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Exclusive: The not-so-lame duck session – TalkOfNews.com

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The not-so-lame duck session

#notsolame #duck #session

Now that Congress is back from its Thanksgiving recess, the lame duck session is firmly underway.

It’s expected to be a busy few weeks. Republicans have retaken the House, so Democrats have until the beginning of January to pass any lingering legislation they’d like to get through before losing unified control.

On top of that, lawmakers still have to address must-pass bills like government funding and the authorization of defense spending, both of which they need to wrap before year’s end. If they don’t, the government could potentially shut down and the military could see major planning delays.

Beyond the routine business on their docket, Democrats are eyeing two big bills: legislation to enshrine protections for same-sex marriage into federal law, and a measure to reform the way Congress certifies election results. Other priorities, including immigration reform and an assault weapons ban, have also been raised, though getting enough GOP support to get them through the Senate is likely to be more of a long shot.

In the last two decades, when congressional power changed hands, lame-duck sessions have been frenetic in large part because they’re the final opportunity for a party to accomplish some of their key priorities. According to Pew, these sessions have accounted for more than a quarter of Congress’s legislative output in recent terms. This year is shaping up to be no different.

Below is a rundown of a few of the bills Congress has on tap for its lame-duck session this year — and where they currently stand.

These bills are likely to advance

Same-sex marriage protections

The Senate is expected to pass same-sex marriage protections this week after 12 Republicans expressed their support for the bill earlier this month. Because of changes that senators made to the legislation in order to win that GOP support, the House will also have to vote on the bill a second time, and is expected to pass it as well.

A procedural Senate vote in November revealed that the legislation has enough support to clear a 60-vote threshold: Republican Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Rob Portman (OH), Thom Tillis (NC), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Mitt Romney (UT), Roy Blunt (MO), Richard Burr (NC), Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Cynthia Lummis (WY), Dan Sullivan (AK), Todd Young (IN) and Joni Ernst (IA) joined with the 50-member Democratic caucus to vote in favor of the bill. Their votes suggest the legislation will pass the Senate when lawmakers vote on final passage later this week following another procedural vote on Monday.

The House approved the bill, with 47 Republicans joining 220 Democrats in voting yes, this past July. The House will vote on the new version of the bill — which contains added language on protecting religious liberties — later this week.

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Senate Democrats had postponed a vote on this bill until after the midterms because they believed they’d be able to get more Republican votes once those lawmakers were less worried about alienating conservative Christian voters. Republicans said, in turn, that they would be more open to considering the legislation if it didn’t feel like it was being used for political messaging during the midterms.

The bill would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, approved during President Bill Clinton’s administration, which defined marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman, and would guarantee recognition of same-sex and interracial marriages under federal law.

The new legislation is both historic and central to guaranteeing same-sex marriage protections. It became a Democratic priority following an opinion from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, in which he floated potentially revisiting Obergefell v. Hodges, the judicial decision that established such rights in 2015. The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has raised the possibility that the panel could do the same with other precedents.

The support that the legislation has represents a major shift, though the majority of both House and Senate Republicans are still opposed to the measure. Some Republicans — including Sens. John Cornyn (TX) and Marco Rubio (FL) — have previously said they don’t support the bill because they don’t think these rights are being threatened.

Electoral Count Act reforms

There’s been a bipartisan push to reform the Electoral Count Act, which lays out Congress’s role in counting electoral votes following a presidential election, but it’s still waiting on a vote in the Senate. This bill would update the ECA in a bid to prevent elected officials from using the process to overturn the election results, like former President Donald Trump attempted to do in 2021. Key reforms include clarifying the vice president’s role in the counting process as purely ceremonial and increasing the threshold of lawmakers it takes to challenge the results of an election. Currently, it takes just one Senate and one House member to object to a state’s outcome in order for Congress to consider and vote on the objection.

In September, the House passed its version of these reforms and the Senate is likely to do the same in the coming weeks. At this point, more than 10 Republicans have expressed their support for the bill, a strong sign that it will pass. As Vox’s Ben Jacobs has explained, these policies aren’t enough to guarantee that another January 6 won’t happen, though they can eliminate some legal loopholes bad actors may try to exploit.

The Senate’s version of the bill differs from the House’s, however, so the lower chamber will probably have to consider the legislation again. One difference includes the threshold for challenging a state’s results: The House’s bill would require one-third of lawmakers in both chambers to sign on, while the Senate’s would require one-fifth of lawmakers.

The House could approve the Senate version after it’s passed, though the process could take longer if the two chambers seek to reconcile some of the differences in the bills. As Politico reported, there’s also a possibility that lawmakers try to attach this legislation to either the must-pass government funding package or the National Defense Authorization Act, given how little floor time Congress has left before the end of the year.

Funding the government

The deadline to keep the government open is now December 16, when a short-term spending bill passed earlier this year is due to expire.

Lawmakers have the option of passing another short-term bill, also known as a continuing resolution (CR), or the full-year appropriations bills that would fund different government agencies and programs. Because they’re still negotiating figures for the larger spending bills, Congress could pass a week-long CR to buy themselves more time and extend their deadline to December 23.

If they fail to approve either a full-year bill or another CR, the government would shut down, furloughing employees and significantly curtailing certain services.

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Key appropriations requests include roughly $38 billion more in aid to Ukraine as well as $10 billion in pandemic aid to further the distribution of vaccines and medication. Both could see some Republican opposition, with the GOP split on additional support for Ukraine, and most of the party balking at additional money to address the pandemic.

Authorizing defense spending

Another must-pass bill that Congress has to consider is the National Defense Authorization Act, which establishes funding allocations for the defense department.

There was speculation that Sen. Joe Manchin’s permitting reform bill, which previously garnered opposition from Republicans and progressive Democrats, could be attached to the NDAA. The prospect of that happening is looking less promising due to ongoing GOP pushback.

This bill would streamline the approval process for fossil fuel and clean energy projects, and guarantee permits for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a natural gas project in West Virginia, Manchin’s home state. Progressives had pushed back on the legislation because of the inclusion of the pipeline and the concern that the approval process Manchin envisions would dilute communities’ opportunities to weigh in on these projects. Republicans, meanwhile, felt the reforms wouldn’t expedite projects enough, and also weren’t interested in giving Manchin a win following his support for the Inflation Reduction Act.

It’s not yet clear whether Manchin will tweak his bill to address some of these concerns, or if it will have to be dropped yet again after it wasn’t able to pick up sufficient votes in September.

In mid-November, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy signaled an interest in postponing an NDAA vote until next year when House Republicans will be able to send more of a message with the measure. McCarthy has argued that Democrats were trying to promote “woke” policies with the bill, though he did not detail what he meant by that. As Politico reported, Republican critiques have included policies like mask mandates and diversity initiatives in the military.

Because certain House Democrats often vote against the NDAA in order to express their opposition to defense spending, the party will likely need some Republican support in order to pass the bill. Depending on how aggressively McCarthy sticks by and pushes a potential delay, that support could be tougher to obtain this year.

It would be surprising if Congress doesn’t pass the NDAA before 2023, however, since it’s done so for the past 61 years.

These bills have also been floated

(Maybe) raising the debt ceiling

Democrats also have the chance to raise the debt ceiling and stave off a potentially calamitous stand-off that could happen next year if Republicans take the House.

Increasing or suspending the debt ceiling (basically, the amount the US is able to borrow) is a routine action Congress has to take because if it doesn’t, the US could default on its bills and destabilize the country’s economy. Despite that, it’s a moment Republicans have indicated that they will use for leverage to secure cuts to funding for social programs and clean energy initiatives.

Democrats could prevent this from happening by approving a massive increase while they still control both the House and the Senate this year, though the US is not projected to hit the debt ceiling until sometime in 2023.

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Because of that timing, as well as Congress’s packed schedule, it’s not clear if they will get to that priority before next year.

Immigration reform

Congress is trying, once again, to pass immigration reform, an ambition that’s been thwarted repeatedly in the last decade.

Some Democrats are pushing legislation that would provide DACA recipients — undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children — a pathway to citizenship, after members of the program have been stuck in limbo for years. The program has faced numerous court challenges, though the Biden administration has sought to keep it intact. Legislation from Congress would help provide DACA recipients with more permanent status and offer a pathway to citizenship that doesn’t currently exist.

The main holdup for this legislation is in the Senate, where it needs 10 Republicans to sign on in order to pass. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), a longtime leader of immigration negotiations, has said he knows of four or five Republicans who’d be open to the bill, but the legislation would require more to actually advance.

An assault weapons ban

In the wake of a series of mass shootings in recent weeks, Democrats have raised the possibility of approving an assault weapons ban, though the measure isn’t likely to have sufficient Republican support in the Senate.

Such a ban would bar the sale of semi-automatic firearms, which are able to fire off many rounds of ammunition extremely quickly. As the Associated Press’s Colleen Long, Mary Clare Jalonick, and Lindsay Whitehurst write, these weapons include “a group of high-powered guns or semi-automatic long rifles, like an AR-15, that can fire 30 rounds fast without reloading.” In November, a shooter used an assault-style rifle to kill five people and injure several others at an LGBTQ night club in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), a leading architect of Congress’s bipartisan gun control package, noted Senate backing would be the primary obstacle, but that Democrats would continue to push the issue. Previously, Congress passed an assault weapons ban in 1994, but lawmakers were unable to renew it after it lapsed a decade later.

“The House has already passed it. It’s sitting in front of the Senate. Does it have 60 votes in the Senate right now? Probably not,” Murphy said in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union. “But let’s see if we can try to get that number as close to 60 as possible.”

Recent lame ducks have been pretty productive

Lame-duck sessions were once pretty sporadic affairs, though they’ve become much more common, and productive, in recent years.

Since 2000, especially, a decent chunk of Congress’s output has actually taken place during lame-duck sessions, per Pew. During the last Congress, nearly 44 percent of what it passed — including a major coronavirus relief package — was approved during this session.

Other active lame-duck sessions include 2010, when Democrats lost control of the House, and passed several major bills before they handed it over to Republicans. They repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” passed a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia and approved an extension of tax cuts established during the Bush administration, according to the Atlantic. Prior to the shift in congressional power in 2019, Republicans also used the lame-duck session to approve the First Step Act, a groundbreaking criminal justice reform bill, as well as a reauthorization of the farm bill, which authorizes spending for Agriculture Department programs.

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This year is poised to be another busy lame-duck session, particularly since this is Democrats’ last chance to shepherd bills through before Republicans regain House control.

Update, November 28, 2:45 pm ET: This story was originally published on November 15 and has been updated to reflect developments regarding specific bills.


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Exclusive: Today in Supreme Court History: January 26, 1832 – TalkOfNews.com

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Today in Supreme Court History: January 26, 1832

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1/26/1832: Justice George Shiras Jr.’s birthday.

Justice George Shiras Jr.

The post Today in Supreme Court History: January 26, 1832 appeared first on Reason.com.

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Exclusive: Liberals Are Mad That McCarthy Named MAGA Republicans to Subcommittees on COVID and Government Weaponization – Good – TalkOfNews.com

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Liberals Are Mad That McCarthy Named MAGA Republicans to Subcommittees on COVID and Government Weaponization – Good

#Liberals #Mad #McCarthy #Named #MAGA #Republicans #Subcommittees #COVID #Government #Weaponization #Good

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced members named to two select subcommittees – one investigating the origins of COVID and another looking into the weaponization of the federal government – and Democrats are livid over the addition of certain MAGA lawmakers.

“The government has a responsibility to serve the American people, not go after them,” McCarthy said in a statement.

“The Members selected to serve on these subcommittees will work to stop the weaponization of the federal government and will also finally get answers to the Covid origins and the federal government’s gain of function research that contributed to the pandemic,” he added.

McCarthy notes that the weaponization subcommittee is necessary because congressional Democrats and the Biden administration engaged in a “dangerous pattern of the government being used to target political opponents while they neglected their most basic responsibilities.”

RELATED: Conservative Victory: Dan Crenshaw Loses Race To Chair Homeland Security Committee to Freedom Caucus Member Green

MAGA Members Named to House Select Subcommittees

A couple of names that showed up on the House select subcommittees raised the ire of Democrats, particularly those associated with the MAGA movement.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) continued reaping the fruits of a kinship with McCarthy that would make Frank Luntz blush, being named to the COVID-19 subcommittee.

Greene celebrated the appointment, stating her intention to investigate the role of gain-of-function research, the Democrat “authoritarian” lockdowns, the ineffective vaccines forced on the American people, and Dr. Anthony Fauci’s role.

Greene will also be sitting on the House Homeland Security and Oversight Committees.

Also named to the COVID subcommittee is former White House physician Ronny Jackson (R-TX), who has consistently challenged President Biden to undergo a mental fitness evaluation.

Jim Jordan (R-OH) will chair the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government after being rejected by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to serve on the January 6th panel.

RELATED: White House Terrified of MAGA Republicans Being Named to Committees Investigating Biden Administration

Liberals Aren’t Happy

Liberals on social media responded with outrage over MAGA Republicans representing their constituents on the select subcommittees.

Because see, it would be better to have completely partisan sham committees like the January 6th debacle.

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Democratic Congressman Don Beyer dismissed both panels as “devoted to conspiracy theories.”

This is fine by us, since these days “conspiracy theories” mostly just means “the media hasn’t admitted it yet.”

House Judiciary Democrats lambasted McCarthy for having “sold out our democracy to empower MAGA extremists.”

Richard Stengel, a former Obama administration official, also took the dismissive ‘conspiracy theory’ path.

The ‘Weaponization’ subcommittee, Stengel claims, is “a body that creates rather than investigates conspiracy theories and which will eventually undermine itself.”

We literally just watched the January 6th sham create highly directed and produced filmography rather than evidence, doctored actual evidence, created conspiracy theories, and admitted they wanted to tell people what they should believe.

If Democrats are mad about MAGA Republicans serving on committees to provide a counterpoint to Democrat and media lies, then McCarthy is most definitely doing the right thing.

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Exclusive: Why older mass shooters like the California gunmen are so rare – TalkOfNews.com

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Why older mass shooters like the California gunmen are so rare

#older #mass #shooters #California #gunmen #rare

The gunmen in both of the recent shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, California, had an unusual profile compared to most perpetrators of violent crime: They were both senior citizens.

The Monterey Park gunman, who killed 11 and injured nine before fatally shooting himself, was 72. The Half Moon Bay gunman, who killed seven people before he was arrested in what police have characterized as an act of workplace violence, is 66.

Mass shooters of that age are rare, especially those with no prior criminal record, as was the case with the Half Moon Bay gunman. (The Monterey Park gunman had one arrest in 1990 for illegal possession of a firearm.) According to data from the National Institute of Justice, mass shooters between 1966 and 2021 were on average 34 years old, and those over the age of 60 accounted for a little over 3 percent of all mass shootings, which are defined as shootings in which four or more people are killed.

The notion that people “age out of crime” is one of the most well-documented phenomena in the field of criminology. The California shootings should be seen as exceptions to that principle, not as nullifying examples, according to Ashley Nellis, co-director of research for the Sentencing Project, which advocates for criminal justice reform.

“The predictability of age is probably the most reliable point of data that we have about people who commit violent crime. Young people are just substantially more likely, and by extension, older people are substantially unlikely, to commit crime,” Nellis said. “It’s certainly a cautionary note to anybody who would be jumping to make policy based on these two events.”

Research has repeatedly shown that criminal activity increases throughout teen years, reaches its highest point at age 17, the oldest that someone can be charged with a juvenile crime, and subsides thereafter throughout life. Property crime peaks at a slightly younger age than violent crime. But even chronic offenders would be statistically likely to stop committing crime by around the age of 40, Nellis said.

There are a lot of theories as to why that might be. Typical milestones associated with getting older, like graduating or getting married, may put people on a trajectory that veers away from criminality. Brain development isn’t complete until the mid-20s, hindering decision-making that might lead to crime and risky behavior. Young people have less financial security, and people in poverty are more likely to commit crimes. Some crimes might be physically demanding, and older people just might not have the strength to carry them out.

But both gunmen in the California shootings buck the archetype of a violent criminal, and their motives still aren’t entirely clear. Investigators have said that the Monterey Park shooter frequented the dance studio where he killed his victims and that the Half Moon Bay gunman, who lived and worked as a forklift driver at a mushroom farm, was angry at the coworkers he shot. Previously, there have been mass shooters as old as 70, including a gunman who opened fire at a church in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, and killed three people last June.

Though age can sometimes factor into the decision to impose a less harsh sentence on young offenders, the Half Moon Bay shooter’s advanced age won’t have any bearing on the length of his sentence, as is standard practice in the US.

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He will be charged with seven counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, with a special circumstance allegation of multiple murder and sentencing enhancements for each count because of his use of a firearm, the San Mateo County district attorney announced Wednesday. If convicted on those charges, he could be facing up to life in prison without the possibility of parole. (He won’t face the death penalty, given that California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, placed a moratorium on executions in the state in 2019.)

Life sentences without parole have become increasingly common in the US over the last few decades. But Nellis argues the age of older offenders like the Half Moon Bay shooter should be considered a mitigating factor when making sentencing decisions — especially given that the use of executive clemency to release them early has become nonexistent, as she writes in a 2022 report.

“Regardless of age, somebody who does commit an act of violence like this is likely to be rehabilitated, be reformed, be ready to return to society within 10 years,” she said.

Recidivism is unlikely among older people, according to data from the US Sentencing Commission, and keeping them in prison comes at a high taxpayer cost, which includes health care bills that balloon at the end of life. It’s difficult to say how much those who’ll decide the fate of the Half Moon Bay suspect will take that data into account; his initial arraignment is Wednesday.

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