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January 16, 2014 | By Lisa Mascaro
WASHINGTON -- Congress gave final approval Thursday to a $1-trillion spending bill, but not without a last-minute standoff in the Senate by tea party Republicans who opposed the measure. Conservative Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) kept senators in suspense throughout the afternoon as he considered his options for blocking the bipartisan measure, which was overwhelmingly approved Tuesday by the House. Eventually, the tea party opponents lost their fight and the measure was approved on a lopsided vote, 72-26.
January 16, 2014 | By Michael A. Memoli
WASHINGTON - Lawmakers announced Thursday bipartisan legislation that would restore key protections of the Voting Rights Act that were thrown out by the Supreme Court last summer. The bill would also establish new criteria to determine whether states need to seek federal approval for proposed changes to voting rules. The legislation is a response to the high court's ruling in June that Southern states had been unfairly singled out by the long-standing formula used to determine which states must seek federal "pre-clearance" before changing their voting laws.
January 15, 2014 | By Lisa Mascaro
WASHINGTON - Partisan lawmakers feuding over the proper size of government reached a temporary truce Wednesday as the House easily approved a $1-trillion spending bill aimed at averting another federal shutdown. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) corralled his often-restless Republican majority into supporting the bipartisan accord, which is expected to be approved by the Senate this week. The measure, approved 359 to 67, will fund almost every aspect of federal operations for the remainder of the fiscal year, through Sept.
January 9, 2014 | By The Times editorial board
Congress is finally grappling with an issue it should have dealt with before members rushed out on Christmas vacation: extending unemployment benefits. There is bipartisan support for renewing the federal benefits that expired last month, cutting off aid to 1.3 million long-term unemployed Americans, including more than 200,000 in California. Yet some lawmakers' comments suggest that they're not really serious even now about getting the money flowing again. At times of high joblessness, the federal unemployment insurance program provides up to 47 extra weeks of assistance to laid-off workers who have run through their state benefits while trying in vain to land a job. Some critics say the benefits prolong unemployment by discouraging idled workers from taking whatever job happens to be available or making it more expensive for employers to hire them.
December 20, 2013 | By Andrew Cockburn
"Whenever a fellow tells me he is bipartisan," said Harry Truman, "I know he is going to vote against me. " The hosannas to bipartisanship accompanying the budget deal passed this week should have served as fair warning to the rest of us that we lost this vote. True, politicians and commentators vied to hail the sacrifices that had been made on both sides of the aisle for the greater cause of "restoring public faith in the budget process" and thereby bolster Congress' poll ratings. In reality, there was one clear winner: the bipartisan defense lobby, a category that does not apparently include wounded veterans, who must give up some of their pensions for the sake of restoring that public faith, not to mention funding the extra $22 billion for defense that will flow inexorably into the pockets of Lockheed (stock already up 55% this year)
December 18, 2013 | By David Pierson
A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers is trying to bar Chinese poultry from federal school lunch and other nutrition programs because of China's poor record on food safety. On Wednesday, 12 Democratic representatives and two Republicans called for language in the 2014 agriculture appropriations bill to ensure that chicken processed in China is not included in the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, Child and Adult Care Food and Summer Food Service programs. "Children are our most vulnerable population with respect to food-borne illnesses and sensitivity to potentially dangerous chemicals," the lawmakers said in a letter to fellow members of Congress.
December 16, 2013 | By Michael A. Memoli
WASHINGTON - The Senate confirmed Jeh Johnson as the next secretary of Homeland Security on Monday, capping a smooth approval process for the high-profile post. The former Pentagon general counsel will take office this week after a 78-16 vote, succeeding Janet Napolitano, who left in September to become president of the University of California system. An array of former officials from Democratic and Republican administrations, including all three former department secretaries, endorsed Johnson.
December 13, 2013 | By Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson
The budget agreement reached by the House and Senate this week is a small step forward in restoring some sanity and order to the process. By putting in place a bipartisan plan for the next two years, the agreement represents a much-needed improvement over the uncertainty of governing by crisis that has dominated fiscal policy the last several years. But the fundamental fiscal challenges we identified in the 2010 report of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, and the need for reforms of entitlement programs and the tax code, go unaddressed.
December 12, 2013 | By Lisa Mascaro
WASHINGTON - House Republicans, with help from Democrats, passed an $85-billion budget deal Thursday that falls short of conservative small-government goals but represents the first potential cease-fire in the budget battles that have left Congress lurching from one fiscal crisis to another. Approval of the compromise represents a victory for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who appears to have regained momentary control over his rebellious majority despite the opposition of influential conservative groups, as well as for Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.)
December 11, 2013 | By Michael A. Memoli and Lisa Mascaro
WASHINGTON - In an uncharacteristically forceful tone, House Speaker John A. Boehner on Wednesday lambasted the conservative advocacy groups that helped bring his party to power, saying their opposition to a bipartisan budget proposal amounted to an effort to manipulate Republicans and the American people "for their own goals. " The rare outburst from the often poker-faced speaker, a reversal of his past approach toward influential conservative groups, underscored long-simmering tensions between them and mainstream Republicans, who appear to be moving to reestablish their control over the party's agenda.
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