May 30, 2015

Video Archive

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Congressional Hits and Misses: Best of Rob Bishop

With Congress out, HOH pays tribute this week to the always unflappable Rob Bishop, R-Utah, the only member yet to tweet a single character, who shows off his favorite graphs, touts his Big Mac-eating skills and can't wait for the next Cubs game to air.

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Lindsey Graham Rolls Eyes at Rand Paul

As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to wrap up debate on the National Security Agency’s surveillance program early Saturday with a series of consent agreements, Sen. Rand Paul wasn’t the only Senator in the spotlight. As Paul objected to a proposed, Sen. Lindsey Graham could be seen rolling his eyes on the Senate floor. Paul responded to the “eye roll” caucus of senators Wednesday, after the clip was circulated by multiple media outlets. “If I’m going to slug it out Sunday with the spy state apologists, I’m going to need all the help and support I can get,” the Kentucky Republican wrote. “Unfortunately, it seems the President, the senior senator from Arizona and other members of the ‘eye roll’ caucus who can’t stand any mention of the Bill of Rights are all operating out of the same playbook.”

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Congressional Hits and Misses: Week of May 18, 2015

Members prepared for the holiday weekend by asking rhetorical questions, spit-shining their boots and potty-training the Capitol Police.

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McConnell: Senate Will Finish Trade, FISA, Highways Before Recess

As the Senate continued to work through “fast-track” trade legislation Thursday with looming deadlines for bills on surface transportation and surveillance, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reaffirmed that the Senate would tackle it all, and that it could finish before the holiday weekend with "cooperation.” “I want to remind everybody, we’re going to finish this bill before we leave,” McConnell said, referring to the trade legislation on the floor. “We’re going to deal with FISA, and we’re going to deal with highways. There’s a path forward if people want to take it, that could complete all of this work at a reasonable time, probably sometime tomorrow. Or we can make it difficult, but the end won’t change.”

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Boehner Says Goodbye to Longtime Aide

Speaker John A. Boehner said goodbye to his longtime Press Secretary Michael Steel at his weekly news conference Thursday, thanking him “for a job well done." “Today is the last press conference that my press aide, Mr. Michael Steel, will join me at as he departs the Capitol after spending many years working in my office,” Boehner said. “I want to wish him — say thanks for a job well done and good luck.” Steel is leaving Boehner to be an adviser to a Jeb Bush political action committee.

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Boehner Won't Commit to Ex-Im Vote

The only commitment Speaker John A. Boehner is making on the Export-Import Bank is this: If the Senate is able to pass a bill on the export credit agency’s future, there will be an “open amendment debate.” The Export-Import Bank is set to expire on June 30, and conservatives are expressing increased optimism its charter will lapse. More to the point, and perhaps more importantly, GOP leaders are increasingly sounding open to letting the bank die. Asked Thursday, during his weekly on-camera news conference, if he had promised Sen. Maria Cantwell a vote on Ex-Im, Boehner was emphatic that no such deal was made. “She has contacted me and I told her I would not make that commitment,” Boehner said Cantwell’s call for a vote on Ex-Im.

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Boehner: Senate-House 'Disconnect' Over NSA Bill

Speaker John A. Boehner said the Senate must act on the National Security Agency’s expiring bulk data collection program at his weekly news conference Thursday, adding that there is a “disconnect” between the House and the Senate over the House-passed USA Freedom Act to overhaul the NSA’s program. “I do think that there is a big disconnect in terms of how they view our bill,” Boehner said. “I’ve been surprised by it, but at the end of the day we’ve got to work our way through this issue and I’m confident that at some point we will.” When asked what happens if the program expires, Boehner repeated a familiar refrain: “The House has acted. It’s time for the Senate to act."

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Boehner: Obama Needs to 'Scrap' Iraq Strategy

Speaker John A. Boehner continued his critique of the White House’s strategy to defeat the Islamic State terror group Thursday, telling President Barack Obama to “scrap” his Iraq strategy and be more engaged on the issue of Islamic radicalization. “It’s been a week now since ISIL fighters stormed Ramadi … the White House still insists that no new strategy is needed,” Boehner said. “… It just isn’t credible. Things need to change. A stable and sovereign Iraq is vital to America's interests. … To win this fight, the president is going to have to scrap his policies that aren’t working.”

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Pelosi Rebuts Boehner: Congress Should Act on ISIS

Two days after Speaker John A. Boehner told President Barack Obama to submit a new Islamic State war authorization to Congress, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi countered, saying “the ball is definitely in our court.” “I think the ball is definitely in our court to take up this issue and to make some decisions as to how we go forward,” Pelosi said. "There should be an Authorization for the Use of Military Force as we go forward. It’s long overdue. And every timeline and every requirement that the Speaker has asked for has happened. Now it’s up to us.”

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Pelosi: 'No Point' to McConnell's NSA Extension

At her weekly news conference Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pushed back on a two-month extension of the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program touted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, saying there is “no point” to extending the program. “I think they should face reality and come up with a bill — why are we having a two month delay?” Pelosi said. “Is this a surprise to anybody over there that this is happening? … What is the point of going to two months? All these two month things as if all of a sudden in two months, of which half of it we’re not even here, they’re going to come up with a bill.” The House passed the USA Freedom Act, 338-88, last week, which would overhaul the NSA’s existing surveillance programs.

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What You Missed: Capitol Police Chief Testifies Before House Committee

Unattended firearms, a gyrocopter landing on the West Front of the Capitol and improved communication were among the topics covered during Wednesday’s House Administration Committee hearing with Capitol Police Chief Kim C. Dine. Roll Call wraps up key moments from the hearing into three and a half minutes.

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Boehner Hammers VA Over Continuing Issues

Speaker John A. Boehner railed against the administration’s response to last year’s Veterans Affairs health system scandal on the floor Wednesday, ahead of the one-year anniversary of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki's resignation, pointing to funding and accountability measures Congress passed over the past year and the lack of results since then. “Instead of a new day at the VA, the American people are still seeing more of the same,” Boehner said. “Last year Congress gave the VA secretary new authority to fire employees, but while some 110 VA facilities kept secret lists to hide their wait times, just one person has been fired. One. What the hell happened to the rest of them? … If only the Veterans Administration did halfway as good a job of taking care of the bureaucrats as they do our veterans, we’d be in a lot better shape.”

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Michelle Obama Works Out

First lady Michelle Obama demonstrates her workout routine, ranging from plyometrics, to weights, to kickboxing, as part of the White House’s “Let’s Move” campaign to combat childhood obesity.

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Durbin Slams Short-Term Highway Funding

As the House prepared to vote on a two-month surface transportation funding patch Tuesday, Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin hammered the short-term extension at Democrats’ weekly news conference, saying the legislation does not help long-term infrastructure planning. “What the Republicans have given us now — and this will be the 33rd, 33rd short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund — what the Republicans have given us now is an opportunity for America to patch its way to prosperity,” Durbin said. “They believe that if you fill enough potholes you can actually build a highway." The House later passed the short-term Highway Trust Fund measure, 387-35.

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Graham, Cantwell Threaten Trade Deal Over Ex-Im Bank

With the Export-Import Bank’s charter set to expire at the end of June, Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., made a last-minute push on the floor Tuesday to include a reauthorization vote as part of any "fast-track” trade agreement, threatening to derail a trade deal Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has carefully managed over the past two weeks. “My colleagues and I who support the Ex-Im Bank reauthorization, which is the majority in both the House and the Senate, have lost their patience with the ability to get this Bank before the Senate and before the House before that June 30 deadline,” Cantwell said. “So I have no compulsion at this moment to say that I don’t support moving forward on the cloture motion until we get an understanding of how this bank is going to be reauthorized.” McConnell, who earlier in the day said he planned to schedule floor debate and a vote on Ex-Im, just not as an amendment to Trade Promotion Authority legislation, filed cloture on “fast-track” measures, setting up a vote on the package Thursday morning.

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McConnell: Senate Will Vote on Ex-Im Bank

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed back Tuesday on efforts to attach a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank to pending “fast-track” trade legislation, saying it “would be another undue burden to [Trade Promotion Authority],” but did commit to holding a separate vote on the measure at a later date. “I am not a supporter of Ex-Im, but what I’ve said was that I think they’re entitled to their vote,” McConnell said. “We’ll be working with the supporters of the Ex-Im Bank to make sure they have an opportunity to see where the votes are in the Senate.” Speaker John A. Boehner in April said thousands of jobs would “disappear pretty quickly” if Congress allows the Bank’s charter to expire June 30.

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McConnell Agrees to Senate Vote on Surveillance Overhaul

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he would permit a vote on House-passed legislation to restrict the National Security Agency's authority to review data about Americans' phone calls. "I certainly think we ought to allow a vote on the House-passed bill," said McConnell, R-Ky. "If there aren't enough votes to pass that, we need to look at an alternative." The House passed the bill, known as the USA Freedom Act, last week by a vote of 338-88, putting considerable pressure on McConnell to allow a vote on the Senate companion by Republican Mike Lee of Utah. It would reauthorize section 215 of the 2001 Patriot Act, the provision that undergirds the NSA program, but set new limits on it. McConnell opposes the House bill because it would bar the NSA from continuing its current practice of collecting records of all Americans' phone calls in its own database.

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Boehner: Obama Should Submit New ISIS War Request

Speaker John A. Boehner, escalating his criticism of the administration's handling of the war against the Islamic State terror group, said Tuesday the president should scrap his Authorization for Use of Military Force proposal and submit something different to Congress. "The president, frankly, should withdraw the [AUMF] and start over," Boehner said at a news conference. "We don't have a strategy. ... For over two years I've been calling on the president to develop an overarching strategy to deal with the terrorist threat. We don't have one, and the fact is the threat is growing faster than what we and our allies can do to stop it." Boehner's comments come as Obama's initial AUMF request has been stalled for months in Congress.

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Congressional Hits and Misses: Week of May 11, 2015

Lawmakers spent the week locating Ruby Ridge on a map, snapping selfies with pigs and preparing for bazooka-armed lesser prairie-chickens.

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Hastings Doubles Down on Pay Raise Remarks

Shortly after making the case for raising lawmaker salaries at a Rules Committee hearing Monday, Rep. Alcee L. Hastings reaffirmed his remarks outside the House chamber, saying members “need to take into consideration their concerns and their families and the cost of living.” “We’re entering our seventh year without a pay raise,” Hastings said. "Now I think we’ve proved to the American public we’re responsible and I know it has impacted me personally … we have more than 50 members, probably as many as 75 or more, living in their offices. OK. They’re not there because of any other reason than that they can’t afford it. Now if people want us in sackcloths and ashes, then they’re going to get what they rightly deserve as representation.”

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Amid Calls for Resignation, Guinta Refuses to Answer Questions

There are plenty of questions surrounding Rep. Frank Guinta’s agreement to repay more than $350,000 in improper campaign contributions, but the embattled New Hampshire Republican isn’t answering them. CQ Roll Call caught up with Guinta on Monday evening as he walked to House votes. And despite a number of lingering issues associated with his alleged violation of FEC rules in 2009 and 2010 — Was the money he loaned his campaign, as he still contends, actually his? If so, what is Guinta apologizing for? — he repeatedly refused to substantively answer a single question regarding his agreement to repay the $355,000 his parents allegedly gave his campaign, in addition to a $15,000 penalty levied by the Federal Election Commission.

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Lawmaker: Members of Congress Need a Pay Raise

Rep. Alcee L. Hastings made the politically tone-deaf case for raising salaries for members of Congress Monday, pointing to the high cost of living in the District of Columbia. “Members deserve to be paid, staff deserves to be paid and the cost of living here is causing serious problems for people who are not wealthy to serve in this institution,” the Florida Democrat said at a Rules Committee meeting, referring to the average member’s $174,000 annual salary. “We aren’t being paid properly,” he later added. The committee was considering the fiscal 2016 Legislative Branch appropriations bill, which sets the spending levels for Congress and legislative branch agencies. The bill includes a freeze on member pay, continuing one that has been in place since 2010 — and last year drew the ire of then-Rep. James P. Moran.

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Senator Marks 100th Climate Change Speech

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has been a familiar sight the past few years, standing on the Senate floor beside a "Time To Wake Up" placard and talking to a nearly empty chamber. It's set to happen again Monday evening, when the Rhode Island Democrat delivers his 100th weekly floor speech on climate change.

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Boehner Calls Currency Trade Bill 'Laughable'

The Senate overwhelmingly passed the currency enforcement and customs trade bill Thursday, but it appears headed for oblivion in the House. The currency provisions proposed by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., nearly sank President Barack Obama's trade agenda earlier this week, and now that it remains separate from Obama's push for Trade Promotion Authority, also known as fast track, it may remain little more than a legislative sideshow. "To think that Congress can legislate what currency evaluations are between counties is almost laughable," Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters Thursday morning. "I think the Department of Treasury under the four presidents I've served with, have done a very good job of working with our allies around the world when some of these currencies get — in some people's minds — out of line. I think that's a much better approach than trying to legislate what should or shouldn't happen with regard to currency valuations.”

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Boehner: Amtrak Crash Not a Funding Issue

At his weekly news conference Thursday, Speaker John A. Boehner rejected the notion that a lack of funding played a role in the deadly Amtrak derailment earlier this week, saying no money from rail safety was cut and pointing to reports indicating the train was traveling well over the speed limit when it crashed. “Are you really going to ask? That’s a stupid question,” Boehner said, cutting off a reporter’s question on Amtrak funding. “Listen, you know they started this yesterday: it’s all about funding, it’s all about funding. Well obviously it’s not about funding — the train was going twice the speed limit. Adequate funds were there, no money has been cut from rail safety and the House passed a bill earlier this spring to reauthorize Amtrak and to authorize a lot of these programs.” Boehner’s remarks follow arguments from some that additional funding for safety technology may have slowed the speed of the train.

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Armadillo Balls Out at Capitol Hill Zoo Reception

A nine-banded armadillo delights attendees at the annual Association of Zoos and Aquariums event in the Rayburn cafeteria Wednesday.

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Pelosi: GOP Defense Bill 'Harmful' to Military Planning

With the House set to vote on the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi took time to slam the measure at her weekly news conference Thursday, calling the legislation “bad budgeting and harmful to military planning.” “The Republican defense authorization bill is not only disingenuous, it is dangerous,” Pelosi said. “Republicans should acknowledge that it is impossible to meet the needs of our nation with the caps that are present in the budget."

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Pelosi Bemoans Lack of Transportation Funding

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi slammed transportation spending cuts at her weekly news conference Thursday, one day after the House Appropriations Committee rejected Democratic amendments to increase funding for fiscal 2016 Transportation-HUD programs and following an Amtrak train derailment earlier in the week, which killed eight people and injured hundreds. “We have five legislative days left until the Highway and Transit Trust Fund expires … this issue has not in the past been a partisan issue,” Pelosi said. “… No maintenance is the most expensive maintenance when it comes to maintaining the safety of our infrastructure.”

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McConnell, Reid Trade Shots Over Trade Bill

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid pointed the finger at each other after the Senate filibustered a “fast-track” trade bill Tuesday, as Democrats insisted on bundling several issues into the measure, including a currency-related bill, but were halted by McConnell, who only agreed to votes on amendments. "I explicitly did not offer the currency amendment to the [Trade-Promotion Authority] bill … so currency in the committee, they agreed they would deal with it on the customs bill, and not on TPA,” McConnell said. "And now our friends on the other side are trying to bunch it all together. But look, we need to be clear here, the currency issue on TPA is a killer — the president would veto the bill — it would defeat the bill." Reid pushed back, saying it did not make sense to not include all four trade measures in the package that passed out of the Finance Committee.

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Reid: NFL More Concerned About Deflategate Than Racist Name

Minority Leader Harry Reid continued his criticism of the National Football League Tuesday on the Senate floor, one day after the NFL punished Tom Brady and the New England Patriots for their role in deflating footballs during last season’s AFC Championship Game, saying he was “stunned” by the NFL’s lack of concern over the Washington Redskins “racist” name. “Yesterday the National Football League punished one of its most recognizable players for having tampered with game balls,” Reid said. “I find it stunning that the National Football League is more concerned about how much air is in a football than with a racist franchise name that denigrates Native Americans across the country.”

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Congressional Hits and Misses: Week of May 4, 2015

Even with one chamber out, lawmakers “ruined” their reputations by offering “friendly" amendments, paying tribute to euthanized rabbits and quoting Austin Powers on the Senate floor.

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Kaine: Inaction on ISIS AUMF 'Cowardly and Shameful'

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., hammered Congress and the Obama administration Thursday for failing to move an Authorization for the Use of Military Force against the Islamic State, an item stalled since last fall, calling the delay “cowardly and shameful.” “The silence of Congress in the midst of this war is cowardly and shameful,” Kaine said. “How can we explain to our troops, our public or ourselves, this complete unwillingness of Congress to take up this important responsibility. … The president does not have the legal power to maintain this war without Congress. And yet Congress, this Congress, the very body that is so quick to argue against President Obama’s use of executive power, even threatening him with lawsuits over immigration actions and other executive decisions, is strangely silent, and allows an executive war to go on undeclared, unapproved, undefined and unchecked.”

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Mikulski Presses Lynch on Police Training in Wake of Baltimore Riots

At a Senate subcommittee hearing Thursday, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski pressed Attorney General Loretta Lynch on the need for improved relations between law enforcement and communities following the deaths of black men in incidents with police officers. Mikulski asked Lynch whether lawmakers should require mandatory training for officers on ethnic and racial bias and use of force before providing grant money to law enforcement agencies. “In other words, in order to get the money, you have to take the training,” Mikulski said. Lynch, however, said the Justice Department acts as an important tool for compliance with federal and community standards. “We would not use that as a barrier to the grant program, but rather as an incentive to work with us and gain training on use-of-force policies,” Lynch said.

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Lynch: NSA Surveillance Program a 'Vital Tool'

Newly-minted Attorney General Loretta Lynch defended a National Security Agency bulk data collection program at a Senate subcommittee hearing Thursday, calling Section 215 of the Patriot Act a “vital tool.” Lynch said the Department of Justice is also reviewing a federal appeals court’sThursday decision, which ruled the program is illegal. “Obviously, Section 215 has been a vital too in our national security arsenal,” Lynch said. “We are reviewing [the court] decision. But given the time issues involving the expiration of it, we are also, and have been, working with this body and other to look for ways to reauthorize Section 215 in a way that preserves its efficacy and protect privacy." Lynch’s comments come as Congress considers proposals to reauthorize or revamp the program before its authorities expire on June 1.

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Senate Historian: How Television Changed the Senate | From the Archives

Senate Historian Donald Ritchie describes the shift to television cameras in the Senate and the “huge debate” that ensued as a result in a 2010 exclusive interview with CQ Roll Call.

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Senate Historian: How the Senate has Changed | From the Archives

Senate Historian Donald Ritchie, in a 2010 exclusive interview with CQ Roll Call, discuses how a shift in the two political parties impacted the Senate over time.

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Cotton: Senate May Need Closed Session for NSA Debate

Sen. Tom Cotton defended a National Security Agency data collection program on the Senate floor Thursday, suggesting a closed session may be needed to review its merits after a federal appeals court ruled earlier in the day it exceeded what Congress authorized in Section 215 of the Patriot Act. “Most of the information surrounding [terrorist] plots and the programs are classified. The intelligence community has been very accommodating in providing classified briefings to members of the Senate and the Congress. The issue though, is often getting members to attend, or to go visit with the agencies. That’s why I believe the Senate may have to enter a closed session as we debate these programs, so that members are not willfully ignorant of the threat that America faces." Cotton’s comments come as the Senate is considering proposals to reauthorize or revamp the program before its authorities expires on June 1.

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McConnell Defends NSA Program Following Court Ruling

Shortly after a federal appeals court ruled Thursday that a National Security Agency program authorizing bulk collection of telephone data was illegal, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell defended the program on the Senate floor and sharply criticized a House-sponsored USA Freedom Act to revamp it. “Not only have these tools kept us safe, there has not been a single incidence — not one — of intentional abuse of them,” McConnell said. "The NSA is overseen by the executive, legislative and judicial branches of our government. They’re not running rogue out there. … The expiring provisions of FISA are ideally suited for the terrorist threat we face in 2015. … Section 215 helps us find the needle in a haystack. But under the USA Freedom Act, there may not be a haystack to look through at all.”

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Guest Chaplain Asserts Armenian Genocide in Opening Prayer

Less than two weeks after the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, the Senate’s opening prayer was led by His Holiness Aram I, the Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church, who focused on the genocide and justice. “This year is the centenary of the Armenian genocide, the first genocide of the many that followed in the 20th century,” he said. “In commemorating 1.5 million Armenian martyrs, we claim justice. Indeed, justice is a gift of God, and violation of justice is a sin against God.” Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., who has publicly recognized the Armenian Genocide, invited His Holiness Aram I to the Capitol.

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Senator: 'No Epidemic of Police Criminality' in America

Speaking about the events following the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore last month, Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., pushed back Tuesday against critics of law enforcement, saying while there is “no excuse for unlawful police conduct,” the notion that there is an “epidemic” of police crime is “not true.” “When six police officers were charged Friday in the death of Freddie Gray, there were celebrations on the streets in Baltimore … at a certain level, that’s completely understandable. Whatever Mr. Gray did on that day, the day that he was arrested, he certainly didn’t deserve to die,” Toomey said on the Senate floor. “…[But] what happens if these accused police officers are found not to have broken the law? … These officers are going to go through hell whether they deserve to or not. … What message does that send to all the tens of thousands of police officers all across America who risk their lives every day to protect their communities from criminals?”

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Senators Sing Elton John's 'Rocket Man'

Testifying before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on AIDS and global health programs this morning, Sir Elton John attracted attention from reporters and staffers alike on Wednesday. But it was another moment six years ago that the English singer may be remembered for most on Capitol Hill. Six days after Head Coach Urban Meyer captured his second national championship in three years at the University of Florida, Sen. Tom Coburn found himself belting out Elton John's famous tune, "Rocket Man," with staff and CQ Roll Call on hand to capture the action.

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Reid Bemoans 'Unconscionable' Backlog of Judicial Nominees

Ahead of a Wednesday Senate Judiciary hearing on nominees to fill federal court vacancies, Minority Leader Harry Reid slammed the “unconscionable” backlog, calling it an “injustice to the American people.” “As of today, there are 55 federal court vacancies, 24 of which are classified as emergencies,” Reid said. “At the beginning of the year, there were only 12 judicial emergencies … It’s no wonder Republicans are scrambling for cover on judicial nominations. They are scrambling because they have been ignoring their constitutional duty.” Reid also highlighted the delay on L. Felipe Restrepo’s nomination, who was chosen by President Barack Obama six months ago for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. “There’s no reason that he’s held up for six months, other than the Republicans just simply want to do everything they can to create problems for President Obama,” he said.

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Senator: GOP Will Adhere to Budget Spending Limits

Republican senators touted the fiscal 2016 budget resolution ahead of a vote Tuesday, which the Senate later adopted 51-48, marking the first time Congress adopted a budget resolution since 2009. At a weekly news conference ahead of the vote, Sen. Roger Wicker said Republicans would honor the budgetary constraints going forward, which will be tested as the Senate begins the process of drafting spending bills in the coming weeks. “We will abide by the caps that we enact this afternoon, and that is a significant achievement that we have not had before,” Wicker said. “And then, it gives us absolutely a path to a reconciliation bill to change the affordable health care act into something that works with market principles and provides better choices and better health care for the American people.”

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Reid, Durbin Slam GOP Budget

Ahead of a vote on a fiscal 2016 budget resolution Tuesday, Democratic leaders hammered the spending blueprint they said creates long-term consequences and creates unworkable caps for the appropriations process. Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin echoed a challenge issued by Sen. Charles E. Schumer for the Republicans to advance spending bills at the agreed-upon levels. “Let’s see if the 23, 24 Republican senators up for re-election this time really want to run on this platform,” said Durbin, adding that the GOP budget identified winners and losers, the real winners being those getting estate tax relief. “4,000 Americans who have an estate worth at least $10 million are the winners. They’re each going to win about $3 million in tax relief from the Republican budget.”

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Reid: 'Extremely Hard' to Pass McConnell Surveillance Proposal

Minority Leader Harry Reid pushed back against another proposal floated by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Tuesday, this time dealing with National Security Agency bulk data collection. Shortly after McConnell said the Senate would move forward with a five-year extension of expiring surveillance programs, Reid issued a warning shot, saying it would be “extremely hard” to pass. “I think it’s going to be extremely hard for Sen. McConnell — who’s said he wants a five-year extension — to get that done, because I think the vast majority of the Republican House caucuses over here don’t want an extension of the old bill, they want something new,” Reid said.

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Reid Holds Firm Against McConnell Agenda

One day after pledging to block a trade bill until highway funding and surveillance reauthorization bills were dealt with, Minority Leader Harry Reid doubled-down on that pledge at his weekly news conference Tuesday shortly after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reaffirmed his plan to move a trade bill after the Senate votes on an Iran nuclear review bill. “If things go as the schedule is outlined, we’re going to finish the Iran bill a week from Thursday. That leaves — by my calculation — one week before the Memorial Day recess,” Reid said. "I can’t imagine why the trade bill is so vitally important that we would — it would trump the FISA bill, which is going to expire at the end of this month, or trump the highway bill, which authorization expires at the end of this month. I can’t imagine what the rush is.”

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McConnell Noncommittal on House Surveillance Bill

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday said a Senate measure extending surveillance collection for five years would be the legislative vehicle used to reauthorize expiring National Security Agency authorities, while not committing to a vote on the House-sponsored USA Freedom Act, which would curtail government data collection practices. “What I’ve said is we’re going to try to do something to avoid expiration at the end of the month,” McConnell said. “Exactly how that plays out will be determined in part by how much time is left to achieve it."

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McConnell Pushes Forward on Iran, Trade

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday said the Senate would move forward with legislation on an Iran nuclear deal and Trade Promotion Authority after voting on a GOP budget resolution, rebutting Minority Leader Harry Reid one day after Reid said he would block a trade bill until the Senate addressed highway funding and surveillance reauthorization bills. McConnell is aiming for “a few more amendments” on the Iran legislation but did not say how soon he would file cloture on the measure. “We’re still hoping there’s a way forward that will give some of our members an opportunity to have votes on some of their amendments, but we anticipate finishing the Iran bill very soon,” he said.

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Reid Urges McConnell to File Cloture on Iran Bill

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid urged Republicans not to derail an Iran nuclear agreement review bill by pushing contentious amendments during his opening remarks Monday, citing the bipartisan nature of the legislation and the ongoing work of Sens. Bob Corker and Benjamin L. Cardin. “A number of Senate Republicans are prioritizing presidential politics over national security,” Reid said. "Others are simply trying to undermine President Obama. … The junior senator from Arkansas and other Republicans want to see any potential agreement with Iran crash and burn before we know what’s in the final agreement. … The opponents of the Corker-Cardin legislation aren’t concerned with finding a middle ground. That is why the majority leader should file cloture now to preserve this legislation.” Reid’s remarks follow a speech last week by Sen. Tom Cotton insisting on a simple majority threshold for votes on amendments to the Iran bill, which Corker said changed the context of the Iran nuclear debate.

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Congressional Hits and Misses: Week of April 27, 2015

Members spent a busy week on Capitol Hill playing with BB guns, recommending sewage-based water fountains and searching for Dr. Pepper.