Archives for Capitol Hillbillies

Balancing on a minimum-wage political tightrope

Sen. Mark Pryor is doing a delicate dance over congressional Democrats’ upcoming push to boost the federal minimum wage. The Democrat from Republican-leaning Arkansas says he’ll vote against the bill, but on the key roll call may oppose GOP efforts to filibuster it to death. Democratic Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska, another red state where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular, has no such qualms. He not only backs the legislation to gradually raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour by 2016 but is co-sponsoring it. The two Marks, both seeking re-election this fall, exemplify how local
Read More

Plan to shrink military faces Congressional skepticism

The Obama administration’s push for a smaller, nimbler military must now face the scrutiny of a Congress that has spent years battling the Pentagon’s vision for a new security strategy. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is proposing to shrink the Army to its smallest size in three-quarters of a century, hoping to reshape the military after more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan and roped in by fiscal constraints set by Congress. The plan unveiled Monday is already raising red flags among leading Republicans and Democrats. “What we’re trying to do is solve our financial problems on the
Read More

Vets benefits bill expected to win initial Senate approval

A sprawling Democratic bill expanding health, education and other benefits for veterans seems ready to clear an initial hurdle in the Senate. Yet the election-year measure faces an uncertain fate as Republicans try to make it smaller and find ways to pay for it. The legislation, which sponsor Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., says would cost $21 billion over the coming decade, could confront GOP lawmakers with an uncomfortable campaign-season test over curbing spending for the nation’s 22 million veterans and their families. Most veterans groups support the legislation, and the voting bloc they represent is a potent one that both
Read More

Obamacare a key issue in early House race

The candidates are Alex Sink, Democrat, and David Jolly, Republican, but Obamacare is on the ballot in a big way in a competitive House race in Florida that offers a preview of the nationwide campaign for Congress this fall. Republicans and their allies wouldn’t have it any other way as they test the issue’s potency, even though their candidate may muddle the message, and other issues like Social Security may command a bigger role in deciding the winner. “Seniors are losing their doctors because of Obamacare… but Alex Sink still supports Obamacare,” read one Republican Party mailer in a congressional
Read More

Issa calls Obama an ‘imperial’ President

His party divided, Rep. Darrell Issa, the chief Republican attack dog, is calling on the GOP to abandon government-backed solutions and instead unite against President Barack Obama’s “imperial presidency.” The California congressman said during a rare New Hampshire tour that he’s not interested in running for the White House, but wants to play a key role as voters here and in other early voting states begin to vet 2016 presidential contenders. “I came here to hopefully shape the debate for 2016 — not join it, but shape it,” he said in a Monday night speech, the first of three scheduled
Read More

Dems step up pressure for immigration vote

House Democrats are determined to cast an election-year spotlight on Republican opposition to raising the minimum wage and overhauling immigration laws. To try to accomplish that in the GOP-controlled House, Democrats are planning to rely on an infrequently used, rarely successful tactic known as a “discharge petition.” It requires the minority party — in this case, Democrats, who are unable to dictate the House agenda — to persuade some two dozen Republicans to defy their leadership, join Democrats and force a vote on setting the federal minimum wage at $10.10 an hour. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said
Read More

Doc Hastings retiring from Congress

Veteran Republican U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, who represented central Washington for two decades and was a key voice in public lands and energy policy, announced Thursday he’ll retire at the end of the year. As chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Hastings recently took on the Endangered Species Act, calling for an overhaul of the law to curtail environmentalist lawsuits and give more power to states. Hastings and other GOP critics contend the 40-year-old law has been abused by environmental groups seeking to restrict development in the name of species protection. “The biggest problem is that the Endangered Species
Read More

Democrats push House showdown on minimum wage

House Democrats said Thursday they will try to highlight GOP resistance to a higher minimum wage with a tactical maneuver meant to bring new attention to an issue they consider a political winner. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said her party will push a “discharge petition” when Congress returns from its recess on Feb. 24. If Democrats can persuade roughly two dozen Republicans to sign the petition, it would force GOP leaders to allow a House vote on the wage issue. Most Republican lawmakers oppose a higher minimum wage. They say it prompts employers to cut down on hiring, a
Read More

Senate lowered secrecy curtain over debt limit vote

Financial markets were watching, the retirement accounts of millions of Americans on the line. Nervous senators were watching too, well aware that political fortunes could be on the line. So on perhaps the most important vote of the year, the Senate did something extraordinary this week: It tried to keep the vote tally secret until the outcome was assured. As lawmakers voted Wednesday on must-pass legislation to increase the government’s debt limit, they dropped the parliamentary equivalent of a curtain on the voting as it was in progress. Typically, roll-call votes in the Senate play out in a very public
Read More

Ted Cruz’s extremism again embarrasses Republicans

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz sat with eyes glued to his mobile device as the chaos he provoked ensnared his Republican leaders on the Senate floor. Legislation to raise the nation’s borrowing authority with no strings attached was short of the 60 votes it needed to advance — a threshold Cruz demanded — and without a few conversions, Republicans would be blamed for its failure. The stock market was watching. After what seemed like an eternity, a grim-faced Sen. Mitch McConnell, the party leader who faces a tea party challenge back home, finally voted yes. An equally grim-faced Sen. John Cornyn,
Read More