Congress

As President Obama prepares for the State of the Union address tonight, some Democratic members of Congress are opposing one of the White House’s proposals.

President Obama begins his seventh year in office Tuesday facing a Congress where both the House and Senate are in the hands of the opposition party. He shares this in common with every other president fortunate enough to even have a seventh year in office since the 1950s.

Dwight Eisenhower in 1959, Ronald Reagan in 1987, Bill Clinton in 1999 and George W. Bush in 2007 all climbed the rostrum for this late-in-the-game challenge looking out at majorities of the other party in both chambers.

During a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, President Obama warned Congress that if it passed further sanctions against Iran, he would veto them.

The two leaders, speaking to the press after a series of bilateral meetings, stood shoulder to shoulder on all the issues that came before them. Cameron said that on Iran, he had been calling U.S. senators to tell them he didn't think new sanctions would work against Iran.

Four-term Sen. Barbara Boxer said she won't seek another term in the U.S. Senate in 2016, ending speculation about the California Democrat's political future.

"I will not be running for the Senate in 2016," she said in a taped interview with her grandson Zach Rodham.

Boxer, 74, said neither age nor partisanship in Congress were factors in her decision.

Senator Chris Murphy said he believes he can get debate this session on one of his signature issues – making the U.S. government buy American more often.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Unlike other parts of the country, New England has been seeing a growing number of new farms. Connecticut is among eight states recently chosen for a federal pilot program supporting locally-grown food in schools.

Existing federal funds in this year’s Farm Bill will now allow 16 school districts to use tax dollars to purchase fruits and vegetables from Connecticut farms for school lunches. Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty calls it a double-win.

Pete Souza / White House

President Barack Obama claimed an array of successes in 2014, citing lower unemployment, a rising number of Americans covered by health insurance, and an historic diplomatic opening with Cuba. 

In what The Associated Press called a "final flurry of accomplishment" Tuesday night, lawmakers were able to push through a bill that extended a package of tax breaks, which had expired at the end of 2013, and confirmed 12 more judicial nominees. NPR's Ailsa Chang reported the confirmations also marked a big accomplishment for the Obama administration.

A job that's been open in President Obama's administration since July of 2013 was finally filled Monday, as the Senate voted to confirm Vivek Murthy as America's new surgeon general.

The tally was 51-43, ending a confirmation process that began after Obama nominated Murthy to the post in November of 2013 — yes, that's one year ago.

U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, and U.S. Representative Elizabeth Esty, whose district includes Newtown, marked the second anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy with a promise to continue to push for gun safety legislation.

Updated at 9:30 a.m. ET

Sen. Elizabeth Warren failed to stop a change in bank regulations last weekend, but she raised her profile yet again.

The Massachusetts Democrat tells NPR that her fight over a provision in a spending bill was a "warning shot." She intends to continue her fight against what she describes as the power of Wall Street, even though that fight brought her to oppose leaders of her own party.

Library of Congress

Connecticut officials are celebrating congressional approval of a new national park in Hartford centering on the historic Colt firearms factory building with the blue, onion-shape dome. 

Post updated at 9:38 p.m. ET.

A massive federal spending bill finally won the House's approval Thursday night, less than three hours before a midnight deadline that threatened a federal shutdown. The measure's fate had been in doubt after it narrowly survived a rules vote earlier in the day. The final tally was 219-206.

CIA Director John Brennan defended his agency's actions after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and said while it is "unknowable" whether the CIA's interrogation techniques against terrorism suspects provided useful information, the agency did not mislead the Bush White House about its activities.

"The report is full of crap."

That's what former Vice President Dick Cheney told Fox News in an interview about a Senate investigation that found the Central Intelligence Agency used brutal techniques to interrogate terrorism suspects and then misled lawmakers, the White House and Congress about what they were doing.

The CIA "provided inaccurate information to the White House, Congress, the Justice Department, the CIA inspector general, the media and the American public" about the "brutal" interrogation techniques it used on terrorism suspects, a long-held Senate intelligence committee report finds.

The report provides the most comprehensive public accounting of the interrogation techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Leaders on Capitol Hill are at odds regarding a report on CIA methods — including torture — used to extract information in the so-called war on terror.

Chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has been fighting for the release of her 480-page executive summary of the report since April of this year, and it finally was scheduled for a reveal this week.

Congress returns for its final session of the year on Monday afternoon, and lawmakers have a big to-do list ahead before they can adjourn for the holidays.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Rep. Joe Courtney from Connecticut's second congressional district was the only member of the delegation to vote in favor of arming and training Syrian rebels in the fight against the so-called Islamic State.

"We will not stand idly by as the president undermines the rule of law and places lives at risk."

That's what House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, had to say this morning about President Obama's unilateral action on immigration.

In a news conference at the Capitol, Boehner used harsh language to describe the executive actions intended to defer the deportation of, according to the White House, up to 5 million immigrants.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Republican lawmakers are already denouncing President Barack Obama's planned executive action on immigration and the idea of another government shutdown has been floated. But Connecticut Representative Rosa DeLauro says the gridlock is a product of her chamber in Washington.

Republicans in Congress are warning President Obama against acting alone on immigration, hours ahead of a planned announcement by the president that could provide temporary relief to some of the nearly 12 million immigrants in the country illegally.

Republicans say any unilateral action on immigration by the president would mean there is no chance of passing a comprehensive immigration overhaul in Congress.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Connecticut's Fourth District Congressman Jim Himes was in the running to lead the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee but lost out to New Mexico congressman Ben Ray Lujan.

The controversial Keystone XL pipeline project to expand an oil pipeline running from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico has failed the approval of Congress, after the Senate voted against the project Tuesday. The House passed its version of the bill Friday.

An early tally showed 35 for and 30 against the bill; subsequent calls for senators' votes failed to net the 60 votes needed for passage. The decisive 41st "No" vote came with 55 votes in favor, and the final tally was 59-41.

Samantha Power / Facebook

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power told a Connecticut audience on Monday that she’s hopeful of meaningful cooperation with Senate Republicans as the Obama administration shapes its foreign policy. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Despite being a political target of national Republicans, Connecticut's Fifth District Democratic Representative Elizabeth Esty survived her first re-election campaign.

How much power should corporations wield in Washington? It's an enduring question — and now the Sunlight Foundation has devised a new way to gauge that power.

Maybe this duck won't be so lame after all.

Judging by what we've seen so far, the "zombie Congress" that returned to town this week (the reelected and the not-so-lucky) will do more business in the weeks following the election than it did in many months preceding.

Consider these trains — all long-sidetracked, all suddenly leaving the station on Capitol Hill:

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Chion Wolf / WNPR

Democratic Rep. Jim Himes has defeated Republican Dan Debicella to claim a fourth term representing Connecticut's Gold Coast in Congress. 

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