Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 2, 2015

April 1, 2015

Menendez Indicted on Federal Corruption Charges (Updated)


The Menendez indictment came down Wednesday. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 8:31 p.m. | After months of rumor and speculation, Sen. Robert Menendez has finally been indicted on corruption charges.

The New Jersey Democrat, who is the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, faces 14 counts related to public corruption, the Department of Justice said Wednesday. Full story

By Niels Lesniewski and Emily Cahn Posted at 4:15 p.m.

Senators Want 2018 World Cup Taken Away From Putin

Menendez and of his colleageus

Menendez and of 12 his colleagues want the 2018 World Cup yanked from Russia. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A bipartisan coalition of 13 senators is asking soccer’s governing body to give consideration to relocating the 2018 World Cup out of Russia, citing the the incursion into the territory of Ukraine.

Led by Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., the group asks FIFA to deny Russian President Vladimir Putin the honor of hosting the soccer tournament.

“Allowing Russia to host the FIFA World Cup inappropriately bolsters the prestige of the Putin regime at a time when it should be condemned and provides economic relief at a time when much of the international community is imposing economic sanctions,” the senators wrote.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 11:36 a.m.
Policy, Potpourri

Meet the New Boss. Not the Same as the Old Boss

Schumer, right, is not like the other Democrats. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Relationships are everything in the Senate, and Charles E. Schumer, the presumptive top Democrat in the next Congress, has them down pat.

“Most senators have been there a while. … They do have these strong relationships, and they’re deep relationships, because they spend a lot of time together,” said former Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Del. Kaufman spent decades observing the chamber as a top aide for Joseph R. Biden Jr., and served alongside Schumer after being appointed to Biden’s Senate seat from 2009 to 2010, after Biden became vice president.

But even in the clubby atmosphere of the Senate, Schumer’s network is particularly deep. Of the 43 Democrats, and two independents who caucus with them, who are not named Schumer, roughly a third were recruited directly by the New Yorker when he ran the party’s campaign arm. Full story

March 31, 2015

Senate Democrats Fall in Behind Schumer

UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 24: Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., talks with a reporter before the Senate policy luncheons in the Capitol, February 24, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Schumer talks with a reporter before the Senate policy luncheons in the Capitol last month. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Charles E. Schumer said last week he had the votes to be the next Senate Democratic leader. By Tuesday, it was clear the New York lawmaker’s colleagues had united behind his bid for the post.

Four days after current Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced he would retire in 2016, a source close to Schumer confirmed he’d received “personal commitments” of support from each of the 42 Senate Democrats who plan to return to Capitol Hill in the 115th Congress. Full story

10 Things We Learned From the Vote-a-Rama


Toomey got attention for changing his vote during last week’s vote-a-rama. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With the vote-a-rama in the rearview mirror, it’s worth taking stock of what the 15-plus hours of nonbinding votes on dozens of amendments said about the 2016 presidential election, how vulnerable senators voted and what issues might now come to the fore. Full story

March 30, 2015

Patty Murray Backs Schumer for Leader

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Murray is backing Schumer for leader. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

BOSTON — Having won the backing of the entire leadership team, New York’s Charles E. Schumer might become the next Senate Democratic leader by acclamation.

Conference Secretary Patty Murray, D-Wash., has joined in endorsing Schumer for the top job when Nevada Democrat Harry Reid retires at the beginning of 2017, according to a Murray aide.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 12:46 p.m.

Remembering Ted Kennedy, in Senate Session of Sorts

From left, Warren, former Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (and son of the late senator) and Sen. Ed Markey talk during a gala that was part of the dedication ceremony for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

BOSTON — “Lord. What an amazing day this has been,” Senate Chaplain Barry Black said, offering an opening prayer for a session of a replica chamber constructed as the centerpiece of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., presided over the session, leading the senators (real or not) in the Pledge of Allegiance. But unlike in the real Senate, the presiding officer got the opportunity to speak.

“It’s good to be almost home,” Biden said. “This replica looks like the actual Senate chamber, and it feels like the real one with Rev. Adm. Black opening us, and once again sitting in front of the Senate parliamentarian who I looked to for guidance for so many years.”

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 9:07 a.m.

Even Senators Are Awestruck by Ted Kennedy’s Senate Chamber

hang out in a life-size replica of the Senate Chamber during a gala that was part of the dedication ceremony for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston, Mass., March 29, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senators Whitehouse and Levin hang out in a life-size replica of the Senate Chamber during a gala that was part of the dedication ceremony for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston on Mar. 29 (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

BOSTON — There are few places in the political world as awe inspiring as the Senate chamber, but there’s now a pretty darn good modern replica that will be a living legacy for the liberal lion, Edward M. Kennedy.

Stepping onto the floor of the replica Senate chamber through the doorway that might be most often used by Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., that is the highlight of the new Edward M. Kennedy Institute is, in a word, surreal.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 8:39 a.m.

March 27, 2015

Harry Reid Biography: The CQ Profile

Senate Minority Leader Reid announced on March 27 that he is bowing out of the Senate at the end of his current term in 2016, ending months of speculation. His 33-year congressional career has spanned five presidents and countless Senate floor debates with rival Republicans.

Reid made his retirement announcement in a three-minute video posted on YouTube and Twitter. On the day he was first sworn into the House in 1983, Time magazine’s cover story explored the advent of the personal computer, which was “beeping its way into offices, schools and homes.”

In the flat, dry voice familiar to a generation of CSPAN viewers, Reid alluded to the New Year’s Day accident on an exercise machine which broke some ribs, bruised his face and forced him to undergo eye surgery. The accident kept him away from the Senate floor for a month and led to increased speculation that he would not run again.

“This accident,” Reid said, “has caused Landra [his wife] and me to have a little down time. I have had time to ponder and to think.”

Reid’s most lasting accomplishment in his final years as majority leader is bound to be the historic vote on Nov. 21, 2013, to change Senate rules and disallow filibusters on nominations other than those to the Supreme Court.

Democrats had grown increasingly frustrated by Republicans blocking President Barack Obama’s nominees, especially to the high-profile U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. After Reid invoked the “nuclear option” rules change, only a 51-vote majority is needed to end debate on nominations, rather than 60 votes.

“The American people believe the Senate is broken, and I believe the American people are right,” Reid said. “It’s time to get the Senate working again, not for the good of the current Democratic majority or some future Republican majority but for the good of the country.”

Reid has had a mostly cordial relationship with GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, but a “gentlemen’s agreement” they struck early in 2011 didn’t hold. Republicans continued to filibuster procedural motions to slow down bills, and Reid often “filled the amendment tree” — a procedure that prevents the minority from proposing changes to bills on the Senate floor. At the start of the 113th Congress in 2013, they agreed on rule changes so that Republicans would be able to offer a minimum number of amendments on bills while giving up some of their power to force procedural votes.

But in his final year as majority leader, Reid seemed to try to shield Democratic senators who were up for reelection in 2014 from having to vote often on amendments that might give their opponents campaign fodder. He also accused the conservative Koch brothers, owners of a Kansas conglomerate, of “trying to buy America, to pump untold millions into our democracy, hoping to get a government that would serve their bottom line and make them more money,”

This apparent strategy did not work, as Democrats lost nine seats and control of the Senate.

Reid himself has always been a fighter. The son of an alcoholic miner and a high-school dropout mother, he grew up in a small town in the Nevada desert and was an amateur middleweight boxer before college and law school and his entry into politics.

Reid had been elected Democratic leader in the Senate in 2005 after Tom Daschle was defeated for reelection in South Dakota. Two years later, he became Majority Leader, enjoying the cooperation of a House also led by Democrats.  He picked up a Democratic president in 2009. Success was defined by holding his party together, and there were impressive results: Using procedural tools and his talents for horse-trading, Reid helped engineer an economic stimulus package and overhauls of the health care system and financial sector regulation.

But last year landscape changed.

In his first press conference after the election, Reid reflected on the defeat. “What we saw in this incredibly difficult election is that people that should have voted, that didn’t vote, are people who needed a reason to vote. And we have to create an atmosphere where the middle class feels that we’re fighting for them.”

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

By Blogs Editors Posted at 2:44 p.m.
Harry Reid

McConnell Praises ‘Son of Searchlight’

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has had no shortage of battles with his Democratic counterpart Harry Reid of Nevada over the years, but when the minority leader announced his retirement Friday, the Kentucky Republican offered kind words.

“Nothing has ever come easily to this son of Searchlight. Underestimated often, his distinctive grit and determined focus nevertheless saw him through many challenges,” McConnell said in a statement. “They continue to make him a formidable opponent today.”

Full story

Reid, Durbin Endorse Schumer as Next Leader (Updated) (Video)

Schumer and Durbin are moving out. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Durbin, left, Schumer, second from right, and Murray, far right, are all candidates to fill Reid’s shoes. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 4:36 p.m. | Some senators and aides may have barely awoken after a late-night budget vote-a-rama by the time not only had the chamber’s minority leader announced his retirement, but the gears were turning toward a succession plan.

In announcing that he would retire at the end of the 114th Congress instead of seeking another term, Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., could have set off a contested race for the top spot in a leadership hierarchy that’s seen very little movement.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 9:34 a.m.
Harry Reid

Senate Budget Passes as Vote-A-Rama Wraps (Updated)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 4:20 a.m. | The Senate approved the GOP’s budget blueprint on a 52-46 vote following an epic vote-a-rama that featured dozens of test votes on everything from carbon taxes to Social Security benefits for same-sex marriages.

Two Republicans eyeing the White House voted no: Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, but otherwise the vote was along party lines.

“By passing a balanced budget that emphasizes growth, common sense and the needs of the middle class, Republicans have shown that the Senate is under new management and delivering on the change and responsible government the American people expect,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement.

“The Democrat-led Senate for years refused not only to pass a balanced budget, but any budget at all. Those days are over, and the proof is passage of a balanced plan with ideas that Congress’ nonpartisan analysts tell us would boost jobs, raise income and drive economic growth,” the Kentucky Republican added.

There were moments of drama, like two vulnerable GOP senators up in 2016 switching their votes to “yes” to back paid sick leave, giving it 61 votes.

Senators even voted to nix their own health insurance benefits on a 52-46 vote around 2:30 a.m. — a vote David Vitter of Louisiana has been seeking for nearly two years, much to the consternation of many of his colleagues.

Earlier the Senate Republicans eyeing the presidency jostled for position on war funding. Full story

Vitter Amendment Rears Its Head in Wee Hours of Vote-a-Rama (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Vitter knows he has better leverage on must-pass legislation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:47 a.m. | Sen. David Vitter won a small victory in the wee hours Friday, resurrecting his amendment to end employer-provided health benefits for members of Congress.

Fourteen hours into the vote-a-rama, 52 senators voted to approve the Louisiana Republican’s proposal. It came first in a series of seven votes wrapping up the marathon session. The nonbinding vote marked Vitter’s latest salvo in an ongoing crusade against congressional enrollment in Obamacare.

“This amendment would say no, we’re going to live by that statute. We’re going to go to the exchange for our health care. No special subsidy, no special deal, and it would also apply to the president, the vice president and their political appointees,” Vitter said, making clear it wouldn’t pertain to congressional aides.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., refuted the idea of there being anything special about getting a health care subsidy.

“Today every single senator is treated like every single person in the country who works for a large employer. Those large employers all make a contribution to their employees’ health care,” Boxer said. “Now colleagues, you do not have to take that employer contribution. If you don’t want it, give it back.”

Boxer added she assumes Vitter pays his subsidy back to the Treasury Department.

One Democrat, Michael Bennet of Colorado, who faces the voters in 2016, joined Vitter, while three Republicans — Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Dan Coats of Indiana — voted no.

Coats announced this week he won’t seek reelection.

As part of his crusade, Vitter has tried to attach the amendment to all kinds of legislation, including a low profile energy efficiency measure. But the senator, who wants to become governor of Louisiana, has learned he has the best leverage with must-pass measures like the budget.

Vitter also tried taking on the House of Representatives, asking Speaker John A. Boehner to help him get information on Congress’ small-business exchange applications. So far, House officials have shrugged off his request, writing it off as an attempt to score political points.

Niels Lesniewski and Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.


Rand Paul Proposes Higher Defense Spending — If It’s Paid for

Voting Marathon: More Test Marketing Than Attack Ads

Vote-a-Rama Presents Political Peril for Vulnerable Incumbents

Start Preparing Now for the Budget Vote-A-Rama

Democrats Outline Floor Strategy for Budget Battle

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

By Hannah Hess Posted at 3:19 a.m.
Budget, Health Care

What Senators Read About During Vote-a-Rama: Iran Deal

One of Iran’s most notable former diplomats, the ex-spokesman for the nation’s nuclear negotiation team, wrote the most popular book spotted on the Senate floor during the annual vote-a-rama. Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 12:50 a.m.
Budget, Iran

March 26, 2015

Same-Sex Marriage Benefits Endorsed on Senate Floor (Updated)

Schatz (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Schatz (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 12:22 a.m. | The Senate endorsed Social Security and veterans benefits for married gay couples Thursday night in a 57-43 vote, with 11 Republicans joining every Democrat.

The amendment slowed down the vote-a-rama, with a group of Republicans huddled in the well and at times talking to sponsor Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.

The nonbinding amendment to the budget resolution still falls short of the 60 votes needed to beat back filibusters in the chamber. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 10:46 p.m.
Budget, LGBT

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