Washington (CNN) – With Democrats divided on tax cuts, a Senate vote before the election on extending Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class is looking less likely, multiple Senate Democratic sources tell CNN.
These sources all stress that no final decision has been made, and that Senate Democrats could come to a different conclusion after discussing the issue at a meeting Thursday afternoon.
Still, one senior Democratic senator told CNN that a tax cut bill "isn't going anywhere at this point." The senator spoke on condition of anonymity in order to talk about internal deliberations.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, however, did speak freely, telling CNN, "I think it's headed to after the election."
Washington (CNN) - A defense bill that includes the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy failed to advance in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday as Republicans closed ranks to keep the bill from coming up for debate.
The bill stalled on a 56-43 vote, four short of the 60 votes needed to break a Republican-led filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, joined the opposition as a tactical move, allowing him to bring it up later.
Republicans stood united against the measure even though some GOP senators favor lifting the Pentagon's requirement that gays and lesbians keep their sexuality a secret. Republican opponents complained that Democratic leaders are limiting the debate and could have refused to allow GOP amendments to the broader National Defense Authorization Act, which included the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal provision.
President Obama had promised to repeal the congressionally enacted ban on military service by openly gay and lesbian sevicemembers. Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said the White House is "disappointed" at the Senate vote, "but we'll keep trying."
Updated 4:05 p.m.
(CNN) – A day before she declares whether she will mount a write-in candidacy to preserve her Senate seat, Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski spent several hours in and around the Senate chamber Thursday talking with her colleagues about the difficult decision she faces.
After unexpectedly losing the Republican primary to Tea Party-backed Joe Miller, Murkowski is scheduled to be in Alaska Friday to announce whether she will run in the general election.
"I don't share personal conversations," Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe said about a lengthy discussion she and Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas had with Murkowski in a closed foyer just off the Senate floor.
Visible through a partially frosted glass door, the three women senators stood together for about a half an hour during a series of votes.
Snowe is a moderate Republican who later complained to reporters that Tea Party supporters want "ideological purity" in the Republican Party. Lincoln, a moderate Democrat, barely survived a challenge from the left in her primary. Now she is far down in the polls to a conservative Republican opponent.
"She's a great colleague and a friend as well," Snowe said about Murkowski. "Obviously, we feel very bad about it. She's been serving in the Senate with great standing and distinction."
Washington (CNN) – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and other leading Democratic senators will formally unveil the outlines of
legislation for comprehensive immigration reform late Thursday, CNN has learned.
Two senior Democratic sources tell CNN that the Senate Democrats will discuss a proposal drafted by Reid, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez.
"This is a draft that reflects months of bipartisan work. It is intended to serve as an invitation to Republicans to look at it and sit down to solve problems with us," one of the sources said.
Several Senate Democratic sources have also acknowledged to CNN, however, that there is virtually no chance immigration reform will pass the Senate this year. Many of those sources privately admit a key reason Democratic leaders are pushing the plan is to appeal to Hispanic voters in Nevada, who will play a big role in Reid's uphill battle for re-election in November.
The 26-page draft obtained by CNN acknowledges GOP concerns about Mexican border security by calling for "concrete benchmarks" to secure the border before granting illegal immigrants the opportunity to gain legal status.
Washington (CNN) - The Senate launched debate Tuesday on a House-passed bill to make changes in the hours-old health care reform law, with Republicans promising to use every parliamentary tool available to undermine or defeat the measure.
The so-called "fixes" bill was necessary to get reluctant House Democrats to approve the Senate's version of the health care reform bill. By approving the Senate version Sunday night, the House sent the bill to President Obama, who signed it into law on Tuesday.
However, House Democrats only agreed to support the health care bill if the fixes measure accompanied it to make some changes in the Senate version. Now the Senate must approve the fixes bill so Obama also can sign it.
Democrats admit they have concerns that Republicans may be successful in changing the delicately balanced package. Any changes would force the bill back to the House for another vote.
Washington (CNN) – Congressional Democrats are increasingly concerned about the President's plan to bring Guantanamo detainees to the United States for trial, as a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation Tuesday to block it.
Eighteen senators, including two Democrats and one Independent, unveiled a bill Tuesday to withhold funding the President requested to try terror suspects in civilian courts.
"It's an unusual thing we're doing here," said Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-CT. "We are trying to use Congress' power of the purse to stop these trials."
The move comes a day after the President requested in his budget a boost in homeland security funding to help pay for the transfer and trials of detainees on U.S. soil.
One of the Democratic co-sponsors is Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, who is facing a tough re-election battle this year.
Washington (CNN) – Sen. Ben Nelson tells CNN he has received a compromise proposal on abortion restrictions that look "better than what's in the bill," but that he has to review it, and send it back to anti-abortion interest groups in his home state of Nebraska.
The compromise proposal was devised by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn, another anti-abortion Democrat who has been trying to help Democratic leaders and Nelson negotiate a compromise to win his support for health care.
A Democratic leadership aide would say only that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nelson and others have been "going back and forth" with ideas on how to find common ground on this vexing issue for several days.
Nelson - whose vote is likely crucial to pass the Democratic health care reform bill - has said he believes the abortion restrictions in the Senate bill are too weak, and has threatened to vote against the plan if it isn't changed. His amendment to adopt the strict prohibitions passed by the House was defeated.
Washington (CNN) - In a sign that the wrenching House debate over abortion is already vexing Senate Democrats, Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson told CNN Monday he will vote against any health care bill that does not include the strict abortion restrictions that passed the House.
"If there's public money going to fund abortions, I can't support it, period, no matter what else is in it," said Nelson, a staunchly anti-abortion Democrat.
The House approved a health care bill Saturday night that prohibits abortion coverage in a government-run plan, and in private plans that accept anyone using government subsidies to buy insurance coverage. People would be permitted to by supplemental coverage with their own money that includes covers abortions.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, a leading abortion rights voice in the Senate, told CNN Monday that approach was "radical" and "unfair to women," and said she will meet with a group of female senators Tuesday to start looking for a way to limit abortion restrictions in the Senate health care bill.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – A controversial new tax on employer-provided medical benefits is gaining traction among Senate health care negotiators as a way to help pay for a $1 trillion reform package moving through Congress, two key senators said Wednesday.
Bipartisan Senate negotiators are "starting to coalesce" around the idea, according to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Montana.
Any tax is controversial - but this proposal is especially politically charged, since President Barack Obama opposed the idea when he ran for president. White House officials from the president on down have sent mixed messages in public in recent weeks about whether he'd accept such a tax.
Baucus says the president has told him he is "flexible" on the proposal.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Supporters of Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor Wednesday circulated a speech she made in 1994 that include similar remarks to her 2001 "wise Latina" comments, which have drawn fire from conservatives as racially insensitive.
In highlighting the earlier speech, Democrats are making the point that her GOP critics never complained before about the sentiment that judges with different backgrounds can reach different conclusions from the bench.
While her earlier speech did not include the racial and ethnic references that appeared in her 2001 speech, it did include references to gender and the idea that a female judge would reach a "better" conclusion than a male because of her life experience.
The March 17, 1994, speech to the Conference on Law Reviews was submitted to the Senate in 1997 when Sotomayor was nominated – and ultimately confirmed with Republican support - to be on the U.S. Court of Appeals. In it, she discussed the role of gender and referenced a quote attributed to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor that "a wise old man and a wise old woman reach the same conclusion."
"I would hope that a wise woman with the richness of her experience would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion," she said in the 1994 speech. "What is better? I….hope that better will mean a more compassionate, and caring conclusion."