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August 30, 2015

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August 26, 2015

Bernie Sanders Vs. the Media

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks during a town meeting at the White Mountain Chalet in Berlin, N.H., on Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Democratic presidential candidate Sanders speaks during a town meeting Monday at the White Mountain Chalet in Berlin, N.H. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

COLUMBIA, S.C. — On tour here last week, Bernard Sanders, the unlikeliest of presidential candidate rock stars, played all his populist hits: “income inequality,” “Wall Street reform,” and “tax the rich.” Then the Vermont senator threw in his unique cover of an old campaign trail classic: “hatin’ on the media.”

As an estimated 2,700 fervent Sanders supporters looked on in a packed, humid South Carolina conference center, the 2016 Democratic hopeful talked — between screams of “I love you Bernie!” — about income inequality, health care, the untaxed rich, the wealthy political donor class, racial inequality, and yes, the media.

“The American people are sick and tired of establishment economics, they are sick and tired of establishment politics, and they are sick and tired of the establishment media,” Sanders said to cheers in both Columbia and Greenville.

With the media polling remarkably low in trustworthiness, it’s not surprising or even uncommon for a candidate to pick the “establishment” media as a foe.

Sanders made news earlier last week for bucking reporters’ questions in Iowa about Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton (“That’s the sport you guys like.”) and whether Sanders is a career politician, according to The New York Times.

In Sanders’ defense, sideshow stories permeate public discourse, such as the PPP poll showing an imaginary candidate named Deez Nuts polling at 9 percent in North Carolina, highlighting the trend the Sanders was decrying.

“Much of the corporate media will talk about everything else in the world except the issues facing ordinary Americans,” Sanders said.

Sanders railed against the media for not covering what cuts were made in the Republican-passed federal budget, although even a cursory search on sequestration would suggest otherwise.

Although there was an on-camera exclusive with C-SPAN following the gathering, Sanders did not make himself available to other reporters at either event.

Related:

Bernie Sanders: Proud non-Democrat

Takoma Park Feels the Bern

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August 13, 2015

Rubio Demands Documentation for ‘Political’ Human Trafficking Report

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rubio remains the administration’s biggest critic on Cuba. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Marco Rubio Thursday morning called the State Department’s upgrade of Cuba’s human trafficking status an “embarrassment,” and requested documentation into the decision that senators on both sides of the aisle have called political.

The Florida Republican, who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, urged Secretary of State John Kerry in a letter to reconsider the upgrade from Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watch List, because “Over the past year, Cuba has done almost nothing to combat human trafficking.” Full story

August 6, 2015

Foreign Relations Panel Blasts Human-Trafficking Report

Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., left, and Ranking Member Ben Cardin, D-Md., prepare for a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in Dirksen Building titled "Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action: Proliferation, Inspections, and Nuclear Constraints," August 4, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Corker and Cardin prepare for a committee hearing on the Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Testimony from a State Department official Thursday did little to dispel claims that an annual human-trafficking report was driven by politics.

State Department Undersecretary Sarah Sewall defended the integrity of the report, which upgraded the status of Malaysia and Cuba, to three members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by citing the report’s criteria, Secretary of State John Kerry’s public comments, and her own assessment  but occasionally declined to comment on internal deliberations. Full story

August 5, 2015

Democratic Support Building For Iran Deal

Leahy came out for the Iran deal Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Leahy came out for the Iran deal Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With President Barack Obama making another pitch for his Iran deal today, his administration’s unprecedented lobbying effort with Capitol Hill Democrats has been bearing fruit.

Declared Democratic “yes” votes are starting to pile up in the Senate, and relatively few Democrats have come out against the agreement. Obama needs 34 senators to sustain his veto of a resolution of disapproval, and the White House is even more confident about getting the 145 needed in the House. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 12:13 p.m.
Uncategorized

August 4, 2015

Tim Scott Holding Town Hall at Bob Jones University to Highlight Racial Progress

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., right, hosts GOP presidential hopeful and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks alongside Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., left, during the Presidential Town Hall series in Anderson, S.C. on Monday, July 6, 2015. Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., right, hosts GOP presidential hopeful and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks alongside Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., left, during the Presidential Town Hall series in Anderson, S.C. on Monday, July 6, 2015. Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

A black Republican senator from the South hosting a black Republican candidate for president at a university with a sordid racial past sounds like the kind of thing that could only happen on Friday the 13th.

And on Nov. 13, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina will host 2016 hopeful Ben Carson at Bob Jones University. Scott has been holding events around the state introducing GOP presidential candidates to the South Carolina electorate.

But the event is not some random blip to be blamed on the peculiarities of the calendar’s most superstitious day. It’s actually a bold move from Scott, who generally shies away from drawing attention to race, to highlight racial progress in his home state. Full story

August 3, 2015

Pot Bills Stalled Despite Increased Support

Colorado Politics

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

 

Even though Senate support for a medical marijuana bill is building, it’s not getting the backing it needs to advance.

Two influential Democratic senators, Charles E. Schumer of New York and Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland, announced their support for the bill that would reschedule marijuana and let states set medical marijuana policy. But it needs more Republicans. Full story

July 30, 2015

Takoma Park Feels the Bern

Federal Minimum Wage Rally

(Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)


TAKOMA PARK, Md. — Thousands of “house parties” gathered throughout the country Wednesday night to collectively #feelthebern.

Huddled in living rooms, basements, coffee shops, libraries and anywhere else they would fit, more than 100,000 people united for the change they’ve craved since at least the last Bush administration. They started as strangers, but they left as a fledgling grass-roots campaign network for 2016 Democratic hopeful, Bernard Sanders. Full story

July 28, 2015

Schumer Signs on to Medical Marijuana Bill

(Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

(Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 1:54 p.m. | The medical marijuana movement just got a big boost. Sen. Charles E. Schumer has become a co-sponsor to legislation that would give states greater flexibility to use medical marijuana.

“Medical marijuana is the only recourse for many in New York and across the country who are in a great deal of pain, and it is only humane and fair that they have access to the treatment they need when prescribed by a doctor,” Schumer said in a statement.

Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate and the heir apparent to Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is an influential co-sponsor. But the bill will likely need more support on the other side of the aisle to get through the Republican-controlled Senate. Full story

July 21, 2015

Iran Deal: Treaty or Not?

Corker has come under fire from the right for not insisting that the Iran deal be treated as a treaty. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Corker has come under fire from the right for not insisting that the Iran deal be treated as a treaty. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

As right-wing wolves circle Republican senators who they feel betrayed them and paved the way for the Iran nuclear deal, defenders say they are missing the point.

Senators argue the legislation passed in April granting congressional review seized power back from President Barack Obama, and both they and the administration argue the deal negotiated with Iran isn’t technically a treaty.

But the wolves are hungry. Full story

July 12, 2015

Without Gas in the Tank, Senate Stays Course on Highways

UNITED STATES - MAY 5: Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, talks with reporters after the Senate policy luncheons in the Capitol, May 5, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Cornyn is optimistic about Senate taking up highway bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Republicans are confident they’ll take up a highway extension this week — though the bill’s duration and pay-for are still up in the air.

Senators from both parties are mulling suggestions that range from a kick-the-can plan to fund the highway account through the 2016 elections to a more ambitious proposal that would include a short-term patch linked to a major tax overhaul designed to fund a full six-year extension.

Regardless of the unknowns, Republicans were confident the highway bill would hit the floor this week.

“I’m more optimistic than I’ve been in a long time,” Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said of the schedule after a private meeting with relevant committee chairs and leadership. “This is something everybody wants to do on a bipartisan basis, is pass as long-term a highway bill as we can.”

Neither Cornyn nor others would elaborate on the options Republican leaders were discussing. But Democrats have been pushing for a plan proposed by President Barack Obama to use tax revenue from repatriated funds to pay for the six-year bill.

“We have a position,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee. “Our position: We want a long-term bill and the pay-for is the president’s proposal.”

It’s unlikely Congress would be able to complete a tax overhaul by the time the current authorization expires at the end of the month and it’s unclear what is the shortest duration Democrats would be willing to accept.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, one of the top Senate Democrats, said his party needs to see the Republican plan before committing to support or opposition. He did say, however, that the vast majority of Senate Democrats do not support an increase in the gas tax as a funding mechanism.

“We don’t like a patch, we don’t like a short-term extension, but we’re not going to prejudge anything in a vacuum,” the New York Democrat told reporters last week. “Let’s see what they have. What does a patch mean? Is it 12 months, 16 months, three months, nine months? How do they pay for it? Does it have an increase in funding? These are all questions they should have.”

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx pushed for a long-term bill last week, but he echoed Schumer’s sentiments and stopped short of a veto threat.

“We need to end this extension-palooza that we have in transportation for so long,” Foxx said on July 9. “I think there are many ways that could happen. … So we’re gonna have to see, as [Schumer] said, what comes about.”

The idea of using changes to the international tax code to fund the highway extension, of which there are multiple proposals, creates a divide within the Republican Caucus.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, co-introduced — along with Schumer — principles for an international tax overhaul. But Portman, one of the most vulnerable incumbents in 2016, said he’s not opposed to “finding pay-fors outside of the tax process.” Still, he said he needs to see the pay-fors, to “make sure that they are good policy.”

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said he supported an international tax overhaul, but using it to fund a highway bill would be a “hard pill to digest.”

“When you … use the funds from tax reform for highways, then you don’t use the money to lower the taxes, which will then create a permanent revenue stream as opposed to a six-year window,” Scott said.

Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, expressed similar concerns and said he didn’t like moving to a territorial taxing system — taxing domestic and not foreign income, a component of at least one of the suggested proposals.

Hatch’s counterpart in the House, Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., supports a one-time repatriation if it’s within the context of broader international tax overhaul. But he does not support “deemed repatriation,” which Obama’s plan calls for. Any plan for Ryan, and likely most other Republicans, would have to be a net tax decrease.

“Chairman Ryan supports a short-term patch to get to the end of the year so we have time to develop a long-term solution,” Ryan spokesman Doug Andres said in a statement.

Another idea floated last week was using tax extenders as a pay-for.

With the opposition to a short-term patch and the complexities of funding the six-year plan, an in-between patch — anywhere from 12 months to a few years — is possible.

That would help legislators get through the election cycle. But it would hurt the highway program in the long-term, according to the two top senators on the Environment and Public Works Committee.

Chairman James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., said larger projects of national concern would “fall by the wayside,” even with a multi-year bill.

“You really need a six-year bill,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the committee’s ranking member, said. “Because if you’re building major projects and you’re fixing major bridges that are falling down, you need the assurance that we’re there.”

Also hanging in the balance is the fate of the Export-Import Bank, which is expected to hitch a ride on the highway bill. The bank’s reauthorization, which expired last month, will likely lure Democrats, but drive away some Republicans who see the bank as little more than corporate welfare.

Related:

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June 30, 2015

Support for Puerto Rican Bankruptcy Builds

Schumer, D-N.Y., talks with reporters after the Senate policy luncheons in the Capitol, May 5, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc.

Schumer wants Congress to authorize Chapter 9 bankruptcy for Puerto Rico. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Puerto Rico’s slide toward Chapter 9 bankruptcy continues to gain momentum; Sen. Charles E. Schumer announced Tuesday his intention to introduce legislation allowing such a move.

The New York Democrat, along with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., is bringing to the Senate the companion bill to the measure Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner, Democrat Pedro R. Pierluisi, introduced in the House. Full story

May 27, 2015

Trade Votes Play Big in 2016 Politics

Portman took an unusual route to backing the fast-track trade bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Portman took an unusual route to backing the fast-track Trade Promotion Authority bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rob Portman isn’t a bomb thrower. But his pitch last week for an amendment cracking down on countries that artificially weaken their currencies threatened to blow up President Barack Obama’s trade agenda, and exposed a deep split in approaches among Republicans who face the voters in 2016.

A trio of Rust Belt Senate Republicans — Ohio’s Portman, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania — ended up voting for Trade Promotion Authority, backing Obama, Republican leadership and a top priority of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Full story

May 22, 2015

Currency Amendment Could Derail ‘Fast-Track’ Deal

Portman, R-Ohio, talks with reporters after the Senate policy luncheons in the Capitol, May 5, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc.

Portman wants tougher enforcement of currency rules in the proposed trade deal. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Supporters of the Senate’s “fast-track” trade bill that will be voted on sometime Friday are taking seriously the threat of one amendment they fear will derail the whole thing.

The amendment offered by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., would strengthen enforcement against other nations considered to be manipulating their currency, which could tip trade deals in the offender’s favor. Full story

May 13, 2015

Fresh Optimism for Fast-Track Trade Bill (Updated)

McConnell and the White House hope to revive fast-track trade authority. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

McConnell and the White House hope to revive fast-track trade authority. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 1:09 p.m. | Republican and Democratic leaders say they are close to a deal to revive President Barack Obama’s fast-track trade bill, following a crushing defeat Tuesday. Full story

May 12, 2015

Democrats Filibuster Obama’s Fast-Track Trade Bill (Updated) (Video)

Wyden, left, earlier shepherded fast-track through committee, but balked at advancing it on the floor. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Wyden, left, earlier shepherded fast-track through committee, but balked at advancing it on the floor. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 5:49 p.m. | The Senate blocked President Barack Obama’s top trade priority Tuesday, with the president’s own party abandoning him en masse. Full story

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