Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 1, 2014

September 30, 2014

Forest Service Photography Rule Faces Bipartisan Critics in the Senate

Senators don’t seem satisfied with the Forest Service’s latest assurances that a proposal to require permits for commercial filming and still photography on federal lands won’t apply to the press or to recreational photographers.

In response to a letter from Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and John Barrasso, R-Wyo., a Forest Service spokesman told CQ Roll Call that journalistic activities would be exempt from paying fees and obtaining permits under the new proposal. Full story

Senators Laud FCC Rollback of Sports Blackout Rule

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Booker, who played football in college, applauded the FCC’s rule change vote. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senators on Tuesday lauded the Federal Communications Commission’s move to do away with the rule that, in effect, keeps National Football League games that don’t sell out off the air in hometown markets.

Sen. Cory Booker, who played tight end in college at Stanford University, was among the lawmakers thanking the FCC for taking the action on a unanimous vote.

Full story

September 29, 2014

Cornyn Warns Against Confirming Holder Successor in Lame Duck (Video)

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Cornyn (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn said Monday the debate over replacing Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will “take a lot of oxygen out of the air” for the post-election lame-duck session.

“There’s so much ill will already, this would just poison the well even further,” the Texas Republican said in an interview with the editorial board of The Dallas Morning News.

“Right now I think [Democrats] are probably making a calculation because there’s some things I think they would like to do no matter what happens. We’ve got some of these tax extender provisions that expired a year ago that are sort of sitting there waiting … that have bipartisan support,” Cornyn said. “There’s a lot of nominations, judicial and others, that I think they would like to move through in the lame duck, especially if Republicans win the majority, as I hope we do.”

Full story

September 26, 2014

Cruz, Paul Make Early Presidential Pitches at Values Voter Summit

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Cruz and Paul each courted Values Voter Summit conservatives. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo).

In a preview of what Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire can expect to see a lot of over the next year, Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul reached out to conservatives at the annual Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. on Friday.

While neither Cruz nor Paul have officially announced a bid for the Republican nomination, both speeches laid out the fundamentals for a presidential run.

For Paul, it was allaying the concerns of many in the religious right that the Kentucky Republican is too libertarian for their Christian beliefs.

“Where there is liberty, there is always plenty of space for God,” Paul said, drawing on Corinthians 3:17, which states, “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

Paul said America was in a “full-blown crisis — a spiritual crisis,” and he said the nation’s moral compass was “wavering.”

“Those of us who love freedom must realize that freedom is not a license to do as you please,” he said. “Freedom can only be realized when citizens know self-restraint, or, put another way, virtue.” Full story

Inhofe Holds Up Ebola Funding, Seeks Details on Protecting Soldiers (Updated)

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(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:55 p.m.| Senate Armed Services ranking member James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., is holding up most of a $1 billion request from the White House to combat the Ebola virus outbreak in Africa until the administration proposes a plan to keep soldiers from contracting the illness. Full story

September 23, 2014

Ginsburg Won’t Resign, Notes Senate Kept Filibuster for SCOTUS Despite ‘Nuclear Option’

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg sounds like she might have retired from the Supreme Court if Senate Democrats went a step further with the “nuclear option.”

In an interview with Elle magazine, the 81-year-old associate justice pointed to the fact that filibusters of Supreme Court nominations are still allowed by the Senate.

“Who do you think President Obama could appoint at this very day, given the boundaries that we have? If I resign any time this year, he could not successfully appoint anyone I would like to see in the court,” Ginsburg said, pointing to the change in procedure that “took off the filibuster for lower federal court appointments, but it remains for this court.” Full story

September 22, 2014

McConnell Asks Medicare to Help Detect Lung Cancer in Smokers

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wants Medicare to do more for early detection of lung cancer, a particularly pronounced issue in Kentucky.

Citing a U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommendation, the Kentucky Republican has sent a letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner seeking review for possible coverage of low-dose CT scans to detect lung cancer among high-risk populations, such as pack-a-day smokers.

Full story

Before Approving ISIS War, Menendez Wants Intelligence Briefing (Video)

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Ranking member Bob Corker, left, and Menendez listen as Kerry testifies about the ISIS threat (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The senator leading a push to authorize the war against ISIS after the elections wants an intelligence briefing first, so lawmakers know the full extent of the covert operations already under way.

Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez aired his frustrations last week when Secretary of State John Kerry came to testify before his old committee about the administration’s plans to fight the terror group known as ISIS or ISIL.

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., asked about published reports of covert efforts to train Syrian rebels.

“I know it’s been written about in the public domain, that there is, quote, ‘a covert operation.’ But … I can’t confirm or deny whatever that’s been written about and I can’t really go into any kind of possible program,” Kerry responded.

That prompted Menendez to chime in shortly afterward, saying the committee’s inability to get access to information about covert operations was an issue with both the Obama administration and the Senate itself. He questioned how the panel could properly draft a new Authorization for Use of Military Force without such details. Full story

Barbara Boxer Blasts NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s News Conference in New Letter (Video)

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Barbara Boxer is making a personal appeal to the new National Football League executive in charge of government affairs, calling for more action to address domestic violence.

In the letter, the California Democrat notes past work by Cynthia Hogan, the NFL’s new senior vice president of public policy and government affairs and previous senior aide to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., but it’s sharply critical of Hogan’s new boss, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Full story

September 18, 2014

Senate Votes to Fund Syrian Rebels Against ISIS, Avert Government Shutdown (Updated) (Video)

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Manchin said he’s concerned about arming Syrian rebels to fight ISIS. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 6:50 p.m. | After some last-minute drama on immigration, the Senate took care of Congress’ last must-pass piece of business before the November elections — keeping the government funded and providing authority for arming and training Syrian rebels in the fight against the terror group known as ISIS.

Senators voted 78-22 in favor of the continuing resolution funding the government through Dec. 11, with the bill’s next stop President Barack Obama’s desk, well ahead of the end-of-the-month deadline to preventing a government shutdown.

The bill, which the president has said he will sign, provides billions the president intends to use for his war on ISIS, but does not explicitly authorize that war beyond arming “vetted” Syrian rebels. The vote did not cut cleanly along party lines, which came as no surprise. Full story

Senate Republicans Pass Out Campaign Talking Points

Senate Republicans are being sent home for election season with a tri-fold card that provides talking points on health care, taxes, the economy — even Senate procedure.

The list of priorities on the back of the card prepared by the Republican Conference reads like an early to-do list for a possible Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

It does not explicitly call for a full repeal of the health care overhaul law often called Obamacare, but focuses generically on “health care reforms that lower costs & put patients in charge.” Full story

September 17, 2014

Blumenthal Floats Changes to NFL Antitrust Exemption (Video)

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A Senate Democrat is floating a proposal that could increase the government’s leverage over the activities of professional sports leagues like the NFL.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Wednesday that he’s planning legislation to impose a sunset on the antitrust exemptions enjoyed by the National Football League and the other pro sports. The former Connecticut attorney general called the response of the NFL to the domestic violence incident involving now-former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice something ”right out of the 1950s, out of an episode of ‘Madmen.’”

Full story

Tom Coburn Won’t Be Going Away Quietly

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Tom Coburn is retiring at the end of this Congress, but the Oklahoma Republican has put the word out that he isn’t likely to let the Senate have its end-of-session legislative feeding frenzy.

Thursday may be the last day of the work period before the elections and, as usual, some senators are making a final push on pet legislation, including renewing a travel promotion bill that Coburn has long opposed.

“I am not inclined to let things go,” Coburn said, when asked if he planned to hold up last-minute efforts to get unanimous consent to pass legislation before the Senate heads out of town.

Full story

Reid, Heller Push Proper Hygiene at Capitol Event

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Nevada’s senators appeared together Wednesday afternoon to promote hand-washing and proper hygiene.

Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and GOP Sen. Dean Heller teamed up at an event for Clean the World, a group that recycles unused soap from hotel rooms and provides it to those in need both around the world and in the United States.

Of course, guests at Nevada’s resorts and casinos use no shortage of those miniature bottles of shampoo and bars of soap. Reid said there are 125,000 hotel rooms in Las Vegas. Backers of the event in the Capitol’s Lyndon B. Johnson room included Las Vegas Sands Corp., founded by well-known GOP donor Sheldon Adelson.

Full story

Kaine Introduces Limited ISIS War Authorization

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Tim Kaine is introducing a limited war authorization against ISIS, even as Congress is set to jet out of town without an authorization vote before the elections.

The Virginia Democrat, who has led the push for Congress to go on record, would limit the use of ground forces in the conflict to rescue missions and to go after high-value targets. The authority against ISIS, also known as ISIL or the Islamic State, would expire after a year.

He also proposes to repeal the 2002 authorization to use military force (AUMF) in Iraq, something the White House has said it supports.

“Last week, President Obama laid out a strong case for the need to degrade and destroy ISIL and invited broader Congressional support for this effort,” Kaine said in a statement. “I was heartened when Foreign Relations Committee Chairman (Robert) Menendez answered this call by saying the committee would soon craft authorizing language for the U.S. military mission. It’s my hope that this proposal will help move the ball forward on what a specific and narrow authorization for limited military action against ISIL should look like.”

Kaine again knocked the Congress for ducking the authorization question for now.

“If Congress isn’t willing to do the hard work – to debate and vote on an authorization – we should not be asking our servicemembers to go into harm’s way,” he said.

Here’s the full text of Kaine’s proposal: Full story

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