Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 12, 2016

Posts in "Budget"

February 9, 2016

Obama Pitches Budget’s Cybersecurity Plan — At Length

Copies of Obama's fiscal 2017 federal budget are seen for sale at the U.S. Government Publishing Office in Washington. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Copies of Obama’s fiscal 2017 federal budget are seen for sale Tuesday at the U.S. Government Publishing Office in Washington. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

After submitting his final spending plan to Congress on Tuesday, President Barack Obama touted his record and delivered a sales pitch for nearly $20 billion he says is needed to secure America’s cyber-footprint, a perhaps unexpected but entirely needed push, he said.

Obama is pitching a 35 percent hike in cybersecurity funding across the sprawling federal apparatus, saying the United States is increasingly at risk to attacks on its information infrastructure.

At the start of brief remarks to reporters at the White House at the conclusion of a meeting with senior national security officials and his cyber security advisers, Obama also defended his seven years in office. Full story

February 8, 2016

White House Seeks Emergency Funds to Fight Zika

First Lady Michelle Obama, Pope Francis, and President Barack Obama waves from the balcony overlooking the South Lawn of the White House last September. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

The White House initiative would support research and diagnostics. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

The Obama administration will ask Congress for $1.8 billion in emergency funding to combat the Zika virus — a disease the president says is a cause for concern but not panic.

The White House announced the request to cover research and planning in the United States and abroad minutes after CBS aired an interview with President Barack Obama during which he said “there shouldn’t be panic on this — this is not something where people are going to die from.”

Still, the president made clear “it is something we have to take seriously.”

“The good news is this is not like Ebola, people don’t die of Zika,” Obama said during an interview Monday on “CBS This Morning.”

“A lot of people get it and don’t even know that they have it,” he noted. “There appears to be some significant risk for pregnant women or women who are thinking about getting pregnant.

“We don’t know exactly what the relations there are, but there is enough correlation that we have to take this very seriously,” Obama said. “And so we are going to be putting up a legislative proposal to Congress to resource both the research on vaccines and diagnostics but also helping in terms of public health systems.”

In a fact sheet released shortly after the interview, the White House said it has been “aggressively working” for several months “to combat Zika.” The virus, typically transmitted through mosquitoes but also known to be sexually transmitted, has been linked to birth defects and other ailments.

If approved by lawmakers, the funding would be used “to enhance our ongoing efforts to prepare for and respond to the Zika virus, both domestically and internationally,” according to the White House.

The funds would be used to build on ongoing efforts to prepare for and respond to the virus, including “rapidly expanding mosquito control programs; accelerating vaccine research and diagnostic development; [and] enabling the testing and procurement of vaccines and diagnostics,” according to the White House.

The White House also is planning to step up work on fighting the virus’ impact on unborn babies. It says it needs some of the $1.8 billion to accelerate efforts on “educating health care providers, pregnant women and their partners; improving epidemiology and expanding laboratory and diagnostic testing capacity; improving health services and supports for low-income pregnant women, and enhancing the ability of Zika-affected countries to better combat mosquitoes and control transmission.”

The lion’s share of the request, $1.5 billion, would be channeled to the Department of Health and Human Services. Its share would include $828 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for work on “mosquito control programs,” enhanced work at laboratories, creation of rapid-response teams and other efforts.

Another $250 million would go to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to enhance health care services for at-risk or infected pregnant women in Puerto Rico, as well as children there who have microcephaly, a condition that results in abnormally small heads when pregnant women are infected.

Various other agencies, including the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, would receive the rest of the money for such things as increased “research, rapid advanced development and commercialization of new vaccines and diagnostic tests” and to help other countries deal with the virus and halt its spread, the fact sheet said.

The administration did not disclose exactly when the emergency funding request would be sent to Capitol Hill, saying only that it would be submitted “shortly.”

The CDC says, so far, it has no evidence of “locally transmitted Zika cases … in the continental United States.” However, the center notes in its own fact sheet that “cases have been reported in returning travelers.” To date, the center has reported 50 confirmed cases of American travelers who have the virus.

The virus has been actively transmitted in a list of South and Central American countries, as well as countries in Africa and Asia, according to the CDC.

U.S. officials are rushing to secure the funds necessary to ramp up their anti-Zika work before the spring and summer months bring mosquitoes out in droves in the continental United States, especially in the South.

“As spring and summer approach, bringing with them larger and more active mosquito populations, we must be fully prepared to mitigate and quickly address local transmission within the continental U.S., particularly in the southern United States,” the White House said.

The administration on Monday bluntly acknowledged “there is much that we do not yet know about Zika and its relationship to the poor health outcomes that are being reported in Zika-affected areas.”

We must work aggressively to investigate these outbreaks, and mitigate, to the best extent possible, the spread of the virus,” the White House said.

That’s why the administration wants lawmakers to act quickly, arguing prompt allocation of the $1.8 billion would “accelerate our ability to prevent, detect and respond to the Zika virus and bolster our ability to reduce the potential for future infectious disease outbreaks,” according to the release.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s global health subcommittee has scheduled a hearing on Wednesday with witnesses invited from the CDC, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters it is important that Congress and the White House move quickly to combat the virus, saying Washington moved too slowly during the 2014 Ebola outbreak.

McConnell’s call for action came after he discussed the matter, and others, with Obama and Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., during an Oval Office meeting.

Contact Bennett at and follow him on Twitter at @BennettJohnT.

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January 28, 2016

On Cancer ‘Moonshot,’ Time is Ticking for Biden

UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 20: Vice President Joe Biden participates is discussion as part of a tribute to former Vice President Walter Mondale at George Washington University's Jack Morton Auditorium, October 20 2015. The event was part of day long series of talks about policy and the vice presidency hosted by GW and the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Biden is driving Obama’s campaign to cure cancer. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Vice President Joseph R. Biden is widely seen as the engine behind the Obama administration’s “moonshot” anti-cancer push, raising questions about its fate once he leaves office next year.

The White House on Thursday took the first tangible steps in its fight against cancer, formally establishing a task force first mentioned in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. Biden, who will lead the task force, sounded at times bold and cautious.

“We’re on the cusp of incredible breakthroughs in both research and therapies,” Biden wrote in a Medium post. “In just the last decade or less, we’ve seen amazing advances in immunotherapy, in genomics, in virology and combination therapies.”

He vowed that his task force will “break through some of the barriers and do what we can to help speed up the progress, so that we can deliver treatments and increase access to these new approaches for millions more people.”

But even while declaring his optimism, he acknowledged the challenges ahead. He will lead a task force composed of five massive government departments and nearly 10 offices, institutes and agencies from across the sprawling — and often hard-to-wrangle — federal apparatus. He has a year left in his term and no definitive budget identified yet.

Cancer research advocates say the concerted focus on one issue could make a difference.

“If this is [Biden’s] single most important issue, he’s going to wake up every morning wanting to know what those federal agencies are doing and how the private sector and outside stakeholders could be helpful,” said Jon Retzlaff, managing director of science policy and government affairs at the American Association for Cancer Research.

“That’s going to result in additional opportunities and ideas for overcoming some of the challenges and barriers that we are facing today,” Retzlaff added. “If this is one of the top, if not the single most important priority of the administration for this year, to have leadership at that level could really change the way we’ve been approaching this whole effort until now.”

Biden, who lost his son, Beau, to cancer last year, will assemble the task force for the first time on Monday. He struck a pragmatic tone in his comments. For instance, he noted the importance of bringing drug manufacturers into the government’s fight against cancer.

Janet Marchibroda of the Bipartisan Policy Center called the formal creation of the group “a good first step.”

“So many federal agencies that play a role in prevention — or in working on a cure, or getting drugs to market faster — that pulling pulling together the agencies into one task force feels right,” Marchibroda said.

She also said it is “important” that Obama and his top aides opted to house it within the vice president’s office. “This is really a job for the executive branch,” she said. “So the vice president’s role really helps demonstrate that this is a priority.”

But  House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., who supports the anti-cancer program, sounded an alarm.

“Our only concern is timing. Patients and their families can’t wait any longer,” Upton said in a statement prepared for Roll Call, issuing a warning to Biden on avoiding bureaucratic quicksand.

“Now is not the time for another task force or a long series of meetings,” Upton said. “Now is the time to act for patients to find faster cures.”

The timing of the cancer “moonshot” has raised eyebrows around Washington. After all, it was launched in the final year of an administration that has struggled to garner congressional buy-in since Republicans grabbed control of the House in 2010.

Another timing hurdle: Biden will relinquish what amounts to his role as program manager next January. And it is unclear whether the next administration will put as much emphasis on the task force’s work as Obama is during his final 12 months in office.

Still, experts and lawmakers are giving the White House high marks for pinpointing issues key to a successful anti-cancer effort.

For instance, the White House is putting a particular emphasis on, as Biden put it, “the potential to take advantage of big data and advances in supercomputing with greater data sharing.” To that end, the task group will try to promote ways to make a “treasure trove of information” spread across multiple cancer centers across the country accessible to all those doing cancer-related work.

“The data sources exist,” Marchibroda said. “The role of the government on making that data interoperable is to set standards.

“That would be huge,” she added. “I think they could get a lot done in a year” just by “figuring out where the highest-priority data is.”

Though the initiative is expected to be costly without yielding immediate results, so far it has met little political resistance.

Aides to the leaders of the congressional committees that will decide whether to dole out funds for the cancer “moonshot” program said Thursday that they are still waiting for more details from the White House.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest advised reporters on Thursday to “stay tuned” when asked if the administration’s fiscal 2017 budget request will seek new funding for anti-cancer work.

But, on Capitol Hill, lawmakers were quick to note medical legislation is on the move — and with bipartisan support.

Upton said the “moonshot” program’s mission “fits exactly within” that of the 21st Century Cures Act, a measure aimed at cracking the codes of many diseases. The House passed that measure, 344-77, last July.

“Let’s add the administration’s thoughts to our bill and get it enacted before the end of the year,” Upton said. “We feel like we’ve already launched the ‘moonshot.’ It’s time for a successful landing.”

“We are working … to send to the president’s desk bipartisan legislation that would safely bring lifesaving drugs and medical devices to patients more quickly,” Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said in a statement.

The White House on Thursday also issued much-anticipated guidance for the “moonshot” group, further defining its mission and members.

Obama ordered the group to “work with a wide array of executive departments and agencies that have responsibility for key issues related to basic … and clinical research, therapy development, regulation of medical products, and medical care related to cancer.”

What’s more, in a three-page guidance document Obama directed the Biden-led task force to come up with a “detailed set of findings and recommendations on a range of cancer-related issues. Specifically, he ordered the group to propose ways to improve the “prevention, early detection, treatment, and cure” of the disease, and ways to “improve patient access and care.”

The task force also has been directed to identify ways to expand access to new research, spur work on new cancer treatments, and strip away “regulatory barriers” — the latter likely will be music to the medical community and Republican lawmakers’ ears. Obama also ordered the group to spell out ways to “ensure optimal investment of federal resources” and highlight potential public-private partnerships.

Obama spelled out more details about how the group will be constructed and go about its work. It will include officials from some of the federal government’s behemoths, like the Pentagon and Department of Health and Human Services. Representatives from the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, and the White House Office of Management and Budget also will be among its members.

Christopher Hansen, the president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said Biden, who received the president’s blessing during the State of the Union address, will have an unique — but daunting — opportunity to bring all those entities together.

To that end, Biden and members of his staff has already been meeting with many of the country’s leading researchers and advocacy groups. Due to the massive snowfall that Washington struggled to recover from this week, a meeting with American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network had to be rescheduled.

“If you think of the time they have left,” Marchibroda said, “this interagency coordination piece is something that is best suited for executive branch — and, really, at the highest level like this.”

Contact Bennett at and follow him on Twitter at @BennettJohnT.

Contact Akin at and follow her on Twitter at @stephanieakin.

See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call’s new video site.

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January 8, 2016

Obamacare Bill Vetoed With No ‘Pomp and Circumstance’

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 6: U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the country from the Oval Office on December 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. President Obama is addressing the terrorism threat to the United States and the recent attack in San Bernardino, California. (Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)

(Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)

With little public fanfare, President Barack Obama on Friday vetoed a Republican-crafted measure designed to repeal his signature health care overhaul. But Republican leaders are signaling their repeal push is far from over.

In a statement, Obama said the health care overhaul “is working,” slamming the bill because it would “reverse the significant progress we have made in improving health care in America.” Full story

January 6, 2016

GOP Says It Won Obamacare, Despite Looming Veto

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 03:  U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement to the news media after receiving a briefing from his national security team in the Oval Office at the White House December 3, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama talked about Wednesday's mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, that left 14 people dead and 17 others injured.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Wednesday’s House vote sets up a veto decision for Obama. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Congressional Republicans finally won a major battle in their fight against President Barack Obama’s health care law, but he is poised to win the war with the stroke of a pen.

The House on Wednesday, in a vote that fell strictly along party lines, for the first time sent Obama a measure that would repeal his 2010 Affordable Care Act. The outcome is a major victory for Republicans because it will allow them to tout it to anti-Obama GOP donors and voters.

Full story

December 24, 2015

Amid ISIS Worries, Voters Warm to Obama’s Economy

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 6: U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the country from the Oval Office on December 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. President Obama is addressing the terrorism threat to the United States and the recent attack in San Bernardino, California. (Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)

Will Obama get credit for the economy being less of a concern?. (Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)

Polls show voters are giving President Barack Obama higher marks for guiding the economy, but security concerns could be clouding recent snapshots of the electorate’s mindset.

Trends in voters’ collective worries have transformed, for now at least, the 2016 election cycle into one focused in large part on national security and foreign policy issues. In recent months, terrorism has surged to the top of lists of voters’ top concerns nearly 10 months before the presidential and congressional elections. Full story

December 16, 2015

On Omnibus, Obama Let Lawmakers Duke It Out

UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 16 - Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., speaks with Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., after discussing funding in omnibus legislation for new the possible relocation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to Prince George's County, Md., during a news conference on Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, December 16, 2015. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

On the Senate side, reporters rushed to Mikulski, shown here on Wednesday with her fellow Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, for updates on the budget and taxes talks. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

White House officials stayed in the background as lawmakers hammered out sweeping spending and tax bills, allowing Democratic leaders to duke it out with their Republicans cohorts.

House and Senate leadership aides described the White House’s role as minimal, saying President Barack Obama was never seriously engaged in the high-stakes talks. And some of his top aides were kept in the loop by Democratic leaders, but it was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who did the heavy lifting.

Full story

White House Will Sign Off on Spending Bill

US President Barack Obama waves as he arrives to deliver the State of The Union address on January 20, 2015, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC.  Credit: Mandel Ngan / Pool

Obama is giving Congress a rare victory before the close of the legislative year.
(Mandel Ngan / Pool File Photo)


President Barack Obama on Wednesday handed Congress a rare victory as the legislative year comes to a frantic close when the White House endorsed a massive, policy-rider filled omnibus bill and legislation that would extend a slew of tax cuts.

Congressional leaders unveiled the package of tax break extenders late Tuesday, followed early Wednesday morning by a $1.1 trillion government-wide spending measure needed to avert a holiday government shutdown that would have left both parties politically damaged.

Full story

December 2, 2015

Policy Riders in Omnibus Draw White House’s Ire

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 30:  White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest conducts the daily press briefing at James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House October 30, 2015 in Washington, DC. The White House announced today that U.S. special forces will be deployed to help fight ISIS in Syria.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Earnest said Republicans were “whistling past the graveyard of a government shutdown.” (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The White House hit congressional Republicans on Wednesday for unveiling a year-end spending bill that includes policy provisions that Democrats vehemently oppose.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said congressional Republicans are “whistling past the graveyard of a government shutdown,” and accused them of trying to load up an omnibus spending bill with poison pill riders. Specifically, he pointed to GOP-crafted policy language on Wall Street regulation and the environment.

Full story

November 30, 2015

Obama Climate Plan Pitch Falls on Deaf Ears in GOP

US President Barack Obama delivers a speech during the plenary session at the COP 21 United Nations conference on climate change, on November 30, 2015 at Le Bourget, on the outskirts of the French capital Paris. More than 150 world leaders are meeting under heightened security,  for the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11), also known as "Paris 2015" from November 30 to December 11.    AFP PHOTO / ERIC FEFERBERG / AFP / ERIC FEFERBERG        (Photo credit should read ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)

Obama warned world leaders on Monday that they were among the last to be able to solve climate issues. (Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images)

Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates are expected to put the Obama administration’s portion of a multicountry plan to slash carbon emissions through a political wringer, putting in doubt its funding and fate.

The juxtaposition on climate policy between President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was clear Monday. Obama warned world leaders at a climate conference near Paris they are the “last” ones who can address the “problem.” McConnell took to the Senate floor to call Obama’s plan to cut U.S. emissions unfair to middle-class Americans and “likely illegal.”

Full story

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