Morning Action: Another ‘Nuclear’ Rules Change from Harry Reid?

SENATE RULES.   Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) 13% has threatened another rules change in the Senate in response to Republicans’ alleged use of delaying tactics on nominations.  Republicans say the change would serve to further sour relations between Republicans and Democrats:

“I’m not interested in changing the rules now. But now is a relative term,” the Nevada Democrat told reporters Tuesday.

A senior Senate Democratic aide said Democrats would “very seriously consider” changes if they retain the majority, including using the “nuclear option” to change the rules on a simple majority vote. Senate rules require a two-thirds majority to change the rules, but Democrats pushed through a rules change last year eliminating the 60-vote threshold for all nominations except those for the Supreme Court. They did so by overturning the ruling of the chairman with a simple majority vote.

AMNESTY.  Rep. Jeffrey Denham (R-CA) 34% reportedly regrets withdrawing his ENLIST Act as an amendment to the NDAA a year ago:

If Rep. Jeff Denham had known that the immigration debate would grow so politically toxic in a midterm elections year, he never would have let GOP leadership talk him into withdrawing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to grant certain undocumented immigrants legal status in exchange for their military service.

A year later, the California Republican says he should “have forced the vote.”

“I am somewhat surprised that this has become such a volatile issue, when there was very little concern at this point last year,” Denham said Tuesday evening. “We had the votes then. I’m confident we have the votes now.”

HENSARLING.  The Heritage Foundation recapped comments made by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) 83% during a speech he gave Tuesday at the Heritage Foundation:

In a half-hour address at The Heritage Foundation called “A Time for Choosing,” Hensarling described the need to decide between a “Main Street economy” that thrives on competition among hardworking Americans and a “Washington insider economy” where corruption and cronyism determine winners and losers.

“The Main Street competitive economy relies upon hard work, creativity, perseverance and ‘can do’ optimism to create wealth,” Hensarling said. “The Washington insider economy, in contrast, relies on earmarks, regulatory barriers to entry, subsidies, tax preferences, and political influence.”

Although he cited half a dozen examples of Washington-engineered unfair play in the economy, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee spent about a third of his remarks making a case for doing away with the U.S. Export-Import Bank. Unless Congress reauthorizes it, the federal charter of the 80-year-old “Ex-Im Bank” will expire Sept. 30.

INFRASTRUCTURE.  It reportedly took a lot of unity and biparisanship to come together on the WRDA conference report in the House, and that is allegedly what it will take to do the same thing with a highway bill (sub. req’d):

That bipartisan support, on the year’s biggest infrastructure bill so far, was very real and not to be dismissed. It was evident not just in the 412-4 House vote for the conference report, but within both Senate and House committees that wrote the bills for each chamber. Maintaining something close to that solidarity will be important to transportation policymaking in coming months.

But those same bill writers are going to need every bit of today’s bipartisanship in a few weeks as they tackle the much bigger price tags and potentially thornier policy issues around the highway bill. So far we’ve seen just one piece of a highway bill emerge from that Senate committee, while we don’t yet know when the House panel will unveil its bill. But we know there is reluctance among some conservatives to embrace transit spending from the Highway Trust Fund. And there is reluctance among various lawmakers to write a long-term bill large enough to make big improvements for both highways and transit systems.

And there are serious issues about the timing. While Congress will have to do something by late July to avoid slowing payments to states for road projects out of the Highway Trust Fund, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee leaders hope to wrap up a long-term road and transit bill this summer, or at least before program authorization runs out in September. Shuster told reporters again Tuesday, CQ’s Nathan Hurst reported, that it might be too optimistic to expect a deal that soon. “We might see that September date slip,” he said.

UI.  Senate Democrats are seeking to revive a plan to extend unemployment insurance (sub. req’d):

Senate Democrats began searching for ways Tuesday to salvage a stalled revival of expired unemployment insurance and explored the possibility of a full-year extension of the benefits.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) 9%, the Democrats’ point person on jobless aid, said he was discussing with key players on both sides the possibility of developing a longer-term extension of expanded benefits to replace the stalled Senate-passed five-month patch (HR 3979).

“We are talking about the options. If we had a full-year extension, then we could have retroactivity and prospective payments,” Reed said.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) 5%, said several Democrats would support a longer extension of jobless aid and were determined to move on the issue despite a stalemate that has all but pushed a short-term extension off the congressional agenda. “Millions of people are hurting. People are losing their homes. It’s very, very serious. I’m going to do everything I can. We don’t want it to die,” Stabenow said.

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