Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 26, 2014

Posts in "Potpourri"

October 22, 2014

Coburn’s ‘Wastebook’ Targets Include Mountain Lions, Sheep, Beer (Video)

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Coburn, pictured here unveiling the 2013 Wastebook. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Tom Coburn and his investigators have been busy in their most recent effort to unveil what they view as government waste and abuse.

The 2014 edition of the Oklahoma Republican’s annual “Wastebook” runs almost 250 pages and features more than 1,100 footnotes. It’s presumably the last such report Coburn will issue from his Senate perch, as he’s resigning his seat early at the end of the current Congress.

As in previous editions, the report highlights billions of dollars of projects that Coburn views as wasteful government spending.

“This report, the fifth annual Wastebook, gives a snapshot of just a fraction of the countless frivolous projects the government funded in the past twelve months with borrowed money and your tax dollars,” Coburn wrote in the report’s introduction. “Every year taxpayers, regardless of their personal political leanings, raise their eyebrows and shake their heads in disbelief at how billions of dollars that could be been better spent — or not spent at all — were squandered.” Full story

October 14, 2014

Senate Odd Couple Seeks Common Ground on Climate Change

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Manchin, left, and Whitehouse measure fish as part of a Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management survey. (Niels Lesniewski/CQ Roll Call)

POINT JUDITH, R.I. — A visit to the Ocean State’s eroding shoreline didn’t prompt West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III to change his mind about Environmental Protection Agency regulation of carbon emissions, but his host wasn’t expecting that sort of evolution.

RollCall On the Road Logo300x300 Senate Odd Couple Seeks Common Ground on Climate Change“I didn’t invite Sen. Manchin here thinking that he was suddenly going to have an epiphany and turn into a ‘greenie’ and come to the next climate march with me,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse told reporters after the two Democrats took a daylong tour of coastal Rhode Island on Oct. 10.

“What I do think though is that he is a smart and reasonable voice from the prototype coal state who has very, very good relations with a lot of our most conservative members of the Senate, some of whom believe that the whole climate change problem is a conspiracy designed as a foil to allow people to expand the role of government and take away freedom,” the Rhode Islander continued.

You would be hard-pressed to find two Democratic senators who more clearly demonstrate the party’s divide on energy and environmental issues, so it was notable when they announced plans to visit each others’ states to discuss energy and climate policy.

Manchin followed through on the first half of the bargain last week, joining with Whitehouse in meeting with oceanography experts, fishermen, environmental officials and residents and business owners at risk of seeing their properties washed away by rising tides.

Full story

October 9, 2014

Goodell Responds to Boxer, Says NFL Will Not Tolerate Domestic Violence

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(Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The National Football League has responded to one of its foremost critics in the Senate, and this time she’s optimistic about what Commissioner Roger Goodell had to say.

Sen. Barbara Boxer on Thursday released two separate letters dated this month from Goodell and Cynthia Hogan, the new NFL senior vice president for public policy and government affairs, praising each. Boxer had initially led a letter to Goodell from a group of a total of female 16 senators seeking the league to enact a policy of zero tolerance for incidents of domestic violence. She followed up directly with Hogan in subsequent correspondence.

Goodell’s letter, which Boxer’s office has posted here, says the NFL will not tolerate domestic violence and outlines the steps the league is already taking to change the way it handles domestic abuse cases following incidents involving Ray Rice and other professional football players. Full story

October 2, 2014

Toomey Blasts College for Inviting Mumia Abu-Jamal to Speak

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Patrick J. Toomey blasted a Vermont college for choosing Mumia Abu-Jamal to give the commencement address and urged the invitation be rescinded.

“I cannot fathom how anyone could think it appropriate to honor a cold-blooded murderer — one who ambushed a police officer, shot that officer in the back, and while that officer lay wounded and defenseless on the ground, lowered a gun to the officer’s face and took his life. Abu-Jamal has never apologized or expressed any regret for his heinous crime,” the Pennsylvania Republican said in a letter to Robert Kenny, Goddard College’s interim president.

Abu-Jamal, a Goddard alumnus, is a black nationalist who was convicted and sentenced to death in 1982 for the murder of white Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. After a lengthy appeals process, prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty, but Abu-Jamal remains in prison without the possibility of parole. Full story

By Humberto Sanchez Posted at 1:22 p.m.
Potpourri

September 30, 2014

Senators Laud FCC Rollback of Sports Blackout Rule

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Booker, who played football in college, applauded the FCC’s rule change vote. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senators on Tuesday lauded the Federal Communications Commission’s move to do away with the rule that, in effect, keeps National Football League games that don’t sell out off the air in hometown markets.

Sen. Cory Booker, who played tight end in college at Stanford University, was among the lawmakers thanking the FCC for taking the action on a unanimous vote.

Full story

September 22, 2014

Barbara Boxer Blasts NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s News Conference in New Letter (Video)

boxer001 092513 445x282 Barbara Boxer Blasts NFL Commissioner Roger Goodells News Conference in New Letter (Video)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Barbara Boxer is making a personal appeal to the new National Football League executive in charge of government affairs, calling for more action to address domestic violence.

In the letter, the California Democrat notes past work by Cynthia Hogan, the NFL’s new senior vice president of public policy and government affairs and previous senior aide to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., but it’s sharply critical of Hogan’s new boss, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Full story

September 16, 2014

Constitution Day: A Byrd Legacy (Video)

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In an undated photo, Byrd holds up a copy of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution during a MoveOn rally against the ‘nuclear option.’ (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A decade ago, during an earlier debate about military intervention in the Middle East, Sen. Robert C. Byrd led the establishment of Constitution Day, celebrated annually on Sept. 17.

There’s never a shortage of complaints about including policy provisions and funding limitations in spending bills, but back in 2004, one such provision was cause for celebration. Actually, it mandated celebration — about the Constitution.

Full story

September 11, 2014

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

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(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.”

Full story

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

September 10, 2014

15 Senators Among 50 Richest Members of Congress

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Rockefeller is the wealthiest senator, with a minimum net worth of at least $108 million. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senators comprised 30 percent of Roll Call’s 50 Richest Members of Congress list this year.

Although House members outnumbered senators by a 2-to-1 margin, the 15 senators who made the list have considerable wealth. They are evenly divided between the two parties, with seven Democrats and eight Republicans in the top 50. The combined net worth of the 15 lawmakers totaled $458.86 million.

The wealthiest senator was retiring Democrat Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, whose minimum net worth amounted to more than $108 million and ranked him at No. 4.

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.

Full story

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.”

Full story

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 GoBowling.com 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.

Full story

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.
Potpourri

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