Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 6, 2016

Posts in "Balance of Powers"

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 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

January 6, 2016

Obama Preps Last Prime Time Address to Congress


Once more with feeling. Obama is preparing his last State of the Union Address. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Once more with feeling. Obama is preparing his last State of the Union Address. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Perhaps the surest prediction about the next State of the Union Address is that it’s going to be the last speech afforded that lofty title for fully two years.

The second reliable forecast is that on the night of Jan. 12, President Barack Obama will take a non-traditional approach to his final annual appearance before a joint session of Congress. Full story

December 16, 2015

Silence Greets Pleas for War Authority


UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 9: Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., and Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., (not pictured) hold a news conference on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015, outside of the Capitol to de-authorize use of Capitol office space and staff provided to the recent ex-Speaker of the House. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Jones says Congress is neglecting its constitutional duty on declaring war. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

“Politics makes strange bedfellows” is one of the oldest adages around. These days, the prospect of another war is making for some particularly strange bedfellows in the House.

An extraordinarily bipartisan group of 35 members, hoping to benefit from the heightened attention on Congress in the session’s closing days, is pressing anew for a debate on authorizing the use of military force against the Islamic State. Full story

December 10, 2015

Senate and Obama’s Final Round Over Judges


UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 28: Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tn., and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tn., hold a press conference to talk about their alternatives to the Democrat's approach to solving the "Fiscal Cliff." (Photo By Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

Tennessee’s two GOP senators, Lamar Alexander, left and Bob Corker have signed off on Crenshaw’s nomination, but the nomination is still stalled. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

To predict how the judicial wars between this Republican Senate and President Barack Obama will end, keep an eye on labor lawyer Waverly Crenshaw Jr.

A quarter-century ago, he was the first African-American hired at one of Nashville’s most prominent law firms. Ten months ago, he was chosen for the opening on the local federal trial court. Five months ago, with the blessing of both of Tennessee’s Republican senators, he was endorsed without a dissenting voice in the Senate Judiciary Committee. And since then … nothing, except that as of last week the judgeship had been vacant a full year, and the backlog of cases has grown such that court administrators have declared a “judicial emergency.” Full story

December 7, 2015

Treaty Semantics, Senate Politics and the Paris Climate Talks


Loy thinks Paris has the potential to be stronger than the treaty he helped negotiate, the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Loy says there is little consensus on what would constitute legally binding language in a climate agreement. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In the simple world of civics class, the president gets to make treaties and they’re binding on the United States when two out of three senators say so.

In today’s complex political world, that’s almost never how it plays out. Beyond baked-in partisanship and steep distrust of whoever occupies the White House lies this obstacle to Senate ratification of any international agreement: The protection of American sovereignty is among the most basic conservative objectives. Full story

November 15, 2015

House Conservative Favorite Eyes Unusual Career Switch


trey gowdy

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The path from the legislative to the executive branch is as well-worn as usual, with five senators and a former senator now hoping to succeed another onetime senator as president and 15 former members joining the Cabinets of the Obama and George Bush administrations.

The route between the legislative and judicial branches, by contrast, is as weeded-over as it’s ever been. No one has gone from Congress to the federal bench in 30 years, and the last Supreme Court justice with any congressional experience retired in 1971.

The natures of those political trajectories might not remain as diametrically different for all that much longer. Full story

October 25, 2015

The Freedom Caucus Filibuster, Explained


House Freedom Caucus

Freedom Caucus members Jim Jordan and Raúl R. Labrador descend the Capitol steps on Oct. 21. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

“If it wasn’t for the filibuster, he’d still be the speaker today.”

That out-of-the-box theory was unspooled the other day by the ultra-right wing Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona. In his view, Speaker John A. Boehner’s agenda was sufficiently conservative to merit the good graces of almost all the most confrontational House Republicans and their like-minded constituents. But Boehner’s commitment to the cause, Franks posited, got unfairly overlooked because so little legislation got through Congress. Full story

October 20, 2015

Gridlock Greets Mondale on Return to D.C.


Mondale visited the Capitol in January. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Mondale visited the Capitol in January. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Tuesday’s symposium on the legacy of Walter Mondale, the former vice president and power-player senator, offers a fresh rationale for considering a smartly argued report that’s gone largely overlooked in all this fall’s congressional news.

The white paper, released last month by the nonprofit and nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, concludes that congressional polarization has spread gridlock so widely and deeply beyond the Capitol that it’s gummed up the works significantly for the executive branch as well. Full story

October 18, 2015

Clinton Better Bring A-Game to Benghazi Hearing


UNITED STATES - JANUARY 23: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the September 11th attacks against the U.S. mission in Benghazi on  Wednesday morning, January 23, 2013. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Clinton testified during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Benghazi attacks on Jan. 23, 2013. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The year’s most important congressional hearing is at hand — not only because momentum in a presidential election is in play, but also because the legislative branch’s ability to conduct serious oversight is on the line.

On both fronts, the power to shape the public’s perception Thursday rests with Hillary Rodham Clinton. And, whatever else about her behavior and ideology remains open to passionate disagreement, this much looks clear: With a single glaring exception, she has made an exceptionally effective witness during her 31 previous appearances before Congress, dating back more than two decades. Full story

July 23, 2015

High-Risk, Delayed-Reward Strategy for Fighting Menendez Indictment


(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Robert Menendez has raised the legal stakes for all of Congress, and bought some crucial time for his own imperiled career, with the aggressive strategy he’s unveiled for fighting corruption charges.

If the New Jersey Democrat gets his way, then the indictment against him — alleging he put his congressional muscle to work for a longtime friend and benefactor in return for campaign cash and lavish pampering — will be put in limbo for years, maybe even until after he’s next up for re-election in 2018. Full story

June 9, 2015

Passport Case Boosts Obama Foreign Policy Over Hill


The Jerusalem passport case has taken away some of Congress' power. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Supreme Court ruling on the Jerusalem passport case takes away some of Congress’ power. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Congress has decisively lost to the president in the year’s most consequential balance-of-powers dispute before the Supreme Court.

The president must have exclusive power to formally recognize the government of another nation, the court declared Monday in a 6-3 decision both sides predicted would shift influence over American foreign policy away from the Capitol and push more of it toward the White House. Full story

April 29, 2015

What Gay Marriage Briefs Tell Us About Congress


Supreme Court Gay Marriage Hearing

Which members of Congress have gotten involved with the SCOTUS gay marriage case? (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Though only a few lawmakers participated in the rallies during Tuesday’s oral arguments, more than half the members of Congress had already formalized their views on the same-sex marriage cases before the Supreme Court.

A review of the congressional signatures on three friend-of-the-court briefs revealed an important political narrative underneath the historic story about the future of American society. And that’s the fact almost all the Democrats facing heated re-election races next year have told the court they believe gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to get married. Almost all the Republicans looking at competitive campaigns decided to steer clear of the question. Full story

March 12, 2015

Republican Opposition to Lynch Might Make History


How many Republican votes will Lynch get? (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

How many Republican votes will Lynch get? (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The most amazing thing about the Loretta Lynch story is that the congressional community no longer views it as amazing.

Lynch is on course to be confirmed this month after the longest wait ever for a nominee to be attorney general — and very likely by the closest vote ever to put a new person in charge of the Justice Department. Full story

March 4, 2015

Landmark Supreme Court Cases Ahead, but Not on TV


Sotomayor has changed her views on cameras in the courtroom since her 2009 confirmation hearings. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sotomayor has changed her views on cameras in the courtroom since her 2009 confirmation hearings. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It’s arguably the most important single hour of federal policymaking this year, and it’s happening Wednesday morning inside a government building on Capitol Hill. But except for clusters of reporters and attorneys, joined by a few dozen citizens who’ve waited hours in a long queue for a glimpse, the event will remain invisible forever.

The occasion is the Supreme Court oral argument, starting at 10 a.m., in a case threatening the viability of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The justices are going to decide if one phrase fails to legally underpin one of the statute’s central provisions: Tax breaks for poor and middle-income Americans who obtain medical insurance through the federal government’s new online marketplace.

King v. Burwell is one of this term’s landmark disputes, along with the cases that could establish a constitutional right for gay couples to marry, to be argued this spring. Health care for millions is threatened in the first instance, and the civil rights of millions is at stake in the other. But taxpayers whose futures hang in the balance will never get to witness their government in action at this important juncture. Full story

Sign In

Forgot password?

Or

Subscribe

Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...