Updated: December 7, 2013
Executive and Judicial Nominations – Cloture - Vote Sustained (52-48) - Senate Democrats succeeded Thursday in deploying the “nuclear option” to make the most fundamental change to floor operations in almost four decades, ending the minority’s ability to kill most presidential nominations by filibuster. The Senate voted, 52-48, to change the rules by rejecting the opinion of the presiding officer that a supermajority is required to limit debate, or invoke cloture, on executive branch nominees and those for seats on federal courts short of the Supreme Court. Three Democrats — Carl Levin of Michigan, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas — voted to keep the rules unchanged. The nomination of Patricia Ann Millett to th District of Columbia circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals was the direct cause of this rule change. Senate Republicans, however, had blocked the nominations of two other D.C. Circuit Court judges in recent weeks as well, setting up the parliamentary showdown.
Nomination of Cornelia “Nina” Pillard to US Court of Appeals – Cloture - Vote Rejected (56-41, 1 Present, 2 Not Voting) - President Barack Obama’s nominee for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, legal scholar Cornelia “Nina” Pillard, failed to reach the 60-vote threshold to invoke cloture for a final vote. Pillard is currently a professor at Georgetown University and has argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court in the past. Only two Senate Republicans – Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine – voted with Democrats in favor of the Pillard nomination. Republicans have blocked nominations to the Court three times this year, Caitlin J. Halligan in March, Patricia Millett in October and Pillard. Republicans are continuing to argue that the circuit’s workload does not warrant filling any of the three vacant seats. After the vote, Senate Democrats revisited the idea of changing Senate rules to forbid filibusters of executive nominations. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., promised to bring the nomination of another potential member of the court, Robert L. Wilkins, to the floor shortly.
Employment Nondiscrimination – Passage - Vote Passed (64-32, 4 Not Voting) - Senators passed a bill prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity on Thursday after a week of negotiations and close procedural votes. The bill would bar employers from firing, refusing to promote or refusing to hire workers because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Similar bills have been introduced over recent years, and one passed the House in 2007 before dying in the Senate. This current piece of legislation extends equal employment protection to transgendered individuals for the first time. The bill exempts employers not subject to existing workplace discrimination laws concerning employees’ religions, primarily churches and religious schools. Before the final vote, ten Republicans joined the Democratic caucus in securing the three-fifths vote majority required to invoke cloture. The House is unlikely to vote on the bill.
Nomination of Patricia Ann Millett to US Court of Appeals – Cloture - Vote Rejected (55-38, 3 Present, 4 Not Voting) - President Obama’s nominee for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Virginia attorney Patricia Ann Millett, failed to reach the 60-vote threshold to invoke cloture for a final vote.
Continuing Appropriations and Debt Limit Suspension – Passage - Vote Passed (81-18, 1 Not Voting) - Senators approved a continuing appropriations resolution on Wednesday night, bringing an end to the 16-day partial government shutdown that began with the end of the federal fiscal year. The measure also extended the Treasury’s ability to borrow to pay the nation’s debt obligations, avoiding a potentially-catastrophic default that loomed days later.
Continuing Appropriations Conference Request – Motion to Table - Vote Agreed to (54-46) - As the federal fiscal year came to a close, the Senate rejected a request by the House of Representatives to form a conference committee for fiscal 2014 continuing appropriations.
Continuing Resolution - Vote Agreed to (54-44, 2 Not Voting) - After receiving the House approved stopgap spending measure that removed funds for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the Senate passed an amended version on a completely party-line vote, 54-44.
James B. Comey, Jr. Nomination to be Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation– Confirmation - Vote Confirmed (93-1, 2 Present, 4 Not Voting) - The Senate voted to confirm James B. Comey, Jr. to be Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a term of ten years. Comey, a former senior official at the Justice Department, succeeds Robert S. Mueller III, who served as director since 2001.
Byron Todd Jones Nomination to be Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives – Confirmation - Vote Confirmed (53-42, 5 Not Voting) - On July 31, the Senate voted to confirm former United States district attorney Byron Todd Jones to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois was the lone Republican to vote for confirmation.
Transportation-Housing and Urban Development Appropriations – Cloture - Vote Rejected (54-43, 3 Not Voting) - The Senate failed to reach the 60 votes required to end debate on the fiscal year 2014 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill on August 1.
Samantha Power Nomination to be Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations – Confirmation - Vote Confirmed (87-10, 3 Not Voting) - In the final vote before August recess, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Samantha Power as U.S. Representative to the United Nations and the UN Security Council.
Student Loan Interest Rates – Passage - Vote Passed (81-18, 1 Not Voting) - Senators moved to end a months-long partisan standoff over federal student loan interest rates by passing a bill July 24 that would tie rates to the government’s cost of borrowing.
Cordray Nomination – Confirmation - Vote Confirmed (66-34)- Richard Cordray of Ohio was confirmed as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, ending a two year confirmation process that included a recess appointment in the beginning of last year. Twelve Republicans and the entire Democratic caucus voted in support of the nomination.
Perez Nomination – Confirmation - Vote Confirmed (54-46) - On Thursday, President Obama’s nomination for Secretary of Labor, Thomas E. Perez, was confirmed by the Senate in a strictly party-line vote. Perez previously served as an Assistant Attorney General leading the Justice Department’s civil rights division.
McCarthy Nomination – Confirmation - Vote Confirmed (59-40, 1 Not Voting) - Senate quickly moved to confirm Gina McCarthy as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. McCarthy had served as the head of the EPA’s air and radiation office since 2009. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia was the only dissenting Democrat vote, and six Republicans voted in favor of the nomination.
Student Loan Interest Rates – Cloture - Vote Rejected (51-49) - Senators failed to broker a temporary deal to maintain federal student loan interest rates, which rose automatically on July 1 to 6.8 percent.
Pritzker Nomination – Confirmation - Vote Confirmed (97-1, 2 Not Voting) - The Senate confirmed President Obama’s nomination of Penny Pritzker to be Secretary of Commerce.
Foxx Nomination – Confirmation - Vote Confirmed (100-0) - In their second Cabinet level vote of the week, the Senate unanimously confirmed current mayor of Charlotte, N.C. Anthony Foxx to be Secretary of Transportation. Mr. Foxx should be sworn in later this week after his planned resignation in Charlotte on July 1.
Immigration Bill – Passage - Vote Passed (68-32) - The measure would expand the number of both permanent resident and temporary visas available annually to highly-skilled professionals and entrepreneurs. The bill also would create a program to allocate green cards, up to 250,000 each year, on a merit-based system that would consider family ties in the United States along with the country's economic needs. It mandates use o the E-Verify electronic employment verification system and requires the Department of Homeland Security to begin removal proceedings for at least 90 percent of people who stay beyond the duration of their visas.
Froman Nomination – Confirmation - Vote Confirmed (93-4, 1 Present, 2 Not Voting) - Last Wednesday, the Senate took a short break from the immigration bill to confirm President Barack Obama’s nomination of Michael Froman to be United States Trade Representative.
U.S. Immigration Policy – Motion to Table Cornyn Amendment - Vote Agreed to (54-43, 3 Not Voting) - The largely partisan vote included only two Democrats, Manchin (W.Va.) and Pryor (Ark.) voting no; four Republicans voted yes: Flake and McCain (Ariz.), Graham (S.C.) and Paul (Ky.).
Farm Bill – Passage - Vote Passed (66-27, 7 Not Voting) - The Senate gave overwhelming approval to the five-year reauthorization of farm, conservation, and nutrition programs, setting up a legislative showdown with the House. The final vote, which cleared the measure 66-27, came after two weeks of debate and more than 200 amendments offered on the Senate floor. Seven senators missed the vote because of travel delays.
Student Loan Rates Bill – Cloture - Vote Rejected (40-57, 2 Not Voting) - After a protracted battle, Congress last year passed a compromise extension of the current rate –3.4 percent – until July 1, 2013. After this date, interest rates on these loans will double.
Student Loan Rates Bill – Cloture - Vote Rejected (51-46, 2 Not Voting) - In May, Senate Democrats introduced their alternative to a House Republican plan for setting Federal Direct Stafford Loan interest rates.
Farm Bill – Amendment Vote - Vote Agreed to (59-33, 8 Not Voting) - This year’s farm bill is very similar to last year’s version, with some exceptions including greater support for Southern crops such as rice, cotton and peanuts.
Water Resources Development Act – Passage - Vote Passed (83-14, 3 Not Voting) - The Senate laid down its marker last week for a full reauthorization of Army Corps of Engineers water projects with a broad, bipartisan majority.
CMS Nominee – Confirmation - Vote Confirmed (91-7, 2 Not Voting) - The Senate confirmed Marilyn Tavenner to be the next administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Tavenner will play a prominent role in overseeing implementation of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. She is the first Senate-confirmed CMS administrator since 2004.
Energy Department Nominee – Confirmation - Vote Confirmed (97-0, 3 Not Voting) - In its last action of the week, the Senate unanimously confirmed MIT physicist Ernest J. Moniz to be the next Energy secretary, replacing another physicist, Steven Chu.
Internet Sales Tax – Final Passage - Vote Passed (69-27, 4 Not Voting) - Last week the Senate completed action on bipartisan but controversial Internet sales tax legislation.
Water Infrastructure Projects – Amendment Vote - Vote Rejected (56-43, 1 Not Voting) - After passing the Internet sales tax bill, the Senate moved on to the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), a catch-all piece of legislation usually passed every five years dealing with everything from dams and levees to port dredging.
OMB Director – Confirmation - Vote Confirmed (96-0, 4 Not Voting) - Last week, the Senate unanimously confirmed Sylvia Matthews Burwell to be the next director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The office oversees development of the president’s annual budget proposals and oversees the performance of federal agencies.
Internet Sales Tax – Cloture Motion - Vote Agreed to (63-30, 7 Not Voting) - Before leaving for a week-long recess, the Senate also approved a motion to invoke cloture on S. 743, the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013. S. 743 would allow states to require online retailers to collect sales and use taxes on purchases made by their residents.
Firearms Legislation – Concealed-Carry Reciprocity Amendment - Vote Rejected (57-43) - This proposal from Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas would allow someone with a permit to carry a concealed weapon the right to carry it in any state which has a concealed-carry law.
Firearms Legislation – Background Checks Amendment - Vote Rejected (54-46) - The Senate voted on a flurry of amendments to the first major legislative response to last December’s massacre in Newtown, CT. In a sign of the difficulty facing proponents of stronger gun laws, most of the amendments were defeated, beginning with a proposal by pro-gun senators Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. and Pat Toomey, R-Pa. to strengthen background checks.
Firearms Legislation – Republican Substitute Amendment - Vote Rejected (52-48) - The second failed amendment was a Republican substitute offered by Judiciary committee ranking member Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
Firearms Legislation – Straw Purchases Amendment - Vote Rejected (58-42) - Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy, D-Vt. co-sponsored an amendment that would make it a federal crime to buy guns on behalf of someone legally barred from possessing them, a practice called straw purchasing.
Interior Secretary Confirmation - Vote Confirmed (87-11, 2 Not Voting) - Last week the Senate confirmed Sally Jewell, former CEO of outdoor retailer REI, to be the next secretary of the Department of Interior.
Gun Control – Cloture Vote - Vote Agreed to (68-31, 1 Not Voting) - The Senate also agreed to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to comprehensive firearms–related legislation that has been in the works since the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last December.
Fiscal 2013 Continuing Appropriations – Passage - Vote Passed (73-26, 1 Not Voting) - With a week left to avert a government shutdown, Senators passed a stopgap measure to keep federal funds flowing for the remainder of fiscal 2013.
Fiscal 2014 Senate Budget Resolution – Adoption - Vote Agreed to (50-49, 1 Not Voting)
FY 2013 Continuing Appropriations – Amendment - Vote Rejected (45-52, 3 Not Voting) -
Committee Funding Resolution – Amendment Vote - Vote Rejected (44-53, 3 Not Voting) -
CIA Director Nomination – Confirmation - Vote Confirmed (63-34, 3 Not Voting) -
Lew Nomination – Confirmation - Vote Confirmed (71-26, 3 Not Voting) -
Republican Sequester Alternative – Cloture - Vote Rejected (38-62)
Democratic Sequester Alternative – Cloture - Vote Rejected (51-49)
Gender-based Violence Prevention – Final Passage - Vote Passed (78-22) - The Senate passed a comprehensive reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) last week, including a controversial provision that grants expanded authority to tribal courts over non-American Indian offenders. The bill would also expand protections for LGBT victims. VAWA consists of a variety of grant programs to state and local law enforcement agencies and service organizations that specialize in treating victims of such crimes as rape, domestic violence, and stalking. S. 47 extends VAWA for five years.
Defense Secretary Nomination – Cloture - Vote Rejected (58-40, 1 Present, 1 Not Voting)
Gender-based Violence Prevention - Substitute Amendment - Vote Rejected (34-65, 1 Not Voting) - The Senate began action last week on its renewed effort to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, a panoply of initiatives designed to combat such crimes as domestic violence and sexual assault and to provide assistance to state and local law enforcement.
Temporary Suspension of Debt Limit – Final Passage - Vote Passed (64-34, 2 Not Voting) - The federal debt limit will have no force or effect until May 19, thanks to Senate action last week to clear a House-passed measure for President Obama’s signature.
Disaster Relief – Final Passage - Vote Passed (62-36, 2 Not Voting) - Relief for the victims of Hurricane Sandy cleared Congress last week, almost exactly three months after the storm devastated coastal communities in New York and New Jersey.
Secretary of State Confirmation - Vote Confirmed (94-3, 1 Present, 2 Not Voting) - The senior Senator from Massachusetts, Democrat John Kerry, was confirmed as the 68th Secretary of State last week. Kerry received near-unanimous support from his colleagues, the only dissenters being Republicans John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma. Kerry officially took over from Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday, February 1.
Temporary Rules Changes - Vote Agreed to (78-16, 6 Not Voting) - The only action in the Senate last week focused on the upper chamber's internal rules.
Permanent Rules Changes - Vote Agreed to (86-9, 5 Not Voting)
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