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November 28, 2015

Posts in "Campaigns & Elections"

November 18, 2015

Sanders Pursues Next Job With Interest in Post He Has Now

UNITED STATES - JULY 22: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., prepares to speak to federal contract workers during a rally on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 22, 2015, to push for a raise to the minimum wage to $15 an hour. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Sanders has used his Senate seat to push issues important to him — and his presidential campaign.  (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Unlike most of his Republican analogues, Bernard Sanders is overtly trying to harness his senatorial work this fall to the service of his presidential campaign.

The evidence goes beyond his presence on the Senate floor, though on that front he stands out. Of the five senators trying to win the White House, the Vermont independent running as a Democrat has missed the fewest votes: Just 14 this year, as of Tuesday, for a 95 percent attendance rate. Three of his colleagues running for the GOP nomination have missed 75 or more roll calls. (The exception is Kentucky’s Rand Paul, who’s only skipped five more ballots than Sanders.)

Merely showing up for work is hardly a predictor of success, of course. (Barack Obama made only 62 percent of the Senate votes the year before winning the presidency.) But it’s part of what helps Sanders to ward-off the sort of the criticism that has dogged Republicans Marco Rubio of Florida, who’s missed the most votes by far, and Ted Cruz of Texas, whose campaign has emphasized his disdain for the Senate’s ways under the management by his own party.

In contrast, Sanders is using the power of Senate incumbency to advance causes that highlight themes of his national campaign — that the Washington game is rigged to benefit the moneyed heavyweights at the expense of the little guy, and he’s the candidate to turn that balance of power on its head. Full story

November 5, 2015

What the 2016 Calendar Says About Congress

Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agree on at least one thing: a long August recess. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agree on at least one thing: a long August recess. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Decades of waiting on the arrival of the annual congressional calendar and then poring over the details affords Hill long-timers a nuanced appreciation of the myriad political calculations and logistical limitations that go in to setting the Capitol’s timetable for an entire year.

Inside the stretches of legislating followed by the bursts of recess, the schedules for 2016 announced this week by the Republican top brass in the House and Senate offer some quirky rhythms and unexpected sequences that give insight into the hectic election year ahead. Here are five messages delivered by the new diary. Full story

October 26, 2015

The Would-Be Chairman With Ways and Means on His Side

Brady announced Monday he's running for Ways and Means chairman. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Brady announced Monday he’s running for Ways and Means chairman. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Assuming no more last-minute surprises this fall at the House Republican Conference, the only important personnel decision to be made in coming days is who’ll become chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

Paul D. Ryan’s agreement to be speaker, to be formally embraced by his GOP colleagues Wednesday, means after just 10 months he must give up the job he’s always described as his top political ambition.

Kevin Brady of Texas announced Monday he wants to be the next to run the House’s most important panel, which writes tax, trade, health care and social safety net legislation. Pat Tiberi of Ohio declared his candidacy last week. Full story

October 21, 2015

Daniel Webster Presses Nuanced Case for Speaker

Webster, center, is a long-shot candidate for speaker, but that hasn't deterred him. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Webster, center, is a long-shot candidate for speaker, but that hasn’t deterred him. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Daniel Webster made clear over the past two weeks he wasn’t waiting on Paul D. Ryan’s big decision. And on Thursday, the relatively obscure Florida congressman reiterated he is still running for speaker, no matter what.

He’ll continue his quest, he said in a terse statement, “to transform a broken Congress based on the power of a few into a principle-based, member-driven Congress.”

The rationale for his long-shot candidacy is more complex than how he’s being marketed: As the preferred candidate of the House Freedom Caucus, Webster has the favor of 40 or so of the most conservative Republicans, a bloc of support no leader of today’s House can hope to govern without.

In fact, the 66-year-old lawmaker from Orlando’s career in public life has made him something of a Rorschach test for his Republican colleagues. Full story

October 5, 2015

Scorched Senate Tactics Limiting Cruz’s Options, Top Prize Excepted

Cruz has alienated many Senate colleagues (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Cruz has alienated many Senate colleagues. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The questions about Ted Cruz in the Senate no longer start with whether he’s got even a couple of friends left among fellow Republicans. The answer, after a public shaming on the floor last week, sure looks like a “no.”

As to whether he’s bothered by his deepening isolation in the Capitol, that’s just as easily answered in the negative. To the contrary, he’s acting as though it’s one of the best things going for him in his presidential campaign. Full story

September 10, 2015

A Tale of Two House Democrats on Opposite Courses Toward the House Exits

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

They are a pair of congressmen looking to be in the prime of their public lives. Both are party loyalists with unabashedly progressive views and constituencies as deeply “blue” as they are. Both are emblematic of a caucus that’s trending less white and more liberal. Their names even appear close together on the alphabetical roll of House Democrats.

And yet it’s become clear in recent days they are on opposite political trajectories. One is getting pushed toward a potential ride to national prominence. The other is returning to a treacherous path pointed toward electoral oblivion, if not personal disgrace.

As a result, both Reps. Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn and Michael M. Honda of the Silicon Valley may well be gone from Congress in two years. Their stories are another reminder that while the House Democrats will probably remain mired in the minority for years to come, there are all sorts of reasons why their membership roster is hardly static. And the most ambitious among them increasingly find themselves confronting others from their own party when they come to crossroads in their careers. Full story

July 28, 2015

Heightened Awkwardness in Trump’s Recent Donations to Hill GOP

Graham recently received a campaign check from Trump. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Graham recently received a campaign check from Trump. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A “lightweight,” an “idiot” and a “beggar” were just a few of the go-to epithets Donald Trump hurled at Sen. Lindsey Graham last week, before giving out the senator’s cellphone number to the world.

But there’s at least one way in which the billionaire businessman holds his Republican presidential rival in high regard: Graham is the most recent person to receive one of Trump’s campaign contributions.

The $2,600 check was written in October, just before the senator was re-elected in South Carolina and seven months before either announced a bid for the White House and started their public feud. The donation is yet another reminder of the unusual, and sometimes, awkward transformation Trump is making from behind-the-scenes political financier to omnipresent force as a candidate. Full story

July 9, 2015

The One Candidate Who Did Something in Congress


Webb may have only stayed one term, but he got a lot done in Congress, for a freshman. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When the expansive presidential field tops out the week after next, five current and six former members of Congress will officially be in the hunt. Only one can claim to have driven the enactment of landmark legislation.

Jim Webb, who announced his bid for the Democratic nomination a week ago, spent just a single term as a senator from Virginia and realized his crowning achievement as a freshman. The bill he introduced on his first day in office in 2007, the most comprehensive update of the GI Bill in 25 years and the biggest expansion of educational aid to veterans since World War II, became law a year and a half later. Full story

June 23, 2015

Confederate Flag Debate Showcases Scott as Symbol

Sen. Tim Scott

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The revived debate about the Confederate battle flag has climaxed with exceptional speed in South Carolina, where the state’s three most prominent Republicans led a bipartisan call Monday for removing the banner completely from the state capitol.

Sen. Lindsey Graham was seizing an opening to underscore his maverick political brand and distinguish himself in a field of presidential candidates who have remained largely equivocal on the polarizing question. Gov. Nikki R. Haley was taking advantage of an opportunity allowing her to reverse a position that’s complicated her own public profile.

Full story

June 4, 2015

Chafee Makes His Quirky Case for President

Chafee, seen here at the Democratic National Convention in 2012, is a most unusual presidential candidate. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Chafee, at the Democratic National Convention in 2012, is an unusual candidate. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It has all the early hallmarks of the most curious, quirky, counterintuitive presidential quest by a former member of Congress in a long time. Those who’ve tracked Lincoln Chafee’s strange career would be surprised if it were any other way.

Most politicians time their candidacy announcements for maximum coverage, and pick a setting relevant to their life story or their rationale for running. But the scion of one of New England’s oldest families chose to formalize his intentions during the peak of Wednesday night’s rush hour at George Mason University, a sprawling commuter school in the Northern Virginia suburbs. Full story

June 2, 2015

Politicians Prosecuting Their Case to Come to Congress

Brooks is one of the prosecutors serving in the House. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Brooks is one of the prosecutors serving in the House. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If three in a row signals a trend, then the era of the prosecutor in congressional politics is clearly taking hold.

The first person sent to the House by special election this year, Dan Donovan, was starting his 12th year as the elected district attorney on New York’s Staten Island. The winner of the second such contest, on Tuesday, is very likely to be fellow Republican Trent Kelly, who was elected DA for seven counties in northern Mississippi in 2012 and before that was city prosecutor in Tupelo for 11 years. The next special election isn’t until September, in downstate Illinois, but the clear favorite is Darin LaHood, who spent almost a decade as a state and federal prosecutor before becoming a GOP state senator five years ago.

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

April 28, 2015

Early Votes Reveal Positioning for ‘Blue State Five’

The CQ Vote Studies give detail on how Ayotte has been backing Obama this year. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

CQ Vote Studies give detail on how Ayotte voted on Lynch and her Obama support this year. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The nation officially has its 83rd attorney general with Loretta Lynch having taken the oath of office Monday morning. But before her five-month nomination odyssey fades into the rearview mirror, it’s worth noting the pivotal part played by an election 19 months down the road.

Five Republican senators are in the early stages of what will be highly competitive re-election campaigns in states that voted Democratic in the previous two presidential elections. Absent that fact, it’s a good bet Lynch would have been confirmed with something close to the bare minimum majority, not the 56 votes she received. But four senators from the “Blue State Five” got in her corner at the final hour, a big share of the 10 GOP votes she was able to muster: Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mark S. Kirk of Illinois and Rob Portman of Ohio. The only “no” vote from this particular group was cast by Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania.

That roll call, which will stand among the most important tests of presidential support and party unity in 2015, offers a window into how Senate voting records are already being massaged by those in the most electoral trouble in 2016.

Full story

April 15, 2015

Where Graham Sees Room for a Fourth GOP Senator in White House Field

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The GOP presidential field is now, officially, thicker with senators than at any time in the past two decades. All three with declared candidacies have viable paths to the nomination — underscoring the bewilderment about why a fourth Senate Republican, who would be among the longest of long shots, is considering joining the hunt.

South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham does not have an obvious niche to fill in the primary field, or even a viable way of marketing himself as unique among the other senators already in the race. Yes, he’s more of an internationalist and a bigger defense hawk than either Rand Paul of Kentucky or Ted Cruz of Texas. But his muscularity is only marginally more aggressive than the posture of Florida’s Marco Rubio, who announced his White House bid Monday promising a presidency in which “America accepts the mantle of global leadership,” both diplomatically and militarily. Full story

April 13, 2015

Four Reasons Republicans Seem Reticent in Menendez Case

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It’s the first federal bribery indictment of a sitting senator in almost a quarter century, and the defendant is among the most combative and combustible Democrats in the Capitol. So why have Republicans spent the better part of the past two weeks with their hands over their mouths?

There are four plausible reasons for their relative silence about the travails of Robert Menendez. They boil down to concerns about political expedience, foreign policy, self preservation and campaign finance. Full story

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