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April 26, 2015

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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.

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.

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.


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

February 24, 2015

Corker, Menendez on Bipartisan Campaign to End Modern-Day Slavery

 Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., has a red X pin, symbol for the End It Movement, applied by aide Tara DiJulio, before a news conference in the Capitol on the introduction of the "End Modern Slavery Initiative Act," February 24, 2015. Ranking Member Bob Menendez, D-N.J., also attended. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Corker has a red X from the anti-slavery END IT movement pinned to his lapel by aide Tara DiJulio Tuesday on Capitol Hill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are pushing for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to rally behind an international effort to raise $1.5 billion to end slavery around the globe.

On Monday, Chairman Bob Corker posted a photo of himself alongside National Football League star Peyton Manning and Todd Helton, another former University of Tennessee signal-caller, each of the three men proudly sporting on the back of their hands the symbol of the anti-slavery END IT movement: a large red X. Full story

February 3, 2015

Thom Tillis: Keep Government Out of the Bathroom

Tillis (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Tillis (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Freshman Sen. Thom Tillis likes to tell a story about why he doesn’t believe government should require coffee shop employees to wash their hands after using the bathroom.

“Just to give you an idea of where my bias is when it comes to regulatory reform,” the North Carolina Republican said Monday, before telling the story at a discussion at the Bipartisan Policy Center. Full story

January 29, 2015

Cornyn: Loretta Lynch Likely to Be Confirmed

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The No. 2 Senate Republican said Thursday Loretta Lynch will “likely” be confirmed as attorney general, although he hasn’t yet made up his mind about how he will vote.

Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, stressed that GOP concerns remain over her independence.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, also said he hasn’t decided how to vote on the nomination. But he noted there is usually a “presumption” that a president gets their nominee. Full story

January 28, 2015

Lynch Hearing Gives Senators Chance to Vent

The hot lights of an attorney general nomination hearing gave Republicans a chance to unload on the White House in front of the TV cameras Wednesday on grievances ranging from immigration to marijuana policy.

The questions for nominee Loretta Lynch often said more about the interrogator than they did about Lynch. Full story

January 26, 2015

Grassley to Ramp Up Oversight at Judiciary

Grassley in his office. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Grassley in his office. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

When Loretta Lynch paid Sen. Charles E. Grassley a visit last month, the new Judiciary Committee chairman handed her a book — of all the unanswered letters he’s sent to the administration.

“I want to know if she is going to cooperate with our oversight,” the six-term Iowa Republican told CQ Roll Call in an interview in his office. “I am very interested in oversight … and we can’t carry it out if we can’t get the cooperation from them.”

Lynch, who was selected by President Barack Obama late last year to be attorney general, will have a chance to answer Grassley’s and the rest of the GOP’s questions on immigration and other issues all day Wednesday.

Known for his heartland candor, Grassley, unlike some other Republicans who have vowed to oppose Lynch’s nomination over Obama’s executive actions, hasn’t yet made up his mind how he will vote on her nomination to replace Eric H. Holder Jr.

“I want to get a feeling if she is going to be, hopefully, a lot less political, or not political at all, compared to Holder,” Grassley said.

Grassley’s push for strong oversight isn’t new — he handed Holder a book of letters too and he gained a reputation as a dogged investigator as the chairman of the Finance Committee the last time he held a gavel, more than eight years ago.

Aside from being a constitutional responsibility, Grassley’s philosophy has been that oversight can achieve results more quickly than legislation.

“I’m not talking just about hearings,” Grassley said. “What can we get by letter, what can we get by telephone conversations, what can we get by working through [the press]? … You use all those tools before you have a hearing.”

Grassley told Lynch he has seen myriad nominees — from both Democratic and Republican administrations — promise to cooperate and then ultimately disappoint him.

“It would really be better if, instead of saying, ‘yes,’ say, ‘maybe;’ then you’re being honest,” he said he told Lynch.

Grassley hopes the administration will be more responsive, including giving him the Office of Legal Counsel’s “legal opinions on the president’s executive edicts and things of that nature.”

On legislation, Grassley told CQ Roll Call about the possibility of moving bipartisan measures of interest to the committee last Congress.

He said moving on changing the sentencing system could be easier than the others.

“I’ve had some different views than some of my Republican colleagues have had; it’s going to be difficult to work things out, but I wouldn’t say they couldn’t be worked out,” Grassley said. “Compared to patent trolling, juvenile justice reauthorization, [the Freedom of Information Act], I think those things are a little harder, but not impossible.”

But he said he remains skeptical of a sentencing system overhaul. The committee cleared a bill last year sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., which would restore judicial discretion by making reductions to mandatory minimums for some drug crimes.

“Mandatory minimums are about the only thing that makes sure there is some consistency from one judge to another,” Grassley said.

He’s also monitoring what’s going on in the states and the administration on marijuana.

“I see it divided into three different areas,” he said. “Commercial production of hemp, which is pretty much up to the states under the farm bill. Recreational marijuana: I want to make sure it’s not a gateway to higher drugs before I would vote for legalization. And medical marijuana: You ought to have the same standard as you have for other drug approval by [the Food and Drug Administration] from the standpoint of efficacy and safety.”

And he riffed on prosecutorial discretion.

“This is probably something that is going to come up with Lynch, whether I would ask it or not doesn’t matter,” he said. “But for an attorney general, not just on marijuana, but on anything, to signal to the whole world that you are going to prosecute some and not prosecute others. … I understand that you don’t have the resources to prosecute everybody, but you don’t send a signal to the rest of the world, ‘[It] doesn’t matter,’ or, ‘It matters in some instances and not others,’ because you’re going to encourage disrespect for the law.”

Grassley also isn’t done with the Operation Fast and Furious and IRS scandals.

Republicans have been pursuing answers on Fast and Furious for years; the refusal by Holder to turn over related documents resulted in a House vote to hold him in contempt in 2012.

Last October, Grassley, along with then-House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., wrote to the Department of Justice about a gun found at the scene of a shooting in Arizona connected to the botched gun sting operation.

The letter was the fourth time Grassley requested information on a Fast and Furious gun.

On the IRS, Grassley said he and his staff would work closely on the ongoing investigation with Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah.

Republicans have been frustrated at the pace of the Justice Department’s own investigation.

Meanwhile, Grassley has been gearing up for re-election next year.

“The days of cheap campaigns are over,” he said, though he conceded one advantage — the anticipated large field of 2016 presidential contenders who will be eager to lend their support to the popular senior statesman from Iowa, home of the first round of caucuses.

“When I have what you might call house parties or, or fundraising parties in homes in Iowa, I think I can call on a lot of presidential candidates that’ll help me get out a big crowd,” he said.

He also touts his personal ground game.

“My philosophy for running a campaign is doing the best possible job you can with your official duties, and then that includes Washington, D.C., but it also includes the 99-county tours that I’ve done for 34 years in a row,” Grassley said. “I’ve had seven town meetings so far this year.”

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

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

January 22, 2015

Harry Reid ‘Intending to Run,’ Expects Swift Recovery (Video)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Reid walks returned to the Capitol on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The venue was different, and his face was bruised and bandaged, but Harry Reid was still Harry Reid.

With an American and Nevada flag in the background, along with a bald eagle and a box of “Search Light” matches on the wall over his shoulder, Reid held court with reporters in a meeting room in his Capitol office suite for a news conference that could’ve taken place any Tuesday afternoon near the Senate’s iconic Ohio Clock.

Full story

January 15, 2015

Obama Meets Senate Democrats in Baltimore After Lunch With Mikulski (Updated)

Mikulski had lunch with Obama Thursday ahead of his address to the Democratic retreat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Mikulski had lunch with Obama Thursday ahead of his address to the Democratic retreat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 3:40 p.m. | BALTIMORE — President Barack Obama may not be Jay Leno, but he has earned top billing at the annual issues conference for Senate Democrats at a hotel where he’s speaking Thursday.

His mid-afternoon appearance is entirely off limits to the media, in contrast to his 2010 appearance down the street for a similar retreat with House Republicans. This year, most of the media attention was with the new Senate majority GOP and their House counterparts, who huddled for a joint retreat in Hershey, Pa.

There, reporters were being treated to pen-and-pad sessions and media availabilities with prominent Republicans from both sides of the Rotunda, including House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers and her Senate counterpart, John Thune of South Dakota.

Full story

January 12, 2015

Cornyn: ‘We Learned the Hard Way’

"We have the responsibility to govern," Cornyn said. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

“We have the responsibility to govern,” Cornyn said. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

At the start of the last Congress, John Cornyn wrote an editorial titled “Partial Government Shutdown May Be Needed to Restore Fiscal Sanity.” He’s singing a different tune today.

“I’ve evolved,” the Texas Republican and newly minted Senate majority whip said in an interview last week with CQ Roll Call.

For starters, the memory of the 2013 shutdown over Obamacare instigated by his fellow Texas senator, Ted Cruz, remains fresh. Full story

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