Rockefeller criticized ESPN at a hearing on the NCAA and student-athletes last week, saying the network was “undermining our commitment to education.” (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
A century-old debate over the commercialization of college athletics is under renewed scrutiny on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers could face the issue in the coming months, and held little back when the leader of the NCAA testified recently before the Senate Commerce Committee.
Senators hammered NCAA President Mark Emmert on July 9, as questions about student-athlete compensation, graduation rates, health care and sexual assault took center stage.
Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., kicked off by reminding Emmert of the committee’s jurisdiction over intercollegiate athletics, before taking aim at the NCAA.
“College athletes and athletics are rooted in the notion of amateurism, and the history of that is very interesting and important,” Rockefeller said. “Playing college sports is supposed to be an avocation. There’s a growing perception that college athletics, particularly Division I football and basketball, are not avocations at all. What they really are is highly profitable commercial enterprises.”
“Steve King is much like the Wizard of Oz when it comes to immigration,” Schumer said during a 10-minute floor speech Wednesday. “He is pulling the levers behind the screen to make it seem he has the power. [The] Republican Party will learn sooner or later, like Dorothy did in the ‘Wizard of Oz,’ that actually King works by fear and he doesn’t have the power, that the wizard’s power is overstated. He can’t really do very much. And the only way to get back home and do something real is in ourselves.”
“The multi-zillionaire Koch brothers … they are one of the main causes of [climate change], not a cause, one of the main causes,” the Nevada Democrat said on the Senate floor. “Charles and David Koch are waging a war against anything that protects the environment. Now I know that sounds absurd, but it’s true.”
During Senate floor debate Wednesday over authorizing funds for the Department of Veterans Affairs in 18 states, the Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernard Sanders criticized members for jumping to conclusions over alleged misconduct at VA facilities, including in Phoenix, Ariz., which has received extensive media attention following a CNN report last week.
“I am not a lawyer, but I did learn enough in school to know that you don’t find somebody guilty without assessing the evidence,” the Vermont Independent said. “And frankly, just because CNN says something, doesn’t always make it the case.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will not create a special committee to investigate the 2012 attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya, following Speaker John A. Boehner’s announcement on May 2 proposing a House committee.
“There’s no conspiracy here, it was a tragedy,” the Nevada Democrat said. “It’s my understanding they have 25,000 pages of documents, there’s been numerous hearings on this already, the State Department did an extensive review. … Now the latest smoking gun is a memo preparing people to go on the Sunday shows. Don’t you think everybody gets some preparation before they go on the Sunday shows? So the answer is no, we’re not going to do any select, special committee over here on Benghazi.”
Sen. John McCain hammered Republicans on the Senate floor Thursday for refusing to pass by unanimous consent a Senate Foreign Relation Committee bill which would provide economic aid while imposing sanctions on Russia.
“What has happened? Where are our priorities? You can call yourself Republicans, that’s fine, because that’s your voter registration. Don’t call yourself Reagan Republicans,” the Arizona Republican said.
“Hey, John, good job,” the South Carolina Republican was heard saying before Kerry turned off the desk mic. “Let me know what I can do to help you with Boehner.”
Graham’s remarks were caught following a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the State Department’s fiscal 2015 budget. Meanwhile, Kerry travels to London on Friday to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Correction 11:40 p.m.
An earlier version of this report misstated where Kerry is traveling on Friday.
It was a historic morning in the Senate Thursday, when the Dalai Lama gave the Senate’s opening prayer in place of Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black.
Attendance, however, left something to be desired. A good number of staffers were gathered on the floor and in the galleries, but the chamber was by no means packed. Perhaps a dozen senators were present when Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., brought the Senate into session and yielded to the Dalai Lama for the morning prayer.
“We make our world. Speak or act with a pure mind, and happiness will follow you,” he said. “This is my favorite prayer. Daily I pray this.”
Following the opening prayer, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., requested that the Senate recess in order for senators to meet with the Dalai Lama. Full story
“I don’t say that lightly,” Harkin said. “I was here during the impeachment process, trial for President [Bill] Clinton. I kind of thought that was a sham, but that didn’t compare to what happened today.”
Harkin, the sixth-longest serving member in the 113th Congress, criticized the Senate for what he called an “emotional vote.”
“I will not name any names, but I had one senator say, ‘my head tells me that he should be confirmed but my guts, my emotions say no.’ Shame, on all of us here; especially the lawyers.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Majority Leader Harry Reid traded floor speeches on Wednesday, accusing the other of partisanship while calling for an end to obstructionism.
The Kentucky Republican criticized the “nuclear option” invoked by the Nevada Democrat in November, but he emphasized he was not trying to “point the finger of blame.”
“My purpose is to suggest that the Senate can do better than it has been and that we must be if we’re to remain as a great nation,” McConnell said. “This is a behavioral problem. It doesn’t require a rules change. We just need to act differently with each other.”
Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell laid out their best arguments for and against the “nuclear option” to end filibusters of most judicial and executive branch nominees on Thursday.
Watch Roll Call’s best moments from Senate floor debate this week:
As of Wednesday evening, no opponents of the measure had spoken on the floor. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., became the first member to do so Thursday morning. Coats expressed concern about protections for religious institutions that are opposed to same-sex relationships.
The debate surrounding the government shutdown has been white hot in the Senate over the past few weeks, leading some lawmakers to complain about a lack of decorum.
Indeed, twice over the past two days, senators reminded their colleagues of Senate rules.
“I think we’ve all here in the Senate kind of lost the aura of Robert Byrd, who was such a stickler for Senate procedure,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Friday morning on the Senate floor. “I think we’ve all let things get away from us a little bit. The Senate is a very special place with very particular rules.”
Longstanding Senate precedents tied to the Senate’s original rules require senators to speak through the presiding officer, as noted in “Riddick’s Senate Procedure.”
“Senators in debate should address each other through the Chair and in the third person,” the book of precedents explains.
Additionally, Senate Rule 19 states: “No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.”
“The latest plan came from the junior senator from Texas [and it] is to cherry pick parts of the government he likes,” Reid said. He added that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., “is following Cruz’s idea specifically. Sen. Cruz is now joint speaker. He lectures the House on occasion, as he does people over here.
Reid’s reference quickly drew criticism, particularly because Cruz was not on the floor at the time to defend himself. Full story
Niels Lesniewski has covered the Senate for CQ Roll Call since January 2010, and more recently as a staff writer and resident procedure guru for Roll Call. Niels holds degrees in both government and theater but sometimes can't tell the difference between the two. @nielslesniewski
Humberto Sanchez covers the Senate for Roll Call. Prior to joining, he covered the budget and appropriations process for Congress Daily/NJ Daily for three years.@hsanchez128