Posts tagged with "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell"

‘Let’s just get the goods’: Pelosi rallies dispirited Democrats

March 27, 2019

As spirits flagged following the completion of the Mueller report—and the announcement by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he would block a resolution to release the full document to Congress—House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) sought to rally her caucus behind closed doors Tuesday morning.

Be calm. Take a deep breath. Don’t become like them. We have to handle this professionally, officially, patriotically, strategically,” Pelosi said during a closed-door meeting with House Democrats, referring to Republicans.

“Let’s just get the goods,” she said of Mueller’s report, according to an account released by Politico.

Pelosi’s comments came after the chairs of six key House committees  sent a letter on March 25 to Attorney General William Barr—who had provided them only with a four-page letter that outlined the “highlights” of the report and ruled out any consideration of charges of obstruction of justice.

It is vital for national security purposes that Congress be able to evaluate the full body of facts and evidence collected and evaluated by the Special Counsel,” the chairs said in the letter, advising Barr that, “We look forward to receiving the report in full no later than April 2, and to begin receiving the underlying evidence and documents the same day.”

The signatories of the letter included Representatives Jerrold Nadler (Judiciary Committee), Adam Schiff (Intelligence), Richard Neal (Ways and Means), Elijah Cumming (Oversight), Maxine Waters (Financial Services) and Eliot Engel (Foreign Affairs).

According to Barr, Mueller was unable to establish that Trump associates conspired with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign, and he left unresolved the key issue of whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice.

“The president was not exonerated,” Pelosi told Democrats, according to Politico, referring to Trump’s claim on Sunday, March 24, that Mueller’s report amounted to a “total exoneration.”

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have suggested that the panel would move to issue a subpoena for the Mueller report if Barr refuses to turn it over by next Tuesday. Lawmakers said that they expect Barr to send Congress a heavily redacted version of the highly anticipated report.

They also highlighted the fact that Barr declined to recommend a criminal prosecution against Trump for obstruction of justice, noting his previously held view that a president could not obstruct justice.

“We have not seen the report. We’ve only gotten a summary that was created by a man who was appointed by the president, who clearly said before his appointment that he didn’t believe a sitting president could be charged, if you will, with obstruction of justice,” said Representative Val Demings (D-Florida), a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Research contact: @heathscope

Trump must “VETO!” as Congress votes against him

March 18, 2019

Just say no.” While that slogan is most-often associated with former First Lady Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug campaign, it also represents what Congressional Democrats have been articulating for the past two years to the G.O.P.

And indeed, the Republicans long have warned the president—when he stood by Saudi Arabia after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi; when he separated migrant children from their parents at the border; when he supported Putin in Helsinki; and when he declared a national emergency to pay for his border wall—that he should not push them too far.

And it finally has come to pass: This week, despite the best efforts of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) to keep them in line, Republicans broke ranks—delivering a series of “remarkable … bipartisan rebukes to the president,” The New York Times reported.

On March 13, with seven Republicans crossing the aisle, the Senate joined the Democrat-led House in voting to end American military aid to Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen in protest over the killing of Khashoggi.

On March 14, the Times reported, the House voted unanimously on a nonbinding resolution to make public the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia investigation.

And hours later on that same day, 12 Republican senators abandoned the president to pass legislation, already adopted by the House, that would block Mr. Trump from declaring a national emergency to build his border wall—an act of defiance that he has vowed to overturn with the first veto of his presidency. (“VETO!” the president tweeted at 3:16 p.m. on March 14.)

“We’re saying today, ‘No, we do not acquiesce to this,’” Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, said after voting to block the emergency declaration, the Times reported. “We do not agree that the president should be able to come in and go against the express intention of the Congress when it comes to these appropriated funds” for his wall.

Murkowski added in a statement on her website, “”I take very seriously my oath to uphold the Constitution, and my respect for the balance within the separation of powers. Article 1 provides that the power to appropriate lies with the legislative branch. When the executive branch goes around the express intention of Congress on matters within its jurisdiction, we must speak up or legislative acquiescence will erode our constitutional authority. We can and must address the President’s very legitimate concerns over border security, but we must not do it at the expense of ceding Congress’ power of the purse.”

According to the news outlet, “The series of votes vividly demonstrated a newfound willingness to stand up to the president among some of his Republican allies on Capitol Hill. And they underscored a deep frustration in Congress about the president’s supposed scorn for a coequal branch of government.”

“We have an issue that has been litigated and adjudicated through Congress. I mean, what was more litigated than this very question? We had a government shutdown for crying out loud,” said Senator Patrick Toomey ( R-Pennsylvania) referring to funding for the border wall, which Mr. Trump is trying to secure with an emergency declaration that would circumvent Congress.

“It’s about separation of powers,” Toomey said. “It’s about respecting the principles of the Constitution.”

But for those who continue in lockstep with the president, the votes were merely a challenge to his authority that he would easily overcome. “He feels good,” said Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), a close ally of Mr. Trump who, the Times said, talked to the president shortly after the vote. “He said, ‘My veto will be sustained?’ I said, ‘Yeah, overwhelmingly.’ He feels like his commitment to build the wall is moving forward.”

Research contact: @nytimes

McConnell: Move to make Election Day a federal holiday is a ‘partisan power grab’ by Dems

February 1, 2019

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said on December 30 that a Democratic bill (HR.1) that would make Election Day a federal holiday is a “partisan power grab.”

In an online statement, McConnell said he would fight the bill because, “…when Washington politicians suddenly decide their top priority is grabbing unprecedented control over how they get elected and sent to Washington in the first place, alarm bells should start ringing all over the place. After all, Article I, Section IV of the Constitution clearly gives state legislatures primary responsibility for—quote—the ‘Times, Places, and Manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives.’

However, the Majority Leader failed to add that the same section of the Constitution grants that “Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Place of Chusing [sic] Senators.”

In his remarks, McConnell asserted that, with the highest turnouts ever in recent elections, this is not the time “in American history when it has come to that,”  adding, “…There is no objective basis for the sweeping federal takeover of elections that House Democrats have dreamed up. No emergency. It’s just a Washington D.C. power grab for its very own sake.”

According to a report by The Washington Post, the far-reaching legislation also would:

  • Prohibit the purging of voter rolls,
  • Require presidential and vice-presidential candidates to release their tax returns,
  • Compel states to adopt independent redistricting commissions, and
  • Create a matching system for small-dollar donations to congressional campaigns, among other changes.

In his Wednesday remarks, as well as in a Washington Post op-ed earlier this month, McConnell mocked the legislation as the “Democrat Politician Protection Act.”

“H.R. 1 would victimize every American taxpayer by pouring their money into expensive new subsidies that don’t even pass the laugh test,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

His remarks prompted a wave of criticism by Democrats, some of whom argued that McConnell was acknowledging that Republicans want to make it more difficult for Americans to vote.

Voting is a power grab. By citizens,” Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) posted in a tweet on Wednesday afternoon.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-New York) shared a link to a story about McConnell’s comments and tweeted, “Why are Republicans always afraid of making it easier for Americans to vote?”

Research contact: felicia.sonmez@washpost.comR.

Senate axes Trump policy that allowed political nonprofits to hide names of donors

December 14, 2018

In a rare rebuff to the White House, the U.S. Senate passed legislation on December 12 to reverse a Trump administration policy that limits donor disclosure requirements for political nonprofits, Politico reported.

In a 50-49 vote, the Senate approved a Resolution of Disapproval introduced by Senators Jon Tester (D-Montana) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) to repeal a controversial new rule—Returns by Exempt Organizations and Returns by Certain Non-Exempt Organizationswhich they said allowed “dark money groups to hide the identities of their donors.”

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine)—who is not known for facing off with her Republican colleagues in final votes—joined every Democrat in support of the measure, which required only a simple majority to pass under the Congressional Review Act.

“These dark money forces are a threat to our democracy and they must be reined in,”Tester commented, adding, “Today’s action sheds more light on the wealthy few who are trying to buy our elections and drown out the voices of regular folks. We must wrestle our country back and continue to bring transparency and accountability back to political campaigns.”

Tester had been optimistic earlier this week about the resolution’s prospects.“I think it’s gonna be close but I think we’ve got the votes,” he said on December 11, according to Politico.

“Today the Senate voted on a bipartisan basis to throw out Trump’s dark money rule and bring transparency back to our elections,” Wyden saidThis is a huge first step in America’s fight against anonymous political insiders looking to tighten their grip on Washington. I urge [House Speaker] Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) to act swiftly on this issue of great importance and lead the House in reversing course on the Trump administration’s reckless decision.”

Predictably enough, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) was opposed to the vote, remarking that the resolution was an “attempt by some of our Democratic colleagues to undo a pro-privacy reform. … In a climate that is increasingly hostile to certain kinds of political expression and open debate, the last thing Washington needs to do is to chill the exercise of free speech and add to the sense of intimidation.”

The measure is unlikely to be taken up by the GOP-controlled House—and it was opposed by conservative groups, including the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, Politico reported.

“We are committed to enhancing government transparency, protecting the privacy of American citizens, and the freedom of association enshrined in the Constitution,” Brent Gardner, AFP’s chief government affairs officer said in a statement “S.J. Res. 64 fails on all of these fronts.”

Research contact: @marianne_levine

Mitch McConnell: GOP intends to gut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid after midterms

October 26, 2018

It’s the talk of the Beltway, according to the Los Angeles Times: Did Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) just admit that the GOP intends to dismantle Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid after the midterm elections?

The scuttlebutt started, the Times reported on October 19, after the Senate majority leader gave an interview to Bloomberg  on October 16, in which he singled out “entitlements”—that’s political code for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—as “the real drivers of the debt” and called for them to be adjusted “to the demographics of the future.”

To make it short and sweet, McConnell intends to cut benefits.

Indeed, Bloomberg said, the Senate Majority Leader blamed rising federal deficits and debt on “a bipartisan unwillingness to contain spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.”

What’s more, although Republican legislators spent most of last winter trying to gut the Affordable Care Act, McConnell also telegraphed a plan to try again to repeal healthcare coverage after the midterm elections.

That’s despite indications that the ACA is becoming more popular with the public, not less, and voters’ concerns about preserving its protections for those with preexisting conditions may be driving them to the polls — and not to vote Republican. A poll released on October 18 by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, found that fully 71% of U.S. voters say healthcare is the most important issue driving them to the polls in the midterm elections.

In an October 17 interview with Reuters, McConnell commented that the GOP’s failure to repeal the ACA was “the one disappointment of this Congress from a Republican point of view.”  He said Republicans could try again to repeal Obamacare if they win enough seats in U.S. elections next month.

The CBO projects the current fiscal year deficit at $973 billion, and says it expects annual deficits to exceed $1 trillion into the next decade. The CBO attributed much of the deficit to “recently enacted legislative changes. … In particular, provisions of the 2017 tax act.”

The Congressional Budget office sees things differently. The CBO projects the current fiscal year deficit at $973 billion, and says it expects annual deficits to exceed $1 trillion into the next decade. The CBO attributed much of the deficit to “recently enacted legislative changes. … In particular, provisions of the 2017 tax act.”

Research contact: @hitzikm

McConnell: Putin will not be welcomed by Congress

July 26, 2018

Even as the White House continues to work on setting up another summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin—this one, tentatively scheduled for November—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said on July 24 that the Kremlin’s strongman will not be invited to the U.S. Capitol, The Hill reported.

McConnell, who has been reticent about addressing or reacting to President Donald Trump’s “kinship” with the Kremlin, told reporters this week, “I can only speak for the Congress. The speaker and I have made it clear that Putin will not be welcome up here, at the Capitol.”

McConnell’s comments come after his spokesperson said last week that there were no plans to invite Putin to the Capitol if he comes to D.C.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) said separately on July 24 that “we will certainly not be giving him an invitation to do a joint session.”

Congressional leadership has previously extended invitations to foreign leaders traveling to the Beltway to visit Capitol Hill. French President Emmanuel Macron, for example, delivered an address before Congress during his trip to the United States in April.

But the vocal opposition from GOP leadership to Putin visiting the Capitol marks another break between congressional Republicans and the White House when it comes to Russia.

Trump sparked widespread bipartisan backlash last week when he refused to condemn Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election during a press conference with Putin in Helsinki on July 16.

Americans don’t think President Trump has been tough enough on Russia, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll conducted after Trump’s summit in Helsinki. Nearly two-thirds said so, and it wasn’t just Democrats. Almost half of Republicans surveyed (47%) also said Trump hasn’t been tough enough on Russia, with just 20% saying he has taken about the right approach.

Research contact: @maristpoll

Pompeo clears committee, with a surprise reversal by Senator Paul

April 24, 2018

CIA Director Mike Pompeo was officially short of the votes needed to clear the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week, according to a poll of the 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats on the panel by The Hill. And then, in a last-minute reversal of fortune, GOP Senator Rand Paul (Kentucky), who had opposed the nomination, dropped his objections to the nomination in a series of tweets late on April 23.

Pompeo’s confirmation vote follows the removal of Rex Tillerson from the Secretary of State post in mid-March by President Donald Trump.

Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware) became the last Democrat on the committee to announce his opposition, saying that “after careful consideration” he would block Pompeo’s nomination to head the U.S. State Department.

“I remain concerned that Director Pompeo will not challenge the president in critical moments,” Coons averred in a statement reported by The Hill.

“On vital decisions facing our country, Director Pompeo seems less concerned with rule of law and partnership with our allies, and more inclined to emphasize unilateral action and the use of force,” he added.

Had Senator Paul not dropped his objections, this would have been the first time in almost a century that a Secretary of State nomination had not been approved in committee.

Research contact: @jordainc

Editor’s note: This story was revised at 9:30 a.m. on April 24.