The Senate Hits Fast Forward

Sep 26, 2013 9:26am

By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)

NOTABLES

  • THE PACE OF DEBATE QUICKENS: A rare moment of agreement between Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill last night means that the Senate is speeding up consideration of a bill to fund the government — potentially giving the House of Representatives more time to avert a government shutdown, ABC’s JEFF ZELENY notes. The upshot: Neither side — at least in the Senate — has the stomach to close down the government. The marathon debate from Sen. Ted Cruz spoiled a lot of people’s appetites for a big fight. A final vote in Senate now could come as early as Friday (or as late as Saturday.) Then, it goes back to the House, where the ball is in Speaker John Boehner’s court.
  • STORM CLOUDS AHEAD: A top House Republican aide tells ABC’s JONATHAN KARL that the House GOP will likely unveil their plan for raising the debt ceiling today. It is a plan that will put the House on a collision course with the White House. The aide says the Republicans will offer a “kitchen sink” approach — agreeing to raising the debt ceiling in exchange for a one-year delay in implementing Obamacare, and “many, many other economic reforms and spending cuts.”  It will also include approval of the Keystone pipeline and tax reform. The White House, of course, has said they will agree to exactly nothing in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. As for the bill funding the government — more storm clouds ahead.  “We very likely won’t be accepting the Senate bill as-is, and will likely be sending something back to them,” says the Republican aide. That would mean the Senate would have to, once again, debate the bill and, if changes were made, send it back to the House — all against a deadline of midnight Monday, when government funding runs out.
  • SALESMAN-IN-CHIEF: With just five days until Americans can start enrolling in his signature health care law, President Obama will continue to make his final sales pitch today, ABC’s MARY BRUCE notes. In a late morning speech at Prince George’s Community College, the president is expected to tout the benefits of Obamacare and detail how it will work, in a last ditch effort to sway Americans who are still skeptical more than three years after the law was enacted.
  • MEETING OF THE DIPLOMATS: This afternoon Secretary of State John Kerry will participate in the P5+1 (a group made of the five United Nations Security Council Members plus Germany) where Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif will also participate, ABC’s DANA HUGHES reports. It will be the highest level official meeting the two countries have participated in since the nuclear talks began over a decade ago.  The State Department is already down-playing expectations saying that no-one expects a breakthrough from this one meeting, but it will open an opportunity to see if the Iranians are serious about wanting to negotiate.

 

THE ROUNDTABLE

ABC’s JEFF ZELENY: The Senate is doing its part to avert a government shutdown, with Republicans and Democrats coming together in a rare agreement to cut short debate by a day or two and accelerate the vote to keep the government funded. Soon, the ball will be in Speaker John Boehner’s court. The outcome won’t be clear until he takes the temperature of rank-and-file Republicans, who have been just as likely to defy him as to rally behind him in recent years. There are several contingency plans circulating. Many House Republicans want to volley something back to the Senate, which could push things right to the brink of a shutdown next week, but there’s also a prevailing feeling that it’s a wiser course to keep the government open and save the next round of the health care fight for an even bigger debate: raising the debt limit. That deadline is three weeks from today.

ABC’s RICK KLEIN: We know that Sen. Ted Cruz didn’t change any policies, or any timelines for passing bills, or even really filibuster in the first place. He also didn’t create the tactic he used to make his point – and grow his brand. But he did make clear a fundamental reordering of power dynamics on Capitol Hill. Decades ago, committee chairs yielded much of their influence to leadership. Then we spent the better part of 10 years in the Senate “gang” era, where small, ad-hoc bipartisan groups could effectively control the place. This, though, is a new rogue era, where seniority actually works against power, and perceptions of outside support and influence matter. The world’s greatest deliberative body can now, at various times, be taken over by junior members. Now that it’s happened a few times, it’s fair to expect much more.

 

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

SPECIAL ENVOY RUSS FEINGOLD CALLS ON RWANDA TO END ITS SUPPORT OF M23 REBELS IN CONGO. Russ Feingold, the former senator and a leading progressive, is now taking on an entirely different role as the U.S. special envoy charged with helping to find a solution to one of the deadliest conflicts in modern times: the two-decades-long war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Shortly after returning from his first trip to the region as special envoy, Feingold sat down with “Politics Confidential” and had some harsh words for the Rwanda government’s apparent support of rebels – the mostly Tutsi M23 rebels blamed for most of the recent carnage in eastern Congo. “We’ve seen a credible body of reporting that the Rwandan government has been supportive of the M23,” Feingold told “Politics Confidential’s” JONATHAN KARL. “That has to stop.” The Rwandan government, meanwhile, has publically denied that it supports the M23 rebels. Feingold was quick to add that, in the conflict that includes more than 40 rebel groups, other governments are also guilty of supporting rebel groups. He said all parties must be held accountable. http://yhoo.it/1b8CDck

 

BUZZ

SHUTDOWN COUNTDOWN: 4 DAYS TO GO.

By ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ and JEFF ZELENY

http://abcn.ws/15vs3ba

WHERE THINGS STAND: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, wrapped up his 21 hour and 19 minute speech and joined all other senators in voting unanimously on invoking cloture on the motion to proceed.  At the end of a theatrical day on Capitol Hill, the Senate found a way to speed up the timeline for voting on a continuing resolution. The Senate yielded back hours of debate prompting a unanimous consent agreement on the motion to proceed. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid then filled the tree with amendments and filed cloture on the bill itself.  This acceleration could allow for a final vote on the continuing resolution as early as Friday, providing the House of Representatives with more time to work on the bill and potentially send it back to the Senate.

WHERE THINGS ARE HEADING: The agreement to yield back time on the debate over the motion to proceed accelerates the timeframe for a vote on the continuing resolution.  The Senate could send a bill back to the House as early as Friday and as late as Sunday, giving House Speaker John Boehner more time to work with his caucus on a bill.

THE TED CRUZ TALKATHON: THE SENATOR’S GREATEST HITS. His speech clocked in at more than 21 hours.  Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) fake-filibustered on the Senate floor for almost a full day (starting Tuesday afternoon and ending Wednesday at noon) in an attempt to block legislation that would grant funds for Obamacare implementation. To keep things interesting — and possibly to keep himself awake — Cruz included quotes from reality television, country stars and even Dr. Seuss. Here are ABC’s picks of the most memorable moments from the Texas senator’s very long speech: http://abcn.ws/16JaO6s 

GEORGE H.W. BUSH WITNESSES SAME-SEX WEDDING. President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush attended and witnessed the wedding of friends in a same-sex ceremony in Maine this past weekend, ABC’s ABBY PHILLIP notes. Bonnie Clement and Helen Thorgalsen, who own HB Provisions, a Kennebunk, Maine, general store, got the former president’s official stamp of approval despite the fact that Bush has not officially declared his position on same sex-marriage. “This has been a wonderful wedding experience for us and we were honored to have President and Mrs. Bush not only in attendance but also happy to sign our license,” Thorgalsen, who is with her wife on their honeymoon in London, told ABC News. “As Nancy Sosa, our officiant, said, ‘God did not make a love that is wrong.’ If we can make a difference in the world with our wedding and marriage, we are thrilled,” she added. Thorgalsen posted a photo of Bush signing the marriage license on Facebook over the weekend. http://abcn.ws/1fo4eM8

MCCAIN RIPS CRUZ FOR NAZI COMMENTS. Shortly after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, completed his 21-hour marathon speech yesterday, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., took to the Senate floor to rebut portions of the Texas senator’s talk, which McCain said failed to recognize that “elections have consequences,” ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ notes. McCain took issue with Cruz’s comparing those who think Obamacare will not be defunded to Nazis. “If you go to the 1940s, Nazi Germany,” Cruz said Tuesday. “Look, we saw in Britain, Neville Chamberlain, who told the British people, ‘Accept the Nazis. Yes, they’ll dominate the continent of Europe but that’s not our problem. Let’s appease them. Why? Because it can’t be done. We can’t possibly stand against them.’” McCain didn’t mince words in his response. “I resoundingly reject that allegation,” he said on the Senate floor. “That allegation in my view does a great disservice, a great disservice for those brave Americans and those who stood up and said what’s happening in Europe cannot stand.” http://abcn.ws/1bGtYAN

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@jeffzeleny: Spotted in the Capitol: @onetoughnerd

@SteveForbesCEO: See my blog on 3 exciting, big ways GOP can win ObamaCare battle. @Forbes http://onforb.es/18Xo8Kp 

@AliciaMenendez: Well that’s something! RT @Mediaite Rand Paul on CNN: ‘I Hate Obamacare’ But I Wouldn’t Compare it to Nazis (VIDEO) http://bit.ly/191tgqW 

@brbilberry: Washington Post verdict on debate: “Count it as a slight victory for McAuliffe” http://wapo.st/19C0rDx 

@GioBenitez: .@ABC News Goes Pink on Tues, Oct 1 to Empower Americans in the Fight Against Breast Cancer http://abcn.ws/182WE2X  -@ABCNewsPR

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