Politcal Notebook

GOP letter vows intransigence

Erskine Bowles (right) and former senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming discussed a deficit reduction plan yesterday. Erskine Bowles (right) and former senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming discussed a deficit reduction plan yesterday. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)
December 1, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans intend to block action on virtually all Democrat-backed legislation unrelated to tax cuts and government spending in the current postelection session of Congress, officials said yesterday, adding that the leadership has quietly collected signatures on a letter pledging to carry out the strategy.

If carried out, it would doom Democrat-backed attempts to end the Pentagon’s practice of discharging openly gay members of the military service and give legal status to young illegal immigrants who join the military or attend college.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid has made both measures a priority as Democrats attempt to enact legislation long sought by groups that supported them in the recent midterm elections.

A nuclear arms treaty with Russia that President Obama wants ratified would not be affected, because any debate would take place under rules different from those that apply to legislation. Even so, its passage is not assured as Republicans are seeking concessions from the White House.

Officials who disclosed the new Republican maneuver did so on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss it.

It was not known how many of the Senate’s 42 Republicans had signed the draft letter, which the leadership intends to make public quickly.

— Associated Press

Bipartisan plan aims to rein in tax earmarks
WASHINGTON — A bipartisan presidential commission has made changes to a plan to reduce America’s deficits and rein in the national debt, and its members will vote on the final product Friday, the panel’s cochairmen said yesterday.

Former senator Alan Simpson, a Republican of Wyoming, and Erskine Bowles, the former Clinton chief of staff, said at a news conference that commission members would meet today to discuss the plan, which aims to cut the federal deficit in half by 2015 and stabilize the nation’s soaring debt.

Simpson and Bowles spoke after the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, as the panel is formally known, held a closed-door meeting to discuss changes to a draft plan that the cochairmen released three weeks ago.

“America, you have a serious problem,’’ Simpson said at the news conference. “And time is short to address it.’’

He said a main feature of the plan is that it would eliminate what he called tax earmarks, essentially expenditures in the tax code that amount to $1.1 trillion a year. “Tax earmarks are spending by another name, and they just drain America,’’ Simpson said, adding that it is now “sober-up time’’ for the companies that have benefited from them over the years.

— Washington Post

Reid to push test vote on illegal immigrants
WASHINGTON — The Senate’s top Democrat said yesterday he will move to force a test vote this week on a measure to give tens of thousands of young illegal immigrants a path to legal status.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada said he plans to schedule action on the so-called Dream Act, which would give more than 100,000 young immigrants brought to the United States before the age of 16 a chance to become legal residents if they attend college or join the military.

It is unclear whether Reid can muster the 60 votes necessary to move to an up-or-down vote on the measure. It has some degree of bipartisan support, but is opposed by most Republicans and some Democrats who regard it as little more than an amnesty.

— Associated Press