In the wake of GOP filibusters of all three of President Obama's nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Senate Thursday changed its rules to bar filibusters against all judicial nominations (except those for the Supreme Court) and all executive branch nominations. Here's what you need to know.
On November 18, Senate Republicans successfully filibustered the nomination of Robert Wilkins to join the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, making him the third Obama nominee to that court to be blocked on the Senate floor in the past month. Patricia Millett's nomination was blocked on October 31, and Nina Pillard's was halted on November 12.
1. So this is all about the deficit, right?
It's true that House Republicans are holding up a spending bill, but they're not holding it up over demands for spending cuts or tax increases or some other package of deficit reduction. In fact, they're happy with the level of spending in the bill. It's a number they proposed, after all.
On Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new limits on carbon-dioxide emissions for all new coal and gas-fired power plants built in the United States. It's the first major piece of the Obama administration's second-term plan to tackle climate change.
The regulations aren't likely to have a huge impact in the near future — the standard will make it extremely hard to build new coal plants in the United States, but utilities weren't planning many new coal plants anyway, because natural gas is a cheaper alternative.
Okay, so don't laugh at me, but what is a deficit?
It's actually not a dumb question, not least because there are plenty of deficits that federal economic policymakers have to keep track of. There's the current account deficit, for one, and the closely related trade deficit. But ignore those. The one we're talking about here is the budget deficit. That's the gap between the amount of money that the federal government is taking in (mainly through taxes but also stuff like civil forfeiture by law enforcement and profits from federal holdings like Fannie and Freddie) and the amount it's spending.
So we're having another budget showdown. Really?
Gah, well, let's get it over with then. What's the deadline this time?
Wednesday’s news conference by Secretary of State John Kerry was, as colleague Max Fisher said, basically an announcement that we’re going to war with Syria. It would be the fourth Muslim country we’ve attacked since 9/11 (seventh if you include drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia that didn’t target those countries’ governments). In the off chance you haven’t been following the country’s civil war closely, here are the basics to get you up to speed.
Today, while at SUNY Buffalo, President Obama will unveil a plan to contain college costs. You can see the White House fact sheet here, but let's break down the big components, and how significant they actually are. Tl;Dr — this is a really big deal, and contains a lot of stuff the administration hasn't proposed before.
"No question about it, violent crime will go up," New York police commissioner Ray Kelly declared on Meet the Press on Sunday, when asked if a recent ruling striking down the city's "stop and frisk" policy would cost lives. "What we're doing -- and what we're trying to do -- is save lives," he added on This Week.
Shira Scheindlin, a U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of New York, has ruled that New York City's "stop and frisk" policy violates the Fourteenth Amendment's promise of equal protection, as black and Hispanic people are subject to stops and searches at a higher rate than whites. Mayor Michael Bloomberg responded by deriding Scheindlin for not acknowledging the policy's benefits, noting that "nowhere in her 195 page decision does she mention the historic cuts in crime or the number of lives that have been saved."
As you might have noticed if you've read The Washington Post in the past 24 hours, the Graham family has sold us to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. Here's what we know about the whole situation.
The Post is a part of Amazon?
Nope. Amazon.com, the huge, publicly traded, Fortune/S&P 500 company, does not own The Washington Post or any of its affiliated publications. Bezos is buying us with his personal fortune rather than through Amazon.
Today's the day. This afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) might finally detonate the "nuclear option" and abolish the filibuster on executive nominations. Ot maybe he won't. This morning, he says a deal might be near "that will be good for everybody." A tentative compromise has apparently been reached. Update: Richard Cordray is being confirmed as a part of the deal, so no nuclear option today. Keep reading for more background on how we got here.
Congress is, as ever, facing a deadline. Rates on some student loans are set to double on July 1 if it doesn't act. How much does this matter, and to whom? Let's break it down.
What exactly is happening on July 1?
It was funny when Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley equated Obama filling D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacancies with "court-packing." But that's not the last we're going to hear from the Senate about judicial appointments.
According to my colleague Juliet Eilperin, Obama is gearing up to appoint three more judges to the D.C. Circuit, which currently has eight confirmed judges but a total of 11 seats. If approved, Obama's new nominees would put the court at full capacity for the first time since a brief period in 2005, before John Roberts left to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The last time the court was full before that was in 1991 -- but then Clarence Thomas left to join the Supreme Court.
Last Friday, the IRS admitted that it targeted nonprofit political advocacy groups with the terms "tea party" or "patriot" in their names. That prompted widespread denunciations of the agency for political bias, culminating Monday with President Obama calling the conduct "outrageous."
So what exactly did the IRS do? Let's walk through it, point by point.
Months after their Jan. 28 announcement of a tentative compromise on immigration reform, the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" has finally unveiled its bill, or at least a summary of the proposal. It includes sweeping changes in treatment of both existing undocumented workers and aspiring immigrants. Here are the key points, culled from summaries in the Post and Politico as well as the actual bill summary, posted by Talking Points Memo here.
Today, the Supreme Court moves on from Proposition 8 to the Defense of Marriage Act, which bans federal recognition of same-sex marriages. What's at stake in that case? Here's what you need to know.
What's the DOMA case about?
United States v. Windsor concerns Edith Windsor, who was widowed when her wife Thea Spyer died in 2009. Windsor and Spyer were married in 2007 in Canada after being partners for 40 years. Windsor was forced to pay $363,053 in estate tax on Spyer's estate, which she argues she would not have to pay if she had been Spyer's husband. Thus, she claims, the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents her from being considered Spyer's spouse for the purposes of federal taxes, literally cost her $363,053.
Tuesday morning, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Hollingsworth v. Perry, otherwise known as the Proposition 8 case. Wednesday it will hear arguments in a case dealing with the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevents federal recognition of state marriages between people of the same sex.
This weekend, a group including the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the government of Cyprus announced that the small island nation was on the brink of crisis, and needed to be bailed out.
But while most previous euro zone bailouts have been financed by rich Northern European countries like Germany and the Netherlands, the Cypriot bailout initially looked to be an entirely different story -- one that happens to involve Russian gangsters. Now that plan has failed and it's anyone's guess what form the next bailout takes. However things go, here's what you need to know.
Washington is engaged in an all-consuming debate about how to resolve the "fiscal cliff" -- which we like to call, for reasons that will soon be explained, "the austerity crisis." But what is that and why does it matter? We at Wonkblog put together a FAQ to sort it out. And we'll keep updating this FAQ as the debate rages on.
The Obama administration has announced this morning a $26 billion fraud settlement with five of the nation’s banks over their flawed and fraudulent foreclosure practices Here’s what you need to know about it:
Why did foreclosure practices come under scrutiny in the first place? In September 2010, Ally Financial halted foreclosures in 23 states after discovering flaws in the way the eviction paperwork was processed. The company’s action came after a lawsuit was filed in which a single employee of Ally was accused of signing off on tens of thousands of foreclosures without properly reviewing the documentation. It soon became clear that this so-called robo-signing issue and other types of forgeries and shortcuts were widespread problems throughout the mortgage industry. Soon, other banks were joining Ally in freezing foreclosures. Less than two weeks later, J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America both announced that they would temporarily stop foreclosures in some states due to concerns over improperly prepared documents.