Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
March 31, 2015

Posts by Niels Lesniewski

974 Posts

March 30, 2015

Patty Murray Backs Schumer for Leader

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Murray is backing Schumer for leader. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

BOSTON — Having won the backing of the entire leadership team, New York’s Charles E. Schumer might become the next Senate Democratic leader by acclamation.

Conference Secretary Patty Murray, D-Wash., has joined in endorsing Schumer for the top job when Nevada Democrat Harry Reid retires at the beginning of 2017, according to a Murray aide.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 12:46 p.m.
Democrats

Remembering Ted Kennedy, in Senate Session of Sorts

From left, Warren, former Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (and son of the late senator) and Sen. Ed Markey talk during a gala that was part of the dedication ceremony for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

BOSTON — “Lord. What an amazing day this has been,” Senate Chaplain Barry Black said, offering an opening prayer for a session of a replica chamber constructed as the centerpiece of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., presided over the session, leading the senators (real or not) in the Pledge of Allegiance. But unlike in the real Senate, the presiding officer got the opportunity speak.

“It’s good to be almost home,” Biden said. “This replica looks like the actual Senate chamber, and it feels like the real one with Rev. Adm. Black opening us, and once again sitting in front of the Senate parliamentarian who I looked to for guidance for so many years.”

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By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 9:07 a.m.
Politics

Even Senators Are Awestruck by Ted Kennedy’s Senate Chamber

hang out in a life-size replica of the Senate Chamber during a gala that was part of the dedication ceremony for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston, Mass., March 29, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senators Whitehouse and Levin hang out in a life-size replica of the Senate Chamber during a gala that was part of the dedication ceremony for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston on Mar. 29 (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

BOSTON — There are few places in the political world as awe inspiring as the Senate chamber, but there’s now a pretty darn good modern replica that will be a living legacy for the liberal lion, Edward M. Kennedy.

Stepping onto the floor of the replica Senate chamber through the doorway that might be most often used by Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., that is the highlight of the new Edward M. Kennedy Institute is, in a word, surreal.

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By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 8:39 a.m.
Potpourri

March 27, 2015

McConnell Praises ‘Son of Searchlight’

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has had no shortage of battles with his Democratic counterpart Harry Reid of Nevada over the years, but when the minority leader announced his retirement Friday, the Kentucky Republican offered kind words.

“Nothing has ever come easily to this son of Searchlight. Underestimated often, his distinctive grit and determined focus nevertheless saw him through many challenges,” McConnell said in a statement. “They continue to make him a formidable opponent today.”

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Reid, Durbin Endorse Schumer as Next Leader (Updated) (Video)

Schumer and Durbin are moving out. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Durbin, left, Schumer, second from right, and Murray, far right, are all candidates to fill Reid’s shoes. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 4:36 p.m. | Some senators and aides may have barely awoken after a late-night budget vote-a-rama by the time not only had the chamber’s minority leader announced his retirement, but the gears were turning toward a succession plan.

In announcing that he would retire at the end of the 114th Congress instead of seeking another term, Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., could have set off a contested race for the top spot in a leadership hierarchy that’s seen very little movement.

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By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 9:34 a.m.
Harry Reid

Senate Budget Passes as Vote-A-Rama Wraps (Updated)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 4:20 a.m. | The Senate approved the GOP’s budget blueprint on a 52-46 vote following an epic vote-a-rama that featured dozens of test votes on everything from carbon taxes to Social Security benefits for same-sex marriages.

Two Republicans eyeing the White House voted no: Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, but otherwise the vote was along party lines.

“By passing a balanced budget that emphasizes growth, common sense and the needs of the middle class, Republicans have shown that the Senate is under new management and delivering on the change and responsible government the American people expect,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement.

“The Democrat-led Senate for years refused not only to pass a balanced budget, but any budget at all. Those days are over, and the proof is passage of a balanced plan with ideas that Congress’ nonpartisan analysts tell us would boost jobs, raise income and drive economic growth,” the Kentucky Republican added.

There were moments of drama, like two vulnerable GOP senators up in 2016 switching their votes to “yes” to back paid sick leave, giving it 61 votes.

Senators even voted to nix their own health insurance benefits on a 52-46 vote around 2:30 a.m. — a vote David Vitter of Louisiana has been seeking for nearly two years, much to the consternation of many of his colleagues.

Earlier the Senate Republicans eyeing the presidency jostled for position on war funding. Full story

March 26, 2015

Live, On Periscope, From the Vote-a-Rama

Moran and Thune were live on Periscope during the vote-a-rama. (Niels Lesniewski/CQ Roll Call)

Moran and Thune on Periscope during the vote-a-rama. (Niels Lesniewski/CQ Roll Call)

For a pair of Republican senators, the budget vote-a-rama seemed like a great time to demonstrate they aren’t luddites.

Sens. John Thune of South Dakota and Jerry Moran of Kansas teamed up to shoot a brief video using the Periscope live-streaming app to share with their constituents (and all of the Internet) what the Senate is doing on what will be an exceptionally long night.

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Deal on Kirk’s Iran Amendment Leads to Unanimous Vote

Mark Kirk Bowe Bergdahl Taliban video

Kirk (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As evening approached in the Senate’s budget vote-a-rama, lawmakers found some common ground on Iran. A 100-0 vote followed.

Sen. Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., and Banking Committee ranking Democrat Sherrod Brown of Ohio ultimately teamed up on an amendment designed to make it easier to punish the Iranian regime with revived and new sanctions in the event the president can’t certify Iran is complying with any agreement.

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By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 6:19 p.m.
Budget, Iran

Senators Launch Effort to ‘Cut Red Tape’

Lankford (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Lankford (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

“People don’t get up every morning and read the Federal Register.”

That, Sen. James Lankford said Thursday morning, is the crux of the reason why the Oklahoma Republican is joining Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., to launch a new initiative at their Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee that’s responsible for regulatory policy called #CutRedTape, through which they want ordinary Americans — like those without lobbyists — to share concerns about federal regulations.

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Rand Paul Backs More Defense Spending — If It’s Paid For (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 9:14 p.m. | Sen. Rand Paul doesn’t have a problem with increasing the defense budget, but he wants real offsets.

And the Kentucky Republican, who seems to be gearing up for an April 7 announcement about a run for the White House, proposed an amendment to the budget resolution just before the Senate adjourned Wednesday to do so.

“This amendment is in response to others in both chambers who are attempting to add to defense spending — some way more than Senator Paul’s amendment — without paying for it. Senator Paul believes national defense should be our priority.  He also believes our debt is out of control,” Paul senior adviser Doug Stafford said in a statement.

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By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 12:01 p.m.
2016, Budget, Politics

March 25, 2015

Harry Reid, GOP Senators Join Forces to Approve Highway (Updated)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 6:11 p.m. | Harry Reid’s bid to push a new highway through Nevada before he faces the voters next year has a powerful Republican ally — James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma.

The minority leader’s re-election fight is sure to be one of the most contentious of 2016, but under the Dome, the push for an extended Interstate 11 from southern Arizona to Interstate 80 in the northern part of the Silver State is a bipartisan affair.

The junior senator from Nevada, Republican Dean Heller of Nevada, sponsored the legislation and wrote a letter backing it in May 2014.

In addition to Reid, the highway is also backed by Republicans John McCain and Jeff Flake, both of Arizona — as well as Inhofe, the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee. McCain is also up for re-election next year.

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March 24, 2015

Kirk Blasts ‘Ayatollah Stole My Homework’ Excuse on Iran Talks, Plots Budget Amendment

Mark Kirk Bowe Bergdahl Taliban video

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Mark S. Kirk said Tuesday he would introduce an amendment to the budget resolution recommending new sanctions on Iran if no nuclear deal is reached.

“It basically recommends a new round of sanctions,” the Illinois Republican told reporters, noting that Democrats had asked to wait until today’s date, March 24, to hold a floor vote on a sanctions bill he and Sen. Robert Menendez sponsored.

Kirk scoffed at the White House’s plea for more time, saying it amounted to “a kind of a version of ‘the Ayatollah stole my homework.'”

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By Rachel Oswald and Niels Lesniewski Posted at 7:04 p.m.
Iran

Lynch’s Republican Backers Holding Firm

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)

GOP supporters of President Barack Obama’s pick to be the next attorney general are sticking by her, meaning Loretta Lynch is still on track for confirmation — if she can ever get a vote.

That’s even as announced Republican opposition to Lynch continues to mount with the nomination sitting on the Senate calendar, effectively held hostage as part of the dispute between the parties about abortion-related language contained in a bill designed to combat human trafficking.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., became the latest Tuesday morning to join the list of lawmakers opposing Lynch.

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March 23, 2015

At Liberty, Ted Cruz Speaks to the Faithful (Updated)

Ted Cruz announced his bid for the presidency at Liberty University on Monday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 4:01 p.m. | LYNCHBURG, Va. — The Senate’s longest week kicked off some 180 miles southwest of the Capitol, with a presidential campaign announcement by one of the chamber’s conservative firebrands, Sen. Ted Cruz.

Timed to the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act, Cruz made an explicitly religious and sharply conservative pitch to an enthusiastic audience dominated by thousands of Liberty University students.

By the end of the week, all of the potential presidential candidates will have a chance to make their mark thanks to the Senate budget resolution, and dozens of votes, hitting the floor for the unpredictable vote-a-rama.

Here in Lynchburg, Cruz’s record of big fights — and big legislative losses — on defunding Obamacare, rolling back President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration or opposing raising the debt limit — were a call to arms, not a record of failure.

Cruz suggested if millions of like-minded conservative voters get out and vote in the next election, his vision of America will come true.

“Roughly half of born-again Christians aren’t voting,” Cruz lamented, then asked his audience repeatedly to “imagine” a different world where they vote, and, presumably, he wins.

“Think just how different the world would be. Imagine: instead of economic stagnation, booming economic growth,” Cruz said. “Imagine young people coming out of school with four, five, six job offers.”

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By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 11:33 a.m.
2016, Budget, Ted Cruz

Democrats Outline Floor Strategy for Budget Battle

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sanders, foreground, and Schumer briefed reporters on their response to the GOP budget last week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate and House Democrats face different challenges in responding to the budget blueprints on the floors of their respective chambers, but they’re operating from much the same playbook.

The budget resolutions, which both moved through the House and Senate budget committees last week with customary party-line support, are indisputably political documents, which will give each side fodder leading in to the two-week recess at the beginning of April.

In the Senate, Democrats intend to focus particular attention on “meat and potato” policy issues in this year’s budget vote-a-rama. That’s how Senate Democratic messaging guru Charles E. Schumer described the Democratic plan last week.

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