By Tracy Bloom
Major Victory: By a 68-32 vote, the Democratic-controlled Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform package Thursday that would give undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship and spend billions to strengthen border security, among other things. Fourteen Republicans joined with every member of the Democratic caucus (which includes two independents) to pass the legislation that was crafted by the so-called Gang of Eight. To signify the importance of the vote, Vice President Joe Biden was there to preside as the Senate’s president, while Majority Leader Harry Reid took the unusual step of making senators sit at their assigned desks and stand up when called in order to vote. (Read more)
Party Politics: With the immigration overhaul package now headed to the House, some Republicans have issued the following warning to Speaker John Boehner: Break the Hastert rule again and we’ll depose you. The Hastert rule, named for former Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert, is the principle that the speaker shouldn’t bring legislation to a floor vote without the support of the majority of the party in power. Among those issuing the threat—Reps. Tom McClintock of California and Matt Salmon of Arizona. Salmon said there’s “great unrest” within the party thanks in part to GOP leaders bringing no fewer than four bills to the floor without the majority party’s backing, and that he’s working within his party to codify the Hastert rule. For his part, Boehner’s insisting he won’t bring the immigration bill to a vote without the support of most Republicans. (Read more)
SCOTUS Effect: Well that was fast. After the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision Tuesday overturning a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the tribunal threw out a pair of cases from Texas, one involving the state’s voter ID law and the other related to redistricting maps. The ruling was a direct result of the court striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which described the states and localities that needed federal approval, or preclearance, to change their election laws. Texas was one of the states affected by that particular section. In both cases, the state had sought preclearance, didn’t get it, and appealed the judgments to the Supreme Court. Now, as a result of the Shelby County v. Holder decision, the voter ID law can go into effect, as can the redistricting maps passed by the Texas Legislature in the special session that just ended. (Read more)
Waiting Game: With Edward Snowden remaining in Moscow, President Obama said Thursday that the United States would stick to “regular legal channels” in order to bring the NSA whistle-blower back to the country where he has been charged under the Espionage Act and faces trial. “I’m not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker,” he said at a news briefing in Senegal during his trip to Africa. The president also expressed concern that Snowden possessed more classified documents, but that the administration didn’t know “what other documents he may try to dribble out there.” Also on Thursday, government officials in Ecuador said that no decision had been yet on whether to grant Snowden asylum there. (Read more)
Video of the Day: Freshman Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., an Army veteran who lost both of her legs and the use of one of her arms after a helicopter crash during the Iraq War, got into a dramatic confrontation Wednesday at a House Oversight Committee meeting with Braulio Castillo, an IRS contractor who received government contracts because his company was “small business, disabled veteran owned.” His disability? He twisted his ankle playing football at a military prep school. Pointing to her own war wounds, Duckworth proceeded to excoriate and shame Castillo for claiming a military disability in order to get the federal contract. The confrontation lasts about eight minutes, and the entire video is well worth watching.