Senate Voting on Proceeding With House-Passed Spending Bill

Move comes after president says a government shutdown is likely

Spending bills need 60 votes to clear procedural hurdles in the Senate, where Republicans hold a 51-49 edge.

Later Friday morning, the president encouraged Mr. McConnell to change the rules of the Senate to enable spending bills to pass with a simple majority instead of the 60 votes required to clear procedural hurdles.

“Mitch, use the Nuclear Option and get it done! Our Country is counting on you!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.

Senate Republicans have resisted that idea in the past, not wanting to eliminate the minority party’s leverage.

Hoping for a Midterm Split Decision

The conservative case for a Republican Senate and a Democratic House.

.. Let me suggest a third option. If you are a conservative who is moderately happy with some of Trump’s policy steps, fearful of liberalism in full power, but also fearful of Trump untrammeled and triumphant, the sensible thing to root for — and vote for — is the outcome that appears most likely at the moment: A Republican majority in the Senate and a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.

.. The best argument for conservative support for Donald Trump was always defensive: Elect him and you prevent the installation of a long-term liberal majority on the Supreme Court, and perhaps chasten the Democratic Party and arrest its leftward march.

For that argument to persuade, you had to trust the institutional Republican Party’s promise to contain Trump’s authoritarian instincts and restrain his follies. You also had to downplay the long-term damage, to conservatism and the body politic, of putting someone with such poisonous rhetorical habits in the bully pulpit.

.. so far Trump has been more constrained and less destructive than I expected — his foreign policy less destabilizing (so far) than either of his predecessors, his cruelest policy instincts walked back under pressure, the country more prosperous, his appointments more responsible and a large-scale investigation into his possible crimes proceeding, beset by Trumpian insults but otherwise mostly unimpeded by the White House.

To the extent that any Republicans deserve credit for this constraint, though, they are mostly elected Republicans in the Senate. The House is more pure, uncut MAGA, more reflexive in its defense of a president whose behavior is often indefensible, more poisoned by the worst Trumpist tendencies (witness the steady migration of the Iowa congressman Steve King toward an overt white nationalism) and more inclined to allow Trump a free hand should he seek to make his actual presidency exactly like his Twitter feed.

.. So a Democratic House would supply a much more effective check on that temptation, along with more vigorous scrutiny of corruption in the White House, about which congressional Republicans have been studiously incurious. And it would offer that check without jeopardizing any potential conservative legislative achievements — because, let’s be frank, the congressional G.O.P. isn’t going to do anything serious with its power if it gets re-elected except confirm judges, and you don’t need the House to elevate Amy Coney Barrett if there’s one more high court vacancy.

.. for the genuinely populist sort for conservative (that is, the best kind), having a Democratic House might force Trump himself back toward the economic populism of his campaign, which he mostly abandoned but has suddenly remembered in the last days before the midterms, talking up a phantom middle-class tax cut and proposing an “America First” approach to drug pricing.

Given the more favorable Senate map and the possibility of a recession, Democrats can reasonably hope to retake the upper chamber in the next four years no matter what. And it will go much worse for the right if that Democratic majority has 60 seats in that scenario as opposed to 52 — something that will be determined by this fall’s election as much as by what happens two or four years hence.

Of course, if you’re a Trump skeptic who believes that only an earth-salting defeat will enable the re-emergence of a decent right, then trying to constrain a future liberalism will seem less important than rooting for the necessary disaster to arrive for Republicans today. But I don’t think our polarized system lends itself to salt-the-earth defeats anymore, and I also don’t think that parties necessarily emerge from them wiser than before — since in such defeats they’re condensed to their more fervent and often foolish core.

Anita Hill: How to Get the Kavanaugh Hearings Right

In 1991, the Senate Judiciary Committee had an opportunity to demonstrate its appreciation for both the seriousness of sexual harassment claims and the need for public confidence in the character of a nominee to the Supreme Court. It failed on both counts.

As that same committee, on which sit some of the same members as nearly three decades ago, now moves forward with the Kavanaugh confirmation proceedings, the integrity of the court, the country’s commitment to addressing sexual violence as a matter of public interest, and the lives of the two principal witnesses who will be testifying hang in the balance.

.. the public expects better from our government than we got in 1991, when our representatives performed in ways that gave employers permission to mishandle workplace harassment complaints throughout the following decades.

.. That the Senate Judiciary Committee still lacks a protocol for vetting sexual harassment and assault claims that surface during a confirmation hearing suggests that the committee has learned little from the Thomas hearing, much less the more recent #MeToo movement.

.. To do better, the 2018 Senate Judiciary Committee must demonstrate a clear understanding that sexual violence is a social reality to which elected representatives must respond.

.. The details of what that process would look like should be guided by experts who have devoted their careers to understanding sexual violence.

.. Select a neutral investigative body with experience in sexual misconduct cases that will investigate the incident in question and present its findings to the committee. Outcomes in such investigations are more reliable and less likely to be perceived as tainted by partisanship. Senators must then rely on the investigators’ conclusions, along with advice from experts, to frame the questions they ask Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey.

.. The investigators’ report should frame the hearing, not politics or myths about sexual assault.

.. Do not rush these hearings. Doing so would not only signal that sexual assault accusations are not important — hastily appraising this situation would very likely lead to facts being overlooked that are necessary for the Senate and the public to evaluate.

.. Process is important, but it cannot erase the difficulty of testifying on national television about the sexual assault that Dr. Blasey says occurred when she was 15 years old. Nor will it negate the fact that as she sits before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dr. Blasey will be outresourced. Encouraging letters from friends and strangers may help, but she cannot match the organized support that Judge Kavanaugh has.

Mitch McConnell is winning the long game

McConnell says:

The largest tax reduction in 31 years has contributed to the best economy in 18 years. Defense spending is up, many Dodd-Frank banking rules and the Obamacare individual mandate have been repealed. Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, blocked for 38 years, has been approved, as has a reconfigured National Labor Relations Board, a source of much Obama administration mischief. The Congressional Review Act, under which Congress can disapprove many regulations issued by federal agencies, has been used 19 times since it was enacted in 1996 — 18 of them during this Congress.

.. This, says McConnell, constitutes the best 18 months of center-right governance in his Senate career, which began when Ronald Reagan’s second term did. There also are the judges.

.. By preventing a vote on President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland

.. McConnell ended the requirement of a supermajority to stop filibusters of Supreme Court nominees

.. To prevent Republicans from reciprocating with filibusters against Obama’s packing-by-enlargement of the nation’s second-most-important court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Democrats changed Senate rules to bar filibusters of judicial nominees other than those for the Supreme Court. McConnell removed that pointless exemption to make possible the confirmation of Neil M. Gorsuch.

.. But without filibusters of legislation, he says, the nation might have socialized medicine, guaranteed government jobs, card-check workplace unionization, a ban on right-to-work laws, and other afflictions.

.. since popular election of senators began in 1914, Republicans have never had more than 60 senators.

.. Almost 30 years after the end of his presidency, Reagan still shapes events because of his nomination of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who often has been 20 percent of a court majority. Three decades from now, McConnell will be shaping the nation through judges who today are in their 40s, some of whom might be destined to be Gorsuch’s colleagues. This is the long game.