Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 24, 2014

Posts by Steven Dennis

45 Posts

April 14, 2014

Obama Not Considering Arms to Ukraine, Plans to Call Putin

luncheons014 040814 445x301 Obama Not Considering Arms to Ukraine, Plans to Call Putin

McCain is one senator who called for lethal aid. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senators in both parties have said arms for Ukraine should be on the table as that country faces down a threat from Russian President Vladimir Putin, but President Barack Obama has no plans to go there.

“We’re not actively considering lethal aid,” Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday.

Instead, the administration seems intent on letting the threat of much broader economic sanctions dissuade Putin from a further invasion — and Carney signaled the president would call Putin later today.

Carney, however, denied that the dispute with Russia amounted to another Cold War.

Russia is not the Soviet Union, and there is no longer a Warsaw Pact, he said.

“Russia is a regional power to be sure,” Carney added, but he declined to answer whether Russia represented a threat to the United States. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 3:04 p.m.
John McCain

April 11, 2014

Burwell Should Expect Tough Questions, Easy Confirmation

484062777 445x304 Burwell Should Expect Tough Questions, Easy Confirmation

(Via AFP/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama said Friday he assumes the Senate will easily confirm Sylvia Matthews Burwell to replace Kathleen Sebelius as secretary of Health and Human Services — and he’s almost certainly right.

But that doesn’t mean Republicans aren’t relishing the idea of re-litigating the health care law once again under the bright lights of a nomination hearing.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, promised a “fair and thorough vetting process” and already signaled the Affordable Care Act will be his target, calling it “an unmitigated disaster.” Full story

April 10, 2014

Sebelius Resigning; Burwell to Take Place

Senate Finance Committee 25 110613 223x335 Sebelius Resigning; Burwell to Take Place

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 8:37 p.m. | Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning and President Barack Obama will replace her with OMB Director Sylvia Matthews Burwell.

Sebelius’s resignation comes on a relatively high note, with the White House trumpeting a late surge in initial signups for the Affordable Care Act exchanges — topping 7.5 million just today. But she was deeply damaged by the disastrous initial rollout of the Healthcare.gov website last year, and there had been speculation on how long she would last as a result.

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Sebelius was cheered during a Cabinet meeting on Sept. 30, 2013, the day before the disastrous launch of Healthcare.gov. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Health and Human Services released a statement on her decision to resign:

From her work on Head Start, to expanding mental health coverage, to advancing cutting-edge health care research and, of course, her unwavering leadership in implementing the Affordable Care Act, Secretary Sebelius often calls her work here the most meaningful of her life. As she closes this chapter, Secretary Sebelius is extremely thankful to President Obama and very proud of the historic accomplishments of this Administration.

Burwell, who has already cleared one Senate confirmation process, will have to clear another, although in a post-nuclear-option Senate, Republicans do not have the ability to block her nomination. That might have been different if Sebelius had waited until next year, should Republicans take back control of the chamber. Full story

April 9, 2014

Republicans Block Pay Equity Bill (Updated)

Updated 12:45 p.m. | Senate Republicans filibustered a debate on a Democratic pay equity bill backed by President Barack Obama Wednesday.

Sixty votes were needed to allow the bill to be debated on the Senate floor, but Republicans refused to allow the bill to come up for debate after complaining Democrats weren’t allowing votes on their amendments. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, also broke with his typical party leanings and voted with Republicans against cloture.  The vote was 53-44, with Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., joining Republicans as a “no” in order to preserve his right to reconsider the vote.

King explained his vote in a lengthy statement. “This particular bill, in my view, fails to address the real causes that are driving the wage gap,” he said. “In addition, the bill could impose substantial burdens on businesses in justifying pay differentials,” he said, adding that there are better ways, like raising the minimum wage, to address the gap.

No Republican voted with the Democrats. Three Republicans did not vote: Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, John Cornyn of Texas and Ted Cruz of Texas. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 11:41 a.m.
Filibusters, Policy

April 7, 2014

White House, on Obamacare High, Ranks POTUS With LBJ

sotu tw010 012814 445x292 White House, on Obamacare High, Ranks POTUS With LBJ

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The White House’s self-congratulations on Obamacare don’t appear to be slowing down any after last-week’s victory lap, judging by a background briefing with a senior administration official Monday.

Republicans bet big that the Affordable Care Act was going to be a failure, and they were wrong, said the official, who spoke to reporters on the condition that no direct quotes would be used. The GOP may think the health care law is going to sink Democrats, but that is not going to happen, the official said.

Instead, the Affordable Care Act would go down as one of the greatest achievements by any president in history, the official predicted, comparing President Barack Obama’s legislative achievements in his first two years in office favorably to President Lyndon Johnson’s accomplishments. (For those keeping track, LBJ’s achievements include civil rights, voting rights, Medicare and Medicaid, to name a few). The president will speak at an event later this week at the LBJ Presidential Library in Texas. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 8:50 p.m.
Health Care

April 3, 2014

Intelligence Committee Votes to Declassify CIA Report (Updated)

Updated 4:48 p.m. | The Senate Intelligence Committee voted 11-3 Thursday to declassify portions of the committee’s voluminous investigation into the CIA’s detention and interrogation programs, after the White House indicated President Barack Obama wanted the public to get a chance to read it.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the White House had not yet read all of the report but said President Barack Obama supports its release.

“He wants the report declassified so the public can see it,” Carney said, noting that Obama shut down many of the CIA’s practices when he took office.

Full story

April 2, 2014

Unemployment Benefits Extension: 4 Republicans Switch Votes on Filibuster

unemployment003 011614 445x296 Unemployment Benefits Extension: 4 Republicans Switch Votes on Filibuster

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Four Republicans voted to bring an unemployment benefits extension to the floor last week but then voted to filibuster the bipartisan deal on Wednesday.

Dan Coats of Indiana, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania all voted Wednesday to block the bipartisan agreement led by Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nev.

Joining Democrats to pass the bill were Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Dean Heller of Nevada, Mark S. Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rob Portman of Ohio. They helped put the measure over the top, narrowly topping the 60-vote threshold, 61-38.

Final passage could be as early as Thursday.

We’ve posted the Senate clerk’s tally sheet showing how all the senators voted:

Full story

March 29, 2014

Unemployment Extension: How Did Your Senator Vote?

Updated 8:18 p.m. | The Senate next week will consider giving final approval to an unemployment benefits extension, thanks to a procedural vote Thursday.

Given the wide national interest in this story,  we’re posting the full tally sheet and a breakdown of the bipartisan 65-34 vote to end a filibuster against bringing the legislation up for debate.

The vote came 89 days after benefits expired late last year. Supporters of the bill said that as of today, 2.24 million Americans have been cut off.

There are more hurdles to clear before the Senate can pass the bill, not to mention a wide disparity with House Republicans leadership that leaves it an open question whether the legislation would ever reach President Barack Obama’s desk.

Full story

March 19, 2014

Unemployment Benefits Extension Could Be Delayed Months, Even if Congress Acts Now (Updated)

Updated 4:49 p.m. | State unemployment officials are warning Senate leaders that the emergency unemployment benefits extension expected to come up for votes as soon as next week could face months of delays before checks go to the unemployed — perhaps even beyond the June 1 expiration date set in the bill.

The National Association of State Workforce Agencies warns that the retroactive legislation would be hard to implement, particularly while complying with new requirements — including means-testing so that million-dollar earners do not get checks — in the bill. Most states have warned it would take one to three months to implement the bill, the association said.

Some states may choose to opt out of the extension because of the administrative burden, the association said while warning that there could be a “large number” of overpayments due to the retroactive nature of the legislation.

Implementing the “work search” requirement in the bill retroactively would also be “virtually impossible,” the association said.

Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio cited the letter in his own statement Wednesday, saying it showed the Senate bill was “simply unworkable” and failed to meet his test that it be fiscally responsible and help create more jobs.

But top Senate Republican sponsor of the bill, Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, suggested the complaints were simply the latest “excuse” to deny benefits.

Full story

March 18, 2014

83 Senators Send Iran Letter to Obama

A toughly worded letter to President Barack Obama on the Iran nuclear negotiations signed by 83 senators lays out principles for any agreement and warns of tough new sanctions on Iran if the talks fail.

“We must signal unequivocally to Iran that rejecting negotiations and continuing its nuclear weapon program will lead to much more dramatic sanctions, including further limitations on Iran’s exports of crude oil and petroleum products,” the letter states.

The letter was led by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., Chris Coons, D-Del., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.

Here’s the letter (those who signed at the bottom): Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 1:32 p.m.
Iran

March 17, 2014

Obama Announces Russia Sanctions, Warns More to Come

ireland010 031414 445x304 Obama Announces Russia Sanctions, Warns More to Come

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With congressional action delayed and Russia appearing on the verge of annexing Crimea, President Barack Obama announced a new round of sanctions against the Russian government Monday.

“We are making it clear that there are consequences for their actions,” Obama said. Eleven people, including seven government officials and other “cronies” of the government, have been sanctioned in the dispute over Ukraine, prohibiting them from doing business with the United States and freezing their assets.

“Further provocations will achieve nothing,” Obama said, except to deepen Russia’s isolation. The United States stands ready to impose additional sanctions, he said. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 11:17 a.m.
Uncategorized

March 14, 2014

Reports: Utah Prosecutors Call for DOJ Probe Into Reid, Lee

Two district attorneys in Utah are calling for the Department of Justice to launch an investigation involving Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, according to reports from ABC News and The Washington Times.

ABC reported that the local prosecutors, one Democrat and one Republican, are looking into questions regarding campaign contributions and the online poker industry.

Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson told ABC the district attorneys were engaged in “a publicity stunt.” Jentleson said Reid has never been contacted and questions submitted by ABC News were “nothing but a fever-brained witch hunt.”

A Lee spokesman told ABC that the Utah senator also has not been contacted.

The Washington Times reported the Department of Justice’s public integrity section denied a request by FBI agents to use a federal grand jury and subpoenas to investigate.

By Steven Dennis Posted at 9:59 a.m.
Harry Reid

March 11, 2014

Read Feinstein’s Full Speech Blasting the CIA (Updated) (Video)

Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein on Tuesday accused the CIA of spying on her committee’s computers without authorization — in possible violation of the law and the Constitution — and suggested the CIA may have also tried to engage in an effort to intimidate her staff.

Here is her full floor statement:

Over the past week, there have been numerous press articles written about the Intelligence Committee’s oversight review of the Detention and Interrogation Program of the CIA, specifically press attention has focused on the CIA’s intrusion and search of the Senate Select Committee’s computers as well as the committee’s acquisition of a certain internal CIA document known as the Panetta Review. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 11:18 a.m.
Intelligence

March 5, 2014

Democrats Defect, Sink Obama’s Civil Rights Pick (Updated) (Video)

Updated: 2:17 p.m. | Seven Senate Democrats joined Republicans to block President Barack Obama’s pick of Debo P. Adegbile to lead the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division amid a controversy over his legal defense of convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Adegbile’s nomination needed a simple majority to cut off debate but the chamber voted 47-52 against him, with Obama ripping the vote as a “travesty.”

Democrats Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Chris Coons of Delaware, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and John Walsh of Montana all voted no. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also voted no in order to preserve his right to reconsider the vote. If Adegbile had mustered just two more votes plus Reid, Vice President Joseph Biden was on hand to cast a possible tie-breaking vote.

It’s the first presidential pick to be blocked since Democrats changed the Senate’s rules via the “nuclear option” to block filibusters of nominees.

President Barack Obama called the vote “a travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant.”

Obama said Adegbile had impeccable credentials and “unwavering dedication to protecting every American’s civil and Constitutional rights under the law.”

“Mr. Adegbile’s personal story – rising from adversity to become someone who President Bush’s Solicitor General referred to as one of the nation’s most capable litigators – is a story that proves what America has been and can be for people who work hard and play by the rules.  As a lawyer, Mr. Adgebile has played by the rules.  And now, Washington politics have used the rules against him.”

Powerful law enforcement groups and Republicans opposed the nomination, with the Abu-Jamal case at the heart of the controversy.

Obama mentioned the issue but not by name.

“The fact that his nomination was defeated solely based on his legal representation of a defendant runs contrary to a fundamental principle of our system of justice – and those who voted against his nomination denied the American people an outstanding public servant,” Obama said.

The nomination also has exposed the political risk for Democrats of deploying the nuclear option.

Sarah Chacko contributed to this report.

 

February 20, 2014

Social Security Cuts Still ‘on the Table’ but Not in Obama’s Budget

Updated 2:19 p.m. | President Barack Obama’s decision to drop a proposal to trim cost-of-living increases for Social Security and many other federal benefits from his budget cheered liberals on and off Capitol Hill — although the White House clarified the offer remains “on the table.”

Separately the White House announced that it would live with the spending caps agreed to in the budget deal between Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., and House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, D-Wis. But the budget will also have a separate $56 billion “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative,” which would effectively replace the remaining sequester for fiscal 2015 with supplemental spending split evenly between defense and non-defense programs. The White House says that package would be fully offset with “spending and tax reforms.”

The decision to drop so-called “chained CPI” came after Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., and 15 other senators wrote Obama a letter Feb. 14 urging Social Security to be spared in the president’s budget blueprint.

“With the middle class struggling and more people living in poverty than ever before, we cannot afford to make life even more difficult for seniors and some of the most vulnerable people in America,” said Sanders, who has railed repeatedly on the Senate floor against cutting benefits due under the law. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 1:27 p.m.
Budget
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