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Washington Briefing
   March 8, 2013
House Votes to Avert Government Shutdown

The House on Wednesday voted 267-151 to approve a six-month, $982 billion continuing resolution (H.R. 933) to keep the government operating after March 27, the date the current stopgap spending bill expires.

The House-passed bill would shift billions of dollars to the Pentagon to help cope with the automatic spending cuts that went into effect with the sequester.

The measure now heads to the Senate where the Democratic-led chamber plans to add similar relief to domestic programs also affected by the sequester.

Senator Filibusters, Nominee for CIA Chief Confirmed

An effort by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to draw attention to drone strikes against U.S. citizens on American soil led to a nearly 13-hour filibuster that lasted from late Wednesday morning until the wee hours on Thursday. In what became the longest talking filibuster in recent memory, Sen. Paul stayed on his feet inside the Senate chamber for the entire time.

At issue was a response Sen. Paul had received from Attorney General Eric Holder to questions concerning John Brennan's nomination to head the Central Intelligence Agency. Sen. Paul took to the Senate floor to highlight the Obama Administration's refusal to completely rule out the use of drones against American citizens in the United States.

In seizing control of the Senate, Sen. Paul delayed by a day the vote to confirm Brennan. Immediately after Sen. Paul ended his filibuster, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced a motion to end debate on the nomination.

On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that President Obama "would not use drone strikes on American citizens on U.S. soil." Carney went on to say that the attorney general had written a letter to Sen. Paul, saying that a drone not only would not, but could not be used against a noncombatant American.

Sen. Paul responded by ending his objection to moving ahead with Brennan's nomination. Thursday afternoon the Senate voted 81-16 to end debate, and immediately following the cloture vote, the Senate voted 63-34 to confirm Brennan as CIA director.

While Sen. Paul did not set any records with his 13-hour filibuster, the Washington Post's Al Kamen took a look at the longest talking filibusters in history:

"The record filibuster goes, of course, to former South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond in opposing the 1957 civil rights bill. Thurmond, then a Democrat, held the floor for 24 hours and 18 minutes.

"Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R-NY) nearly matched Thurmond, speaking for 23 hours and 30 minutes as he tried to block a military spending bill in 1986. He also held forth for 15 hours and 14 minutes against a tax bill in 1992.

"Sen. Wayne Morse (I-OR), held the floor for 22 hours and 26 minutes as he tried to block an oil bill in 1953.

"Sen. Robert M. La Follette, Sr. (R-WI), only spoke for 18 hours and 23 minutes when he was trying to block a currency bill in 1908.

"Sen. William Proxmire (D-WI) held the floor for 16 hours and 12 minutes as he tried to block an increase in the debt ceiling in 1981. (Ah, the debt ceiling.)"
In case you missed it...

Behind Cantor's Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Alabama
The National Journal (Izadi, 3/7) reports, "Laying a wreath during a moving ceremony at a Civil Rights Memorial where House Majority Leader Eric Cantor locked arms with Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and held hands Rep. John Lewis -- that's not a picture that is common in highly partisan Washington. Cantor, along with Hoyer and Lewis, joined more than 30 members of the House and Senate on the annual bipartisan Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Alabama over the weekend, led by Lewis and organized by the nonprofit Faith and Politics Institute. Cantor is the highest ranking Republican to have ever gone on the trip, a notable development at a time when the GOP is figuring out how to make inroads with minorities and how to expand its appeal."

Obama Tries Charm Offensive to Woo Republicans on Deficit

Bloomberg (Lerer and Hunter, 3/7) reports, "The president broke bread [Wednesday] night with a dozen Republican senators .. Next week, he'll visit Capitol Hill to meet separately with Republicans and Democrats in the Senate. Obama has also spoken by telephone with at least a half-dozen Republican lawmakers over the past few days about the budget and other priorities of his second term, including immigration and gun control. ... With $1.2 trillion in spending cuts mandated over the next nine years and short-term government funding set to expire on March 27, lawmakers say the coming weeks could provide the chance for a long-term deficit-reduction bargain that has eluded Congress and Obama. Senator Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican who spoke to Obama by phone last weekend, said there's 'a window of opportunity between now and the end of the summer,' when Congress is projected to need to raise the federal debt ceiling again. 'This is the last, best chance to do the right thing,' Portman said. The two-hour and fifteen minute meal took place on neutral territory -- a private room at the ... Jefferson hotel. ... Obama ... picked up the check."

Immigration talks gain momentum
POLITICO (Sherman and Nocera, 3/5) reports, "With the Senate moving full-steam ahead on a comprehensive immigration bill, House Republicans are finding their way on their own strategy meant to position Washington for reform in the 113th Congress. The House GOP leadership kicked off its efforts in earnest on Tuesday when House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy - a former prosecutor - began briefing their colleagues on the basics of U.S. immigration policy in Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy's office. ...But behind the scenes, a parallel process is playing out. A cluster of previously unknown GOP working groups - which are working with Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan - are reviewing immigration issues ranging from agricultural to high-tech visas, to border security and dealing with illegal immigrants already in the country. These proposals will supplement the main House bipartisan talks on immigration, which are being led by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Cuban-American Republican from Florida. Ryan has also been in contact with the bipartisan group, according to sources."


White House cancels tours, citing sequester

NBC News (Thomas and Welker, 3/5) reports, "The White House is canceling tours of the president's famous abode starting next week, saying the budget cuts that went into effect last week are to blame. A phone recording on the call line for White House visitors informs callers that White House tours will be canceled, starting this weekend. 'Due to staffing reductions resulting from sequestration, we regret to inform you that White House tours will be canceled effective Saturday March 9, 2013 until further notice,' the recording says. 'Unfortunately, we will not be able to reschedule affected tours. We very much regret having to take this action particularly during the popular spring touring season.' The reason for the cancellations, an official with the Secret Service told NBC News, is because the Uniformed Division Officers normally tasked with securing the tours will be reassigned to other security posts at the White House."    


Boehner - Capitol Open for Business
Speaker John Boehner wrote in an email to constituents this week: "While I'm disappointed the White House has chosen to comply with sequestration by cutting public tours, I'm pleased to assure you that public tours of the United States Capitol will continue. Under the leadership of the House officers and their teams, who oversee daily operations in the Capitol in consultation with the Office of the Speaker, planning for the possibility of sequestration has been underway for some time. Consequently, alternative spending reductions have been implemented within the Capitol complex to ensure public tours and other regular activities can proceed as they normally would. I encourage you and your family to visit the U.S. Capitol during your trip to Washington D.C. If you haven't already made arrangements through my office for a Capitol tour, I encourage you to do so. Simply contact Maddie Milam in my congressional office at 202-225-6205 or email her at Maddie.Milam@mail.house.gov."

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