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Posts by JM Rieger
September 9, 2014
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee holds a 10:30 a.m. hearing on federal programs providing equipment to state and local law enforcement. Amid the uproar in Ferguson, Mo., the Defense Department’s 1033 program has come under scrutiny from lawmakers, including Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., for contributing to “police militarization.”
Witnesses include officials from the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and a photojournalist from The St. Louis American Newspaper.
August 5, 2014
Prior to effectively adjourning for five weeks, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., used Tuesday’s Senate session to hammer President Barack Obama for proposing changes to immigration enforcement at the end of the summer without consent from Congress.
The administration is reportedly considering an executive order to provide deportation relief and work authorization cards to 5 million to 6 million of the more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, which Sessions called “unlawful.”
July 14, 2014
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.”
June 4, 2014
Nearly two weeks after Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, challenged Sen. Charles E. Schumer and other Senate Democrats to a “duel,” the New York Democrat returned the favor on the Senate floor, calling King the “wizard of Oz” on immigration.
“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.”
May 8, 2014
Amid the stalling energy efficiency and Keystone XL pipeline debate in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid has once again resorted to blaming the Koch brothers for their “radical agenda,” on Wednesday calling the two principal owners of Koch Industries “one of the main causes” of climate change.
“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.”
On Tuesday, The White House released a report detailing the effects of climate change, which was met with a bipartisan blast of hot air in Congress.
Niels Lesniewski and Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report.
May 7, 2014
Senator on Veterans Affairs Allegations: ‘Just Because CNN Says Something, Doesn’t Always Make It The Case’ (Video)
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.”
Some Senate Republicans, including Minority Whip John Cornyn, called for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign on Tuesday, while others, such as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have refused to call for Shinseki’s ouster until hearings are held and the Inspector General’s report is complete. Full story
May 6, 2014
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.”
Reid’s comments followed Boehner’s announcement this week that Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a former federal prosecutor, will lead the special committee.
Late Tuesday, Roll Call reported the House committee would consist of seven Republicans and five Democrats.
March 13, 2014
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.
Following remarks Wednesday from Speaker John A. Boehner saying IMF aid to Ukraine is unnecessary, Sen. Lindsey Graham personally offered assistance to Secretary of State John Kerry as the House and Senate continue to debate the appropriate response to the Ukrainian crisis.
“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.
March 6, 2014
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
March 5, 2014
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, on Wednesday called the Senate’s rejection of President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division the “lowest point” of his 30-year career.
“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.”
Obama’s pick, Debo P. Adegbile, was the first nominee blocked since Democrats invoked the “nuclear option” in November.
January 8, 2014
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.”
McConnell, who proposed an amendment on Tuesday that would tie jobless benefits to an Obamacare delay, criticized the majority leader for not allowing amendments on the unemployment insurance bill that advanced yesterday.
Reid accused the Republican leadership of distorting the facts.
“Since I’ve been leader, seven out of 10 amendments on which the Senate has voted have been … Republican amendments,” Reid said.
Reid called the remarks a “diversion” from the GOP’s “callous” and “cold-hearted” positions on issues facing the Senate.
November 21, 2013
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.
November 20, 2013
As Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s legislation removing the military chain of command from sexual-assault prosecutions gained support, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., pushed back on the Senate floor Wednesday, arguing that sexual-assault cases should remain in the military’s chain of command.
Levin and McCaskill are pushing other changes as well that Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, has said will make the situation better for sexual-assault victims in the armed forces.
Votes on the competing proposals could come Wednesday evening, but no time had been set by mid-afternoon. Full story
November 7, 2013
Following a key procedural vote Monday bringing up the Employment Non-Discrimination Act for a vote today, the Senate is set to vote this afternoon to prevent discrimination by employers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
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.