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May 22, 2015

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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

By Steven Dennis Posted at 2:56 p.m.
Uncategorized

May 11, 2015

Democrats Push for Trade Sweeteners

GOP leaders may need to add sweeteners on the Senate floor to get enough Democrats to back fast-track trade authority. Finance Chairman Hatch, right, and ranking member Wyden, left, earlier shepherded fast-track through committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

GOP leaders may need to add sweeteners on the Senate floor to get enough Democrats to back fast-track trade authority. Finance Chairman Hatch, right, and ranking member Wyden earlier shepherded TPA through committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate leaders are determining what provisions to include in a trade bill that is supported by the White House and the Senate majority, but not many Senate Democrats.

Two bills are expected to be included: TPA, known as fast track, which speeds up consideration of trade deals with Asia and Europe, and TAA, which gives income support and training to workers displaced by international trade.

But Democrats on the fence are demanding sweeteners, and don’t trust they’ll be able to get them after they’ve signed onto the trade agenda. Full story

May 7, 2015

Still No Bourbon Summit Between Obama, McConnell (Video)

McConnell sits behind the Bourbon Barrel of Compromise at the Willard Hotel Feb. 3. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

McConnell sits behind the Bourbon Barrel of Compromise at the Willard Hotel Feb. 3. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The 51st anniversary of the Congressional Bourbon Resolution came and went with no so-called Bourbon Summit between Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Barack Obama.

Rumors of the two sitting down over a snifter of the aged, brown liquor have been brewing for a while, ever since Obama wet the world’s whistle with the idea six months ago after Republicans won big on Election Day.

But according to McConnell spokesman Don Stewart, the two have only had dry, daytime meetings with no summit to speak of.

Full story

By Matthew Fleming Posted at 11:58 a.m.
Uncategorized

May 6, 2015

After Baltimore Riots, Scott Again Touts Body Cameras, Conservative Ideas

Scott (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As Baltimore lifts the curfews used to quell looting and violence prompted by the nation’s latest case of a black man dying under murky circumstances after a run-in with law enforcement, Sen. Tim Scott is again touting his push for body cameras for police — and a host of conservative ideas.

The South Carolina Republican has been promised a hearing on body cameras through a Judiciary subcommittee. Although it’s not scheduled yet, he’s hoping expert testimony will show the best way to implement body camera programs and also address many of the concerns voiced by his colleagues: data retention, privacy issues, disclosure issues and just who should be required to wear them.

Full story

May 5, 2015

Senators Vow to Protect Air Force’s A-10 Fleet

Graham, R-S.C., speaks with reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday, April 21, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Graham, R-S.C., speaks with reporters in the Capitol last month. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate defense hawks fired warning shots over the Air Force’s nose on Tuesday over plans to retire the A-10 Warthog, vowing to fund the fleet through the National Defense Authorization Act.

The Air Force, looking to save more than $4 billion over the next few years, has pushed recently to retire the fleet of close-air support aircraft. But without an adequate replacement, Congress is clamoring for answers. Full story

April 27, 2015

DOJ to Probe Baltimore at Maryland Delegation’s Request

Demonstrators face off with Baltimore Police on Monday as a CVS pharmacy burns at the corner of Pennsylvania and North avenues during violent protests following the funeral of Freddie Gray.  (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Demonstrators face off with Baltimore Police on Monday as a CVS pharmacy burns at the corner of Pennsylvania and North avenues during violent protests following the funeral of Freddie Gray. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Updated: 8:11 p.m. | Maryland Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin said Monday the Justice Department is moving forward with an independent investigation into the death of a Baltimore man who died in police custody that has fueled days of protests and looting in the city.

The Justice Department announced the criminal probe April 21.

Cardin and fellow Maryland Democrat Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski told reporters that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Gov. Larry Hogan were working closely together to quell the violence and vandalism that has erupted in the city.

As the sun set on Baltimore after an afternoon of police clashes with protesters, the two veteran Maryland lawmakers attempted to put the nationally televised images of violence into perspective.

Full story

Chuck Grassley’s Iowa Advice for Presidential Hopefuls: Show Up

Grassley picks up Nathan Kanas, 4, of California, in the Pork Tent at the 2014 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, August 9, 2014. Grassley was campaigning with David Young, Republican candidate for Iowa's 3rd Congressional District. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Grassley picks up Nathan Kanas, 4, of California, on August 9, 2014 at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. Grassley was campaigning with David Young, Republican candidate for the 3rd District.
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It’s tough to be in two places at once. And if history is any guide, all of the senators running for president will frequently forgo floor votes to be on the trail shaking hands and kissing babies.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, who hasn’t missed a vote since 1993 and represents a state the candidates will call a second home for many months, said in general the candidates shouldn’t be judged too harshly, or at least no more harshly than others who have attempted the tough journey from the Senate to the White House. Full story

April 21, 2015

McConnell Sets Thursday Vote on Loretta Lynch

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

McConnell filed cloture Tuesday night. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set up a Thursday cloture vote on Loretta Lynch’s nomination to be attorney general after breaking a logjam over amendments to the human trafficking bill.

The Kentucky Republican’s filing of cloture on Tuesday ends Lynch’s months-long limbo, with the votes for her confirmation seemingly assured but her position held up as a bargaining chip as the parties wrangled over abortion provisions in the trafficking bill. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 10:26 p.m.
Uncategorized

Amendment Logjam Stalls Lynch Confirmation (Video)

 (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Loretta Lynch’s confirmation for attorney general remained mired in amendment purgatory on Tuesday afternoon, after a morning full of promise. Full story

Senate Reaches Trafficking Deal, Teeing Up Loretta Lynch Confirmation (Updated) (Video)

McConnell and Cornyn

McConnell, left, announced a deal on the Senate floor during his opening remarks Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 10:41 a.m. | Loretta Lynch can expect to be confirmed as the next attorney general within a day or two after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced a deal on a sex trafficking bill that had been tied up in abortion politics for weeks.

“There have been good-faith negotiations to resolve the impasse that has prevented the Senate from moving forward on this bill,” McConnell said Tuesday. “And now, I’m glad we can say there is a bipartisan proposal that will allow us to complete action on this important legislation so we can provide help to the victims who desperately need it.”

“As soon as we finish the trafficking bill, as I’ve indicated for some time now, we’ll move to the president’s nominee for attorney general—hopefully in the next day or so,” he said.

Full story

April 16, 2015

Schumer: McConnell Needs to Learn to ‘Play Ball’

 (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs to learn to “play ball” with Democrats instead of trying to roll them, Sen. Charles E. Schumer said Thursday in a hallway interview. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 12:32 p.m.
Uncategorized

March 26, 2015

Freshman Senator: Pay for Obamacare Replacement With … Obamacare

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 08: From left, Sens. Steve Daines, R-Mont., Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., attend a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee markup in Dirksen Building on legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, January 8, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Cassidy, center, a freshman senator and Louisiana doctor, has a different spin on replacing Obamacare than most Republicans. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Bill Cassidy, the freshman senator from Louisiana and a doctor, has been pushing fellow Republicans in his first few months in the Senate to embrace an alternative to Obamacare — one he predicts will insure more people without mandates.

And he even says he has a way to pay for it: Obamacare. Full story

March 23, 2015

Ted Cruz Biography: the CQ Profile

Cruz 2016

Ted Cruz announced his bid for president at Liberty University. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Ted Cruz has launched his presidential campaign after just 27 months in the Senate, though it has been a tenure marked by hard-line conservative policies, one of the longest speeches in Senate history and an effort to undermine President Barack Obama’s health care law that led to a 16-day partial government shutdown.

In his brief Senate career, Cruz has become known as an orator and a provocateur, not a legislative craftsman or deal-maker. Now that he’s in the White House race, he will be spending less time in the Senate, which from the start has been only one of the several stages on which he has performed. No other senator in recent memory has made such a strong first impression so quickly.

Cruz has made his mark as an outspoken, stalwart constitutionalist — and irritated some colleagues in doing so. He has even called some fellow Republican senators “squishes” on the issue of gun control.
More recently, he pressured Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to block a vote on the nomination of Loretta Lynch to be attorney general as a protest of President Barack Obama’s executive actions deferring the deportation of millions of illegal immigrants, which he called an illegal action.

He has been quick to seize opportunities to criticize Obama and see the worst in his motives.

In the summer of 2014, when the Federal Aviation Administration banned U.S. flights to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport due to Hamas rockets landing near the runway, Cruz said Obama “has just used a federal regulatory agency to launch an economic boycott on Israel, in order to try to force our ally to comply with his foreign-policy demands.” Cruz wondered aloud whether the FAA’s announcement was in fact “a political decision driven by the White House.”

Raised in Texas, the son of a Cuban immigrant and schooled in the Ivy League  — Princeton and Harvard Law — Cruz is smart, talkative, skilled in debate and deeply conservative.

He was elected to the Senate with the support of the tea party movement in 2012. He had never been on a ballot before, though he had been Texas’ first Hispanic solicitor general and had argued nine cases before the United States Supreme Court.

His relentless and at times melodramatic rhetorical style seems to have been influenced by his father, Rafael Cruz, who is an evangelical pastor and a speaker at conservative events. As a member of the Armed Services Committee in February 2013, Cruz pressed Obama’s nominee for Defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, to reveal the origins of various speaking fees, suggesting Hagel might have been paid by North Korea.

Florida Democrat Bill Nelson — usually a reserved lawmaker — lectured Cruz on “comity and civility” in the committee, accusing the Texan of having “impugned the patriotism of the nominee.”

Several weeks later on the Judiciary Committee, Cruz had a run-in with California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, the sponsor of a bill to ban assault weapons. Cruz, who strongly opposes proscriptions of gun rights, asked whether she supported limiting First Amendment protections to a select list of books. “I’m not a sixth grader,” Feinstein snapped. “I’ve been on this committee for 20 years. I was a mayor for nine years. … I’ve looked at bodies that have been shot with these weapons.”

Cruz is most widely known for his talking. He was one of several Republicans who contributed to Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s “talking filibuster” in March 2013. They spoke for 13 hours against the nomination of John O. Brennan for CIA director, raising questions about the constitutionality of government use of drones to kill Americans on U.S. soil.

Cruz’s feelings about government stem in part from his family’s history in Cuba. His father fought alongside Fidel Castro’s rebels, was jailed and beaten and escaped thanks to a bribe.  “He was a guerrilla, throwing Molotov cocktails and blowing up buildings,” Cruz told the Austin American Statesman in 2006. In 1957, Cruz’s father emigrated from Cuba to Austin with only $100 sewn into his underwear.

Cruz was born in Calgary, Canada, and grew up in Houston. He expressed an early interest in law and politics, and he had a patron of sorts in Rolland Storey, a retired public relations executive who set up an education center to teach free-market economic theory.

One of Storey’s collaborators told the Dallas Morning News how Cruz memorized an outline of the Constitution and recited it for local civic clubs. He was on the debate team at Princeton, at one point winning an award for speaker of the year.

Related:

At Liberty, Ted Cruz Speaks to the Faithful

Cruz’s Liberty Speech: Why It Happened Today

Conservatives: Cruz Candidacy Puts Key Issues on Table

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

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By Tom Curry Posted at 7:33 p.m.
2016, Uncategorized

March 12, 2015

Portman: Tom Cotton Letter Should Yield Better Iran Deal

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Portman defended signing the letter to Iran’s leaders. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The controversial letter signed by 47 Republicans to Iran’s leaders authored by Sen. Tom Cotton should yield a better agreement if used properly by the Obama administration, Sen. Rob Portman said Thursday.

Portman, who faces a re-election fight next year in Ohio, said he didn’t see the letter as a way to sabotage the talks — quite the opposite.

“I signed it for a very simple reason, which is I want a good agreement with Iran, and I think it helps to get a good agreement,” Portman told reporters. Full story

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