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November 28, 2014

Posts in "Democrats"

November 28, 2014

Tom Harkin’s Reflecting, but Trying Not to Stare

harkin 187 111714 445x309 Tom Harkins Reflecting, but Trying Not to Stare

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 called out into the hallway, having neglected to show off a prized possession — his father’s Works Progress Administration card.

For the progressive Iowa Democrat, it’s the role of government policies like the WPA that have guided his career.

The Depression-era WPA was one of the progressive planks of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the heartland Democrat is very much in the mold of the generation of those who followed FDR. But, Harkin has shown a knack, not unlike the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, 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 himself will say he’s been fortunate.

At a recent bill signing, the HELP Committee’s getting 21 measures to President Barack Obama’s desk won praise from the president himself for Harkin and GOP counterpart Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.

“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 that Harkin made early on really set the course for his Senate career.

Harkin, who opted to retire instead of 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. Those laws changed not only the way the public treated individuals with disabilities, but also Harkin said 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 said in an interview in his personal Senate office that included a reporter who 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.’”

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

ferguson 001 112414 445x290 After Ferguson Riots, Durbin Calls Hearing on Civil Rights

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

schumer 263 112514 445x296 Schumer: Health Care Distracted Democrats From the Middle Class

(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)

reid 259 091814 445x317 Reid to Obama: Wait on Immigration Move (Updated)

(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

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Claire McCaskill Opposes Reid Staying as Leader

mccaskill 151 072313 445x312 Claire McCaskill Opposes Reid Staying as Leader

(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

November 12, 2014

Elizabeth Warren Could Join Democratic Leadership

banking004 070814 1 445x295 Elizabeth Warren Could Join Democratic Leadership

Elizabeth Warren could join Senate leadership. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Democratic leaders are discussing the possibility of adding Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., to their ranks, a source familiar with the conversations confirmed late Wednesday.

The move would be the most significant change to Democratic leadership teams in either chamber, which are expected to otherwise be unchanged despite the historic drubbing at the polls on Election Day.

On a conference call with liberal supporters just before the election, she received high praise from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, R-Nev.

“This woman has changed the Senate,” Reid said. Full story

Watch: Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Ebola Outbreak

The Senate Appropriations Committee holds a 2 p.m. hearing Wednesday on the U.S. response to the Ebola virus, which has killed more than 4,900 people since the outbreak began in December 2013.

Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Sylvia Mathews Burwell, secretary of Health and Human Services, will testify.

Additional witnesses include officials from the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense and State and USAID.

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November 5, 2014

King Seeks Dealmaker Role in Reversed Senate, Stays in Democratic Caucus

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Independent Maine Sen. Angus King is remaining in the Democratic caucus, but it’s clear he views himself as a bridge between the two sides.

“There are a number of bills that, you know, that I’d been working with already with Republicans and you know my job is to going to be to bring enough Democrats along if we can make these things go,” King told CQ Roll Call in a phone interview. Even with a larger than expected victory Tuesday night, Republicans will need to find at least a handful of Democratic votes to secure the 60 votes needed to overcome potential filibuster challenges.

Full story

Manchin Promises to Stay a Democrat; Angus King Doesn’t Answer

manchin092613 445x301 Manchin Promises to Stay a Democrat; Angus King Doesnt Answer

Manchin won’t join the GOP. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Moderate Senate Democrat Joe Manchin III of West Virginia has no plans to switch parties following last night’s sweep to the majority for Senate Republicans — and we’re still waiting to hear from Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, on his plans.

“Senator Manchin is a proud West Virginia Democrat and will remain one,” a Manchin aide said in an email.

Manchin, who has chafed under the Senate gridlock, was seen as a possible target for Republicans to try to woo.

Full story

October 20, 2014

Mikulski Sets Senate Ebola Hearing Two Days After Elections (Updated)

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Mikulski will hold a post-election Ebola hearing. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 2:15 p.m. | As the threat of the Ebola virus in the United States appears to be easing, Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski announced she would hold a hearing on the issue two days after voters are scheduled to go to the polls.

The hearing is set for Nov. 6, and would be the first in the Democratic-run Senate since the first U.S. Ebola case was discovered in Dallas. The hearing could take on increased urgency if the Obama administration follows through on sending over a supplemental spending request. A Democratic aide said appropriators were told to expect a request for Ebola funding as soon as this week but did not have any details on its scope or whether it would be designated as emergency funding.

Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, the top Republican on the subcommittee that funds the Department of Health and Human Services, has been pushing for a new hearing on Ebola. Moran visited the University of Kansas hospital last week, where he said the situation had changed since a joint hearing last month of the Appropriations subcommittee and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Full story

October 14, 2014

Senate Odd Couple Seeks Common Ground on Climate Change

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Manchin, left, and Whitehouse measure fish as part of a Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management survey. (Niels Lesniewski/CQ Roll Call)

POINT JUDITH, R.I. — A visit to the Ocean State’s eroding shoreline didn’t prompt West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III to change his mind about Environmental Protection Agency regulation of carbon emissions, but his host wasn’t expecting that sort of evolution.

RollCall On the Road Logo300x300 Senate Odd Couple Seeks Common Ground on Climate Change“I didn’t invite Sen. Manchin here thinking that he was suddenly going to have an epiphany and turn into a ‘greenie’ and come to the next climate march with me,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse told reporters after the two Democrats took a daylong tour of coastal Rhode Island on Oct. 10.

“What I do think though is that he is a smart and reasonable voice from the prototype coal state who has very, very good relations with a lot of our most conservative members of the Senate, some of whom believe that the whole climate change problem is a conspiracy designed as a foil to allow people to expand the role of government and take away freedom,” the Rhode Islander continued.

You would be hard-pressed to find two Democratic senators who more clearly demonstrate the party’s divide on energy and environmental issues, so it was notable when they announced plans to visit each others’ states to discuss energy and climate policy.

Manchin followed through on the first half of the bargain last week, joining with Whitehouse in meeting with oceanography experts, fishermen, environmental officials and residents and business owners at risk of seeing their properties washed away by rising tides.

Full story

October 10, 2014

Army War College Revokes Senator’s Degree

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., will have to take one college degree off his wall.

Walsh confirmed in a statement Friday that the U.S. Army War College revoked his master’s degree after reports by The New York Times revealed Walsh plagiarized a final paper.

“Though I disagree with the findings made by the War College, I accept its decision with great humility and respect for the U.S. Military,” Walsh said in the statement. “I apologize to all Montanans for the plagiarism in my 2007 paper, and I am prepared to live with its consequences. I may not be a scholar but I am proud to have been a soldier who has served Montana and this great nation for 33 years in uniform.”

Before the plagiarism reports broke,  discrepancies in Walsh’s educational record raised eyebrows.

After the scandal unfolded, Walsh dropped his bid for Senate. The Montana Democrat was appointed to the chamber in 2014 to fill a vacancy left by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who resigned to become ambassador to China.

RELATED STORIES:

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October 9, 2014

Goodell Responds to Boxer, Says NFL Will Not Tolerate Domestic Violence

dw091028121 445x296 Goodell Responds to Boxer, Says NFL Will Not Tolerate Domestic Violence

(Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The National Football League has responded to one of its foremost critics in the Senate, and this time she’s optimistic about what Commissioner Roger Goodell had to say.

Sen. Barbara Boxer on Thursday released two separate letters dated this month from Goodell and Cynthia Hogan, the new NFL senior vice president for public policy and government affairs, praising each. Boxer had initially led a letter to Goodell from a group of a total of female 16 senators seeking the league to enact a policy of zero tolerance for incidents of domestic violence. She followed up directly with Hogan in subsequent correspondence.

Goodell’s letter, which Boxer’s office has posted here, says the NFL will not tolerate domestic violence and outlines the steps the league is already taking to change the way it handles domestic abuse cases following incidents involving Ray Rice and other professional football players. Full story

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