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

Posts by Steven Dennis

90 Posts

March 27, 2015

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

Same-Sex Marriage Benefits Endorsed on Senate Floor (Updated)

Schatz (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Schatz (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 12:22 a.m. | The Senate endorsed Social Security and veterans benefits for married gay couples Thursday night in a 57-43 vote, with 11 Republicans joining every Democrat.

The amendment slowed down the vote-a-rama, with a group of Republicans huddled in the well and at times talking to sponsor Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.

The nonbinding amendment to the budget resolution still falls short of the 60 votes needed to beat back filibusters in the chamber. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 10:46 p.m.
Budget, LGBT

Vote-a-Rama Minute-by-Minute

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The moment you’ve been waiting for — the (sort of) annual Senate vote-a-rama — is here. A whole host of CQ Roll Call reporters and editors are tweeting out details during the marathon voting session, which you can read below. Scores of amendments are expected to get votes, with final adoption of the Senate GOP’s budget expected early Friday morning.

Hundreds of amendments have been filed, and the only limit to the voting time is exhaustion, aided by the powerful jet fumes of a pending recess.

Voting Marathon: More Test Marketing Than Attack Ads

Vote-a-Rama Presents Political Peril for Vulnerable Incumbents

Start Preparing Now for the Budget Vote-A-Rama

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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Freshman Senator: Pay for Obamacare Replacement With … Obamacare

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 08: From left, Sens. Steve Daines, R-Mont., Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., attend a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee markup in Dirksen Building on legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, January 8, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Cassidy, center, a freshman senator and Louisiana doctor, has a different spin on replacing Obamacare than most Republicans. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Bill Cassidy, the freshman senator from Louisiana and a doctor, has been pushing fellow Republicans in his first few months in the Senate to embrace an alternative to Obamacare — one he predicts will insure more people without mandates.

And he even says he has a way to pay for it: Obamacare. Full story

March 12, 2015

Portman: Tom Cotton Letter Should Yield Better Iran Deal

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Portman defended signing the letter to Iran’s leaders. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The controversial letter signed by 47 Republicans to Iran’s leaders authored by Sen. Tom Cotton should yield a better agreement if used properly by the Obama administration, Sen. Rob Portman said Thursday.

Portman, who faces a re-election fight next year in Ohio, said he didn’t see the letter as a way to sabotage the talks — quite the opposite.

“I signed it for a very simple reason, which is I want a good agreement with Iran, and I think it helps to get a good agreement,” Portman told reporters. Full story

February 26, 2015

3 Republicans Defy Ted Cruz, Back Loretta Lynch (Updated)

Ted Cruz

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 1:36 p.m. | It’s starting to look like yet another loss under the Dome for Ted Cruz.

The Texas firebrand’s fellow Republicans aren’t on board with his plan to block Loretta Lynch’s nomination to be attorney general.

The Senate Judiciary Committee backed the Lynch nomination, 12-8, Thursday with the help of three Republicans — Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona. Full story

February 25, 2015

Ted Cruz Learns When to Fold

Ted Cruz won't gum up the works in the Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Ted Cruz says he won’t gum up the works in the Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Ted Cruz apparently isn’t up for fighting just for the sake of fighting when it comes to funding the Department of Homeland Security.

Time and time again, the Texas firebrand has railed against deals struck by Mitch McConnell in recent years — and voted against them — but he hasn’t used all of the considerable procedural tools at his disposal to gum up the works. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 4:09 p.m.
Ted Cruz

Harry Reid Decides to Take Yes for an Answer

Harry Reid decided he could take Mitch McConnell’s offer to give him exactly what he wanted after all.

Reid’s decision comes a day after an odd sequence where Majority Leader McConnell of Kentucky offered up a “clean” Homeland Security funding bill shorn of immigration provisions, only to have Minority Leader Reid of Nevada spurn the offer in lieu of a capitulation by Speaker John A. Boehner.

Boehner, R-Ohio, hasn’t yet said he’ll swallow a clean bill, but with House Republicans insisting the Senate act first, it appears the path for averting a shutdown is now crystal clear: McConnell and Reid will try and pass a clean bill as soon as they can muster it — probably Thursday — and then the House will have the hot potato with effectively a take-it-or-own-the-shutdown proposition. Full story

February 24, 2015

McConnell Throws in Towel on DHS Fight, but Reid Is Waiting for Boehner to Cave (Updated)

Updated 5:20 p.m. | In an extraordinary sequence of events, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offered Democrats exactly what they have been asking for Tuesday — “clean” full-year funding for the Department of Homeland Security. And Minority Leader Harry Reid said “no” — or at least, “not yet.”

McConnell’s offer of such a bill shorn of provisions blocking President Barack Obama’s recent immigration executive orders — which he said could happen quickly with Democratic cooperation — was put on hold by Reid, who said he was waiting to hear Speaker John A. Boehner agree to pass it through the House first. Full story

January 22, 2015

Harry Reid ‘Intending to Run,’ Expects Swift Recovery (Video)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Reid walks returned to the Capitol on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The venue was different, and his face was bruised and bandaged, but Harry Reid was still Harry Reid.

With an American and Nevada flag in the background, along with a bald eagle and a box of “Search Light” matches on the wall over his shoulder, Reid held court with reporters in a meeting room in his Capitol office suite for a news conference that could’ve taken place any Tuesday afternoon near the Senate’s iconic Ohio Clock.

Full story

December 16, 2014

Tax Extenders Vote a Bipartisan Affair

Wyden was one of a bipartisan group opposing the tax extenders package. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Wyden was one of a bipartisan group opposing the tax extenders package. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The final vote on the $41.6 billion tax extenders package was, like the cromnibus last week, a very bipartisan affair.

Handing out mostly corporate tax breaks and adding to the debt to do it has proven to be a popular thing for Congress. Democrats including President Barack Obama spent the better part of 2013 trying to get Republicans to agree to more revenue as part of a budget deal, but are now signing on to deficit expansion for the sake of tax breaks that will expire, again, in two weeks.

Usually, these tax breaks — which range from the R&D tax break to breaks for NASCAR, racehorse owners and wind farms — are touted as incentives — and indeed some senators called them that Tuesday. But it’s hard to retroactively incentivize anything — a point made on the Senate floor by outgoing Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who voted no and said the tax bill didn’t even have the shelf life of a carton of eggs. Full story

December 14, 2014

How Big Is the Ted Cruz Caucus?

Ted Cruz

Eleven Republicans sided with Ted Cruz on all three key votes on the ‘cromnibus.’ (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It’s a question that will prove crucial next year when Mitch McConnell takes the reins of a new Senate: Just how big is the Ted Cruz caucus?

Three votes on the “cromnibus” late Saturday night suggest it could be as large as 22 senators — a dangerously high number for McConnell — or as few as a handful.

Let’s break down the three votes — on filibustering the $1.1 trillion package, on Cruz’s point of order aimed at targeting the president’s immigration action, and final passage. Full story

November 18, 2014

NSA Overhaul Dies in Senate Vote (Updated)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Leahy’s NSA reform bill died on the Senate floor. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 8:19 p.m. | An effort backed by the Obama administration to overhaul the NSA’s controversial surveillance activities died in the Senate Tuesday.

Republicans led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., voted to block the bill, which came just two votes shy of the 60 needed to come to the floor for debate.

Just four Republicans joined Democrats to advance the bill: Ted Cruz of Texas, Dean Heller of Nevada, Mike Lee of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Bill Nelson of Florida was the only Democrat to vote against cloture.

The 58-42 vote came as a blow to the measure’s champion, Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. It was aimed at ending the bulk collection by the government of phone data and other records of Americans and reforming oversight of the NSA’s programs.

Leahy decried opponents who he said used fear to oppose the bill. He recalled that a lethal anthrax letter was addressed to him — and he would have died if he had touched it — but said the Constitution and civil liberties are more important.

McConnell, however, blasted the measure as one that would aid America’s enemies, including ISIS, also known as ISIL or the Islamic State.

His fellow Kentucky Republican, Sen. Rand Paul, voted against the bill because it didn’t go far enough in his opinion to roll back surveillance under the Patriot Act.

“In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Americans were eager to catch and punish the terrorists who attacked us,” he said in a statement. “I, like most Americans, demanded justice. But one common misconception is that the Patriot Act applies only to foreigners—when in reality, the Patriot Act was instituted precisely to widen the surveillance laws to include U.S. citizens,” Sen. Paul said. “As Benjamin Franklin put it, ‘those who trade their liberty for security may wind up with neither.’ Today’s vote to oppose further consideration of the Patriot Act extension proves that we are one step closer to restoring civil liberties in America.”

Sarah Chacko contributed to this report.

Roll Call Results Map: Results and District Profiles for Every Seat

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By Steven Dennis Posted at 7:55 p.m.
Intelligence

Keystone XL Pipeline Stalls in Senate Vote (Video) (Updated)

Landrieu

Landrieu working the phones Tuesday ahead of the Keystone XL vote. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 7:42 p.m. | A Senate bill aimed at approving the Keystone XL pipeline stalled Tuesday, dealing a blow to Sen. Mary L. Landrieu’s tough re-election bid.

Republican leaders plan to bring the pipeline legislation back up next year, when GOP reinforcements appear certain to bring it over the line and to President Barack Obama’s desk.

The 59-41 vote fell just one vote short of overcoming a filibuster led by Democrats.

In addition to Landrieu, Democrats who backed the pipeline included Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Jon Tester of Montana, John Walsh of Montana and Mark Warner of Virginia.

Republicans hope their ranks will include Rep. Bill Cassidy, who is challenging Landrieu in next month’s runoff election in Louisiana and like Landrieu has long backed the pipeline, which would ship oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. Cassidy sponsored the Keystone bill that earlier passed the House.

Full story

November 13, 2014

Mitch McConnell Unanimously Elected Majority Leader by GOP (Updated) (Video)

Mitch McConnell (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Mitch McConnell (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 6:10 pm. | Senate Republicans have unanimously elected Mitch McConnell to be majority leader.

There was little drama heading into the vote, as no one had emerged to challenge the Kentucky Republican after the party’s triumph in last week’s midterm elections.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire nominated McConnell, according to a GOP source inside the room, and Sen.-elect Tom Cotton of Arkansas gave a seconding speech. He won a voice vote without opposition and was treated to a standing ovation.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas was likewise selected, by voice vote without contention, as the party’s whip. He was nominated by Sen. Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania and seconded by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. Full story

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