Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 10, 2016

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September 3, 2013

Ahead of Hearing, Solid Support for Syria Strike at Senate Foreign Relations

While President Barack Obama spent the morning behind closed doors rallying the bipartisan congressional leadership to his side, an equally important hurdle for his Syria policy comes this afternoon, when 18 senators on the Foreign Relations Committee will publicly reveal whether they’re for, against or undecided on authorizing U.S. military intervention.

The White House’s basic strategy for getting congressional approval of the president’s plan of attack looks to be simple: Lobby hard to secure a strong bipartisan majority in the generally more interventionist Senate during the first half of next week, and hope that show of support assist the president in persuading a narrow majority in the more skeptical and isolationist House to go along.

How easily that approach can be sustained will become clear soon after the committee convenes Tuesday at 2:30 p.m., but the initial indications look promising for the president. Full story

July 17, 2013

Biggest Threat to U.S. Economy Is Congress, Bernanke Says

Congress is the main impediment to a more robust economy, Ben S. Bernanke told Congress today in what may well be his swan song on Capitol Hill.

What’s more, lawmakers are on course to make things worse before the end of the year, the custodian of monetary policy warned the caretakers of fiscal policy.

“The economic recovery has continued at a moderate pace in recent quarters despite the strong headwinds created by federal fiscal policy,” was the substantive opening line of his testimony to the House Financial Services Committee.

In the next breath, the chairman of the Federal Reserve worried that the House and Senate are contemplating additional austerity measures this year that would curb the expansion even more.

“The risks remain that tight federal fiscal policy will restrain economic growth over the next few quarters by more than we currently expect, or that the debate concerning other fiscal policy issues, such as the status of the debt ceiling, will evolve in a way that could hamper the recovery,” he said. Full story

By David Hawkings Posted at 12:01 p.m.

June 3, 2013

Lautenberg’s Legislative Legacy Was Consumer Friendly

The death of Frank R. Lautenberg marks much more than the end of the Greatest Generation’s time in the Senate. In addition to being the final World War II veteran in the place, and the longest-serving senator ever from New Jersey, Lautenberg was an anchor for the dwindling core of congressional Democrats who never wavered from vigorously promoting a robust role in regulating everyday life.

As a consequence, the legislative legacy he leaves behind is one of the longer and more noticeable ones of the past three decades, replete with measures that continue to have a consumer-friendly and tangible effect on commerce, transportation, the environment and public health.

More than any other member of Congress, Lautenberg was responsible for the cultural turn against cigarettes in public spaces. A former two-pack-a-day smoker, he was the driving force behind the 1989 law that banned smoking on domestic airline flights, and he subsequently led the crusade to restrict smoking in most federal buildings. He was instrumental as well in the congressional moves to stop ocean dumping, to increase the legal age for drinking age to 21 and to tighten the standards of what constitutes drunken driving. Full story

April 19, 2013

Washington Frozen in Place by Boston Manhunt

Official Washington remained totally transfixed today by the manhunt around Boston.

President Barack Obama was holed up in the West Wing following the rapidly unfolding and violent developments in the Boston Marathon bombing investigation. He spent part of the morning in a briefing with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and CIA Director John O. Brennan

“This entire week we’ve been in a pretty direct confrontation with evil,” Secretary of State John Kerry said after participating in the meeting by teleconference. Until two months ago, Kerry was the senior senator from Massachusetts.

The only event on Capitol Hill was a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the bipartisan immigration proposal but the one witness, Napolitano, canceled to be with the president. The panel’s top Republican, Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, said the situation underscored the importance of figuring out the existing shortcomings in the immigration system before contemplating an overhaul.

The suspects have been widely identified by law enforcement officials as brothers from a Russian region near Chechnya. But an uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, who lives in the Washington suburb of Montgomery Village, said the men had emigrated almost a decade ago and had lived near Boston ever since.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed following a convenience store robbery  overnight, during a car chase and gun battle in Watertown in which improvised hand grenades were tossed from a carjacked Mercedes and one police officer was killed; he was 26 and was the one wearing the black baseball cap in the surveillance footage the FBI released Thursday.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, the one filmed wearing a white ball cap backwards, escaped and was the focus of a phenomenal manhunt that prompted officials to stop all mass transit systems and order everyone in Boston and several suburbs to stay indoors.

“We believe this to be a terrorist,” Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said before dawn this morning. “We believe this to be a man here to kill people.”

“They have never been in Chechnya, they have nothing to do with Chechnya,” Tsarni told reporters who swarmed his home, and he urged his surviving nephew to turn himself in.

The Chechen region of the Caucuses has been plagued for years by an Islamic insurgency that has pressed its cause with a series of bomb attacks, mainly in Moscow. Tsarni said he was confident that his nephews had no attachment to that cause. “Being losers, not being able to settle themselves,” was his response when asked to speculate on their motive.

By David Hawkings Posted at 12:07 p.m.

April 10, 2013

Obama’s Budget: A Picture Worth a Trillion Dollars

President Barack Obama’s $3.77 trillion fiscal 2014 budget would cut the deficit to $744 billion next year, down from more than a trillion in fiscal 2012. Driven by the costs of mandatory programs, outlays are expected to increase to $3.8 trillion in 2014, but fall as a share of gross domestic product to 22.2 percent, the lowest level since 2008. And after dipping during the recession, revenue is expected to grow steadily but stay below 20 percent of GDP. Full story

March 7, 2013

Rand Paul, New Best Friend of Flibuster ‘Reform’ ?

Rand Paul’s 12 hours and 52 minutes of speechifying was the epitome of the sort of old-school protest move that’s fallen so far out of favor in recent years. But his filibuster, which ended at 12:39 this morning, turned into such a social media sensation that it could actually presage a what’s-old-is-new-again shift in the way the Senate operates. Full story

March 5, 2013

Here Comes the Biggest Judicial Vote of the Year

Wednesday’s vote on whether to keep Caitlin Halligan off the nation’s second-most-important federal bench is a bellwether test about the future of the judicial wars.

Assuming the coming snow isn’t falling too hard, senators will decide at midday whether to advance Halligan past a GOP filibuster and toward one of the four vacant seats on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals – which, because of its jurisdiction over almost all cases where the federal government is a party, is generally considered the penultimate place of judicial power after the Supreme Court. (She would be the first Obama appointee to that court, which hasn’t welcomed a newcomer since 2006.) So far, though, Halligan can count on the support of all 55 Democrats but only one Republican: Lisa Murkowski, who says she’ll oppose confirmation but believes Halligan’s record is not so far outside the mainstream that she should be denied an up-or-down roll call. Full story

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