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December 20, 2014

Posts in "Democrats"

December 16, 2014

Durbin and Schumer Split Up

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Schumer and Durbin are moving out. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Senate’s longstanding D.C. roommates have gone their separate ways.

Democratic Sens. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Charles E. Schumer of New York had long rented space in a Capitol Hill row house owned by Rep. George Miller.

The retirement of the California Democrat left the two Senate Democratic leaders with a problem.

Full story

December 13, 2014

Senate Avoids Shutdown, Passes Cromnibus in Bipartisan Vote

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Reid, left, and Mitch McConnell, are tested as the government gets closer to shutting down. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 11:26 p.m. | The Senate has avoided a government shutdown, easily clearing the $1.1 trillion “cromnibus” funding the government through September.

The government was scheduled to shut down at midnight Saturday, but the Senate first cleared a four-day stopgap measure by voice vote and later reached a deal to clear the cromnibus after lawmakers in both parties sparred over who was to blame for the impending shutdown theatrics.

The final vote was 56-40 in an extremely bipartisan vote, with 21 Democrats, 18 Republicans and independent Bernard Sanders of Vermont voting no.

Republican no votes: Bob Corker of Tennessee; Michael D. Crapo of Idaho; Ted Cruz of Texas; Jeff Flake of Arizona; Charles E. Grassley of Iowa; Dean Heller of Nevada, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah; John McCain of Arizona; Jerry Moran of Kansas; Rand Paul of Kentucky; Rob Portman of Ohio; Jim Risch of Idaho; Marco Rubio of Florida; Tim Scott of South Carolina; Jeff Sessions of Alabama; Richard C. Shelby of Alabama; and David Vitter of Louisiana.

Democratic no votes: Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut; Cory Booker of New Jersey; Barbara Boxer of California; Sherrod Brown of Ohio; Maria Cantwell of Washington; Al Franken of Minnesota; Kirsten Gillibrand of New York; Tom Harkin of Iowa; Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii; Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; Carl Levin of Michigan; Joe Manchin III of West Virginia; Ed Markey of Massachusetts; Claire McCaskill of Missouri; Robert Menendez of New Jersey; Jeff Merkley of Oregon; Jack Reed of Rhode Island; Tester of Montana; Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Ron Wyden of Oregon.

In the key vote earlier Saturday night, the Senate easily cleared the 60-vote threshold to stop a filibuster attempt, 77-19. Thirteen Republicans, five Democrats and Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., voted to filibuster the bill.

The Senate then thumped an effort by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to raise a point of order over the issue of the President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration. Cruz’s effort failed on a similarly lopsided 22-74 vote. 

The Senate had been stuck in the midst of numerous procedural votes on nominations — with a weekend session forced by conservatives against the wishes of many in their own party. Full story

December 5, 2014

Rockefeller Opposes Leahy FOIA Bill

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Rockefeller (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Once on a glide path to passage through the Senate, the FOIA Improvement Act is in trouble after retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., came out against the bill designed to make government more transparent.

“I have a long record of support for open government and the [Freedom of Information Act] process,” Rockefeller said in a release. “I am concerned that provisions in this bill will have the unintended consequence of harming our ability to enforce the many important federal laws that protect American consumers from financial fraud and other abuses.” Full story

December 4, 2014

Senate Democrats Talk Life in Minority, Plot Comeback

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Manchin (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Democrats held a meeting Wednesday that they hoped would end intraparty finger-pointing after tough election losses, and discussed their new minority role in next Congress.

“The healing process is beginning,” West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III said.

Senators heard from their colleagues who won’t be coming back next Congress including Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska, Manchin said.

Manchin added, “We hope to do things a little differently.” Full story

December 3, 2014

Senate Democrats Begin Planning Road Back to Majority

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Senate Democrats will meet Wednesday to start plotting a path back to the majority. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Democrats will hold their first strategy session on taking back the majority Wednesday afternoon, according to a senior Senate Democratic aide.

The informal session will be led by Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, who is chairman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who is DPCC vice chairman. Full story

December 1, 2014

Liberal Groups Want Longer Lame Duck to Confirm Nominees

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Top Senate Republicans will not be amused by the letter. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A coalition of largely liberal organizations has written a letter asking the Senate to extend the lame duck to allow as many of President Barack Obama’s nominees to win confirmation before Republicans take control of the chamber.

The 33 signatories of the new letter include the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, the Communications Workers of America, the NAACP, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Public Citizen.

The letter, sent Monday to Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., calls for prolonging the second session of the 113th Congress to help clear the nomination decks, a move that would no doubt draw criticism from Republicans. The letter comes from the Fix the Senate Now coalition, a group that has advocated for a substantial overhaul of the Senate’s rules.

Full story

Tom Harkin — From Tiger Cages to Pinochet

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Harkin, right, listens to Cau Nguyen Loi describe what it was like to be shackled and beaten inside a ‘tiger cage’ on Con Son Island, Vietnam. (POOL/AFP/Getty Images File Photo)

Sen. Tom Harkin’s human rights legacy began with exposing the tiger cages in a secret South Vietnam prison.

“Let me show you,” the retiring Iowa Democrat said as he retrieved a large, clear plastic bag that contained a July 1970 edition of Life magazine. The magazine published photos Harkin took as a congressional aide depicting abuse of political prisoners by the U.S.-supported South Vietnamese government.

His work in Vietnam led to an interest in human rights that’s remained with him throughout his career, including an effort that made protecting human rights a criterion for receiving U.S. aid, a role in the downfall of Augusto Pinochet, efforts to fight child labor and securing funding for the Bureau of International Labor Affairs.

But it all started with the tiger cages.
Full story

November 28, 2014

Mark Warner Named to Senate Democratic Leadership

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Warren and Warner are newly installed members on Senate Democrats’ leadership team. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A senator who voted against keeping Harry Reid as the Democratic leader is getting a seat at the leadership table.

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia is taking on the role of policy development advisor at the Democratic Policy and Communications Center. He joins a leadership team that previously expanded in number with the addition of progressive heroine Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts.

New York’s Charles E. Schumer, the No. 3 Senate Democrat, made the announcement in a statement Friday.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 7:25 p.m.
Democrats

Tom Harkin Is Reflecting, but Trying Not to Stare

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Harkin is interviewed by CQ Roll Call in his Capitol Hill office. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

At the end of an extended interview in his Senate office, Tom Harkin realized he had neglected to show off a prized possession — his father’s Works Progress Administration card.

It’s the role of government policies like the WPA that have guided the progressive Iowa Democrat’s career.

The Depression-era WPA was one of the progressive planks of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Harkin is very much in the mold of the generation that followed FDR. But Harkin has shown a knack, not unlike the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, for working with Republicans when he needs to get a bill across the finish line.

Some of that, of course, depends on having a willing partner across the aisle, and on that front Harkin will say he’s been fortunate.

At a recent bill signing, President Barack Obama praised Harkin and his GOP counterpart, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, for their Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee getting 21 measures to his desk this Congress.

“Well, that’s because you and Lamar are some pretty productive legislators who actually have focused on getting stuff done,” Obama said of Harkin’s recent successes.

Two deals with senior colleagues Harkin made early on set the course for his 30-year Senate career.

Harkin, who opted to retire rather than seek a sixth Senate term, agreed to join what was then the Education and Labor Committee, after the liberal lion Kennedy offered to create a disability policy subcommittee and hand Harkin wide latitude. That helped lead to the signature Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Those laws changed not only the way the public treated individuals with disabilities, Harkin said, but also the way many viewed the world.

“The way I describe the ADA generation is that kids that were born after that — or in your time coming of age — that their expectations changed. In the old days, if you had a disability and you were a child … you just were told not to expect a heck of a lot. Barriers were there: educational barriers, work barriers, transportation barriers, attitudinal barriers, some of which still exist. But, you just had lower expectations,” Harkin told CQ Roll Call. (One of the reporters conducting this interview was among the first beneficiaries of IDEA.)

“Kids that grew up with [Individualized Education Programs] and with access and support services and things like that are now saying, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t want lowered expectations,’” Harkin said.

The bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, one of the HELP Committee’s big success stories this Congress, aims to improve on the transition from school to work for individuals with disabilities.

“We haven’t been preparing them to do that in the past,” Harkin said. “A lot of times the kids with IEPs, they get through, and they sort of just drop off the edge. They haven’t been given summer jobs, job coaching, internships. They haven’t been taken to colleges.” Full story

November 25, 2014

After Ferguson Riots, Durbin Calls Hearing on Civil Rights

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Protesters chant, “hands up, don’t shoot,” in front of the White House on Monday night following the announcement that Darren Wilson was not indicted in the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

In the wake of renewed rioting in Ferguson, Mo., Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., announced Tuesday that he intends to hold a hearing on the state of civil and human rights in the United States.

“Racial disparities persist at many stages of the criminal justice system. Many states have enacted voting laws making it harder for minority and other voters to cast their ballots,” Durbin said in a release announcing the hearing. “And this year’s events in Ferguson, Missouri have highlighted the continued need to reevaluate and reform police practices, including the militarization of state and local law enforcement. This hearing will explore how Congress and the Executive Branch can build on recent successes and address ongoing civil and human rights challenges.” Full story

Schumer: Health Care Distracted Democrats From the Middle Class

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Charles E. Schumer says Democrats need to have a realistic agenda for demonstrating the importance of government to middle class voters, citing a rather unlikely subject as detracting from that message: health care.

“The policy should be simple and easily explained — can it be grasped almost intuitively as something that will help middle-class families?” Schumer said. “Democratic priorities should be achievable. Yes — they must be easy to message, but they have to be a lot more than messaging bills.”

In recent years, Democrats have held no shortage of such votes in the Senate, on proposals they have no expectation of getting the 60 votes needed to overcome procedural hurdles, in part because of persistent Republican opposition.

The messaging chief for Senate Democrats also told an audience at the National Press Club that it was a mistake for Democrats on Capitol Hill and in the White House to prioritize the overhaul of the health care system the way they did when they controlled both chambers back in 2009 and 2010.

“After passing the stimulus, Democrats should have continued to propose middle class-oriented programs and built on the partial success of the stimulus, but unfortunately Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them. We took their mandate and put all of our focus on the wrong problem — health care reform,” Schumer said. “The plight of uninsured Americans and the hardships caused by unfair insurance company practices certainly needed to be addressed. But it wasn’t the change we were hired to make.” Full story

November 18, 2014

McConnell Cites ISIS in Opposition to Leahy Surveillance Bill

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McConnell opposes efforts to roll back NSA data gathering. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., came out against a surveillance bill sponsored by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., citing concerns that it could hurt the nation’s ability to combat terrorists like Islamic State.

“Many of these fighters are familiar with America’s intelligence capabilities and many are savvy with communications: these are terrorists who know how to use encryption and they know how to change devices frequently,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “That’s part of the reason why I’m so strongly opposed to the legislation.”

McConnell is set to become majority leader in the next Congress and his comments will likely make it more difficult for the bill to advance. The Senate is expected to vote on cloture on whether to take up the bill Tuesday evening and 60 votes are needed to move ahead.

McConnell added that he believes the bill would curtail the intelligence community’s surveillance powers and that would “end one of our nation’s critical capabilities to gather significant intelligence on terrorist threats.”

“This is the worst possible time to be tying our hands behind our backs,” McConnell said. Full story

November 13, 2014

Reid to Obama: Wait on Immigration Move (Updated)

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated Nov. 12 4:21 p.m. |Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday he would like President Barack Obama to wait for Congress to pass legislation funding the government before he takes executive action giving deportation relief to undocumented immigrants.

“The president said he is going to do the executive action,” the Nevada Democrat said heading in to a Democratic lunch. “The question is when. It’s up to him. I’d like to get the finances of this country out of the way before he does it. But it’s up to him.”

Reid said the president was aware of his preference.

Republicans have warned the president not to take unilateral executive action and have raised the possibility that such a move could threaten work on an omnibus spending bill currently being developed by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. Full story

Elizabeth Warren Gets Seat at Leadership Table

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Warren will get a new role in Democratic leadership. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren will get a newly created seat at the Democratic leadership table.

A Democratic source familiar with the leadership’s thinking told CQ Roll Call the Massachusetts senator’s role will involve outreach to progressives. A second source indicated the position would not supplant another member of the leadership.

Bringing Warren into the weekly leadership meetings could put her brand of populist economic messaging front and center as Democrats look to regain their majority in 2016.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has had high praise for Warren, and adding her to the team gives him a chance to tell his flock that he’s making changes after last week’s midterm disaster cost him his majority leader title.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, meanwhile, is expected to take the steering and outreach slot now occupied by Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska, who was ousted by Republican Dan Sullivan on Nov. 4. It’s not clear the timing of when that pick will occur.

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.

Related:

Elizabeth Warren Leads Progressive Charge, But Has GOP Admirers Too

Elizabeth Warren Could Join Democratic Leadership

Democrats Run From Harry Reid

Roll Call Results Map: Results and District Profiles for Every Seat

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Claire McCaskill Opposes Reid Staying as Leader

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri told reporters Thursday she would not vote for Sen. Harry Reid as the Democratic leader as the party heads into the minority.

“I will not,” she responded when asked whether she will vote for the Nevada Democrat.

Full story

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