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

Posts by Steven Dennis

66 Posts

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

In VA Scandal Fallout, Disabled American Veterans ‘Outraged’ at Burr, Blames Congress for Lack of Funding

luncheons013 022514 445x296 In VA Scandal Fallout, Disabled American Veterans Outraged at Burr, Blames Congress for Lack of Funding

Burr, left, is under fire for suggesting leaders of veterans groups care more about access to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki than they do about veterans after not calling for a change in leadership in the VA scandal. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Richard Burr’s statement ripping the leaders of veterans’ groups Friday has sparked a second letter of outrage, this time from Disabled American Veterans, in the latest fallout from the VA scandal.

After the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) torched Burr, R-N.C., Saturday for a “monumental cheap-shot,” DAV National Commander Joseph W. Johnston issued a statement of his own.

Johnston defended his and other groups’ decision not to join the American Legion’s calls for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign, and blamed a lack of funding from Congress for much of the VA’s troubles.

“If Senator Burr believes that calling for the resignation of Secretary Shinseki is the only measure of whether a leader cares about veterans, perhaps he should check with Speaker Boehner, Chairman Miller and numerous Republican Senate colleagues who have not yet done so,” Johnston wrote. Full story

May 24, 2014

VFW Torches Burr in Spat Over VA Scandal, Shinseki (Updated)

burr 114 0501514 445x296 VFW Torches Burr in Spat Over VA Scandal, Shinseki (Updated)

The Veterans of Foreign Wars ripped Sen. Richard Burr, shown here before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on “The State of VA Health Care” May 15. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 2:41 p.m. May 25 | The Veterans of Foreign Wars leadership blistered Sen. Richard Burr after the North Carolina Republican penned an open letter late Friday impugning the staff of veterans groups for not calling for new leadership at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In his letter, Burr, the ranking Republican on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee praised the American Legion, which has called for Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign, and suggested that the leadership staff of other veterans’ groups — without naming them — care more about access to Shinseki than they do about veterans.

“Last week’s hearing made it clear to me that the staff has ignored the constant VA problems expressed by their members and is more interested in their own livelihoods and Washington connections than they are to the needs of their own members,” Burr charged. “I fear that change within the VA will not be possible unless and until these organizations also reconsider their role as well as the nature of their relationship with VA.”

The VFW responded late Saturday with a lengthy missive of its own.

“I will afford you the same amount of respect you demonstrated for the Veterans of Foreign Wars by the monumental cheap-shot and posturing you’ve engaged in by enlisting in an absolutely disgusting ambush style of politics,” the three-page letter began.

“Without the courtesy or benefit of conversation or dialogue with me or the VFW Adjutant General regarding your disagreement with VFW’s recent testimony to your committee, you chose instead to take the low road and question VFW’s motives and levy a pejorative personal attack on VFW staff.

“Senator, this is clearly one of the most dishonorable and grossly inappropriate acts that we’ve witnessed in more than forty years of involvement with the veteran community and breaches the standards of the United States Senate. Your allegations are ugly and mean-spirited in every sense of the words and are profoundly wrong, both logically and morally. Quite frankly Senator, you should be ashamed.” Full story

May 22, 2014

No Action on Unemployment Extension as Senate Leaves Town

Loans 003 042512 223x335 No Action on Unemployment Extension as Senate Leaves Town

Reed’s efforts to revive an unemployment extension in 2014 have failed so far. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

None of the long-shot scenarios for additional Senate action on an unemployment extension materialized before the Senate skipped town for another recess Thursday. Full story

50 Senators Tell NFL to Rename Washington Redskins (Video)

cantwell 056 030713 445x324 50 Senators Tell NFL to Rename Washington Redskins (Video)

Cantwell wants the NFL to rename the Washington Redskins. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Half of the Senate is urging NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to change the name of the Washington Redskins.

A letter led by Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., signed by 49 senators who caucus with the Democrats, urges Goodell to use NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s decision to ban Los Angeles Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling as a precedent.

“Today, we urge you and the National Football League to send the same clear message as the NBA did: that racism and bigotry have no place in professional sports. It’s time for the NFL to endorse a name change for the Washington, D.C. football team.” Full story

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