Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 9, 2016

February 9, 2016

Senate Moves on From Flint Crisis — For Now

With no consensus on how to address water contamination in Flint, Mich., the Senate has shelved discussion of a bipartisan energy bill for at least two weeks and plans to move on Wednesday with debate on a package of sanctions against North Korea.

“This is not an effort to scuttle the energy bill at all, but it is an effort to make sure that we’ve got a path forward on helping the Flint families,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who is seeking federal dollars to help Flint replace the corroded pipes that are leaching lead into the city’s drinking water supply. “Once we get an agreement things will move fast.”

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McCain Condemns ‘Loose Talk’ on Campaign Trail

McCain condemned the campaign rhetoric. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

McCain condemned the campaign rhetoric. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., took the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon to condemn what he called “loose talk” on the presidential campaign trail over the use of torture.

McCain, who was tortured by the North Vietnamese as a prisoner while serving in the Vietnam War, sought to dismiss statements from GOP front-runner Donald Trump. Trump said during a Saturday debate that he would bring back water boarding and other forms of torture. The rhetoric escalated Monday night, on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, when Trump at a rally repeated an audience member who called presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a “pussy” for not supporting water boarding. Full story

By Bridget Bowman Posted at 2:34 p.m.
2016, Trump

GOP Senator Wants to Compel Reports on Iran-North Korea Ties

Perdue, left, wants to amend a North Korea sanctions bill authored by Gardner. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Perdue, left, wants to amend a North Korea sanctions bill authored by Gardner. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A Republican senator wants to compel the Obama administration to tell Congress what it knows about ties between North Korea and Iran.

“It’s undeniable that Iran and North Korea have been cooperating on nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development for years now. Iranians have reportedly been present for at least three of North Korea’s nuclear tests,” Sen. David Perdue said in a statement provided to Roll Call.

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Flint Aid Negotiations Continue as Time Runs Out

Peters, left, and Stabenow, right, have been pushing for aid. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Peters, left, and Stabenow, right, have been pushing for aid. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Lawmakers and Senate staffers worked through the weekend to find a way to provide aid to Flint, Mich., and move forward on a bipartisan energy bill. But, as of Monday, negotiations were still ongoing.

Democrats stalled debate on the energy bill  last week after senators failed to agree on how to address the crisis in Flint, where corroded pipes have leached toxic levels of lead in the water supply. With the Senate set to consider a North Korea sanctions bill on Wednesday, negotiators are running out of time to reach an agreement. Full story

Kelly Ayotte Backs Draft Registration for Women

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Having heard from top military officials, Sen. Kelly Ayotte is backing the idea of requiring women to register for the draft.

“After the hearing that we had the other day about women in combat, I support it. I think that we’ve opened up all the combat billets for women who can meet the qualifications of those billets, and therefore it makes sense that … women would also register for the Selective Service,” the New Hampshire Republican said.

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February 8, 2016

Zika Virus Funding Met With Caution in Congress

Burwell will brief lawmakers on the Zika virus Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Burwell will brief lawmakers on Zika Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Capitol Hill leaders responded cautiously to President Barack Obama’s announcement Monday that he would ask Congress to provide $1.8 million in emergency funding to bolster the response to the Zika virus.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell is set to brief Senate leaders and relevant committee leaders  Tuesday on the virus, which is typically spread through mosquitoes and has been linked to a birth defect. The World Health Organization last week declared the virus a global health emergency. Full story

February 5, 2016

As Zika Virus Reaches D.C., Congress Calls for Action

Alexander said his committee wild a hearing on the Zika virus. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Alexander said his committee will hold a hearing on the Zika virus. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As the Zika virus reaches the United States and the nation’s capital, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are calling for an urgent response to prevent its spread, and are scheduling briefings and committee hearings to address it.

District of Columbia health officials confirmed this week three cases of the virus in D.C., including one pregnant woman. On Friday, Senate Democrats wrote to President Barack Obama, calling for an “urgent and aggressive response” to the virus. Full story

By Bridget Bowman Posted at 2:33 p.m.

Marlow Cook: Mitch McConnell’s Political Pathfinder

Cook, who was elected in 1968, provided the electoral template for McConnell's path to the Senate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Cook, who was elected in 1968, provided the electoral template for McConnell’s path to the Senate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Shortly after he got the news that former Sen. Marlow Cook, R-Ky., had died, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke on the floor about the man who showed him the political blueprint to success in Washington.

“Marlow Cook gave me my first real opportunity in politics, gave me a chance to be a state youth chairman in his successful campaign for the U.S. Senate in 1968,” McConnell said. “He also gave me an important opportunity in government. He won his election, and I came to Washington with him, and I was what they called the chief legislative assistant. I think the term we use now is legislative director.”

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February 4, 2016

Democrats Had a Lot of GOP Help on Energy Bill Vote

UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 9: Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, left, and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, talk before the start of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation" on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Cornyn, right, blamed Democrats for the impasse, but several of his GOP colleagues, such as Lee, left, voted to sustain a filibuster on the energy bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn was mad, and he knew just whom to blame: Democrats, who were insisting on an emergency aid package for the city of Flint, Mich., to address its poisoned water system. But the truth, as it often is, was a little more complicated.

As his colleagues voted down a move to cut off debate on a bipartisan energy bill Thursday, the Texas Republican trained his sights on the other side of the aisle.

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Flint Aid Deal Slows Down Energy Bill

FLINT, MI - JANUARY 27:  A sign at a local restaurant reassures customers that they are not on Flint water but on uncontaminated water pulled from Detroit on January 27, 2016 at Westside Diner in Flint, Michigan.  Local restaurants have faced concerns following the contamination of Flint's water and subsequent federal state of emergency.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

A sign at a local restaurant in Flint, Mich., reassures customers they are not on local water but on water pulled from Detroit. Congressional lawmakers are wrangling over federal aid to help the city. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Updated 12:05 p.m. | Senate Democrats blocked a broad bipartisan energy bill from advancing, while senators discuss the extent of federal assistance needed for Flint, Mich.

Senators voted, 46-50, on a motion to limit debate. That was well short of the 60 votes needed. One senator also voted “present.”

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By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 11:18 a.m.
Democrats, Policy

February 3, 2016

Rubio’s Senate Backers Seek to Sway More Colleagues

Daines is among the senators who campaigned for Rubio in Iowa. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Daines is among the senators who campaigned for Rubio in Iowa. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Florida Republican Marco Rubio’s strong third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses could accelerate his bid to secure Senate endorsements for his presidential campaign, supporters said Tuesday.

Rubio’s campaign told Roll Call that in the aftermath of the showing in Iowa, aides have had conversations with many members of the House and Senate about endorsements.

In addition, the aide said that what was described as a handful of additional endorsements should be expected in the days ahead, with the message being that Rubio is best equipped to defeat Clinton in November.

One Senate Republican, South Carolina’s Tim Scott, announced his support for Rubio on Tuesday, bringing the candidate’s congressional endorsement total to five senators and 23 House members. Beyond the endorsements, several senators traveled to Iowa in the past few days to campaign for Rubio.

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February 2, 2016

Vitter Threatens to Stall OPM Nominee Over Obamacare

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Vitter is demanding answers about congressional enrollment in Obamacare. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is threatening to stall the Office of Personnel Management director’s nomination from moving forward unless he receives information on congressional enrollment under the Affordable Care Act.

In a Tuesday letter to OPM’s acting director Beth F. Cobert, who is set to appear at a nomination hearing this week, Vitter asked that Cobert answer a series of questions and disclose correspondence relating to an OPM rule that allowed lawmakers and their staff to enroll in the District of Columbia’s small business health insurance exchange.

“To date, information I have received from your predecessor has not been responsive to the questions I have posed,” Vitter wrote in the letter shared with Roll Call. “In order for your nomination to move forward, please answer the following questions and provide the information requested.”
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By Bridget Bowman Posted at 7:20 p.m.
Health Care

Reid: ‘Did You See Diversity in Iowa?’

UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 15: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., speaks to reporters after the Senate Democrats' lunch in the Capitol on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call)

Reid bemoans the lack of diversity in early contests. (Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call)

A day after the Iowa caucuses and a week from the New Hampshire primary, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is back blasting the lack of diversity in the states that come before his home of Nevada in the presidential nominating process.

Asked about the outcome in Iowa, where Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., finishing very narrowly behind former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Reid highlighted his role in changing the process to put more focus on the subsequent contests in states with more diverse Democratic electorates. His efforts helped move Nevada’s Democratic caucuses earlier in the electoral calendar.

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January 29, 2016

Senate Food Workers Allege ‘Raise Theft’

Capitol food workers have gone on strike for more than a year (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Food workers have gone on strike for more than a year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After achieving an apparent victory with wage increases in a new contract, Senate food workers now say that a number of workers have been illegally barred from receiving a raise.

In a complaint filed with the Labor Department on Jan. 14, Good Jobs Nation, the group that has been organizing worker strikes over the past year, charged that the Senate’s food service vendor altered workers’ classification, to make them no longer eligible for substantial wage increases included in a contract renegotiated in December.

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By Bridget Bowman Posted at 4:43 p.m.

Elizabeth Warren Releases Report Showing How Corporate Criminals Get Off Easy

Warren released "Rigged Justice" Friday. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Warren released “Rigged Justice” Friday. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo

As Congress considers overhauling the criminal justice system, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is working to show that law enforcement is “shockingly weak” when it comes to corporate crimes.

Warren’s office released a 13-page report on Friday, titled “Rigged Justice: 2016; How Weak Enforcement Lets Corporate Offenders Off Easy,” which argues that the justice system is rigged in favor of corporations and executives who commit crimes. The report highlights 20 cases that, in Warren’s staff’s view, demonstrate how the federal government failed to hold corporations and executives accountable for breaking the law.

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