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Posts tagged ‘Mike Johanns’

Cruz: Debt Ceiling ‘Trickery’ Shows Why Americans Hate Congress.


Senators and their “trickery” on last week’s vote on the debt ceiling was “a perfect illustration of everything that is wrong in Washington,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says.

“Republican leadership said, we want this to pass but if every senator affirmatively consents to doing it on 51 votes, then we can all cast a vote ‘no’ and we can go home to our constituents and say we opposed it,” the Republican freshman senator told CNN’s Dana Bash on Thursday.

That “show vote,” Cruz continued, is the “sort of trickery to the constituents [which] is why Congress has a 13 percent approval rating.”

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Story continues below video.

The Senate last week approved the “clean” debt-ceiling bill, but two key Republicans, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas voted to end Cruz’s filibuster on the legislation.

Cruz had called for a 60-vote threshold to end debate on the measure, but after discussions among GOP senators on the floor of the chamber, McConnell and Cornyn came forward to cast “aye” votes to end debate — a move called “cloture.”

A total of 12 Republican senators voted to invoke cloture, joining with 53 Democrats and two independents who caucus with Democrats. The bill then advanced to the floor and was approved 55-43 on a straight party-line vote.

Besides McConnell and Cornyn, the other Republicans voting against Cruz were Sens. John Barrasso, Wyoming; Susan Collins, Maine; Bob Corker, Tennessee; Jeff Flake, Arizona; Orrin Hatch, Utah; Mike Johanns, Nebraska; Mark Kirk, Illinois; John McCain, Arizona; Lisa Murkowski, Alaska; and John Thune, South Dakota.

Cruz told Bash that he likes Cornyn and has agreed with him on many issues, but disagrees with him on the debt ceiling vote.

“What I said at the outset was that I am not going to affirmatively consent to giving [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid the authority to do this,” Cruz said. “It’s irresponsible, and it’s sending our nation’s future down the road.”

But he denies criticism that he “threw five Republicans under the bus.”

“My response is, I don’t want to throw any Republicans under the bus,” Cruz said. “I want to see all 45 Republicans stand together and actually do what we tell our constituents we are going to do.”

Overall, Cruz said, lawmakers need to be honest with their constituents.

“Last week, what it was all about was truth and transparency,” he said.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Sandy Fitzgerald

GOP Senate Leadership Bucks Cruz’s 60-Vote Debt Ceiling Bid.


Image: GOP Senate Leadership Bucks Cruz's 60-Vote Debt Ceiling Bid

After a dramatic Senate tally in which top GOP leaders cast the crucial votes, must-pass legislation to allow the government to borrow money to pay its bills cleared Congress Wednesday for President Barack Obama’s signature.

The Senate approved the measure by a near party-line 55-43 vote. All of the “aye” votes came from Obama’s Democratic allies.

But the vote to pass the measure was anticlimactic after a dramatic 67-31 tally — held open for more than an hour — in which the measure cleared a filibuster hurdle insisted on by tea party Republican Ted Cruz of Texas. The Senate’s top two Republicans — both facing tea party challenges in their GOP primaries this year — provided crucial momentum after a knot of Republicans in the Senate well were clearly unhappy at having to walk the plank.

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After Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Minority Whip John Cornyn, voted “aye” several other Republicans switched their votes in solidarity. Twelve Republicans ultimately voted to help the measure advance but the tally appeared to be in doubt for several anxious minutes.

“A lot of people stepped up and did what they needed to do,” said Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who voted to advance the bill, as did Mark Kirk of Illinois, who said: “Members didn’t want to” vote for it.

The 12 Republicans who voted against Cruz’s measure were: John Barrasso, Wyo.; Susan Collins, Maine; Bob Corker, Tenn.; John Cornyn, Texas; Jeff Flake, Ariz.; Orrin Hatch, Utah; Mike Johanns, Neb.; Mark Kirk, Ill.; John McCain, Ariz.; Mitch McConnell, Ky.; Lisa Murkowski, Alaska; John Thune, S.D.

Cruz’s demands irritated Republicans because it forced several of them, particularly McConnell, to cast a difficult vote. McConnell faces a May primary against tea party candidate Matt Bevin, whose supporters adamantly oppose increasing the debt limit.

“In my view, every Republican should stand together against raising the debt ceiling without meaningful structural reforms to rein in our out of control spending,” Cruz said.

After the tally, Cruz said he had no regrets, saying the “Senate has given President Obama a blank check.”

Asked about forcing a difficult vote upon McConnell, Cruz said: “That is ultimately a decision … for the voters of Kentucky.”

The legislation would permit Treasury to borrow normally for another 13 months and then reset the government’s borrowing cap, currently set at $17.2 trillion, after that.

It passed the House Tuesday after Republicans gave up efforts to use the debt ceiling measure to win concessions from Obama on GOP agenda items like winning approval of construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The measure is required so that the government can borrow to pay bills like Social Security benefits, federal salaries, and payments to Medicare and Medicaid providers.

Quick action on the debt limit bill stands in contrast to lengthy showdowns in 2012 and last fall when Republicans sought to use the critically necessary measure as leverage to win concessions from Obama. They succeeded in 2011, winning about $2 trillion in spending cuts, but Obama has been unwilling to negotiate over the debt limit since his re-election, and Wednesday’s legislation is the third consecutive debt measure passed without White House concessions.

Republicans have been less confrontational after October’s 16-day partial government shutdown sent GOP poll numbers skidding and chastened the party’s tea party faction. Republicans have instead sought to focus voters’ attention on the implementation and effects of Obama’s health care law.

The measure is required so that the government can borrow to pay all of its bills, including Social Security benefits, federal salaries, payments to Medicare and Medicaid providers and interest on the accumulated debt. Congress has never failed to act to prevent a default on U.S. obligations, which most experts say would spook financial markets and spike interest rates.

Most Republicans say any increase in the debt ceiling should be accompanied by cuts to the spiraling costs of costly benefit programs like Medicare.

“We need some reform before we raise the debt ceiling. We need to demonstrate that we are taking steps that will reduce the accumulation of debt in the future,” said Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, top Republican on the Budget Committee. “And the president and the Democratic Senate have just flatly refused. So they’ve just said, `We’ll accept no restraint on spending’.”

Some Republicans seemed irked that Cruz wouldn’t let the bill pass without forcing it to clear a 60-vote threshold that required some Republicans to walk the plank and help it advance..

“I’m not going to talk about that,” said Orrin Hatch when asked if Republicans are annoyed with Cruz.

Passage of the debt limit measure without any extraneous issues comes after House GOP leaders tried for weeks to find a formula to pass a version of their own that included Republican agenda items like approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and repeal of an element of the health care law. But a sizable faction of House Republicans simply refuse to vote for any increase in the government’s borrowing abilities, which forced House Speaker John Boehner to turn to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to pass the measure on the strength of Democrats.

The debt measure permits Treasury to borrow regularly through March 15, 2015, putting the issue off until after the November elections and setting it up for the new Congress to handle next year. If Republicans take over the Senate, they’re likely to insist on linking the debt ceiling to spending cuts and other GOP agenda items, but for now at least, the issue is being handled the old fashioned way, with the party of the incumbent president being responsible for supplying the votes to pass it but with the minority party not standing in the way.

“I think we will go back to the responsible way of making sure that our country does not default,” said Democratic Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray.

Senate action Wednesday would safely clear the debt issue off of Washington’s plate weeks in advance of the Feb. 27 deadline set last week by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew. The debt limit was reset to $17.2 trillion after a four-month suspension of the prior, $16.7 trillion limit expired last Friday. Lew promptly began employing accounting maneuvers to buy time for Congress to act.

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© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Despite Budget Deal, Atmosphere in Washington Remains Toxic.


Image: Despite Budget Deal, Atmosphere in Washington Remains Toxic

Anyone expecting a new era of good feeling to break out on Capitol Hill in the wake of this week’s bipartisan budget deal should probably forget about it.That was the clear message from most lawmakers interviewed on Friday as well as from close observers of Congress, after the deal passed through the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday on its way to the Senate.

Editor’s Note: 75% of Seniors Make This $152,000 Social Security Mistake 
The budget bill, negotiated by Republican Representative Paul Ryan and Democratic Senator Patty Murray, is vague and non-specific, avoiding tough, divisive issues. But Congress’ agenda for the next year is full of specifics, including raising the debt ceiling, funding individual government programs, immigration reform and passing a farm bill.

“I think next year is tougher,” said Nebraska Republican Senator Mike Johanns. “It’s an election year. Tens of millions of dollars will be spent trashing people, and it’s hard to forget that.”

The deal was a “one-off,” said Norm Ornstein, a scholar of Congress at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

It may avoid government shutdowns, assuming it passes the Senate next week as expected, he said. But “I don’t see any signs that the fundamentals have changed.”

That was also the message from the floor of the U.S. Senate, where Republicans, some red-faced with rage, kept berating Democrats on Friday for stripping away their right to block President Barack Obama’s judicial nominations using the filibuster, a procedural hurdle.

“The whole atmosphere here is totally poisoned, OK,” said Senator John McCain when asked as he left the floor if the budget deal changed anything.

“There’s no cooperation, there’s no comity. And it is what it is,” notwithstanding the fact that Democrats and Republicans came together to approve the budget bill.

“It can’t get much worse,” he said.

That does not bode well for the issues facing Congress as it enters its second half, with all seats in the Republican-led House and a third of those in the Democratic-led Senate up for election next November.

The political advantage of the budget agreement was its vagueness. It set overall spending levels for two years, a significant break from the recent pattern of short-term funding bills that required extension every few months, always under the threat of a government shutdown like the 16-day closure in October.

But it did not tackle the most volatile issues, such as Democratic demands for tax increases and Republican efforts to control spending on “entitlements,” such as the healthcare program for seniors, Medicare, or Social Security retirement.

While it set as a goal $1.012 trillion in spending, it did not specify how the sum would be divided up among individual programs, each of which has a constituency.

Indeed, once the budget bill is approved by the Senate, as expected next week, a more challenging and potentially acrimonious appropriations process will begin that could set off a scramble among advocates for particular interests.

“We have a heavy lift ahead of us,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, “drafting, negotiating, and passing these bills in just over one month.”

In an interview on PBS, Murray acknowledged that she and Ryan avoided the divisive questions. “You set aside the hot issues,” she noted in describing the formula for success in the negotiations.

In the immigration fight, for example, setting aside the “hot issues” might not be possible, as Democrats, including Obama, insist that any legislation contain a “pathway to citizenship” for the 11 million undocumented people living in the United States.

That presents a problem for many conservative Republicans, who see those people as having broken the law by either entering the United States illegally or overstaying their visas.

Nor did the budget deal address the bill expected in the spring to increase the nation’s borrowing limit. Conservatives, particularly those associated with the Tea Party movement, have regularly opposed the debt ceiling measure, twice bringing the government to the brink of a potential default.

Since Republican House Speaker John Boehner enraged conservatives this week by pushing through the budget deal they equated with surrender, Ornstein believes he may feel a need to mollify them by again demanding big spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

“If you do something” that angers “the radical wing, does that give you more ability and incentive to do it again or does it require you to do something to make it clear that you really love them?” said Ornstein.

Editor’s Note: 75% of Seniors Make This $152,000 Social Security Mistake 
The debt ceiling “will come up,” said Johanns. “We are going to struggle with that issue.”

“The fact that the debt ceiling fight will come right before the Republican primaries means that the fiscal battles haven’t gone away, but instead will likely heat up,” said Ron Bonjean, a former Republican leadership aide in the House.

“Republican members of Congress will want to show how conservative they are to voters back home,” he said. “This deal looks like a peaceful retreat made by both parties in order to rest up for the major battle over the debt ceiling.”

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

Nebraska Rep. Lee Terry Sorry for ‘Hurtful’ Shutdown Salary Remarks.


Nebraska Rep. Lee Terry, in a public mea culpa, says he won’t collect his paycheck as long as shut-down federal workers don’t get theirs.

Terry, a Republican, declared his change of heart — and issued a full apology — for his “hurtful” comments last week that went viral, the Omaha World-Herald reported Monday.

“The other day I made a statement that I would put my needs above others in crisis,” Terry said Sunday, the newspaper reported.

“I’m ashamed of my comments. It was not leadership. It is not how I was raised. It is not the nature of my character. It is not what I want to teach my sons. I apologize for my hurtful remarks when so many others are feeling the pain of Washington‘s dysfunction.”

Last week, Terry bluntly told the newspaper “Dang straight” when asked whether he’d continue to collect his paycheck during the government shutdown.

Then he dissed anyone who decided otherwise.

“Whatever gets them good press,” the congressman dismissively remarked about lawmakers who were giving up — or giving away to charity — their pay during the shutdown.

“That’s all it’s going to be. God bless them. But you know what? I’ve got a nice house and a kid in college, and I’ll tell you we cannot handle it. Giving our paycheck away when you still worked and earned it? That’s just not going to fly.”

The salary for rank-and-file lawmakers is $174,000 a year.

“I should and will stand in the shoes of the federal civilian employees who are furloughed,” Terry said. “We share the same responsibilities to pay our bills, and if they don’t receive a paycheck and must take extraordinary efforts and sacrifice to pay them, then I should, too.”

Terry wasn’t the only one who changed his mind about collecting a check.

Republican Nebraska Rep. Jeff Fortenberry also reversed course after previously saying he’d keep collecting, adding “feel-good gestures” wouldn’t solve the problem, the newspaper reported.

In a letter to be published Tuesday in the World-Herald’s Public Pulse, Fortenberry wrote:

“There are a number of people who are hurting from the government shutdown, and there is a fairness argument to be made.”

Another member of Nebraska’s all-GOP congressional delegation, Rep. Adrian Smith, already had told The World-Herald he was suspending his checks.

But Sen. Deb Fischer described giving up pay during the shutdown as a “gimmick,” and a spokesman for Sen. Mike Johanns said the senator already donates to charity, the newspaper said.

More than 100 lawmakers last week indicated they were either turning down their pay or opting to donate it to charity during the government shutdown.

Terry’s refusal to give up his money was widely reported — and criticized. But in an opinion piece Monday in the newspaper, he expressed his frustration with Washington.

“I’m frustrated at the level of political gamesmanship,” he wrote. “Photo opportunities and gotcha politics are no way to govern a country.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Cathy Burke

Coburn Rips McConnell for ‘Leadership Vacuum’.


Senate Republicans have a “leadership vacuum,” and party leader Mitch McConnell has allowed the upper chamber to spin out of control, says his GOP colleague Tom Coburn.

The two-termer from Oklahoma not only chastised McConnell during a gathering of the Republican Steering Committee but also called out Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee for their aggressive fight to defund Obamacarereports The Hill.

“He said to Cruz and Lee, ‘Don’t pretend to be naïve. You know outside groups are using what you’re doing as ammo against your colleagues,'” a Republican who attended the meeting told The Hill.

The Obamacare fight and rhetoric coming from Lee and Cruz have been used in advertising to attack other Republicans, and McConnell is letting it happen, Coburn said.

“He said to McConnell, ‘This has happened because there’s a leadership vacuum,'” the Republican source said.

Coburn refused comment about the meeting, but the lack-of-leadership accusations are claims he’s made before, including in August on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, when he called Congress “the kindergarten in Washington.”

“We really lack leadership and what we have is selfish desires for political power, rather than thoughtful consideration about what’s in the best interest of our country as a whole,” he said at the time.

Another Republican senator, who spoke anonymously, said McConnell is too deferential to Lee and Cruz.

“What gets me is he’ll look at 46 [Republican] senators and say, ‘What do Mike and Ted want to do?’ What are we, chopped liver?” the senator complained. But he also said he’s sorry for McConnell, who is facing a tough race for re-election in Kentucky against tea party-aligned Matt Bevin.

Many senators complain that Cruz, who has only been in the Senate since January, is leading the debate without having an endgame strategy.

Retiring Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska, has suggested Cruz is driven by presidential ambitions in his Obamacare fight.

Related Articles:

Sen. Coburn: Cruz Strategy on Obamacare ‘Not Realistic’

McConnell to Newsmax: Defunding Obamacare Not ‘Waste of Time’ for GOP

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Sandy Fitzgerald

Why Rand Paul voted to confirm Chuck Hagel as defense secretary.


 

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, left, stands next to Arizona Sen. John McCain. (Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

Only four Republicans crossed party lines on Tuesday to approve President Barack Obama’s defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, but no senator sparked more confusion than Kentucky’s Rand Paul, a vocal critic of Hagel who nonetheless cast his vote in favor of the former Nebraska senator.

Just hours after he had voted against a procedural measure to end debate over Hagel’s nomination, Paul offered his support for Hagel’s confirmation. Paul’s spokeswoman explained that the senator decided to support Hagel because he believes that presidents should get “some leeway” on political appointments, an opinion he has been open about in the past.

“In the run-up to tonight’s vote to confirm former Sen. Hagel as secretary of defense, Sen. Paul voted twice against cloture on the nomination, because he agreed with many of his colleagues that there were questions that needed to be answered about the president’s nominee,” Paul spokeswoman Moira Bagley told Yahoo News. “As he has said before, the president should be entitled to some leeway on his political appointments. That is why Sen. Paul voted in favor of Sen. John Kerry, with whom he largely disagrees on foreign policy, to serve as secretary of state, and that is why he voted for final passage of the nomination of Sen. Hagel this evening, with whom he also disagrees on a number of issues.”

The Senate voted 58-41 to confirm Hagel, ending a long and contentious nomination process. The other Republicans who supported Hagel were Sens. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Mike Johanns of Nebraska and Richard Shelby of Alabama.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By  | The Ticket

Panetta says politics at play in Hagel questioning.


WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said “the political knives” came out whenChuck Hagel faced fellow Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee during hisconfirmation hearing to be Pentagon chief.

Panetta said he was disappointed that Thursday’s eight-hour hearing focused so much on what Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, had said in the past about Iran, Israel and other matters instead of what he thinks about today’s issues, including the war in Afghanistan, the fight against terrorism, and looming automatic budget cuts and their impact on military readiness.

“We just did not see enough time spent on discussing those issues. And in the end, that’s what counts,” Panetta told NBC’s “Meet the Press” in an interview broadcast Sunday.

“It’s pretty obvious that the political knives were out for Chuck Hagel,” Panetta said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, noting the lengthy hearing, said on ABC’s “This Week,” ”give the guy a break. I thought he did pretty good.” Reid, D-Nev., said Hagel’s party affiliation “should be a plus. We need more.”

Panetta said he is confident that Hagel is prepared to succeed him at the Pentagon.

In an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Panetta dismissed concerns that Hagel and former Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who was sworn in Friday as secretary of state, agree with Obama’s views to the point that they won’t challenge the president.

“I’ve got to tell you, anybody who knows John Kerry and anybody who knows Chuck Hagel … they push back. Believe me, they push back on the issues,” he said. “In the situation room, everybody has to give their honest views. And I think they won’t hesitate to give their honest views.”

Two Republican senators, Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Mike Johanns of Nebraska, have said they will support Hagel’s nomination. Johanns said Saturday his concerns were allayed after Hagel’s Senate hearing and after he met with Hagel for an hour.

“Chuck earned this endorsement,” Johanns said in an interview with the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

Associated Press

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