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

October 30, 2014

Democrat Wants Obama to Stop the ‘Chickenshit’ Sideshows

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Cardin isn’t happy with the anonymous insults about Netanyahu from Obama administration officials. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The “chickenshit” continues to hit the fan in Congress. A senior Democratic senator wants President Barack Obama to hold whoever anonymously insulted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accountable.

“The only parties that benefit from anonymous sources making inappropriate comments about one of America’s closest allies are those who want to weaken the unified, bipartisan support for Israel in both the legislative and executive branches of our government,” said Maryland Senator Ben Cardin of the anonymous quotes published by The Atlantic. ”The leaks and side-shows need to end; those responsible should be held accountable.” Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 2:52 p.m.

October 28, 2014

Terrorism Threat Prompts Jeh Johnson to Order Security Upgrade at Federal Buildings

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Johnson wants security tightened. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is ordering a security upgrade against the threat of terrorism for federal buildings across the country, he announced Tuesday.

Johnson declined to detail the upgrades that will be put in place by the Federal Protective Service.

Johnson cited the recent attack in Canada as well as the ongoing global terrorism threat faced by the United States.

“Given world events, prudence dictates a heightened vigilance in the protection of U.S. government installations and our personnel,” he said in the statement. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 5:41 p.m.

Obama: Health Workers ‘Doing God’s Work;’ Ebola ‘Will Be Defeated’

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(Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama sought to tamp down Ebola panic Tuesday and spoke out strongly in favor of treating health care workers heading to Africa with respect.

Obama said health care workers volunteering to go to Africa should be applauded and supported. “They are doing God’s work,” Obama said, and noted the importance of stopping the outbreak at its source. Full story

October 22, 2014

Is Obama About to Evolve on Marijuana?

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Holder told CNN he was “cautiously optimistic” about the Colorado and Washington’s legalization of marijuana. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 5:26 p.m. | No, President Barack Obama isn’t about to evolve his stance on marijuana. At least not today, according to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest at Wednesday’s briefing.

CQ Roll Call asked him about two recent developments — Attorney General Eric Holder telling CNN that he’s “cautiously optimistic” about the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, and the hiring of ACLU lawyer Vanita Gupta, an advocate of legalizing marijuana and leading drug war critic, to head the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.

“Should we take these as signals that the president is himself continuing to evolve on this issue?” Earnest was asked.

“No,” Earnest said. Full story

‘Constructive Dialogue’ Continues Over CIA Torture Report, White House Says

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Don’t expect the release of a Senate report on acts of torture committed by the CIA to become an uncomfortable election year October surprise.

Asked Tuesday what was taking time to reach an agreement on redactions with the Senate Intelligence Committee, the White House responded with a statement from National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan that pointed to deliberative discussions, but no time element for their conclusion.

“The President has been clear that he wants this process completed as expeditiously as possible and he’s also been clear that it must be done consistent with our national security. The redactions to date were the result of an extensive and unprecedented interagency process, headed up by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, to protect sensitive classified information,” Meehan said. “We are continuing a constructive dialogue with the Committee.”

Full story

October 17, 2014

White House Touts Ebola Czar Ron Klain’s Ties to Congress (Updated)

Updated 12:23 p.m. | President Barack Obama has picked Ron Klain to be the Ebola czar, according to the White House, a move that appears aimed at quelling a firestorm from Congress and the public over the handling of the crisis.

Klain is a longtime Washingtonian and Harvard-educated lawyer who previously served as Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s chief of staff. He isn’t known for his work in health care, but the White House emphasized his management background and relationships with Congress.

But congressional criticism of the pick came almost immediately via Twitter.

“Worst ebola epidemic in world history and Pres. Obama puts a government bureaucrat with no healthcare experience in charge. Is he serious?” tweeted Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., an anesthesiologist.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., was the first out of the gate to laud the pick.

“I’ve known Ron Klain for over twenty years,” he said in a statement. “He is smart, aggressive, and levelheaded; exactly the qualities we need in a czar to steer our response to Ebola. He is an excellent choice.”

Klain also has a sense of public relations — something the White House could use given the harsh criticism of officials who have been the face of the Ebola response, including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas Frieden.trans White House Touts Ebola Czar Ron Klains Ties to Congress (Updated)

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., who has been calling for an Ebola coordinator since early September, said Klain “understands the importance of clear communications to the containment of a crisis like this.”

Klain’s congressional experience includes stints as staff director of the Senate Democratic Leadership Committee, and the chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but it’s not clear how strong his ties are to the House.

An aide to Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, was unaware of any Klain ties to the House, but said the White House did give Boehner’s office notice about the pick.

It’s also not entirely clear yet what the Obama administration will be seeking from Congress — although Press Secretary Josh Earnest noted yesterday that Congress controls the purse strings.

Democrats have been pushing for more funding for public health and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said the CDC should get the money it needs to battle the Ebola virus.

Unlike, say, a new surgeon general, Klain’s newly created position does not need Senate confirmation — a bonus given that the Senate is in the middle of a lengthy pre-election recess.

The news was first reported by CNN.

A White House official confirmed the pick in a memo:


The President has asked Ron Klain to take on the task of coordinating his administration’s whole of government Ebola response. He will report directly to the President’s Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco and the President National Security Advisor Susan Rice as he ensures that efforts to protect the American people by detecting, isolating and treating Ebola patients in this country are properly integrated but don’t distract from the aggressive commitment to stopping Ebola at the source in West Africa. Klain’s role is consistent with the view the President articulated in the Oval Office last night that Monaco, Rice and others have done outstanding work in confronting this challenge so far – but given their management of other national and homeland security priorities, additional bandwidth will further enhance the government’s Ebola response.

Klain, an attorney, comes to the job with strong management credentials, extensive federal government experience overseeing complex operations and good working relationships with leading members of Congress, as well as senior Obama administration officials, including the President.


Ron Klain is President of Case Holdings and General Counsel at Revolution LLC, a technology-oriented venture capital firm based in Washington, DC. Prior to joining Revolution, Ron was a Partner and National Practice Group Chair at O’Melveny & Myers LLP.

In addition to his career in law and business, Ron has extensive public service experience, most recently as a senior White House aide to President Obama and Chief of Staff to Vice President Biden. In that position, on behalf of Vice President Biden, he helped oversee implementation of the Recovery Act, a major interagency and intergovernmental project. Earlier, he served as Chief of Staff for Vice President Al Gore, and before that, as Chief of Staff for Attorney General Janet Reno. He has also served as the Staff Director of the Senate Democratic Leadership Committee, and the Chief Counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Ron is a summa cum laude graduate of Georgetown University and holds a JD, magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School, where he was an Editor of the Harvard Law Review and won the Sears Prize for the highest grade average in 1985. He served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Byron White.


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By Steven Dennis Posted at 10:44 a.m.

October 16, 2014

Obama Has Another Key DOJ Post to Fill

President Barack Obama’s plate is getting a little more full, with the announcement Thursday that Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole is exiting the administration.

With Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. already on his way out, Cole’s exit will leave the top two positions at the key Cabinet agency vacant.

“Over the past four years, Jim Cole has been my indispensable partner in leading the U.S. Department of Justice and extending the promise of equality under the law for everyone in this country,” Holder said in a statement, adding he will be “dearly missed.” Full story

Obama to Consult Congress on Ebola

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Hazmat workers prepare to enter the apartment in Dallas where a second health care worker who has tested positive for the Ebola virus resides. (Mike Stone/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama will call members of Congress today to discuss the Ebola virus crisis, and there are hints from the White House that he might be asking for more money.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Obama will be making a series of calls to lawmakers, and will discuss a role for Congress.

“Congress obviously controls the purse strings,” Earnest noted when asked about the role of the Hill. He also said the president wants to hear Congress’ thoughts on what to do. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 2:57 p.m.

Ebola Sparks Obama to Shake Up Leadership Style

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After criticism of the “business-as-usual” tone at the White House, Obama is trying a different tack on the Ebola crisis.

No drama Barack Obama has shaken up his daily routine to deal with the Ebola crisis — a marked shift in how the president has handled past crises on his watch.

Obama’s crisis-management style has been to go about his routine as much as possible — even golfing after making a statement about the beheading of an American by the Islamic State terror group — or continuing campaign swings amid crises at home and abroad. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 11:50 a.m.

October 15, 2014

Vanita Gupta, New DOJ Civil Rights Pick, Has Supported Marijuana Legalization (Updated)

COPOL14 009 082814 445x296 Vanita Gupta, New DOJ Civil Rights Pick, Has Supported Marijuana Legalization (Updated)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:31 p.m. | The new nominee to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division — American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Vanita Gupta — has backed legalizing and taxing marijuana.

Just last month in a CNN column, Gupta suggested states follow the lead of Colorado and Washington to legalize and tax marijuana, rather than imprisoning people for using it. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 2:39 p.m.

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