Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 20, 2014

Posts by Niels Lesniewski

76 Posts

March 7, 2014

Cochran Upbeat About Primary Fight, Not Running Scared

Cochran Upbeat About Primary Fight, Not Running Scared

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran was upbeat this week that he will prevail over his tea-party-backed Republican primary challenger when voters go to the polls in June.

“I’m very pleased. I’m enjoying getting around the state and visiting with friends and supporters,” Cochran said in a brief interview. “We’re making good progress, I think, in our campaign. We have more candidates than we’ve had in a Senate race I think since my first race for Congress in 1972 — independents, a Democrat or two and a Republican or two.”

Cochran and his supporters, including a super PAC, are making the case about the importance of the clout of the longtime GOP senator. A recent super PAC ad specifically highlighted Cochran’s work to bring federal funds to rebuild the ravaged Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, dinging challenger state Sen. Chris McDaniel for his comments on the aid question.

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January 6, 2014

Enzi Encourages Prayers for Cheney Family After High-Fives on Senate Floor (Video)

Sen. Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., sought to tamp down the upbeat reception he received on the Senate floor Monday afternoon, emphasizing the severity of the medical situation that prompted Liz Cheney to drop her primary challenge in the Wyoming Senate race earlier in the day.

“Not many of them knew the reason that she was pulling out, so I asked for them to support her and her family with their prayers,” the Wyoming Republican told reporters outside the chamber.

A few minutes earlier, a group of senators greeted Enzi on the floor with high-fives.

Full story

December 10, 2013

Watt Confirmation Kicks Off North Carolina Special Election

Watt Confirmation Kicks Off North Carolina Special Election

Several Democrats are seeking Watt's House seat. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After more than seven months of delays, a special election for North Carolina’s 12th District will begin in earnest now that the Senate confirmed Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency on Tuesday.

Watt was ultimately confirmed to head the FHFA, the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac overseer, 57-41, after Senate Republicans previously rejected a bid to cut off debate on the nomination. That was back before Democrats set a new Senate precedent using the “nuclear option,” a move that made Watt’s confirmation inevitable.

Watt’s departure from the district will kick off a frenzy among Tar Heel State Democrats looking to succeed him in the safe Democratic seat he has held for two decades.

The special election will probably take place on previously scheduled election dates, according to a source familiar with North Carolina election law. That would mean a primary in February, with a runoff on May 6 — the same day as the previously scheduled midterm election primaries in North Carolina. The special election could then be held July 15 — the same day as the regularly scheduled runoff date for 2014 elections.

So far, at least seven Democrats filed federal paperwork to run for the safe Democratic seat: Full story

Texas Filing Deadline Solidifies 2014 Contests

Sen. John Cornyn is not the only Texas Republican to face a race in 2014. Several House members will face challenges within their own party this March, or competitive races this November.

The filing deadline passed on Monday evening to run for Congress from the Lone Star State. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, served up the biggest surprise with his last-minute challenge to Cornyn.

“He obviously was going to be looking at a difficult race in his own congressional seat, so he decided to try something different,” Cornyn said Tuesday at the Capitol. “He wasn’t on my radar screen, but neither were the other five or so other people who filed in … the primary and the other five or so who filed in the general.”

Stockman faces an extremely difficult path to the GOP nomination. But so could a couple of his House colleagues seeking re-election. Here are some of the more interesting races:

Full story

September 10, 2013

Team Mitch Makes Syria Fundraising Pitch

Not long after President Barack Obama finished his Syria speech Tuesday evening, people on Mitch McConnell’s campaign mailing list received a fundraising pitch touting the Kentucky Republican’s decision earlier in the day to oppose a military strike in the war-torn country.

The email featured a letter to supporters from McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton, who included the full text of McConnell’s floor speech on Tuesday morning. During the speech, McConnell announced his opposition to a resolution authorizing military intervention.

“Mitch made it very clear to me from the beginning that he does not politicize issues of national security. He believes that America’s strength in the world should not be subject to the political theatre that so often takes hold of Washington these days,” Benton wrote.

Before joining “Team Mitch,” Benton was a longtime political aide to the libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and his father, former GOP Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Rand Paul delivered his own critical response to Obama’s national address on Tuesday evening, saying any effort to intervene in Syria would help rebels aligned with the terrorist group al-Qaida.

Benton’s letter appears below:

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 10:58 p.m.
Ky. Senate

August 12, 2013

Reid: West Virginia Democratic Recruit to Announce ‘Shortly’ #WVSEN

Reid: West Virginia Democratic Recruit to Announce Shortly #WVSEN

Reid assessed his party's recruitment status in a recent interview. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After eight months of searching, have Senate Democrats finally found a recruit in West Virginia? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said yes in a recent interview.

“I think we’re going to be very competitive in — in West Virginia, we have a candidate there who should be announcing shortly,” the Nevada Democrat told a local PBS affiliate about the race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller.

Reid did not divulge the Democrat’s name during the interview on “Nevada Week in Review.” Several Democrats have passed on the race, and Secretary of State Natalie Tennant remains as the only prominent recruit who has not declined to run yet. Full story

August 7, 2013

Rand Paul Backs RNC on Primary Debates

Rand Paul Backs RNC on Primary Debates

Paul has openly acknowledged his interest in running for president. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said he supports a move by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus to take more control of GOP presidential primary debates.

“Should we be scheduling debates and allowing people who used to, and still do, have contact with the active Democrat party? Should we be subjecting ourselves to that or should we try to have more neutral or objective type of moderators?” Paul said in a radio interview Wednesday morning, referring to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos’ past work as a top adviser to President Bill Clinton.

On Tuesday, Priebus sent letters to the heads of NBC Entertainment and CNN Worldwide calling on the executives to scrap planned features on former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — or else they might be barred from holding RNC-sanctioned debates in 2016. Full story

July 23, 2013

National Tea Party Group Defends Endorsement of Mitch McConnell

National tea party leaders are not backing down from their endorsement of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, despite pushback from local tea party factions in Kentucky.

Speaking with reporters outside an event that featured appearances by all of the prominent tea-party-backed senators, Scottie Hughes of TPNN.com defended her group’s decision to back the Kentucky Republican. McConnell helped the group organize the event in the Capitol.

Both Hughes’ Tea Party News Network and its umbrella organization TheTeaParty.net have endorsed McConnell, even though he is expected to pick up a tea-party-inspired primary challenger on Wednesday. Local groups in Kentucky have asked the national groups to rescind their support.

“The national tea party doesn’t want to sit here and go against anything a local tea party group says. That being said, however, we need to look to make sure that we’re properly vetting our candidates, which is something the tea party has done very badly in the past,” Hughes told reporters gathered outside the event. “We as a national tea party are encouraging this local tea party group: You need to sit down and vet the candidate you’ve picked, vet his background, make sure that he’s not just coming out as kind of a loose cannon as a tea party candidate.”

Full story

June 28, 2013

Tea Party Fund Targets Graham, Alexander, Collins for Immigration Votes

The leader of the Senate Conservatives Fund emailed supporters on Friday promising to back primary challenges against three Republican incumbents who voted for the Senate immigration bill that passed the chamber Thursday.

“There are three incumbents up next year who supported the amnesty bill,” SCF Executive Director Matt Hoskins wrote, calling out Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Lamar Alexander or Tennessee, and Susan Collins of Maine. “If strong, conservative challengers emerge in these races, we will support them.”

Senate Conservatives Fund is a tea-party aligned group that was founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint. The South Carolina Republican is no longer with the group. Graham, a member of the bipartisan “gang of eight” that drafted the underlying immigration overhaul, indicated in a Thursday Senate floor speech that he knew his position on immigration might create primary problems for him.

“I have never been more proud to be involved in an issue than I have trying to fix illegal immigration because it is a national security threat, it is an economic threat, and it is a cultural threat,” Graham said.

“As to my politics, I am doing great among Hispanics in South Carolina. The bad news is that there are not very many who vote in the Republican primary,” he added. Full story

May 23, 2013

Jo Bonner to Resign From Congress Soon (Updated) #AL01

Jo Bonner to Resign From Congress Soon (Updated) #AL01

A local newspaper reported Bonner will resign soon. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:57 p.m. | Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Ala., will resign from Congress later this year to take a job at the University of Alabama, CQ Roll Call has confirmed.

Sen. Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., told reporters about Bonner’s imminent departure. Bonner sent a personal note to Shelby a few hours ago explaining the move. He will take on the newly created position of vice chancellor of government relations and economic development. Full story

April 29, 2013

Biden Needles Graham: ‘I Will Rip Your Skin Off’ #SCsen

Biden Needles Graham: I Will Rip Your Skin Off #SCsen

Graham is up for re-election in 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. offered Sen. Lindsey Graham his support for re-election — including a pledge to “rip your skin off for you” if it helps the South Carolina Republican’s 2014 prospects.

“I told him I’ll come to South Carolina and campaign for him or against him, whichever will help the most — I know which it’ll be,” Biden said at an April 26 forum hosted by The McCain Institute for International Leadership. ”I’m going down there to to the JJ next weekend, Lindsey, and I assure you I will rip your skin off for you, and I expect a thank-you note.”

Full story

April 11, 2013

Kentucky: Secret Recording Spurs Ethics Complaint Against McConnell

Updated 4:20 p.m. | An outside watchdog group filed ethics complaints against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., suggesting possible misuse of official staff for campaign purposes.

But McConnell’s office asserts that the complaint is based on an erroneous transcript of a secret audiotape obtained by Mother Jones.

“Using taxpayer-funded resources to pay staffers to dig up dirt on political opponents isn’t just an ethics violation, it’s a federal crime,” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a statement that explained the complaints filed with both the FBI and the Senate Ethics Committee.

The allegation is that legislative assistants were working on government time for political purposes, conducting opposition research against potential Democratic challenger Ashley Judd. As CREW itself acknowledges, the campaign has said that the individuals in question conducted the research on their own time.

Full story

April 5, 2013

Kentucky: Bourbon and a Ballot?

When many Kentucky voters head to the polls for next year’s Senate primary and general elections, they’ll for the first time be able to make their next stop a local watering hole or liquor store.

On Thursday, Democratic Gov. Steven L. Beshear signed a package of liquor law changes that included a repeal of the antebellum-era prohibition of alcohol sales while polling places are open on Election Day in Kentucky.

“My administration, working cooperatively with the General Assembly, is taking an important step toward improving the business structure of alcohol sales and licensing in Kentucky. Not since the days of Prohibition has Kentucky undertaken such a comprehensive rewriting and modernization of our laws governing alcohol,” Beshear said in a statement.

Full story

March 28, 2013

Kentucky: Paul Discusses 2016 Decision Timeline, Hemp Policy

Kentucky: Paul Discusses 2016 Decision Timeline, Hemp Policy

Paul has openly considered running for president in 2016. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., warned Bluegrass State reporters Wednesday not to expect an announcement about a possible 2016 presidential bid until next year, while also opining about other policy priorities.

“I want to be part of the national debate,” Paul said. “I think the country faces a lot of problems, and I do want to be a part of trying to bring about answers and solutions for making the Republican party big enough that we can be competitive again, but I won’t make any decision until 2014 or so.”

Paul also would face re-election to the Senate in 2016.

Speaking to press assembled at the University of Kentucky, where the tea party favorite gave a wide-ranging policy speech, Paul spoke about some of his favorite subjects, including the gun violence debate and his bids to curtail foreign aid to countries such as Egypt. Paul also spoke about the Kentucky Legislature’s approval of legislation regarding regulation of industrial hemp production. Full story

March 27, 2013

Hagan Latest 2014 Democrat to Come Out for Gay Marriage

Hagan Latest 2014 Democrat to Come Out for Gay Marriage

Hagan is the latest Senate Democrat to come out in favor of gay marriage rights. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Supreme Court’s focus this week on gay marriage has put Democratic senators seeking re-election in 2014 under a microscope, with no shortage of media outlets asking their offices about evolving views on the issue.

With the court taking up the constitutionality of a portion of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which restricted the federal definition of marriage to opposite sex couples, several Democratic senators have determined in recent days that now is the time to make public revised or clarified stands on the marriage issue. Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, who is up for re-election in 2014, became the latest Democrat to announce her support for gay marriage Wednesday morning in an interview with the Raleigh News & Observer.

Full story

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