Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
May 27, 2015

May 27, 2015

Menendez, McCain Sent Letter to FIFA Just Before Indictments

McCain says Obama's "shameful" decision to pull troops from Iraq years ago led to the loss of Ramadi. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

McCain joined with Menendez in sending a letter to FIFA on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Well, this timing was prescient.

On Tuesday afternoon, Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and John McCain, R-Ariz., fired off a letter to the FIFA Congress encouraging the international soccer governing body to reconsider granting a fifth term at the helm to President Sepp Blatter.

The election had been scheduled for later this week at a meeting in Switzerland, but that plan may have to change after Swiss law enforcement agents swept through a hotel where top FIFA authorities gathered to round up officials on criminal charges in the United States, as The New York Times reported from Zurich.

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Trade Votes Play Big in 2016 Politics

Portman took an unusual route to backing the fast-track trade bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Portman took an unusual route to backing the fast-track Trade Promotion Authority bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rob Portman isn’t a bomb thrower. But his pitch last week for an amendment cracking down on countries that artificially weaken their currencies threatened to blow up President Barack Obama’s trade agenda, and exposed a deep split in approaches among Republicans who face the voters in 2016.

A trio of Rust Belt Senate Republicans — Ohio’s Portman, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania — ended up voting for Trade Promotion Authority, backing Obama, Republican leadership and a top priority of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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May 22, 2015

Senate Passes Trade Promotion Authority (Updated)

Portman's currency amendment, which has drawn a veto threat, failed.(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc.

Rob Portman’s currency amendment, which drew a veto threat, failed. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc.

Updated 10:20 p.m. | The Senate passed President Barack Obama’s Trade Promotion Authority package Friday, sending the precursor to major trade deals with Asia and Europe to the House.

The package survived a near-death experience Thursday, with the Senate voting narrowly to cut off a filibuster in an extended vote, and again Friday, when the Senate narrowly rejected a bipartisan currency enforcement amendment that had drawn a veto threat. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 9:29 p.m.
Trade

After Rand Paul’s Objections, Patriot Act Lurches Toward Expiration (Updated)

Rand Paul blocked a Patriot Act extension when he couldn't get votes on his amendments. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Paul blocked a Patriot Act extension when he couldn’t get votes on his amendments. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated May 23, 2 a.m. | The Senate failed to advance even a one-day extension of the Patriot Act surveillance authorities early Saturday, with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., leading bipartisan objections to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in an extraordinary sequence.

The end result is that the Senate will reconvene for legislative business at 4 p.m. on May 31, staring down a midnight deadline to reauthorize the programs in question, including some far less contentious than the bulk data collection that’s gotten most of the attention. Full story

Currency Amendment Killed on Trade Promotion Authority Bill (Updated)

Portman hasn't pressured Boehner to vote on an unemployment extension 2014. Unemployment Benefits.

Portman’s currency amendment to the Trade Promotion Authority package was narrowly defeated. It had drawn a veto threat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 9:21 p.m. | The Senate approved the “fast track” trade legislation by a vote of 62-37 late Friday evening.

It was a bumpy ride for the trade bill that endured one filibuster and a contentious amendment on currency manipulation enforcement, but ultimately the bill passed by a wide margin and at a relatively early time.

Updated 7:54 p.m. | In a major victory for the White House, opponents of a currency manipulation amendment to the fast track Trade Promotion Authority bill narrowly prevailed late Friday.

Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., sponsored the amendment, which would have strengthened enforcement against other nations considered to be manipulating their currency. The two senators pushed hard, but narrowly lost, 48-51.

“If this fast track trade bill passes the Senate, it is deeply disturbing that it will not include language needed to protect American workers and businesses,” Stabenow said in a statement prior to the vote on final passage. “It’s up to us to decide whether America is leading the race to the top, or if we’re racing to the bottom. Unfortunately, today’s vote is a major step in the wrong direction.” Full story

By Matthew Fleming Posted at 6:26 p.m.
Trade

Currency Amendment Could Derail ‘Fast-Track’ Deal

Portman, R-Ohio, talks with reporters after the Senate policy luncheons in the Capitol, May 5, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc.

Portman wants tougher enforcement of currency rules in the proposed trade deal. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Supporters of the Senate’s “fast-track” trade bill that will be voted on sometime Friday are taking seriously the threat of one amendment they fear will derail the whole thing.

The amendment offered by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., would strengthen enforcement against other nations considered to be manipulating their currency, which could tip trade deals in the offender’s favor. Full story

Cruz, Rubio Team Up on Iran

Rivals and allies, Cruz and Rubio are demanding the Pentagon report on Iranian military capabilities. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rivals and allies, Cruz and Rubio are demanding the Pentagon report on Iranian military capabilities. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rival Republican presidential candidates Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida are teaming up on Iran.

The duo, along with Georgia GOP Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, are demanding a report on Iranian military power from the Pentagon.

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May 21, 2015

Administration Ramps Up NSA Pitch as Burr Makes New Offer

Burr has a new proposal to extend the NSA's bulk surveillance powers by two years. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Burr has a new proposal to extend the NSA’s bulk surveillance powers by two years. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As the Senate Intelligence chairman floated a new proposal, the Obama administration is warning senators against doing anything other than clearing the USA Freedom Act.

A senior administration official said late Thursday that even adopting a short-term extension of the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act could set up a “very uncertain future for these national security authorities.”

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Trade Deal Tees Up Export-Import Bank Vote

Cantwell helped secure a commitment for a vote on reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, important for Boeing and Washington state. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Cantwell secured a commitment for a vote on reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, important for Boeing, a major employer in Washington state. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Trade proponents could exhale a small sigh of relief Thursday as a trade bill, supported primarily by President Barack Obama and Senate Republicans, cleared another procedural hurdle.

There was great doubt whether the bill could clear a 60-vote threshold, and it was a side deal over the unrelated Export-Import Bank that carried it through. Full story

By Matthew Fleming Posted at 7:02 p.m.
Trade

McConnell Says Senate Could Finish Friday ‘With Cooperation’ (Video)

The Kentucky senators are at odds on the NSA surveillance issue. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Kentucky senators Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell might want to have a chat about the schedule. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The senior senator from Kentucky might need to have a little chat with the junior senator from Kentucky.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said late Thursday the Senate could finish its work on trade, Patriot Act surveillance authority and a highway patch by close of business Friday. That would let lawmakers make it to their home states well in advance of the Memorial Day parades.

But that would require “cooperation” that at this point is nowhere to be found, principally because of Sen. Rand Paul’s threat of maximum obstruction of any extension of the NSA’s surveillance powers. Full story

Intelligence Chairman Doubts Either NSA Bill Has 60 Votes

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Burr doesn’t see either NSA surveillance bill getting through the Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“Fortunately, I’m not the one that’s responsible for counting the votes,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday when asked about Congress possibly moving a shorter-term extension of expiring Patriot Act surveillance powers.

Earnest is indeed fortunate on this one, because the people involved in the debate on Capitol Hill seem to have no idea what the endgame looks like with House members already having left town for Memorial Day recess, and the Senate’s supposed to start in just days.

Intelligence Chairman Richard M. Burr, R-N.C., has been backing a two-month extension of all of the surveillance powers under the Patriot Act that are set to lapse by June 1, including the bulk collection of telephone records.

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Trade Promotion Authority Clears Senate Hurdle

Coons voted "yes" to on the cloture vote on the TPA package. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Coons voted “yes” to on the cloture vote on the TPA package. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama’s Trade Promotion Authority package survived a near-death experience Thursday, with the Senate voting narrowly to cut off a filibuster in an extended vote.

Eight holdouts all voted “yes” at the end after a deal was cut on the Export-Import Bank, after the vote stalled at 54-38 for a significant period of time. The final vote was 62-38, topping the 60 votes needed.

Full story

By Matthew Fleming Posted at 10:57 a.m.
Trade

May 20, 2015

Just Before Midnight, Rand Paul Ends ‘Filibuster’ (Updated)

Rand Paul's "filibuster" led to a long day in the Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rand Paul’s “filibuster” led to a long day in the Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated May 21, 7:18 a.m. | Sen. Rand Paul continued to speak until almost midnight — and his campaign operation continued to solicit fundraising dollars — on the most eventful day of waiting the Senate’s seen in a while.

By the time he yielded the floor after roughly 10 and a half hours, the Kentucky Republican had many colleagues join him on the floor. After finishing, Paul told a small gaggle of reporters who had stayed until the end that he seized an opportunity earlier in the day, and said he didn’t advise Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., before doing so.

“I didn’t tell him or anything because obviously if they block you from the floor, you can’t take the floor. So, I had to wait my turn and hope nobody would block me,” Paul said.

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As Many #StandWithRand, Edward Snowden Sits Alone

Rand Paul launched an attempt to filibuster an extension of NSA surveillance powers Wednesday, but doesn't back clemency for Edward Snowden, the contractor who exposed the scope of the programs. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rand Paul launched an attempt to filibuster an extension of NSA surveillance powers Wednesday, but doesn’t back clemency for Edward Snowden, the contractor who exposed the scope of the programs. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

If time heals all wounds, then Edward Snowden needs more time to get right in Washington.

Snowden is exiled in Russia, having been charged with espionage and no sign that President Barack Obama will grant him clemency.

On Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul launched a long floor speech hoping to end the bulk data collection programs that Snowden exposed. Most of the bipartisan coalition of senators who aided Paul in relief did so while promoting a bill that would end one of the programs — the one collecting telephone metadata. And a few weeks ago, a federal court ruled the program violated the law.

But still, Snowden still sits alone. No senators on Wednesday said their perception of the former National Security Agency contractor had softened or changed since he two years ago leaked to the media data exposing the scope of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.

Comments around the Senate ranged from outright contempt to calling him a criminal whose actions may have led to some good. But no one defended him. Full story

Stabenow: Opponents ‘Have to Deal With’ Currency Amendment on Trade

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Stabenow is insisting on a simple majority vote on the currency amendment she cosponsored with Portman. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Whenever the Senate’s able to vote to limit debate on the pending trade legislation, senators will still have to tackle a tough amendment about currency manipulation.

And the supporters of the amendment, led by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., about the inclusion of enforceable currency provisions in trade agreements, have no reason to make their proposal easier to defeat by agreeing to a 60-vote super majority threshold.

Full story

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