Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 19, 2014

Posts in "Potpourri"

April 18, 2014

Senate Approps Wants You! (To Talk About Research)

mikulski 140 012914 445x284 Senate Approps Wants You! (To Talk About Research)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Senate Appropriations Committee took to Twitter to solicit ideas for an upcoming hearing on federal investments in innovation.

The panel is seeking written testimony from the public on the subject of how federal research dollars can help drive innovation in existing and new fields. Materials should be submitted in accordance with committee guidelines no later than April 24, for an April 29 hearing with the heads of several departments and agencies that spent quite a bit of their budgets on federally backed research.

The vaunted committee sent this public appeal Friday:

Federal investments in science, technology, medicine — all creating #innovation each day. Be part of our conversation

— Sen. Appropriations (@SenateApprops) April 18, 2014

Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md. will lead the hearing, which includes a witness list starring Energy Secretary Ernest J. Moniz and National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins.

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April 14, 2014

Washington Responds to Passing of Nuala Pell, Widow of Former Rhode Island Senator

Nuala Pell, widow of former Rhode Island Sen. Claiborne Pell, passed away Sunday morning in Newport at age 89.

“Our entire family is heartbroken by my grandmother’s passing. She dedicated her life to her family and to the service of others. From her work in support of the arts, education, and her humanitarian service, she was a beacon of hope to many,” grandson Clay Pell said in a statement posted by Providence TV station WPRI. “We could not have asked for a better parent or grandparent than Mimi. We will love and miss her more than words can express.”

The younger Pell is running for governor of Rhode Island. His grandfather, the former senator and namesake of the landmark college aid program, died on New Year’s Day in 2009.

Nuala Pell was praised by many for her political involvement and commitment to issues like the arts and education.

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By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 5:41 p.m.

April 9, 2014

Graham Prods Cable Execs on Service Issues (Video)

When officials from Comcast and Time Warner Cable appeared at the Senate Judiciary Committee to push the case for their proposed $45 billion merger, Sen. Lindsey Graham asked questions that any ordinary American consumer might.

The South Carolina Republican had service issues, with both cable and DirecTV.

Before he switched to the satellite service, Graham said at the hearing that his cable TV “went out right in the fourth quarter of a ballgame.”

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By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 4:10 p.m.

April 3, 2014

Schumer Wins Tax Benefits for Bikes, Trains and Broadway Shows

schumer 173 022813 285x335 Schumer Wins Tax Benefits for Bikes, Trains and Broadway Shows

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Observers of Sen. Charles E. Schumer had to know what would follow Thursday’s tax extenders markup: laudatory press releases.

Schumer’s press operation has churned out no fewer than three separate releases about the Thursday Finance Committee markup of the tax extenders legislation, which ultimately sailed through the committee on a voice vote. All told, the package would extend most of 55 tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013.

The Schumer efforts included allowing commuter tax benefits for those who use bike sharing services.

“Bike-share programs are a boon to commuters, the economy and clean air – and those who use them deserve the same benefits granted to those who drive cars and use mass transit to get to work,” Schumer said in a statement in the bike release.

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March 27, 2014

FBI Agent ‘Severely Disciplined’ for Misconduct in Ted Stevens Case, Director Says

intel hearing015 020414 445x298 FBI Agent Severely Disciplined for Misconduct in Ted Stevens Case, Director Says

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

FBI Director James Comey told a Senate subcommittee Thursday that an agent faced discipline for conduct related to the investigation of late Sen. Ted Stevens.

Comey was ready for a line of questioning from Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski about the FBI’s conduct in the probe of her former Alaska colleague. Murkowski asked for an update from 2012 on allegations made by FBI whistleblower Special Agent Chad Joy about inappropriate conduct by a fellow agent.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 11:35 a.m.

March 19, 2014

Ron Johnson Lacks Standing in Obamacare Lawsuit, DOJ Contends

Luncheons 002 121112 600x409 Ron Johnson Lacks Standing in Obamacare Lawsuit, DOJ Contends

(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Obama administration lawyers want a federal judge in Wisconsin to throw out a lawsuit filed by GOP Sen. Ron Johnson contending that employer contributions for staff health benefits run afoul of the law.

The Justice Department argued in a court filing earlier this week that Johnson and his staff lack standing to challenge the Office of Personnel Management rule on the issue for several reasons, including because they cannot demonstrate harm from the way the OPM interpreted the Obamacare statute.

“The fact that the plaintiffs are or may be eligible for health-coverage benefits under OPM’s regulations is not enough, by itself, to establish standing to challenge the regulations. To establish standing, the plaintiffs would have to show that the challenged regulations harm them in a material way, such as by diminishing their health benefits,” the Justice Department argued in the filing dated Monday.

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March 17, 2014

Senate Ban on iPads, Kindles Under Fire

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It may be 2014, but senators are still banned — for now — from using their iPads and Kindles as they see fit on the Senate floor.

Sen. Michael B. Enzi is leading the effort to overturn the ban.

The Wyoming Republican is frequently spotted in the Capitol carrying around electronic devices, having long ago developed an affinity for reading on a Kindle.

“I started this effort in the last century and I’ll continue into the next if that’s what it takes to adapt this Senate rule to the times,” Enzi said in a statement issued late last week. Enzi noted that existing procedures allow some floor staffers to make use of laptops in handling chamber business.

“We don’t want to change the decorum of the Senate. Our resolution guards against distractions, interruptions and inconveniences,” Enzi said. “We simply want senators to be able to utilize on the floor, the same tools most of us use wherever we are to help us do things better.”

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By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 1:50 p.m.

March 7, 2014

Alexander, Feinstein Restate Displeasure With In-Flight Phone Calls

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Feinstein has sent a letter to the Transportation secretary calling for a ban on in-flight phone calls. (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Senate’s leading voices against in-flight cellphone calls are at it again.

Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., have sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx calling for a prohibition on voice calls.

“I’m glad the Department of Transportation is thinking about putting the brakes on a bad idea before it takes flight. Stop and think about what we hear in airport lobbies — babbling about last night’s love life, next week’s schedule, arguments with spouses — and then imagine hearing the same thing while you’re trapped in 17-inch-wide seats thousands of feet above the ground,” Alexander said in a statement. “With two million passengers hurtling through the air each day, the Transportation Security Administration would have to hire three times as many air marshals to deal with fistfights.”

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By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 12:09 p.m.
Policy, Potpourri

March 6, 2014

Climate Change All-Night Session Set for Monday

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Democrats are about to burn the midnight oil to make their case on climate change.

The previously rumored all-night session on the effects of climate change will take place Monday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse confirmed.

“It’s locked in,” the Rhode Island Democrat told CQ Roll Call. “An all-nighter is an all-nighter. We’re going to go all the way through to eight or nine in the morning or whenever they need to clean it up for the next day.”

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 3:02 p.m.

February 26, 2014

Manchin Seeks Ban on ‘Bitcoin’ Virtual Currency

manchin 058 020614 445x296 Manchin Seeks Ban on Bitcoin Virtual Currency

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Joe Manchin III is calling on federal securities regulators to prohibit the virtual currency known as Bitcoin.

The West Virginia Democrat expressed his concerns about the virtual currency in a letter sent to Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew and several other key federal officials.

“The very features that make Bitcoin attractive to some also attract criminals who are able to disguise their actions from law enforcement,” Manchin wrote. “Due to Bitcoin’s anonymity, the virtual market has been extremely susceptible to hackers and scam artists stealing millions from Bitcoins users. Anonymity combined with Bitcoin’s ability to finalize transactions quickly, makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to reverse fraudulent transactions.”

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 3:23 p.m.

February 24, 2014

Senate Hears Washington’s Words Once Again

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Senate returned from the Presidents Day recess by reprising one of the chamber’s greatest — and perhaps most ironic — traditions.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, was recognized for the annual reading of George Washington’s Farewell address. In the lengthy speech, the nation’s first president warned “against the baneful effects of the spirit of party.”

As to be expected, King was repeating Washington’s words to a largely empty chamber on a Monday afternoon before many of his colleagues had returned to the Capitol.

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism,” Washington said. “The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.”

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February 19, 2014

Reid: Prostitution Might Hurt Las Vegas’ GOP Convention Chances

reid009 0114141 445x295 Reid: Prostitution Might Hurt Las Vegas GOP Convention Chances

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he thinks legalized prostitution could work against Nevada’s efforts to host the 2016 Republican National Convention.

Reid is supportive of proposals to bring the GOP nominating soiree two years from now to Las Vegas. Prostitution actually is illegal in Clark County, which is home to Vegas. Still, Reid said while back in his home state over recess that prostitution “would be an issue” for the convention.

“There are people who don’t come to the state of Nevada for a number of reasons, like our education system and the image that we have,” Reid said Tuesday in Carson City, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal. “And one of the (bad) images we have had, gambling, has long since [passed] as a negative. But prostitution hasn’t.”

Full story

February 18, 2014

Booker, Menendez Ask Feds for Help With Salt Shortage

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Heavy snow and ice has Booker and Menendez calling for more rock salt.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

New Jersey’s senators are seeking federal help to alleviate a shortage of rock salt prompted by the abundance of ice and snow.

Specifically, Democrats Robert Menendez and Cory Booker want federal officials to waive the Jones Act, a 1920 Maritime law that bars certain foreign-flagged vessels from U.S. ports. A foreign vessel was transporting rock salt to Newark.

Menendez and Booker have asked Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx for a “swift review” of the request by the state of New Jersey for the Jones Act waiver.

Full story

February 14, 2014

Democrats Planning Climate Change All-Nighter

cots 445x288 Democrats Planning Climate Change All Nighter

(Courtesy Senate Historical Office)

Get ready! Senate Democrats might be rolling out the cots next month for a debate on climate change.

That’s one of the plans of the new Climate Action Task Force, a group of members of the Senate Democratic Conference announced last month.

The Huffington Post reported Thursday evening that Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., gave word of the marathon session to a group of Organizing for Action activists during a recent conference call.

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February 13, 2014

Olympic Medal Tax Exemption Has Bipartisan Support

luncheons tw008 111313 445x297 Olympic Medal Tax Exemption Has Bipartisan Support

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. John Thune is leading a revived effort for an Olympic medal tax exemption.

“Most countries not only compensate their Olympic and Paralympic athletes, but also welcome them home with celebrations. In the United States, athletes are welcomed home from winning on a world stage with a tax bill,” the Republican said in a statement. “Winning an Olympic medal should be a source of great pride for our athletes and the federal government should celebrate their achievement rather than tax their success.”

The South Dakota senator is the top Republican on the Commerce Committee. One of his predecessors in that role, the late Ted Stevens of Alaska, was the author of the federal law that governs America’s Olympic efforts. Stevens is a member of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.

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