Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 21, 2014

Posts in "2016"

July 22, 2014

Elizabeth Warren’s Summer of Surrogacy Helps Keep 2016 Talk Alive

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Warren is traveling far and wide, sparking speculation about her national ambitions. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

If Rand Paul is taking this summer’s most prominent turn in the Republican spotlight, then the same must be said for his Senate colleague Elizabeth Warren among the new generation of national Democratic players.

The two first-term senators are generating their surges in attention in different ways, probably because they have different timetables in mind for their presidential aspirations.

While Paul is overtly laying the groundwork for a virtually certain 2016 campaign with a series of bold fundraising, staffing and legislative moves totally disconnected from his home base in Kentucky, Warren has been taking another tack with a seemingly alternate objective. She, too, has been spending most of her not-in-session time politicking far from her home base of Massachusetts, but almost all her campaigning and cash collecting has been on behalf of others. Full story

July 21, 2014

Rand Paul’s 2016 Buzz Is Buzzier Than His Senate Colleagues’

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Paul might be on a roll. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The most wide open Republican presidential contest in modern times is shaping up, so a thousand things could change in the 80 long weeks before the first scheduled caucuses and primaries take place. And a couple hundred of them surely will.

With that enormous caveat stipulated up front, it’s worth recognizing that one aspirant is having a bit of a moment. Rand Paul has been generating at least as much policy, fundraising and organizational buzz this summer as any other potential candidate, and certainly more than the other possible contenders out of Congress.

Paul will be returning to the Senate Monday afternoon after spending three days in San Francisco, a highly unusual weekend destination for a conservative from Kentucky. But the senator concluded he had opportunities on three fronts to advance his nascent bid. He could raise money from Bay Area entrepreneurs sympathetic to his libertarian views. He could recruit some tech geeks to join his fledgling campaign staff. And he could deliver the keynote speech at a technology conference, to sell the notion that his views about free markets and personal privacy ought to be catnip to Silicon Valley.

It was Paul’s second such trip in as many weekends. The previous foray was to Sun Valley, Idaho, where he was invited to the super exclusive annual conference on media and technology organized by the investment bank Allen & Co. His time there reportedly included private meetings with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.

When the August recess starts, Paul will be the first among his most ambitious senatorial colleagues to get to a more traditional political locale — he’ll spend three days in Iowa starting on Aug. 4 raising money for several county Republican organizations. The groups, of course, are crucial players in getting out the vote for the Iowa caucuses, which are (for now) scheduled to kick off the national nominating contest on Feb. 1, 2016. Full story

June 17, 2014

How Hillary Might Deal With the Hill: New Book Offers Hints

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The new Clinton book has high praise for McCain, seen here in 2013, and other Republicans. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Some of the most pointed passages in Hillary Rodham Clinton’s new memoir confront the congressional Republican criticism about Benghazi. That’s hardly a surprise, given that the book is so clearly a positioning document for another presidential run in which one major line of GOP attack will be against the former secretary of State’s handling of the assault on that U.S. diplomatic post in Libya.

What comes off as much more of a surprise is how Clinton steers almost entirely clear of criticizing individual Republicans from Capitol Hill, while singling out a collection of prominent establishment GOP members for praise. The roster of congressional name checks in “Hard Choices,” in fact, is remarkably bipartisan. She says nice things about her dealings with a dozen Democratic senators or representatives, but almost as many Republicans, during her eight years in the Senate and her subsequent four years at the State Department.

Counting up the mentions in a prominent politician’s book is among a typical Washington striver’s bad habits, and many on the Hill have been doing just that in the week since the book went on sale.

But in this case, the exercise could offer a clue about how Clinton may deal with Republicans if she seeks or wins the White House in two years. She may be content to remain on decent terms with a small cadre of GOP centrists, the sort President Barack Obama has labeled the “common sense caucus,” while disdaining and dismissing her legions of conservative critics without calling them out individually. Full story

May 18, 2014

Supreme Court Decisions to Shape Policy, Campaigns

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As the justices bring this season’s caseload to a close, they have a pretty clear idea how the rest of this Supreme Court year will play out. The rest of the country, however, will remain almost entirely in the dark until the remaining decisions are unveiled over the next six weeks.

The outcome in at least four of the most important disputes will help shape both the policymaking and campaign agendas of Congress through the midterm elections and beyond. But it’s possible no single ruling will have as much impact on the national political climate as the pattern that emerges in how the cases get decided.

The members of the current court are getting a reputation for being just as partisan and polarized as the politicians populating the other two elected branches of government. New polling shows the public is none too pleased with the Supreme Court’s perception, which is backed up by some pretty solid evidence, and people want term limits for the justices in an effort to depoliticize the court.

Full story

January 5, 2014

3 Reasons Congress’ Year Might Start Unexpectedly Strong

Congress is reopening for business this week, to begin what President Barack Obama says “needs to be a year of action.”

When the president offered that call to arms for 2014, just as the Capitol lights were being dimmed for the holidays, the eye-rolling sentiment from so many lawmakers, aides, lobbyists and journalists amounted to: “Yeah, right. Good luck with that.”

The collective assessment is there’s no way that 2013, the least legislatively productive first year of an administration in six decades, is going to be followed by a more productive spurt from a divided Congress in an election year.

However, the next 10 weeks may hold some genuine prospects for rebutting the conventional wisdom, if only temporarily.

A trio of hallmark accomplishments in the second session of the 113th Congress have strong potential to get done before St. Patrick’s Day. Assuming the Republicans keep to their current course — confining their focus to avoid new, self-inflicted political wounds — lawmakers will be able to extend their current truce in the budget wars not only on the spending front but on borrowing as well. A food and farm bill that gives both sides a claim to victory is well within reach.

And, without traveling too far into optimistic fantasy-land, it’s possible to envision that bipartisan success on that trifecta by March would spawn interest in reaching for some additional deals in the spring. An immigration overhaul may still be the longest of viable long shots, but there’s some hopeful early talk about carefully calibrating compromise on a variety of second-tier issues left hanging at the end of 2013 — from sentencing disparities to water projects, patent lawsuits to online sales taxes, energy efficiency standards to physician reimbursement rates. Full story

December 11, 2013

Will Paul Ryan’s High-Risk Budget Deal Return High Rewards?

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Ryan addresses his budget deal at a GOP leadership press conference Wednesday. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

This week is a turning point in the career of Paul D. Ryan — one that’s even more consequential than what happened to him 16 months ago.

Being picked to be the Republican nominee for vice president, it turns out, is only guaranteed to be politically transformative if your ticket wins the general election. Engineering a genuinely bipartisan if undeniably modest budget agreement, on the other hand, is sure to change the trajectory of the 43-year-old Wisconsin congressman’s life.

Ryan will find out within a matter of hours whether the deal has propelled his ambitions forward, or accelerated his long-rising star toward oblivion.

By Wednesday evening, a day after the deal was unveiled, a ratification vote by the full House looked more and more likely. It also looked quite possible that most of Ryan’s fellow Republicans would be on board, even though all the major conservative advocacy groups are pressing for its defeat. Those outcomes are the only legislative mysteries; a solid bipartisan majority is lined up in the Senate, and President Barack Obama is eager to affix his signature.

House passage would be profoundly rewarding for Ryan for several reasons, especially if his plan secures a majority of the majority. Full story

November 25, 2013

Politics as Family Business: When Bad Moods Trump Big Dynasties

What’s up with the family business is a perennial default conversation starter at so many Thanksgiving dinners. And that’s likely to be especially true around the tables of families in the business of winning federal campaigns.

From the three-years-away handicapping of the next presidential race to the premature speculation about who might fill a possible opening in the House, a big share of campaign talk these days is once again about American political dynasties — their virtues and flaws, staying powers and limitations, rising stars and fading forces. Full story

November 11, 2013

Convention City Wannabes Are Rehearsing Their Pitches for 2016

Darkness after work. Freeze warnings at night. Congress looking likely to work until close to Christmas, then return just a week into January. Staff and member travel clipped by the sequester. And an off-year election jump-starting the next presidential race earlier than ever.

No wonder that not-so-idle Capitol Hill speculation has already started about which two buffed-up and generous cities might get to welcome the Washington diaspora in the summer of 2016. That’s when thousands of lawmakers, aides, lobbyists, money chasers, journalists and functionaries are counting on at least one expense-account-funded week of networking and partying. Full story

October 31, 2013

16 Senate Women Say ‘Run, Hillary, Run’ in 2016

With President Barack Obama’s approval ratings near a new low this week, the Democratic water-cooler talk is focusing especially early on hopes for 2016 — with the bulk of today’s attention on news that all 16 of the Senate’s Democratic women have written to Hillary Rodham Clinton, urging her to run.

The unanimity of the group means as many as three potential aspirants for the nomination would defer to the former secretary of State, adding to the sense of inevitability about her candidacy and to the expectation that her bid would essentially clear the Democratic field.

Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has been widely touted on the left as a worthy liberal alternative to Clinton, and she hasn’t explicitly ruled out such a candidacy. But the freshman senator’s signing of the letter appears to amount to such a demurral. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota have both publicly described themselves as Clinton supporters and have signaled they would shelve their White House aspirations if she ran next time. Their signatures lock those promises in place.

Another newsworthy signature comes from the dean of the female senators, Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland, because it means she’s not waiting for her state’s governor, Martin O’Malley, to formalize his presidential intentions before declaring her preference for someone else.

The letter was orchestrated by Barbara Boxer of California in early spring, only months after Obama’s second term began and Clinton left her Cabinet seat. It came just as the Ready for Hillary super PAC was being created by aides to her 2008 campaign in an effort to centralize the recruiting efforts. Clinton herself has said she won’t announce her intentions before next year.

The missive was intended to be a private message to the onetime New York senator from her former colleagues, and its text has not been disclosed. Its existence was revealed Monday by one of the signers, Kay Hagan of North Carolina. “All of the Senate Democratic women have written her a letter encouraging her to run,” she told a gathering of donors to EMILY’s List, part of a series of meetings the group is staging across the country to promote interest in a female Democratic candidate.

Two other prominent Democrats committed this week to supporting a Clinton candidacy: Rahm Emanuel, who left a power-player career in the House to become Obama’s first chief of staff and is now mayor of Chicago; and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom of California.

The boomlet of interest in 2016 comes as a series of recent surveys shows Obama’s average job approval rating once again slipping below 44 percent. It’s generally been above that benchmark since the summer, but it’s been dragged down by a welter of problems — spying by the National Security Agency, the balky approach toward Syria’s chemical weapons, the government shutdown and now the multifaceted troubles for the rollout of his health care law.

October 17, 2013

Many Existing and Would-Be GOP Leaders Opposed Budget Deal

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Two 2016 hopefuls — Rubio, center, and Cruz, right — voted against the deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

All of the congressional Republicans with viable 2016 presidential ambitions voted against the bill enacted overnight to reopen the government and increase federal borrowing. So did two members of the Senate GOP leadership and three members of the party’s House leadership. The opponents also included a majority of the Republicans who are chairmen of House committees and most of the members of the House GOP caucus who aspire to election to the Senate next year.

While the Democrats were unified in their support for the legislation, a review of Wednesday night’s back-to-back roll calls in Congress reveals just how divided the titular and putative leaders of the GOP remained after their crusade to undermine Obamacare by shutting down the government and threatening default came up essentially empty-handed — but nonetheless spawned a serious erosion of public support for the party’s current course.

In the House, only 38 percent of Republicans supported the legislation, despite efforts during the evening to assemble the sort of narrow “majority of the majority” that would have given Speaker John A. Boehner some degree of face-saving comfort

In the Senate, by contrast, only 39 percent of the Republicans opposed a deal that was assembled by their floor leader Mitch McConnell, along with Majority Leader Harry Reid. Full story

September 8, 2013

Rand Paul-Chris Christie Feud Gets a New Jersey ‘What Sup Witch Yew?’

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

By the end of this first week back, a Capitol that’s emotionally spent from the Syria debate and still anxious about a budget impasse will be sorely in need of a diversion.

Ideally, it will combine a generous portion of campaign maneuvering, plenty of tart-tongued rhetoric and a bit of insight for those already playing the parlor game of handicapping the next presidential race.

Fortunately, enervated lawmakers and aides need to look no farther than 210 miles up the road, to a banquet hall in the middlebrow New Jersey suburb of Clark. On Friday, this will be the site of the next installment in the feud that’s been captivating the attention of the political class all summer — even though one of the combatants has wagered he’ll win this round by staying away.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has committed to being there, for the stated reason of headlining a fundraiser for Steve Lonegan, the sacrificial GOP lamb in the special election that’s going to send Cory Booker to the Senate.

Full story

July 29, 2013

The One Washington Power Lunch the Political Class Cares About Today

“It’s just lunch!” insist the handlers for both participants in today’s most closely watched inside-the-Beltway meal.

But aides to President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who are set to sit down at noon at the White House, are keenly aware that almost no one in Washington believes the two are simply catching up.

Their shared declaration, after all, is also the name of a prominent matchmaking business, and the political class assumes the hidden agenda has something to do with setting the parameters for their relationship during the next three years.

Democratic operatives, potential Republican rivals and the pundits will all be scouring for any scraps of evidence suggesting the president will or won’t encourage a 2016 campaign by his one-time rival and then Cabinet member — and any additional indications of whether Clinton has decided whether she wants to capitalize on being the overwhelming early favorite. Full story

July 24, 2013

GOP’s White House Wannabes Still Neck and Neck: Poll

The four members of Congress likeliest to run for president in 2016 are all bunched together near the top of a front-runner-free Republican field, according to this year’s most extensive poll about the next race for the White House.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, on the other hand, is the overwhelming choice of Democrats and she led every opponent in the hypothetical general election contests tested by the Marist-McClatchy poll out this morning.

The poll found a statistical six-way scramble for the top spot in the totally theoretical GOP field, because of the 5-point margin for error in the sample of people who identified themselves as Republicans or GOP-leaning.

Discounting the undecided, at 25 percent, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey finished first with 15 percent support, followed by Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin at 13 percent, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida at 12 percent, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida at 10 percent, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky at 9 percent and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 7 percent.

Clinton was the first choice of 63 percent of Democrats surveyed — a level of support five times greater than that of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who was named by only 13 percent. Biden’s support was lower than those Democrats (18 percent) who said they were unsure of their choice. Full story

June 18, 2013

The Risks and Rewards of Being First to Endorse an Assumed Candidate

Congressional endorsements of presidential candidates aren’t much of what they used to be — door-openers to the sort of local organizational muscle and fat checkbooks that would scare away rivals early on or change the late dynamic of a close primary.

The televised, telemarketed and tweeted world of modern national campaigns doesn’t have much room for a regional or even statewide power broker to make a mark. And, for most senators or House members, the loss of face from embracing the loser is a much bigger worry than the all-too-often ephemeral rewards from standing in the reflected glow of a winner.

Those dynamics help explain why, by the time former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney wrapped up the topsy-turvy Republican nomination contest last April, he’d been formally endorsed by only 25 senators (slightly more than half) and just 79 House members (slightly fewer than one-third).

They also highlight just how unusually Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri was behaving Tuesday, when she announced she was entering the high-profile early endorsement game for the second time in as many Democratic presidential contests.

Six Januaries ago, McCaskill was the first woman in the Senate to back her colleague Barack Obama of Illinois over her other colleague Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. This time, she’s become the first member of Congress whatsoever to endorse Clinton — who insists she won’t reveal whether she’ll be a candidate before the end of the year. Full story

May 8, 2013

Ted Cruz Leads the Twitter Pack in Texas

Ted Cruz remains combustibly in the news again this week — a high-profile speech to Republican faithful in early-primary South Carolina followed up with another tart public spat in the Senate, with Majority Harry Reid likening him to a schoolyard bully.

Four months into his time as the junior Republican senator from Texas, Cruz appears to operating on the principle that no amount of publicity is too much — especially for someone who’s suddenly tilting toward a run for president. His affect will get plenty more media attention starting Thursday, when the Judiciary Committee on which he sits opens debate on the immigration overhaul, probably lasting until Memorial Day. Cruz is going to work to slow or derail the bill at every turn.

All the while, the 42-year-old has been working diligently to cultivate his conservative base on social media, with what looks to be decent success. If he runs for the GOP nomination in 2016, he’ll potentially be doing so with the help of more Twitter followers than anyone else in the field.

Some enlightening detail about this has been assembled in recent days by the Houston Chronicle, the senator’s hometown paper. Its Texas on the Potomac blog made Cruz a test case of an effort to gauge the social media usage of all 38 members of the state’s congressional delegation.

Cruz is averaging 353 new followers every day and he sends out an average of 3.5 tweets daily — Wednesdays being his most prolific days. The favored conservative hashtags #defundobamacare or #2ndamendment are in more than half the posts @SenTedCruz has sent so far. He’s only tweeted 405 times from his Senate account, but those missives have collectively been retweeted almost 105,000 times. (The most recent, about the Benghazi embassy contretemps, went out at breakfast time and had been retweeted almost 4,000 times before noon.)

And get this: 86 percent of Twitter sentiment about the senator has been positive, by the Chronicle’s calculation.

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