Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 30, 2015

Posts in "Presidential Politics"

September 15, 2015

CNN: Make the Next Debate About the Big Stuff

(Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

CNN moderator Jake Tapper can’t avoid questioning the Republican presidential candidates about the subjects that have dominated the GOP race so far — immigration, Planned Parenthood and Donald Trump — but in Wednesday night’s debate he ought to try to get answers on other issues that are much more important to American voters.

At the top ought to be: What, exactly, are you going to do to restore the American dream of economic opportunity for current workers and future generations? It’s all well and good for Jeb Bush to explain how his new tax plan will raise the U.S. growth rate to 4 percent and Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” is just that. As Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., often says, U.S. workers face a different kind of economy than in the past because of technology and international competition. In fact, real wages have been stagnant for 20 years. That’s a diagnosis, not a prescription or a cure.

Being Republicans, the candidates will likely say the answers are to lower corporate taxes and stop over-regulating business. But according to the Government Accountability Office, large corporations actually pay at the rate of 12.6 percent, not the official rate (second highest in the world) of 35 percent. Thirty-five percent. Twenty of the biggest pay no federal taxes at all. Lots of corporations are beneficiaries of tax breaks and subsidies — “corporate welfare.” Will the candidates take on Big Oil, farm subsidies, hedge fund operators, sugar quotas and ethanol requirements the way they might attack welfare dependency? And, which regulations, exactly will be out: worker health and safety, clean air, clean water, mine safety, oversight of the banking system?

Trump will likely blame flat incomes on bad trade deals cut by “stupid” American leaders and say Mexican immigrants, when they aren’t raping and robbing, are stealing the jobs of American citizens. But if the U.S. raises tariffs on imports, what’s to prevent China and Mexico — and Canada and the European Union, our biggest trading partners — from doing the same, locking out U.S. exports and setting off a global trade war? And do Trump and other candidates favoring mass deportation of illegals expect American workers to clean houses, tend golf courses, pick crops and do odd construction work? Where’s the evidence they’ll do so? Immigration can’t be avoided in the debate, for sure. But Tapper and co-interviewer Hugh Hewitt ought to ask what it’s going to cost the U.S. — in money, global reputation and internal unity — to track down and drive out 11 million people. And Trump needs to be asked directly: Can you guarantee that all the people working on your golf courses and cleaning your hotel rooms are U.S. citizens?

What’s the role of investing in infrastructure in providing jobs, if any? According to the World Economic Forum, the U.S. ranks 12th in the world in the quality of its roads, bridges, dams, airports, waterways etc. and the American Society of Civil Engineers says the U.S. needs to spend $3.6 trillion by 2020 to get up to speed. Are the GOP candidates willing to do that? How will they pay for it? And balance the federal budget, as they all seem to want to do? If they think that’s “wasteful spending,” do they want China to have better railroads than we do forever?

And what’s the role of education? The U.S. ranks 14th among nations in overall education performance. Average SAT scores have fallen to their lowest level in 10 years. What do the candidates propose to do about that?

A good general question would be: Do you agree with Trump that America is now a “hell hole” or with Bush that “we’re on the verge of the greatest time to be alive? Both of them ought to have to defend those statements.

But then there’s foreign policy. The GOP candidates can be expected to denounce Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear agreement and promise to tear it up if elected. But how will that retard Iran’s pursuit of a bomb? Won’t Iran just accelerate its program? If the candidates say they’d impose tougher economic sanctions on Iran to get a better deal, how would that work when European parties to the deal are already lifting sanctions? Is anybody ready to bomb Iran?

For those who’d rely on Kurds and Arab allies to deal with the problem, offering them weapons, air support and advice, suppose that doesn’t work, as it isn’t in Iraq? Do we wait till the Islamic State terror group, also known as ISIS, pulls a 9/11 before getting serious about it?

And Vladimir Putin: is he an enemy to be countered at every turn, Cold War style, or a troublesome character who might be maneuvered into constructive co-operation (say, against ISIS)? What’s the U.S. to do about Ukraine, for centuries a part of Russia’s sphere of influence? Do we risk war with Russia to protect Ukraine as we would a NATO member?

Who’s more of a danger — China, Russia, Iran or ISIS? Are we going to fight all of them at once? If not, what’s the strategy?

The GOP candidates are all going to blame Obama for everything that’s wrong with the nation and the world. Tapper and Hewitt ought to say: Stop right there — elections are about the future, not the past. We want to know what you are going to do about the world you might inherit. And be specific.


Who’s In? 2016 Presidential Candidates

A Significant Reassessment of the GOP Race

August 11, 2015

Who Will Republicans Come Around to in 2016?

Republican presidential candidates arrive on stage for the Republican presidential debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. From left are:  New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie;  Florida Sen. Marco Rubio;  retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; real estate magnate Donald Trump; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz; Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul; and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.  AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN        (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Which one of these 10 men will be the GOP’s 2016 nominee? (Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

This is the quadrennial Republican silly season, when candidates without a prayer of election get their moments in the limelight, sometimes topping the polls before crashing.

After adopting crazy enthusiasms — Pat Buchanan, Steve Forbes, Pat Robertson, Michele Bachman, Herman Cain and the ever-present Mike Huckabee — the party almost always ends up nominating its most electable candidate. The process is often ruinous, of course, forcing the nominee to adopt positions in the primaries that render him unable to win the general. Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” position on immigration in 2012 is the best example.

Full story

May 7, 2014

Opinion Duel: CQ Roll Call Moderates Debate on Keystone XL (Video)


CQ Roll Call is excited to offer the first installment of a new video series, “Opinion Duel,” created by The Purple Network. Roll Call has partnered with National Review and The Nation to bring you in-depth discussions of top political issues with more discussion than a short cable news segment. Representing the left, right, and center, each Opinion Duel program will feature an intelligent debate on key legislative issues between The Nation on the left, National Review on the right, and CQ Roll Call editors playing the important role of moderator.

In this first installment of the Opinion Duel, Roll Call’s Editor-in-Chief Christina Bellantoni moderated a discussion with Charles C. W. Cooke, from National Review and The Nation‘s Zoë Carpenter. Carpenter and Cooke discussed the interests surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline and whether President Obama has been active on the climate change agenda. Bellantoni lead the discussion with questions that allowed Cooke and Carpenter to offer differing sides of the political spectrum concerning the Keystone XL pipeline and the administration’s current delay of any resolution to the hot-button issue.

The Purple Network is a partnership which strives to deliver content from all sides of the ideological divide to inform the whole spectrum of politically engaged thought leaders.

Watch the engaging discussion below:

April 1, 2014

Christie’s Contractors: Backers Barred From Donating Found Loophole

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie may manage to put the George Washington Bridge scandal behind him, but even if he does, his ethics troubles won’t be over.

Christie’s complicated relationship with campaign contributors and state contractors, in particular, will draw scrutiny as he continues to mull a 2016 presidential bid. Christie’s donors have a history of gravitating to secretive and little-regulated political groups to promote the GOP governor and his agenda.

These include tax-exempt organizations that spent millions on Christie’s gubernatorial election and re-election campaigns, and that operate outside the disclosure rules. Political activity by nonprofits has become commonplace these days, and Christie’s opponents run their own non-disclosing tax exempt groups.

But Christie’s big backers, who have bankrolled several pro-Christie operations, stand out because many of them are state contractors otherwise barred from contributing to his campaign. New Jersey “pay-to-play” laws, considered the strictest in the nation, bar large state contractors, utilities and financial services firms that manage state pension funds from donating to state candidates.

Yet a long list of New Jersey contractors and pension fund managers have given generously to groups that either back or are closely linked with Christie. Such contributions have repeatedly raised questions as to whether Christie supporters are skirting the state’s pay-to-play laws — a suggestion that the state Treasury Department, which enforces those statutes, has rejected.

Full story

January 29, 2014

The State of the Union in 3 Minutes (Video)

From focusing on the minimum wage to celebrating the Olympics to addressing the partisan divide in Congress, Roll Call condenses President Barack Obama’s fifth State of the Union address into 190 seconds.

Read Roll Call’s full coverage of Obama’s speech here.

January 27, 2014

Key Moments From Obama’s State of the Union Addresses (Video)

Watch Roll Call’s key moments from President Barack Obama’s five State of the Union addresses, including criticism of the Supreme Court, hammering Wall Street banks and pushing for immigration and gun reform.

December 23, 2013

The Best (or Worst) of Congress in 2013 (Video)

The first session of the 113th Congress — the least productive in modern times — will be remembered for what it did, and did not, accomplish.

An immigration overhaul, gun control and health care mixed with “calves the size of cantaloupes,” “Alice in Wonderland” and cocaine. Together, it is the best and worst of the year that was, wrapped into one.

November 12, 2013

Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Both Parties | Kondracke

Face it: Both the Republican and Democratic parties are in trouble. Neither can be sure which is in worse shape. So it behooves them both to do something right for a change.

What? Reach a budget deal that ends threats of government shutdowns and debt defaults, restores confidence among both foreign and domestic investors, and convinces the public that federal politicians can govern.

Will it be hard to get a deal — especially by the mandated deadline of Dec. 15? Of course. But both sides know what needs to be done — reform entitlements to get the country’s long-term debt under control, reform taxes to make the economy more productive, and lift the budget sequester’s stranglehold on domestic spending and defense. Full story

October 16, 2013

McConnell to the Rescue — Again | Pennsylvania Avenue

Assuming that the U.S. economy survives its latest near-death experience, significant credit ought to go to Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell.

President Barack Obama ought to realize this is the second time this year that McConnell has been the key player in resolving a terrifying fiscal crisis — and start talking to him regularly.

This time, it is the Kentucky Republican’s negotiations with Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada that (apparently, hopefully) are saving the country from a catastrophic debt default and are ending the costly close-down of the federal government.

In January, it was McConnell and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. who figured out how to prevent the country from falling over the “fiscal cliff”— avoiding tax increases on all but the richest Americans.

McConnell “gave” on what had been a key GOP demand: keeping tax rates on the rich from rising to 39 percent.

In July 2011, McConnell invented a plan B to avoid an earlier default by giving Obama authority to raise the debt limit subject to congressional veto.

Obama evidently detests McConnell, regarding him as hopelessly partisan. It took Obama a full 18 months at the outset of his presidency to have a one-on-one meeting with the GOP leader.

But McConnell has proved to be a statesman. He’s risking the fury of the Senate Conservatives Fund and its allied tea party extremists, who are running a primary candidate against him in Kentucky.

Obama ought to take notice. The Reid-McConnell agreement, assuming it passes Congress and saves the day, merely puts off new days of reckoning on spending and debt.

But it also creates the opportunity for serious negotiations on entitlement and tax reform. If Obama wants to avoid a repeat of the current crisis, he’d best start talking — secretly, if necessary — with Republican grown-ups such as McConnell and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis.

House Speaker John A. Boehner obviously has to be part of the mix, but he has fallen far short — so far — of showing McConnell’s courage and legislative acumen. Even though the Ohio Republican obviously knows that his tea party brethren are irrevocably tarnishing the GOP brand, he’s yielded to them time after time.

In the meantime, Senate Republicans, led by McConnell, have isolated extremists Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah to the fringe and encouraged tea party favorites like Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida to behave.

If his leadership causes the radical right — the radio talkers, Heritage Action, the Fund for Growth, etc. — to make McConnell a key primary target in Kentucky, it’s an opportunity for sane Republicans to counter them in force.

Most of all, this whole dismal exercise ought to lead Obama, Reid, McConnell and House GOP leaders to understand that they will put the country through crisis after crisis — and allow other legislative priorities to die — unless they finally reach a long-term fiscal deal.

It’s time for a grown-ups’ weekend retreat at Camp David.

October 1, 2013

Poll Watchers Beware: Public Blames GOP | Pennsylvania Avenue

The new Quinnipiac poll’s findings on public attitudes on the crucial upcoming debt limit fight ought to give serious pause to Republicans. They thought voters were on their side, but the latest evidence shows they aren’t.

The GOP and its outside supporters were emboldened on Sept. 26 by a Bloomberg poll showing that by 61 percent to 28 percent, voters said it would be “right to require spending cuts when the debt ceiling is raised, even if it risks default” on the government’s debts.

It was seen as a repudiation of President Barack Obama’s stance that bills previously contracted by the government had to be paid and that he would not negotiate about it.

Republicans thereupon decided they could load nearly their entire agenda onto the debt vote, including delay or repeal of Obamacare, fast-track authority for tax reform, a rollback of EPA regulations on greenhouse gases and coal ash emissions, medical malpractice caps and restrictions on the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

They also took encouragement from an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showing that the public, by 44 percent to 22 percent, opposed raising the debt limit.

And any number of polls, of course, have shown a decline in Obama’s approval ratings.

The Quinnipiac poll out Tuesday also shows Obama’s approval somewhat under water — 45 percent positive, 49 percent negative.

But the results were devastatingly negative on GOP tactics on both the government shutdown and the debt limit. By 77 percent to 22 percent, the public opposed the GOP tactic of shutting down the government to block implementation of Obamacare.

And by 64 percent to 27 percent, voters opposed blocking an increase in the debt ceiling to stop Obamacare.

They are split on Obamacare — 45 percent pro, 47 percent anti — but they opposed cutting off its funding 58 percent to 34 percent.

Undoubtedly hardliners on the Republican side — maybe leaders, too — will say, forget Quinnipiac and believe Bloomberg.

But there’s other evidence that the public understands that not raising the debt ceiling and not being able to pay the government’s bills is a bad idea.

The Washington Post/ABC poll on Sept. 18 showed that by 73 percent to 22 percent, voters believe that not raising the limit would cause “serious harm” to the economy. It’s true that voters favored raising the limit by only 46 percent to 43 percent. But, on the question of which side — Obama or the Republicans — was doing too little to compromise with the other, it was 49 percent, Obama, and 64 percent, the Republicans.

The bottom line is that Republicans are risking both political and economic disaster if they persist in loading multiple conditions onto the debt limit vote later this month.

A government shutdown, if it doesn’t last too long, will cause pain, but not risk the fundamental health of the economy. Defaulting on the national debt well might — and the latest evidence is that the GOP will get (and deserve) the blame.

September 11, 2013

Obama’s Syria Stumblings Might Actually Work — for Now

Give President Barack Obama this much credit. After months of bumbling over Syria policy, he came essentially to the right decision: The United States must use force in response to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons.

And, after weeks of indecision, he demonstrated leadership and courage in pursuing the military option despite overwhelming public opposition, foreign abdication of responsibility and the possibility (even likelihood) that his proposal would be defeated in Congress.

Before Russia’s latest gambit to forestall a U.S. strike, Obama was planning to go before the war-weary nation Tuesday night and argue, essentially, for war. In fact, that is what he did do — saying he was merely putting his request for an authorization in abeyance to explore the idea of Syria’s voluntarily giving up its chemical weapons. Full story

September 6, 2013

Don’t Blame Obama for GOP’s Lack of Remedies for Working Poor

Even though the unemployment rate dropped 0.1 percent in August, the job growth number — 169,000 — was anemic. So many people have given up looking for work that the true unemployment rate is 17.7 percent. The economy is still 1.9 million jobs short of its peak before the 2008 recession. This has been the slowest job-market recovery since World War II.

So, who’s to blame and what’s to be done?

In a provocative Wednesday column in The Wall Street Journal, editorial writer Stephen Moore points out that the groups losing the most during the so-called recovery — young voters, single women, blacks, Hispanics and people with a high school or less education — are the very groups that voted most strongly for Barack Obama in 2012. Full story

August 19, 2013

Hillary TV Is No Threat to GOP in Run-Up to 2016

The Republican National Committee’s ouster of CNN and NBC as 2016 GOP debate hosts over their Hillary Rodham Clinton programs is decidedly premature. It’s also small-minded.

If the CNN documentary and the NBC miniseries beatify Clinton or tacitly endorse her presidential campaign, it might be fitting for RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to say the networks disqualified themselves from moderating GOP debates. Full story

July 16, 2013

GOP Faces 20 Years in Desert Without DLC-Like Moderation

In 1972, as left-liberals led the Democratic Party to a near-unbroken 20-year run of presidential-election disasters, the late, great New York Times columnist William Safire wrote that “nothing is more certain in politics than the crushing defeat of a faction that holds ideological purity to be of greater value than compromise.”

Safire’s comment was cited this March in a trenchant Commentary article by former White House aides Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner, “How to Save the Republican Party.”

Their piece focused on the steps the party should take to avoid a fate similar to the Democrats a generation ago, while noting that the GOP has lost four of the past six presidential elections and is in danger of losing more unless it turns toward the center, as Democrats did with the presidency of Bill Clinton. Full story

June 11, 2013

Obama Must Take a Page from LBJ’s Leadership Book

Guess who wrote this:

“This Congress has gone further than any other within memory to replace debate and decision by delay and stultification.

“This is one of those moments when there is reason to wonder whether the Congressional system as it now operates is not a grave danger to the Republic.”

It’s not a contemporary critic lamenting the inability of today’s Congress and the Obama administration to solve any of America’s great problems or even process budgets, appropriations and nominations. Full story

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