Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 1, 2014

Posts in "Democrats"

July 31, 2014

Republicans Block Many Ambassador Nominations in ‘Nuclear Option’ Fallout (Updated)

menendez 114 091713 445x295 Republicans Block Many Ambassador Nominations in Nuclear Option Fallout (Updated)

Menendez sought consent to confirm 25 ambassadors, including ambassadors to Russia and Guatemala. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 11:07 p.m. | The Senate may not be confirming nominees to posts in a slew of countries before departing for the August recess, but after some  procedural maneuvering, the U.S. will be getting a top diplomat in Russia.

Senators confirmed the nomination of John F. Tefft by voice vote as the chamber finished evening business after he faced objection to confirmation by unanimous consent earlier in the night.

The Senate’s nuclear fallout continued as the chamber worked into the night leading up until the break that will see no roll call votes until September 8. Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez faced a GOP objection to confirming a batch of 25 career foreign service officers to various ambassadorships, including President Barack Obama’s choice of Todd D. Robinson for the top diplomatic post in Guatemala, one of the key countries in the current crisis involving unaccompanied minors at the Southwest border.

Full story

July 14, 2014

Durbin Gets New Communications Director | Hill Climber

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Durbin, left, has someone new to help deal with these pesky reporters. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin has a new communications director as of Monday, Ben Marter, who is now the head of the Illinois Democrat’s whip press team.

Marter has worked as a communications director for his entire five-year tenure on Capitol Hill, having worked most recently as communications director for Durbin’s fellow Senate Democrat, Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut.

Marter joined Murphy’s office in 2011 after leading the press shop for former Rep. Betsy Markey, D-Colo., where he had been since 2009.

By Bridget Bowman Posted at 4:21 p.m.
Democrats

Senators Blast NCAA, ESPN in Review of College Athletics (Video)

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Rockefeller criticized ESPN at a hearing on the NCAA and student-athletes last week, saying the network was “undermining our commitment to education.” (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A century-old debate over the commercialization of college athletics is under renewed scrutiny on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers could face the issue in the coming months, and held little back when the leader of the NCAA testified recently before the Senate Commerce Committee.

Senators hammered NCAA President Mark Emmert on July 9, as questions about student-athlete compensation, graduation rates, health care and sexual assault took center stage.

Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., kicked off by reminding Emmert of the committee’s jurisdiction over intercollegiate athletics, before taking aim at the NCAA.

“College athletes and athletics are rooted in the notion of amateurism, and the history of that is very interesting and important,” Rockefeller said. “Playing college sports is supposed to be an avocation. There’s a growing perception that college athletics, particularly Division I football and basketball, are not avocations at all. What they really are is highly profitable commercial enterprises.”

Full story

July 8, 2014

Democrats’ Hobby Lobby Response Would Curtail Religious Freedom Law (Video)

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If Sen. Patty Murray and fellow Democrats get their way, employers wouldn’t be able to use a 1990s-era law to avoid Obamacare health coverage mandates for contraception.

That’s the crux of the proposal expected to be introduced by the Washington Democrat that would upend the recent split Supreme Court opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

It’s a bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is eager to bring to the floor for an almost certainly ill-fated test vote.

Full story

July 2, 2014

Begich Slams McCaskill in Feud Over Alaska Native Corporations

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It isn’t the first time an Alaska senator has chastised a colleague for a lack of understanding about his non-contiguous state.

Sen. Mark Begich lit into fellow Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri after she sent a letter to the Small Business Administration administrator seeking details about the use of a small and disadvantaged business contracting program by Alaska Native Corporations.

“It’s no secret many senators still have quite the learning curve when it comes to understanding the unique needs of Alaska. What is especially troubling are those who refuse to take the time to understand our needs and challenges while continuing to take actions intended to unfairly punish and target our way of life,” Begich said in a statement. “I’m afraid my colleague, Senator McCaskill — through her narrow lens as a ‘government oversight and efficiencies guru’ — has trouble understanding Alaska history, even with my repeated attempts to reason with her.”

Full story

June 30, 2014

Senate Democrats Eye End Run Around Hobby Lobby Case (Updated)

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 2:19 p.m. | Senate Democrats plan to “fight” to ensure women retain access through their insurance to contraceptives, after the Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case.

Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin said in a statement that while he certainly opposed the Supreme Court’s 5-4 opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that said closely held corporations did not have to provide contraceptive services as part of health insurance plans if they have religious exemptions, he noted the scope was somewhat narrow.

“I disagree strongly with today’s Supreme Court’s decision, which will limit access to critical preventive care for everyday working people in Iowa and around the country. I am heartened, however, that the Court’s narrow decision would not extend to other guaranteed health benefits from the Affordable Care Act such as blood transfusions and vaccinations,” the Iowa Democrat said in his statement.

“While the Supreme Court has ruled, this fight is far from over. Along with my colleagues in Congress, I am deeply committed to ensuring that all Americans — men and women alike — can get the health coverage they need, and we will be exploring legislative remedies to ensure that affordable contraceptive coverage remains available and accessible,” Harkin said.

Harkin is chairman of both the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the Appropriations subcommittee that provides funds to the Department of Health and Human Services.

An early concrete legislative proposal came from the desk of Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin. The Illinois Democrat plans a bill that would require corporations denying insurance coverage to employees pursuant to the Hobby Lobby case to be disclosed.

“I will introduce legislation that requires all corporations using this Supreme Court decision to deny or limit contraception services to disclose this policy to all employed and applicants for employment,” Durbin said in a statement. “Workers have a right to know if their employers are restricting the availability of a full range of family planning coverage.”

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., signaled likewise in his own statement, without providing details.

“Today’s decision jeopardizes women’s access to essential health care. Employers have no business intruding in the private health care decisions women make with their doctors. This ruling ignores the scientific evidence showing that the health security of millions of American women is strengthened by access to these crucial services,” Reid said. “If the Supreme Court will not protect women’s access to health care, then Democrats will. We will continue to fight to preserve women’s access to contraceptive coverage and keep bosses out of the examination room.”

President Barack Obama wants Congress to pass a new contraception law to ensure women keep their coverage, although Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the administration may be able to act even without Congress.

Sen. Patty Murray, a member of the Democratic leadership, signaled in a statement she was open to both options.

“Your health care decisions are not your boss’s business – period. Since the Supreme Court decided it will not protect women’s access to health care, I will,” the Washington Democrat said in a statement. “In the coming days I will work with my colleagues and the Administration to protect this access, regardless of who signs your paycheck.”

Any legislative fix would face a huge hurdle — namely the seemingly universal praise for the decision from Republicans, including Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio.

But in the majority opinion at the Supreme Court, Justice Samuel Alito seemed to open the door to HHS providing for the contraceptives to be covered through other means.

“HHS has not shown that it lacks other means of achieving its desired goal without imposing a substantial burden on the exercise of religion by the objecting parties in these cases,” wrote Alito. “The most straightforward way of doing this would be for the Government to assume the cost of providing the four contraceptives at issue to any women who are unable to obtain them under their health-insurance policies due to their employers’ religious objections. This would certainly be less restrictive of the plaintiffs’ religious liberty… that this is not a viable alternative.”

Likewise, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a concurrence pointing to existing protocols for religious organizations.

“[I]n other instances the Government has allowed the same contraception coverage in issue here to be pro- vided to employees of nonprofit religious organizations, as an accommodation to the religious objections of those entities,” Kennedy said. “The accommodation works by requiring insurance companies to cover, without cost sharing, contraception coverage for female employees who wish it. That accommodation equally furthers the Government’s interest but does not impinge on the plaintiffs’ religious beliefs.”

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.

 

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June 24, 2014

Ahead of Recess, Highway Bill Standoff Gets Political (Video)

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Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform says a Democratic highway bill violates the group’s anti-tax pledge. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When the Senate returns from the July Fourth recess, lawmakers will have just about two weeks to fix a shortfall in funds for federally-backed highway projects, with both parties again in a dispute over taxes.

If past is prologue, that means campaign-style events with bulldozers and hard hats will be coming to a city near you, and there still might not be a good solution. The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee has floated plan to keep highway projects from grinding to a halt — but that solution has already drawn the ire of Republicans.

Still, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., says talks will continue, and he remains open to GOP suggestions, which would clearly include spending cuts.

Full story

June 9, 2014

Senate Democrats Have Full Agenda Ahead

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Democrats are in a race against the clock in order to consider all the must-pass legislation, such as a new highway bill and an overhaul of the Department of Veterans Affairs, alongside a host of election-year items aimed at drawing contrasts with the GOP.

The Senate is poised to consider a bipartisan deal — drafted by Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. — that would reduce wait times for medical care at the VA.

“Details of the agreement are not in writing yet … they are being drafted,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday. Reid said he “will be happy to schedule a vote as soon as possible.”

The bill has bipartisan urgency and momentum behind it to deal with the still-widening VA scandal.

But Democrats will also consider a host of other bills aimed squarely at defining the GOP as the party of the rich and Democrats as the party of the people ahead of November. Full story

June 4, 2014

Schumer Compares Steve King to ‘Wizard of Oz’ on Immigration (Video)

Nearly two weeks after Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, challenged Sen. Charles E. Schumer and other Senate Democrats to a “duel,” the New York Democrat returned the favor on the Senate floor, calling King the “wizard of Oz” on immigration.

“Steve King is much like the Wizard of Oz when it comes to immigration,” Schumer said during a 10-minute floor speech Wednesday. “He is pulling the levers behind the screen to make it seem he has the power. [The] Republican Party will learn sooner or later, like Dorothy did in the ‘Wizard of Oz,’ that actually King works by fear and he doesn’t have the power, that the wizard’s power is overstated. He can’t really do very much. And the only way to get back home and do something real is in ourselves.”

Full story

May 22, 2014

50 Senators Tell NFL to Rename Washington Redskins (Video)

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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

May 19, 2014

Elizabeth Warren Leads Progressive Charge, but Has GOP Admirers Too

warren 095 0501414 445x296 Elizabeth Warren Leads Progressive Charge, but Has GOP Admirers Too

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

“What reaction do you usually expect from banks?” Sen. Elizabeth Warren asked a reporter last week.

It was classic Warren. Appearing at a news conference with fellow Democrats and D.C.-area college students to roll out legislation she spearheaded that would let borrowers refinance student loans, the Massachusetts Democrat dismissed a question about financial institutions losing profits from older, high-interest loans.

“There’s a real question here. Does Congress work for the rich and the powerful, for those who can hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers, or does Congress work for the rest of America?” Warren asked. “We believe the rest of America should get a fair shot at an affordable education.” Full story

May 12, 2014

Manchin Mourns Mother’s Death

Sen. Joe Manchin III is mourning the death of his mother, just a day after Mother’s Day.

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“Today, the good Lord brought my dear mother home to rest in eternal peace next to my father. Gayle and I, and our entire family, are saddened by the loss of my beloved mother who touched so many in her life, but we know that she is now in a better place,” the West Virginia Democrat said in a statement. “We ask that you continue to keep her in your thoughts and prayers.”

Manchin was born in Fairmont, W.Va. That’s the town in which Anna Jarvis, the woman credited for making Mother’s Day into a holiday in the United States, once lived. The observance turned 100 years old this year.

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 1:55 p.m.
Democrats

May 8, 2014

Reid Says Koch Brothers Are ‘One of the Main Causes’ of Climate Change (Video)

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Reid laid into the Koch brothers again on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Amid the stalling energy efficiency and Keystone XL pipeline debate in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid has once again resorted to blaming the Koch brothers for their “radical agenda,” on Wednesday calling the two principal owners of Koch Industries “one of the main causes” of climate change.

“The multi-zillionaire Koch brothers … they are one of the main causes of [climate change], not a cause, one of the main causes,” the Nevada Democrat said on the Senate floor. “Charles and David Koch are waging a war against anything that protects the environment. Now I know that sounds absurd, but it’s true.”

On Tuesday, The White House released a report detailing the effects of climate change, which was met with a bipartisan blast of hot air in Congress.

Despite trading talking points with Reid on Tuesday, Senate Republican amendments were blocked on Wednesday when Reid “filled the tree” on the Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill.

Niels Lesniewski and Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report.

May 7, 2014

Senator on Veterans Affairs Allegations: ‘Just Because CNN Says Something, Doesn’t Always Make It The Case’ (Video)

During Senate floor debate Wednesday over authorizing funds for the Department of Veterans Affairs in 18 states, the Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernard Sanders criticized members for jumping to conclusions over alleged misconduct at VA facilities, including in Phoenix, Ariz., which has received extensive media attention following a CNN report last week.

“I am not a lawyer, but I did learn enough in school to know that you don’t find somebody guilty without assessing the evidence,” the Vermont Independent said. “And frankly, just because CNN says something, doesn’t always make it the case.”

Some Senate Republicans, including Minority Whip John Cornyn, called for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign on Tuesday, while others, such as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have refused to call for Shinseki’s ouster until hearings are held and the Inspector General’s report is complete. Full story

May 6, 2014

Reid Says There Will Be No Senate Committee to Investigate Benghazi (Video)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will not create a special committee to investigate the 2012 attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya, following Speaker John A. Boehner’s announcement on May 2 proposing a House committee.

“There’s no conspiracy here, it was a tragedy,” the Nevada Democrat said. “It’s my understanding they have 25,000 pages of documents, there’s been numerous hearings on this already, the State Department did an extensive review. … Now the latest smoking gun is a memo preparing people to go on the Sunday shows. Don’t you think everybody gets some preparation before they go on the Sunday shows? So the answer is no, we’re not going to do any select, special committee over here on Benghazi.”

Reid’s comments followed Boehner’s announcement this week that Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a former federal prosecutor, will lead the special committee.

Late Tuesday, Roll Call reported the House committee would consist of seven Republicans and five Democrats.

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