Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 16, 2014

Posts by Niels Lesniewski

560 Posts

April 15, 2014

Filibuster Unconstitutional? D.C. Circuit Denies Appeal, Cites ‘Speech or Debate’ Flaw

Advocates asking the judiciary to declare the filibuster unconstitutional were dealt a major setback Tuesday by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court said it lacked jurisdiction because Common Cause and the House lawmakers associated with bringing the lawsuit had sued the wrong party.

“In short, Common Cause’s alleged injury was caused not by any of the defendants, but by an ‘absent third party’ — the Senate itself,” the court held. Full story

Unemployment Extension Petition Gets Manchin’s Push

manchin 068 091013 445x308 Unemployment Extension Petition Gets Manchins Push

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Keeping the unemployment insurance extension issue alive, Sen. Joe Manchin III is asking supporters to sign on to a petition urging the House to act. The West Virginia Democrat doesn’t agree with his party on everything, but an email pitch sent Tuesday morning demonstrates considerable Democratic unity on reviving extended unemployment insurance benefits.

The Senate passed its version of the jobless benefits measure with 59 “yes” votes on April 7.

“Extending unemployment insurance makes economic sense, but it’s also just the right thing to do. Our hardworking neighbors paid into the system when they had a job, so it’s only fair that they should benefit from those funds when they’re down on their luck,” Manchin wrote in an email to supporters. “That’s why I’m asking you to join my colleagues and me in calling on the House to pass an extension of unemployment insurance.”

The email blast links to a petition — without an immediate fundraising ask — from 11 Senate Democrats, a trio of House members and three candidates, including Alison Lundergan Grimes in the Kentucky Senate race.

Full story

April 14, 2014

Washington Responds to Passing of Nuala Pell, Widow of Former Rhode Island Senator

Nuala Pell, widow of former Rhode Island Sen. Claiborne Pell, passed away Sunday morning in Newport at age 89.

“Our entire family is heartbroken by my grandmother’s passing. She dedicated her life to her family and to the service of others. From her work in support of the arts, education, and her humanitarian service, she was a beacon of hope to many,” grandson Clay Pell said in a statement posted by Providence TV station WPRI. “We could not have asked for a better parent or grandparent than Mimi. We will love and miss her more than words can express.”

The younger Pell is running for governor of Rhode Island. His grandfather, the former senator and namesake of the landmark college aid program, died on New Year’s Day in 2009.

Nuala Pell was praised by many for her political involvement and commitment to issues like the arts and education.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 5:41 p.m.
Potpourri

‘Nuclear’ Nominations Aftermath Slows Senate to Crawl

reid 225 032614 445x294 Nuclear Nominations Aftermath Slows Senate to Crawl

( Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Just how many of President Barack Obama’s nominees will get confirmed this year? If last week is any indication, the answer may depend on whether Democrats once again employ the “nuclear” option to effectively change the Senate’s rules.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made a big deal last week about scheduling nomination votes on the Friday before recess, but with senators in both parties eager to jet out of town, the Nevada Democrat was forced to punt.

“We are slogging through these nominations,” Reid said April 10 on the Senate floor. “It is kind of slow because of the inordinate amount of time that we are caused to eat up.”

Reid pondered on the floor whether he should have gone even further on rules changes last year, given the Republican slow-walking of nominations whose confirmations have become a fait accompli, and he lamented that a minimum wage debate he hoped to have on the Senate floor before the break was delayed as a result. Full story

Ban on E-Cig Sales, Marketing to Children Pushed by Durbin, Waxman

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

E-cigarette sales and marketing to children will soon be banned and flavorings could be restricted by the federal government if two senior congressional Democrats get their way.

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and House Energy and Commerce ranking member Henry A. Waxman of California want the Obama administration to regulate e-cigarette products the same way as traditional tobacco products. On Monday, they touted the findings of a report they commissioned with several other Democratic lawmakers finding that a number of e-cig brand manufacturers are marketing to children.

“E-cigarettes are a candy-flavored addiction, which is dangerous to our young people across America. It is growing in popularity among children and sadly poses serious public health threats,” Durbin said on a conference call. “The report … makes clear that e-cigarette companies and the tobacco companies that own some of them have a determined effort to market their product, to pass out samples and to lure children into this nicotine addiction. It’s time for the [Food and Drug Administration] to step up and to regulate this product to protect our children across America.”

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 12:02 p.m.
Policy

April 11, 2014

Tax ‘Extenders’ and Energy Efficiency Make May Agenda, Reid Says

reid 198 032514 445x296 Tax Extenders and Energy Efficiency Make May Agenda, Reid Says

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to bring up a catchall tax “extenders” package to the floor next work period, along with a long-delayed energy efficiency bill.

Those measures may be in line behind an effort by Democrats to phase-in an increase of the federal the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. The minimum wage bill, spearheaded by Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, was initially expected to get a test vote on the Senate floor before the most recent work period ended, but Reid decided to move forward first with a vote on a gender pay equity measure, along with some nominations.

Full story

Senate Democrats to Holder: Intervene in GM Recall

A group of five Democratic senators want the Justice Department to take action to keep General Motors from denying responsibility for faulty ignition switches.

Among the suggestions by Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Barbara Boxer of California, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, is for possible intervention by the federal government in civil litigation against the giant automaker.

“We recommend that you intervene in pending civil actions to oppose any action by GM to deny responsibility for consumer damages on grounds that those damages may have resulted from deceptive and fraudulent concealment and other misconduct by GM,” the senators wrote in Friday’s letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. Full story

Senate Switcheroo Crimps Travel Plans

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Thursday night’s unplanned — but predictable — shift in the Senate’s vote schedule meddled with plans of senators who actually planned to show up for work Friday.

While it’s not clear how many Republicans planned to be at the Capitol had votes gone forward late Friday, the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee certainly did.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa drove himself back to the Capitol complex at around 8:30 p.m., on Thursday.

Standing outside the Dirksen building, Grassley said he had returned to pick up materials for his trip back to Iowa for the two-week recess, having expected to be in Washington until after a series of nomination votes that were slated to start at 5 p.m. Friday.

“I was going to come back to the office and vote and fly out tomorrow night. Now, I’ve got to come back to the office and get the stuff I left here,” Grassley said.

Full story

April 10, 2014

‘Nuclear’ Fallout Slows Senate, Briefly Delays Recess (Updated)

oversight005 022614 445x296 Nuclear Fallout Slows Senate, Briefly Delays Recess (Updated)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 8:30 p.m. | Fallout from last year’s “nuclear” rules change trumped the proverbial smell of jet fumes in the Senate this week, but only for a while.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had called a live quorum to summon senators to the floor and declare on the official record what he had said earlier in the afternoon, that he wouldn’t punt on the nomination of Michelle T. Friedland to be a judge on the Ninth Circuit.

“We’ve wasted so much time that we could be working on important issues, and Republicans come to the floor [and say], ‘We want amendments,’” Reid said. “One reason we don’t do that kind of stuff is cause we spend so much time on this.”

Later in the day, Reid set a series of nomination votes for 5 p.m. Friday, but Senate Democrats say it is now anticipated those votes will be postponed until April 28, in what represents a retreat for Reid.

Full story

Reid: Recess Won’t Start Until After Judicial Nomination Vote

reid031114 445x298 Reid: Recess Wont Start Until After Judicial Nomination Vote

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is in no mood to delay a scheduled confirmation vote for a Ninth Circuit judicial nominee — warning he’ll keep the Senate in session Friday if Republicans don’t consent to an earlier vote.

“We’re not punting,” the Nevada Democrat told CQ Roll Call when asked if the confirmation vote on President Barack Obama’s choice of Michelle T. Friedland for a seat on the Ninth Circuit would be put off until after the two-week recess.

The Senate voted, 56-41, to invoke cloture and thus limit debate on that nomination earlier Thursday, with Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska joining Democratic caucus members in voting for cloture.

Full story

Joe Manchin: Koch Brothers ‘Not Breaking the Law’

manchin 058 020614 445x296 Joe Manchin: Koch Brothers Not Breaking the Law

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W. Va., sounds like no fan of the top Senate Democrat’s attacks on the Koch brothers.

Asked by Fox News about the drumbeat of criticism of the billionaire businessmen and donors to conservative campaigns and causes from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Manchin replied, “You don’t beat up people.”

“I mean, I don’t agree with their politics or philosophically, but you know they’re Americans, they’re doing — paying their taxes,” Manchin said.

Full story

Keystone XL Pipeline Deadline Sought by 11 Senate Democrats

InternetSalesTax 06 042313 445x295 Keystone XL Pipeline Deadline Sought by 11 Senate Democrats

(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Democratic senators who favor completing the Keystone XL pipeline, including some of the party’s most vulnerable senators up for re-election, are once again prodding the White House to make up its mind.

In a new letter to President Barack Obama, 11 Democrats are making a pre-recess push for a May 31 deadline for action. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota spearheaded the new letter along with new Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana.

Democratic Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Mark Warner of Virginia, Kay Hagan of North Carolina joined Montana Democrats Jon Tester and John Walsh in signing on to the letter with Heitkamp and Landrieu. Begich, Pryor, Landrieu, Hagan and Walsh are all facing the voters this fall in states lost by Obama in 2012. Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 9:52 a.m.
Policy

April 9, 2014

Graham Prods Cable Execs on Service Issues (Video)

When officials from Comcast and Time Warner Cable appeared at the Senate Judiciary Committee to push the case for their proposed $45 billion merger, Sen. Lindsey Graham asked questions that any ordinary American consumer might.

The South Carolina Republican had service issues, with both cable and DirecTV.

Before he switched to the satellite service, Graham said at the hearing that his cable TV “went out right in the fourth quarter of a ballgame.”

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 4:10 p.m.
Potpourri

April 8, 2014

McConnell Doubts Individual Campaign Finance Limits Will Go Away (Video)

mcconnell 016 040114 445x312 McConnell Doubts Individual Campaign Finance Limits Will Go Away (Video)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, an outspoken foe of many campaign finance restrictions, said Tuesday that he didn’t think limits on individual contributions to candidates will disappear any time soon.

“I think that’s not likely to happen,” the Kentucky Republican said when asked at a news conference about the possibility of the restrictions on individual contributions being thrown out.

Full story

‘Cuban Twitter’ Dominates USAID Hearing (Video)

senate012 112113 445x296 Cuban Twitter Dominates USAID Hearing (Video)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The senior senator charged with overseeing the U.S. Agency for International Development budget unleashed scathing criticism on the department’s leader Tuesday over a “Cuban Twitter” program.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., the longtime chairman of the Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, pressed USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah over the U.S-run social media platform in Cuba that was reported last week by The Associated Press. Leahy wanted to know who was behind creation of the program, but Shah did not have a specific answer, saying it came before he started running the agency at the end of 2009.

“Whose idea was it for this specific program? I’ve read the legislation. The legislation doesn’t say anything about setting up a cockamamie idea in Cuba with Twitter accounts and all on something that the Cubans would be so easy to discover,” Leahy said. “Whose idea was this specific program to go to Cuba, who? It’s a simple question.”

Full story

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