Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 9, 2015

October 17, 2013

Many Existing and Would-Be GOP Leaders Opposed Budget Deal

Lee, Rubio, Cruz

Two 2016 hopefuls — Rubio, center, and Cruz, right — voted against the deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

All of the congressional Republicans with viable 2016 presidential ambitions voted against the bill enacted overnight to reopen the government and increase federal borrowing. So did two members of the Senate GOP leadership and three members of the party’s House leadership. The opponents also included a majority of the Republicans who are chairmen of House committees and most of the members of the House GOP caucus who aspire to election to the Senate next year.

While the Democrats were unified in their support for the legislation, a review of Wednesday night’s back-to-back roll calls in Congress reveals just how divided the titular and putative leaders of the GOP remained after their crusade to undermine Obamacare by shutting down the government and threatening default came up essentially empty-handed — but nonetheless spawned a serious erosion of public support for the party’s current course.

In the House, only 38 percent of Republicans supported the legislation, despite efforts during the evening to assemble the sort of narrow “majority of the majority” that would have given Speaker John A. Boehner some degree of face-saving comfort

In the Senate, by contrast, only 39 percent of the Republicans opposed a deal that was assembled by their floor leader Mitch McConnell, along with Majority Leader Harry Reid. Full story

October 16, 2013

29 Reasons a Budget Deal Is in Reach, and 1 Reason It Isn’t

They couldn’t have scripted it any more obviously: The can is getting kicked to Friday the 13th.

Washington is committing itself to a return to regular order, but only for the next eight weeks.

The most important date for deciding whether this round of fiscal brinkmanship was worth all the melodrama will not be Feb. 7, the next moment when the Treasury might lack authority to borrow to pay the nation’s bills. Nor will it be Jan. 15, the next potential suspension of routine federal operations.

It will be Dec. 13, when negotiators are supposed to complete their conference report on a budget resolution for fiscal 2014. The question is, is two months enough time for cooler heads to take “yes” for an answer?  Full story

Long National Nightmare May Soon Be Over

The dam is breaking today. The two Senate leaders finalized an agreement this morning to reopen the government until Jan. 15 and avert an imminent debt default by giving the Treasury authority to continue borrowing through Feb. 7.

The deal was to be announced just after noon on the Senate floor, and was then likely to be sped across the Capitol so that the pivotal vote — both procedurally and politically — can happen first in the House. Speaker John A. Boehner signaled that he would put the package to a vote by the end of the day, but a final decision was awaiting the results of a GOP leadership meeting.

Still, some members of that group predicted the measure would pass the House, with the bloc of combative conservatives who are opposed to almost any realistic fiscal policy patch getting overwhelmed by significant numbers of both Republicans and Democrats. Full story

October 15, 2013

Justices to Take Up Climate Change Case Created by Gridlock

Divided government gridlock spawned an important new consequence Tuesday. At a time when there’s no chance Congress and the president will agree on any environmental legislation, the Supreme Court agreed to settle a benchmark question about federal powers to control pollution and climate change.

While almost all attention was focused on finding a buy-a-little-time solution to the twin budgetary crises at hand — the shutdown in its third week and the potential for default in a few days — the justices inserted themselves as deeply as ever into a global crisis that’s sure to be around for decades, regardless of whether the federal fiscal house is allowed to crumble.

The court said it would decide whether the Environmental Protection Agency is overstepping its legal authority by planning to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from factories and power plants that are the prime suspects of global warming.

A panel of three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled unanimously last year that the agency was using its powers properly. Tuesday’s announcement that the Supreme Court will hear six different appeals of that decision means at least four justices are willing to consider the possibility of overruling the lower court.

The court will hear oral arguments early next year and rule by June 2014, four months before the midterm elections. A ruling that stops the EPA from stepping in so aggressively in the absence of legislation could propel environmental policy to an until-now-unexpected position of prominence in campaigns for control of Congress next year. Full story

By David Hawkings Posted at 12:08 p.m.
The Judiciary

October 11, 2013

Beltway Version of ‘Groundhog Day’ Makes Us All Feel Jaded

It’s clear from last week’s polls why congressional Republicans decided to blink first in the budget standoff: Their party’s approval rating is at the lowest point in a quarter-century.

They are getting way more blame for the shutdown, and even more than they did back in 1995. Two-thirds agree with the notion that the GOP has put its political agenda ahead of what’s good for the country. There’s a rapidly expanding share of voters who want a Democratic Congress elected next year, a steady approval rating for President Barack Obama — and growing support for the health care law ever since the GOP went all-in to gut it.

Those numbers got headlines because of their obvious impact on the news of the moment. But some other results may prove more important over the long term. They provide good data to back up the complaint — from both outside and inside the Beltway — that “things in Washington really have gotten worse than they have ever been.” Full story

October 10, 2013

Shutdown Would Linger Under House GOP Plan to Raise Debt Limit

There’s nothing about reopening the government in the House Republican leadership plan to raise the debt ceiling for the next six weeks. In fact, the proposal unveiled today would keep the partial federal shutdown in place during that time, as presumed leverage to force President Barack Obama to strike a deficit reduction deal.

“He wants both a clean debt ceiling increase and a clean CR,” Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, a prominent tea party conservative, said on CNN this morning. “Well, we’re only going to give him half of what he wants.”

Asked what it would take for Republicans to endorse a continuing resolution that would end the shutdown, Speaker John A. Boehner said he would reveal that to Obama at his meeting with other GOP leaders around 4:30 this afternoon.

Boehner plans to put the debt bill to a vote on Friday, but nonetheless hold lawmakers in town on Saturday as well. Members were told officially today that next week’s Columbus Day recess has been canceled and that they would be expected back at the Capitol for votes starting Monday night

Obama has insisted Congress reopen the government without any strings attached, and it is far from clear how many Democrats in either the House or Senate would be willing to embrace the debt increase offer without language on federal spending as well.

Rep. John B. Larson, D-Conn., told reporters today that Democrats probably could support the six-week debt limit increase, but he cautioned that “the devil is in the details.”

Some Democrats may argue that, with today’s offer coming a full week before the Oct. 17 deadline for default being used by the Treasury Department, there’s a  likelihood that Republicans will make more concessions in the coming days. Full story

October 9, 2013

Bill Young’s Departure Hastens the End of a Legislative Era

The C.W. stands for Charles William, but since he arrived at the Capitol more than 42 years ago, he’s been known to just about everyone by the rest of the name on his official letterhead: Bill Young.

The simple and straightforward moniker nicely captures the essence of the lawmaker who has been the longest-serving Republican in Congress for the past five years. He announced Wednesday that he would retire next year, after 22 terms representing the peninsular Pinellas County on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Young’s impending departure offers a clear reminder of how the balance of congressional power, especially on the GOP side, has shifted at least two generations to the right — on both the temporal timeline and the ideological spectrum. Full story

Cracks in the Budget Impasse? Both Sides Searching for Daylight

The formal nomination of Janet L. Yellen to chair the Federal Reserve may be anticlimactic, but it comes at a crucial moment: It creates a daylong diversion when both sides in the fiscal deadlock can assess the chance of seizing the same sliver of an opening.

Tuesday’s unyielding rhetoric, from both President Barack Obama and Speaker John A. Boehner, will not be publicly contradicted today. But, off camera, each of their teams will be working to figure out if they’re correctly interpreting signs from the other.

Both sides have given hints in the past 24 hours that they are open to a limited cease fire — a reopening of the government and an increase in the federal borrowing limit that might last only a few weeks, but could allow time to negotiate a broader budget deal. Full story

October 8, 2013

What’s in a Name? Plenty of Super-Bad Memories on Both Sides (Video)

Legislation is enacted empowering an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, senators and House members to set to work on a hurry-up timetable in search of a way out of a thick budgetary morass that has brought the country near the brink of default.

They are called a supercommittee, right?

That was absolutely true two years ago, when the nickname stuck hard and fast to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction even before its proposed creation was unveiled.

But that is absolutely not going to be the case this time, if the people who cooked up the idea for a Bicameral Working Group on Deficit Reduction and Economic Growth have anything to say about it. Full story

October 7, 2013

One-Story Town Gives a Furlough to Nonessential Legislation

And on the seventh day, Congress did not rest. Instead, lawmakers decided for the first time since the shutdown began to take votes on something wholly unrelated to their own budgetary wheel-spinning.

Those envisioning a policy-making dam about to burst will be disappointed soon enough. For as long as the conflating debates over reviving federal spending and raising the debt ceiling remain unresolved, the legislative machinery at the Capitol will remain as closed for business as so many programs and agencies are.

There is no legal or even procedural reason for this — no reason the House or Senate may not attempt the feat of walking a variety of bills forward while chewing gum at the same time in the budget impasse. But legislative multitasking, which had already become a distant memory after the dysfunctional congressional dynamics of recent years, has now disappeared almost altogether. Full story

Obamacare Recedes as GOP Attention Turns to Entitlements, Tax Code

The certainty of the government shutdown lasting into a second week became unavoidably clear today, along with the solidifying probability that the impasse will only be ended as part of a debt-ceiling resolution.

What’s also apparent is a fast-fading Republican interest in undermining Obamacare as a condition for either revived spending or additional borrowing. Instead, the GOP is talking more and more about securing entitlement curbs and a commitment to a tax code overhaul.

The only overt movement in the standoff this morning, however, was an especially tart exchange between the top congressional press secretaries for each party. Full story

October 6, 2013

McConnell’s Real Legacy Now Hangs in Supreme Court’s Balance

The first high-profile oral argument of the new Supreme Court term comes Tuesday morning in a campaign finance case officially called McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. Across the street, the dispute may come to be known instead as McConnell v. Donation Limits.

Mitch McConnell is guaranteed to make the news almost every day as the Senate minority leader. That’s even been true this fall, when the complexities of his squeezed-on-both-sides campaign for re-election in Kentucky have distracted him from (or prompted him to cede) his customary role as the indispensable dealmaker.

McConnell has been garnering headlines all fall as the leader who isn’t there, on issues starting with Syria and now most prominently on the government shutdown impasse, the future of Obamacare and next week’s prospective debt ceiling collision.  Full story

October 4, 2013

A Weekend of Wheel-Spinning Ahead, but Probably No Deal

Although there’s no viable prospect for ending the government shutdown, members of Congress were told today to stick around for weekend votes, caucus meetings and news conferences that might at least promote the illusion — if not the possibility — of progress toward the end of the impasse.

House Republican leaders emerged from their latest caucus meeting Friday to declare they are being much less intransigent than the Democrats, although they offered nothing in the way of public concession other than a willingness to negotiate on things President Barack Obama says are non-negotiable. Full story

October 3, 2013

Merging Spending and Debt Debates Means Shutdown Likely to Last 2 Weeks

Signs grew clearer today that the debates about reopening the government, raising the debt limit and setting spending levels for the next year are being rolled into one. And one unspoken consequence is that the partial shutdown, now in its third day, looks increasingly likely to stay in effect for the next two weeks – until the Treasury’s deadline for either gaining more borrowing authority or defaulting.

Senior congressional Republicans and Democrats are conceding it makes little policy or political sense to put much more effort into finding votes for a continuing resolution lasting only a few weeks, when the even more consequential debt ceiling must be confronted almost immediately after.

GOP conservatives still believe they can win concessions from President Barack Obama — on both entitlement curbs and curtailing Obamacare — as part of a double-barrel bargain on both spending and borrowing. The president forcefully rebutted that expectation this morning.

“Let me be clear: There will be no more negotiating,” he told a friendly crowd assembled at construction company  in suburban Rockville, Md., echoing the message he delivered last night to the four top congressional leaders during a meeting in the Oval Office that seemed only to harden the standoff in all corners. His message to the GOP, the president said: “You don’t get a reward for keeping the government running, and you don’t get a reward for keeping the economy running.” Full story

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

October 2, 2013

GOP Rebels Scour the Back Pages of the Rule Book

In competition of all kinds, it’s reliably true that folks on the losing side are far likelier to reach for the rule book — hoping some procedural wrinkle can be found to save them in time from a shortage of skill or good fortune.

So now a small but growing group of House Republicans, out of political anxiety or ideological distaste, have decided it’s a doomed proposition to condition reopening the government on a legislated undermining of Obamacare.

Lacking the legislative clout within their own party to win on the merits, at least on their own, these GOP quasi-moderates have been scouring the parliamentary back alleys for help advancing legislation to end the government shutdown with no strings attached. They are doing so against the wishes of Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and a majority of their caucus.

Motions “to recommit” or to consider “the previous question” are no good to this GOP faction. There’s not a privileged motion immediately available to them, and “Calendar Wednesday” (it’s complicated) has been effectively neutralized.

All of which has led to a surge of attention to “the discharge petition,” which at first blush looks to be the only procedural option available. But the cumbersome fine print that makes this vehicle so unwieldy to begin with — combined with the political peril for any member of the majority caucus who seeks to deploy it — means its current moment in the sun may have already passed. Full story

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