Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 1, 2014

Posts by Niels Lesniewski

5 Posts

July 1, 2014

Ahead of Obama Bridge Visit, DOT Warns States Highway Trust Fund Checks Will Slow

With President Barack Obama set to speak later in the day in front of the Key Bridge, his Transportation secretary is warning states checks will slow if Congress doesn’t patch the hole in the Highway Trust Fund soon.

In letters to state transportation officials and transit agencies, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx sets forth protocols for managing the shortfall, which at the outset will particularly affect the states.

“As I stated in my June 19 letter, the Department will continue to take every possible measure to fully reimburse your State for as long as we can. However, as we approach insolvency, the Department will be forced to limit payments to manage the reduced levels of cash available in the Trust Fund,” Foxx wrote in the letter to state transportation departments.

Full story

May 27, 2014

White House Counsel to Review Naming of CIA Chief in Kabul

The White House will conduct an internal review of the circumstances leading to Sunday’s disclosure to members of the White House press corps of the identity of a CIA station chief.

The event transpired Sunday, when as part of President Barack Obama’s surprise trip to visit with troops in Afghanistan, the Kabul “chief of station” was included on a list of participants in a meeting distributed to the traveling press pool and subsequently sent to a broader list of reporters, as explained by The Washington Post.

“The Chief of Staff has asked the White House Counsel, Neil Eggleston, to look into what happened and report back to him with recommendations on how the Administration can improve processes and make sure something like this does not happen again,” National Security Counsel Spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.

Full story

Obama Plans to Keep Troops in Afghanistan Until 2016 (Updated) (Video)

Updated 3:26 p.m. | President Barack Obama announced Tuesday he intends to keep thousands of troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014, but would pull out most of the remaining forces by the end of 2016.

Obama said he plans to keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan at the start of 2015, provided the next president of Afghanistan signs a new security agreement, as expected. The troop levels would be cut roughly in half by the end of 2015, with troops consolidated to Bagram Airfield.

“When I took office, we had nearly 180,000 troops in harm’s way,” Obama said. “By the end of this year, we will have less than 10,000.”

Obama said the troops staying in Afghanistan would no longer be responsible for combat missions to secure the country, but would continue to target terrorists and train and advise the Afghans.

One top Republican senator on military issues was quick to say that Obama’s plan “emboldens the enemy.”

Full story

May 16, 2014

VA’s Top Health Official Resigns Amid Scandal, Shinseki Announces (Updated)

Shinseki051614 445x283 VAs Top Health Official Resigns Amid Scandal, Shinseki Announces (Updated)

Shinseki, who was on the Hill Thursday to testify about problems at the VA, announced Friday that a top official was resigning. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 4:05 p.m. | The chief health official at the Department of Veterans Affairs resigned Friday, amid an ongoing scandal about wait times and deaths within the VA health system.

“Today, I accepted the resignation of Dr. Robert Petzel, Under Secretary for Health in the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a statement. “As we know from the Veteran community, most Veterans are satisfied with the quality of their VA health care, but we must do more to improve timely access to that care.”

But one top congressional overseer called Shinseki’s announcement the “pinnacle of disingenuous political doublespeak.”

Full story

May 9, 2014

Will Obama Threaten to Veto Senate’s Tax-Cut Bill?

obama050914 445x292 Will Obama Threaten to Veto Senate’s Tax Cut Bill?

Obama is against a tax extenders package that is not paid for and has criticized the House for not passing an unemployment extension. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Defying the White House and a yearslong push for more revenue, Senate Democrats are on the verge of passing an $85 billion grab bag of tax cuts with no plans to pay for them.

The question now is whether President Barack Obama will stick to his guns and threaten to veto the bill — picking an intraparty fight in an election year with control of the Senate at stake.

Ask a liberal Senate Democrat about the deficit-financed “tax extenders” package headed for the floor next week, and you’re likely to hear a refrain that could have been uttered by a Republican — some tax cuts shouldn’t have to be paid for because they pay for themselves. Or extending an expired tax cut shouldn’t count — never mind those pesky pay-as-you-go rules.

But the White House’s budget proposed a corporate tax package that would generate revenue to help pay for its transportation bill, not another tax cut that would inflate the deficit.

“Our position remains unchanged and we continue to believe the extenders should be paid for,” an administration official told CQ Roll Call.

(Update 5/13: The White House declined to issue a veto threat on the bill.)

The administration hasn’t yet threatened a veto of the Senate measure, but the Office of Management and Budget issued a sternly worded veto threat over the House GOP’s tax extender bill resurrecting the research and development tax credit and making it permanent, at a cost of $156 billion over the coming decade. Some 62 House Democrats defied their leaders and the president’s veto threat to help pass the bill Friday with a potentially veto-proof majority.

It’s not the tax break Obama opposes — his budget would revive it too. It’s the not-paying-for-it part. Full story

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