Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 25, 2014

Posts in "Appropriations"

July 24, 2014

McConnell Seeks to Break Out Funding for Israel’s Iron Dome From Border Bill

mcconnell 016 040114 445x312 McConnell Seeks to Break Out Funding for Israels Iron Dome From Border Bill

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is introducing standalone legislation to provide funding for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system.

The Kentucky Republican’s bill would meet a supplemental funding request from the Pentagon for $225 million for the program. Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., included the funding in her much broader supplemental that would primarily address the crisis of unaccompanied migrant children entering the United States from Central America — but Republicans are balking at that $3.6 billion bill.

“Republicans are united in support of our ally Israel. We have legislation that would allow Congress to meet the Secretary’s request. And we hope our friends on the other side will join us in coming to a sensible, bipartisan solution that can be passed quickly,” McConnell said in a floor speech. “As most senators know, the Iron Dome missile defense system has played a critical role in defending Israel’s population from the rocket attacks launched by Hamas from within the Gaza Strip.

“By passing a bipartisan measure to meet the secretary’s request, we can send a message to Hamas that its terrorist tactics and its attempts to terrorize Israel’s populace will not succeed,” he said.

Republicans aren’t happy that Mikulski’s bill would not make changes to a 2008 anti-trafficking law. The two parties remain far apart on the best way to address the immigration crisis. McConnell’s move allows Republicans to demonstrate that they are supportive of the requested funds for defense of Israel even if they oppose the broader package.

But it likely does not speak well to the prospects that the two sides will reach a deal.

Durbin Puts His Mark on Defense Bill

durbin003 061714 445x299 Durbin Puts His Mark on Defense Bill

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Waging war on smoking, for-profit colleges and tax loopholes may sound like odd subjects for the military spending bill, but not when you consider who is wielding the gavel.

In an era without earmarks, Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin has used his perch atop the powerful Defense Appropriations Subcommittee to put his stamp on several of his priorities, like increasing the accountability of for-profit schools getting federal tuition dollars through the Pentagon.

“If you’ve been bored and watched C-SPAN, you’ve probably heard me on the floor talk about this a couple times. This is serious,” the Illinois Democrat said at last week’s Appropriations Committee markup. “Corinthian Colleges is about to fail and go bankrupt. It’s going to cost the United States over a billion dollars when this for-profit school goes under.”

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July 23, 2014

Sessions: ‘Colossal Error’ to Pass Immigration Spending Without Blocking ‘Administrative Amnesty’

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Jeff Sessions says it would be “institutional surrender” for the House to advance an immigration spending bill without preventing President Barack Obama from expanding “administrative amnesty” for millions of additional unauthorized immigrants.

The Alabama Republican made that case in a lengthy statement circulated Wednesday afternoon, and he expanded on those views in a brief conversation with CQ Roll Call.

“I think it would be a colossal error to pass any kind of legislation that does not prohibit the president from granting legal status to five or six million people, as he’s indicated he intends to do,” Sessions said. “I’m baffled that the House talking points didn’t deal with that … The House principles didn’t address President Obama’s failure to execute the laws and expressed no concern about that danger.”

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July 22, 2014

Mikulski Set to Unveil Emergency Spending for Immigration Crisis (Video)

polish004 060413 445x296 Mikulski Set to Unveil Emergency Spending for Immigration Crisis (Video)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski plans to introduce a $3.57 billion emergency supplemental spending package on Wednesday.

The Maryland Democrat’s emergency bill primarily deals with the crisis of unaccompanied migrant children, but it also would provide funding for fighting wildfires and make a payment to Israel for the Iron Dome missile defense system. A Senate Democratic aide said the package is expected to reach the Senate floor early next week, which would make it one of many pieces of a pre-recess push.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had deferred to Mikulski in regards to announcing the plan earlier Tuesday.

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July 16, 2014

Durbin Wants Defense Spending Bill on the Floor, but Isn’t Optimistic

durbin elshami 294 093013 445x296 Durbin Wants Defense Spending Bill on the Floor, but Isnt Optimistic

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin would not concede that the only way forward for fiscal 2015 appropriations is a continuing resolution, but he wasn’t very optimistic.

Asked if the regular process of handling bills one at a time was dead, the Illinois Democrat said ”I hope not, but it really looks tough.”

Durbin’s comments come a day ahead of a scheduled full committee markup of the fiscal 2015 defense spending bill. In addition to his leadership role, Durbin serves as chairman of the Defense subcommittee, which considered the measure on Tuesday.

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July 15, 2014

No Border Money Unless Obama Disavows Expanding DACA, Senator Says

luncheons010 061014 445x314 No Border Money Unless Obama Disavows Expanding DACA, Senator Says

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Jeff Sessions is calling on his fellow lawmakers to reject any new spending to address the immigration crisis at the border until President Barack Obama disavows any plans to expand deportation relief known as DACA.

The Alabama Republican made his plea in a “dear colleague” letter circulated to Senate offices on Monday. In the letter, he said the possibility of more executive actions on immigration “threatens the foundation of our constitutional Republic.”

“Certainly, DACA and the President’s other numerous unlawful policies must be terminated,” Sessions wrote. “But as a first step, Congress must not acquiesce to spending more taxpayer dollars until the President unequivocally rescinds his threat of more illegal executive action.”

The Sessions letter comes ahead of an all-senators briefing on Wednesday on the Obama administration’s roughly $3.7 billion request for emergency supplemental appropriations to address the crisis at the border. The full text appears below:

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Harkin’s HELP Committee Shows Off the Lost Art of Legislating

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Alexander, left, and Harkin have racked up legislative victories on the HELP Committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Ask Sen. Tom Harkin about his committee’s work this Congress and he’s ready to rattle off a key statistic.

“Fourteen bills. More than any other committee in the Congress. Fourteen bills signed into law.”

The retiring five-term senator — who hails from a vastly more productive era — might seem at first blush an unlikely candidate to break through in the most dysfunctional Congress ever. Harkin is an unabashed Midwestern liberal. But he’s also proved adept at reaching across the aisle on issues that don’t always make the front pages — such as the Workforce Investment Act reauthorization — a major overhaul heading to the president’s desk.

To hear Harkin tell it, much of the opportunity for success comes from having an old-school legislator as a partner.

“First of all, I have a good ranking member in Lamar Alexander. While we disagree on things, we’re able to work together and find common ground and get it done,” the Iowa Democrat said. Alexander, who became the top Republican on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee this Congress, learned the ropes under a fellow Tennessean, the late Majority Leader Howard Baker.

“That’s just it. We just work. It takes work. It takes time,” Harkin said last week, as leaders in both parties hailed the WIA.

It also takes discipline.

Harkin rejected the idea of adding an unemployment extension he and other Democrats supported to the re-authorization. “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,” Harkin said when the bill headed to the floor.

Alexander said the HELP committee has a history of focusing on areas where common ground between the parties can be achieved, including under the leadership of the previous chairman, the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

“I’m proud of the progress we’ve made and I’ll give Sen. Harkin a good deal of the credit,” Alexander said. “Ideologically, we are very different, but we both know that our job is to get a result where we can. We have a huge jurisdiction. Sen. Kennedy used to say that we have about 40 percent of the jurisdiction of the Senate. And I think we’ve produced more legislation that has been reported to the floor and become law than any other committee.”

The House cleared the workforce investment agreement with an overwhelming 415-6 vote on July 9.

“The Workforce Investment Act had been stuck, literally, for 10 years. And finally, especially due to the work of Sen. Murray and Sen. Isakson, it passed,” Alexander said, lauding Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., for running point.

“I think what you saw was both of us sit down and work with our counterparts across the aisle to find common ground and achieve something that was really important to our country. And that is how we work,” Murray said.

Alexander also highlighted the work of longtime committee members Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., and Richard M. Burr, R-N.C., who helped pass the Child Care Development Block Grant, which helps low-income families.

“I think part of the solution is that we look for areas where we can get a result, and we have good participation from other members of the committee. It’s not just a two-man show,” Alexander said.

Other HELP Committee measures that have become law this Congress include a reauthorization of the toll-free number for the poison control center and promoting access to epinephrine pens in schools. Harkin has more he wants to get done before retiring, but getting his education agenda to move could be quite a struggle. There’s more of a partisan divide on that issue than some others he’s handled.

“I’m working on the higher education bill. I’ll have it out in September. I don’t know know, maybe lame duck,” Harkin said. “Maybe.”

If he does, it might be testament to the relationships he’s built.

In 2011, he told CQ Roll Call that President Barack Obama didn’t seem to enjoy the give and take of the Senate.

“If I only dealt with my Republican colleagues only on an issue basis, I probably never would get anywhere,” Harkin said then. “But I deal with them on a human basis, too.”

Alexander said he had particular issues with the Democratic view on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act — also known as No Child Left Behind.

“Like on kindergarten through the 12th grade, my view of the Democratic bill is that it creates a national school board. We simply don’t agree so we had competing bills. On higher education, we may have some different opinions,” Alexander said. “But where we can agree we’ll work together.”

But Alexander also pointed out his recent effort with Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., to simplify the process of applying for and receiving federal financial aid to attend college. Their bill would eliminate the current 10-page Free Application for Federal Student Aid and replace it with a simple, two-question postcard.

At a meeting of the National Governors Association on July 11, Alexander stood up and showed the current student aid form to demonstrate its length.

“Because it’s a bipartisan effort, I think it has a much better chance of actually getting a result,” Alexander told CQ Roll Call. “So we are not just interested in making speeches, we are interested in getting a result and where we can we will and where we can’t, we’ll lay those items aside and go on to something else.”

Harkin’s also continuing to focus on early learning legislation, pushing for floor time.

But his other baby, the appropriations bill that funds the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, is stuck in a broader morass as Democrats seek to avoid contentious amendments.

Asked about the chances to consider that bill, Harkin said: “I have no idea. I really don’t know.”

“I think the CR that we have in September is going to be short-term, probably until December or something,” Harkin said. “And then after we come back in the lame duck we’ll work on a longer bill, and hopefully it will not be a CR, but it will actually be an omnibus.”

And naturally, one that includes his bill.

When Harkin retires at the end of this Congress, Murray — who has been bolstering her legislative bona fides this Congress — could be in position to take his dual gavels at HELP and the appropriations subcommittee that funds the programs HELP oversees. But she declined to say whether she would.

“All those questions will be answered at some point, I am not ready [to] yet.”

July 10, 2014

Cornyn, Durbin Highlight Divide on Immigration Supplemental

If you want to see the Senate’s divide on a supplemental spending package to address the flood of unaccompanied migrant children crossing the border, look no further than the chamber’s two whips.

In separate conversations with reporters, Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois expressed different concerns about the crisis.

Durbin said he was not comfortable rolling back part of a 2008 trafficking law without first getting some answers about the well-being of the unaccompanied minors who would be sent back to potentially volatile situations in Central America.

Full story

July 8, 2014

Hobby Lobby, Immigration Supplemental At Top of Reid’s July Agenda (Video)

reid 202 062414 445x302 Hobby Lobby, Immigration Supplemental At Top of Reids July Agenda (Video)

Reid says he doesn’t support offsets to the White House’s supplementary spending bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., plans a packed July work period with the Senate expected to consider a raft of bills, including a Democratic response to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision and the emergency immigration supplemental spending bill.

“We have so much to do this month,” Reid said after a meeting with his Democratic colleagues. “At the caucus that I just completed we weren’t able to get through all the issues. So we have to finish our work on Thursday just to talk about them.”

Reid said a top priority is taking action in response to the court’s 5-4 ruling that closely held corporations did not have to provide contraceptive services as part of health insurance plans if they have religious objections.

“The one thing we are going to do during this work period, sooner rather than later, is to ensure that women’s lives are not determine by virtue of five white men,” Reid said. “This Hobby Lobby decision is outrageous and we are going to do something about it. People are going to have to walk down here and vote. And if they vote with the five men on the Supreme Court I think they are going to be treated unfavorably come November.” Full story

July 7, 2014

McCain: Cut Aid to Countries Fueling Immigration Crisis

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McCain wants to cut aid to countries fueling the immigration crisis. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A GOP architect of the Senate’s immigration plan is calling for at least threatening to cut aid to Central American countries that don’t take steps to stop the flow of unaccompanied migrant children to the United States.

“We should tell these countries in Central America that no more aid, no more assistance, no nothing until they stop this from happening,” Arizona Sen. John McCain told KFYI radio in Phoenix.

Full story

June 26, 2014

GOP Won’t Shut Down Government to Block ‘War on Coal,’ Thune Predicts

luncheons tw008 111313 445x297 GOP Wont Shut Down Government to Block War on Coal, Thune Predicts

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A top Senate Republican predicted the GOP’s fight against the EPA’s “war on coal” won’t lead to a government shutdown.

Republican Conference Chairman John Thune of South Dakota predicted Thursday that a proposal from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to effectively halt the EPA’s regulation of carbon emissions from existing power plants won’t go away.

But Thune didn’t think there was any appetite to threaten a government shutdown over climate change rules or any other issue in October, just before the 2014 mid-term elections.

“No Republican is talking about using that as leverage to shut the government down,” he said. ”I don’t think anybody — we’ve got a budget number that’s been put in place now that we’re operating under and any continuing resolution that gets adopted this year, I assume, would meet that number.” Full story

June 25, 2014

Boxer Cheers Cochran Primary Win, Sees Lesson for Transportation Bill

boxer001 092513 445x282 Boxer Cheers Cochran Primary Win, Sees Lesson for Transportation Bill

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., cheered the GOP primary win of Sen. Thad Cochran in Mississippi on Wednesday and  said she hoped his winning message of bringing back money to Mississippi would be a lesson to to other senators.

“I saw some of the ads that were on television and they made a very important point: that Sen. Cochran has worked to bring money back for Mississippi,” Boxer said. “His opponent was not interested in that.”

Boxer, who is chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, made her comments at a news conference she convened to urge support for a plan floated by Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., to raise $9 billion through an assortment of tax code tweaks to keep transportation programs funded through the end of the year.

“I bring this up because in the deepest of red states, in the deepest of red primaries you had someone who made that part of his appeal that he has worked here to bring funds back to Mississippi and I’m heartened by that because … [infrastructure funding] is a basic responsibility and hopefully that will send a message of courage to my colleagues,” Boxer continued.

Cochran, a veteran member of the Appropriations Committee, had built a reputation of delivering for his state through earmarks. That reputation came under attack after the practice fell out of favor.

That reputation also left Cochran vulnerable from attacks from the right.

Chris McDaniel, his tea-party-aligned primary opponent, pushed Cochran to a runoff in a contentious and closely watched campaign.

But Cochran pulled it out Tuesday night winning 51 percent of the vote with turnout for the runoff surpassing the June 3 primary.

Speaking at a breakfast hosted by the Wall Street Journal, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said that his victory was significant, and holds lessons for future incumbent campaigns.

“I think it was very significant in that the attention of all the Republicans and the country was on this race. We know all the dynamics and the background of it,” said McCain, who stumped for Cochran. “When I was there in Mississippi it was clear that tea party advocates — which is their right and I don’t complain about it — but, they flooded into that state. They were everywhere at the grassroots level.”

“I think the reason why Thad Cochran did so poorly in the primary was they, they kind of took it for granted,” McCain continued. “We’ve got to understand, anybody who’s running for re-election who is associated with Washington has already alienated a large number of the primary voters. And if you don’t accept that, as Lindsey Graham did by the way, and others have, then you are going to find yourself in some political difficulty.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., handily defeated his tea party primary opponent and five other challengers, winning 59 percent of the vote earlier this month, despite his support for a comprehensive immigration overhaul.

McCain added that a defeat for Cochran would have had greater repercussions.

“In a way, the victory is helpful that Thad Cochran had, but a defeat for Thad Cochran would have … reverberated one heck of a lot more,” McCain said.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate who appeared at the breakfast with McCain, said he thinks the tea party’s influence is waning.

“I think it’s peaked,” Schumer said of the tea party’s power. “I think it’s not just this election, but you look at all of them, and the mainstream conservatives were able to win. Some of them went right into the eye of the tiger, like Lindsey. Some of them sort of went around it, but they won.”

He said he viewed the primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., as an anomaly.

June 23, 2014

Reid Fumes at McConnell’s New Fondness for Majority Rules

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 11:40 p.m. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called out Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for insisting on a simple majority threshold for his amendment to block new carbon emissions regulations — while refusing to allow simple majority votes on Democratic jobs proposals.

“Unfortunately the Republican leader stalled the Senate’s progress on these appropriations bills with his recent conversion to the idea of insisting on simple majority votes,” Reid said on the Senate floor Monday.

Senior Senate Republican aides said this was just another instance of Reid seeking to protect his Democrats from voting on politically difficult amendments. Full story

June 19, 2014

Reid Parks ‘Minibus’ Spending Bill in Amendment Dispute

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Well, so much for that idea.

The Senate’s appropriations process seemed to fall apart Thursday afternoon as the first fiscal 2015 “minibus” found itself with flat tires.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had one of their all-too-familiar floor exchanges Thursday afternoon, during which Reid proposed an agreement to take up the three-bill spending package with an amendment process that would require 60 votes for amendments to be adopted.
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White House Threatened Veto of Spending Bill Over McConnell Amendment (Updated)

senate briefing004 061014 445x297 White House Threatened Veto of Spending Bill Over McConnell Amendment (Updated)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 2:44 p.m. | Top senators signaled the White House threatened to veto a Senate spending bill over a possible amendment from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to block EPA power plant regulations.

The amendment, billed by the Kentucky Republican as a fight against the Environmental Protection Agency’s “war on coal” was cited by the chairwomen of the full Appropriations Committee and the Energy-Water Subcommittee as the key factor in removing that fiscal 2015 bill from Thursday morning’s markup agenda.

“The amendment was a bill-killer. If it didn’t lead to defeat on the Senate floor, it would have resulted in a White House veto, as the chairman has said,” said subcommittee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein. The California Democrat said the White House confirmed a veto threat over the amendment on Wednesday.

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