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March 27, 2015

Posts in "Potpourri"

March 26, 2015

Live, On Periscope, From the Vote-a-Rama

Moran and Thune were live on Periscope during the vote-a-rama. (Niels Lesniewski/CQ Roll Call)

Moran and Thune on Periscope during the vote-a-rama. (Niels Lesniewski/CQ Roll Call)

For a pair of Republican senators, the budget vote-a-rama seemed like a great time to demonstrate they aren’t luddites.

Sens. John Thune of South Dakota and Jerry Moran of Kansas teamed up to shoot a brief video using the Periscope live-streaming app to share with their constituents (and all of the Internet) what the Senate is doing on what will be an exceptionally long night.

Full story

Senators Launch Effort to ‘Cut Red Tape’

Lankford (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Lankford (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

“People don’t get up every morning and read the Federal Register.”

That, Sen. James Lankford said Thursday morning, is the crux of the reason why the Oklahoma Republican is joining Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., to launch a new initiative at their Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee that’s responsible for regulatory policy called #CutRedTape, through which they want ordinary Americans — like those without lobbyists — to share concerns about federal regulations.

Full story

March 25, 2015

Harry Reid, GOP Senators Join Forces to Approve Highway (Updated)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 6:11 p.m. | Harry Reid’s bid to push a new highway through Nevada before he faces the voters next year has a powerful Republican ally — James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma.

The minority leader’s re-election fight is sure to be one of the most contentious of 2016, but under the Dome, the push for an extended Interstate 11 from southern Arizona to Interstate 80 in the northern part of the Silver State is a bipartisan affair.

The junior senator from Nevada, Republican Dean Heller of Nevada, sponsored the legislation and wrote a letter backing it in May 2014.

In addition to Reid, the highway is also backed by Republicans John McCain and Jeff Flake, both of Arizona — as well as Inhofe, the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee. McCain is also up for re-election next year.

Full story

March 24, 2015

Inhofe’s Revenge on FAA, Round 2

Inhofe has been licensed to fly since the mid-1950s. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Inhofe has been licensed to fly since the mid-1950s. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 10 p.m. | Sen. James M. Inhofe kicked off budget week with a floor speech on the sequel to his Pilot’s Bill of Rights, which the Oklahoma Republican acknowledged Monday “is not a big deal to the general public, but it is to anyone who is a pilot.”

That includes the 80-year-old senator, who has been navigating the skies for more than half a century. Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 4:10 p.m.
Potpourri

March 20, 2015

Democrats Take Aim at Liquid Detergent Packaging

Nelson, Durbin and Speier, say the liquid detergent packets look like bite-sized candy. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

Nelson, Durbin and Speier say the liquid detergent packets look like bite-sized candy. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

“Now that’s pretty attractive,” said Sen. Bill Nelson, eyeing a half dollar-sized packet of liquid laundry detergent on Thursday morning, before stroking the squishy blue orb against his well-tanned jaw.

“And it feels really nice to the touch,” the Florida Democrat cooed. “And it smells good,” he added, coaxing a reporter covering the news conference on liquid detergent package poisoning to pass his prop on to the cameramen. “Pass it on because until you touch it, you don’t realize how attractive it is.”

Nelson’s theatrical performance elicited some laughter during an otherwise somber presentation that featured a mother whose 8-month-old daughter ended up in intensive care after biting into one of the colorful, bite-sized packages of highly concentrated, single-load detergent. Liquid detergent packaging exposure is also linked to the death of a 7-month-old boy in Florida.

“It ought to be common sense that things that are attractive are going to enter into the mouth of an infant,” Nelson said. He also took a quick swipe at one of Democrats’ favorite foes, e-cigarettes, comparing the colorful detergent to liquid vials of nicotine.

In response to recent poisonings, Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin has introduced legislation that would give the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission the authority and direction to issue rules requiring safer, child-resistant packaging for liquid detergent products within 18 months of enactment. Six Senate Democrats, including Nelson, are co-sponsoring the bill.

Durbin and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., sponsor of companion legislation, also wrote to the commission, asking them to help. “The problem with that is government moves slowly,” Durbin said. “And while the government is moving slowly, if it does move in the right direction, kids are at risk.”

Nelson, Durbin and Speier called on industry giants, starting with Procter & Gamble, to add protections to their products. They suggest changing the design and color of the liquid detergent packets to make them less appealing to children, changing the composition of the packets to make consequences of exposure less severe and adding proper warning labels.

“If it had a bitter taste to it, the kid might spit it out right off the bat,” Durbin said. The lawmakers plan to abandon the bill if those voluntary standards are accepted and put into practice. Durbin urged the industry: “Don’t wait. Do it yourself, and do it in a hurry, because kids lives are at risk here.”

Related:

Democrats Renew Press for Curbs on E-Cigarettes

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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March 11, 2015

Alaska, Hawaii Senators Seek Exemption From Higher Security Fees for Their States

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Murkowski is working with Schatz and Hirono on the bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Three senators from Alaska and Hawaii are pushing to exempt flights within their states from higher security fees.

The legislation is another example of the noncontiguous states trying to work together to address concerns that senators from the other 48 states might not be familiar with. Democratic Sens. Mazie K. Hirono and Brian Schatz of Hawaii joined Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski in reviving the effort Wednesday. The newest delegation member from the two states, Alaska GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan, had not signed on.

Full story

March 9, 2015

Paul, Booker and Gillibrand Set to Unveil Bill to Legalize Medical Marijuana

Marijuana at a Colorado dispensary. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Marijuana at a Colorado dispensary. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A bipartisan trio of senators has planned a Tuesday rollout for legislation to remove federal legal barriers to the use of medical marijuana.

Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Cory Booker of New Jersey are set to join Kentucky Republican Rand Paul for the event, shortly after noon. The new bill would make it so that medical professionals and their patients involved in the use of marijuana and cannabidiol oils for medicinal purposes would not run the risk of running afoul of federal laws.

Full story

February 26, 2015

Strong Leaving the Senate, Heading to Wisconsin for Walker

Strong is leaving Thune's office to work for Walker's political operation. (Tom Williams/CQ Eoll Call)

Strong is leaving Thune’s office to work for Walker’s political operation. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s political operation has lured one of the top Republican communicators in the Senate away from the chamber.

Walker’s bringing on AshLee Strong, the spokeswoman for the Senate Republican Conference, as national press secretary to be based in Madison, a Walker aide confirmed to CQ Roll Call. She has worked for Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., for more than four years, most recently as senior communications director and chief spokesperson, and is departing the Senate after the Republicans regained the majority.

“AshLee has been a trusted advisor of mine for several years so this is bittersweet for me. I’m sad to see her go but this is a tremendous opportunity for her,” Thune said in a statement. “She’s one of the smartest communicators out there and Gov. Walker is fortunate to have her on his team.”

Full story

February 18, 2015

Hawaii Internment Camp Monument a Legacy of Akaka, Inouye

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Akaka and Inouye led efforts to secure the monument designation. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Thursday’s expected announcement from President Barack Obama that the Honouliuli internment camp will become a national monument will bring to fruition an effort that dates to Hawaii’s former senators.

The process to secure the monument designation began in earnest in 2009, in much the same way many of Hawaii’s federal projects have originated for decades: through inclusion of language in an appropriations bill by the late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawaii. Full story

February 4, 2015

Bipartisan Lunch Gets Plaudits, but Senate Still Stuck

From left, Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Jack Reed, D-R.I., arrive for the bipartisan Senate luncheon in the Kennedy Caucus Room in the Russell Senate Office Building Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

From left, Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Jack Reed, D-R.I., arrive for the bipartisan Senate luncheon in the Kennedy Caucus Room in the Russell Senate Office Building Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Baby steps.

The first bipartisan Senate lunch brought praise from both sides of the aisle Wednesday, but anyone expecting instant results will be disappointed.

Full story

December 29, 2014

A Look Back at 2014 in the WGDB

The Senate leaders appeared together at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in June on the subject of campaign finance. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Senate leaders appeared together at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in June on the subject of campaign finance. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As we close the books on the 113th Congress, and the first full calendar year for this blog, it’s our turn to again thank you, the readers, for joining us throughout the year as we’ve followed the ebbs and flows of the Senate.

We’ve covered issues with national and international implications — including debates over the debt limit and federal spending, nuclear talks with Iran and the threat posed by the terror group ISIS. But we’ve also spent time closer to home,  documenting staff changes and life operating under the Dome.

Full story

December 16, 2014

Durbin and Schumer Split Up

Alpha House

Schumer and Durbin are moving out. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Senate’s longstanding D.C. roommates have gone their separate ways.

Democratic Sens. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Charles E. Schumer of New York had long rented space in a Capitol Hill row house owned by Rep. George Miller.

The retirement of the California Democrat left the two Senate Democratic leaders with a problem.

Full story

December 15, 2014

Ahead of Holidays, Schumer Slams High Cost of Flying (Video)

Charles Schumer, D-NY, speaks during the press conference on the Fair Shot Agenda to lower interest rates on student loan debt on Wednesday, May 14, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Schumer wants to know why airlines are adding a fuel surcharge with fuel prices on the decline. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

How does a senator spend his only off-day during the end-of-session holiday rush? If you’re Charles E. Schumer, you go home to New York and hold a news conference about the high price of airline tickets.

“What adds insult to injury is a lot of the airlines, when prices were going up added a surcharge, a fuel surcharge. Well, that fuel surcharge is still on the tickets even though prices are going down,” said Schumer, the No. 3 man in Senate Democratic leadership.

Full story

December 1, 2014

Tom Harkin — From Tiger Cages to Pinochet

Harkin, right, listens to Cau Nguyen Loi describe what it was like to be shackled and beaten inside a 'tiger cage' on Con Son Island, Vietnam. (POOL/AFP/Getty Images File Photo)

Harkin, right, listens to Cau Nguyen Loi describe what it was like to be shackled and beaten inside a ‘tiger cage’ on Con Son Island, Vietnam. (POOL/AFP/Getty Images File Photo)

Sen. Tom Harkin’s human rights legacy began with exposing the tiger cages in a secret South Vietnam prison.

“Let me show you,” the retiring Iowa Democrat said as he retrieved a large, clear plastic bag that contained a July 1970 edition of Life magazine. The magazine published photos Harkin took as a congressional aide depicting abuse of political prisoners by the U.S.-supported South Vietnamese government.

His work in Vietnam led to an interest in human rights that’s remained with him throughout his career, including an effort that made protecting human rights a criterion for receiving U.S. aid, a role in the downfall of Augusto Pinochet, efforts to fight child labor and securing funding for the Bureau of International Labor Affairs.

But it all started with the tiger cages.
Full story

November 28, 2014

Tom Harkin Is Reflecting, but Trying Not to Stare

Harkin is interviewed by CQ Roll Call in his Capitol Hill office. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Harkin is interviewed by CQ Roll Call in his Capitol Hill office. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

At the end of an extended interview in his Senate office, Tom Harkin realized he had neglected to show off a prized possession — his father’s Works Progress Administration card.

It’s the role of government policies like the WPA that have guided the progressive Iowa Democrat’s career.

The Depression-era WPA was one of the progressive planks of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Harkin is very much in the mold of the generation that followed FDR. But Harkin has shown a knack, not unlike the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, for working with Republicans when he needs to get a bill across the finish line.

Some of that, of course, depends on having a willing partner across the aisle, and on that front Harkin will say he’s been fortunate.

At a recent bill signing, President Barack Obama praised Harkin and his GOP counterpart, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, for their Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee getting 21 measures to his desk this Congress.

“Well, that’s because you and Lamar are some pretty productive legislators who actually have focused on getting stuff done,” Obama said of Harkin’s recent successes.

Two deals with senior colleagues Harkin made early on set the course for his 30-year Senate career.

Harkin, who opted to retire rather than seek a sixth Senate term, agreed to join what was then the Education and Labor Committee, after the liberal lion Kennedy offered to create a disability policy subcommittee and hand Harkin wide latitude. That helped lead to the signature Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Those laws changed not only the way the public treated individuals with disabilities, Harkin said, but also the way many viewed the world.

“The way I describe the ADA generation is that kids that were born after that — or in your time coming of age — that their expectations changed. In the old days, if you had a disability and you were a child … you just were told not to expect a heck of a lot. Barriers were there: educational barriers, work barriers, transportation barriers, attitudinal barriers, some of which still exist. But, you just had lower expectations,” Harkin told CQ Roll Call. (One of the reporters conducting this interview was among the first beneficiaries of IDEA.)

“Kids that grew up with [Individualized Education Programs] and with access and support services and things like that are now saying, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t want lowered expectations,'” Harkin said.

The bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, one of the HELP Committee’s big success stories this Congress, aims to improve on the transition from school to work for individuals with disabilities.

“We haven’t been preparing them to do that in the past,” Harkin said. “A lot of times the kids with IEPs, they get through, and they sort of just drop off the edge. They haven’t been given summer jobs, job coaching, internships. They haven’t been taken to colleges.” Full story

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