Cornyn Disputes Dysfunction

The Chief Majority Whip, John Cornyn, R-TX, challenged the idea that the Senate fails to get things done today.

He held up the 240 bills acted on by the Senate, 140 of which were signed into law. He compared this to the 15 passed while Harry Reid, D-NV, the current Minority Party leader, was the Majority party leader and the Democrats had control of Congress.

Mr. Cornyn went on to blame Democratic Party obstruction for any gridlock in the chamber.

“It’s because of their inaction,” he said, “they’re the ones who have blocked the appropriations process.”

Lamar Alexander, R-TN, backed up Mr. Cornyn while praising some of his Democratic colleagues for their willingness to work with Senate Republicans. He said it was important to recognize contributions from across the aisle, and give credit where credit is due.

Mr. Alexander also called the most recent Congress a productive one, and mentioned newspaper reports calling it one of the most productive since the 1990s.

by Marlon J. Ettinger

Senate Poised for Fight over Zika Funding

The Senate will vote tomorrow on legislation that could provide $1.1 billion in emergency funding to combat the Zika virus. The coming months are peak mosquito season, and there are fears among health officials that if action is not taken there might be an explosion in incidence of the mosquito-borne disease.

A Centers for Disease Control Interim Response Plan released earlier this month warned that “local transmission of Zika virus in US territories and affiliated Pacific Island countries is ongoing.” It also noted that “neither vaccines nor proven clinical treatments are expected to be available to treat or prevent Zika virus infections before local transmission begins within [the Continental United States] or Hawaii.”

The Majority and Minority leaders both addressed the bill in their opening statements. Mitch McConnell, R-KY, said that combating the spread of the Zika virus should be a priority of both parties. He then accused Senate Democrats of playing partisan politics over funding.

Harry Reid, D-NV, accused the Republican package of being “full of poison pills.” He says that with cuts to Obamacare, Ebola funding, and provisions prohibiting funding in the bill from being directed to Planned Parenthood “it’s like we’re being dared to oppose this legislation.” Democrats are also upset that the bill falls short of the $1.9 billion the Obama administration requested.

The bill has already made it through the House, but even if it does pass the upper chamber the administration has warned it may veto it. This week is the last week for the Senate to address the issue before a long July 4th recess.

The Majority Whip, John Cornyn, R-TX, called the shifting of funds from other programs better than deficit spending.

“I hope we will act with dispatch,” he said, commending the Obama administration for reprogramming $589 million from the Ebola fund to face the Zika threat. He called for support of the bill, and echoed the Majority Leader’s accusation against Senate Democrats.

“They can either play politics at the expense of women and children across the nation, or they can support the bill.”

by Marlon J. Ettinger

Dueling Clotures

“In both instances we agree,” said Majority Whip John Cornyn, TX, earlier today. “Terrorists should not have guns.”

The Junior senator from California, Barbara Boxer, went further and said of assault weapons: “those weapons have no business being in civilian hands.”

By the time the Senate adjourned though, just after 7:30 tonight, all motions to invoke cloture on pieces of legislation with varying degrees of gun control provisions failed to reach the 60 votes necessary to make the issue the unfinished business of the upper chamber.

Mr. Cornyn’s amendment came closest, attaining a 53-47 majority vote on cloture. That still fell seven votes short of the three-fifths majority required for a cloture motion to pass. His amendment to the Commerce, Justice, and Science Act would have empowered the Attorney General’s office to delay for three days the sale of a firearm to an individual suspected of terrorism. The Justice Department would then have to build a case proving a suspected terrorist’s link to terrorist activity.

Pat Toomey, R-PA, said that the legislation didn’t have much of a chance of passing, and that it would be unworkable and “difficult” for an Attorney General to build a case in 3 days. Nor did he have much hope for the legislation originating from the Democratic side of the aisle.

“We know the Feinstein bill is going to fail, we know the Cornyn bill is going to fail,” he told the floor, and proposed that the Senate would be better served considering legislation he was working on, or that of Susan Collins, the Republican Senator of Maine.

The Securing Our Homeland from Radical Islamists and Enhancing Law Enforcement Detection Act, also known as the SHIELD Act was offered as an alternative by Mr. Cornyn to the senior Californian Senator Dianne Feinstein’s(D) amendment, which would prohibit the sale of firearms to those suspected of terrorism.

Mrs. Feinstein’s amendment was also defeated in a cloture vote, falling 47- 53.

Chris Murphy, D-CT, who last Thursday filibustered the Senate floor for nearly 15 hours to force a spotlight onto the gun control debate, also had an amendment defeated. But for defeat by a 44-56 margin, the Murphy amendment would have mandated universal background checks on gun sales. The Senate floor buzzed with conversation during the cloture motion.

Before the vote began, Mr. Murphy expressed his reservations that any of his desired legislation would pass. But he was pleased that his filibuster had forced the votes, saying that before he made it “this body was going to ignore what happened,” in reference to the June 13th mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which killed 49 people and left dozens more injured.

And he emphasized the value of the votes in showing the position of the Senators to the American people.

“We are at least going to be able to see where people stand.”

He finished by condemning the alternate pieces of legislation, calling them “shields for members who don’t want to do the right thing.”

by Marlon J. Ettinger