Entries in Senate (293)


Newark Mayor Cory Booker Formally Announces Senate Bid

Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images(TRENTON, N.J.) -- Newark Mayor Cory Booker announced on Saturday that he will seek the Senate seat made vacant when Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., died earlier this week.

“I’m here today to officially announce my candidacy to be New Jersey’s next United States senator,” Booker said in a news conference. “Democracy is not a spectator sport, but now as much as in any time, we must bring people together. We must actually get into the complicated difficult messy arena and take on the difficult challenges, work in uncommon ways with conviction and courage.”

Booker, who has served as mayor of Newark for seven years, praised Lautenberg for his service and leadership in New Jersey and the Senate.

“As a senator and as a citizen, he has been one of the most impactful New Jerseyans. He was truly a giant in the United States Senate. He was a giant for our state and a giant for our nation from his service in World War II to his assiduous work and advocacy in the U.S. Senate,” he said. “Generations yet unborn will feel the impact of his leadership and contributions.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie set the date for the special election to fill Lautenberg’s seat for Oct. 16, three weeks before Christie faces re-election himself. On Thursday, Christie appointed state Attorney General Jeff Chiesa, a Republican, as interim senator, but Chiesa does not plan on running in the special election this year. The Democratic primary for the seat will be held in August.

Booker, 44, is well known for his heroic acts as well as for his active Twitter account. He said on Saturday he’s often been criticized for his tweeting, but that will not deter him.

“Too much Twitter from the mayor, too much exposure — there is not a criticism I haven’t heard over the years. I’ve heard it all but, there’s one thing that everyone has to admit about my life as a professional,” he said. “I do not run from challenges. I run towards them.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Rubio Optimistic About Immigration Reform

Photo by Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., believes that the immigration bill he helped write will eventually get enough votes to break a filibuster in the Senate.

Earlier this week, Rubio cast doubt on the bill's ability to pass the Senate, saying that the border security language was not tough enough to attract a sufficient number of Republican votes. The Florida senator even said he might vote against his own bill if changes are not made. That prompted questions over Rubio's commitment to passing the legislation.

During a Univision interview, Rubio said that the bill's authors have not yet rounded up 60 votes -- enough to prevent it from being filibustered by its opponents. But he said that he is "100 percent committed to the immigration issue" and that he wants tougher border measures in order to "earn our colleagues' trust," and not to kill the bill.

"We'll have a lot more than 60 votes, but we're going to have to work at it," he told Univision's Maria Elena Salinas in an interview that will air Sunday on Al Punto.

Formal debate on the bill began on the Senate floor on Friday. Rubio's optimistic tone comes after immigrant-rights activists voiced concern that the senator's comments about the bill's potential failure could stunt its momentum as it heads toward a vote in the Senate.

Activists aren't pleased that Rubio wants to add additional border measures to a bill the senator previously described as the toughest enforcement bill in U.S. history. Protesters conducted a sit-in at Rubio's office in Miami on Thursday over proposed changes to the border security elements of the legislation.

But Rubio told Univision that his GOP colleagues are willing to bend on their rejection of a path to citizenship if the border-security measures are sound.

"Many colleagues who just four or five years ago were not in favor of granting legal status to the people who were here illegally, who were not in favor of creating a path to citizenship, today are open to it," he said. "They're simply asking that we make sure that the border is secure and that another wave of illegal migration doesn't take place in the future."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Marco Rubio Right in the Middle of the Immigration Debate

Photo by Michael Bonfigli /The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As an immigration reform bill heads to the floor of the Senate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is staking out a position as the man who can help bargain for Republican votes.

The bipartisan legislation will likely only need a handful of GOP votes to gain passage in the Democrat-controlled Senate. But the senators who drafted the bill want to pass it with a strong majority.

The reason: They think that will help its chances in the House, where Republicans have the majority and some, like Rep. Steve King, R- Iowa, will be scheming to kill it.

That's where Rubio comes in.

Even though Rubio is one of the authors of the bill, he's suggested changing it in recent weeks. That's because he thinks certain parts to the legislation need to be altered if it's going to pass, according to Alex Burgos, a spokesperson for the senator.

The bill will have to "earn the support of Democrat and Republican senators who do not support the bill as it stands today," Burgos wrote in an email.

So far, Rubio has mostly been working to pick up Republican support. Take border security, for example.

As the legislation stands right how, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is tasked with coming up with a plan to secure the border. Rubio suggested recently that it might be better for Congress to spell out how the plan should work.

Rubio's mission to make the bill more conservative might be necessary to help it's long-term odds at passage. But it could also agitate liberal supporters of immigration reform.

It's the price Rubio pays for sitting at the center (or center-right) of this coalition. He's the glue holding the deal together, but that's also made him a popular target for both sides.

Some immigrant rights groups are already going after Rubio for things like beefed up border security, including a protest on Friday at his Florida office.

And at the same time, he's been weathering attacks from immigration restrictionists who are angry that he's supporting citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Those seem to be growing in intensity, with one group reportedly taking out 30-second ads against the senator on Florida television.

What this means is that Rubio will likely be the politician to watch as the immigration debate moves forward.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Pressure Mounts on Potential Kentucky Senate Candidate

Kentucky Secretary of State's Office(WASHINGTON) -- Make up your mind. That’s the message an influential Kentucky congressman is sending to a fellow Bluegrass State Democrat who has spent months contemplating whether to challenge Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell but has yet to announce her intentions.

Three-term Rep. John Yarmuth, the state’s only Democratic congressman, had some blunt advice for the potential Senate contender, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, in an interview with ABC News on Tuesday.

“It’s very important to do it now,” Yarmuth said, adding that he and other prominent Democrats have been reaching out to Grimes but not getting much of a response. He called her failure to return calls “extremely unusual.”

“She’s keeping her own counsel on this, and I guess that is fine, but there are others waiting in the wings,” Yarmuth said, noting that Democrats want to “avoid an expensive primary.”

Despite the pressure, an adviser to Grimes said she would not be rushed into making “a snap decision.”

“She’s certainly closer to making a decision than she has been because she has been talking to a lot of people and assessing what this opportunity means,” the adviser told ABC News. “I would think in the not-too-distant future you will hear an answer from her,” noting an announcement was likely to come within a month.

Grimes’ spokeswoman, Lynn Zellen, said in a an e-mail message to ABC News last week that “Secretary Grimes is continuing to talk with her supporters across Kentucky and giving it the due diligence it deserves.”

And not all Democrats agree with Yarmuth’s assessment.

“There is no mounting pressure in terms of the timeline. The examples are numerous of candidates getting in much, much later and being successful,” one Democratic strategist said. “Resources do become an issue, however a Democratic candidate will have no problem raising money at the prospect of defeating Mitch McConnell.”

Kentucky’s Senate contest is hardly the only 2014 race that is not yet fully formed. Even so, waiting much longer, Yarmuth warned, would take up valuable “time another candidate would want to take advantage of.” Meanwhile, McConnell has been busy fattening his campaign war chest and producing positive ads, which are running online and on television.

Grimes’ indecisiveness recently led National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee strategist Brad Dayspring to label her “the reluctant candidate.”

Earlier this year, Democrats seemed to be hanging their hopes of defeating McConnell on actress Ashley Judd, but Judd announced in late March that she would not run.

From Louisville to Washington, D.C., McConnell’s opponents have placed an enormous target on his back. And Yarmuth, who vocally promoted Judd’s potential candidacy, isn’t the only Democrat nudging Grimes in the direction of running. The group Emily’s List appeared to all but endorse the not-yet-declared Grimes on Tuesday.

“Allison Grimes is an impressive candidate who would bring a refreshing perspective to end the Mitch McConnell era of gridlock and partisan politics in Washington,” spokeswoman Marcy Stech said in a statement. “We are excited about her potential run and an opportunity to send McConnell packing.”

Also on Tuesday, the pro-Democratic Senate Majority PAC was touting the results of a survey it sponsored, conducted by Public Policy Polling, showing a tight head-to-head matchup between Grimes and McConnell.

Former Miss America Heather French Henry, wife of former Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, has also said she is “seriously considering” entering the race and Yarmuth said she plans to announce a decision this week whether Grimes does or not. Other possible candidates include Bill Garmer, an attorney and former state Democratic Party Chairman, and Tom Fitzgerald, an environmental attorney.

Should Grimes decide to run, Yarmuth said “she won’t have a more enthusiastic supporter” than he, but in the interview, he was also candid about the challenges Grimes would face.

“She’s a very good retail politician — she proved that. She has a statewide organization, a network of supporters — that’s very important. She has great contacts with her father and the Clintons. That’s very, very important,” the third district congressman said. “But the downside is she’s young, she really doesn’t have much of a record and she’s going to have to get up to speed on federal issues pretty quickly.”

Yarmuth’s bottom line: time is of the essence.

“There aren’t many Ashley Judds out there who can jump in the race in January and have enough name recognition and access to resources that they can run a successful campaign,” he said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Sen. Schumer Reintroduces Media Shield Law

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Faced with blowback after it was revealed this week that the Department of Justice had secretly obtained Associated Press phone records, the White House and Senate Democrats are reviving legislation to protect journalists.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Wednesday reintroduced the media shield bill, The Free Flow of Information Act of 2013, which would aim to protect journalists from having to reveal information, including source identities, as well as establish a legal framework for determining the “limited circumstances” when this information could be subject to compelled disclosure in court.

“The White House has been in contact with Sen. Schumer, and we are glad to see that that legislation will be reintroduced, because he believes strongly that we need to provide the protections to the media that this legislation would do,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday. “The president believes that the balance that we need to achieve needs to allow the maximum amount of freedom for the media to pursue investigative journalism that’s possible. And the media shield law that he supports, or bill that he supports, would go a long way towards achieving that.”

It was unclear, bill sponsors admitted, whether the bill would have changed the outcome in the AP phone records case.

Attorney General Eric Holder expressed support for such a law at a hearing of the full House Judicial Committee Wednesday afternoon after being asked about the Department of Justice’s authority to prosecute reporters for publishing classified information.

“With regard to the potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material, that is not something that I’ve ever been involved in, heard of or would think would be a wise policy,” Holder said in response to a question from Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga. “In fact, my view is quite the opposite....There should be a shield law with regard to the press’ ability to gather information and to disseminate it. The focus should be on those people who break their oaths and put the American people at risk, not reporters who gather this information.”

The bill does not provide an absolute privilege for journalists. Prosecutors would have to convince a judge that the information at issue would “prevent or mitigate an act of terrorism or harm to national security.”

“This kind of law would balance national security needs against the public’s right to the free flow of information. At minimum, our bill would have ensured a fairer, more deliberate process in this case,” Schumer said.

This bill was last considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2009 but stalled in the full Senate.

The Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press is hopeful this latest attempt to pass a shield law will be successful.  But the group is concerned that the Schumer bill’s exception for national security is overly broad.

“If you say ‘any national security threat, as defined by the administration,’ they’re going to overuse it,” said the committee’s legal defense director, Gregg Leslie.  ”We know that for the same reasons they overreached in this case.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Rep. Steve King Passes on Iowa Senate Seat

OFFICE OF REP. STEVE KING(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Steve King of Iowa, an outspoken conservative firebrand, will not seek the Republican nomination for his state’s open Senate seat, ABC News has learned.

“I will not run for Senate in 2014,” King said in a tweet Friday evening. “A Senate race takes me out of urgent battles in Congress that can’t wait until 2015. Many thanks to all.”

The prospect of King’s candidacy to fill the seat of retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, worried the Republican establishment in Washington. He was singled out by American Crossroads, the leading GOP outside advocacy group, as a candidate who would struggle to win a general election.

King pledged to ignore the criticism, but Republican aides said it became clear in recent weeks that fundraising would be a steep challenge, given his outspoken views on a variety of issues, particularly immigration.

Harkin is retiring after three decades in Washington.

The decision by King opened the door to other Republican candidates, but also suggested Rep. Bruce Braley, a Democrat, had the upper hand – for now, at least.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Senate Will Vote Wednesday on Gun Control Legislation

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The day of reckoning is Wednesday for the embattled Manchin-Toomey background check provision and a myriad of other gun amendments, including a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity clips.

The outcome will determine the fate of the biggest gun control legislation the Senate will vote on in two decades.

A 4 p.m. vote on the Manchin-Toomey amendment will kick off the votes.

The amendment, proposed this past week as a bipartisan compromise from Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, and Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, always faced an uphill climb to pass in the Senate.

But the first real signs of trouble came Monday when a vote on the amendment was delayed from being formally scheduled when it was clear that the votes were not yet there for it to pass. By Tuesday, momentum seemed to slip away bit by bit when a few senators key to the outcome of the vote, including Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., announced that they could not vote for the bill.

The amendment will need 60 votes to pass.  And as of Tuesday night, the votes are not there yet.

When Manchin was asked by ABC News if he had 60 votes locked down, he said: “We need more than we have.”

Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, one of the Republican supporters for expanding background checks, said he was still working to win over some Republican senators. When asked if his side had enough votes to pass the amendment, he said: “We are not ready for a vote.”

The vote will be razor thin – so thin that neither side was sounding confident.

There are three Republican senators and four Democratic senators believed to still be undecided — John McCain, R-Ariz., Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Mary Landrieu, D-La., Mark Begich D-Alaska, Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., was seen as a wild card because, although he supports the amendment, he has been ill and home in New Jersey.  Aides said Lautenberg “hopes” to get back for the vote Wednesday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., sounded a bit resigned Tuesday when he defended the bill’s momentum while, in the same breath, admitting that the votes may not be there. Regardless, he said, gun control supporters have the “wind at our back.”

President Obama made calls to the few undecided senators Tuesday, ABC News’ Jonathan Karl reported. A White House official said there still was a path to 60 votes but conceded it is “a narrow path.”

Yet the situation remained fluid, Republican and Democratic aides told ABC News, and either outcome was possible when the voting was to begin at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

Following the Manchin-Toomey amendment vote, the Senate will vote on at least eight other gun amendments, all of which matter to the debate. They included voting up or down on an assault weapons ban, the issue of concealed carry, a high-capacity clip ban and mental health provisions.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


SNL Spoofs Senate's Work On Gun Control

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Days after the Senate cleared a significant hurdle in the debate on new gun measures, Saturday Night Live took aim at the Senate’s work on gun control in its cold open sketch last night, spoofing the Senate’s cloture vote on guns and the Manchin-Toomey background check deal reached this week.

"This week The Senate voted 68 to 31 to begin debating the idea of discussing gun control," the President Obama character, who is played by Jay Pharaoh, said of the Senate’s cloture vote Thursday. "Let me say that again. They've agreed to think about talking about gun control."

Obama then called on Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., played by Jason Sudeikis, and Pat Toomey, R-Penn., portrayed by Bill Hader, to join him on stage to tout the background check deal they brokered this week.

"These men risked everything for this bill," he said. "I mean, Senator Manchin represents West Virginia and he's proposing gun reform? He's gonna lose his job. And Senator Toomey, this man is a Republican who is willing to make just the slightest compromise on gun control? He's going to lose his job too."

"If our bill passes, no individual can purchase a handgun from a private dealer without being asked, 'Are you a good person?' as well as the follow-up question, 'Seriously, are you?'" the Toomey character said.

"Is this bill what we wanted? No," the Manchin character said. "Is it what the NRA wanted? No.  But does it at least help in some small way? No. Probably not."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Senate To Pull All-Night Friday ‘Vote-A-Rama’

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate is doing something a little out of character for a Friday in Congress:  they’re pulling an all-nighter.

A “vote-a-rama” is underway Friday night and senators will be voting on a myriad of back-to-back amendments to the budget bill in a marathon session which could take the Senate well past midnight into the wee hours of Saturday morning.

Friday night’s vote-a-rama  has the potential to break some records.

Since 1977, the most votes in a single vote-a-rama was 44 in 2008. Over 400 amendments have been filed for this vote-a-rama so far.

None of these amendments, even the ones that pass, are in much danger of becoming law. The House and the Senate will vote on separate budgets and the president isn’t required to sign a final version.

But senators are still put on the record and these votes have a tendency to find their way into campaign commercials. The Democrats who control the Senate have avoided moving forward with a budget in recent years. But they had to do it this year because House Republicans were able to tie senators’ paychecks to their ability to pass a budget.

All of that means you get amendments like this:  Democrats forced a vote on the Rep. Ryan’s House Budget. None of the Democrats support it, but now they’ll have Senate Republicans on record as either supporting the budget pathway or not.  That puts Republicans in a pickle since they want to be supportive of an effort to balance the budget in ten years – as Ryan’s budget does. But they also don’t want to vote for changing Medicare – his budget does that too – unless they absolutely have to.

Republican Sen. Hatch brought up a motion to repeal the medical device tax in the health care bill. Democrats don’t really want to gut the mechanisms that finance Obamacare. But they don’t really like the medical device tax either.

Tough votes like these would usually be blocked by party leaders. But not on this Friday night during the budget debate.

It is the Senate equivalent of the Wild West. In a vote-a-rama, amendments don’t have to be filed in order to be voted on. So there is no real way of knowing which of the 400 senators have bothered to file will actually receive votes until they do.  So we won’t know until later whether this vote-a-rama is one for the records books.

Any senator can offer an amendment simply by standing and seeking recognition on the floor – for example Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has filed 51 amendments by himself alone.

A vote-a-rama ends when there is no senator on the floor seeking a vote on an amendment.

To be sure, most of the amendments that the Senate will vote on Friday night have nothing to do with the budget, the base bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on the floor Friday morning that he hopes senators will keep the number of votes in the normal range of 25-30.

The vote-a-rama started at 3:50 pm.

And besides working well into a Friday night, there is something else that the Senate is doing that they haven’t done in awhile – vote on a budget. This will be the first time a formal budget will be voted on in the Senate for four years.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Senate Passes Stopgap Bill to Fund Government

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate did its part Wednesday to stave off a government shutdown by passing a continuing resolution in order to keep the government funded.

The continuing resolution, known in Washington shorthand as the CR, is a stopgap appropriations measure. Congress is up against a March 27 deadline to keep the government funded through September, the end of the fiscal year.

The bill passed with a vote of 73-26 and now heads over to the House of Representatives for final passage.

Important to note, especially in context of Senate Democrats’ stripping out the assault-weapons ban within their gun legislation this week, is that the CR’s base bill includes making four longstanding gun protections permanent.

Also included in the Senate’s updated CR are many amendments that help alleviate the impact of budget cuts resulting from the so-called sequester. One bipartisan amendment passed today will shift money in the budget to avoid furloughs of food-safety inspectors because of the sequester.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., had an amendment that aimed to force the White House to reopen White House tours. The amendment would redirect $6 million in funds toward preserving visitor services and maintenance activities at national parks such as the White House and Yellowstone.

The amendment failed and Democrats argued that it would not have helped reopen White House tours, anyway.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said today, “Those tours are governed by the Secret Service budget, which is not part of this amendment. So that would not be affected.”

The Senate bill keeps the same spending levels as the House bill, setting the top-line overall rate of spending at $982 billion, down from $1.043 trillion the previous fiscal year, but adds three appropriations measures: for homeland security and commerce; agriculture; and justice and science funds.

Since the bill was tweaked by the Senate, it now must be passed again by the House of Representatives.

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said that so far it does not look as though the Senate’s changes to the CR will cause much of an uproar in the House of Representatives, meaning the bill as produced by the Senate could be easily and swiftly passed to President Obama for his final signature.

“I’ll wait and see what the Senate produces once it comes off the floor,” Boehner said last week of the Senate’s bill. “So far, so good.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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