Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 24, 2014

Posts in "Budget"

November 12, 2014

Enzi Hasn’t Ruled Out Seeking Budget Gavel

Honest 005 020112 445x305 Enzi Hasnt Ruled Out Seeking Budget Gavel

Enzi, left, hasn’t ruled out a run for the Budget Committee gavel against Sessions, right. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., hasn’t ruled out claiming his seniority on the Budget Committee and seeking the chairmanship against Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the panel’s current ranking member.

“There are a lot of conversations about committees and subcommittees and I am not going to talk about it now,” Enzi said when asked if he would seek the gavel.

Sessions was also coy.

“We’ve talked,” Sessions said, noting that he considers Enzi one of his best friends in the Senate.

“I wouldn’t want to comment on the details of the conversation,” Sessions added.

Asked if he expects to be chairman, Sessions said, “It’s always up to the committee and the leaders.” He later added, “Mike Enzi’s one of the best people here, and we’ve consulted. We’ve had a good conversation.”

Enzi has seniority on the Budget Committee over Sessions, who four years ago was pushed out as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee by Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa.

Sen. Michael D. Crapo, R-Idaho, said he had not heard from Enzi on the matter, but acknowledged a gavel fight was possible.

“I don’t know,” Crapo said. “You’re not the first one to ask me if that is the case.”

“As a technical matter, the committee votes. As another technical matter all committees historically go with seniority,” Crapo said. “I suppose you could find an example where that didn’t happen, but it’s really rare.”

Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., both members of the panel, said they had not heard from Enzi either.

Two years ago, Enzi also left open the possibility of taking over as Budget Committee ranking member, but ultimately decided to let Sessions keep the post.

At stake is who will be the face of the party on budget issues and shepherd a budget resolution on the chamber floor — something that soon-t0-be-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other top Republican leaders have said will be a priority next year.

Sessions has staked out a position as perhaps the chamber’s most adamant opponent of the Senate’s immigration bill and President Barack Obama’s planned executive action on immigration. Sessions is pushing Republicans to block any funding for amnesty in a spending bill to keep the government running — a move that could ultimately provoke a government shutdown showdown.

Enzi is the main Senate Republican sponsor of the Internet sales tax bill killed this week by Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio. He also recently penned an op-ed in Roll Call calling for slashing $7.6 trillion from the federal budget over the next decade.

Neither Enzi nor Sessions voted for the bill reopening the government during last year’s shutdown over Obamacare.

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November 5, 2014

After Catching a Wave, Senate Republicans Look to Legislate

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Moran, right, with Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., on the campaign trail. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Having emerged from an Election Day that many Republicans only dreamed of, the Senate Republicans’ campaign chairman was already looking forward to a Senate starting to function again.

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., told a home state radio station that frustration with the lack of legislative activity contributed to his seeking the campaign job in the first place.

“This place has been run, for the four years I’ve been in the United States Senate, with the goal of doing nothing,” the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee said on KNSS. “Boy, this place better change. It’s why I was willing to chair the Senate campaign committee, is to get us in a position in which Sen. Reid was not the leader with the plan to do nothing, and I intend as a member of the United States Senate — not as a Republican senator but as a Kansan, as an American — to do everything I can to see that we work to accomplish things.” Full story

November 3, 2014

Hal Rogers Eager for Majority Leader McConnell

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Singer Jimmy Rose has appeared with McConnell and Rogers (not pictured) on Capitol Hill and in Kentucky. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The man in charge of writing spending bills in the House sounds downright excited for the possibility of fellow Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell becoming Senate majority leader next year.

RollCall On the Road Logo150x150 Hal Rogers Eager for Majority Leader McConnell“I’m very hopeful and anxious that Mitch takes over the majority leader’s slot over there so that we can move these bills, and fund the government in a regular way — passing 12 individual bills on the House side and Senate side, then conferencing them in the old-fashioned way,” House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers said last week in an interview.

The scenario would play out if McConnell wins his own re-election Tuesday against Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and Republicans pick up the six or more seats needed to flip control.

The two longtime appropriators go back decades and have coordinated on a number of projects, and they would be an even more powerful duo with McConnell running the Senate.

Over the weekend, the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call moved the race to Republican Favored. Even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., sounded Saturday like he was expecting a McConnell victory. Full story

October 28, 2014

McConnell: Obamacare Repeal Will Take 60 Votes (Updated)

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 9:35 p.m. | Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says Republicans won’t be able to repeal Obamacare anytime soon.

Tempering the expectations of conservatives a week before the elections that could install him as the first Republican majority leader in eight years, the Kentucky Republican said in a Fox News interview Tuesday a repeal of the health care law simply wasn’t in the cards for now.

He wasn’t telling Fox News anything that close observers of the Senate and the budget process didn’t already know, but it serves as a reminder of the limitations Republicans should expect even if they net six or seven seats, given the obvious reality that President Barack Obama is still in the White House.

McConnell said repealing Obamacare remains at the top of his priority list.

“But remember who’s in the White House for two more years. Obviously he’s not going to sign a full repeal, but there are pieces of it that are extremely unpopular with the American public and that the Senate ought to have a chance to vote on,” he said.

McConnell also noted Democrats could filibuster a repeal effort.

“It would take 60 votes in the Senate. No one thinks we’re going to have 60 Republicans, and it would take a presidential signature,” McConnell said. “I’d like to put the Senate Democrats in the position of voting on the most unpopular parts of this law and see if we can put it on the president’s desk.”

That suggests McConnell isn’t about to pull a nuclear option of his own and do away with the filibuster just for the sake of repealing the law.

Republicans including McConnell have talked about rolling back much of the Affordable Care Act through the budget reconciliation process — which would allow them to bypass a filibuster. That route is difficult to traverse and forbids the inclusion of items that are not budget-related. Such a bill could also still be vetoed, making the whole process a symbolic exercise without a Republican president.

Other smaller pieces might get super-majorities, such as repealing the 2 percent excise tax on medical devices. McConnell also mentioned nixing the individual mandate as another target.

McConnell again suggested Republicans would try to use the appropriations bills to rein in the Obama administration.

Asked about what a GOP-led Senate might do to blunt executive action on immigration policy that President Barack Obama is planning, McConnell used the example of environmental regulations.

“I think it’s a bad mistake for the president to try and assume powers for himself that many people feel he should not be assuming. You know, we’ve seen that on full display with the EPA and the war on coal,” McConnell said. “That’s not a result of any legislation that Congress passed. It’s just something the president wants to do on his own and uses the people who work for him to achieve. I think that’s a big mistake.”

Those spending restrictions could get to Obama’s desk, leaving the president to decide whether to use his veto authority.

Speaking to Fox from the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky., during a campaign stop, McConnell counted the potential move on immigration as one such mistake. McConnell himself must overcome a challenge from Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, with a variety of public and internal polls showing the race competitive in the closing week. The Kentucky Senate race is rated Leans Republican by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

“If the American people do change the Senate, and give the Republicans control of Congress, we certainly are, through the spending process, going to try to restrain the overactive bureaucracy that’s been attacking virtually every business in America,” McConnell said. “And we intend to push back against executive orders that we think aren’t warranted by … trying to control the amount of money that is allocated.”

But there’s only so much the GOP is going to be able to accomplish.

“He is the president of the United States, and he’ll be there until January 2017,” McConnell said of Obama.

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October 22, 2014

Coburn’s ‘Wastebook’ Targets Include Mountain Lions, Sheep, Beer (Video)

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Coburn, pictured here unveiling the 2013 Wastebook. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Tom Coburn and his investigators have been busy in their most recent effort to unveil what they view as government waste and abuse.

The 2014 edition of the Oklahoma Republican’s annual “Wastebook” runs almost 250 pages and features more than 1,100 footnotes. It’s presumably the last such report Coburn will issue from his Senate perch, as he’s resigning his seat early at the end of the current Congress.

As in previous editions, the report highlights billions of dollars of projects that Coburn views as wasteful government spending.

“This report, the fifth annual Wastebook, gives a snapshot of just a fraction of the countless frivolous projects the government funded in the past twelve months with borrowed money and your tax dollars,” Coburn wrote in the report’s introduction. “Every year taxpayers, regardless of their personal political leanings, raise their eyebrows and shake their heads in disbelief at how billions of dollars that could be been better spent — or not spent at all — were squandered.” Full story

September 16, 2014

Mark Warner Still Pushing Grand Bargains on the Stump

VAPOL14 032 090414 445x296 Mark Warner Still Pushing Grand Bargains on the Stump

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

FAIRFAX, Va. — How often do you hear a Democrat on the campaign stump tell a largely partisan audience that some of the attendees might be well-advised to vote for a Republican?

That’s exactly what happened when Sen. Mark Warner stopped on a college campus a few weeks ago.

“If you’re a Democrat, you may have to vote for a Republican who is willing to do revenues,” the Virginia Democrat said. “If you’re a Republican, vote for a Democrat who’s willing to do entitlement reform.”

In any case Warner, the former Virginia governor who is favored to win re-election against former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie this fall, and has often been talked about as someone who could end up on a national ticket, said no one should vote ”for anybody who’s signed one of these stupid pledges” such as the anti-tax one championed by the Grover Norquist-led group Americans for Tax Reform.

Full story

July 16, 2014

Obama’s Embrace of GOP Highway Fix Frustrates Senators Pushing Long-Term Deal

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Murphy has been pushing a gas tax hike to bolster the Highway Trust Fund. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A group of Senators focused on forcing action on a new highway bill expressed disappointment with President Barack Obama for backing a House-GOP stopgap measure that they argue would encourage kicking the can down the road. Full story

June 12, 2014

Senators Doubt ‘Astronomical’ CBO Score for VA Health Bill

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Some senators are questioning an ‘astronomical’ but preliminary Congressional Budget Office score for the Senate-passed emergency veterans health bill — while promising to find ways to pay for it in conference with the House.

The CBO said the VA bill could cost $50 billion a year in expanded health benefits, but there were questions Thursday about how the CBO came to that figure.

“I think it’s astronomical because of some of the CBO assumptions, which among other things assumes that every veteran who qualifies now to get VA services … who hasn’t been using the VA, will all start using the VA and they’ll all have their share of health problems,” Missouri GOP Sen. Roy Blunt said. “Probably neither of those two things turn out to be the case.”

Full story

June 11, 2014

Veterans Could Get $50 Billion a Year in New Health Care

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Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is a co-sponsor on the bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As the Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass legislation designed to fix problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the amount of new spending in the measure began to clarify.

And the price tag could be a gut-check when it comes to understanding what it really costs to fulfill sacred obligations to America’s veterans. The cost of the measure could be astronomical.

That’s according to preliminary numbers circulated by the Congressional Budget Office Wednesday afternoon. The bill would give veterans new opportunities to seek care outside of the health care system provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Full story

June 10, 2014

Wyden Focused on Finding Bipartisan Funding for Highway Bill (Video)

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is keeping his options open on how to fund a new highway bill in order to help foster a bipartisan solution.

“Nothing has been agreed to, nothing has been ruled out, nothing has been ruled in,” Wyden told reporters Tuesday. “And the way it’s going to work is by the end of today, early tomorrow morning, we’ll have a bead on what members of the Finance Committee want to do and then we’ll go from there.”

“There are no easy answers here,” Wyden continued. “Failure is not an option and we’re going to make decisions in a bipartisan way.”

Full story

VA Bill Could Pass Senate by Week’s End (Video)

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate could move ahead at breakneck pace on bipartisan legislation to address the  scandal rocking the Department of Veterans Affairs — after just as swiftly voting to block a partisan student loan refinancing bill.

A test vote on the student loan measure championed by Democrats and led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is set for Wednesday, and despite the vocal support of Democrats and an outside public relations push, it is going nowhere fast.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell dissed that measure, which would allow student loans to be refinanced at lower current rates with an offsetting millionaire minimum tax. Instead, he said, the Senate should be acting on the bill to address the unfolding scandal at the VA, negotiated by Veterans Affairs Chairman Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., and Republican John McCain of Arizona.

Full story

May 12, 2014

For Tax Cut Bill, Senators Face Vote on Boosting Deficit

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Coburn plans to force senators to vote on increasing the deficit before the Senate can pass a tax cut bill. Others are considering attaching an unemployment extension. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senators will likely face a separate vote on boosting the deficit in order to pass an $85 billion tax cut extenders bill, according to key Senate Republicans.

Retiring Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a staunch opponent of the extenders bill, said he would “raise every order I can” to block the bill and “try to get us to do the right thing” for taxpayers.

He expects someone on the Budget Committee to raise a budget point of order. And, “If they don’t I will,” Coburn said.

Full story

Tax Bill Highlights Split Between Grover Norquist, Club for Growth

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Norquist (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The tax-cut-extension bill set for the Senate floor this week highlights a longstanding fissure between Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform and the Club for Growth.

The dispute comes down to this: The club would rather see the entire extenders package disappear — and thus see higher revenue flowing to the government, at least in the short-term — because it believes that many of the provisions are anti-growth and would harm the economy in the long run. For Norquist’s ATR, lower revenue is the top priority.

The two groups have faced off in the past — on a repeal of an ethanol tax break that would have violated ATR’s no-tax pledge, and on broader strategy, with the club nearly always opposing major budget legislation that has reached President Barack Obama’s desk, while Norquist has often supported the deals cut by GOP leadership. Full story

Democrats Not Cheering Walsh Proposal for Budget Balance Before Recess

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. John Walsh’s proposal to cancel recesses until adopting a budget resolution that balances the books by 2024 isn’t exactly getting endorsements.

Asked about the recently appointed Montana Democrat’s proposal, a Senate Budget Committee spokeswoman reiterated the view of Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., about the state of the budget process.

“Chairman Murray believes we should build on the budget currently in place as a result of the two-year bipartisan agreement she reached with Chairman Ryan with additional bipartisan work to create jobs, encourage growth, and responsibly tackle our long-term budget challenges,” the spokesperson said.

Congress is currently operating under the spending levels agreed upon in that bipartisan deal, which has allowed appropriators to get to work on fiscal 2015 bills.

And the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Full story

May 8, 2014

Democratic Senator Proposes Banning Recess Until Congress Adopts Balanced Budget

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Walsh wants senators to stop going on recess until they pass a balanced budget. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Freshman Sen. John Walsh introduced a bill Thursday that would block congressional recesses until there’s an agreement on a budget resolution that balances within a decade.

Walsh was appointed in February to fill the unexpired term of fellow Montana Democrat Max Baucus, who resigned from the Senate to become ambassador to China.

“Montana families don’t leave work before the job is done, and Congress shouldn’t get taxpayer-funded trips back home until they’ve addressed the national debt,” Walsh said in a statement. “This is the issue I hear most about from Montanans and I’m sure our neighbors across the country agree that Congress must solve this issue before going back home to ask their constituents for votes. What’s more, we have to responsibly address this issue, which means I won’t allow cuts to Medicare, Social Security and other programs that serve our most vulnerable Americans.”

Full story

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