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

Posts by Steven Dennis

70 Posts

October 8, 2014

Republicans Eye Obamacare Showdown in Lame Duck

rubio 157 070914 445x291 Republicans Eye Obamacare Showdown in Lame Duck

(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 6, 2014

Ted Cruz Slams SCOTUS on Gay Marriage: ‘Tragic and Indefensible’

cruz 087 090914 445x296 Ted Cruz Slams SCOTUS on Gay Marriage: Tragic and Indefensible

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 5:49 p.m. | While most Republicans shied away from commenting Monday on the Supreme Court’s historic decision to let stand a slew of lower court rulings legalizing gay marriage, Sen. Ted Cruz torched the court’s decision.

The Texas Republican called the decision “tragic and indefensible” and said he would introduce a constitutional amendment that would ensure states can ban gay marriage.

“By refusing to rule if the States can define marriage, the Supreme Court is abdicating its duty to uphold the Constitution. The fact that the Supreme Court Justices, without providing any explanation whatsoever, have permitted lower courts to strike down so many state marriage laws is astonishing,” he said in a statement. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 4:45 p.m.
Ted Cruz

September 17, 2014

Kaine Introduces Limited ISIS War Authorization

foreign006 040814 445x283 Kaine Introduces Limited ISIS War Authorization

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Tim Kaine is introducing a limited war authorization against ISIS, even as Congress is set to jet out of town without an authorization vote before the elections.

The Virginia Democrat, who has led the push for Congress to go on record, would limit the use of ground forces in the conflict to rescue missions and to go after high-value targets. The authority against ISIS, also known as ISIL or the Islamic State, would expire after a year.

He also proposes to repeal the 2002 authorization to use military force (AUMF) in Iraq, something the White House has said it supports.

“Last week, President Obama laid out a strong case for the need to degrade and destroy ISIL and invited broader Congressional support for this effort,” Kaine said in a statement. “I was heartened when Foreign Relations Committee Chairman (Robert) Menendez answered this call by saying the committee would soon craft authorizing language for the U.S. military mission. It’s my hope that this proposal will help move the ball forward on what a specific and narrow authorization for limited military action against ISIL should look like.”

Kaine again knocked the Congress for ducking the authorization question for now.

“If Congress isn’t willing to do the hard work – to debate and vote on an authorization – we should not be asking our servicemembers to go into harm’s way,” he said.

Here’s the full text of Kaine’s proposal: Full story

September 16, 2014

Congress Ducks War Authorization Vote

protesters 200 091614 445x280 Congress Ducks War Authorization Vote

Anti-war protesters disrupt a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on ISIS Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Congress appears set to sprint for the exits after voting to fund President Barack Obama’s new war on ISIS — although not by name — after rejecting a smattering of calls from lawmakers to go on record explicitly debating and authorizing it.

The get-out-of-town votes could come Wednesday, as the nation celebrates Constitution Day, the brainchild of the late-Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who was long the defender of Congress’ prerogatives, especially with regard to war.

“Sen. Byrd would be on the floor demanding that the United States Senate fulfill its constitutional responsibilities, which are debate, amend and vote,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one voice in a fairly small bipartisan group pushing unsuccessfully for a full debate and votes on the authorization to use military force before going home. “This is another act of cowardice, which contributes to the low esteem in which we’re held by the American people.”

Today, the closest heir to Byrd may be Sen. Tim Kaine. The Virginia Democrat has long been an ally of the president, but he has nonetheless sharply criticized Obama — and his colleagues — for not seeking a vote from Congress authorizing the war.

“It’s the most important power that Congress has and it’s the most momentous decision that the nation makes,” Kaine told CQ Roll Call after a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on ISIS, also known as the Islamic State. He called the issue an “obsession” of his, but suggested any comparisons between himself and Byrd are “presumptuous.” Full story

August 1, 2014

Senate Passes Funding for Israel’s Iron Dome

The Senate passed a supplemental spending bill for Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system Friday, after most senators had gone home for the August recess.

The bill had been proposed by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., only to be blocked late Thursday by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who demanded the $225 million cost be offset so that it would not add to the debt.

Coburn relented, said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who thanked him afterward at a press conference for no longer standing in the way of the bill.

“By passing this bipartisan measure, we send a message to Hamas that its terrorist tactics and its attempts to terrorize Israel’s populace will not succeed,” McConnell said in a statement. “And we can help Israel defend its civilian population against indiscriminate attacks as it continues its campaign — Operation Protective Edge — to destroy the often-Iranian-supplied weapons stockpiled within Gaza.”

By Steven Dennis Posted at 11:35 a.m.
Appropriations

July 31, 2014

Senate Sends Highway Patch to the President, Heads for August Recess

Updated 9:25 a.m. | The Senate cleared a $10.8 billion House bill patching the Highway Trust Fund to the president’s desk Thursday in its last legislative vote before heading out of town for the August recess.

The Senate will still be in session Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, but the Nevada Democrat said after Thursday the next roll call vote would not occur until September.

With the highway bill passing 81-13 and a VA bill also cleared for the president’s desk, but a border supplemental blocked by the GOP, Congress cleared two of the three major legislative items leaders had hoped to accomplish this week. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 9:13 p.m.
Uncategorized

July 29, 2014

Robert McDonald Confirmed as VA Secretary

The Senate confirmed former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new secretary of Veterans Affairs on Tuesday, with a $17 billion deal to slash VA wait times expected to pass later this week.

The 97-0 vote reflected broad bipartisan support for McDonald’s pick. Republicans including Speaker John A. Boehner and Rob Portman, both from McDonald’s native Ohio, immediately backed McDonald, who support Mitt Romney in the 2012 election.

Related:

Bernie Sanders’ New Title: Dealmaker

Robert McDonald Pick Stems the Bleeding in VA Health Scandal

July 9, 2014

Harry Reid Torches House Leaders Over VA, Lawsuit, Benghazi (Video)

luncheons014 061014 445x296 Harry Reid Torches House Leaders Over VA, Lawsuit, Benghazi (Video)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Republican leaders are acting like one-time LA Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, “kicking dirt at the umpire” to distract the nation, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday morning.

The Nevada Democrat torched GOP leaders for pursuing “stunts” such as a lawsuit against President Barack Obama and for spending $3.3 million on the select Benghazi committee.

Reid, who also accused House Republicans of blocking a deal to fix the Department of Veterans Affairs, recalled Lasorda’s legendary fights with umpires, which he said were often stunts intended to distract from other problems on his team.

And he said GOP leaders are doing the same thing.

“They’re searching desperately for something, anything, to keep the radicals within their own caucus over there, keep them happy,” Reid said. “That’s hard to do, as we’ve seen. And they want to do this to divert the American people’s attention … from their very own inaction.

“You don’t have to take my word for it. No one has to. Because conservative pundits are falling over themselves to consider this ploy. Even last night Sarah Palin — what did Sarah Palin say? She said, ‘Don’t bring a lawsuit to a gunfight. There’s no room for lawyers on the front lines.’ That’s Sarah Palin.”

Reid added, ”the tea party House is content to put on a show, to kick a little dirt, a big expensive show.”

Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 11:22 a.m.
Harry Reid

June 26, 2014

Supreme Court Strikes Down Obama’s Recess Appointments

A unanimous Supreme Court struck down President Barack Obama’s disputed recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, saying that the Senate was not technically in recess because it was holding pro forma sessions.

“For purposes of the Recess Appointments Clause, the Senate is in session when it says that it is, provided that, under its own rules, it retains the capacity to transact Senate business,” the court ruled in the case of NLRB v. Noel Canning. “This standard is consistent with the Constitution’s broad delegation of authority to the Senate to determine how and when to conduct its business, as recognized by this Court’s precedents.”
Full story

June 25, 2014

Tim Kaine Says Obama ‘Must’ Come to Congress Before Striking ISIL in Iraq (Video)

A longtime ally of President Barack Obama says he must consult Congress before taking military action in Iraq, except to secure the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., the former head of the Democratic National Committee, said Obama “must seek congressional approval” before launching military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) unless there is a direct and imminent threat to the United States, such as a threat to the U.S. Embassy. There is no such imminent threat now, Kaine said. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 11:47 a.m.
Iraq

June 24, 2014

Harkin Didn’t Want Unemployment Extension to ‘Screw Up’ Job Training Bill

harkin 024 040114 445x296 Harkin Didnt Want Unemployment Extension to Screw Up Job Training Bill

Harkin said he didn’t want anything — including a fight over an unemployment extension — screwing up his job training bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Tom Harkin says an unemployment extension was kept off a job training bill intentionally.

“We have a good bill and we are not going to allow it to be tampered with,” said Harkin, an Iowa Democrat who chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and is shepherding the bipartisan Workforce Investment Act through the Senate.

Harkin, asked if unemployment extension was left off because of concerns the House would oppose it, said that wasn’t the reason.

“No, it’s just that this is a WIA bill,” he said. “We worked five years on it and it’s a good bill and we are not going to let it get screwed up by anything.”

In April, a job training bill had been seen as a promising vehicle for a bipartisan compromise to revive an unemployment extension, on the theory it could get more Republican support in the House.

Earlier Tuesday, the top Senate backers of an unemployment extension offered to give up retroactive benefits.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the House should make the next move on unemployment benefits.

So far, there is no sign of that happening.

June 10, 2014

Eric Cantor Defeat a Victory for Ted Cruz?

HagelNomination 04 021413 445x292 Eric Cantor Defeat a Victory for Ted Cruz?

(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Ted Cruz’s staff appeared to be in a celebratory mood Tuesday after Eric Cantor’s shocking loss Tuesday night, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Cruz has frequently been a thorn in House GOP leadership’s side, even recently consorting with ForAmerica, a group headed by Brent Bozell, which as explicitly called for Cantor and the rest of the leadership to be tossed overboard for months.

Cruz, who has taken to having secret meetings with small groups of mutiny-minded House conservatives and helped torch GOP leadership’s immigration principles earlier this year, appeared on a conference call with Bozell in April.

Full story

June 2, 2014

A Spectacular Math Fail on EPA Rule Costs

blunt 092 100813 240x335 A Spectacular Math Fail on EPA Rule Costs

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Roy Blunt’s office sent out a press release with a spectacular math fail that made the new EPA regulations on power plants look far more expensive than even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s own study suggests.

“The study reveals that U.S. consumers would pay almost $290 billion more for electricity between 2014-2030, an average of $17 billion more per year,” the release reads, before going off the rails.

“Missouri consumers would pay on average $65.4 billion more between 2014-2030, on average $11 billion more per year.”

Both of those figures for Missouri are spectacularly wrong — and even internally inconsistent. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 6:17 p.m.
Policy, Potpourri

May 26, 2014

Portman Never Pressed Boehner on Unemployment Extension

portman 112 021114 445x293 Portman Never Pressed Boehner on Unemployment Extension

Portman hasn’t pressured Boehner to vote on an unemployment extension. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rob Portman, who provided the key vote to pass an unemployment extension in the Senate, never pressed Speaker John A. Boehner to hold a vote on it in the House.

Portman told Gannett he didn’t try to press Boehner, his fellow Ohio Republican, to put the bill on the House floor because it wouldn’t have been a productive move.

“He’s hearing it from all sides within his own conference, which he has to keep together,” Portman said. “And that’s got to be his priority.” Full story

May 25, 2014

Elliot Rodger Shooting Prompts Feinstein to Blame NRA ‘Stranglehold’ on Guns

luncheons013 041813 445x297 Elliot Rodger Shooting Prompts Feinstein to Blame NRA Stranglehold on Guns

Feinstein questioned why Elliot Rodger was allowed to own guns, and ripped the NRA’s “stranglehold” on Congress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Elliot Rodger’s shooting spree had Sen. Dianne Feinstein lamenting the “stranglehold” the NRA has over gun laws.

“The deadly shooting in Isla Vista is heartbreaking,” the California Democrat said Sunday in a statement. “Schools should be places of safety, not where students fear for their lives.”

Feinstein questioned why Elliot Rodger was able to legally obtain and keep his guns.

“We must ask ourselves if an individual whose family called police with concerns about mental health, who is receiving therapy and who has had several run-ins with police should be allowed to own multiple firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. When anyone, no matter their mental health or history, can so easily obtain any gun they want and as many as they want—we must recognize there is a problem. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 3:21 p.m.
Guns
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