Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 8, 2015

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

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

May 10, 2015

After Supercharged Start, Tom Cotton Stands Alone (Video)

Cotton heads to the Senate amid the Iran debate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Cotton heads to the Senate amid the Iran debate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Tom Cotton marks two milestones this week. As of Monday, more than half of his senatorial career will have elapsed (63 days!) since his pugilistic letter warning Iran against cutting a nuclear deal with the Obama administration. And Wednesday is the Arkansas Republican’s 38th birthday, another reminder he’s the youngest senator in two decades.

Those twin occasions provide an opportunity to note just how unusually hot and fast Cotton’s start has been. Even in a Senate where newcomers no longer feel obligated to bide their time or defer to their elders, as they did for so much of history, just four months of combativeness may have determined the personality of Cotton’s entire congressional life — no matter how long it lasts. Full story

May 5, 2015

New Congress, New Round in Senate Fight Over Obama’s Judges (Video)

Where's the blue slip, Toomey? (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Toomey says he supports Restrepo, but has held off officially signing off on the judge’s nomination. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In the long-running judicial wars between the Senate and the White House, the first skirmish of the year is flaring into the open this week.

How it plays out will offer insight about whether the new Republican majority plans to continue making the federal bench a venue for venting displeasure with President Barack Obama, or whether he’ll be allowed to refashion the courts a bit more during his final two years in office. 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

April 29, 2015

What Gay Marriage Briefs Tell Us About Congress

Supreme Court Gay Marriage Hearing

Which members of Congress have gotten involved with the SCOTUS gay marriage case? (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Though only a few lawmakers participated in the rallies during Tuesday’s oral arguments, more than half the members of Congress had already formalized their views on the same-sex marriage cases before the Supreme Court.

A review of the congressional signatures on three friend-of-the-court briefs revealed an important political narrative underneath the historic story about the future of American society. And that’s the fact almost all the Democrats facing heated re-election races next year have told the court they believe gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to get married. Almost all the Republicans looking at competitive campaigns decided to steer clear of the question. Full story

April 28, 2015

Early Votes Reveal Positioning for ‘Blue State Five’

The CQ Vote Studies give detail on how Ayotte has been backing Obama this year. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

CQ Vote Studies give detail on how Ayotte voted on Lynch and her Obama support this year. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The nation officially has its 83rd attorney general with Loretta Lynch having taken the oath of office Monday morning. But before her five-month nomination odyssey fades into the rearview mirror, it’s worth noting the pivotal part played by an election 19 months down the road.

Five Republican senators are in the early stages of what will be highly competitive re-election campaigns in states that voted Democratic in the previous two presidential elections. Absent that fact, it’s a good bet Lynch would have been confirmed with something close to the bare minimum majority, not the 56 votes she received. But four senators from the “Blue State Five” got in her corner at the final hour, a big share of the 10 GOP votes she was able to muster: Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mark S. Kirk of Illinois and Rob Portman of Ohio. The only “no” vote from this particular group was cast by Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania.

That roll call, which will stand among the most important tests of presidential support and party unity in 2015, offers a window into how Senate voting records are already being massaged by those in the most electoral trouble in 2016.

Full story

April 26, 2015

Signs of Life, but Don’t Expect Bipartisan Bloom

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Don’t expect this to happen much this year. (Mandel Ngan/Getty Images)

If there was ever a sound reason for a congressional leader from one party to plant a kiss on the cheek of a leader from the other side, it was in the Rose Garden last week.

Solving a multibillion-dollar problem that bedeviled Congress for a dozen years (inadequate Medicare reimbursements to physicians) is the only genuinely important bipartisan achievement of the 114th Congress to date. When Speaker John A. Boehner smooched a beaming House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at a celebratory reception hosted by President Barack Obama, it was a visual cue about the extraordinary nature of the moment, for which the two frequent partisan antagonists shared principal credit.

Nothing remotely as consequential — or even out of the ordinary by once-customary standards for measuring congressional behavior — has happened this year. That’s worth observing at a time when so many politicians, columnists and political scientists are talking glowingly about the Capitol’s rhythms starting to return to normal.

Such declarations about signs of healthy legislative life this spring are mostly overwrought, somewhat premature and potentially counterproductive. Full story

April 23, 2015

A Few Delegations Newly Punching Above Their Weight

McConnell's stature has pushed Kentucky higher in the Roll Call Clout Index than it should be given its population. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

McConnell’s stature has pushed Kentucky higher in the Roll Call Clout Index than it should be given its population. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The newest Roll Call Clout Index reveals that, even more than before, the largest potential for influence belongs to the states with the most people and therefore the biggest delegations. So it’s worth paying special attention to the smaller places with lawmaker contingents positioned to punch highest above their weight.

Maryland, at 19th in population with 5.8 million residents, is the only midsize or small state to crack the top 10, for reasons detailed in the initial piece about our calculations for the 114th Congress. One way of viewing the statistic is that the sway of the state’s lawmakers is nine notches better than where all the people they represent stand in population rank. And nearing Maryland’s standing are three significantly smaller delegations even more dramatically positioned to bring back victories disproportionate to their clout ranking. Full story

April 22, 2015

Delegation Clout Shifts in Aftermath of Earmark Era

Jeb Hensarling's Texas and Boehner's Ohio are enjoying strong rankings on the Roll Call Clout Index. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Jeb Hensarling’s Texas and Boehner’s Ohio have high rankings on the Roll Call Clout Index. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Four years after lawmakers gave up earmarking, the last of the billions once dedicated to pet projects has effectively been spent, and one result is a changed roster of states laying claim to the most clout in Congress.

Talking smack about which delegations pack the biggest punch, and which ones are relative weaklings, has been a Hill pastime for ages. For the past 25 years, Roll Call has contributed to the conversation by making quantifiable measurements of every state’s potential sway near the star of each new Congress.

Full story

April 20, 2015

Vote Studies Track Presidential Hopefuls in Real Time

Paul has the best congressional attendance record for the presidential candidates, CQ vote studies show. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Paul has the best congressional attendance record for the GOP presidential candidates, according to new real-time CQ vote studies. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Eight years ago, the last time sitting senators launched competing quests for a presidential nomination, each touted their congressional records as evidence they were more the true agent of change than the other one.

In the end, of course, Democratic voters decided Barack Obama was the preferred choice for disrupting the capital’s status quo. But the empirical evidence available during their campaign revealed only the slightest difference between Obama’s and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s voting habits. During their previous three years together in the Senate, both toed the party line more than 96 percent of the time while opposing President George W. Bush’s wishes on about 3 out of every 5 votes.

That reminiscence is appropriate now, for two connected reasons. At least three Republican senators are hoping their Senate records help set themselves apart in the 2016 presidential field. And CQ Roll Call has a new online tool available for assessing the similarities and differences among them. Full story

April 15, 2015

Where Graham Sees Room for a Fourth GOP Senator in White House Field

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The GOP presidential field is now, officially, thicker with senators than at any time in the past two decades. All three with declared candidacies have viable paths to the nomination — underscoring the bewilderment about why a fourth Senate Republican, who would be among the longest of long shots, is considering joining the hunt.

South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham does not have an obvious niche to fill in the primary field, or even a viable way of marketing himself as unique among the other senators already in the race. Yes, he’s more of an internationalist and a bigger defense hawk than either Rand Paul of Kentucky or Ted Cruz of Texas. But his muscularity is only marginally more aggressive than the posture of Florida’s Marco Rubio, who announced his White House bid Monday promising a presidency in which “America accepts the mantle of global leadership,” both diplomatically and militarily. Full story

April 13, 2015

Four Reasons Republicans Seem Reticent in Menendez Case

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It’s the first federal bribery indictment of a sitting senator in almost a quarter century, and the defendant is among the most combative and combustible Democrats in the Capitol. So why have Republicans spent the better part of the past two weeks with their hands over their mouths?

There are four plausible reasons for their relative silence about the travails of Robert Menendez. They boil down to concerns about political expedience, foreign policy, self preservation and campaign finance. Full story

April 1, 2015

Can Ex-Members Sustain Success as Mayors?

Emanuel is looking to win a second term in Chicago. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Emanuel is looking to win a second term in Chicago. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It’s not only the season’s most consequential political event, but also a rare local election with a big rooting interest on the Hill. Voters in the nation’s third-biggest city are deciding next week if they still want to be led by a onetime member of congressional leadership.

If Rahm Emanuel wins a second term as mayor of Chicago, he’ll be cheered by fellow Democrats who remember his central role in engineering the party’s last takeover of the House, almost a decade ago. The victory would also be lamented with equal passion by veteran Republicans, who remember Emanuel as one of the most polarizing partisans in a Congress overstuffed with them.

Full story

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