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April 1, 2015

Posts in "Policy"

March 31, 2015

10 Things We Learned From the Vote-a-Rama


Toomey got attention for changing his vote during last week’s vote-a-rama. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With the vote-a-rama in the rearview mirror, it’s worth taking stock of what the 15-plus hours of nonbinding votes on dozens of amendments said about the 2016 presidential election, how vulnerable senators voted and what issues might now come to the fore. Full story

March 23, 2015

Democrats Outline Floor Strategy for Budget Battle

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sanders, foreground, and Schumer briefed reporters on their response to the GOP budget last week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate and House Democrats face different challenges in responding to the budget blueprints on the floors of their respective chambers, but they’re operating from much the same playbook.

The budget resolutions, which both moved through the House and Senate budget committees last week with customary party-line support, are indisputably political documents, which will give each side fodder leading in to the two-week recess at the beginning of April.

In the Senate, Democrats intend to focus particular attention on “meat and potato” policy issues in this year’s budget vote-a-rama. That’s how Senate Democratic messaging guru Charles E. Schumer described the Democratic plan last week.

Full story

March 19, 2015

Lindsey Graham’s War Money Plan Wins Approval (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 7:03 p.m. | The Senate Budget Committee’s agreed to boost funding in the budget plan for defense for the next fiscal year by $38 billion.

The committee backed an amendment offered by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. to bring the Senate plan in line with the expected eventual funding level in the House budget blueprint for Overseas Contingency Operations, the so-called OCO account.

Graham earlier in the day predicted the amendment would allow the budget resolution to get the votes necessary to advance through the Senate itself.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 5:28 p.m.
Budget, Policy

March 18, 2015

Klobuchar’s Office Says Aide Knew of Hyde Language in Trafficking Bill

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s office has conceded that a Democratic staffer was aware of the contested language in a bipartisan bill to combat sex trafficking that’s been stuck on the Senate floor.

An aide to the Minnesota senator, who is the primary Democratic co-sponsor of the legislation introduced by Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, provided a lengthy statement explaining the situation following a report by The Associated Press. The full statement appears below:

Full story

March 17, 2015

McConnell’s Dreams of New Senate Dashed for Now (Video)

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s best-laid plans for a Senate renaissance have so far fallen flat — and the gridlock is starting to wear on his conference.

Republican Mark S. Kirk of Illinois, who faces a serious re-election challenge in 2016, says his own conference shoulders responsibility for the lack of productivity.

Kirk spoke with reporters in the Capitol Tuesday, not long after a vote to limit debate on what had started as a bipartisan bill to combat sex trafficking fell a few votes short of the 60 needed amid an ongoing dispute over the GOP’s insertion of an anti-abortion funding provision.
Full story

March 15, 2015

A New Delay for Loretta Lynch? (Video)

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday that he doesn’t plan on turning the Senate’s attention to the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as attorney general until resolving a stalemate over anti-human trafficking legislation.

The human trafficking debate was supposed to be the bipartisan one, with the bill having already won unanimous support in the Judiciary Committee, but it has since been beguiled by a fight over whether to apply language barring the use of funds for abortion.

“I had hoped to turn to her next week, but if we can’t finish the trafficking bill, she will be put off again,” McConnell said of the Lynch nomination on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Full story

March 13, 2015

Little Hope for Bipartisanship With Lynch, Budget Ahead

Lynch is finally expected to get her confirmation vote, but will likely see a narrow margin. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Lynch is expected to finally get her confirmation vote, but will likely see a narrow margin. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The sour start to the new Senate’s year appears likely to continue — with the unexpected partisan blowup over a human trafficking bill and its abortion provision seeming to end the last chance for a broad, bipartisan vote before the recess at the end of the month.

That’s assuming the partisan standoff over the inclusion of language restricting use of funds for abortions — the Hyde Amendment — an effort by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to limit debate on the bill, will come up short of the 60 needed votes on March 17.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 2:42 p.m.

March 12, 2015

The Two Sides of Ron Johnson’s Agenda

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Ron Johnson said Thursday he doesn’t plan on holding “show trials” in his role as chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

But speaking about his agenda at a breakfast hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Wisconsin Republican said business interests needed to be vocal about defending themselves from the effects of “the radical left” taking more and more control during his lifetime.

“When you control our university system, when you control our education system, our news media, our entertainment media, unfortunately more and more of the courts, you really control our culture,” Johnson said. “So, for the last 40 to 50 years, you know, business has gotten demonized, and it’s wrong.”

Full story

March 11, 2015

Alaska, Hawaii Senators Seek Exemption From Higher Security Fees for Their States

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Murkowski is working with Schatz and Hirono on the bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Three senators from Alaska and Hawaii are pushing to exempt flights within their states from higher security fees.

The legislation is another example of the noncontiguous states trying to work together to address concerns that senators from the other 48 states might not be familiar with. Democratic Sens. Mazie K. Hirono and Brian Schatz of Hawaii joined Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski in reviving the effort Wednesday. The newest delegation member from the two states, Alaska GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan, had not signed on.

Full story

Reid: No Amendments Until GOP Strips Abortion Language (Video) (Updated)

Updated 5:18 p.m. | Legislation to combat human trafficking appears sure to die on the Senate floor.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., reiterated Wednesday that the bill will not get through the Senate without the removal of language that would apply the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding for abortion services, to the bills fee-funded programming.

“Everybody can debate how that got in there, OK?” Reid told CQ Roll Call. “I believe that we should pass this human trafficking [bill]. I support this legislation, but we’re not going to have an abortion provision in the bill.”

Full story

March 10, 2015

Senate Faces Trust Breakdown Over Abortion (Updated) (Video)

Updated 6:12 p.m. | Abortion politics — and an emerging trust gap between Democrats and Republicans — threatened to derail the ostensibly noncontroversial human trafficking bill on the Senate floor Tuesday.

Democrats said they were effectively hoodwinked by Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas and other Republican senators with the inclusion of an expansion of the scope of the prohibition of federal funding on abortion known as the Hyde amendment.

A Cornyn aide alleged that the staff of Judiciary ranking member Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., was aware of the abortion language before the bill even came up for a vote in committee, but Democratic aides said that simply was not true.

Full story

March 9, 2015

Paul, Booker and Gillibrand Set to Unveil Bill to Legalize Medical Marijuana

Marijuana at a Colorado dispensary. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Marijuana at a Colorado dispensary. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A bipartisan trio of senators has planned a Tuesday rollout for legislation to remove federal legal barriers to the use of medical marijuana.

Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Cory Booker of New Jersey are set to join Kentucky Republican Rand Paul for the event, shortly after noon. The new bill would make it so that medical professionals and their patients involved in the use of marijuana and cannabidiol oils for medicinal purposes would not run the risk of running afoul of federal laws.

Full story

Democrats Blast Cotton, GOP Over Open Letter to Iran (Video)

With Sen. Tom Cotton presiding over the Senate, the chamber’s Democratic leaders lambasted the open letter the Arkansas Republican spearheaded with 46 other Republicans to the leadership of Iran.

In the letter, the Republican senators told the Iranian leaders that any agreement about the country’s nuclear program reached with the United States and the other negotiating partners might well not last beyond President Barack Obama’s time in the White House, citing the separation of powers. Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 3:14 p.m.
Iran, Policy

Senate Schedule Changed After Iran Vote Delay


The Senate schedule this week had a late change. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

With the House out of town this week, the Senate will be the focal point on Capitol Hill, and there’s no shortage of activity ahead.

In a sign of how the Senate operates, the schedule has already changed. Full story

March 5, 2015

Lawmakers Decry ATF’s Proposed AR-15 Bullet Restrictions

Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Vice President Joe Biden participate in the re-enactment swearing-in ceremony in the Old Senate Chamber on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Daines, shown here being sworn-in earlier this year, is jumping into the controversy over new bullet restrictions proposed by the White House. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

An Obama administration proposal to prohibit certain bullets has been raising the ire of lawmakers on Capitol Hill this week, with senators on Thursday joining calls for the executive branch to back down.

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., sent a letter Thursday to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Director B. Todd Jones opposing restrictions on M855 “green tip” ammunition for the AR-15 rifle. The ATF’s draft framework proposes to roll back a 1986 exception granted to the bullets from a ban on “armor-piercing ammunition.”

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 4:56 p.m.
Guns, Policy

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