Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 28, 2015

Posts in "Democrats"

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

September 27, 2015

Will Speakers Ever Again Be Able to Stay on Their Own Terms?

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 25: Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, holds a news conference on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, to discuss his decision to resign his position as Speaker and leave Congress at the end of October. (Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call/Pool)

(Bill Clark/Roll Call/Pool)

Speaker John A. Boehner’s resignation continues, and possibly cements, a remarkable pattern in modern American politics.

The most powerful position in Congress has also become one of the most unstable jobs in American government. After almost a century of orderly departures and orchestrated transitions, five of the six most recent speakers of the House have now been pushed from the Capitol by circumstances they could not control.

The trend of past three decades will surely make California’s Kevin McCarthy, or whoever ascends to the presiding officer’s chair, extremely wary about his career’s trajectory over the long term — even after this fall’s latest internal Republican revolution gets put to rest. Full story

September 16, 2015

In Time for the Pope, Catholic Plurality of Congress Achieves Partisan Balance

Boehner has been advocating for a papal address for years. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Boehner has been advocating for a papal address for years. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It will be the most Catholic Congress ever that hears from Pope Francis — and, as of this month, the first with as many Republican as Democratic members of the church.

Two decades ago, the year before Speaker John A. Boehner initially became part of the GOP leadership and started working to arrange a papal visit, 27 percent of lawmakers were Roman Catholic but only a third of them were Republicans like him. One generation and a pair of papacies later, the Ohioan’s vision is about to become a reality in a Capitol with very different faith demographics.

While the nation and its federal legislators have become more religiously diverse overall, the congressional Catholic population has grown steadily: 31 percent of today’s lawmakers say they belong to the church, but only 22 percent of their constituents do. 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 21, 2015

Reputation Can Be Tough to Reverse; Just Ask Sheila Jackson Lee

Lee, second from right, came to the defense of an aide. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Lee, second from right, came to the defense of an aide. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The latest dust-up centered on Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee has several hallmarks of her form — behaving in ways the vast majority of members of Congress intuitively know to avoid.

She got up in somebody’s business in a very public place. She sought to dominate a situation where her very presence was untoward. And she asserted her titular authority in the pursuit of special treatment at a time when such a power play seemed wholly inappropriate.

But there’s one way in which the altercation last month between Houston’s Democratic congresswoman and the Capitol Police deviated significantly from her reputation: She was coming to the defense of an aide, not castigating one. Full story

June 11, 2015

The Democrats’ Ace by Night, Pivotal Trade Vote by Day

Richmond at the 2013 Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Richmond, seen here at the 2013 Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game, is under pressure. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rare is the moment when so much attention is focused simultaneously on the same member of Congress for two totally different reasons. But the end of this week marks that time of trial, both athletically and legislatively, for Rep. Cedric L. Richmond.

On Thursday night, his fellow Democrats will be counting on him to repeat what he’s done in each of the previous four years since arriving to represent New Orleans in the House: Pitch his party to victory in the Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game.

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

May 14, 2015

Carper’s High-Test Week, on Two Very Different Tracks

Carper was one of the Democrats summoned to the White House to resurrect the trade deal. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Carper was one of the Democrats summoned to the White House to resurrect the trade deal. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Thomas R. Carper is having one heck of a week.

Even the most soft-spoken congressional workhorse can expect to end up with an occasional moment in the spotlight. Rarely does a senator with as low a profile as the Delaware Democrat end up in the national headlines twice in a few hours — and for two totally different reasons.

Full story

May 13, 2015

Trade Votes of Past Point to Obama’s Troubles Ahead

Brown, left, and Merkley joined with all but one Democrat to block fast track trade legislation from moving forward. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Democratic senators such as Sherrod Brown, left, and Jeff Merkley joined with all but one Democrat to block fast-track trade legislation from moving forward. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

It’s too soon to label the first test vote in the great trade debate of 2015 as a harbinger of total collapse ahead. But the prognosticators, the party whips and the president already have some tally sheets providing strong evidence of a cliffhanger in the making.

Congress last approved similar legislation 13 years ago, which of course is a lifetime in rhythms of the place. Still, two messages may fairly be inferred from the positions taken back then by the lawmakers who remain in office today. Full story

April 30, 2015

Sanders Asks Democrats to Pick Proud Non-Democrat

The Sanders 2016 bid is Democratic in just one way. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sanders 2016 is Democratic in just one way. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 11:05 a.m. | When Bernard Sanders declared his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination, he joined a lengthening roster of gadflies who have run in order to push the party to the left.

So will it matter that he is not now, never has been and does not plan to become an actual Democrat? Full story

March 16, 2015

Lessons for This Year in Voting Patterns of Last Year

McConnell has led Senate Republicans into infrequently backing Obama, CQ vote studies reveal. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

McConnell’s Senate Republicans rarely side with Obama’s agenda, CQ vote studies reveal. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Given that old adage, “You can’t tell where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been,” casting a close eye over last year’s congressional voting patterns is in order.

Sure, that was an election year for a divided Capitol, while Republicans now run the whole show and their performance isn’t subject to formal assessment by the voters until next year. But still, members behaved in the second half of the 113th Congress in ways distinctive enough to create several storylines to watch throughout the 114th.

Some of the best evidence for that comes from the vote studies conducted annually by CQ Roll Call since the early 1950s. They provide empirical assessments of the previous year’s congressional partisanship and presidential support — both in the House and Senate as institutions and in the ballots cast by each lawmaker. (You can peruse or download all the numbers for the previous year at Comparing the results year over year and as six-decade trend lines offers proof positive that partisanship and polarization are the drivers of legislative behavior more than in any other period since at least the start of the Eisenhower administration.

Full story

March 10, 2015

GOP Aim: Make Menendez’s Troubles About Reid

Republicans are hoping to tie troubles Menendez is facing to Reid, right. Image from 2011. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans are hoping to tie troubles Menendez is facing to Reid, right. Image from 2011. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans may not realistically smell another Senate seat about to become available, but they’re moving quickly on the very real scent of political blood. And their nose for scandal has them salivating at more than the fate of Sen. Robert Menendez, who may be only weeks from facing federal corruption charges.

Some in the GOP also sniff something fishy in the way the Obama administration’s Justice Department leaked word of the pending prosecution last week, just as New Jersey’s senior senator was ratcheting up his standing as the most prominent Democratic critic of the president’s foreign policy. Other Republicans insinuate there is news that really stinks, suggesting Minority Leader Harry Reid may have not only abetted but also may have benefited from some of Menendez’s questionable behavior — and he isn’t signaling any interest in separating his colleague from the Senate power structure.

Full story

March 5, 2015

The Maryland Democrat Who Wants to Stay Where He Is

Hoyer has been a Pelosi lieutenant for years. Will his wait-it-out strategy pay off? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Hoyer has been a Pelosi lieutenant for more than a decade. Will his wait-it-out strategy pay off? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

One of these House members is not like the others. One of these members doesn’t hope to belong — in the Senate.

If you guess which member from Maryland is the only one not pondering a run for Senate next year, you’ve answered the easiest political trivia question of the week. Full story

March 3, 2015

Mikulski Legacy Is Beyond Longevity


Mikulski, left, mentored new female senators such as Mary L Landrieu, seen here in the Capitol in 1996. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The most obvious distinction Barbara A. Mikulski will take into retirement is that she’s spent more time in Congress than any other woman, and that’s a record worthy of significant recognition. But, especially at a Capitol so deeply mired in dysfunction and partisanship, the meaning of her service is deeper than mere longevity.

Mikulski has become the embodiment of “old school” in an institution where the thrill of the new has taken hold with a vengeance. Beyond rattling so many glass ceilings during her four decades on the Hill, Maryland’s senior Democratic senator has stuck with all manner of virtues and behaviors that have fallen into disfavor by the newer members — devoted as they are to confrontation and content to claim deadlock as their principal work product. Full story

January 25, 2015

Reid Surgery a Crucial Moment in a Storied Career

The Reid surgery is scheduled for Monday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Reid’s surgery is scheduled for Monday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

This is one of the most pivotal weeks in Harry Reid’s personal life, not to mention his congressional career.

How he handles Monday’s complex surgery to rebuild a crushed orbital socket and remove pools of blood behind and in front of his right eyeball will not only determine whether the Nevadan regains the vision he lost earlier this month in a freakish exercising mishap. His recovery’s pace and comprehensiveness also will help decide how long he remains the top Senate Democrat and his ability to seek re-election next year. Full story

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