Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 8, 2016

Posts in "Senate"

February 1, 2016

David Hawkings’ Whiteboard: Congressional Factions


Factions 2

This week on the whiteboard, Roll Call Senior Editor David Hawkings breaks down Congress’ many political factions.

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January 28, 2016

Who’ll Be First in Congress to Endorse Trump?


UNITED STATES - JANUARY 27: Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., gets off the Senate subway as he arrives for the Senate Republicans' policy lunch on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sessions has been effusive in his praise for Trump. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Of all Donald Trump’s curious unblemished records, this one will almost surely end pretty soon: At last one member of Congress will endorse him for president.

As good a bet as any is that this signal move will come from Jeff Sessions, the junior Republican senator from Alabama.

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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.

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January 20, 2016

Unnoticed, Grassley Sets Record for Most Time Without a Missed Senate Vote


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Grassley, center, has set a Senate record.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When you talk in political circles about an Iowa endurance test, a reference to the presidential caucuses looming in a dozen days is unmistakable. Use the phrase at the Capitol, though, and the meaning may point elsewhere.

Charles E. Grassley, with his inimitable personality blend that’s equal parts cantankerous and friendly independent-mindedness, manages to avoid spending too much time in fundraising call rooms, hearing the pleadings of lobbyists or dropping by charity dinners. (He’s steadfastly resisted a blizzard of entreaties that he endorse a fellow Republican before his home state votes, for example.)

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January 5, 2016

David Hawkings’ Whiteboard: State of the Union


State of the Union

(Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call)

 

One week before President Barack Obama stands before Congress for his last annual address, CQ Roll Call Senior Editor David Hawkings lays out what to expect from this year’s State of the Union.

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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 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 27, 2015

Marco Rubio’s Long Senate Goodbye


One and done. Rubio is not running for re-election, opting to pursue the presidency instead. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

One and done. Rubio is not running for re-election, opting to pursue the presidency instead. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Most lawmakers approach life in Congress as they would a functional marriage: The decision to go down the road is taken with great care, the thrill of the new is soon supplanted by hard work and sacrifice in pursuit of lasting gratification — and it’s painful whenever things don’t work out, for whatever reason.

Marco Rubio has decided his congressional career is more akin to a nascent relationship, where “love it or leave it” is an appropriate default setting. 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

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 25, 2015

Senate Showing Its Age Lately, Mostly to the Good (Video)


At 82, Feinstein is the oldest member of the Senate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

At 82, Feinstein is the oldest member of the Senate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate seems as dinged up as ever this summer. Is it coincidence, or are senators just getting older?

It’s both. So there’s no reason to become alarmed that some wave of infirmity is taking over the place, just because three of its hundred members have gone public with a significant health challenge in recent weeks. 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

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