President: Rae Chornenky

Editor: Maria Jeffrey
 
This Week on the Hill: 
 
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-NV) said he will invoke cloture on the Senate immigration bill by early next week, which would end debate on the bill.
 
The House considers its version of the farm bill this week.
Grassley vs. Reid: Senate Spat

 

           Last week, Senator Grassley (R.-IA) and Senate Majority Leader Reid (D.-NV) had a spat on the Senate floor over Reid's proposed rule requiring a 60 vote threshold for passing amendments to the immigration bill. Grassley put forth an amendment to the immigration bill that would have made the opening of the provisional immigrant status application period contingent on the Department of Homeland Security certifying that the border had been secured for six months. To kill Grassley's amendment, Reid asked that the voting threshold for amendments to this bill be set at 60, citing the "McConnell rule," which is a rather recent precedent that sets the amendment voting threshold at 60 in order to avoid filibusters. According to Riddick's Senate Procedure: Precedents and Practices, "a majority vote [51 votes], and not a two-thirds vote, is required for the adoption of the amendment..." (pg. 111). Historically, the precedent for amendment passage is a simple majority vote for germane amendments. Reid, as Senate Majority Leader, has the power to ask that this threshold be raised, and it was in this case. Grassley's amendment failed to garner the 60 votes it needed to pass, and instead it lost 57-43. Republican Senators Flake, Graham, Murkowski, Rubio, and McCain all voted with the Democrats to table the amendment. See Senators Grassley and Reid spar on the senate floor below: 

Chuck Grassley Objects To 60 Vote Threshold
Chuck Grassley Objects To 60 Vote Threshold

Supreme Court Strikes Down Arizona Voting Law, 7-2

         Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled on Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., striking down Arizona's voting law requiring individuals to prove their citizenship when registering to vote with the form devised under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993. The law was struck down 7-2, with only Justices Thomas and Alito dissenting from the majority. The majority's decision was written by Justice Scalia, who argues that under the Elections Clause of the Constitution, Congress has the power to dictate how elections are held, and laws passed by Congress concerning elections trump state elections laws. The Elections Clause of the Constitution states that the "Times, Places, and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators" (Article 1, Section 4, Clause 1). Since the form provided by the NVRA requires states to "accept and use" it, Scalia avers that the form's question of whether the applicant is a US citizen is sufficient proof of citizenship and preempts any state laws to further require proof of citizenship in the voter registration procedure.

 

         In Thomas' dissenting opinion, he states, "I would construe the law as only requiring Arizona to accept and use the form as part of its voter registration process, leaving the State free to request whatever additional information it determines is necessary to ensure that voters meet the qualifications it has the constitutional authority to establish. Under this interpretation, Arizona did 'accept and use' the federal form." He also cites Article 1, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution, dealing with elections to the House of Representatives, which states that the "House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature," and the Seventeenth Amendment, dealing with elections to the Senate, which states that "The Electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures."

 

        Alito points out in a separate dissenting opinion that "the Court does not question Arizona's authority under another provision of the NVRA 1973gg-4(a)(2), to create its own application form that demands proof of citizenship; nor does the Court dispute Arizona's right to refuse to register an applicant who submits that form without the requisite proof." Further, "Proper respect for the constitutional authority of the States demand a clear indication of congressional intent to preempt state laws enforcing voter qualifications. And while the relevant provisions of the Act are hardly models of clarity, their best reading is that the States need not treat the federal form as a complete voter registration application." The implications of yesterday's Supreme Court decision regarding other state measures dealing with proof of citizenship and voting remains to be seen. Click here to read the opinion and dissents in this case. 

Pentagon Faces Budget Shortage

               

         The Pentagon is facing a $30 billion shortfall in its operations and maintenance accounts in 2013, according to testimony by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at an Appropriations Defense subcommittee hearing. The budget shortage is due both to across-the-board cuts under sequestration and higher than expected costs for the war in Afghanistan, Hagel said.    
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