Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
January 31, 2015

January 29, 2015

Obama Budget Aim: Roll Back Sequester Spending Cuts (Updated)

Republicans applauded Obama 31 times during the 2015 State of the Union address. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 12:48 p.m. | President Barack Obama’s budget will increase spending on domestic and defense programs by $74 billion, he plans to tell House Democrats Thursday at their retreat in Philadelphia.

According to a White House official, Obama will once again propose to “end the across-the-board sequester cuts that threaten our economy and our military.”

That’s translates to about $74 billion increase in discretionary spending over the level allowed under sequestration caps in fiscal 2016 — or about 7 percent, according to second White House official.

Non-defense discretionary spending would increase to $530 billion, or $37 billion over the spending caps, and $561 billion for defense spending, an increase of $38 billion, per the second official.

Full story

January 27, 2015

Score One for Norquist, GOP on 529 College Savings Accounts

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Norquist got what he wanted Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Somewhere, Grover Norquist is happily tweeting over his latest victory.

The anti-tax president of Americans for Tax Reform had been waging war on President Barack Obama’s latest plan to tax 529 college savings accounts as part of his larger proposal to restructure and increase college aid. Full story

Obama’s Big Win on Iran Sanctions (Updated)

Menendez (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Menendez (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 12:34 p.m. | Make that one more veto threat President Barack Obama probably won’t have to carry out: Senate Democrats are abandoning efforts to pass an Iran sanctions bill over its nuclear program while talks continue, at least until March 24.

Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey announced during a Senate hearing Tuesday that he and other Senate Democrats would not support bringing the sanctions bill he cosponsored to the floor until that date. It comes after Menendez, in particular, has been harshly critical of the White House and the president for their handling of the Iran talks, and amid a brouhaha over the decision by Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, to snub the president and invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to the Congress without a prior heads-up to the White House.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat, Menendez, and eight other Democrats on Tuesday wrote Obama vowing not to vote for the sanctions bill before March 24 (full letter below).

The date gives Obama the breathing room he wanted, while keeping the active threat of additional sanctions on Iran if their government fails to reach a deal.

Obama has denounced the bill in very forceful terms, both in his State of the Union address and in a press conference, vowing to veto it and saying there was a high risk it would scuttle the talks and let Iran blame the United States for doing so. That, Obama said, would undermine the strong international coalition, including Russia and China, which is negotiating with Iran to prevent it from getting a nuclear weapon.

Here’s the full letter:

Dear Mr. President:

We remain hopeful that diplomacy will succeed in reversing Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon capability, in accordance with the timeline that the P5+1 and Iran negotiating teams have set for themselves: March 24, 2015 for a political framework agreement and June 30, 2015 to conclude negotiations on the technical annexes of the comprehensive deal.

Congress has always been a partner in the shared goal of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon capability. We remain appreciative of your leadership in seeking to protect the United States, and our allies and partners, from the threat of a nuclear Iran. For more than two decades, the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. Government have worked together in a bipartisan way to implement sanctions legislation that successfully ratcheted up pressure on Iran’s nuclear program. This pressure proved to be decisive in compelling Iranian leadership to enter the latest round of nuclear negotiations in September 2013.

We remain deeply skeptical that Iran is committed to making the concessions required to demonstrate to the world that its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful by March 24 – the deadline agreed upon for a political framework agreement. Considering Iran’s history in nuclear negotiations and after two extensions of the Joint Plan of Action, we are concerned that Iran is intentionally extending the negotiations to improve its leverage at the negotiating table.

We are Democratic supporters of the Iran Nuclear Weapon Free Act of 2015 – a bill that would impose sanctions on Iran only if Iran fails to reach a comprehensive agreement by the June 30 deadline. This bill also includes monthly waivers after June 30 to provide additional negotiating flexibility. We believe that this bill, as introduced, is reasonable and pragmatic, respects the nuclear negotiating timeline, and sends a strong signal to Iran and to the international community that endless negotiations under the interim agreement are dangerous, unacceptable, and could leave Iran with a threshold nuclear weapon capability.

In acknowledgement of your concern regarding congressional action on legislation at this moment, we will not vote for this legislation on the Senate floor before March 24. After March 24, we will only vote for this legislation on the Senate floor if Iran fails to reach agreement on a political framework that addresses all parameters of a comprehensive agreement. This deadline is the critical test of Iranian intentions. We expect that your Administration will consult closely with Members of Congress in the coming months, and look forward to working with you to achieve our shared goal of reversing Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon capability.

Sincerely,

Robert Menendez
United States Senator

Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator

Richard Blumenthal
United States Senator

Gary C. Peters
United States Senator

Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator

Benjamin L. Cardin
United States Senator

Christopher A. Coons
United States Senator

Joe Manchin III
United States Senator

Joe Donnelly
United States Senator

Debbie Stabenow
United States Senator

Rachel Oswald contributed to this report.

Related:

Backed by Cameron, Obama Warns Congress on Iran

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

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By Steven Dennis Posted at 11:29 a.m.
Foreign Policy, Iran

January 21, 2015

31 Times Republicans Applauded Obama During the SOTU (Video)

Republicans applauded Obama 31 times during the 2015 State of the Union address. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Republicans applauded Obama 31 times during the 2015 State of the Union address. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Republicans applauded President Barack Obama some 31 times over the course of the 2015 State of the Union address, and we’ve helpfully clipped them into a three-minute video.

It’s worth noting the occasional delay before Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, claps his hands and the varying degrees of enthusiasm he shows throughout a speech he later slammed as providing “nothing new.”

Full story

#SOTU Pumps Up Democrats, Post-‘Shellacking II’

Obama delivers his State of the Union address in the in the Capitol's House chamber, January 20, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Obama’s defiant address has Democrats fired up. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

“Barack Obama’s Back.” That was the three-word verdict from Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., after Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

It sums up, perhaps, a sense among Democrats that the newly confident, revitalized president that they’ve seen in recent weeks should have been the president on the campaign trail before the midterm elections.

“He seems to be relaxed and free,” Takano said. Full story

January 20, 2015

Obama Meets With 105-Year-Old Amelia Boynton Before SOTU

Boynton attends the 2011 Trustees Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement dinner and presentation at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers on February 25, 2011 in New York City. (Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images File Photo)

Boynton attends the 2011 Trustees Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement dinner on Feb. 25, 2011, in New York City. (Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images File Photo)

Shortly before delivering the State of the Union address, President Barack Obama met briefly with 105 year-old civil rights figure Amelia Boynton in a holding room at the Capitol.

Boynton is among those still alive from Bloody Sunday. The 50th anniversary of the voting rights march in Selma, Ala., comes in March, and the White House has said Obama is planning to make the trip for a ceremony recognizing the event, during which Georgia Rep. John Lewis, then a teenager, was among those attacked by authorities. Full story

Obama Challenges New GOP Congress in State of the Union (Updated)

Updated 11:59 p.m. | A president energized by an improving economy challenged the new Republican Congress in his 2015 State of the Union address to focus on the middle class and find a bipartisan path forward — while vowing to veto efforts to undo his actions on immigration, climate or health care.

(Read the speech as prepared for delivery here. And watch the RollCall.com live stream.)

President Barack Obama declared his policies to be working — doing a victory lap on slashed deficits, lower gas prices and a shrinking unemployment rate.

Full story

Obama’s State of the Union Speech Text as Prepared for Delivery

The White House has released the 2015 State of the Union speech text as prepared for delivery, exceeding 6,700 words.

Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 8:56 p.m.
Uncategorized

Excerpts From Obama’s State of the Union Address

(Larry Downing/Reuters File Photo)

(Larry Downing/Reuters File Photo)

The following is a transcript of excerpts of President Barack Obama’s Jan. 20 State of the Union address:

“We are fifteen years into this new century. Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world. It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.

But tonight, we turn the page.” Full story

James K. Polk: He Might Be a Giant

The list of things President Harry S. Truman, presidential architect Karl Rove and alt-rock band They Might Be Giants have in common is probably a short one. But all three agree on one thing: James K. Polk.

“In four short years he met his every goal,” TMBG sang. Truman and Rove — among many others — sang the same tune. In “Met His Every Goal? James K. Polk and the Legends of Manifest Destiny,” Tom Chaffin, a University of Tennessee professor who is also editor of “Correspondence of James K. Polk,” sings a different tune.

Full story

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