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September 16, 2014

Posts in "Policy"

September 11, 2014

Female Senators Write Letter to Goodell, Want NFL to Adopt ‘Zero-Tolerance’ Policy

455039888 445x296 Female Senators Write Letter to Goodell, Want NFL to Adopt Zero Tolerance Policy

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

A group of 16 female senators, including Maryland Democrat Barbara A. Mikulski, have written a scathing letter to Roger Goodell about the National Football League’s handling of violence against women.

The letter comes after reporting by The Associated Press that the NFL was sent graphic elevator video of now-former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancée Janay Rice.

“It is long past time for the NFL to institute a real zero-tolerance policy and send a strong message that the league will not tolerate violence against women by its players, who are role models for children across America,” the 16 senators wrote. “We hope the NFL will seize this opportunity to lead by example and demonstrate its commitment to the safety of women and families.”

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By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 12:31 p.m.
Policy, Potpourri

September 10, 2014

On Equal Pay Bill, Republicans Face Certain Criticism

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Mikulski, before a news conference on the Senate steps before the last votes on the Paycheck Fairness Act in April. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans should prepare to be criticized regardless of how they vote Wednesday afternoon when the Senate reconsiders legislation known as the Paycheck Fairness Act.

It’s an underlying bill that Republicans don’t support, and voting for cloture on proceeding to it would be a reverse in strategy from the last time it came up. For Democrats, who view the GOP as meddling with their schedule of pre-election votes, either vote by the GOP counterparts will be pushed as a negative, making this a classic case of election-year theater all around.

An email circulated to Democratic communications aides and obtained by CQ Roll Call late Tuesday points to a strategy of either criticizing Republicans for voting yes to limit debate on proceeding to a gender pay equity bill that they don’t support and burning valuable floor time, or for voting no and blocking a debate.

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September 9, 2014

Watch Live: Senate Committee Holds Hearing on ‘Police Militarization’

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee holds a 10:30 a.m. hearing on federal programs providing equipment to state and local law enforcement. Amid the uproar in Ferguson, Mo., the Defense Department’s 1033 program has come under scrutiny from lawmakers, including Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., for contributing to “police militarization.”

Witnesses include officials from the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and a photojournalist from The St. Louis American Newspaper.

 

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Lameness of Post-Election Session Could Hinge on Results

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

There’s no “fiscal cliff” or global financial crisis for this year’s post-election lame-duck session, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy.

Lawmakers will be faced with a couple of old favorites: another extension of government funding and the menagerie of lapsed tax breaks that comprise the “extenders” package. A continuing resolution that will need to be adopted before Sept. 30 is widely expected to run until around Dec. 11. And just about everyone in Washington has a favorite bill they’d like to get across the desk after the most do-nothingest Congress ever.

But should the election winds blow in favor of Republicans on both sides of the Rotunda, they would likely be eager to punt to 2015, when a GOP-led Senate could work together with its House counterparts on advancing an agenda designed to blunt the effects of the last two years of President Barack Obama’s administration. Full story

September 8, 2014

Blumenthal Pushes Goodell to Revisit Ray Rice Punishment

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Rice received a two-game ban from the NFL. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., is joining the calls for the National Football League to impose stiffer punishment on Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.

“The video released today emphasizes how egregiously weak and wrong the initial penalty against Ray Rice was — as the Commissioner has acknowledged — and it constitutes new, powerful evidence that requires the Commissioner to reconsider and reach a stronger punishment,” Blumenthal said.

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September 7, 2014

McConnell Hints at Prolonged Campaign Finance Debate

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Democrats are facing the prospect of Republicans voting to prolong debate on a campaign finance constitutional amendment, a move that could interfere with Democrats’ plans for a barrage of pre-election votes on issues from student loans to the minimum wage to equal pay for women.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has already scheduled a Monday evening vote to cut off debate on taking up a proposal sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. to amend the constitution to effectively overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which threw out many limits on campaign spending on First Amendment grounds. Republicans vehemently oppose the amendment and it seemed, at least at the outset, that Democrats were planning for a quick defeat.

“Their goal is to shut down the voices of their critics at a moment when they fear the loss of their fragile Senate majority. And to achieve it, they’re willing to devote roughly half of the remaining legislative days before November to this quixotic anti-speech gambit,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote in Politico opinion piece posted late Sunday.

His complaint is more than a complaint — he has assigned an extended period of time beyond the few hours of debate that would happen if his party simply voted “No” on Monday. So reading between the lines, McConnell may be hinting the GOP will allow debate to continue and, therefore, use procedure to lock Democrats into a prolonged debate.

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September 5, 2014

Landrieu Offers Rebuttal to Rubio, Cassidy on Venezuela

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu has responded forcefully to criticism of her blockade of sanctions against Venezuela.

In an opinion piece for Friday’s edition of The Advertiser in Lafayette, the Energy and Natural Resources chairwoman and Louisiana Democrat said that sanctions for human rights violations by the government of President Nicolás Maduro shouldn’t be configured to cost jobs in her home state.

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After Ferguson, Durbin May Seek Reforms to Police Militarization Programs

453583712 445x296 After Ferguson, Durbin May Seek Reforms to Police Militarization Programs

(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

After police use of military equipment in Feguson, Mo., raised concerns of excessive force following the shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager, Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., may seek to revamp two key Pentagon programs.

The Defense Department runs two programs that allow state and local police forces to receive or purchase excess military equipment — known as 1033 and 1122 respectively — and Durbin, who is also chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee, wrote to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to voice his concerns.

“The adoption by local police departments of military-style tactics and their use of military equipment have provoked concern across the nation for a number of years, but the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, give new urgency to the need for an examination of the DoD programs that supply such equipment,” said Durbin, who also has jurisdiction over the matter as chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights Subcommittee

“I appreciate the briefing that DoD officials provided to my staff about these programs. Based on this briefing I have identified several areas of concern that I wanted to bring to your attention,” Durbin added. “I intend to ensure that these issues are addressed as the Administration and Congress review these programs and consider reforms.”

Durbin cited a lack of effective coordination between the Defense Department and the Justice Department, with respect to the 1033 program, and suggested that the Justice Department could play a significant role in ensuring that police departments have valid law enforcement purposes for the equipment, do not have a history of violations of federal laws or grant requirements with regard to federally-provided equipment, and are not the subject of any allegations or investigations that would raise concerns about the possession of the equipment.

Durbin also said that he is concerned that under the 1033 program there is no procedure for evaluating whether there has been any illegal or inappropriate use of equipment, particularly of firearms, explosive devices or military vehicles.

The lack of a requirement for training for 1033 related equipment also disturbed Durbin, but he noted that the Defense Department is not the appropriate entity to provide the training.

Durbin further recommended that an independent ombudsman be part of the complaint process in an effort to help instill community confidence that the programs are being run effectively.

“I look forward to working with you to ensure that any provision of excess military equipment to civilian law enforcement is carried out with the safeguards, accountability and oversight that our communities need and deserve,” Durbin said.

Durbin’s letter comes after the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has scheduled a hearing on the issue for Tuesday.

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September 4, 2014

Rubio Asks Reid to Bypass Landrieu on Venezuela Sanctions

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Marco Rubio wants Majority Leader Harry Reid to bypass one of his vulnerable incumbent Democrats in a bid to impose sanctions on Venezuela.

The Florida Republican sent a letter to Reid calling for the Nevada Democrat to use his prerogatives as leader to get a sanctions bill to the floor. Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., opposed granting unanimous consent to advance the measure before the August break.

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August 28, 2014

Republicans Warn of ‘Dark and Dangerous’ Future if Putin Isn’t Confronted on Ukraine (Video)

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Ayotte, McCain and Graham (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama on Thursday dismissed any suggestion of military intervention to address Russia’s further incursion into Ukrainian territory, as Republican lawmakers renewed calls for stronger action.

“We are not taking military action to solve the Ukrainian problem. What we’re doing is to mobilize the international community to apply pressure on Russia,” Obama said. “But I think it is very important to recognize that a military solution to this problem is not going to be forthcoming.”

Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina warned of a “dark and dangerous” future if Russia and President Vladimir Putin are not confronted about the action in Ukraine.

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August 26, 2014

McConnell Wants Details From Obama on Plans for ISIS

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wants President Barack Obama to present Congress with a plan to fight the Islamic State, including any potential needs for a new authorization for use of military force.

“The President needs to develop a regional strategy, working with our allies, to defeat ISIL, and to use the full extent of his authorities to attack this enemy force. The President needs to present this plan to the Congress and the American people. And where the President believes he lacks authority to execute such a strategy, he needs to explain to the Congress how additional authority for the use of force will protect America,” the Kentucky Republican said in a statement provided to CQ Roll Call. “The threat from ISIL can no longer be ignored, and it is time for President Obama to exercise some leadership in launching a response.”

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August 22, 2014

Schumer Praises New FitBit Privacy Policy

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Less than two weeks after criticizing the company at a Central Park press conference, Sen. Charles E. Schumer is lauding FitBit’s privacy policy.

“We are very glad that Fitbit is doing exactly the right thing. They will not sell personal information to third parties and will share it only when legally necessary or when the customer has opted-in – this is the best possible solution,” the New York Democrat said in statement Friday. “Fitbit customers can breathe a sigh of relief and should be aware that this company cares very much about their privacy and their security. We are urging all other fitness tracking companies to follow Fitbit’s lead and adopt similar privacy policies.”

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August 21, 2014

Chambliss Wants Special Counsel to Investigate Obama on Bergdahl Swap

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee wants a special counsel to investigate President Barack Obama’s swap of five Taliban members for the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

An aide to Sen. Saxby Chambliss told CQ Roll Call in an email Thursday that the Georgia Republican wants the Department of Justice to appoint a special counsel to investigate the prisoner swap, which the Government Accountability Office contended earlier Thursday violated federal law.

The GAO opinion said the administration violated the notice requirement for transfers out of the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the Antideficiency Act, which is the federal law barring spending without appropriated funds. The Defense Department has contended that the notice requirement is unconstitutional.

The aide’s email came after Chambliss sent out a statement Thursday pointing to the GAO opinion, which came at the request of Republicans.

“This legal decision further validates the argument I have been making with many of my colleagues against the administration’s release of the Taliban Five,” Chambliss said. “By failing to notify Congress 30 days in advance as required by the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act, the president completely disregarded laws duly passed by Congress and signed by his own hand.

“In addition to simply violating the notification requirement, the administration has violated the Antideficiency Act by obligating funds that were not legally available. While the president has a habit of ignoring laws relating to domestic policy, such as healthcare and immigration, this latest overreach regarding our national security has dangerous implications. The United States has a long-standing policy of not negotiating with terrorists for good reason, and these senior Taliban leaders will soon rejoin the fight, as they have stated publicly multiple times.”

Chambliss’ release notes federal employees who violate the Antideficiency Act can face administrative and criminal sanctions.

The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment Thursday on the possibility of a grand jury in either Washington, D.C., or Alexandria, Va., pursuing the matter.

McCaskill to Hold Police Militarization Hearings

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McCaskill will hold hearings on the militarization of local police in wake of Ferguson events. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With lawmakers on the left and right questioning the militarization of law enforcement after two weeks of violence in Ferguson, Mo., Sen. Claire McCaskill announced she will hold hearings next month on the federal programs supplying local authorities with surplus military gear.

The Missouri Democrat, chairwoman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee’s subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight, plans to take a broad look at programs like the Defense Department’s 1033 program that have steered surplus equipment to local police departments.

That DOD program has come under particular scrutiny from other lawmakers.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, last week said he would review the program, which is part of the defense authorization bill, before it gets to the Senate floor “to determine if equipment provided by the Defense Department is being used as intended.” Full story

August 20, 2014

Vilsack, Shaheen Visit the Farm

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Vilsack joined Shaheen for Tuesday’s announcement in New Hampshire. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

LOUDON, N.H. | Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen at a hilltop farm here Tuesday to tout new federal grants.

RollCall On the Road Logo300x3008 240x234 Vilsack, Shaheen Visit the Farm“We have one of the highest percentages in the country of our farmers engaging directly with consumers who buy their products, and the whole farm-to-table movement has been very influential, I think, in encouraging people to … make sure that they buy much as they can directly from the farm,” Shaheen said.

Vilsack announced $25 million in grants to farmers who turn their raw goods into finished products.

In the case of this town’s Miles Smith Farm, that’s a new burger made of a mixture of pork and beef.

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