Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 11, 2016

February 11, 2016

Inside the Cruz and Rubio Ambassadorial Proxy War


UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 27: From left, Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speak to the media after the Senate voted to pass the continuing resolution. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Cruz and Rubio on Capitol Hill. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio aren’t only taking their campaigns onward to South Carolina. While the next Republican primary commands the public’s attention, both are also running for president by mounting quiet symbolic protests at American embassies around the world.

A single senator has nearly unilateral ability to block any confirmation, whether he’s in the Capitol or on the hustings hundreds of miles away. The junior senators from Texas and Florida are using their power to place indefinite “holds” on diplomatic nominees, hoping to highlight their own foreign policies and their condemnations of President Barack Obama’s conduct of international affairs. Full story

February 9, 2016

Republicans Won’t Even Talk About Obama’s Final Budget


The year that promised a return to regular order is getting off to a highly irregular start.

Like a mantra, GOP leaders have repeatedly declared 2016 would be different. Lawmaking for the history books isn’t much in the offing, they conceded, but at least the legislative machinery will once again work as designed – in setting the budget, most of all.  The leadership’s practical view has been the rank-and-file from both parties, and the institution of Congress itself, require that much respect now for there to be a chance real collaboration and comity would return sometime in the future.

The sincerity of this commitment has become highly suspect, however, now that top Republicans have scrapped the very first piece of the budgetary process under their control.

Full story

February 8, 2016

Cruz and Rubio Differ in Style, Not So Much on Votes


CruzAfter-02.jpg

The metaphor of the ideological “lane” has become the dominant way to describe the dynamics of the Republican presidential race.

Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary is supposed to reveal if Ted Cruz has claimed a prime position on the “insurgent” side of the road and whether Marco Rubio has pushed to the front of the “establishment” lane.

But the best empirical evidence from their senatorial records reveal that, while their styles of conservatism are undeniably different, they have nonetheless ended up taking the same positions on policy substance far more often than not. The votes they’ve cast suggest they’re close enough to touch across the white stripes symbolically dividing the GOP. Full story

February 3, 2016

David Hawkings’ Whiteboard: Here Comes the Budget


Budget 3

As legislating in 2016 really gets moving, Roll Call Senior Editor David Hawkings lays out his thoughts and predictions on the budget process in the coming year.

Full story

Bypassing the Senate, Cummings Has One More Career Fork Ahead


UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 22: Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., attends a House Select Committee on Benghazi hearing in Longworth Building featuring testimony by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, October 22, 2015. The 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, took the lives of four Americans including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Cummings stays put in the House. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The final career decision Elijah E. Cummings will probably ever make comes as welcome news for both Democrats who could become the next president — and not very comforting news for any of the Republicans who might get the job instead.

When Cummings announced Tuesday that he would seek to remain as a Baltimore congressman, he ended (at nearly the last possible moment) almost a year of public pondering about running instead for Maryland’s open Senate seat.

Full story

February 2, 2016

What One House GOP Retirement May Say About the Future


UNITED STATES - MARCH 3:  Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., speaks during the House Republicans' news conference on the repeal of the1099 requirement on Thursday, March 3, 2011. (Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call)

Is Ribble’s retirement the canary in the calming for Republicans? (Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call)

At first glance, the Reid Ribble retirement doesn’t appear headline-worthy. Yes, he is now among 16 House Republicans, half from tea party takeover class of 2010, to announce a voluntary departure at year’s end. But, no, that retirement roster is hardly extraordinary, and it’s little surprise that a decent number of those insurgent outsiders have concluded they’ve made their mark and can move on.

Just below the surface, though, Ribble’s decision to abandon the congressional seat for northeastern Wisconsin looks like a canary in the coal mine’s warning about the future of the GOP.
Full story

February 1, 2016

David Hawkings’ Whiteboard: Congressional Factions


Factions 2

This week on the whiteboard, Roll Call Senior Editor David Hawkings breaks down Congress’ many political factions.

Full story

January 28, 2016

Who’ll Be First in Congress to Endorse Trump?


UNITED STATES - JANUARY 27: Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., gets off the Senate subway as he arrives for the Senate Republicans' policy lunch on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sessions has been effusive in his praise for Trump. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Of all Donald Trump’s curious unblemished records, this one will almost surely end pretty soon: At last one member of Congress will endorse him for president.

As good a bet as any is that this signal move will come from Jeff Sessions, the junior Republican senator from Alabama.

Full story

January 27, 2016

Blizzard Whiteout Buries Issue of Red Ink


CBO Director Keith Hall won't be testifying this week, as planned, about the rising budget deficit. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

CBO Director Keith Hall won’t be testifying this week, as planned, about the rising budget deficit. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

One of the blizzard’s most important, if unintended, effects was keeping the federal budget deficit buried as a 2016 campaign issue.

The return of a rising tide of red ink has been almost entirely overlooked by both parties’ candidates in the presidential race and the relatively few competitive contests for Congress. There was a chance that would change this week, when the head of the Congressional Budget Office was supposed to describe his very sobering assessment of the fiscal future in appearances before both congressional budget committees. Instead, after the snowstorm, his Tuesday testimony in the Senate and then Wednesday’s in the House were postponed indefinitely.

Full story

January 25, 2016

A Power Congress Grabbed, Then Rarely Used


Reid once had grand plans. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid helped insert the “atom bomb” into legislation years ago. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Twenty years ago, it was enacted as a classically obscure legislative rider, an opaquely worded few paragraphs, crafted by both parties, which each side agreed to keep quiet before its insertion into sprawling must-pass legislation focused on a wholly different issue.

Fifteen years ago, when the provision was first put to use, some lawmakers decried the unleashing of an “atom bomb” that would topple the balance of powers and neutralize the authority of federal regulators.

Full story

January 20, 2016

Unnoticed, Grassley Sets Record for Most Time Without a Missed Senate Vote


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Grassley, center, has set a Senate record.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When you talk in political circles about an Iowa endurance test, a reference to the presidential caucuses looming in a dozen days is unmistakable. Use the phrase at the Capitol, though, and the meaning may point elsewhere.

Charles E. Grassley, with his inimitable personality blend that’s equal parts cantankerous and friendly independent-mindedness, manages to avoid spending too much time in fundraising call rooms, hearing the pleadings of lobbyists or dropping by charity dinners. (He’s steadfastly resisted a blizzard of entreaties that he endorse a fellow Republican before his home state votes, for example.)

Full story

January 19, 2016

The House’s Ideology, in Seven Circles


UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 28: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., newly elected Chairman of the House Republican Conference, speaks to the media with other House GOP leaders following the House Republican Conference meeting in the Capitol on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, has joined 3 of the GOP’s key groups. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

In any organization filled with nothing but ambitious and opinionated people, groups with common interests are sure to come together — and Congress is no different.

Every member’s Hill career begins by winning election to either the House or Senate, of course, and during the 114th Congress all of them are caucusing with either the Republicans or the Democrats. But right below those surfaces, the alliances get much more complex, nuanced — and oftentimes contradictory, as lawmakers subdivide into all manner of smaller clusters. Full story

January 14, 2016

Haley Prompts Ryan to Take Sides in the Fight for GOP’s Soul


UNITED STATES - September 2: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks during a luncheon on her "Lessons from the New South," at the National Press Club in Washington, Wednesday, September 2, 2015. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

UNITED STATES – September 2: South Carolina Gov. Nikki R.  Haley’s State of the Union address drew praise from Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

The passions of the Republican civil war that surfaced because of Gov. Nikki R. Haley’s comments Tuesday night have been trumped by something that for Congress might be even more important:

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who won the House gavel last fall as the consensus choice of both the combative insurgent conservatives and the cooler-headed establishment mainstream, left no doubt which side he stands with now.

Full story

January 12, 2016

Members Cast as Foils, if Not Spoilers, in Obama’s Final SOTU


UNITED STATES - JANUARY 12 - President Barack Obama speaks during his final State of the Union to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

(Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

“Please don’t get in the way” is one way of synthesizing Tuesday night’s message to Congress from President Barack Obama.

On many of the big things that matter most, he asserted, he’s positioned to leave the country in much better shape than how he found it and how his would-be Republican successors describe it — tacitly urging the Hill’s GOP to resist legislative gamesmanship that while playing into presidential politics might crimp the hopeful trajectory of his final year. Full story

Nikki Haley Can Look to Past Responses for Do’s and Don’ts


UNITED STATES - September 2: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks during a luncheon on her "Lessons from the New South," at the National Press Club in Washington, Wednesday, September 2, 2015. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

(Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Why in the world would any story about this year’s State of the Union ritual start with a reminiscence about Bill Clinton from three decades ago?

Because love him or loathe him, the shared judgment of the political class is he changed a whole lot of standards for how Washington operates. And one of the first ways he did so was way back in 1985, transforming how the opposition party presents its rebuttal to the president’s address. Full story

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