Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 23, 2014

Posts in "Republicans"

August 21, 2014

McCaskill to Hold Police Militarization Hearings

mccaskill collins 337 103013 445x296 McCaskill to Hold Police Militarization Hearings

McCaskill will hold hearings on the militarization of local police in wake of Ferguson events. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With lawmakers on the left and right questioning the militarization of law enforcement after two weeks of violence in Ferguson, Mo., Sen. Claire McCaskill announced she will hold hearings next month on the federal programs supplying local authorities with surplus military gear.

The Missouri Democrat, chairwoman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee’s subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight, plans to take a broad look at programs like the Defense Department’s 1033 program that have steered surplus equipment to local police departments.

That DOD program has come under particular scrutiny from other lawmakers.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, last week said he would review the program, which is part of the defense authorization bill, before it gets to the Senate floor “to determine if equipment provided by the Defense Department is being used as intended.” Full story

August 18, 2014

Jim Jeffords, Veteran of Three Decades in Congress, Dead at 80

Jeffords3TW092600 445x291 Jim Jeffords, Veteran of Three Decades in Congress, Dead at 80

Jeffords served more than three decades in Congress. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont, a longtime Republican who flipped control of the Senate to the Democrats after switching parties in 2001, has died.

Jeffords, who had been in declining health, was 80. The Burlington Free Press first reported his death.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he was sad to hear of Jeffords’ passing and called him a man of conscience.

“Throughout Jim’s time in the Senate he left an important mark on the history of the institution,” Reid said. “He was a strong supporter of helping people with disabilities and always fought for the underdog. Jim was a model of a great legislator who avoided partisan politics and fought for what was best for the people of Vermont. In 2001 he changed the makeup of the Senate by switching from a Republican to an Independent and caucusing with the Democrats. History will remember Senator Jeffords as a courageous man who listened to his conscience, and I will always respect him for doing so.”

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., also lauded Jeffords’ career.

“He was a partner in our work for Vermont, and he was a friend,” Leahy said in release. “He was a Vermonter through and through, drawn to political life to make a difference for our state and nation. Part of his legacy will also stand as an enduring chapter of the Senate’s history.”

Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., who won the election to replace Jefford after he retired in 2006, praised his demeanor and his dedication to the state.

“Jane and I join all Vermonters in sending condolences to the family of Jim Jeffords,” Sanders said in a statement. “Jim was one of the most popular elected officials in the modern history of the state — serving at the local, state and federal levels. Vermonters admired him because of his low-key and down-to-earth qualities, and because of his obvious and strong love of the state and the Vermont way of life. He was an effective champion of education, disability rights, the environment and the arts — and millions of Americans have benefited from his efforts.”

Sanders acknowledged Jeffords’ strength when he changed the Senate in 2001 and became an independent. “He displayed enormous courage by leaving a party that, he often said, had left him because of its dramatic move to the right,” Sanders said. “Jim was a friend and he will be sorely missed.”

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., said that Jeffords and his wife Liz Daley, who died in 2007 of ovarian cancer, were mentors during his early days as the state’s at-large House member.

“While Jim would certainly wave away the notion, he was indeed a legend in Vermont and the nation,” Welch said in a release. “With characteristic decency, humility and civility, and a dogged persistence, he made his mark in Congress.”

“Millions of children with disabilities are better off today because he lead the charge for their equal access to education,” Welch said. “Americans are breathing cleaner air and drinking cleaner water because of his fierce advocacy for the environment and clean energy. And budding artists across the nation receive the boost of his encouragement every year thanks to his legacy as the founder of the annual Congressional Arts Competition.”

“And, in 2001, the world saw what his fellow Vermonters already knew: Jim Jeffords, above all, had the courage of his convictions,” Welch said.

Jeffords endorsed Welch in his 2006 campaign over GOP candidate Martha Rainville.

Education was a legislative passion for Jeffords and Republican leaders decision not to include a school funding provision in a $1.6 trillion tax cut bill led him down the path to renouncing his party affiliation.

At the time of his decision to become an independent who would caucus with Democrats, the Senate was split 50-50 with Vice President Dick Cheney the deciding vote giving Republicans control of the chamber.

Following Jeffords’ switch, the Democrats controlled the chamber, 51-49. Until 2001 he identified as a Republican his entire political career, including 14 years in the House of Representatives and all but the last six years of the 18 years he spent in the Senate.

“It was a unique time in history,” Jeffords once recalled. “It was the first time you had a situation of a 50-50 Senate. That opened up an opportunity for one individual, myself or any other Republicans that wanted to, within the rules, to change the whole thing. And then I got to thinking. … I said, ‘If you don’t do it, you’re going to be to blame for everything that happens from now on — Supreme Court appointments — all of that. Because you had the power to make that change, to stop the abuse of power.’ So that’s when I decided I had to do it.”

August 5, 2014

Ron Johnson Appealing Obamacare Ruling, Will ‘Exhaust Every Legal Recourse’

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Ron Johnson isn’t giving up his legal fight to toss health benefits for members of Congress and their staff participating in Obamacare.

The Wisconsin Republican formally notified a federal court Monday of his intent to appeal a ruling that he doesn’t have standing to sue the Obama administration over health benefits for members and staff.

In court documents filed Monday in the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Johnson made official what he had announced in an Aug. 2 opinion piece for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. In that piece, he refers to District Judge William C. Greisbach’s opinion against him on the standing question as part of his motivation for continuing the legal challenge to the Office of Personnel Management’s decision that members and staff accessing health insurance through the District of Columbia exchange can continue to get an employer contribution.
Full story

Sessions Warns Obama’s Immigration Plans ‘Unlawful’ (Video)

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Prior to effectively adjourning for five weeks, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., used Tuesday’s Senate session to hammer President Barack Obama for proposing changes to immigration enforcement at the end of the summer without consent from Congress.

The administration is reportedly considering an executive order to provide deportation relief and work authorization cards to 5 million to 6 million of the more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, which Sessions called “unlawful.”
Full story

July 18, 2014

Mark Kirk Says Obama Iran Policy is Path to Nuclear War (Video)

kirk011 061214 445x295 Mark Kirk Says Obama Iran Policy is Path to Nuclear War (Video)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Mark S. Kirk said in a jarring video circulated late Friday that President Barack Obama’s Iran policy is leading to nuclear war.

The video, posted on Youtube and available through the Illinois Republican’s official website, features a background of a “60 Minutes”-style ticking clock and highlights news reports about the state of the negotiations between the international community and Iran on nuclear programs.

“The administration policy is the quickest policy that leads to war, nuclear war. That is a horrible fate to condemn American children to witness,” Kirk said in the video.

Full story

July 14, 2014

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

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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

June 26, 2014

Howard Baker, Known as ‘Great Conciliator,’ Dies at 88

Baker Howard Watergate 390x335 Howard Baker, Known as Great Conciliator, Dies at 88

Baker, fourth from left, at the Watergate hearings. (Roll Call File Photo)

Updated, 6:25 p.m. | Former Republican Sen. Howard H. Baker, Jr. of Tennessee, known for asking during the  Watergate hearings “What did the president know and when did he know it,” died Thursday from complications of a stroke he suffered on Saturday.

Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, the law firm where he had worked since finishing his term Ambassador to Japan under President George W. Bush in 2005, announced the news. Baker’s grandfather had founded the firm and he had previously practiced law there with his father, the late Rep. Howard H. Baker.

Baker, who was 88 years old, had an illustrious political career beginning with being the first elected Republican senator from Tennessee since Reconstruction. Full story

Senate Mourns Passing of Former Majority Leader Howard Baker (Video)

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(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Senate is mourning the loss of one of the chamber’s great leaders.

Former Majority Leader Howard Baker Jr., R-Tenn., has died. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made the announcement on the floor of the Senate.

“It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of one of the Senate’s most towering figures: Senator Howard Baker. The Senate sends its sincere condolences to the family of Senator Baker,” the Kentucky Republican said. “In particular, we wish to pass along our deep sympathies to his wife, Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker. Many of us served alongside Nancy here in the Senate. We know this must be a most difficult moment for her.”

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 1:57 p.m.
Republicans

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

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(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

June 25, 2014

Camp: Grassley Targeted By Lois Lerner at IRS

House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp said Wednesday that a former Senate Finance chairman was among those targeted for extra scrutiny by the IRS.

“We have seen a lot of unbelievable things in this investigation, but the fact that Lois Lerner attempted to initiate an apparently baseless IRS examination against a sitting Republican United States Senator is shocking,” Camp said in a statement. “At every turn, Lerner was using the IRS as a tool for political purposes in defiance of taxpayer rights.”

Full story

June 24, 2014

Ahead of Recess, Highway Bill Standoff Gets Political (Video)

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Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform says a Democratic highway bill violates the group’s anti-tax pledge. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When the Senate returns from the July Fourth recess, lawmakers will have just about two weeks to fix a shortfall in funds for federally-backed highway projects, with both parties again in a dispute over taxes.

If past is prologue, that means campaign-style events with bulldozers and hard hats will be coming to a city near you, and there still might not be a good solution. The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee has floated plan to keep highway projects from grinding to a halt — but that solution has already drawn the ire of Republicans.

Still, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., says talks will continue, and he remains open to GOP suggestions, which would clearly include spending cuts.

Full story

June 19, 2014

Friends Mourn Loss of Senate Staffer Lisa Radogno (Video)

Lisa Radogno, executive assistant and scheduler to Sen. Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., died Wednesday of a massive pulmonary embolism that may have resulted from complications following a car accident earlier this year. She was 31 years old.

One former colleague captured the mood of all who knew her: “shock and devastation.”

Radogno joined Kirk’s staff in 2008 and previously worked in the office of ex-Rep. Jerry Weller. Friends and colleagues describe her as vivacious, loyal, dedicated, and unusually kind.

In a written statement, Kirk called Radogno “the most vibrant member of my team and an ardent Chicago White Sox fan.”

Richard Goldberg, Kirk’s former Washington deputy chief of staff said, “Lisa was one of the kindest, most generous and freest souls I have ever encountered. In a profession that all too often engenders jealousy, distrust and deceit, Lisa peddled unconditional love, joy and friendship. … Her memory, her legacy, her unbridled spirit [remind] us to live life to its fullest with each passing day.”

In a joint statement, three friends who met Radogno while working on the Hill said, “Lisa … was larger than life itself [and] inspired everyone around her with her smile, her loyalty, and of course her love of the Chicago White Sox.”

Radogno was also deeply committed to her work. Kirk’s Press Secretary Danielle Varallo described Radogno’s role in the office as “limitless … the cornerstone of our office.”

“She loved Mark Kirk … she loved that office like it was her second family,” said Bailey Hall, who associates describe as one of Radogno’s best friends. In an emotional speech on the Senate floor Thursday, Kirk called her “one of the brightest lights of our DC office” and “somebody that I will miss with every fiber of my being.”

Kirk’s fellow Illinois senator, Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, said in a statement, “I was deeply saddened to learn that the Illinois Delegation has lost such a beloved and dedicated member of the team … It is with a heavy heart that Loretta and I express our deepest sympathy to her parents, Christine and Nunzio. Our thoughts and prayers are with them, their family and all who knew and loved Lisa.”

According to her Facebook page, Radogno graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 2005 and Lyons Township High School in 2001. She is survived by her mother, Christine Radogno, her father, Nunzio Radogno, and sisters Becky Radogno Braun and Jessica Radogno Sahady. Christine Radogno is the leader of the Illinois State Senate Republicans.

Arrangements for a formal memorial service are pending, but Kirk’s office will host an open house at 4:30 p.m. for friends, family, and colleagues.

 

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By Colin Diersing Posted at 3:41 p.m.
Republicans

June 4, 2014

Schumer Compares Steve King to ‘Wizard of Oz’ on Immigration (Video)

Nearly two weeks after Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, challenged Sen. Charles E. Schumer and other Senate Democrats to a “duel,” the New York Democrat returned the favor on the Senate floor, calling King the “wizard of Oz” on immigration.

“Steve King is much like the Wizard of Oz when it comes to immigration,” Schumer said during a 10-minute floor speech Wednesday. “He is pulling the levers behind the screen to make it seem he has the power. [The] Republican Party will learn sooner or later, like Dorothy did in the ‘Wizard of Oz,’ that actually King works by fear and he doesn’t have the power, that the wizard’s power is overstated. He can’t really do very much. And the only way to get back home and do something real is in ourselves.”

Full story

May 21, 2014

In Wake of VA Scandal, McCain Proposes Private Health Option for Veterans

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McCain is planning a bill that would let veterans bypass the VA for health care. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. John McCain accused President Barack Obama of attempting “damage control” Wednesday when he made a statement about the a scandal at the VA involving allegations of manipulated wait time reports.

The comments by the Arizona Republican, whose home state has been at the epicenter of the controversy, came along with an announcement about new legislation designed to permit veterans greater freedom to seek treatment away from facilities run by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“What did the president say today? Not much. Three weeks after … this scandal broke, the allegations of the most serious kind, that 40 people died unnecessarily because of malpractice or whatever you want to call it at the VA hospital [in Phoenix]. And now, allegations coming in from all over the country. There are 26 different VA hospitals where charges have been made,” McCain told a radio station back in Arizona. “What is the president doing? He’s sending down one of his political operatives to Phoenix, when he should be sending veterans’ service organizations people, key veterans and people with military as well as VA experience.”

McCain said that three GOP senators are drafting legislation to allow veterans to access health care services outside the traditional VA system. The move comes amid increasing the ongoing criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of the VA scandal in Phoenix and elsewhere.

Full story

May 8, 2014

Reid Says Koch Brothers Are ‘One of the Main Causes’ of Climate Change (Video)

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Reid laid into the Koch brothers again on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Amid the stalling energy efficiency and Keystone XL pipeline debate in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid has once again resorted to blaming the Koch brothers for their “radical agenda,” on Wednesday calling the two principal owners of Koch Industries “one of the main causes” of climate change.

“The multi-zillionaire Koch brothers … they are one of the main causes of [climate change], not a cause, one of the main causes,” the Nevada Democrat said on the Senate floor. “Charles and David Koch are waging a war against anything that protects the environment. Now I know that sounds absurd, but it’s true.”

On Tuesday, The White House released a report detailing the effects of climate change, which was met with a bipartisan blast of hot air in Congress.

Despite trading talking points with Reid on Tuesday, Senate Republican amendments were blocked on Wednesday when Reid “filled the tree” on the Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill.

Niels Lesniewski and Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report.

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