Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 22, 2014

Posts in "Potpourri"

August 11, 2014

Chuck Schumer’s FitBit Privacy Warning (Video)

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Schumer is concerned about privacy and FitBit step trackers. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Charles E. Schumer’s newest privacy concern is about the popular FitBit.

The devices, which track steps and help users monitor other health-related information, are a potential privacy nightmare to the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate.

The New Yorker took his Sunday news conference routine to Central Park, calling on the Federal Trade Commission to enhance privacy rules by requiring a mandatory “opt-out” option for the sale of the data. Newsday said Schumer’s appearance came with joggers passing through the background.

Full story

August 7, 2014

Cuts to National Guard Motorsports Sponsorships Draw Mixed Reviews

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Earnhardt Jr., in victory lane following Sunday’s 400 at Pocono Raceway (Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

Lawmakers are predictably split on the National Guard’s announcement it will be slashing motor sports sponsorships — just days after a car sporting the Guard’s livery won a major NASCAR race.

Sen. Claire McCaskill was among those who lauded the news.

“I’m a NASCAR fan, and I love the National Guard — but spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on a recruitment program that signed up zero recruits, and that has been abandoned by other service branches as ineffective, just makes no sense,” the Missouri Democrat said in a statement.

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June 18, 2014

Reid, Cantwell Cheer Cancellation of Redskins Trademark (Video)

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Cantwell praised the cancellation of trademarks for the Washington Redskins. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Two of the Senate’s leading critics of Washington Redskins name and team owner Dan Snyder were quick to take the Senate floor to praise the Patent and Trademark Office’s decision to strip the team of its trademarks.

First came Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a former chairwoman of the Indian Affairs Committee, who has spearheaded efforts to get the name changed. On the floor, she criticized the Redskins monicker as a slur.

“We’re so excited to know that finally people are recognizing that this issue can no longer be a business case for the NFL to use this patent,” Cantwell said. “They will not be able to forcefully exclude other people from having derivatives of this logo or the name.

Full story

June 10, 2014

Ban E-Cig Electronic Cigarettes on Airplanes, Senators Say

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Boxer is one of seven Democrats urging an immediate ban on electronic cigarettes on airplanes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It’s time to ban electronic cigarettes on airplanes, seven Democratic senators said in a new letter to the Transportation Department chastising the Obama administration for failing to act.

The signatories on a letter to Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx point to a proposed rule banning electronic cigarettes that’s been pending since 2011.

“This rule when finalized will ban the smoking of electronic cigarettes on both domestic and foreign air carriers to and from the United States. It is unacceptable that it has been more than two years and this rule has yet to be finalized,” the senators wrote. Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 2:57 p.m.

June 4, 2014

Senators Again Push FCC to End NFL Blackouts

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Blumenthal wants the FCC to end NFL blackouts. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Two senators are pressing the Federal Communications Commission to quickly bring an end to blackouts of National Football League games and other sporting events on local TV stations.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and John McCain, R-Ariz., are keeping up their push on the matter, since the comment period for a proposed rule ran out in March.

“Now that the comment deadline has long passed, we urge the Commission to move forward expeditiously on eliminating the sports blackout rule (SBR). We believe that the rule unfairly harms consumers by insulating the NFL from market realities and punishing fans in cities with large stadiums and declining populations,” the senators wrote in a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

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June 3, 2014

Remembering Frank Lautenberg, One Year Later

It has now been one year since the Senate lost its last sitting member to serve in World War II.

As our David Hawkings notes in today’s Roll Call, there will be no more World War II veterans serving on either side of the Rotunda come the next Congress.

Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey died one year ago today. His final resting place is on a hill at Arlington National Cemetery not far from the Kennedy grave sites.

While at Arlington on a beautiful day over the Memorial Day weekend, this reporter stopped at the Lautenberg plot and discovered this wreath and portrait of a young Lautenberg:

arlington1 251x335 Remembering Frank Lautenberg, One Year Later

(Niels Lesniewski/CQ Roll Call)

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June 2, 2014

A Spectacular Math Fail on EPA Rule Costs

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Roy Blunt’s office sent out a press release with a spectacular math fail that made the new EPA regulations on power plants look far more expensive than even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s own study suggests.

“The study reveals that U.S. consumers would pay almost $290 billion more for electricity between 2014-2030, an average of $17 billion more per year,” the release reads, before going off the rails.

“Missouri consumers would pay on average $65.4 billion more between 2014-2030, on average $11 billion more per year.”

Both of those figures for Missouri are spectacularly wrong — and even internally inconsistent. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 6:17 p.m.
Policy, Potpourri

Ethics Complaint Over Attacks on Koch Brothers Won’t Silence Harry Reid

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Not long after the head of the Tea Party Patriots filed an ethics complaint against Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader’s office accused that group of doing the bidding of the Koch brothers.

The complaint filed with the Senate Ethics Committee accuses Reid of engaging in improper political activity related to his persistent attacks on Charles and David Koch and their associated spending on conservative interests.

“It’s been generations since a member of the Senate has abused the power of his office to attack private citizens the way Harry Reid has sought to vilify Charles and David Koch,” Martin said in a statement.

Full story

May 27, 2014

Schumer’s Newest Foe: ‘Phrostee’ Alcoholic Slushy Drink (Video)

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Schumer worries Phrostee alcoholic slushies are being marketed to children. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Charles E. Schumer is once again going after the marketing of an alcoholic beverage to children.

The No. 3 Senate Democrat told reporters in New York Monday that he’s concerned about the sale of a new slushy beverage featuring sugar and alcohol, called the “Phrostee,” being sold to children via Instagram. The product has turned up in New York City.

“They seem to be sold online without limitations for age,” Schumer said at a news conference, WCBS-TV reported. “A 12-year-old could probably buy one and get it and enjoy it because it’s filled with fruit punch and fruit juice.”

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 11:30 a.m.

May 12, 2014

Democrats Not Cheering Walsh Proposal for Budget Balance Before Recess

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. John Walsh’s proposal to cancel recesses until adopting a budget resolution that balances the books by 2024 isn’t exactly getting endorsements.

Asked about the recently appointed Montana Democrat’s proposal, a Senate Budget Committee spokeswoman reiterated the view of Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., about the state of the budget process.

“Chairman Murray believes we should build on the budget currently in place as a result of the two-year bipartisan agreement she reached with Chairman Ryan with additional bipartisan work to create jobs, encourage growth, and responsibly tackle our long-term budget challenges,” the spokesperson said.

Congress is currently operating under the spending levels agreed upon in that bipartisan deal, which has allowed appropriators to get to work on fiscal 2015 bills.

And the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Schatz Defends East-West Center From Ted Cruz, Pigs

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Schatz isn’t happy with Cruz. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A senator is vocally contesting the inclusion of a project in his home state in the 2014 ”Congressional Pig Book.”

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, issued a statement over the weekend touting his effort to preserve (and in fact increase) funding for the East-West Center, a cultural and education exchange center established by Congress in 1960 that’s based in Honolulu.

“For years, the State Department tried to eliminate the center by not requesting funding in the department’s annual budget requests,” the group Citizens Against Government Waste said in the “Pig Book.”

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May 9, 2014

David Vitter’s Beef With the NFL

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Vitter is taking on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid isn’t the only senator who has a beef with National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The Nevada Democrat has been pushing Goodell to force Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to change the name of the Washington football team, and now Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has joined the fray with a complaint of a different kind.

Vitter is criticizing the NFL’s role in a trademark dispute involving a restaurant in New Orleans, as the Times-Picayune reported. The restaurant, Phil’s Grill, has an event called the “Burger Bowl” and a “Lom-Burger Trophy.”

“The only similarity with the Lombardi Trophy is a pyramid-shaped base,” wrote Vitter. “Has the NFL trademarked the pyramid shape? Are you also initiating legal action against the nation of Egypt and Transamerica Corporation?” Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 1:44 p.m.

May 5, 2014

Legislative Prayer Wins Broad Endorsement From Supreme Court

When the Senate returned Monday afternoon, it opened with a customary prayer by Chaplain Barry Black.

That’s a tradition that’s sure to continue, with the Supreme Court reaffirming Monday morning the broader constitutionality of legislative prayer in a case involving the small upstate New York town of Greece.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., praised the ruling. He led a group of 34 senators in filing an amicus brief supporting the town board in the case.

“Legislative prayer, in particular, is a practice that goes back to the very Founders of the Republic. It has enriched my career as a public servant, both in the Florida legislature and now in the U.S. Senate. That tradition hung in the balance in this case. If the lower court’s decision had been allowed to stand, we would have taken a dangerous turn away from the vision of our Founders,” Rubio said in a statement. “We would have moved one step further toward the ‘naked public square’ where religion is stigmatized, feared, and something best kept private. Defenders of religious freedom at home and abroad should be encouraged by today’s ruling.”

The Supreme Court split 5-4 in the case, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy writing the majority opinion.

“The Congress that drafted the First Amendment would have been accustomed to invocations containing explicitly religious themes of the sort respondents find objectionable. One of the Senate’s first chaplains, the Rev. William White, gave prayers in a series that included the Lord’s Prayer, the Collect for Ash Wednesday, prayers for peace and grace, a general thanksgiving, St. Chrysostom’s Prayer, and prayer seeking ‘the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ’,'” Kennedy wrote.

At one point, Kennedy quoted from the prayer offered by the most notable guest chaplain in recent Senate history: His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who offered the opening prayer in early March, well after oral arguments in the case decided Monday:

The prayers at issue in Greece, N.Y., have often had more explicitly Christian references than the regular Senate prayers, but the Court rejected the idea of the government imposing rules on the content of the prayers.

“Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this Nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government to alter or define and that willing participation in civic affairs can be consistent with a brief acknowledgement of their belief in a higher power, always with due respect for those who adhere to other beliefs,” Kennedy wrote. “The prayer in this case has a permissible ceremonial purpose. It is not an unconstitutional establishment of religion.”

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 3:58 p.m.

April 30, 2014

Harry Reid, Citing Donald Sterling Ban, Tells NFL to End Redskins ‘Tradition of Racism’ (Video)

reid121813 445x311 Harry Reid, Citing Donald Sterling Ban, Tells NFL to End Redskins Tradition of Racism (Video)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Citing the NBA’s ban of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the NFL should change the name of the Washington Redskins to end the moniker’s “tradition of racism.”

“How long will the NFL continue to do nothing, zero, as one of its teams bears a name that inflicts so much pain on Native Americans?” the Nevada Democrat asked Wednesday on the Senate floor.

“It is untoward of Daniel Snyder to try and hide behind tradition. Tradition, that’s what he says, in refusing to change the name of the team. Madam President, tradition?

A tradition of racism is all that name leaves in its wake.”

Full story

April 27, 2014

Beer Taxes, Regs a Bipartisan Issue

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(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Fighting beer regulations and taxes has brought members of both parties together.

Lawmakers in both parties have been worried the Food and Drug Administration would impose new regulations restricting the repurposing of grains used in the brewing process that currently get used as animal feed.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.,  has been visiting breweries over the two-week recess period to criticize the possibility. He said in a statement Thursday that he had been assured the FDA would not go down that road.

Full story

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