Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
March 5, 2015

Posts in "Policy"

March 4, 2015

McConnell Discourages States From Crafting Clean Power Plans

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is suggesting states shouldn’t act on their own to implement the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean power plans.

In an opinion piece in Wednesday’s Lexington Herald-Leader, the Kentucky Republican offers advice for governors and other state officials.

“Don’t be complicit in the administration’s attack on the middle class. Think twice before submitting a state plan — which could lock you in to federal enforcement and expose you to lawsuits — when the administration is standing on shaky legal ground and when, without your support, it won’t be able to demonstrate the capacity to carry out such political extremism,” McConnell wrote.

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Rubio, Lee Unveil Tax Code Overhaul, Welcome Critics

Lee and Rubio prepare to hold a news conference on their tax plan rollout. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Lee and Rubio prepare to hold a news conference on their tax plan rollout. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Say this much about Sen. Marco Rubio: He’s not afraid to put ideas on the table.

The Florida Republican joined Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, to present an outline for overhauling the tax code Wednesday morning that — scored statically and in a vacuum — would be sure to reduce the government’s revenue by tens of billions of dollars and eliminate or restrict a slew of popular tax credits and deductions.

But, the pair is floating a white paper and welcoming the critics, even if it would expose them to criticism in future political endeavors. Both Lee and Rubio have Senate seats that are up for re-election in 2016, and Rubio appears to be laying the groundwork for a White House bid.

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Senate GOP Has No Definite Options in Response to Obamacare Case

Richard Burr VA Secretary Eric Shinseki DAV Veterans

Barrasso, center, said the GOP will continue to prepare for the King v. Burwell ruling. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The GOP hasn’t “signed off” on a plan to respond should the Supreme Court strike down most health insurance subsidies in King v. Burwell, Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Barrasso said on the eve of oral arguments in the case.

Pressed for details on how a plan the Wyoming Republican offered with two Senate colleagues might compare to the current structure of the Affordable Care Act or a two-part “off-ramp out of Obamacare” put forth by three House GOP committee chairman, Barrasso said discussions were ongoing. He said a transition would likely involve federal funds, and that Republican governors would likely have a say. Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 1:20 p.m.
Health Care, Policy

March 3, 2015

Wicker Dubious of Obama’s Commitment to Promoting Trade

Penny Pritzker during her nomination hearing to be Secretary of Commerce before the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee in the Russell Senate Office Building on May 23, 2013. (Photo By Douglas Graham/CQ Roll

Pritzker says the White House is all in on a trad deal. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll File Photo)

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker pushed back Tuesday against the suggestion the Obama administration is sending mixed messages about its commitment to a deal on Trade Promotion Authority.

“I can assure you that the administration is unambiguously committed to Trade Promotion Authority and getting this done in this administration. We have a full court press on in this administration,” Pritzker said. “We’re happy to address any kind of confusion or any appearance of lack of speaking with one voice because we do speak with one voice.” Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 3:12 p.m.
Policy

March 2, 2015

Graham: Senate Could Overcome Veto of Iran Deal Review Legislation

Graham thinks the Senate could override a veto from the president. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Graham thinks the Senate could override a veto from the president. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Could Congress overcome a promised veto of legislation designed to compel the Obama administration to submit any nuclear deal with Iran to Capitol Hill for approval? At least one of the bill’s champions seems to think so.

“To the president: I expect Congress will reject your insistence that we shut up and go in a corner and just not have a say,” South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday on the Fox News Channel, adding that he thought there would be in excess of the 67 votes needed in the Senate to override a veto.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 4:03 p.m.
Iran, Policy

February 27, 2015

Senate Votes on Full DHS Funding, With House Set to Punt (Updated)

Pelosi and Reid conduct a news conference Thursday in the Capitol’s Senate studio to criticize Republican leaders on the hold up of the Department of Homeland Security funding bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 12:39 p.m. | The Senate did its best to wrap up the current year’s funding debate, even as the House is opting for another punt.

Senate Democrats said they wouldn’t try to block the House’s punt, meaning a likely Groundhog Day version of the debate three weeks from now.

After weeks at loggerheads, the Senate moved quickly Friday morning to pass a bill funding the Department of Homeland Security for the balance of the fiscal year. The key vote was on invoking cloture to bat back any potential filibuster of the underlying bill — a 68-31 outcome well north of the 60 needed to clear the procedural hurdle. Democrats were united in seeking the “clean” funding bill but Republicans fractured, with most voting to filibuster the plan put forward by their Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to break the impasse.

Senate Republicans who face the voters next year in states won by President Barack Obama split on funding for the Department of Homeland Security.

Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mark S. Kirk of Illinois and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania voted to advance the bill.

Rob Portman of Ohio, Marco Rubio of Florida and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa voted no.

The final vote on passage was also 68-31.

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February 26, 2015

McConnell’s Move to Avert Shutdown Cheers Vulnerable Senators Up in 2016

McConnell wants to end the DHS funding fight ASAP. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

McConnell wants to end the DHS funding fight ASAP. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is always looking ahead to the next election.

And as much as the Kentucky Republican’s move to go ahead with a clean bill funding the Department of Homeland Security drew the ire of the conservative base, others including those on the ballot and vulnerable in 2016 said it was important to resolve the issue and get on with the GOP agenda.

Republican Sen. Mark S. Kirk, who is running for re-election in the generally blue state of Illinois, said Tuesday that GOP senators should tell the House Republicans who are against advancing the appropriations bill without riders in opposition to President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration that “this is the way the Senate demands this go.”

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February 25, 2015

Durbin Celebrates 25th Anniversary of Airplane Smoking Ban

Everyone who flies on a commercial airliner has heard the announcement that tampering with an airplane’s lavatory smoke detector is a federal offense.

But as Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin reminded the Senate Wednesday, until 25 years ago on this day, it was legal to light up cigarettes on short-haul flights. As a House member, the Illinois Democrat  championed the ban, joining with the late Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., on an effort that earned plaudits in no shortage of Lautenberg obituaries.

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By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 1:28 p.m.
Policy

Kaine Won’t Attend Netanyahu Speech

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Kaine is skipping the Netanyahu Congress speech. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Tim Kaine is the latest Democrat to announce he will not attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint meeting of Congress next week.

The Virginian said in a statement provided first to CQ Roll Call that he’s concerned in particular about the timing of the March 3 address, just weeks ahead of the scheduled Knesset elections on March 17.

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February 24, 2015

Watch Live: John Kerry Testifies Before Senate Foreign Relations

Secretary of State John Kerry testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the first time in the 114th Congress on the State Department’s fiscal 2016 budget request. Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. Full story

February 17, 2015

Democrats Escape Cold, Spend Part of Recess in Cuba

McCaskill, center, and Klobuchar, right, were part of a CODEL to Cuba. (Adalberto Roque/AFP/Getty Images)

McCaskill, center, and Klobuchar, right, were part of a CODEL to Cuba. (Adalberto Roque/AFP/Getty Images)

Democrats from both sides of the Capitol have been spending parts of their Presidents Day recess in Cuba as relations between the communist nation and the United States begin to thaw.

The trips weren’t designed to be a means of avoiding the bitter cold, but that might be a much appreciated side effect. A House delegation led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., arrived on the island Tuesday, just as a trio of senators wrapped up their trip of a few days and prepared to return to the U.S. Full story

February 12, 2015

Senate GOP Pamphlet Touts Continued Fight on DHS Spending

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Republicans are being sent home for recess with a message touting their persistence on funding homeland security while blocking President Barack Obama’s executive actions.

“Dems voted three times to filibuster House-passed DHS funding bill,” says a tri-fold card of talking points distributed to GOP senators. “Blocking debate on a bill like this is exactly the kind of gridlock voters rejected in the election.”

The pamphlet, shared with CQ Roll Call by a GOP source, suggests Republicans have yet to give up on winning the public relations argument over funding the Department of Homeland Security, with less than a week left to act when the Senate returns from the Presidents Day recess.

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Odd Couples Push Criminal Justice Overhauls (Updated)

Cornyn and Whitehouse conduct a news conference in the Capitol's Senate studio on bipartisan legislation to reform the prison system. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Cornyn and Whitehouse conduct a Feb. 10 news conference in the Capitol’s Senate studio on bipartisan legislation to reform the prison system. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 3:41 p.m. | John Cornyn and Sheldon Whitehouse. Mike Lee and Richard J. Durbin. Rand Paul and Harry Reid.

Those three Senate odd couples have been spearheading the rollout of legislation this week that, taken together, would affect prison sentences for convicted criminals, how long they might serve and what happens to them when they’ve paid their debt to society. That follows Paul teaming up with Judiciary Committee ranking Democrat Patrick J. Leahy earlier this month.

And if even one of the bills could move through the committee process and then secure some precious Senate floor time, who knows what might happen.

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February 9, 2015

Sessions Blasts ‘Activist Judiciary’ on Gay Marriage in Alabama

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

An Alabama senator is decrying a federal court ruling effectively legalizing gay marriage in his state, after the Supreme Court declined to block it.

“I think it’s an unhealthy trend that judges feel that they’re somehow reflecting popular opinion when first of all, it’s not popular opinion, and secondly, who are they to be ruling on cases based on how they feel,” Sen. Jeff Sessions, a senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, told CQ Roll Call.

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By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 4:52 p.m.
Policy

Republicans Want to Send Message to SCOTUS on Obamacare

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Barrasso is leading the Senate GOP effort. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Republicans want to send a message to the Supreme Court that it’s OK to undermine Obamacare.

They keep asking the Obama administration what it plans to do if the Supreme Court upends health insurance subsidies in the King v. Burwell case. It’s a hypothetical question the administration has been reluctant to entertain, leading the GOP to undertake an effort to craft a resolution.

Part of the reason is that Republicans want to try to signal to potentially wavering justices that there would be a path to minimal disruption should the court invalidate tax credits for millions of people in states that didn’t create their own health insurance exchanges.

South Dakota Republican John Thune, who is chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, said there is a lot of discussion along those lines.

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