Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 19, 2015

April 17, 2015

Cruz Iran Letter Uses the Royal ‘We’ — Briefly

( Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Cruz has concerns about Iran. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Ted Cruz fired off a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry Friday that declared “we” are making requests for the countries involved in the Iran talks — even though no other senators signed the letter.

The Texas Republican, who is seeking his party’s nomination for president in 2016, said without congressional approval or Senate consent to ratification of a treaty, any final agreement between the P5+1 negotiators and the Iranians could be null and void with a future administration.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 4:17 p.m.
2016, Iran, Ted Cruz

For Lynch, Next Week Just Might Be the Week

Lynch appears to have a narrow majority backing her nomination. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Lynch appears to have a narrow majority backing her nomination. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

At the end of a week that saw bipartisanship break out all around the Senate, Loretta Lynch remained in limbo.

The Thursday afternoon announcement there would be no further Senate votes for the week guaranteed that the Brooklyn-based U.S. attorney, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be attorney general, would enter another week awaiting Senate confirmation. The contrast was on the president’s mind Friday.

“And I have to say that there are times where the dysfunction in the Senate just goes too far. This is an example of it. It’s gone too far. Enough,” Obama said at a news conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. “Call Loretta Lynch for a vote. Get her confirmed. Put her in place. Let her do her job. This is embarrassing, a process like this.”

Full story

Wyden Knows His Challenge on Trade: Fellow Democrats

Wyden is the lead Democrat on Trade Promotion Authority legislation. (Courtesy Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor)

Wyden is the lead Democrat on Trade Promotion Authority legislation. (Courtesy Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor)

“Trade has never been for the faint-hearted,” Sen. Ron Wyden said Friday morning, less than 24 hours after announcing a bipartisan agreement on legislation to promote trade deals.

The Oregon Democrat is in the unenviable position of being his party’s leading voice on Capitol Hill in support of revived fast-track Trade Promotion Authority for President Barack Obama, a position that puts him squarely in line with the White House and most Republicans, but at odds with key parts of the Democratic coalition.

Full story

April 16, 2015

Schumer: McConnell Needs to Learn to ‘Play Ball’

 (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs to learn to “play ball” with Democrats instead of trying to roll them, Sen. Charles E. Schumer said Thursday in a hallway interview. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 12:32 p.m.

Sharpton: Lynch Delay Is ‘an Insult to Every American’

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sharpton is in D.C. pushing for Lynch confirmation. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Rev. Al Sharpton said Thursday that delaying the vote to confirm Loretta Lynch as the next attorney general is unacceptable and rank-and-file senators could face retribution for not pushing for a vote.

Senate Republican leaders have said they intend to address a human trafficking bill before bringing Lynch’s confirmation to a vote, but the bill has been stalled by a standoff over the included abortion language. Senators continue negotiating a way to end the gridlock, but Sharpton said the delay on voting to confirm the first black woman attorney general is unconscionable, considering the tumultuous times. Full story

By Bridget Bowman Posted at 11:58 a.m.

What ‘Abolish the IRS’ Really Means

Lee, left, and Rubio, talked about the 'Abolish the IRS' pitch. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Lee, left, and Rubio, have an ‘Abolish the IRS’ pitch. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“Abolish the IRS” is a popular Republican refrain, getting time on the campaign trail and promotion from the Republican National Committee. But don’t take the catch phrase literally.

Sen. Marco Rubio, the Floridian who aims to be the party standard-bearer in the 2016 presidential contest, effectively conceded Wednesday there’s a bit of hyperbole involved.

Rubio’s partner on a tax code overhaul proposal, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said what conservatives really want is a significantly simpler tax code that would dial back the kind of power the IRS has accumulated.

Full story

April 15, 2015

Graham Questions Why Police Didn’t Shoot Down the Gyrocopter

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Lindsey Graham says the gyrocopter that prompted a security scare after landing on the West Front of the Capitol Wednesday should have been taken out while in the air.

“He should have been subject to being shot out of the sky. I don’t know why he wasn’t, but our nation is under siege. Radical Islam is a threat to our homeland. There are probably radical Islamic cells in our backyard already,” the South Carolina Republican said. “And if somebody is willing to, you know, approach vital government infrastructure, they should do so at their own peril.”

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 8:06 p.m.
2016, Policy

Life as Jon Tester’s Executive Assistant

Tester and Jackson sit down for an interview in the senator's Capitol hideaway. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Tester and Jackson sit down for an interview in the senator’s Capitol hideaway. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

With 14 fingers between them, there’s never a shortage of joke material for Montana Sen. Jon Tester and his executive assistant, Luke Jackson: catching, texting, meat grinders.

During last month’s vote-a-rama — from the couch in Tester’s hideaway office in the bowels of the Capitol to a hallway just off the Senate floor — their laughter made an endless day of nonbinding amendment votes tolerable, at least for one particular hour spent with CQ Roll Call. Full story

April 14, 2015

Rubio, Menendez Quickly Out of the Gate Against Cuba Policy Changes (Video)

Not long after the White House announced the president’s intent to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, Sen. Marco Rubio was out with video responses in English and Spanish decrying the much-anticipated move.

“Well, the decision made by the White House today is a terrible one, but not surprising unfortunately. Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism. They harbor fugitives of American justice, including someone who killed a police officer in New Jersey over 30 years ago. It’s also the country that’s helping North Korea evade weapons sanctions by the United Nations,” Rubio said. “They should have remained on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and I think sends a chilling message to our enemies aboard that this White House is no longer serious about calling terrorism by its proper name.”

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 6:58 p.m.

A Busy and Bipartisan Tuesday

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

For all the talk of the death of bipartisanship, Tuesday’s busy legislative day in the Senate provided quite the counter-argument.

A little more than a day after returning from a two-week recess, the legislative dam burst, with senators making significant headway on sticky issues such as the Iran nuclear deal, a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind law, a replacement for the payment formula for doctors who treat Medicare patients and possibly even the confirmation process for Loretta Lynch, President Barack Obama’s nominee for attorney general. Full story

Walter Isaacson to Speak at Next Bipartisan Senate Lunch

Walter Isaacson, center, will address a bipartisan Senate lunch. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Isaacson, center, will address a bipartisan Senate lunch. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

It is time again for the Senate to get together for a bipartisan lunch.

Noted author Walter Isaacson, the president of the Aspen Institute, is set to speak with senators Wednesday afternoon, according to leadership aides. It follows a similar lunch in early February where senators heard from some of their colleagues new and old about their experiences.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 5:41 p.m.

Unanimous Foreign Relations Vote Puts Iran Bill on Warpspeed

Corker (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Corker claims the White House are “spinning” on perceived adjustments in the legislation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

In the end, it was unanimous.

After weeks of negotiations on language, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee backed legislation to provide for congressional review of any final deal on Iran’s nuclear program on a 19-0 vote, winning the support of senators from Rand Paul, R-Ky., to Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and everyone in between.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 5:07 p.m.

Democrats Rebut McConnell’s Message to States on EPA

Whitehouse led a group of five senators in a letter to 50 governors. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A group of Democratic caucus members in the Senate has asked governors to consider the views of other Kentuckians before taking Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s advice on implementing the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

The Kentucky Republican has espoused the view that states should consider avoiding developing their own plans for implementing the power standards. But the five senators behind Tuesday’s open letter to the governors point out that the Democratic leadership in McConnell’s home state is moving forward with its own EPA plan.

Full story

Watch Live: Senate Committee Debates Iran Nuclear Framework

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee meets Tuesday to mark up Sen. Bob Corker’s legislation creating a 60-day congressional review period of any nuclear agreement reached between Iran, the United States and five other countries.  Full story

Senate’s To-Do List Keeps Getting Longer (Video)

McConnell outlined an extremely busy legislative calendar. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

McConnell outlined an extremely busy legislative calendar. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A debate over Iran may highlight the Senate’s agenda, but it already seems like there might be too much to do.

Sen. Bob Corker’s efforts to get broad support for bipartisan legislation to provide a role for Congress in reviewing a final international agreement with Iran about nuclear weapons appears to have paid dividends. And the Corker legislation seems to be on an expedited path to the floor after a markup set for Tuesday afternoon. Full story

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