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January 26, 2015

Posts in "Policy"

January 22, 2015

Senator on ‘#DeflateGate': Send Colts to Super Bowl

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Dan Coats tweeted Thursday that the Indiana Colts, not the New England Patriots, should play in the Super Bowl, as the National Football League controversy surrounding the use of under-inflated game balls in Sunday’s AFC Championship continued to unfold.

Taking to Twitter, the Hoosier State Republican proposed that Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick should be suspended, and Tom Brady should be benched. Anything short of this, Coats then tweeted, and Hoosiers “file suit” and ask Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts, an Indiana native, to take up the case “immediately.”

Asked about so-called deflate-gate outside the Senate chamber, Coats walked it back.”Obviously, I was a little over the top,” he said of the tweets. But Coats echoed calls from Nevada’s senators for action from the NFL.

“I think the league should thoroughly investigate this, because there have been other accusations relative to the Patriots before,” Coats said. “Let’s put it to bed. I’m sure the Patriots would want to put it to bed also.”

Related:

Nevada Senators Blast NFL Over Under-Inflated Footballs

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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By Hannah Hess Posted at 6:11 p.m.
Policy

Graham: Anti-Abortion Bill Will Return, but ‘Nobody’s for Rape’

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The lead Senate sponsor of anti-abortion legislation that was pulled from the House schedule late Wednesday said Thursday it should not move forward without changes to the rape provision.

But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he was looking forward to a debate on abortion policy once the issues with the bill are resolved.

“This is going to be about wholesale abortions on demand in 20 weeks, five months into pregnancy, and it won’t be about rape,” Graham said. “Nobody’s for rape.”

Full story

Nevada Senators Blast NFL Over Under-Inflated Footballs

Reid held his first press conference of the year Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Reid held his first press conference of the year Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Nevada’s senators had stern words Thursday for the National Football League in the aftermath of findings that the New England Patriots made use of under-inflated footballs.

“As the Senator from the only state where sports betting is legal, it is imperative the integrity of the game never be questioned. When individuals break professional rules to gain unfair competitive advantages, everyone associated with the game is impacted,” Republican Dean Heller said in a statement. “This type of behavior should never be tolerated.”

Full story

January 20, 2015

Rand Paul’s Message: ‘Do No Harm’ In Foreign Affairs

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., makes his way through the basement of the Capitol before a vote on the Senate floor, December 12, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Paul will have his own response to the State of the Union address. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Possible 2016 contender Sen. Rand Paul says that the foreign policy potion of his own response to Tuesday’s State of the Union address will focus on an old adage from his medical career: “Do no harm.”

“I think one the biggest things about foreign policy is that you should think before you act, and that’s one of the themes that I’ll have tonight is: First, do no harm. As physicians, we’re taught first to do no harm, which means think through,” the Kentucky Republican said. “You have enormous power as a surgeon. Before you cut into someone, make sure you have the right diagnosis. Try not to make mistakes.”

Paul is issuing his own video response, separate from the official message to be delivered by Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.

In an interview in his Washington office ahead of the speech by President Barack Obama, Paul used the potential for additional sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program as an example where Congress should avoid doing such harm. Full story

January 16, 2015

Tony Blair Delivers ‘Churchillian’ Speech to Senate, House GOP

Blair testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2009. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Blair testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2009. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair drew three standing ovations when he addressed the joint House-Senate Republican retreat Thursday with a speech that one lawmaker likened to the oratory of Winston Churchill.

Blair’s speech, which was closed to the public and the media, included a call for America to lead on the world stage rather than to try to be loved there, according to a person in attendance. Rep. Tom Cole said Blair focused on the importance of fighting against extremism around the world at an event said to be well attended by members and staffers alike. Full story

January 15, 2015

Obama Meets Senate Democrats in Baltimore After Lunch With Mikulski (Updated)

Mikulski had lunch with Obama Thursday ahead of his address to the Democratic retreat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Mikulski had lunch with Obama Thursday ahead of his address to the Democratic retreat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 3:40 p.m. | BALTIMORE — President Barack Obama may not be Jay Leno, but he has earned top billing at the annual issues conference for Senate Democrats at a hotel where he’s speaking Thursday.

His mid-afternoon appearance is entirely off limits to the media, in contrast to his 2010 appearance down the street for a similar retreat with House Republicans. This year, most of the media attention was with the new Senate majority GOP and their House counterparts, who huddled for a joint retreat in Hershey, Pa.

There, reporters were being treated to pen-and-pad sessions and media availabilities with prominent Republicans from both sides of the Rotunda, including House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers and her Senate counterpart, John Thune of South Dakota.

Full story

January 13, 2015

Thune Floats Highway Bill as Reconciliation Candidate

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A top Senate Republican is floating the idea of using the budget reconciliation process to solve the highway bill funding puzzle.

“Using the budget reconciliation process … from a timing standpoint enables us, I think, to address what are a couple of really big priorities, and that is reforming our business tax code, lowering the rates, making our country more competitive with those around the world, and dealing with what we know is going to be a crisis come May 31, and that’s funding highways,” Republican Conference Chairman John Thune told reporters Tuesday.

Of course, Republicans have other ideas for the reconciliation silver bullet — like largely rolling back the 2010 health care law.

Full story

January 12, 2015

Ted Cruz: Preserve Filibuster, Even For Obamacare Repeal

Cruz wants to keep the filibuster, even though it makes it harder to repeal Obamacare. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Cruz wants to keep the filibuster, even though it makes it harder to repeal Obamacare. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

There’s a limit to what Sen. Ted Cruz would do to repeal Obamacare.

The Texas Republican said Monday that Republicans should do “everything humanly possible to repeal Obamacare” during a speech at Heritage Action’s annual policy summit. It’s a line he’s used before. But he later added a caveat.

When asked if Republicans should use the “nuclear option” to ditch the filibuster on legislation and get more bills to President Obama’s desk, including a bill repealing Obamacare, Cruz told reporters, “no, we should not.”

“We should preserve the procedural protections in the Senate for the rights of the minority,” he said. Full story

Power Takes Obama’s Iran Case to Kentucky

(Tom Fougerousse/University of Louisville)

Power is the first Cabinet member to appear with McConnell since he became majority leader. (Tom Fougerousse/University of Louisville)

America’s top diplomat at the United Nations took the Obama administration’s case against enhancing Iran sanctions to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home turf Monday — delivering remarks that sounded like a State of the Union prelude.

Ambassador Samantha Power reiterated the administration’s view that “increasing sanctions would dramatically undermine our efforts” to halt nuclear weapons development by the Iranians in talks, which have been extended through June.

“First, imposing new sanctions now will almost certainly end a negotiations process that has not only frozen the advance of Iran’s nuclear program, but that could lead us to an understanding that would give us confidence in its exclusively peaceful nature. If new sanctions were imposed, Iran would be able to blame the U.S. for sabotaging the negotiations and causing the collapse of the process, and we would lose the chance to peacefully resolve a major national security challenge,” Power said. “Second, … new sanctions will actually likely weaken the sanctions pressure on Iran, by undermining crucial international support for the existing multilateral sanctions on Iran.”

Power’s comments about Iran came when McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, was just steps away. They were part of a wide-ranging foreign policy address sponsored by his namesake McConnell Center on the University of Louisville campus. The Senate majority leader has said bringing additional conditional sanctions against Iran to the Senate floor for a vote is among his early priorities in 2015.

Power became the first Cabinet member to make a public appearance with McConnell since his elevation to majority leader earlier in January.

“Amidst all of this apparent rancor and partisanship, you in the audience might be a bit surprised to see a member of President [Barack] Obama’s cabinet — and the ambassador to the United Nations, no less — down here in Kentucky at the invitation of the new Republican Senate majority leader,” Power said. “You might wonder whether I’m here to pick a fight or walk into an ambush.”

Much of the speech focused not on Capitol Hill partisan battles, but on areas where the two parties have found common ground, from the response to the outbreak of Ebola in Africa to U.S. efforts to support pro-democracy efforts in Myanmar, formerly Burma.

McConnell has long made the situation in Myanmar a priority, and Power praised his work with California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein on sanctions against the repressive military junta that contributed to the country opening up and moving in a pro-democratic direction. But, the progress has been at times tepid.

“That is the challenge we face today: ensuring that Burma builds on the areas in which it has made progress, and avoids backsliding. And we have to be prepared to adapt our strategy to the conditions we observe, including setbacks. We — and when I say we, I am confident Leader McConnell shares this view — we have to examine every tool in our toolkit and ask: How can we take steps that may contribute to empowering the Burmese people and helping the country move towards genuine democratic reform?” Power said. “Our tools include incentivizing continued progress, shining a bright light on the government’s shortcomings, and imposing targeted sanctions on individuals who stand in the way of change.”

In addition to discussing democratic development in Myanmar, Power acknowledged differences of opinion about the Obama administration’s engagement with Cuba.

“Some of the embargo’s staunchest defenders are Democrats and Republicans with deep ties to the island — people whose families came to America fleeing the Castros’ repression. These are men and women who are completely dedicated to doing all they can to ensure that Cubans on the island get to enjoy true freedom. So it is important to acknowledge that while there may be disagreements on the best way to get there, we share a common goal of advancing the rights of the Cuban people,” Power said.

She reiterated the administration’s view that after decades of the embargo against Cuba failing to bring about the desired outcome, it was time to change the strategy.

“The changes President Obama announced take away the Castros’ most trusted alibi for abuse, helping empower the Cuban people to secure the greater freedoms they want and deserve,” she said. “The change in policy also denies repressive governments in the region the ability to continue cynically to use our Cuba policy to deflect attention from their own abuses, such as Ecuador’s crackdown on the press, or Venezuela’s imprisonment of key opposition leaders.”

Related:

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

Senate Democrats Blast New House Rule on Social Security

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Operating in the minority, Democrats are beginning to show signs of being aggressive in fighting against potential changes to entitlement programs they have long championed.

Take, for example, Social Security. Senate Democrats are pushing against a change in House rules that makes it more difficult to reallocate Social Security taxes for those collecting from the Disability Trust Fund.

In a letter sent Monday to Republican Senate leadership, eight senior members of the Senate’s Democratic Conference decried the House move to establish a point of order against a fund transfer, which would would be needed next year to avert an almost 20-percent benefit cut for those receiving disability payments, unless there’s somehow a broader agreement on Social Security funding.

Full story

January 6, 2015

Senators Cheer ‘President Hatch’

Orrin Hatch

Hatch is a Utah Republican. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The start of the 114th Congress brings a pair of new roles for the senior-most Senate Republican: president pro tem and chairman of the Finance Committee.

Shortly after the Senate convened Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, was elected president pro tem, the Constitutional post that puts in line for the presidency behind the vice president and the speaker. The position comes with a security detail and an ornate office on the first floor of the Capitol, vacated by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt.

“You get a beautiful office. I left it in perfect condition with one exception: I cleaned out the liquor cabinet. … I knew you wouldn’t need that,” Leahy joked at a Tuesday afternoon reception for Hatch, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Full story

Keystone Debate to Test Waters of New Senate

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Mitch McConnell has waited years for the moment he’ll take the reins of a dysfunctional chamber and try and show Republicans can govern.

He’ll face tests right off the bat — from how to handle the filibuster rules changes that have divided his conference to keeping the Senate on topic as he looks to clear a series of bipartisan bills to kick off the year, starting with approving the Keystone XL pipeline.

“We’ll hope that senators on both sides will offer energy-related amendments, but there will be no effort to try to … micromanage the amendment process,” the Kentucky Republican said last month, when announcing his plan to bring Keystone to the floor first.

It’s part of a plan, nearly a year in the making, to get the new majority off to a fast start. Full story

December 29, 2014

A Look Back at 2014 in the WGDB

The Senate leaders appeared together at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in June on the subject of campaign finance. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Senate leaders appeared together at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in June on the subject of campaign finance. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As we close the books on the 113th Congress, and the first full calendar year for this blog, it’s our turn to again thank you, the readers, for joining us throughout the year as we’ve followed the ebbs and flows of the Senate.

We’ve covered issues with national and international implications — including debates over the debt limit and federal spending, nuclear talks with Iran and the threat posed by the terror group ISIS. But we’ve also spent time closer to home,  documenting staff changes and life operating under the Dome.

Full story

December 19, 2014

Martin Paone New Senate Liaison

Paone, seen here packing his belongings in his Senate office on Jan. 30, 2008 as he prepared to depart from 32 years on Capitol Hill. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Paone, seen here packing his belongings in his Senate office on Jan. 30, 2008 as he prepared to depart from 32 years on Capitol Hill. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The White House’s new Senate liaison is an old familiar face around the chamber, and someone who really knows how the trains run.

Martin P. Paone will join the Obama administration as deputy assistant to the president for legislative affairs, a White House official confirmed Friday afternoon.

Paone ran the Senate’s floor operations for the Democrats as their party secretary from 1995-2008, and in a 32-year tenure on Capitol Hill, spent 29 of them on the floor. That meant he was involved in many of the chamber’s most memorable moments, including the 1988 incident when Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd, D-Wva., went through the procedural maneuvers to compel attendance that led to the arrest of Oregon Republican Bob Packwood.

Full story

December 18, 2014

Rand Paul on Cuba: Open Trade a Better Way to Fight Communism

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Paul said opening up Cuba could be more effective than an embargo. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Rand Paul says President Barack Obama should expect to face thousands of riders on next year’s spending bills.

“I say we put not dozens, not hundreds, but thousands of instructions to the president on how it should be spent,” the Kentucky Republican said Thursday. “That’s the power of the purse. Now, some have been disappointed we haven’t used it so far, but we haven’t controlled the Senate, so we haven’t been able to do it.” Full story

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