Wednesday, November 17, 2010

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010

 Today In Washington

The Senate. Convened at 9:30 and is voting on whether to invoke cloture and start debating legislation that would boost federal regulation of food safety — by giving the FDA power to mandate recalls, to set new standards for manufacturers and to oversee shipments of fruits and vegetables.

Senators voted 58-41 against invoking cloture on motion that would have allowed debate on a bill aiming to narrow the gender gap in wages. The tally was two votes short of the amount needed to advance the bill, effectively dooming it for the year.

Any chance for an energy bill this year also died last night when Reid canceled a third cloture vote, originally set for today, on a bill to promote natural gas and electric cars.

The House. Convened at 10 and is expected to sustain Obama’s veto of a bill that he says could unintentionally make it more difficult for homeowners to challenge foreclosures. The vote is expected after 4. The measure, which cleared after voice votes in both the House and Senate, would increase notarization requirements on mortgage paperwork.

The White House. Obama sent Hillary Clinton to the Capitol this morning to try to revive prospects for the Russian arms control treaty. Senate ratification became a decided longshot yesterday after GOP Whip Jon Kyl announced his opposition, stunning a  White House that thought it could negotiate for his support — and with it the backing of enough other Republicans to reach the required 67 votes. After meeting with the top senators on Foreign Relations, John Kerry and Richard Lugar, she boldly predicted ratification by the end of the year — but did not signal her strategy for getting that done. After her Capitol trip, the secretary of State is then headed to the White House Situation Room to discuss Afghanistan and Pakistan with the president and the rest of his national security team.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like...  Hill Democrats’ ambitions for their lame duck are shrinking by the day. But the session is destined to last deep into December, anyway, now that the agenda-setting summit between Obama and congressional leaders — which was scheduled for tomorrow — has been put off until Nov. 30. What was supposed to be policy-rich discussion in the West Wing, followed by a symbolically rich breaking of bipartisan bread in the White House residence, is now the most recent example of how even the simplest things in Washington get stained with partisan bile. The White House is miffed that McConnell and Boehner would disrespect the president by citing unspecified “scheduling conflicts” in insisting on the postponement. The Republicans were miffed that Obama had announced the meeting right after the election without checking on the GOP leaders’ availability.

Either way, the delay gives the GOP leaders more time to prepare their opening bids. And it means any meaningful negotiations on the lame duck’s biggest agenda items, the tax cut extensions and discretionary spending, will have to wait. The current stopgap spending bill expires just three days after the rescheduled summit, on Dec. 3. Look for the next CR to last until the following Friday, Dec. 10. And no one at the Capitol believes that will be the final legislative day of the year, either.

Democrats in a Delay. House Democrats are bogged down this morning over the procedures for their leadership elections. Some are pushing to delay the balloting altogether for at least two weeks. Others are insisting that there be plenty of time for speeches before the secret balloting begins. It looks like an announcemt of the results at 1 will have to be delayed.

More than three dozen Democrats are poised to vote against making Pelosi their minority leader. Only lawmakers who will be in the caucus next year (plus a handful more in still-close races) will get to vote behind the closed Cannon Caucus Room doors, which should hold down the number of ballots for North Carolina’s Heath Shuler, who mounted a quixotic candidacy on behalf of disaffected centrists. Many of the centrists who were defeated two weeks ago politely but firmly told Pelosi last night — at a caucus meeting that lasted almost four hours — that she was too polarizing and too liberal a leader.

Birthday Present. The anointing of Boehner as the next Speaker (and all the jocularity about his  turning 61 today) will get under way soon after House Republicans convene their organizational meeting at 1 in the Way and Means Committee hearing room. He’s running unopposed, and there are no contested races for the top tier leadership jobs. Last night, Florida’s Connie Mack gave up his challenge to Georgia’s  Tom Price for the chairmanship of the Republican Policy Committee, which is No. 6 in the hierarchy.

The caucus is likely to postpone a debate about term limits for committee chairmen. Joe Barton and Jerry Lewis want the currently ambiguous party rules changed to give themselves at least a fighting chance at winning the gavels of Energy and Commerce and Appropriations, respectively. But because neither of them is likely to get a gavel — waivers or rules changes or not — House Republicans are likely to punt on this debate for another two years. Then, if the GOP holds the House in 2012, four incoming chairmen would be forced to  give up their gavels under the current rules: Lamar Smith at Judiciary, John Mica at Transportation, Paul Ryan at Budget and Spencer Bachus at Banking.

The freshman class has some decisions to make, now that it has pressed the elders for even more clout in the leadership ranks. A week after creating two new seats at the power tables for newcomers, Boehner and Cantor last night announced they would create a second freshman spot in the inner leadership circle and a third freshman slot on the committee-assignment-making Steering Committee.

Bean and Ballot Counting. Financial consultant and tea party insurgent Joe Walsh will be coming to Congress next year to represent the northern Chicago suburbs. Melissa Bean conceded to him last night that she had narrowly lost her bid for a fourth term. That puts the net gain of GOP seats in the House at 61.

Senate write-in ballot counting was completed in Alaska last night, and Lisa  Murkowski was ahead of official GOP nominee Joe Miller by at least 2,000 (and more than 10,000 if she gets her way on all the ballots Miller is contesting). Although some legal challenges remain, it seems ever more clear she will be coming back to Congress.

And she sounds eager to get back — and to  be a potential thorn in the side of the party leaders who worked so hard and threatened so much in an effort to get her to drop her write-in in bid. Yesterday, she issued a tartly worded statement that she opposed the voluntary earmark ban that McConnell reluctantly pushed through the caucus.

— David Hawkings, editor


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David Hawkings

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