Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 30, 2015

Posts in "Political Class"

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

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

July 16, 2015

When Fear on the Right Is Trumped by Fear of Self

Ellmers is one of the few members of the House GOP Conference facing a Republican primary. But the party doesn't have much to worry about this year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Ellmers is one of the few members of the House GOP Conference facing a Republican primary. But the party has little to worry about. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When they’re not busy raising money off it, House Republicans tend to sound plenty whiny about their stated No. 1 fear: Being successfully challenged from the right in the next primary.

The worry turned out to be way overstated last year, and the early signs are the same will prove true next year. Full story

June 30, 2015

Two Weeks on, Hill’s Post-Charleston Agenda Has All but Disappeared

Debate over Confederate imagery abounds, but not so much on guns and voting rights. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Debate over Confederate imagery abounds, but not so much on guns and voting rights. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The last of the funerals for the Emanuel Nine is Tuesday, and momentum for removing Confederate symbols from the public square has reached a plateau. But what about tangible federal policy changes in reaction to the Charleston shootings?

Only a week ago, it seemed the deaths of nine African-Americans in a South Carolina church, at the hand of a white supremacist wielding a .45 semiautomatic, would at a minimum jumpstart stalled discussions about gun control and civil rights legislation.

Full story

June 17, 2015

Why Backing the Rule Is No. 1 Rule for Party Discipline

Boehner is demanding party loyalty to deliver a victory on procedural rules. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Boehner is demanding party loyalty to deliver a Republican victory on procedural rules. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

“Voting on the rule” may sound like nothing more than procedural inside baseball. But an enormous amount of policy and political consequence hinges on the fate of House roll calls on resolutions setting the terms for a bill’s consideration.

That’s as true this summer as it’s been in a long while. It’s not a stretch to say President Barack Obama’s top remaining second-term priority, and prospects for Republicans to prove competence at controlling Congress, both rest on this bit of the parliamentary process. Full story

June 3, 2015

Hastert’s Past Informs Boehner’s Disciplined Course

Hastert, right, and Boehner, seen here in 2009, have very different speakership styles. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Hastert, right, and Boehner, seen here in 2009, have very different speakership styles. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Maybe one thing would be more shocking to Hill long-timers than the lurid criminal charges confronting the previous Republican speaker of the House: A personal scandal taking down the current Republican speaker of the House.

John A. Boehner has worked assiduously to bring a glass-house lifestyle to the Capitol. He’s been a dogmatic behind-the-scenes disciplinarian with GOP colleagues who have lost their moral bearings. So it’s almost impossible to imagine he’d get caught in the same sort of misbehavior for which he’s shown zero tolerance among the troops. 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

May 20, 2015

Member Pay Freeze Likely to Last Close to a Decade

Congressional salaries aren't going up any time soon. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Congressional salaries aren’t going up any time soon. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As one of their final acts before the Memorial Day break, members of Congress have begun their annual ritual combining financial self-flagellation with electoral self-preservation.

The burst of loud whining from a cluster of safe-seat members — “We aren’t being paid properly!” complains 12th-term Democratic Rep. Alcee L. Hastings of South Florida — didn’t slow things down a bit.

The House passed the annual legislative branch spending bill Tuesday, with language extending the congressional salary freeze for a seventh consecutive year. On the very safe assumption the Senate agrees, the measure will assure the longest period in half a century members will go without a raise.

Full story

May 18, 2015

Capitol Hill’s Women Hold Power Beyond Numbers

Women are on the rise in Congress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Women are on the rise in Congress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Almost every congressional campaign season opens with the potential for some political firsts. And, with just a few words uttered on the West Coast last week, this cycle has already made a bit of history and will have a shot at making even more.

For the first time, two women are alone as the main competitors to become the same political party’s Senate candidate of choice. That much was guaranteed with the decision by Rep. Loretta Sanchez to enter the race for California’s open seat, where her principal opponent will be another Democrat, state Attorney General Kamala Harris. And if Sanchez ends up the winner in November 2016, she would become the nation’s first Latina senator. Full story

March 26, 2015

Voting Marathon: More Test Marketing Than Attack Ads

Begich was able to deflect campaign attack ads stemming from the vote-a-rama. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Begich was able to deflect campaign attack ads stemming from the Senate’s vote-a-rama. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senators readying their patience, their reading material and even their bladders for the annual ritual known as the “vote-a-rama” may rightfully be getting ready to ask, “Will it be worth it?”

The answer, predictably, depends on who’s posing the question. A look back over the past decade reveals a divide that countermands the conventional wisdom. For those wishing to make life miserable in the next elections for their Senate colleagues across the aisle, the answer is a version of, “Not so much.” For those hoping to uncover hidden pockets of legislative momentum, the answer is, “Sometimes.” 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

February 25, 2015

Immigration Testimony Revives a Senate Soap Opera

Laxalt, right, (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Laxalt, right, is the grandfather of the Nevada attorney general who will testify Wednesday. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

There are 27 states where the attorney general is a Republican, and 22 of them have signed on to the lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama’s effort to limit deportations. But only one of them is being ushered under the national spotlight Wednesday morning as the single elected official asked to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on “the unconstitutionality of President Obama’s executive overreach.”

Curiously, he’s been in office for less than two months and his state was the most recent to join the litigation, which has become this winter’s newest pivot point in the increasingly acrimonious balance-of-power battle over immigration policy. But almost nothing happens at the Capitol by happenstance, so there are a couple of readily apparent reasons why Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt would have been chosen as the star witness of the day. Full story

February 24, 2015

Oscar-Winning Portrayals About Legislative Impasse

Common and John Legend (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Common and John Legend. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

There’s always at least of whiff of politics at the Oscars, but the speeches this year touched on as many different hot-button issues in Congress as ever.

Almost all the appeals for action were jabs from the left, readily predictable given the homogeneity of the movie industry’s ideology. So, almost all the passionate provocateurs are bound to be disappointed with what they hear out of the Capitol — at least between now and the 89th annual Academy Awards in 2017. Full story

February 23, 2015

Why a Fired Fire Chief Got on Capitol Hill’s Radar

Loudermilk, seen here with his family during his January mock-swearing in, is defending a fired fire chief. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Loudermilk, seen here with his family during his January mock-swearing in, is defending a fired fire chief. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The firing of Atlanta’s fire chief has already become a flashpoint in the debate over how to balance the religious beliefs of public officials against the civil rights of their constituents. Now the argument has spread to the Capitol — prompting questions about proper congressional roles in local controversies, especially when statewide electoral and legislative consequences lie just below the surface.

Chief Kelvin Cochran was dismissed six weeks ago, after a city investigation into a self-published book laying out his evangelical Christian religious beliefs. Its most incendiary passage described being gay or lesbian as a “sexual perversion” comparable to pedophilia or bestiality and labeled homosexual acts as “vile, vulgar and inappropriate.” 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...