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October 31, 2014

October 31, 2014

Democrat Wants Elizabeth Warren to Dethrone Harry Reid as Leader (Updated)

banking004 070814 1 445x295 Democrat Wants Elizabeth Warren to Dethrone Harry Reid as Leader (Updated)

One Senate Democratic candidate wants Elizabeth Warren to dethrone Harry Reid as majority leader. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 1:56 p.m. | Democratic South Dakota Senate candidate Rick Weiland ramped up his effort to oust Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Friday kicking off a campaign to recruit Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., or anyone else to challenge Reid.

“This is a fight I intend to continue no matter how long it takes because it is a fight for the new leadership the Congress must have if the larger battle to drive big money out of Congress, and thus open the door to progress for all of America, is to succeed,” Weiland said in a release.

Warren has energized the progressive wing of Senate Democrats, although she has GOP admirers too.

She’s been a sought-after draw as a surrogate on the campaign trail this year in a way that neither Reid nor President Barack Obama has been, with continued speculation despite her denials that she could run for president in 2016. There hasn’t been much talk of her taking on Reid.

Weiland’s comments come after he said during a recent debate that he would not support Reid for leader and challenged his opponent Republican Mike Rounds to oppose Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., should Rounds prevail. Full story

By Humberto Sanchez Posted at 1:24 p.m.
Harry Reid

October 30, 2014

McCain, Graham and Rubio: No Executive Immigration Relief

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Three Republican architects of the Senate’s immigration bill are warning President Barack Obama not to give relief without Congress to immigrants here illegally, warning that would “open the floodgates” to more illegal immigration.

“We write to you today to strongly discourage such action,” John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida said in a letter Thursday.

“Providing legal status by executive order to people who entered this country unlawfully will only incentivize illegal immigration and open the floodgates to more visa overstays and illegal entries over our southern border,” the letter continued. Full story

The Attack Ads Harry Reid Didn’t Want You to See

luncheons015 060413 445x295 The Attack Ads Harry Reid Didnt Want You to See

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Harry Reid’s strategy of blocking amendments all year was intended with one clear objective in mind — protecting his majority.

Republicans have complained vociferously about the Senate majority leader shutting down amendments — but behind the scenes, the Nevada Democrat’s senators asked him to do so for a very simple reason: Nobody wants to give an opponent fodder for 30-second ads in a tough election year.

Reid’s strategy had a downside, because Democrats had fewer opportunities to show their independence from an unpopular president.

But aside from that attack, Republicans have been left mostly to mine earlier votes from, for instance, the 2013 budget resolution vote-a-rama — or for parts of the Affordable Care Act they voted for years ago.

Here are some of the subjects — and TV attack lines — Reid’s strategy sought to avoid: Full story

October 29, 2014

Reid Sends Late Gift to Begich

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is giving endangered Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, a legislative gift ahead of next week’s election.

Reid sent Begich a letter dated Oct. 28 saying he plans to hold a vote in the lame duck on a Begich bill funding veterans programs.

“As I plan our Senate agenda for November, I recall our conversations about veterans and your advocacy for their rights,” Reid said in a short Oct. 28 letter to Begich. “With Veterans Day approaching, I have decided that your bipartisan bill…will be taken up by the Senate for vote. It is indeed the right thing for our nation’s veterans.”

“Your have been a tireless advocate for Alaskas’s 73,000 veterans and veterans throughout the country,” Reid continued. “Your important bill will go a long way to ensuring secure funding for America’s veterans.”

The letter comes as Begich is in a difficult race to retain his seat to represent a GOP-leaning state and in the second midterm of an unpopular Democratic president. The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rates the race against Republican Dan Sullivan as a Tossup/Tilts Republican.

In an editorial in Roll Call Oct. 1 — the anniversary of the last government shutdown — Begich argued that the bill would shield veterans from the politics that arise in the appropriations process and any potential future shutdowns, by funding veterans’ need in advance. Full story

October 28, 2014

McConnell: Obamacare Repeal Will Take 60 Votes (Updated)

mcconnell 016 040114 445x312 McConnell: Obamacare Repeal Will Take 60 Votes (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 9:35 p.m. | Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says Republicans won’t be able to repeal Obamacare anytime soon.

Tempering the expectations of conservatives a week before the elections that could install him as the first Republican majority leader in eight years, the Kentucky Republican said in a Fox News interview Tuesday a repeal of the health care law simply wasn’t in the cards for now.

He wasn’t telling Fox News anything that close observers of the Senate and the budget process didn’t already know, but it serves as a reminder of the limitations Republicans should expect even if they net six or seven seats, given the obvious reality that President Barack Obama is still in the White House.

McConnell said repealing Obamacare remains at the top of his priority list.

“But remember who’s in the White House for two more years. Obviously he’s not going to sign a full repeal, but there are pieces of it that are extremely unpopular with the American public and that the Senate ought to have a chance to vote on,” he said.

McConnell also noted Democrats could filibuster a repeal effort.

“It would take 60 votes in the Senate. No one thinks we’re going to have 60 Republicans, and it would take a presidential signature,” McConnell said. “I’d like to put the Senate Democrats in the position of voting on the most unpopular parts of this law and see if we can put it on the president’s desk.”

That suggests McConnell isn’t about to pull a nuclear option of his own and do away with the filibuster just for the sake of repealing the law.

Republicans including McConnell have talked about rolling back much of the Affordable Care Act through the budget reconciliation process — which would allow them to bypass a filibuster. That route is difficult to traverse and forbids the inclusion of items that are not budget-related. Such a bill could also still be vetoed, making the whole process a symbolic exercise without a Republican president.

Other smaller pieces might get super-majorities, such as repealing the 2 percent excise tax on medical devices. McConnell also mentioned nixing the individual mandate as another target.

McConnell again suggested Republicans would try to use the appropriations bills to rein in the Obama administration.

Asked about what a GOP-led Senate might do to blunt executive action on immigration policy that President Barack Obama is planning, McConnell used the example of environmental regulations.

“I think it’s a bad mistake for the president to try and assume powers for himself that many people feel he should not be assuming. You know, we’ve seen that on full display with the EPA and the war on coal,” McConnell said. “That’s not a result of any legislation that Congress passed. It’s just something the president wants to do on his own and uses the people who work for him to achieve. I think that’s a big mistake.”

Those spending restrictions could get to Obama’s desk, leaving the president to decide whether to use his veto authority.

Speaking to Fox from the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky., during a campaign stop, McConnell counted the potential move on immigration as one such mistake. McConnell himself must overcome a challenge from Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, with a variety of public and internal polls showing the race competitive in the closing week. The Kentucky Senate race is rated Leans Republican by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

“If the American people do change the Senate, and give the Republicans control of Congress, we certainly are, through the spending process, going to try to restrain the overactive bureaucracy that’s been attacking virtually every business in America,” McConnell said. “And we intend to push back against executive orders that we think aren’t warranted by … trying to control the amount of money that is allocated.”

But there’s only so much the GOP is going to be able to accomplish.

“He is the president of the United States, and he’ll be there until January 2017,” McConnell said of Obama.

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Reid Returns to Washington, Daughter Undergoing Surgery

reid 090 090914 445x288 Reid Returns to Washington, Daughter Undergoing Surgery

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., unexpectedly returned to Washington from his home state due to a family emergency.

“Senator Reid’s daughter, Lana who resides in the Washington DC area, unexpectedly became ill with a serious medical condition that requires surgery,” Reid spokeswoman Kristen Orthman said in an email. “She is receiving treatment in Washington DC so Senator Reid flew back from Nevada to be with her.”

Full story

Democrats Run From Harry Reid

Harry Reid’s caucus is running from him on the campaign trail, but that doesn’t mean a revolt is in the works — yet.

The majority leader has twisted the Senate into a pretzel all year to protect his vulnerable members, but the Nevada Democrat is now facing skepticism on the campaign trail from some of those same Democrats, as well as from some would-be newcomers. And there’s at least one scenario that could force his hand.

Still, there’s that old saying: You can’t beat somebody with nobody, and so far, none of the senators who might have the chops to take on Reid have made any noises about doing so. Full story

October 22, 2014

Coburn’s ‘Wastebook’ Targets Include Mountain Lions, Sheep, Beer (Video)

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Coburn, pictured here unveiling the 2013 Wastebook. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Tom Coburn and his investigators have been busy in their most recent effort to unveil what they view as government waste and abuse.

The 2014 edition of the Oklahoma Republican’s annual “Wastebook” runs almost 250 pages and features more than 1,100 footnotes. It’s presumably the last such report Coburn will issue from his Senate perch, as he’s resigning his seat early at the end of the current Congress.

As in previous editions, the report highlights billions of dollars of projects that Coburn views as wasteful government spending.

“This report, the fifth annual Wastebook, gives a snapshot of just a fraction of the countless frivolous projects the government funded in the past twelve months with borrowed money and your tax dollars,” Coburn wrote in the report’s introduction. “Every year taxpayers, regardless of their personal political leanings, raise their eyebrows and shake their heads in disbelief at how billions of dollars that could be been better spent — or not spent at all — were squandered.” Full story

October 21, 2014

10 Questions for Eric Holder’s Replacement as Attorney General

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Cruz, left, and Sessions both sit on the Judiciary Committee and will have a change to grill the nominee for attorney general. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Eric H. Holder Jr.’s replacement as attorney general will face a grilling from the Senate Judiciary Committee after the elections, with the position key to enabling President Barack Obama’s pen-and-phone executive agenda and with numerous hot-button issues under the purview of the Justice Department.

The nominee to replace Deputy Attorney General James Cole, who is also leaving, will also face much the same treatment.

Here are 10 questions the nominees will likely hear:

1. What is the limit of the president’s executive authority on immigration? Full story

October 20, 2014

Mikulski Sets Senate Ebola Hearing Two Days After Elections (Updated)

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Mikulski will hold a post-election Ebola hearing. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 2:15 p.m. | As the threat of the Ebola virus in the United States appears to be easing, Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski announced she would hold a hearing on the issue two days after voters are scheduled to go to the polls.

The hearing is set for Nov. 6, and would be the first in the Democratic-run Senate since the first U.S. Ebola case was discovered in Dallas. The hearing could take on increased urgency if the Obama administration follows through on sending over a supplemental spending request. A Democratic aide said appropriators were told to expect a request for Ebola funding as soon as this week but did not have any details on its scope or whether it would be designated as emergency funding.

Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, the top Republican on the subcommittee that funds the Department of Health and Human Services, has been pushing for a new hearing on Ebola. Moran visited the University of Kansas hospital last week, where he said the situation had changed since a joint hearing last month of the Appropriations subcommittee and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Full story

October 16, 2014

Vitter: Fire CDC’s Frieden, Impose Ebola Quarantine

David Vitter 15 041813 445x268 Vitter: Fire CDCs Frieden, Impose Ebola Quarantine

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is calling for firing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden over the response to the Ebola virus and for imposing travel restrictions in Africa.

“The CDC Director’s response to the spread of the Ebola virus has been nothing short of pathetic,” Vitter said in a release. “President [Barack] Obama needs to fire him, put someone strong and competent in charge, and impose travel restrictions into the U.S. – all immediately. That sort of quarantine action was an essential part of the eradication of the late 1970s Ebola outbreak in Africa.”

Earlier today, Vitter testified at a Louisiana House of Representatives Homeland Security hearing in Baton Rouge, La., where he recommended that the Louisiana state representatives submit a flight restriction request to the CDC.

Obama plans to call members of Congress today to consult with them on Ebola, but so far he retains confidence in Frieden and is not considering a travel ban.

You can watch Frieden’s testimony today here.

 

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By Humberto Sanchez Posted at 3:46 p.m.
Ebola

Democrats Press Homeland Security on Massive Immigrant Detention Center

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Johnson faces pressure from top Democrats concerned about plans to build a 2,400-bed detention center for illegal immigrants in Texas. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 5:04 p.m. | A group of 10 Democratic Senators, including the party’s leaders, raised concerns with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson over plans for a massive new detention facility for immigrants here illegally.

“This decision threatens to make permanent a practice of presumptive detention for families and marks a reversal of this administration’s family detention policy,” the letter said.

“We fear that the result will be the ongoing detention of asylum-seeking women and children who have shown a credible fear of being returned to their home country and pose no flight risk or danger to the community,” the letter continued. “We are particularly concerned with the negative consequences of long-term detention on the physical and mental well-being of young children.” Full story

Durbin Hopes Tide Turning Against Corporate Inversions

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., is hoping the tide is turning against corporate inversions — a practice aimed at minimizing U.S. taxes by merging with overseas firms.

After taking to the Senate floor to shame Chicago-based pharmaceutical company AbbVie into changing it’s plans to merge with an Irish firm, Durbin welcomed news of AbbVie’s waffling.

“I’m encouraged by reports that AbbVie will reconsider its decision to move its tax address out of the United States,” Durbin said in a release.

AbbVie’s initial decision to merge was spurred by a provision in the tax code — known as a corporate inversion — that permits companies to join with foreign, and often times smaller, firms. The resulting new companies then base themselves abroad, where taxes can be lower than in the U.S., and thereby avoid paying taxes that U.S.-based firms would have to pay. Full story

By Humberto Sanchez Posted at 10:01 a.m.
Taxes

October 15, 2014

McConnell Says CDC Should Get Money Needed to Battle Ebola

If federal health agencies under President Barack Obama want more money to fight Ebola, they should get it, according to the Senate’s top Republican.

“I think they should have anything they want. The president asked for $88 million a few weeks ago, we gave it to him,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told MSNBC. “Whatever the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] thinks they need, we’ll give it to them.”

Full story

Barney Frank’s Advice for Mitch McConnell

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Frank has advice for McConnell. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former Rep. Barney Frank has some words of wisdom for Sen. Mitch McConnell, should the Kentucky Republican claim the majority leader’s job in January.

“I think his choice will be whether or not he’s going to govern responsibly. It’s one thing to be in opposition and try to undercut the government. But when you’re a majority leader, I think you have a responsibility to do some things that might not be popular,” Frank said. “That’s not just a matter of his duty, it’s an electoral thing. I think if he becomes majority leader and does not stand up to his more right-wing elements, it’s going to be bad for his party as well as for the country.

Full story

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