Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 18, 2014

Posts in "Democrats"

April 17, 2014

Obama Boasts Health Care Enrollment Hits 8 Million, Talks Immigration, Highways (Updated)

476987813 445x316 Obama Boasts Health Care Enrollment Hits 8 Million, Talks Immigration, Highways (Updated)

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images File Photo)

Updated 4:38 p.m. | President Barack Obama said Thursday that 8 million people have signed up for health insurance coverage in the marketplaces set up through the Affordable Care Act, and whacked Republicans for “endless, fruitless repeal efforts.”

We are “now covering more people at less cost,” Obama told reporters gathered for an impromptu statement in the Brady Briefing Room. “The bottom line is … this thing is working.”

The president also said the data show 35 percent of people who signed up are under the age of 35, a critical factor to the exchanges working and keeping costs down.

Obama went after Republicans, saying “they were wrong” to try and get rid of his signature domestic achievement and that they “have no alternative answer for millions of Americans.”

Full story

April 15, 2014

Unemployment Extension Petition Gets Manchin’s Push

manchin 068 091013 445x308 Unemployment Extension Petition Gets Manchins Push

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Keeping the unemployment insurance extension issue alive, Sen. Joe Manchin III is asking supporters to sign on to a petition urging the House to act. The West Virginia Democrat doesn’t agree with his party on everything, but an email pitch sent Tuesday morning demonstrates considerable Democratic unity on reviving extended unemployment insurance benefits.

The Senate passed its version of the jobless benefits measure with 59 “yes” votes on April 7.

“Extending unemployment insurance makes economic sense, but it’s also just the right thing to do. Our hardworking neighbors paid into the system when they had a job, so it’s only fair that they should benefit from those funds when they’re down on their luck,” Manchin wrote in an email to supporters. “That’s why I’m asking you to join my colleagues and me in calling on the House to pass an extension of unemployment insurance.”

The email blast links to a petition — without an immediate fundraising ask — from 11 Senate Democrats, a trio of House members and three candidates, including Alison Lundergan Grimes in the Kentucky Senate race.

Full story

April 3, 2014

Schumer Wins Tax Benefits for Bikes, Trains and Broadway Shows

schumer 173 022813 285x335 Schumer Wins Tax Benefits for Bikes, Trains and Broadway Shows

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Observers of Sen. Charles E. Schumer had to know what would follow Thursday’s tax extenders markup: laudatory press releases.

Schumer’s press operation has churned out no fewer than three separate releases about the Thursday Finance Committee markup of the tax extenders legislation, which ultimately sailed through the committee on a voice vote. All told, the package would extend most of 55 tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013.

The Schumer efforts included allowing commuter tax benefits for those who use bike sharing services.

“Bike-share programs are a boon to commuters, the economy and clean air – and those who use them deserve the same benefits granted to those who drive cars and use mass transit to get to work,” Schumer said in a statement in the bike release.

Full story

March 27, 2014

Landrieu, Begich Among Moderates Pushing Obamacare Fixes

A day after Senate Democratic leaders played down possible election year blowback from Obamacare, a group of six moderate Democrats, including two with tough reelection races, unveiled a package of proposals for improving the law.

Senior Senate Republicans aides argued that the timing belies that Democrats are worried that the troubled roll out of the health care law, also known as the Affordable Care Act, could hurt them in the November election.

“They see the writing on the wall just like everybody else,” one GOP aide said.

The aides’ comments come after Democrats unveiled their middle-class-focused their agenda Wednesday when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was peppered with questions about whether Democrats were concerned about electoral fallout from the health care law.

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., dismissed the GOP criticism and said she has been committed to improving the law since it became law. She also stressed not to read anything into the timing.

“First of all, don’t try to put those things together because they have nothing to do with each other,” said Landrieu, who is in a tossup race, according to the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call race ratings.

“There have been several of us who have said from the beginning, since we voted for the Affordable Care Act, that it could be improved, that it was not perfect,” Landrieu continued. “We have been talking about it for literally a year and a half. We’ve all filed a variety of different bills to improve it. This work that our group has been doing has been going on for months and months and months.”

“So what this is is just an ongoing effort … to improve the Affordable Care Act, and that is all it is,” Landrieu said.

She reiterated her support for the law and stressed that it will insure millions who would otherwise not have it.

“My position has been the same from the beginning,” Landrieu said. “I think it still holds a tremendous amount of promise for middle class families, small business and companies that have never really offered affordable coverage. [But] there are some problems with it and I believe with some fixes and improvements it can be stronger.”

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, who is also a member of the group, agreed that the bill could be improved. Begich is up for reelection and Republicans see his seat as a possible pick up — though at the moment the race tilts Democratic, according to Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

“Whether it’s an issue [in the election] or not, there are fixes that are necessary,” Begich said. “I’ve proposed fixes literally not long after the bill passed — some that have become law.”

Begich, as did Landrieu, helped champion a bill passed in 2011 that repealed a requirement under the law that companies file a 1099 form with the IRS every time they conduct $600 worth of business with a vendor.

“I am going to continue to push forward, as I have on my own, but now as a larger group maybe will have more push.”

A senior Senate Democratic aide said the efforts of the moderate Democrats are in tune with the agenda they unveiled yesterday, which is focused on middle class, pocketbook issues affecting most Americans rather than the subset of people affected by the health care law given that most people get their health insurance through their jobs.

“It’s important to do both, answer attacks on the Affordable Care Act, but also push to make it better, in addition to promoting a positive agenda that affects the entirety of the America people,” the aide said.

But Republicans contend that the agenda is merely an effort to change the subject from the health care law ahead of the November election.

The Democrat’s “so-called agenda is actually a political gambit … [which] basically has one intent: to bail out imperiled Democrats — Democrats desperate to distract from how Obamacare is devastating the middle class,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Thursday morning.

Along with Landrieu and Begich, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., wrote an op-ed in Politico proposing nine improvements to the law.

The proposed fixes are aimed at offering more convenient and greater access to coverage, greater choice and affordability, and improved flexibility for workers and businesses.

The bills include one that would provide a permanent path for consumers to enroll directly through insurers or certified web-based entities in addition to enrolling through healthcare.gov. Another, championed by Begich, would create a “copper” plan that would offer lower deductibles but higher out-of-pocket costs than the health law’s gold, silver and bronze plans.

March 26, 2014

On Obamacare, Harry Reid Says the Joke Is on Boehner

reid 198 032514 445x296 On Obamacare, Harry Reid Says the Joke Is on Boehner

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Democrats unveiled an agenda Wednesday focused on the middle class and designed to help them keep the majority, but spent part of their press conference parrying questions about whether the Affordable Care Act would be a liability for Democrats in the November election.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., ripped Republicans for attacking the White House’s latest deadline extension aimed at giving people more time to sign up for health insurance beyond March 31.

“They should be trying to help people get health care,” Reid said, adding that the criticism is “a bunch of drivel.” Full story

March 24, 2014

Unemployment Extension Fight Pits Portman Against Boehner

luncheons007 031213 445x296 Unemployment Extension Fight Pits Portman Against Boehner

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The fight for a bipartisan unemployment benefits extension bill is pitting two powerful, prominent Ohio Republicans — Speaker John A. Boehner and Sen. Rob Portman — against each other, but the two men haven’t yet spoken about it.

“I haven’t talked to him,” Portman told CQ Roll Call Monday evening. “I did have my folks reach out to the Ohio state agency that handles this issue, and we want to make sure that … it can be done and be done smoothly, and so we’re working to be able to address any concerns that he has, but I haven’t talked to him directly about it.” Full story

Ukraine Aid Advances in Senate but Cruz, Barrasso Push for Votes on Amendments

A bill to provide aid to Ukraine cleared a procedural vote Monday evening, as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, signaled he would not object to expediting the bill if he gets a vote on an amendment striking the International Monetary Fund provision.

But Senate Democrats may not have an incentive to allow any amendments votes on the bill given that they likely have the 60 votes needed to clear any procedural hurdles. If both sides stand their ground, that would mean the Senate would likely next vote around midnight Tuesday.

“Its silly that we are running the [cloture] clock when we got 78 votes” to advance the bill, said a senior Senate Democratic aide. Full story

March 20, 2014

Reid Features in Gray Campaign Mailer Reminding Voters ‘Who Stood Up for Us’

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plays a starring role in a campaign mailer arriving in District of Columbia mailboxes.

A snapshot of the Nevada Democrat standing shoulder to shoulder with Mayor Vincent Gray graces a flyer encouraging D.C. voters to give the mayor another four years at the helm of the city. It captures the tight-lipped scowl that appeared on Reid’s face when Gray crashed an Oct. 9 press conference that Senate Democrats were holding on the Capitol steps in the midst of this fall’s federal government shutdown.

gray 251x335 Reid Features in Gray Campaign Mailer Reminding Voters Who Stood Up for Us

A snapshot of the mailer.

The mailer, paid for by Vince Gray 2014, tells voters to “remember who stood up for us” when they cast their ballots in the April 1 Democratic primary. Full story

March 13, 2014

McCain Rails GOP on Ukraine Bill: ‘Don’t Call Yourself Reagan Republicans’ (Video)

Sen. John McCain hammered Republicans on the Senate floor Thursday for refusing to pass by unanimous consent a Senate Foreign Relation Committee bill which would provide economic aid while imposing sanctions on Russia.

“What has happened? Where are our priorities? You can call yourself Republicans, that’s fine, because that’s your voter registration. Don’t call yourself Reagan Republicans,” the Arizona Republican said.

Full story

Bipartisan Unemployment Extension Deal Reached

senate gop001 011414 445x301 Bipartisan Unemployment Extension Deal Reached

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Five Senate Democrats and five Republicans unveiled a deal on extending expired unemployment insurance benefits for five months, which should be enough to overcome a GOP filibuster and get the package out of the Senate later this month.

The proposal is paid for using a combination of offsets that includes extending “pension smoothing” provisions from the 2012 highway bill and extending customs user fees through 2024, according to a release.

The bill also includes an additional offset allowing single-employer pension plans to prepay their flat rate premiums to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

The group led by Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., also includes Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Rob Portman of Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mark S. Kirk of Illinois. Portman and Kirk had voted to filibuster an unemployment extension in February, with Democrats coming up one vote short.

The other Democrats involved are Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois. The plan will allow retroactive payments going back to Dec. 28, when Congress allowed emergency unemployment benefits to expire. And it will prohibit people making more than $1 million from obtaining benefits, among other provisions.

Collins said she was pleased that the agreement was reached and expects Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to tee it up for votes after next week’s recess.

“I’m pleased we have reached an agreement that will attract a sufficient number of Republican votes to provide a five month extension, retroactively that is fully paid for,” she said.

Reid had earlier expressed optimism for an unemployment deal and hoped the Senate would be able to pass it once they return.

Full story

Reid Sees Hope for Unemployment Insurance Extension, but No Votes Expected for Weeks

Updated 5:09 p.m. | A bipartisan Senate unemployment extension deal has been reached but votes aren’t expected for weeks.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had said he was hopeful that a bipartisan agreement on extending unemployment benefits could be announced as soon as today — but with a Senate vote still a few weeks away.

“Progress really has been made on it,” Reid said during a press conference with the other top three Democrats. “We are really, really close to having a bipartisan bill to extend unemployment benefits for people who are in badly need of help.”

Reid said that he was hopeful that a deal could be announced “as early as today or tomorrow and we could work on it when we get back,” Reid continued. The Senate will be on recess next week. Full story

Graham to Kerry: ‘Let Me Know What I Can Do’ to Help With Boehner (Video)

Following remarks Wednesday from Speaker John A. Boehner saying IMF aid to Ukraine is unnecessary, Sen. Lindsey Graham personally offered assistance to Secretary of State John Kerry as the House and Senate continue to debate the appropriate response to the Ukrainian crisis.

“Hey, John, good job,” the South Carolina Republican was heard saying before Kerry turned off the desk mic. “Let me know what I can do to help you with Boehner.”

Graham’s remarks were caught following a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the State Department’s fiscal 2015 budget. Meanwhile, Kerry travels to London on Friday to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Correction 11:40 p.m.

An earlier version of this report misstated where Kerry is traveling on Friday.

March 11, 2014

Reid Disappointed CIA Unrepentant, Backs Feinstein

reid031114 445x298 Reid Disappointed CIA Unrepentant, Backs Feinstein

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D- Nev., said he is disappointed that the CIA is showing no contrition for allegedly spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee, but he held off on calling for immediate Senate action.

“I support [Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.,] unequivocally and I’m disappointed that the CIA is apparently unrepentant for what I understand they did,” Reid said after the weekly party lunches Tuesday. Full story

March 5, 2014

Democrats Face Perils of Controversial Nominees in ‘Post-Nuclear’ Senate

Not even Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. could convince an in-cycle Senate Democrat from his home state to switch his vote and support embattled Department of Justice nominee Debo P. Adegbile.

In the view of Democratic optimists, Biden had made a rare and impromptu appearance at the Capitol on Wednesday to cast a potential tie-breaking vote for Adegbile. But in reality, Biden served as the last-ditch salesman from the administration, futilely chatting up members such as Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., inside the Senate chamber. Coons was one of seven Democrats to join Republicans to block Adegbile from being the next  assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ.

The scene on the floor underscored a new political reality for Senate Democrats. In a “post-nuclear option” world where up-and-down votes now reign, Democrats often will carry the full burden of filling administration posts — and the Republicans will not be afraid to make political gold from tenuous straw to do it.

Full story

Democrats Defect, Sink Obama’s Civil Rights Pick (Updated) (Video)

Updated: 2:17 p.m. | Seven Senate Democrats joined Republicans to block President Barack Obama’s pick of Debo P. Adegbile to lead the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division amid a controversy over his legal defense of convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Adegbile’s nomination needed a simple majority to cut off debate but the chamber voted 47-52 against him, with Obama ripping the vote as a “travesty.”

Democrats Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Chris Coons of Delaware, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and John Walsh of Montana all voted no. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also voted no in order to preserve his right to reconsider the vote. If Adegbile had mustered just two more votes plus Reid, Vice President Joseph Biden was on hand to cast a possible tie-breaking vote.

It’s the first presidential pick to be blocked since Democrats changed the Senate’s rules via the “nuclear option” to block filibusters of nominees.

President Barack Obama called the vote “a travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant.”

Obama said Adegbile had impeccable credentials and “unwavering dedication to protecting every American’s civil and Constitutional rights under the law.”

“Mr. Adegbile’s personal story – rising from adversity to become someone who President Bush’s Solicitor General referred to as one of the nation’s most capable litigators – is a story that proves what America has been and can be for people who work hard and play by the rules.  As a lawyer, Mr. Adgebile has played by the rules.  And now, Washington politics have used the rules against him.”

Powerful law enforcement groups and Republicans opposed the nomination, with the Abu-Jamal case at the heart of the controversy.

Obama mentioned the issue but not by name.

“The fact that his nomination was defeated solely based on his legal representation of a defendant runs contrary to a fundamental principle of our system of justice – and those who voted against his nomination denied the American people an outstanding public servant,” Obama said.

The nomination also has exposed the political risk for Democrats of deploying the nuclear option.

Sarah Chacko contributed to this report.

 

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