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August 2, 2014

Posts in "Ron Wyden"

July 29, 2014

Senate Passes Highway Patch Boehner Plans to Reject

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Wyden’s transportation amendment passed. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Senate Tuesday approved a short-term patch to keep funds flowing to highway projects through Dec. 19, but Speaker John A. Boehner has already promised to strip the Senate provisions and send the House-passed bill right back.

After the Senate’s version of the bill passed 79 to 18 — Finance Committee ranking member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah called it a “free vote…because the House is going to send this right back, they are going to strip everything out — after they’ve left” for the August recess.

Boehner is playing hardball.

“I just want to make clear, if the Senate sends a highway bill over here…we’re gonna strip it out and put the House- passed provisions back in and send it back to the Senate,” the Ohio Republican told reporters Tuesday morning. Full story

July 25, 2014

Wyden Ponders Release of CIA Torture Report Without White House Consent

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A senior Senate Democrat is firing a warning shot at the White House against stalling the release of a report about the past use of torture by the U.S. intelligence community.

Sen. Ron Wyden is talking with his colleagues about the possibility of using a seldom-invoked procedure to declassify an Intelligence Committee report on the use of torture in the event the White House does not move ahead quickly.

Speaking with reporters on a variety of subjects Thursday, the Oregon Democrat referred to the Senate’s “Resolution 400″ — the Abraham A. Ribicoff-sponsored resolution that established the Intelligence Committee back in 1976.

Wyden said he was discussing invoking the resolution “in order to move this along if we have to, through the committee process, to get it declassified.”

Full story

July 23, 2014

Internet Sales Tax Bill Dealt a Blow; Wyden Cheers

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Majority Leader Harry Reid is quietly stepping back from his intention to bundle an Internet tax moratorium with a more contentious proposal to allow states to collect online sales taxes, at least for now.

The Nevada Democrat had said July 16, “I think it’s fair to say the two are going to be together.” The move, backed by Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., would have constituted a run around Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who opposes the legislation known as the Marketplace Fairness Act.

But, CQ Roll Call’s Alan K. Ota reported that as of Tuesday, the plan had changed:

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 12:27 p.m.
Ron Wyden, Taxes

July 16, 2014

Obama’s Embrace of GOP Highway Fix Frustrates Senators Pushing Long-Term Deal

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Murphy has been pushing a gas tax hike to bolster the Highway Trust Fund. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A group of Senators focused on forcing action on a new highway bill expressed disappointment with President Barack Obama for backing a House-GOP stopgap measure that they argue would encourage kicking the can down the road. Full story

June 30, 2014

Wyden Continues to Blast Obama Administration on ‘Backdoor’ Surveillance (Video)

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Ron Wyden is raising additional concerns about “backdoor” queries of communications by American citizens by federal intelligence and law enforcement authorities.

“I and other reformers in Congress have argued that intelligence agencies should absolutely be permitted to search for communications pertaining to counterterrorism and other foreign threats, but if intelligence officials are deliberately searching for and reading the communications of specific Americans, the Constitution requires a warrant,” Wyden said in a statement. “The bipartisan, bicameral legislation that I and other reformers have supported would permit the government to conduct these searches pursuant to a probable cause warrant or emergency authorization, and it would include an exception for searches for individuals who are believed to be in danger.”

Full story

June 26, 2014

Bipartisan Patch Job for Highway Bill Coming Together

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The bipartisan deal nixed Wyden’s proposal that would increase taxes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A big fight over how to best avert a crisis in highway construction projects won’t happen before the July Fourth recess, and there might be a deal to avoid the fight altogether.

Senate Finance leaders decided to pause a markup of a package to avert a shortfall in federal highway funding amid optimism there will be a deal before a deadline later in July.

The leadership of the committee rolled out a $7.6 billion bipartisan package that nixes a piece of an earlier proposal from Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., that would increase taxes on heavy vehicles and makes other tweaks suggested by Republicans, with further changes possible as negotiators work to craft a final agreement with both sides of the Rotunda.

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 12, 2014

Wyden Touts Whistleblower Protections in Intelligence Bill (Video)

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Ron Wyden is chastising a recent policy directive while highlighting new whistleblower protections in the intelligence bill that the Senate quietly passed Wednesday evening.

In a widely-reported April directive, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. prohibited intelligence agency personnel from making unauthorized contact with members of the media. In the view of Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who has been a longtime skeptic of surveillance programs, the policy could be implemented in far too many circumstances.

“If you’re an employee of an intelligence agency and if you have a family member who likes to post or retweet articles about national security, suddenly having a conversation with that family member about important issues like NSA surveillance or the war in Afghanistan could lead to you getting punished for having unauthorized contact with the media,” Wyden said in a Thursday floor speech, saying the policy could include information that isn’t classified.

Full story

May 13, 2014

Democrats Hint DOJ Misled Court on Surveillance

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Udall and Wyden are raising new concerns about the government’s surveillance techniques. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Two Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are blasting the Obama administration for potentially misleading the Supreme Court about the scope of surveillance activities back in 2012.

The New York Times reported Tuesday evening that Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado are expressing fresh concerns that the Justice Department Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act may have misrepresented the breadth of collections.

“The Justice Department’s reply [to earlier questions] acknowledges that the government’s collection of communications under section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act includes communications that are ‘about’ targeted individuals, as well as to or from targeted individuals, and it also acknowledges that this formerly secret fact was not presented to the Supreme Court during consideration of Clapper v. Amnesty,” Wyden and Udall wrote in a Tuesday letter to Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., the Times reported.

Full story

April 10, 2014

Boxer and Vitter Have Tentative Deal on Highway Bill

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With time running out before funding expires for highway and transit programs, key Senate lawmakers announced a deal in principle Thursday for a new six-year highway bill — but still no final plan on how to pay for it.

“We, as leaders of this committee, have worked across party lines before the Highway Trust Fund cannot pay its bills,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said at a news conference.

The trust fund, the collection of gas-tax receipts that fund the nation’s surface transportation programs, is expect to run out of money later this summer.

Boxer and ranking member David Vitter, R-La., said the committee would move to mark up the bill in the next work period after the two-week spring recess.

“What we have is a detailed outline of the next highway bill in terms of policy matters within our jurisdiction,” Vitter said. “Our staff is developing the specific legislative language on all of those points. A lot of it’s done, a lot of it’s being worked on and we expect to be acting on that bill in the next work period after this recess.”

Sens. Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., and John Barrasso, R-Wyo., the chairman and ranking member of the committee’s Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, also signed onto the proposal.

All four members said they want to fix the trust fund at some point to make it self-financing, but said there is not enough time before they must act on the next bill.

“I believe in the trust fund concept and user fees to pay for that and hopefully we can modernize that in the near future,” Vitter said.

Their comments aren’t surprising because giving up on the Highway Trust Fund would reduce the committee’s influence over transportation policy.

While the Environment and Public Works Committee is primarily responsible for drafting the nation’s road construction policy, the Senate Finance Committee is responsible for coming up with how to pay for the bill. The Senate Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over transportation safety programs and the Banking Committee oversees mass transit policy.

The new six-year bill would authorize keeping current funding levels, plus inflation. Boxer said that the measure would need $16 billion a year above what is provided by the Highway Trust Fund, which is facing shortfalls in part due to improving mile-per-gallon standards, which shrinks gas tax receipts.

Boxer said she has spoken to Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and said funding could be tied to a tax overhaul. Boxer and Vitter added that the likeliest offset would be repatriation — allowing corporations to bring overseas profits back into the U.S. at a lower tax rate — which would generate one-time revenue.

“There is nothing written in stone as to how this is going to be done,” Boxer said. “David mentioned repatriation. I think that is one area where there seems to be some interest in that because there are enough funds there to keep this trust fund going.”

Boxer called it a “pragmatic solution.”

Asked if there was any concern a tax overhaul may not happen in time, Boxer said the Finance Committee may be willing to do something without an overall tax rewrite, but stressed that that decision is up to Wyden and the panel.

Wyden declined to discuss any details. “I’ve been talking with [Boxer] about a variety of options, let’s just leave it at that,” he said.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, the ranking member of the Finance Committee, also said talks are ongoing.

“I don’t know that we’ve come up with any way of paying for it, but we are interesting in making sure we do what we can in that area,” Hatch said.

He was skeptical that Congress would be able to change the tax code this year, adding that renewing about 50 expired tax breaks, known as extenders, may be the best that can be done.

“And we’ll be lucky if we can get that,” Hatch added.

April 3, 2014

Roberts Blasts IRS at Finance Markup (Video)

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Republicans fired another warning shot Thursday in their ongoing battle against the Internal Revenue Service’s treatment of conservative organizations.

The latest came at the Finance Committee’s markup of the broad “tax extenders” package, when GOP Sen. Pat Roberts floated an amendment to block, for one year, the IRS from making new rules governing political activity by social welfare groups under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code.

“We have not had, in my opinion, enough information from that so-called satellite office to Treasury or to the White House or to anywhere else,” the Kansas Republican said, calling it “just common sense that while we’re having an investigation, the IRS should stop promulgating these regulations.”

Full story

April 1, 2014

Intelligence Director Appears to Concede NSA Searched Communications (Video)

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The National Security Agency may have read your communications, albeit under limited circumstances.

That seems to be the takeaway of a newly-released letter from Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. to noted NSA skeptic Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

“There have been queries, using U.S. person identifiers, of communications lawfully acquired to obtain foreign intelligence by targeting non U.S. persons reasonably believed to be located outside the U.S. pursuant to Section 702 of FISA,” Clapper wrote in a March 28 letter to Wyden.

Full story

Tax Breaks for Racehorses, NASCAR, Movies, Wind? Extenders Spark Spat

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Wyden is chairman on the Senate Finance Committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Not all horsepower is created equal, at least if you’re a top Senate tax-writer.

A draft tax extenders measure released Tuesday, ahead of a Thursday markup package, includes three-year depreciation for race horses, but it leaves out several other targeted tax policies — such as those boosting NASCAR race tracks and the film industry — that might be easy targets for opponents. That’s sparked a pre-emptive spat, even though nothing is locked in stone.

Finance Committee ranking member Orrin G. Hatch suggested this year’s extenders process bring targeted tax breaks out from hiding.

“For far too long Washington has acted to extend long-standing tax policy, rarely shining a spotlight on the individual provisions or their impact on the families and businesses that benefit from them,” the Utah Republican said in a statement. “Such dysfunction must come to an end.”

Full story

March 31, 2014

CBO Calls Baloney on Using War Money to Pay Medicare Docs (Updated)

Updated 3:54 p.m. | Congressional budget scorekeepers don’t sound impressed with using projected savings from not fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to prevent slashing paychecks for doctors.

In a cost estimate released Monday, the Congressional Budget Office explained that $601 billion in projected savings from limits on the Overseas Contingency Operations account might never be spent anyway, and noted there’s no funding currently provided for the OCO funding.

“As a result, reductions relative to the baseline might simply reflect policy decisions that have already been made and that would be realized even without such funding constraints. Moreover, if future policymakers believed that national security required appropriations above the capped amounts, they would almost certainly provide emergency appropriations that would not, under current law, be counted against either the existing caps on discretionary funding or the proposed new caps on funding for overseas contingency operations.”

Full story

In First Tests as Finance Chairman, Wyden Pushes Against Patches

wyden 200 032514 445x296 In First Tests as Finance Chairman, Wyden Pushes Against Patches

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In his first major tests as Senate Finance chairman, Ron Wyden is waging war against the congressional penchant for patches and punting. It’s not proving to be an easy fight.

The Oregon Democrat is pushing his colleagues to enact a permanent overhaul of the “sustainable growth rate” formula that requires cuts in doctor pay under Medicare — and on March 31 he plans to unveil a permanent, bipartisan tax extender package, eschewing the yearly fixes that have long been the norm.

“This is the time to do it,” Wyden said of putting a permanent end to the annual “doc fix” debate. Full story

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