Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 23, 2014

Posts by Humberto Sanchez

190 Posts

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

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(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 10, 2014

Senate GOP Leaders Hit the Campaign Trail (Updated)

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Barrasso and Thune are among the GOP leaders hitting the stump to try and win the majority. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 2:38 p.m.| With the majority hanging on a handful of Senate races, Republican leaders not facing re-election have been fanning out across the nation to help stump for their candidates.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas have been focused on their re-election campaigns, though Cornyn, who has an easier race, has traveled to raise money for Senate Republican contenders.

But Republican Conference Chairman John Thune of South Dakota, Conference Vice Chairman Roy Blunt of Missouri and Policy Committee Chairman John Barrasso of Wyoming have all been active as well in trying to give GOP candidates the edge in intensely contested races.

Barrasso has been particularly energized, but he is not expected to seek a different post within the Senate Republican leadership, such as the chairmanship of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. He plans to keep his leadership slot chairing the Policy Committee, according to a Republican source. Full story

October 7, 2014

IRS Warns Senate Tax Refunds Could Be Delayed

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Wyden says the IRS has warned him refunds could be delayed if Congress doesn’t act quickly on tax extenders. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

There’s another reason to be displeased with congressional gridlock.

IRS Commissioner John A. Koskinen is warning Congress that passing tax legislation reviving expired tax breaks — known as tax extenders — in December or later could delay refunds for millions. And if the legislation is passed retroactively in 2015, it could force millions to file amended tax returns, he warned in letters to top lawmakers. He urged them to pass the legislation by the end of November.

Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., seized on the letter Tuesday to push for swift passage of his two-year tax package known as the EXPIRE Act.

The Finance Committee passed the package in April but it stalled on the floor in May after Finance Committee ranking member Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, sought to attach a provision repealing the medical device tax, which helps fund the Affordable Care Act.

“It has been over six months since the Finance Committee passed the EXPIRE Act with strong bipartisan support,” Wyden said. “As the 2015 filing season begins to loom large, it is more urgent than ever that Congress moves in a decisive and bipartisan way to renew expired tax provisions that will give taxpayers the certainty they need to plan their finances.”
Full story

By Humberto Sanchez Posted at 4:59 p.m.
Taxes

October 2, 2014

Toomey Blasts College for Inviting Mumia Abu-Jamal to Speak

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Patrick J. Toomey blasted a Vermont college for choosing Mumia Abu-Jamal to give the commencement address and urged the invitation be rescinded.

“I cannot fathom how anyone could think it appropriate to honor a cold-blooded murderer — one who ambushed a police officer, shot that officer in the back, and while that officer lay wounded and defenseless on the ground, lowered a gun to the officer’s face and took his life. Abu-Jamal has never apologized or expressed any regret for his heinous crime,” the Pennsylvania Republican said in a letter to Robert Kenny, Goddard College’s interim president.

Abu-Jamal, a Goddard alumnus, is a black nationalist who was convicted and sentenced to death in 1982 for the murder of white Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. After a lengthy appeals process, prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty, but Abu-Jamal remains in prison without the possibility of parole. Full story

By Humberto Sanchez Posted at 1:22 p.m.
Potpourri

September 26, 2014

Inhofe Holds Up Ebola Funding, Seeks Details on Protecting Soldiers (Updated)

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(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:55 p.m.| Senate Armed Services ranking member James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., is holding up most of a $1 billion request from the White House to combat the Ebola virus outbreak in Africa until the administration proposes a plan to keep soldiers from contracting the illness. Full story

September 22, 2014

Before Approving ISIS War, Menendez Wants Intelligence Briefing (Video)

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Ranking member Bob Corker, left, and Menendez listen as Kerry testifies about the ISIS threat (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The senator leading a push to authorize the war against ISIS after the elections wants an intelligence briefing first, so lawmakers know the full extent of the covert operations already under way.

Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez aired his frustrations last week when Secretary of State John Kerry came to testify before his old committee about the administration’s plans to fight the terror group known as ISIS or ISIL.

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., asked about published reports of covert efforts to train Syrian rebels.

“I know it’s been written about in the public domain, that there is, quote, ‘a covert operation.’ But … I can’t confirm or deny whatever that’s been written about and I can’t really go into any kind of possible program,” Kerry responded.

That prompted Menendez to chime in shortly afterward, saying the committee’s inability to get access to information about covert operations was an issue with both the Obama administration and the Senate itself. He questioned how the panel could properly draft a new Authorization for Use of Military Force without such details. Full story

September 17, 2014

Tom Coburn Won’t Be Going Away Quietly

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Tom Coburn is retiring at the end of this Congress, but the Oklahoma Republican has put the word out that he isn’t likely to let the Senate have its end-of-session legislative feeding frenzy.

Thursday may be the last day of the work period before the elections and, as usual, some senators are making a final push on pet legislation, including renewing a travel promotion bill that Coburn has long opposed.

“I am not inclined to let things go,” Coburn said, when asked if he planned to hold up last-minute efforts to get unanimous consent to pass legislation before the Senate heads out of town.

Full story

September 16, 2014

Congress Ducks War Authorization Vote

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Anti-war protesters disrupt a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on ISIS Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Congress appears set to sprint for the exits after voting to fund President Barack Obama’s new war on ISIS — although not by name — after rejecting a smattering of calls from lawmakers to go on record explicitly debating and authorizing it.

The get-out-of-town votes could come Wednesday, as the nation celebrates Constitution Day, the brainchild of the late-Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who was long the defender of Congress’ prerogatives, especially with regard to war.

“Sen. Byrd would be on the floor demanding that the United States Senate fulfill its constitutional responsibilities, which are debate, amend and vote,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one voice in a fairly small bipartisan group pushing unsuccessfully for a full debate and votes on the authorization to use military force before going home. “This is another act of cowardice, which contributes to the low esteem in which we’re held by the American people.”

Today, the closest heir to Byrd may be Sen. Tim Kaine. The Virginia Democrat has long been an ally of the president, but he has nonetheless sharply criticized Obama — and his colleagues — for not seeking a vote from Congress authorizing the war.

“It’s the most important power that Congress has and it’s the most momentous decision that the nation makes,” Kaine told CQ Roll Call after a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on ISIS, also known as the Islamic State. He called the issue an “obsession” of his, but suggested any comparisons between himself and Byrd are “presumptuous.” Full story

Mark Warner Still Pushing Grand Bargains on the Stump

VAPOL14 032 090414 445x296 Mark Warner Still Pushing Grand Bargains on the Stump

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

FAIRFAX, Va. — How often do you hear a Democrat on the campaign stump tell a largely partisan audience that some of the attendees might be well-advised to vote for a Republican?

That’s exactly what happened when Sen. Mark Warner stopped on a college campus a few weeks ago.

“If you’re a Democrat, you may have to vote for a Republican who is willing to do revenues,” the Virginia Democrat said. “If you’re a Republican, vote for a Democrat who’s willing to do entitlement reform.”

In any case Warner, the former Virginia governor who is favored to win re-election against former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie this fall, and has often been talked about as someone who could end up on a national ticket, said no one should vote ”for anybody who’s signed one of these stupid pledges” such as the anti-tax one championed by the Grover Norquist-led group Americans for Tax Reform.

Full story

September 15, 2014

Wyden Cites Oregon Wine in Effort to Spark Extenders Action

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Oregon wine grapes could go unpressed and it’s Congress’ fault, said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden on Monday.

In a release urging congressional action on a package of expired tax breaks known as tax extenders, the Beaver State Democrat uses the state’s wine industry as an example of why Congress should act.

“For example, because Congress has not renewed increased expensing limits under Section 179, industrious Oregon wine makers will be forced to pay more for a new wine press needed today to expand their business, or they may be forced to choose between new equipment and hiring new employees,” Wyden said. Full story

By Humberto Sanchez Posted at 5:02 p.m.
Taxes

Reid Moves NRC Nominations as Fight Over Yucca Mountain Continues (Updated)

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 6:35 p.m. | It helps to be the majority leader when you’re trying to kill the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is using floor time this week to confirm nominees to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission — a move that will ensure a Democratic majority.

Two Republicans now outnumber the only Democrat on the commission, NRC Chairwoman Allison M. Macfarlane, who has indicated opposition to the Yucca Mountain project before being confirmed by the Senate two years ago deeming the site geologically unsound and calling for an alternative.

The two nominees, Jeffery M. Baran and Stephen G. Burns, would fill vacant spots on the commission. Reid has spent considerable political capital to effectively kill the project, and repeatedly used his influence to ensure the NRC’s opposition to it. Full story

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