Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 29, 2014

Posts in "Politics"

July 25, 2014

Walsh on Plagiarism: ‘I Made a Mistake’ But Not Due to PTSD

walsh 109 021114 445x294 Walsh on Plagiarism: I Made a Mistake But Not Due to PTSD

( Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. John Walsh said he “made a mistake” when he plagiarized portions of his Masters’ thesis and dismissed possible affects of post-traumatic stress disorder possibly playing a role.

“I was going to the United States Army War College, I had to write a strategic research paper and I made a mistake,” the Montana Democrat said Friday on KMMS AM Radio in Bozeman, Mont.

“It was an unintentional mistake when I put the paper together,” Walsh said. “It was a 14-page paper. There were 96 citations that I identified in the paper. Some of those citations were identified incorrectly and some of the comments that I left in the paper I did not put a citation against. So I made a mistake on my paper. It was an unintentional mistake.” Full story

By Humberto Sanchez Posted at 4:57 p.m.
Politics

July 21, 2014

Federal Judge Tosses Ron Johnson’s Obamacare Lawsuit

johnson 014 010614 445x306 Federal Judge Tosses Ron Johnsons Obamacare Lawsuit

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A federal judge based in Green Bay has tossed a Sen. Ron Johnson’s Obamacare lawsuit targeting the health benefits for members of Congress and their staff.

The court dismissed the lawsuit, which contended the Obama administration decision to grant employer contributions for health plans purchased through the District of Columbia’s Obamacare health exchange ran afoul of the law.

Chief Judge William C. Griesbach of the Eastern District of Wisconsin ruled that Johnson and fellow plaintiff Brooke Ericson lacked standing, siding with the argument made by the government’s lawyers.

Full story

July 14, 2014

Senators Blast NCAA, ESPN in Review of College Athletics (Video)

rockefeller050113 600x406 Senators Blast NCAA, ESPN in Review of College Athletics (Video)

Rockefeller criticized ESPN at a hearing on the NCAA and student-athletes last week, saying the network was “undermining our commitment to education.” (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A century-old debate over the commercialization of college athletics is under renewed scrutiny on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers could face the issue in the coming months, and held little back when the leader of the NCAA testified recently before the Senate Commerce Committee.

Senators hammered NCAA President Mark Emmert on July 9, as questions about student-athlete compensation, graduation rates, health care and sexual assault took center stage.

Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., kicked off by reminding Emmert of the committee’s jurisdiction over intercollegiate athletics, before taking aim at the NCAA.

“College athletes and athletics are rooted in the notion of amateurism, and the history of that is very interesting and important,” Rockefeller said. “Playing college sports is supposed to be an avocation. There’s a growing perception that college athletics, particularly Division I football and basketball, are not avocations at all. What they really are is highly profitable commercial enterprises.”

Full story

July 9, 2014

Gun Politics Overtake Hunting Bill

Gun politics appear all-but-certain to destroy any chance of advancing a bipartisan hunting, fishing and conservation package — and with it, a chance for Sen. Kay Hagan and other endangered Democrats to tout their bipartisan legislative bona fides ahead of the November elections.

The package had huge initial support on a test vote, but like so many other bills this Congress, it quickly devolved into a standoff over politically charged amendments. A fight over gun control isn’t what Democrats had in mind when they brought the bill to the floor, but that’s what they got.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., wants to broadly expand firearm access within the District of Columbia, and numerous other amendments by Republicans would expand access to firearms and ammunition, cheered on by the group Gun Owners of America. That group has blasted the bill as a “fake ‘pro-gun’ bill designed to re-elect endangered anti-gun Democrats up in 2014 in pro-gun states,” and the “Harry Reid Preservation Act.” Full story

Sportmen’s Bill Faces Gun Amendment Gauntlet (Updated)

reid 227 032614 445x296 Sportmens Bill Faces Gun Amendment Gauntlet (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 1:01 p.m. | The bipartisan sportsmen’s bill appeared on the verge of collapse Wednesday.

As usual, the feud is about considering amendments. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., moved to block all amendments by filling the amendment tree and end debate, but said he was willing to consider a limited number.

“If you want an amendment process, bring me a reasonable list that leads to passage of the bill,” he said of the GOP.

Republicans have been calling for an open amendment process, and have proposed numerous gun amendments that threaten to turn the bill into a political minefield.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources ranking member Lisa Murkowski, the lead Republican compiling the package with Democrat Kay Hagan of North Carolina, gave an all-too-familiar floor speech about oft-mythical “regular order.”

The Alaska Republican conceded the Senate was “probably unlikely” to move forward on the bipartisan assortment of bills without considering an assortment of relevant amendments. Relevancy is a broader standard than germaneness, meaning any deal might well include a slew of uncomfortable gun votes.

“The Republican Conference is absolutely prepared to vote on all relevant amendments,” Murkowski said. “Let’s get moving on these relevant amendments.”

Murkowski noted that not all amendments are broad in scope.

“I know that Sen. [Mary L.] Landrieu has an amendment that’s very unique to Louisiana,” Murkowski said, citing a proposal from the Energy and Natural Resources chairwoman about deer hunting rights.

But it isn’t amendments such as Landrieu’s that are likely to cause trouble. There are firearm policy amendments being lined up on both sides. That includes everything from the interstate transportation of ammunition to a sweeping overhaul of gun control in the District of Columbia. That last amendment has been filed by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.

On the other side, Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin wants to impose stiff criminal penalties for “straw purchasers” of firearms, citing the spate of violence last weekend in Chicago in a Wednesday morning floor speech. Other Democrats  advocating firearm safety are working on proposals as well, including Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn.

Durbin noted that his home state of Illinois has regions with very different views on firearm ownership.

“I think I may be an exception, but I welcome this debate. I want this debate. I want an opportunity to raise important issues about gun violence and gun safety in america,” Durbin said. “And I’m going to offer an amendment … which stiffens the penalties for those who purchase guns to give them to another person or sell them to another person to commit a crime.”

“What I said in Chicago, i’ll say on the floor of the Senate. Girlfriends, wake up. When that thug sends (you) to buy a gun, under this amendment, you … run the risk of spending 15 years of your life in a federal prison,” the Illinois Democrat said.

Durbin sounded a similar tone to Murkowski about the possibility the amendment process might not work, however.

“This senator is going to offer this amendment. I hope I get my chance,” Durbin said. “I hope the filibusters don’t stop me.”

It’s unclear where exactly such a filibuster might come from, but it could plausibly be from both sides of the aisle, given the political risks associated with opening the door to a broad gun safety debate.

Sarah Chacko contributed to this story.

July 8, 2014

Democrats’ Hobby Lobby Response Would Curtail Religious Freedom Law (Video)

murray 111 0501514 445x296 Democrats Hobby Lobby Response Would Curtail Religious Freedom Law (Video)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If Sen. Patty Murray and fellow Democrats get their way, employers wouldn’t be able to use a 1990s-era law to avoid Obamacare health coverage mandates for contraception.

That’s the crux of the proposal expected to be introduced by the Washington Democrat that would upend the recent split Supreme Court opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

It’s a bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is eager to bring to the floor for an almost certainly ill-fated test vote.

Full story

Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Bill Sparks Gun Control Duel

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Durbin says the measure could spark a fight. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call Photo)

A bipartisan bundle of hunting and fishing legislation could get shot down by a partisan battle over gun control.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has drafted an amendment limiting the circumstances under which veterans can be denied access to firearms because of mental illness, a proposal the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat said would prompt a response from advocates of stricter gun control.

“If we open this to a gun debate, we’re going to hear both sides,” Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin told reporters Tuesday.

“We’re working on it,” the Illinois Democrat said when asked about drafting an amendment favoring more stringent policy regarding firearms. “Mr. Coburn has decided he wants an amendment. He wants to expand the carrying of firearms across America. Many of us want to reduce … the firearm violence across America.”

An effort by Durbin and the Democrats to push the issue comes as Chicago officials are grappling with a new wave of gun violence over the weekend. But the fight is heating up given that Coburn is just one of the Republicans with pro-gun amendments.

Full story

July 6, 2014

Illinois Mourns Former Sen. Alan Dixon (Updated)

Updated 7:45 p.m. | Former Illinois Sen. Alan J. Dixon died Sunday at his home in Fairview Heights, his family said.

The current senior senator from his home state, Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, announced the death in a statement.

“From his days as a Police Magistrate in Belleville to his leadership position in the United States Senate, Alan Dixon was known for his honesty, his hard work and his commitment to the state he loved. Alan was the first statewide Democrat to voluntarily make a full disclosure of his net worth. Alan started the first bipartisan Illinois Congressional lunches, a tradition which continues to this day,” Durbin said. “His friendships reached across the aisle and across our state. I lost a pal today and Illinois lost a man who brought honor to public service.”

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 3:01 p.m.
Politics

July 2, 2014

Begich Slams McCaskill in Feud Over Alaska Native Corporations

begich 086 0501314 445x296 Begich Slams McCaskill in Feud Over Alaska Native Corporations

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It isn’t the first time an Alaska senator has chastised a colleague for a lack of understanding about his non-contiguous state.

Sen. Mark Begich lit into fellow Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri after she sent a letter to the Small Business Administration administrator seeking details about the use of a small and disadvantaged business contracting program by Alaska Native Corporations.

“It’s no secret many senators still have quite the learning curve when it comes to understanding the unique needs of Alaska. What is especially troubling are those who refuse to take the time to understand our needs and challenges while continuing to take actions intended to unfairly punish and target our way of life,” Begich said in a statement. “I’m afraid my colleague, Senator McCaskill — through her narrow lens as a ‘government oversight and efficiencies guru’ — has trouble understanding Alaska history, even with my repeated attempts to reason with her.”

Full story

June 26, 2014

GOP Won’t Shut Down Government to Block ‘War on Coal,’ Thune Predicts

luncheons tw008 111313 445x297 GOP Wont Shut Down Government to Block War on Coal, Thune Predicts

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A top Senate Republican predicted the GOP’s fight against the EPA’s “war on coal” won’t lead to a government shutdown.

Republican Conference Chairman John Thune of South Dakota predicted Thursday that a proposal from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to effectively halt the EPA’s regulation of carbon emissions from existing power plants won’t go away.

But Thune didn’t think there was any appetite to threaten a government shutdown over climate change rules or any other issue in October, just before the 2014 mid-term elections.

“No Republican is talking about using that as leverage to shut the government down,” he said. ”I don’t think anybody — we’ve got a budget number that’s been put in place now that we’re operating under and any continuing resolution that gets adopted this year, I assume, would meet that number.” Full story

Supreme Court Strikes Down Obama’s Recess Appointments

A unanimous Supreme Court struck down President Barack Obama’s disputed recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, saying that the Senate was not technically in recess because it was holding pro forma sessions.

“For purposes of the Recess Appointments Clause, the Senate is in session when it says that it is, provided that, under its own rules, it retains the capacity to transact Senate business,” the court ruled in the case of NLRB v. Noel Canning. “This standard is consistent with the Constitution’s broad delegation of authority to the Senate to determine how and when to conduct its business, as recognized by this Court’s precedents.”
Full story

June 25, 2014

Schumer, McCain Hold Court at Breakfast

mccain schumer 091 071613 330x229 Schumer, McCain Hold Court at Breakfast

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Charles E. Schumer and John McCain met with reporters for nearly an hour Wednesday morning. Together. On the record.

The result of the Wall Street Journal-sponsored breakfast with the New York Democrat and Arizona Republican was a wide-ranging conversation on domestic and foreign policy that occasionally veered into the absurd.

The initial focus was on the prospects for an immigration overhaul to move through the House in the aftermath of the upset primary defeat of outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., but much of the discussion focused on Senate operations.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 5:14 p.m.
Policy, Politics

Boxer Cheers Cochran Primary Win, Sees Lesson for Transportation Bill

boxer001 092513 445x282 Boxer Cheers Cochran Primary Win, Sees Lesson for Transportation Bill

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., cheered the GOP primary win of Sen. Thad Cochran in Mississippi on Wednesday and  said she hoped his winning message of bringing back money to Mississippi would be a lesson to to other senators.

“I saw some of the ads that were on television and they made a very important point: that Sen. Cochran has worked to bring money back for Mississippi,” Boxer said. “His opponent was not interested in that.”

Boxer, who is chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, made her comments at a news conference she convened to urge support for a plan floated by Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., to raise $9 billion through an assortment of tax code tweaks to keep transportation programs funded through the end of the year.

“I bring this up because in the deepest of red states, in the deepest of red primaries you had someone who made that part of his appeal that he has worked here to bring funds back to Mississippi and I’m heartened by that because … [infrastructure funding] is a basic responsibility and hopefully that will send a message of courage to my colleagues,” Boxer continued.

Cochran, a veteran member of the Appropriations Committee, had built a reputation of delivering for his state through earmarks. That reputation came under attack after the practice fell out of favor.

That reputation also left Cochran vulnerable from attacks from the right.

Chris McDaniel, his tea-party-aligned primary opponent, pushed Cochran to a runoff in a contentious and closely watched campaign.

But Cochran pulled it out Tuesday night winning 51 percent of the vote with turnout for the runoff surpassing the June 3 primary.

Speaking at a breakfast hosted by the Wall Street Journal, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said that his victory was significant, and holds lessons for future incumbent campaigns.

“I think it was very significant in that the attention of all the Republicans and the country was on this race. We know all the dynamics and the background of it,” said McCain, who stumped for Cochran. “When I was there in Mississippi it was clear that tea party advocates — which is their right and I don’t complain about it — but, they flooded into that state. They were everywhere at the grassroots level.”

“I think the reason why Thad Cochran did so poorly in the primary was they, they kind of took it for granted,” McCain continued. “We’ve got to understand, anybody who’s running for re-election who is associated with Washington has already alienated a large number of the primary voters. And if you don’t accept that, as Lindsey Graham did by the way, and others have, then you are going to find yourself in some political difficulty.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., handily defeated his tea party primary opponent and five other challengers, winning 59 percent of the vote earlier this month, despite his support for a comprehensive immigration overhaul.

McCain added that a defeat for Cochran would have had greater repercussions.

“In a way, the victory is helpful that Thad Cochran had, but a defeat for Thad Cochran would have … reverberated one heck of a lot more,” McCain said.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate who appeared at the breakfast with McCain, said he thinks the tea party’s influence is waning.

“I think it’s peaked,” Schumer said of the tea party’s power. “I think it’s not just this election, but you look at all of them, and the mainstream conservatives were able to win. Some of them went right into the eye of the tiger, like Lindsey. Some of them sort of went around it, but they won.”

He said he viewed the primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., as an anomaly.

June 19, 2014

White House Threatened Veto of Spending Bill Over McConnell Amendment (Updated)

senate briefing004 061014 445x297 White House Threatened Veto of Spending Bill Over McConnell Amendment (Updated)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 2:44 p.m. | Top senators signaled the White House threatened to veto a Senate spending bill over a possible amendment from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to block EPA power plant regulations.

The amendment, billed by the Kentucky Republican as a fight against the Environmental Protection Agency’s “war on coal” was cited by the chairwomen of the full Appropriations Committee and the Energy-Water Subcommittee as the key factor in removing that fiscal 2015 bill from Thursday morning’s markup agenda.

“The amendment was a bill-killer. If it didn’t lead to defeat on the Senate floor, it would have resulted in a White House veto, as the chairman has said,” said subcommittee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein. The California Democrat said the White House confirmed a veto threat over the amendment on Wednesday.

Full story

June 11, 2014

Ted Cruz: Eric Cantor Defeat a Sign for GOP

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Ted Cruz commented on Eric Cantor’s loss. (Tom William/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, says Tuesday’s primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor should be a wake-up call for Republicans.

“I believe we are going to retake the Senate and retire Harry Reid as majority leader,” Cruz told a handful of reporters Wednesday. “But I will note that the election results north last night in Virginia and just a few days ago in Mississippi, in both instances, voters decided they wanted something different from business as usual in Washington. That’s a powerful message that I hope every elected official hearts.

“The most common thing you hear as you travel the country is that people in Washington aren’t listening … something happens when folks get elected. They go to Washington, they drink the water and they stop listening,” Cruz added. Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 12:09 p.m.
Politics

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