Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 6, 2016

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.
Health

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.”

Full story

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.

Full story

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.”

Full story

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.

Full story

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.”
Full story

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.

Full story

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.

Full story

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

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.

Full story

January 28, 2016

Michigan Democrats Want GOP Governor to Lobby for Flint Aid


Schumer, Stabenow and Peters look at poster showing dirty water in Flint during the Senate Democrats' news conference on the lead contaminated drinking water. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Schumer, Stabenow and Peters look at poster showing dirty water in Flint during the Senate Democrats’ news conference on the lead contaminated drinking water. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Michigan’s Democratic senators, who are seeking $600 million in federal dollars to replace Flint’s toxic water pipes and support families affected by lead exposure, are hoping the state’s GOP governor will lobby his Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill to help foot the bill.

Full story

Watch Live: Senate Hearing on Child Migrant Crisis


Protesters swarm buses carrying undocumented migrants for processing at the Murrieta Border Patrol Station in Murrieta, Calif. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Protesters swarm buses carrying undocumented migrants for processing at the Murrieta Border Patrol Station in Murrieta, Calif. (David McNew/Getty Images)

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Investigations holds a hearing on issues with procedures used by the Department of Health and Human Services to handle unaccompanied immigrant children arriving in the United States.

Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services are among the witnesses expected to testify.

Coverage begins at 10 a.m.

Full story

Lawmakers Who’ve Led on Heroin Epidemic Get Hit on It Anyway


From left, Ayotte, Shaheen, Portman and Gov. Peter Shumlin, testify at a Judiciary hearing. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

From left, Ayotte, Shaheen, Portman and Gov. Peter Shumlin testify at a Judiciary hearing. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The mood in the Senate hearing room Wednesday morning was somber as lawmakers pledged bipartisan support to combat the scourge of heroin and prescription drug addiction. But with two of the Senate’s most vulnerable Republicans testifying, the hearing offered the opportunity to demonstrate some passion for an issue voters care about intensely. It also gave Democratic opponents a chance to criticize them. Full story

By Bridget Bowman Posted at 5 a.m.
2016

January 27, 2016

Democrats Seek $400 Million for Flint Repairs


UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER12: Senator-elect Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., does a television interview on the Cannon balcony on Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Peters is hoping for bipartisan support to fix Flint’s water system. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Democrats are seeking as much as $400 million in emergency federal money to fix or replace the corroded pipes polluting the water in Flint, Mich., part of a proposed amendment to the bipartisan energy bill being considered in the Senate.

As drafted, the amendment would require the state of Michigan to match the federal contribution, dollar for dollar, and would give the state greater flexibility to forgive loans for water infrastructure. It would also call for spending $200 million in federal money for a center that would support the children and adults exposed to lead in the tainted water.

Full story

For the Senate, a Breezy Confirmation Vote


Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley and Sen. Orrin G. Hatch both voted for Vazquez. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley and Sen. Orrin G. Hatch both voted for Vazquez. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

This one was easy.

After last week’s relatively dramatic floor vote to confirm Wilhelmina Wright to be a district judge in Minnesota, 58-36, the Senate voted to confirm John Vazquez to be a district judge in New Jersey.

About the only drama in the 84-2 vote was guessing how many senators might miss it due to the ongoing fallout from Winter Storm Jonas and how many of the senators running for president would make it to vote. Although the conservative grass-roots organization Heritage Action for America on Tuesday said it would reserve the right to hold the vote against lawmakers on its legislative scorecard, only two Republicans, James Lankford of Oklahoma and Dan Sullivan of Alaska, voted no. Full story

Heroin Epidemic Hearing Highlights Need for Resources


Ayotte, left, and Shaheen, right, testified at the hearing. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Ayotte, left, and Shaheen, right, testified at the hearing. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Lawmakers, state officials, advocates and law enforcement officers attempting to mitigate the heroin and prescription drug crisis plaguing the country had a message for Congress: We need your help.

“Listen, we need financial help. The states cannot do this alone,” Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, said at a Senate Judiciary hearing Wednesday. He later added, “We’re scraping together pennies to try and make our treatment centers stand on their own.”

Full story

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