Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 21, 2014

Posts by Humberto Sanchez

82 Posts

April 18, 2014

Reid, Heller Still Hope for House Action on Unemployment Extension

heller 01 090811 445x316 Reid, Heller Still Hope for House Action on Unemployment Extension

Heller (Bill Clark/Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 7:36 a.m. April 19 | Top Senate backers of an unemployment extension say there’s still hope for a deal and are working to set up a meeting with Speaker John A. Boehner.

“Our staffs are talking with the speaker’s staff,” Sen. Dean Heller said Friday.

Heller — the Nevada Republican co-author of the bipartisan Senate bill — and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., spoke about unemployment benefits during a joint appearance Friday on KSNV, Las Vegas’ NBC affiliate.

“We will put together a meeting,” Heller said. “We couldn’t get it done before the break.”

The junior Nevada senator reiterated the possibility of compromise, referring to comments made earlier this month by House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, who talked about tying the extension of unemployment insurance benefits to jobs measures and the extension of some tax breaks. Full story

April 14, 2014

‘Nuclear’ Nominations Aftermath Slows Senate to Crawl

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( Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Just how many of President Barack Obama’s nominees will get confirmed this year? If last week is any indication, the answer may depend on whether Democrats once again employ the “nuclear” option to effectively change the Senate’s rules.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made a big deal last week about scheduling nomination votes on the Friday before recess, but with senators in both parties eager to jet out of town, the Nevada Democrat was forced to punt.

“We are slogging through these nominations,” Reid said April 10 on the Senate floor. “It is kind of slow because of the inordinate amount of time that we are caused to eat up.”

Reid pondered on the floor whether he should have gone even further on rules changes last year, given the Republican slow-walking of nominations whose confirmations have become a fait accompli, and he lamented that a minimum wage debate he hoped to have on the Senate floor before the break was delayed as a result. Full story

April 10, 2014

Boxer and Vitter Have Tentative Deal on Highway Bill

boxer001 092513 445x282 Boxer and Vitter Have Tentative Deal on Highway Bill

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With time running out before funding expires for highway and transit programs, key Senate lawmakers announced a deal in principle Thursday for a new six-year highway bill — but still no final plan on how to pay for it.

“We, as leaders of this committee, have worked across party lines before the Highway Trust Fund cannot pay its bills,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said at a news conference.

The trust fund, the collection of gas-tax receipts that fund the nation’s surface transportation programs, is expect to run out of money later this summer.

Boxer and ranking member David Vitter, R-La., said the committee would move to mark up the bill in the next work period after the two-week spring recess.

“What we have is a detailed outline of the next highway bill in terms of policy matters within our jurisdiction,” Vitter said. “Our staff is developing the specific legislative language on all of those points. A lot of it’s done, a lot of it’s being worked on and we expect to be acting on that bill in the next work period after this recess.”

Sens. Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., and John Barrasso, R-Wyo., the chairman and ranking member of the committee’s Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, also signed onto the proposal.

All four members said they want to fix the trust fund at some point to make it self-financing, but said there is not enough time before they must act on the next bill.

“I believe in the trust fund concept and user fees to pay for that and hopefully we can modernize that in the near future,” Vitter said.

Their comments aren’t surprising because giving up on the Highway Trust Fund would reduce the committee’s influence over transportation policy.

While the Environment and Public Works Committee is primarily responsible for drafting the nation’s road construction policy, the Senate Finance Committee is responsible for coming up with how to pay for the bill. The Senate Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over transportation safety programs and the Banking Committee oversees mass transit policy.

The new six-year bill would authorize keeping current funding levels, plus inflation. Boxer said that the measure would need $16 billion a year above what is provided by the Highway Trust Fund, which is facing shortfalls in part due to improving mile-per-gallon standards, which shrinks gas tax receipts.

Boxer said she has spoken to Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and said funding could be tied to a tax overhaul. Boxer and Vitter added that the likeliest offset would be repatriation — allowing corporations to bring overseas profits back into the U.S. at a lower tax rate — which would generate one-time revenue.

“There is nothing written in stone as to how this is going to be done,” Boxer said. “David mentioned repatriation. I think that is one area where there seems to be some interest in that because there are enough funds there to keep this trust fund going.”

Boxer called it a “pragmatic solution.”

Asked if there was any concern a tax overhaul may not happen in time, Boxer said the Finance Committee may be willing to do something without an overall tax rewrite, but stressed that that decision is up to Wyden and the panel.

Wyden declined to discuss any details. “I’ve been talking with [Boxer] about a variety of options, let’s just leave it at that,” he said.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, the ranking member of the Finance Committee, also said talks are ongoing.

“I don’t know that we’ve come up with any way of paying for it, but we are interesting in making sure we do what we can in that area,” Hatch said.

He was skeptical that Congress would be able to change the tax code this year, adding that renewing about 50 expired tax breaks, known as extenders, may be the best that can be done.

“And we’ll be lucky if we can get that,” Hatch added.

April 9, 2014

Fischer Takes GOP Lead in Pay Equity Debate

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Fischer co-authored the GOP’s alternative pay equity bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., likes to tell a story about when she was first elected to the state legislature and a reporter asked if she would focus on women’s issues.

“And I said, ‘Tell me what a women’s issue is,’” Fischer said.

After serving in Nebraska’s unicameral Legislature for eight years, she takes the same approach in the Senate, to which she was elected in 2012.

In a hallway interview Wednesday, she argued that women’s issues are no different from anyone else’s and include creating a strong economy, jobs, building infrastructure and ensuring national security.

“Women want the same thing that men want, so I don’t like being slotted in what’s perceived as a women’s issue because I think women’s issues are the same important issues that everybody in this country is trying to address,” she said.

Her comments come after she helped lead Republican opposition to the Democratic pay equity bill sponsored by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md. Full story

April 8, 2014

Senate GOP Not Sweating Democratic Pay Equity Push (Video)

fischer 080 040814 330x222 Senate GOP Not Sweating Democratic Pay Equity Push (Video)

Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., arrives in the Capitol for the weekly policy luncheons on Tuesday. Fischer co-authored the GOP’s alternative pay equity bill. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Republicans aren’t sweating a ramped-up push by Democrats and President Barack Obama for new pay equity legislation — pushing forward women Republicans to rebut charges they have a woman problem and doubting the issue will resonate with voters.

“I think the Democrats are doing anything they can to try to change the subject from the nightmare of Obamacare and the joblessness that we experience in our country right now,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

But Democrats contend that Senate Republicans ignore the pay equity issue at their political peril come November, with control of the Senate at stake.

“They are out of touch,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of Democratic leadership, said of the GOP after a press conference touting the bill. “They are so in their conservative echo chamber that they don’t know what’s going on in America and that’s going to help us dramatically in 2014.” Full story

April 7, 2014

Reid Takes Umbrage at Former CIA Chief Calling Feinstein ‘Emotional’

feinstein002 031114 330x231 Reid Takes Umbrage at Former CIA Chief Calling Feinstein Emotional

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev, dismissed comments from former Central Intelligence Agency Chief Michael Hayden calling Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., “emotional” regarding a panel report on CIA interrogation.

“This woman has been an outstanding leader of that Intelligence Committee,” Reid said in response to the comments on the Senate floor. “She has been fearless, she has been thorough and fair. And for this man to say that because she criticizes tactics led by Gen. Hayden that was torture she’s being too emotional. I don’t think so. Does this sound like a person or a party that respects women? I don’t think so.”

Reid’s comments were prompted by Hayden’s interview on Fox News Sunday when the issue of a classified committee report on CIA interrogation was discussed. Full story

Senate Passes Unemployment Benefits Extension

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 7:26 p.m. | The Senate approved a bipartisan unemployment benefits extension Monday, with six Republicans joining Senate Democrats to clear the measure.

The measure passed 59 to 38 with all Democrats in attendance voting for the bill. The five Republicans who helped negotiate the measure — Susan Collins of Maine, Dean Heller of Nevada, Mark S. Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rob Portman of Ohio — joined the Democrats voting in favor of the bill along with Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.

Three members did not vote — Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

Final passage of the five-month extension comes after Senate Democrats and six Republicans overcame the last of three Republican filibuster attempts last week, and as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid teed up the vote with another screed against the billionaire Koch brothers.

Reid on Monday tied his war against the Kochs to the fight to restore emergency unemployment insurance benefits that have been cut off since December.

“Americans need a fair shot at getting back on their feet and finding work, but Koch groups are opposing benefits for the unemployed,” Reid said, teeing off on Charles Koch’s letter to the Wall Street Journal saying that “dignity” was under attack by the government.

“What about the dignity of a single mother from Las Vegas, Christina and her son, and see what dignity there is stuck living in her grandmother’s living room because she and her son were evicted when Christina’s benefits were cut off?” Reid fumed. Full story

April 3, 2014

Fort Hood Shooting Has Harry Reid Talking Gun Control Again

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Wednesday shooting at Fort Hood made him wish that Congress would pass expanded background checks for gun purchases.

“As I was told today, this young man bought this gun a day or two before he killed these people,” Reid said. “Couldn’t we at least have background checks so that people who are ill mentally or felons shouldn’t be able to buy a gun? Even [National Rifle Association] members, the majority of them, support that.”

Reid could bring such a bill back to the floor this year.

“I would like to bring it back up; we need some more votes,” he said. Full story

Unemployment Extension Set to Pass After GOP Filibuster Fails

luncheons008 112712 330x226 Unemployment Extension Set to Pass After GOP Filibuster Fails

Heller (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 10:25 p.m. | Senate Republicans failed to block an unemployment extension Thursday, with Democrats putting an end to their filibuster and setting up a final vote on Monday. The cloture tally was 61-35.

Six Republican joined all of the Democrats to beat back the filibuster attempt: Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Dean Heller of Nevada, Mark S. Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rob Portman of Ohio.

The vote comes after a deal on a vote for a GOP-catchall amendment to speed ahead toward final passage Thursday instead of next week fell apart. But after beating back the GOP’s third attempt to filibuster the measure, final passage in the Senate at least is now effectively assured, with a mere simple majority required.

But the bill still faces tough sledding in the House, with Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, slamming the Senate bill as “unworkable.”

At a press conference after the vote Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., urged the House to take up the bill despite Boehner’s reservations.

Heller said he hoped Portman’s backing could help sway Boehner, a friend from Portman’s days in the House.

“I think with Portman’s support on the legislation, that is good for Ohio, and the speaker being from Ohio, maybe that sends a message there also,” Heller said.

Heller also noted that he will try to meet with Boehner to discuss the issue with him. Full story

Republicans Offer Deal on Unemployment Extension Vote

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(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated, 3:34 p.m. | Senate Democratic leaders are weighing an offer from Senate Republicans to agree to a vote on one catchall amendment, including authorization of the Keystone XL pipeline, in exchange for finishing work on an unemployment insurance extension bill today.

A senior Senate Democratic aide said they believe wrapping several Republican amendments into one has the effect of “watering down” their efforts to score political points.

“The fact that we are considering this at all, I think, shows that their gotcha amendments have lost their punch,” the aide continued.

The proposal would likely have a 60-vote threshold, the aide said, but stressed it was still being finalized. Passage of the amendment would be unlikely since Democrats control 55 votes in the chamber. Full story

April 2, 2014

Minimum Wage Compromise Faces Long Odds

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Susan Collins is fighting an uphill battle to get Democrats and Republicans to back a minimum wage compromise.

Democratic leaders so far are sticking to the $10.10-an-hour wage they’re proposing, while many Republicans, including more moderate lawmakers, say they are likely to filibuster the bill.

But the moderate Maine Republican says she’s leading a bipartisan group of senators hoping to strike a deal.

“We’re continuing to talk about the potential elements of a new compromise that would have a more reasonable, affordable increase in the minimum wage that would still help a lot of low-income families and yet not cause the tremendous job losses that the [Congressional Budget Office] says would occur if the minimum wage were raised to $10.10 an hour,” Collins said. Full story

Unemployment Extension Bill Advances Narrowly in Senate

reid 020 040114 445x320 Unemployment Extension Bill Advances Narrowly in Senate

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 2 p.m. | The Senate’s deal to revive an extension of unemployment benefits passed a key procedural test — barely — Wednesday morning.

Senators voted to limit debate 61-38 — and thus get beyond any filibuster threats — on the five-month deal hashed out by a coalition led by Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R -Nev.

Six Republicans joined with all of the Democrats — Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Dean Heller of Nevada, Mark S. Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rob Portman of Ohio. Portman and Kirk had voted to filibuster a deal in February. Four Republicans who had voted to bring the bill to the floor last week switched and voted to filibuster the deal Wednesday: Dan Coats of Indiana, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania.

The procedural vote required the agreement of 60 senators.

Full story

April 1, 2014

Unemployment Extension Set to Pass, But GOP Digging in on Minimum Wage, Pay Equity

mental health presser006 121813 445x293 Unemployment Extension Set to Pass, But GOP Digging in on Minimum Wage, Pay Equity

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans say they might block consideration of minimum wage and pay equity bills after Senate Democrats moved to block GOP amendments to the unemployment extension bill expected to pass later this week.

Republicans are upset at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for clamping down on amendments on the unemployment benefits extension. And they’re concerned Democrats are going to do the same on the minimum wage and pay equity bills to come.

As a result, some GOP leaders said they could vote to block those bills from coming up for debate.

“I think a lot of it is going to depend on whether or not they allow us to vote on things that we are for,” said Republican Conference Chairman John Thune, R-S.D. Full story

March 31, 2014

Reid: Unemployment Benefits Extension Will Pass This Week (Updated)

Updated 7:31 p.m. | Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., predicted Senate passage of a bipartisan unemployment insurance benefits extension this week, and urged action by the Republican-run House.

“I’m confident we will pass this legislation here in the Senate this week here and hopefully the Republicans in the House will have the soft hearts and strong minds to pass it over there,” Reid said on the Senate floor Monday. “It’s in their hands.”

“This is a matter of significant importance for millions of Americans,” Reid noted. Full story

CBO Calls Baloney on Using War Money to Pay Medicare Docs (Updated)

Updated 3:54 p.m. | Congressional budget scorekeepers don’t sound impressed with using projected savings from not fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to prevent slashing paychecks for doctors.

In a cost estimate released Monday, the Congressional Budget Office explained that $601 billion in projected savings from limits on the Overseas Contingency Operations account might never be spent anyway, and noted there’s no funding currently provided for the OCO funding.

“As a result, reductions relative to the baseline might simply reflect policy decisions that have already been made and that would be realized even without such funding constraints. Moreover, if future policymakers believed that national security required appropriations above the capped amounts, they would almost certainly provide emergency appropriations that would not, under current law, be counted against either the existing caps on discretionary funding or the proposed new caps on funding for overseas contingency operations.”

Full story

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