Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
January 30, 2015

Posts by Steven Dennis

228 Posts

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.


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.


Backed by Cameron, Obama Warns Congress on Iran

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.

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 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 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.

January 16, 2015

Obama Wants Updated Wiretapping Laws

President Barack Obama said laws need to be updated to ensure the ability of governments to track terrorists’ phone calls, email and social networks at a news conference Friday.

“The laws that might have been designed for the traditional wiretap have to be updated,” Obama said at a joint appearance with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. “How we do that needs to be debated both here in the United States and in the U.K.

“I think we’re getting better at it, I think we’re striking the balance better, I think that companies here in the United States at least recognize that they have a responsibility to the public, but also want to make sure that they’re meeting their responsibilities to their customers … that are using their products.” Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 2:43 p.m.

Backed by Cameron, Obama Warns Congress on Iran

(Mark Wilson/Getty Images News)

(Mark Wilson/Getty Images News)

A day after privately telling Senate Democrats he would veto a new Iran sanctions bill, President Barack Obama scolded Congress to cool it, and if they don’t, he’ll take his case to the public.

Obama said new sanctions legislation — even if the sanctions are tied to the failure of talks — would result in a “very high” risk of collapsing the talks and undermining the international coalition that has brought Iran to the table. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 2:22 p.m.

January 13, 2015

Obama Pushes for Deals on Cybersecurity, Trade, Taxes (Updated)

Updated 1:22 p.m. | President Barack Obama kicked off his meeting with congressional leaders this morning missing an injured Harry Reid, who is under doctor’s orders to stay at home as he recovers from his injuries.

With the press pool ushered into the room for brief remarks, Obama said he was looking for areas of agreement, including cybersecurity, trade, taxes and “streamlining government,” per the pool report.

Obama also joked that one area of bipartisan agreement was the college football playoff system and congratulated Ohio State for its victory. Obama has long backed having a playoff system.

“Some of these folks, I haven’t seen, so I had an opportunity to wish them a happy new year. To the speaker, I just wanted to point out, I said there are going to be some things that we agree on. Having a college football playoff is clearly something we can agree on. I’m all for it. … I think it turned out pretty well, particularly for Ohio. I congratulate the Ohio State Buckeyes for their outstanding victory and commend Oregon as well for building a great team.”

Obama also touted the improving economy, per the pool report.

“We’re in a position to make sure that 2015 is an even stronger year, and relative to our competitors, we are holding much better cards. The key now is for us to work as a team to build on this progress.”

He cited the Sony hack and the hacking of Central Command’s Twitter account as reasons to do a cybersecurity bill.

“I’ve got a state of the Union next week, one of the things we’re going to be talking about is cybersecurity. With the Sony attack that took place, with the Twitter account that was hacked by Islamist jihadist sympathizers yesterday, it just goes to show much more work we need to do both public and private sector to strengthen our cyber security,” he said.

Obama says he’s spoken to Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on cybersecurity and “I think we agreed that this is an area where we can work hard together, get some legislation done and make sure that we are much more effective in protecting the American people from these kinds of cyberattacks.”

Boehner’s office released a readout after the meeting saying that topics discussed included Boehner’s backing of an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against ISIL and new cybersecurity measures. Boehner urged Obama to send an AUMF to Congress and pledged to work to get it through.

Boehner touted the Keystone XL pipeline and urged Obama to sign it, and also talked about working with the president on trade and overhauling the tax code.

And Boehner talked about the Homeland Security appropriations bill.

“The speaker reminded the president that he himself had stated publicly many times in the past that he did not have the power to rewrite immigration law through executive action,” the readout said.

Boehner told Obama the House had passed cyber bills but they hadn’t gone anywhere in the Senate. He said Republicans are prepared to address the issue.


Reid has not returned to the Senate since an exercising accident in his home that broke a number of bones and damaged one eye.

“On doctor’s orders, Senator Reid will not be attending today’s meeting with President Obama,” a spokesperson from his office said. “He continues to work from home and looks forward to returning to the Senate floor soon.”

Eighteen lawmakers attended the bipartisan meeting, include the top leaders in both parties and both chambers.

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.


By Steven Dennis Posted at 11:39 a.m.
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