Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 31, 2014

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September 9, 2014

Watch Live: Senate Committee Holds Hearing on ‘Police Militarization’

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee holds a 10:30 a.m. hearing on federal programs providing equipment to state and local law enforcement. Amid the uproar in Ferguson, Mo., the Defense Department’s 1033 program has come under scrutiny from lawmakers, including Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., for contributing to “police militarization.”

Witnesses include officials from the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and a photojournalist from The St. Louis American Newspaper.

 

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August 5, 2014

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 14, 2014

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

rockefeller050113 600x406 Senators Blast NCAA, ESPN in Review of College Athletics (Video)

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 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

June 1, 2014

Sanders Unveils Emergency VA Measure, Could Soon Hit Senate Floor (Video)

sanders 027 040913 445x296 Sanders Unveils Emergency VA Measure, Could Soon Hit Senate Floor (Video)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Bernard Sanders on Sunday unveiled his plan for emergency legislation to address the scandal that’s enveloped the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The plan from Sanders, a Vermont Independent who caucuses with the Democrats, includes previously announced provisions for enhanced firing authority for senior personnel, but adds due process provisions not in a House-passed bill. The Senate VA panel will hold a hearing about the measure this coming Thursday, with Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., having indicated it could soon reach the Senate floor.

The new legislation makes it less likely that a bipartisan House VA accountability bill that passed that chamber with 390 votes will be taken up on the floor of the Senate.

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.

May 7, 2014

Senator on Veterans Affairs Allegations: ‘Just Because CNN Says Something, Doesn’t Always Make It The Case’ (Video)

During Senate floor debate Wednesday over authorizing funds for the Department of Veterans Affairs in 18 states, the Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernard Sanders criticized members for jumping to conclusions over alleged misconduct at VA facilities, including in Phoenix, Ariz., which has received extensive media attention following a CNN report last week.

“I am not a lawyer, but I did learn enough in school to know that you don’t find somebody guilty without assessing the evidence,” the Vermont Independent said. “And frankly, just because CNN says something, doesn’t always make it the case.”

Some Senate Republicans, including Minority Whip John Cornyn, called for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign on Tuesday, while others, such as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have refused to call for Shinseki’s ouster until hearings are held and the Inspector General’s report is complete. Full story

May 6, 2014

Reid Says There Will Be No Senate Committee to Investigate Benghazi (Video)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will not create a special committee to investigate the 2012 attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya, following Speaker John A. Boehner’s announcement on May 2 proposing a House committee.

“There’s no conspiracy here, it was a tragedy,” the Nevada Democrat said. “It’s my understanding they have 25,000 pages of documents, there’s been numerous hearings on this already, the State Department did an extensive review. … Now the latest smoking gun is a memo preparing people to go on the Sunday shows. Don’t you think everybody gets some preparation before they go on the Sunday shows? So the answer is no, we’re not going to do any select, special committee over here on Benghazi.”

Reid’s comments followed Boehner’s announcement this week that Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a former federal prosecutor, will lead the special committee.

Late Tuesday, Roll Call reported the House committee would consist of seven Republicans and five Democrats.

April 17, 2014

Harry Reid: Bundy Ranch Supporters Are ‘Domestic Terrorists’ (Video)

In one corner, the Senate majority leader. In the other corner, a Nevada rancher disputing the government’s authority to collect grazing fees and restrict access to land for his cattle.

On Thursday, Majority Leader Harry Reid said the armed supporters of the rancher, Cliven Bundy, are “domestic terrorists” at an event sponsored by the Las Vegas Review Journal.

“These people, who hold themselves out to be patriots, are not. They’re nothing more than domestic terrorists,” the Nevada Democrat said. “And I think that we are a country that people should follow the law, and what went up in Mesquite is not very good.

Full story

March 13, 2014

McCain Rails GOP on Ukraine Bill: ‘Don’t Call Yourself Reagan Republicans’ (Video)

Sen. John McCain hammered Republicans on the Senate floor Thursday for refusing to pass by unanimous consent a Senate Foreign Relation Committee bill which would provide economic aid while imposing sanctions on Russia.

“What has happened? Where are our priorities? You can call yourself Republicans, that’s fine, because that’s your voter registration. Don’t call yourself Reagan Republicans,” the Arizona Republican said.

Full story

Graham to Kerry: ‘Let Me Know What I Can Do’ to Help With Boehner (Video)

Following remarks Wednesday from Speaker John A. Boehner saying IMF aid to Ukraine is unnecessary, Sen. Lindsey Graham personally offered assistance to Secretary of State John Kerry as the House and Senate continue to debate the appropriate response to the Ukrainian crisis.

“Hey, John, good job,” the South Carolina Republican was heard saying before Kerry turned off the desk mic. “Let me know what I can do to help you with Boehner.”

Graham’s remarks were caught following a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the State Department’s fiscal 2015 budget. Meanwhile, Kerry travels to London on Friday to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Correction 11:40 p.m.

An earlier version of this report misstated where Kerry is traveling on Friday.

March 6, 2014

Dalai Lama Gives Senate Opening Prayer (Video)

It was a historic morning in the Senate Thursday, when the Dalai Lama gave the Senate’s opening prayer in place of Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black.

Attendance, however, left something to be desired. A good number of staffers were gathered on the floor and in the galleries, but the chamber was by no means packed. Perhaps a dozen senators were present when Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., brought the Senate into session and yielded to the Dalai Lama for the morning prayer.

“We make our world. Speak or act with a pure mind, and happiness will follow you,” he said. “This is my favorite prayer. Daily I pray this.”

Following the opening prayer, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., requested that the Senate recess in order for senators to meet with the Dalai Lama. Full story

February 13, 2014

Senators’ Debt Limit Votes Kept Off Microphones; Reporters Protest (Updated) (Video)

cspan021314 445x278 Senators Debt Limit Votes Kept Off Microphones; Reporters Protest (Updated) (Video)

Updated 4:15 p.m. | In a major departure from procedure during Wednesday’s climactic vote on suspending the federal debt limit, the Senate kept some senators’ votes secret while the nearly hourlong tally was under way — a move that has drawn sharp criticism from Capitol Hill reporters.

The stakes for Wednesday’s vote were as high as they come, with the full faith and credit of the United States, the political future of Republican leaders and another government shutdown showdown on the line.

On an average day, any C-SPAN viewer would know how senators voted in real time because votes are read aloud. (See our post on the six senators who appear to have changed their votes.)

But on Wednesday, the clerks did not name names. Instead of announcing the rolling vote tally as the vote went along on the critical motion to limit debate on the debt limit measure, senators were allowed to cast their votes in relative secrecy. Overlooked at the time, it has since caught the attention of numerous reporters.

Full story

January 8, 2014

Dueling Senate Leaders Lament Obstructionism, Partisanship (Video)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Majority Leader Harry Reid traded floor speeches on Wednesday, accusing the other of partisanship while calling for an end to obstructionism.

The Kentucky Republican criticized the “nuclear option” invoked by the Nevada Democrat in November, but he emphasized he was not trying to “point the finger of blame.”

“My purpose is to suggest that the Senate can do better than it has been and that we must be if we’re to remain as a great nation,” McConnell said. “This is a behavioral problem. It doesn’t require a rules change. We just need to act differently with each other.”

McConnell, who proposed an amendment on Tuesday that would tie jobless benefits to an Obamacare delay, criticized the majority leader for not allowing amendments on the unemployment insurance bill that advanced yesterday.

Reid accused the Republican leadership of distorting the facts.

“Since I’ve been leader, seven out of 10 amendments on which the Senate has voted have been … Republican amendments,” Reid said.

Reid called the remarks a “diversion” from the GOP’s “callous” and “cold-hearted” positions on issues facing the Senate.

 

 

November 21, 2013

Nuclear Showdown: Reid Vs. McConnell (Video)

Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell laid out their best arguments for and against the “nuclear option” to end filibusters of most judicial and executive branch nominees on Thursday.

McConnell lost the battle when Democrats voted to effectively change the rules and prevent filibusters on all nominations except those to the Supreme Court.

 

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