Capitol Hill Buzz: No Friday votes yet under GOP Senate

AP News
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Posted: Feb 13, 2015 5:23 PM
Capitol Hill Buzz: No Friday votes yet under GOP Senate

WASHINGTON (AP) — Meet the new Senate schedule: same as the old Senate schedule.

When Republicans routed Democrats in November's midterm elections, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell promised there would be changes in how the Senate functioned. More open debate, more amendments, more work hours, more votes.

As majority leader McConnell has made good on some of that, holding more votes in his first month — mostly on amendments to a bill authorizing the Keystone XL oil pipeline — than in the entire previous year under Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid.

But McConnell has yet to deliver on his suggestion that the Senate would be in session regularly and voting on Fridays.

"I don't think we've had any votes on Friday in anybody's memory," he remarked during a news conference after the November elections.

More than a month into Republicans' control of the Senate, there still has not been a vote in a Friday session.

On this Friday, Feb. 13, the House was in session and voting in the morning, but senators were long gone to get an early start on the President's Day recess. They left with the Homeland Security Department facing a budget shut-off Feb. 27 with no solution in sight.

Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson ridiculed McConnell over the state of affairs. "Despite Sen. McConnell's pledges, the Republican Senate has not held a single Friday vote," he said.

McConnell spokesman Don Stewart blamed Democrats for blocking debate on House legislation to fund the Homeland Security Department and undo President Barack Obama's immigration policies.

"Hard to vote when Dems are blocking votes," Stewart said.

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President Harry Truman's famous saying — if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog — might need to be updated for the Internet age.

Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois says he has lots of friends — 380,000 of them to be precise. Facebook friends, that is.

In fact, Gutierrez boasted Friday that he has the most Facebook friends of any member of Congress — even surpassing House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

Gutierrez, a leading immigrant advocate, attributed it to interest in how immigrants can sign up for work permits and relief from deportation under executive actions announced by Obama.

"Is it because I'm the friendliest? No," Gutierrez told reporters. "You want to know why I have them? I'm going to tell you. 'Cuz we give them information they can't get anywhere else."

Gutierrez added, "I passed Nancy Pelosi, like, two months ago."

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With the Supreme Court preparing to hand down an important ruling this year on Obama's signature health law, Rep. Paul Ryan says House Republicans are preparing contingency plans in case the court rules against the federal government.

Are House Republicans working to save Obamacare? No way, said Ryan, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee.

Instead, he told reporters Friday, several House committees are trying to come up with a "bridge" from Obamacare to a new system if the president's health care law is largely gutted.

No word yet on what that bridge would look like.

The Supreme Court case challenges whether the government can provide subsidies to help people pay insurance premiums in the 37 states in which the federal government runs health care exchanges.

The plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit argue that the law's literal wording allows the federal government to pay those subsidies only in states that have set up their own insurance markets, or exchanges.

A ruling is expected later this year.

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