Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 19, 2014

Posts in "Appropriations"

September 18, 2014

Senate Votes to Fund Syrian Rebels Against ISIS, Avert Government Shutdown (Updated) (Video)

manchin091814 445x302 Senate Votes to Fund Syrian Rebels Against ISIS, Avert Government Shutdown (Updated) (Video)

Manchin said he’s concerned about arming Syrian rebels to fight ISIS. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 6:50 p.m. | After some last-minute drama on immigration, the Senate took care of Congress’ last must-pass piece of business before the November elections — keeping the government funded and providing authority for arming and training Syrian rebels in the fight against the terror group known as ISIS.

Senators voted 78-22 in favor of the continuing resolution funding the government through Dec. 11, with the bill’s next stop President Barack Obama’s desk, well ahead of the end-of-the-month deadline to preventing a government shutdown.

The bill, which the president has said he will sign, provides billions the president intends to use for his war on ISIS, but does not explicitly authorize that war beyond arming “vetted” Syrian rebels. The vote did not cut cleanly along party lines, which came as no surprise. Full story

September 10, 2014

Cruz to House GOP: Punt Spending Debate Into 2015

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Ted Cruz is launching an effort to push the House into a continuing resolution that funds the government into the next Congress.

“It would be a serious mistake for House Republicans to pass a Continuing Resolution that would ensure that Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats would come back to Washington, after many of them will have likely lost their seats, for a no-holds barred lame duck session where they will be free to pass legislation that the American people will never be able to hold them responsible for,” the Texas Republican said in a statement provided to CQ Roll Call.

“Americans cannot trust politicians they can no longer hold accountable at the ballot box,” Cruz said. “The Continuing Resolution should, at a minimum, fund government operations until after the new Congress is sworn in next year; House and Senate Republicans should both insist on this basic principle.”

The statement followed a letter sent by Cruz and Lee to Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pledging to object to consent requests to move on more contentious proposals in the lame duck.

Full story

September 9, 2014

Reid Warns of Shutdown Showdown Over Immigration (Video)

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Cruz said Tuesday it would be appropriate to add language blocking a “pen and phone” approach from the president on immigration. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday that if a band of Republicans press for language blocking executive actions on immigration, they’re inviting a government shutdown.

“If I have anything to do with it? No, no, no,” the Nevada Democrat said of allowing a vote on such a proposal, as sought by a group of Senate and House conservatives led on the Senate side by Ted Cruz, Jeff Sessions and Mike Lee.

Asked what happens if the senators insist on considering it as part of the continuing resolution debate that’s expected next week, Reid pointed to a risk government funding could lapse.

Full story

September 5, 2014

After Ferguson, Durbin May Seek Reforms to Police Militarization Programs

453583712 445x296 After Ferguson, Durbin May Seek Reforms to Police Militarization Programs

(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

After police use of military equipment in Feguson, Mo., raised concerns of excessive force following the shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager, Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., may seek to revamp two key Pentagon programs.

The Defense Department runs two programs that allow state and local police forces to receive or purchase excess military equipment — known as 1033 and 1122 respectively — and Durbin, who is also chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee, wrote to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to voice his concerns.

“The adoption by local police departments of military-style tactics and their use of military equipment have provoked concern across the nation for a number of years, but the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, give new urgency to the need for an examination of the DoD programs that supply such equipment,” said Durbin, who also has jurisdiction over the matter as chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights Subcommittee

“I appreciate the briefing that DoD officials provided to my staff about these programs. Based on this briefing I have identified several areas of concern that I wanted to bring to your attention,” Durbin added. “I intend to ensure that these issues are addressed as the Administration and Congress review these programs and consider reforms.”

Durbin cited a lack of effective coordination between the Defense Department and the Justice Department, with respect to the 1033 program, and suggested that the Justice Department could play a significant role in ensuring that police departments have valid law enforcement purposes for the equipment, do not have a history of violations of federal laws or grant requirements with regard to federally-provided equipment, and are not the subject of any allegations or investigations that would raise concerns about the possession of the equipment.

Durbin also said that he is concerned that under the 1033 program there is no procedure for evaluating whether there has been any illegal or inappropriate use of equipment, particularly of firearms, explosive devices or military vehicles.

The lack of a requirement for training for 1033 related equipment also disturbed Durbin, but he noted that the Defense Department is not the appropriate entity to provide the training.

Durbin further recommended that an independent ombudsman be part of the complaint process in an effort to help instill community confidence that the programs are being run effectively.

“I look forward to working with you to ensure that any provision of excess military equipment to civilian law enforcement is carried out with the safeguards, accountability and oversight that our communities need and deserve,” Durbin said.

Durbin’s letter comes after the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has scheduled a hearing on the issue for Tuesday.

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August 21, 2014

Chambliss Wants Special Counsel to Investigate Obama on Bergdahl Swap

chambliss 196 031913 445x284 Chambliss Wants Special Counsel to Investigate Obama on Bergdahl Swap

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee wants a special counsel to investigate President Barack Obama’s swap of five Taliban members for the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

An aide to Sen. Saxby Chambliss told CQ Roll Call in an email Thursday that the Georgia Republican wants the Department of Justice to appoint a special counsel to investigate the prisoner swap, which the Government Accountability Office contended earlier Thursday violated federal law.

The GAO opinion said the administration violated the notice requirement for transfers out of the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the Antideficiency Act, which is the federal law barring spending without appropriated funds. The Defense Department has contended that the notice requirement is unconstitutional.

The aide’s email came after Chambliss sent out a statement Thursday pointing to the GAO opinion, which came at the request of Republicans.

“This legal decision further validates the argument I have been making with many of my colleagues against the administration’s release of the Taliban Five,” Chambliss said. “By failing to notify Congress 30 days in advance as required by the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act, the president completely disregarded laws duly passed by Congress and signed by his own hand.

“In addition to simply violating the notification requirement, the administration has violated the Antideficiency Act by obligating funds that were not legally available. While the president has a habit of ignoring laws relating to domestic policy, such as healthcare and immigration, this latest overreach regarding our national security has dangerous implications. The United States has a long-standing policy of not negotiating with terrorists for good reason, and these senior Taliban leaders will soon rejoin the fight, as they have stated publicly multiple times.”

Chambliss’ release notes federal employees who violate the Antideficiency Act can face administrative and criminal sanctions.

The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment Thursday on the possibility of a grand jury in either Washington, D.C., or Alexandria, Va., pursuing the matter.

August 11, 2014

Mikulski Plots One More Push at Omnibus

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Mikulski details her plans about transportation funding issues at Baltimore’s Penn Station. (Niels Lesniewski/CQ Roll Call)

BALTIMORE, Md. — When the Senate returns next month, the chamber’s top appropriator is planning one more push at an omnibus, even if it’s a serious long shot.

Speaking at an event to laud the enactment of a stopgap measure to provide about $11 billion to replenish the Highway Trust Fund and avert construction layoffs, Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., outlined an effort to use the fiscal 2015 Military Construction-VA spending bill as the vehicle for a catchall package, rather than a continuing resolution.

RollCall On the Road Logo300x300 Mikulski Plots One More Push at Omnibus“When we come back in September, I’m going to make another effort to get us to an omnibus. I believe, now that we’ve passed the groundbreaking bill to look out for veterans’ health care, that’s a long range bill, but right now we have money for fiscal ’15 that would enable us to move VA medical care,” Mikulski said at Baltimore’s Penn Station. “And that would be the little engine that could that would help me move to an omnibus.”

Full story

August 4, 2014

Leahy: Reported USAID HIV Ruse in Cuba ‘Worse Than Irresponsible’

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The U.S. Agency for International Development’s top appropriator is not amused with a new Associated Press report about the agency’s activities in Cuba.

Democratic Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the chairman of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations subcommittee warned of the consequences of the effort to the reputation of USAID.

“It is one thing to support nascent Cuban civil society organizations, if USAID’s role is disclosed in advance to participants and beneficiaries. It is quite another to concoct an HIV/AIDS workshop to promote a political agenda,” Leahy said in a statement. “If that is what happened here it is worse than irresponsible. It may have been good business for USAID’s contractor, but it tarnishes USAID’s long track record as a leader in global health.” 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 Fails To Pass Border Supplemental (Video)

Updated 7:56 p.m. | The Senate failed to pass a $3.6 billion emergency supplemental spending package, most of which was designed to deal with the tens of thousands children illegally emigrating from Central America.

Hours after House GOP leaders had to pull their own $659 million bill, Republicans used a budget point of order by Senate Budget Chairman Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., to kill the Senate bill on a 50-44 vote, 10 votes shy of the 60 votes needed.

Full story

Dr. No Plans One-Man Blockade on Bills That Add to Deficit

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Dr. No is at again, despite the jet fumes in the air.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. — the fiscal hawk of the Senate who has earned the nickname Dr. No. — warned his colleagues that he would object to passing bills by unanimous consent, including money for Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system or wildfires, unless they were offset.

“I am putting my colleagues on notice that if you want to pass any bill that’s going to go by unanimous consent, you better find some waste somewhere to offset it or I will object,” Coburn said. “And I don’t mind taking the heat, no matter what the issue. I’ve done it before, I’ll do it again.” Full story

Reid Warns of Weekend Work in September (Video)

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Reid warned senators to prepare for weekend work. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is warning of a whirlwind September schedule that will feature a slew of do-over votes on Democratic campaign priorities.

“I want everyone to know what’s going to happen when we come back. Following the August recess, we’re going to convene on Sept. 8, and we’re going to be here for one week, two weeks and two days. Sept. 23 is our target date to adjourn until after the election,” the Nevada Democrat said when opening the Senate floor Thursday for the last expected session day before the August break.

Full story

July 28, 2014

Reid Open to Separate Funding for Israel, Wildfires and Border in Pre-Recess Rush

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The pre-recess rush began Monday with a plea from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

“Leaving here with Israel being naked as they are, with these wildfires raging and a crisis at the border, it would be a shame if we did nothing,” the Nevada Democrat said on the Senate floor.

Those three priority items would get emergency funding under a measure introduced last week by Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md.

Full story

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.”

Full story

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.”

Full story

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