Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 22, 2014

Posts by Niels Lesniewski

787 Posts

October 22, 2014

Coburn’s ‘Wastebook’ Targets Include Mountain Lions, Sheep, Beer

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Coburn, pictured here unveiling the 2013 Wastebook. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Tom Coburn and his investigators have been busy in their most recent effort to unveil what they view as government waste and abuse.

The 2014 edition of the Oklahoma Republican’s annual “Wastebook” runs almost 250 pages and features more than 1,100 footnotes. It’s presumably the last such report Coburn will issue from his Senate perch, as he’s resigning his seat early at the end of the current Congress.

As in previous editions, the report highlights billions of dollars of projects that Coburn views as wasteful government spending.

“This report, the fifth annual Wastebook, gives a snapshot of just a fraction of the countless frivolous projects the government funded in the past twelve months with borrowed money and your tax dollars,” Coburn wrote in the report’s introduction. “Every year taxpayers, regardless of their personal political leanings, raise their eyebrows and shake their heads in disbelief at how billions of dollars that could be been better spent — or not spent at all — were squandered.” 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 15, 2014

McConnell Says CDC Should Get Money Needed to Battle Ebola

If federal health agencies under President Barack Obama want more money to fight Ebola, they should get it, according to the Senate’s top Republican.

“I think they should have anything they want. The president asked for $88 million a few weeks ago, we gave it to him,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told MSNBC. “Whatever the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] thinks they need, we’ll give it to them.”

Full story

Barney Frank’s Advice for Mitch McConnell

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Frank has advice for McConnell. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former Rep. Barney Frank has some words of wisdom for Sen. Mitch McConnell, should the Kentucky Republican claim the majority leader’s job in January.

“I think his choice will be whether or not he’s going to govern responsibly. It’s one thing to be in opposition and try to undercut the government. But when you’re a majority leader, I think you have a responsibility to do some things that might not be popular,” Frank said. “That’s not just a matter of his duty, it’s an electoral thing. I think if he becomes majority leader and does not stand up to his more right-wing elements, it’s going to be bad for his party as well as for the country.

Full story

Portman: Ohio Constituent Faced 108 Minute Wait on Ebola Hotline (Updated)

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(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 5:49 p.m. | Sen. Rob Portman says it took an Ohio constituent almost two hours to get through to the Ebola hotline at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC and Frontier Airlines on Wednesday called on all passengers who may have traveled with the new patient to contact the CDC.

“On the morning of Oct. 14, the second healthcare worker reported to the hospital with a low-grade fever and was isolated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms that the second healthcare worker who tested positive last night for Ebola traveled by air Oct. 13, the day before she reported symptoms,” the CDC announced Wednesday. “Because of the proximity in time between the evening flight and first report of illness the following morning, CDC is reaching out to passengers who flew on Frontier Airlines flight 1143 Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth Oct. 13.”

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 1:56 p.m.
Ebola

October 14, 2014

Cornyn, Cruz Back Obamacare Lawsuit Over Origination Clause

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz are backing another Obamacare lawsuit, hoping to upend the law.

The Texas Republicans — both lawyers — filed a court brief backing the lawsuit, which claims the Senate failed to comply with the Constitutional requirement that revenue bills start in the House.

While the House drafted and passed a health care overhaul, the Senate did not use that bill as the base for its own effort. The legislative history for the bill that became law as the Affordable Care Act shows that it started as an innocuous measure in the House waiving the repayment requirement of the first-time home-buyer tax credit for some military personnel. Full story

Twitter’s Most Popular Congressional Staffer Gets New Title

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Ted Cruz has a new communications director in his Senate shop, but it’s a familiar face. Amanda Carpenter, the most-followed congressional staffer on Twitter, is getting a title that aligns more with her recent duties.

Not surprisingly, Carpenter, who has been senior communications adviser and speechwriter — highlighted the new title in a Tweet:

When CQ Roll Call profiled Carpenter in February, she conceded that the Texas Republican’s office offered her more freedom to use her own voice on social media than many other staffers, something attributable not only to Cruz and her former Senate boss, Jim DeMint, R-S.C., but to her history as a conservative columnist and a fresh face of conservative media. Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 12:16 p.m.
Politics, Ted Cruz

Senate Odd Couple Seeks Common Ground on Climate Change

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Manchin, left, and Whitehouse measure fish as part of a Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management survey. (Niels Lesniewski/CQ Roll Call)

POINT JUDITH, R.I. — A visit to the Ocean State’s eroding shoreline didn’t prompt West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III to change his mind about Environmental Protection Agency regulation of carbon emissions, but his host wasn’t expecting that sort of evolution.

RollCall On the Road Logo300x300 Senate Odd Couple Seeks Common Ground on Climate Change“I didn’t invite Sen. Manchin here thinking that he was suddenly going to have an epiphany and turn into a ‘greenie’ and come to the next climate march with me,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse told reporters after the two Democrats took a daylong tour of coastal Rhode Island on Oct. 10.

“What I do think though is that he is a smart and reasonable voice from the prototype coal state who has very, very good relations with a lot of our most conservative members of the Senate, some of whom believe that the whole climate change problem is a conspiracy designed as a foil to allow people to expand the role of government and take away freedom,” the Rhode Islander continued.

You would be hard-pressed to find two Democratic senators who more clearly demonstrate the party’s divide on energy and environmental issues, so it was notable when they announced plans to visit each others’ states to discuss energy and climate policy.

Manchin followed through on the first half of the bargain last week, joining with Whitehouse in meeting with oceanography experts, fishermen, environmental officials and residents and business owners at risk of seeing their properties washed away by rising tides.

Full story

October 9, 2014

Goodell Responds to Boxer, Says NFL Will Not Tolerate Domestic Violence

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(Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The National Football League has responded to one of its foremost critics in the Senate, and this time she’s optimistic about what Commissioner Roger Goodell had to say.

Sen. Barbara Boxer on Thursday released two separate letters dated this month from Goodell and Cynthia Hogan, the new NFL senior vice president for public policy and government affairs, praising each. Boxer had initially led a letter to Goodell from a group of a total of female 16 senators seeking the league to enact a policy of zero tolerance for incidents of domestic violence. She followed up directly with Hogan in subsequent correspondence.

Goodell’s letter, which Boxer’s office has posted here, says the NFL will not tolerate domestic violence and outlines the steps the league is already taking to change the way it handles domestic abuse cases following incidents involving Ray Rice and other professional football players. Full story

October 8, 2014

McConnell: My Job Is to Protect Coal Jobs, Not Speculate on Global Warming (Audio)

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would have none of it when the host of Kentucky Sports Radio pressed him Wednesday for his personal views on global warming.

“What I have said repeatedly is I’m not a scientist, but what I can tell you is, even if you thought that was important — and there are some scientists who do and some scientists who don’t — but even if you thought that was important, the United States doing this by itself is going to have zero impact,” the Kentucky Republican said.

Full story

Republicans Eye Obamacare Showdown in Lame Duck

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 5:22 p.m. | A group of Senate Republicans have their eye on another Obamacare showdown in the lame-duck session.

The 14 Republicans, led by Marco Rubio of Florida, wrote a letter urging Speaker John A. Boehner to ”prohibit the Obama administration” from spending money on an “Obamacare taxpayer bailout.”

They point to a legal opinion from the Government Accountability Office that said additional funding authority would be needed to make payments to insurance companies under the risk-corridor component of the Obamacare health care exchanges. The Republicans say taxpayers could be on the hook for bailing out insurance companies that suffer losses.

“Without that appropriation, any money spent to cover insurance company losses under the risk corridor program would be unlawful,” the senators wrote to Boehner, later noting Congress needs to act to keep the government operating past Dec. 11, when the existing continuing resolution expires.

Full story

October 7, 2014

Democratic Senator: Restrict Africa Visas Due to Ebola

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A Senate Democrat is joining the chorus of calls for travel restrictions from African countries with Ebola outbreaks.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is calling for the Obama administration to consider stopping unnecessary travel, such as that not related to providing humanitarian aid. Nelson said he thought this could be done through travel visas in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“These travel bans could be temporary until the CDC determines the affected areas no longer pose a threat. This would not only help protect Americans here at home, it would also provide additional time for the added steps the administration is implementing to take effect,” Nelson wrote in a new letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Full story

October 6, 2014

Cruz Says 60 Days Are Up for War Powers Against ISIS

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Ted Cruz is pointing out that on Monday, the 60 days for military intervention under the War Powers Resolution should run out since the start of operations in Iraq against ISIS.

The Texas Republican wrote in an opinion piece for National Review that President Barack Obama should bring Congress back now that the clock has run its course.

“Given that 60 days has expired, the president should come to Congress and get proper authorization for this new military action (with an official name for the operation). He should lay out clear, defined military objectives. Congress, as a united body, should reject every attempt from hostile actors such as Iran to exploit our mission for their own gain,” Cruz wrote. “And we must abandon the fantasy that the Syrian moderate rebels will be our proxy army in this fight and prioritize instead working with the Kurdish forces who are also focused on ISIS.” Full story

October 5, 2014

Schumer: Screen Passengers From Ebola-Stricken Areas

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Schumer (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer wants federal officials to check passengers from Ebola-afflicted countries for fevers when entering the United States.

The no. 3 Senate Democrat made that announcement in Manhattan at his Sunday news conference, as WCBS radio reported. Schumer said the screenings should feature “fever checks and health surveys in both airports and ports.”

He wants Customs and Border Protection agents trained to administer screenings, according to a news release.

Schumer has also sent a letter to CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden outlining what he views as the need for a health database. The database would track people coming from areas in Africa where they have the potential for exposure to Ebola, so that if individuals present themselves at local emergency rooms with symptoms that may be consistent with the virus, they can be treated appropriately.

Full story

October 2, 2014

Ted Cruz Asks FAA About Ebola Flight Ban

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( Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Ted Cruz is asking the Federal Aviation Administration what it’s doing to prevent the spread of Ebola after the first U.S. diagnosis, which came in his home state.

“Given the severity of this virus and the fact that its spread to Texas has been associated with travel, it is imperative that the FAA take every available precaution in preventing additional cases from arriving in the United States. As you may be aware, several African nations have already restricted or banned air travel to countries with confirmed cases of the Ebola virus,” the Texas Republican wrote in a letter to FAA chief Michael P. Huerta. “British Airways, Emirates Airlines and Kenya Airways have also suspended flights due to the rising death toll and deteriorating public health situation in Ebola-stricken countries.”

Among his questions, Cruz is asking Huerta in whether the FAA has any plans to stop allowing flights “to countries that have experienced a significant Ebola outbreak.”

Thom Tillis, the Republican speaker of the North Carolina House who is challenging Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan this year has called for such a travel ban. Full story

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