dealing with our nation’s long-term deficits. That’s why he has been working hard for months on a bipartisan, comprehensive deficit reduction plan. He wants to give the Group of 6 a chance to reach agreement so that he could consider using that bipartisan plan as a framework for the Senate budget resolution."

Who signed:

In addition to [Ranking Member Jeff] Sessions, the letter was signed by Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Mike Crapo of Idaho, John Ensign of Nevada, John Cornyn of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Thune of South Dakota, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Rob Portman of Ohio.

Leave a comment

Filed under Budget, Committees, Letters

Franken Announces Hearing on Mobile Technology/Privacy

Senator Al Franken (D-MN), who chairs the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, announced today “that he will be holding the subcommittee’s first hearing, titled Protecting Mobile Privacy: Your Smartphones, Tablets, Cell Phones and Your Privacy,” according to a press release from his office.

It will take place on Tuesday, May 10 at 10:00 a.m. (D.C. time).

Sen. Franken has invited representatives from Apple and Google. Confirmed witnesses include officials from the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission; Ashkan Soltani, independent privacy researcher and consultant; and Justin Brookman, Director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Project on Consumer Privacy.

“Recent advances in mobile technology have allowed Americans to stay connected like never before and put an astonishing number of resources at our fingertips,” said Sen. Franken. “But the same technology that has given us smartphones, tablets, and cell phones has also allowed these devices to gather extremely sensitive information about users, including detailed records of their daily movements and location. This hearing is the first step in making certain that federal laws protecting consumers’ privacy-particularly when it comes to mobile devices-keep pace with advances in technology.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Committees, Hearings, Privacy Rights

Homeland Security Committee Adopts Government Charge Card Legislation

Senators “are one step closer to passing a bill that would crack down on abuse of government-issued charge cards and travel cards,” the Washington Post reports.

Federal agencies issue charge cards to certain employees to purchase office supplies or other incidentals, or for government-paid travel and related expenses.

But several watchdog and news reports through the years have discovered abuse of the cards at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Postal Service and Tennessee Valley Authority, among others.

A bill passed this week by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee would however force agencies to better police the cards and enact stricter penalties — including termination — if workers are found abusing the card program. The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration. It passed the Senate in 2009 but was never considered by the House.

“This bill is about accountability,” said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the bill’s lead sponsor. “The public trust has been violated by abusive use of government charge cards. The federal bureaucracy needs to improve the way it manages the use of these cards.”

Some specifics:

The bill would require agencies to perform credit checks on card holders and issue restricted cards for employees with bad or no credit to prevent potential misuse. It would also require agencies to maintain a record of each cardholder, conduct period reviews to determine whether workers still need the cards, require mandatory training for cardholders and their managers regarding the program, establish limits on how many cards could be issued and ensure that cards are invalidated when a worker leaves an agency or transfers to a new federal job.

It’s called the Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act.

Leave a comment

Filed under Committees, Federal Employees, General Government

Committee Republicans Want New Budget from President

Republicans “on the Senate Budget Committee are pushing President Obama to submit a revised fiscal 2012 budget by May 15, arguing the president’s recent speech on deficit reduction makes the previous one no longer applicable,” The Hill reports.

In a letter to Obama, the 11 GOP members of the Budget panel said Obama’s Wednesday speech “represents an apparent shift from your FY 2012 budget” and that the address lacked the necessary details to help move the fiscal debate forward.

“The Budget and Accounting Act is clear — the President is not exempt from the requirement to submit a formal budget request and, in light of your April 13th speech, the budget we have in hand today does not comport with your public statements about Administration policy,” the senators added.

1 Comment

Filed under Budget, Committees, White House