The Morning Line: The Senate’s Quick Return

BY Quinn Bowman  August 12, 2010 at 8:34 AM EDT

If you turn on C-SPAN 2 Thursday morning, you’ll be able to catch a very quick pause in the Senate’s August recess. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., worked out a deal with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to pass, by unanimous consent, $600 million in border security funding that the House passed earlier this week.

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The bill will fund 1,500 additional border enforcement agents and unmanned aerial drones for improved border surveillance. (The money was actually approved by the Senate last week, but a legislative technicality made the House the chamber of origin for this bill, requiring one more round in the Senate.)

Unlike the return of nearly all 435 members of the House on Tuesday, who voted on $26 billion in state Medicaid and education assistance in addition to the border security package, we will not see 100 senators streaming off airplanes to head to the well of the Senate and cast their vote.

Instead, Sen. Ben Cardin of nearby Maryland will serve as the presiding officer and Sen. Chuck Schumer (who resides only one 36-minute shuttle flight away from the Capitol) will offer the legislation that has already been agreed to unanimously by both sides.

There will also be a resolution memorializing Ted Stevens, the longtime GOP senator from Alaska who died in a plane crash Monday night.

And in the blink of an eye, the Senate will once again be gaveled out of session and the August recess will formally resume.

THE POLITICS OF SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

The federal judge who ruled last week that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional is poised to issue a second ruling in the case Thursday afternoon. U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker will decide whether Prop 8, the ballot measure approved by California voters in 2008 denying marriage rights to same-sex couples, should remain in effect while his ruling is appealed.

Both Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Democrat seeking his job, California Attorney General Jerry Brown, have requested that same-sex marriages be allowed to resume immediately in the aftermath of Judge Walker’s ruling.

The Republican nominee for governor, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, has been shying away from making such a divisive social issue a centerpiece of her campaign. But if news coverage is flooded with images of gay couples getting married, the issue may be tough to avoid in both the gubernatorial contest and the heated Senate battle between Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Republican Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard.

(Fun photographic sidenote: On the eve of Thursday’s court ruling, Gov. Schwarzenegger was in Las Vegas celebrating the opening of his friend Sylvester Stallone’s new film, “The Expendables,” and tweeted this photo.)

BILLIONS FOR MILLIONAIRES

Republicans (and some centrist Democrats) in Congress are advocating that the Bush tax cuts, set to expire at the end of the year, should be extended. The GOP has also made federal debt a central part of its midterm election message — the party argues that the government has spent too much during the recession, with no evidence of success as unemployment hangs at 9.5 percent.

An analysis requested by the Democrats on the bipartisan Joint Committee on Taxation shows that those two goals — extending tax cuts and reining in deficits — can’t be achieved at the same time. The Washington Post reports that the committee found that extending the cuts on the wealthy would add $36 billion to the deficit in 2011 and that $31 billion of that money would go to millionaires.

President Obama and many Democrats in Congress want to extend the cuts only to families making less than $250,000 a year and individuals making less than $200,000 a year, which would cover 98 percent of taxpayers. That would cost $202 billion, compared to the GOP plan, which would cost $238 billion, the Post reported.

The report is likely to be used by Democrats to attack the credibility of the GOP’s message on fiscal responsibility — one of the minority party’s primary arguments for why it should take back the House and Senate in November. Republicans will also likely argue that the upper income earners need the tax break extension because they are the job creators for the American economy.

‘MEH’ TO THE MIDTERMS

With the 2010 midterms approaching, pundits and curious parties have wondered if the under-30 voters who turned out in near-record numbers for President Obama in 2008 will return to the ballot box in 2010.

The New York Times reports Thursday that if history is a guide, they probably won’t.

Turnout for midterms is usually much lower than in presidential elections, and that’s especially true for younger voters. In the 2006 midterms, only 25 percent of young voters showed up, compared to 53 percent for voters 30 and older.

The Times reports on a CNN poll that found younger voters are less enthusiastic about voting this year than older Americans:

A CNN poll conducted nationwide in mid-July found older voters were significantly more enthusiastic about voting this year than younger voters. Four in 10 of those aged 65 and older said they were extremely or very enthusiastic about voting in November while just one-quarter of those under 35 years of age said the same.

This is bad news for Democrats, who are already facing a tough electoral climate. The Times reports that their joint poll with CBS found that those older voters are most likely to say the country is on the wrong track:

Eight in 10 Americans 45 and older disapprove of the job Congress is doing compared with 6 in 10 of those under age 45. While opinions about Congress differ depending on age, anti-incumbent sentiment cuts across generational lines, with about 8 in 10 Americans saying it is time to give new people a chance to serve.>

Rock the Vote, an organization that promotes youth voting and civic participation, is trying to fight the trend with a campaign to register 200,000 young people to vote this November.