Congress

Chion Wolf / WNPR

There are just hours left in the 2014 legislative session, which means it’s time for lawmakers to start cramming in bills. This hour, we discuss the messy state budget with The Connecticut Mirror’s budget guru Keith Phaneuf.

We also talk about Freedom of Information, something that was changed in the closing minutes of the last session.

5 Things To Watch In Tuesday's Primaries

May 6, 2014

Get ready for election season.

Tuesday's primaries in Indiana, North Carolina and Ohio serve as the kickoff for an intense two-month stretch that will go a long way toward outlining the shape of the midterm election landscape.

By the end of June, more than half the states will have conducted their primary elections. And the answers to some of the most important questions about the November elections will be clearer.

Ed Kelley and his wife have three children. They live in a comfortable suburb of Baltimore. And for a long time their life seemed perfect.

"We were churchgoing; we were involved in the community. We had a very close-knit family all around us."

And he adored his 14-year-old son.

"He was funny, he was getting good grades, he loved playing sports; he was so humorous. Actually for the longest time he was sort of the center of the family."

Nevada Sen. Harry Reid says the NFL should consider ousting Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder.

Snyder has been criticized — even by President Obama — over the name of his football team, which is considered a racial epithet against Native Americans.

Rep. Michael Grimm's lawyer says he expects the New York Republican will be indicted on criminal charges. The exact charges haven't been announced. The Staten Island lawmaker and former FBI agent, who was first elected to Congress in 2010, has been under investigation for campaign finance and fraud.

Grimm's attorney says his client is innocent and is the target of a vendetta on the part of federal authorities that has included "malicious leaks, violations of grand jury secrecy, and strong-arm tactics."

When the next Congress is sworn in, Iowa's congressional delegation will be unusually green. Precisely half of its lawmakers on Capitol Hill are retiring at the end of this session, meaning the state will be losing decades of clout and seniority in Washington, D.C.

And Iowa isn't even the biggest loser this year. California is losing two House Democrats with 40 years of experience each — Henry Waxman and George Miller — along with Republican House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon, who's been in Congress for more than two decades.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images News / Thinkstock

Governor Dannel Malloy has sharply criticized U.S. House Speaker John Boehner who accused Connecticut and other states of cheating the federal food stamp program.

Bipartisan support dissolved this week for compromise legislation that would have fixed a longstanding problem with the way Medicare pays physicians. Though the bill passed the House of Representatives Friday, it now contains a provision almost certain to invite veto unless a Senate version can quickly nudge the ultimate bill back toward compromise.

An explosion tore through an area of Manhattan's East Harlem neighborhood early on Wednesday, collapsing two buildings. There were fatalities reported and dozens injured. All Metro-North service was suspended as all Metro-North trains in and out of New York City use the rail lines adjacent to the blast zone.

The Senate was a chamber divided in reaction to Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein's diatribe against the CIA for allegedly hacking into Senate computers.

A no-nonsense Feinstein, the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, took to the Senate floor Tuesday to speak at length and publicly for the first time about a dispute with the agency.

sandyhookrideonwashington.com

A group of cyclists completed a 400 mile bike ride on Tuesday from Newtown, Connecticut to Washington, D.C. This is the second annual Sandy Hook Ride on Washington.

Team 26, a group of 26 cyclists from Newtown and around the country, left Newtown's Edmund Town Hall on Saturday. On the way to D.C., they held rallies in Harlem; Morristown, New Jersey; Doylestown, Pennsylvania; and Baltimore, Maryland.

Kevin Burkett / Flickr Creative Commons

U.S. senators from Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island are among 28 lawmakers who are preparing to hold the Senate floor all night long to urge congressional action on climate change.

Connecticut VA Healthcare System

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal has asked the Connecticut VA Healthcare System to report in a month how it will ensure sanitary conditions at its West Haven hospital. Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, visited the hospital Friday morning after a VA Inspector General's report outlined several areas of concern from a June 2013 inspection at the VA hospital. 

Speaker of the House John Boehner seemed to throw cold water on bipartisan hopes for a law overhauling the country's immigration system this year.

"This is an important issue in our country," Boehner acknowledged in a press conference on Thursday. "It's been kicked around forever, and it needs to be dealt with."

Then the Ohio Republican delivered a big, resounding but. He said he "never underestimated the difficulty of moving forward this year." And he issued an ultimatum of sorts.

California Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, one of the last remaining members of the huge post-Watergate class of 1974, is calling it quits at the end of this term.

Most people who live outside his Los Angeles district and off Capitol Hill have likely never heard of Waxman. He was never a fixture on the Sunday talk shows, or in Washington's social scene.

House Passes Compromise Farm Bill

Jan 29, 2014

The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to pass a five-year farm bill.

The $100 billion-a-year measure included small cuts to the food stamps program, and preserved some farm subsidies. The vote in the House was 251-166.

The bill now heads to the Senate, which is expected to approve it. President Obama is expected to sign the measure into law.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

On Tuesday night, President Barack Obama gave a speech that did what it was supposed to: uplift his supporters and enrage his opponents. On WNPR's weekly news roundtable, our panel of analysts and reporters react to the State of the Union address both nationally and here in Connecticut. 

Also, Republican candidate for governor Mark Boughton surprised longtime political observers with his announcement of a running mate. It wasn't what he did that was a surprise, but when he did it. Finally, we remember folk legend and American icon Pete Seeger who died this week.

After a long spell of partisan trench warfare and gridlock, President Obama called for "a year of action" Tuesday as he focused on themes that are central to his second-term agenda. The changes he proposed in his annual State of the Union speech were relatively modest, but flashes of ambition showed in his promise to move forward, with or without Congress, to address issues of income inequality.

Here's what President Obama proposed on the policy front:

Minimum Wage

With the country slowly digging itself out of recession, some of his legislative priorities buried under Washington's partisanship and his approval ratings at some of their lowest levels, President Obama called for "a year of action" during his fifth State of the Union address on Tuesday.

Stamford Advocate

An undocumented immigrant who recently graduated from the University of Connecticut will attend President Obama's State of the Union speech on Tuesday night. He's Lucas Codognolla, lead organizer of Connecticut Students for a Dream, which advocates for immigration reform and education equity for undocumented students. 

    The Farm Bill still has to be completed.

In today’s Congressional Corner, Connecticut Representative Joe Courtney tells WAMC’s Alan Chartock that the agriculture industry in his district is waiting.

As President Obama prepares to deliver his State of the Union speech Tuesday evening, he does it against a backdrop of some of the lowest voter-approval ratings of his presidency, with a divided Congress that has largely stalled his second-term agenda and with Washington's collective focus starting to shift toward the midterm elections and beyond.

Here are five things to expect from the president in his fifth State of the Union speech:

Senator Chris Murphy is adding his voice to the call for a hike in the federal minimum wage.

Connecticut's minimum wage just went up, but there's increasing pressure from President Obama and the Senate Democrats for the federal minimum to follow suit. 

Jaki Lauper

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal promised to fight for a wide-reaching veterans' bill that includes restoring a cut to cost-of-living adjustments for military retirees.

The legislation, Senate bill 1950, is more than 300 pages. It includes money to help the federal VA eliminate its claims backlog, and extends the number of years that returning veterans can access VA health care. It also expands benefits for caregivers.

Senate Democrats / Creative Commons

The debate over unemployment insurance has Congress in a deadlock. Those opposed to extending emergency benefits argue that doing so only promotes an "idle" class of jobless Americans. Those in favor say it's the only safety net the unemployed have in today’s difficult labor market.

President Obama has a new phrase he's been using a lot lately: "I've got a pen, and I've got a phone."

He's talking about the tools a president can use if Congress isn't giving him what he wants: executive actions and calling people together. It's another avenue the president is using to pursue his economic agenda.

'If Congress Is Deadlocked'

The House on Wednesday passed a massive $1.1 trillion spending bill — a compromise that appeared to get past the bitter partisan showdowns that have caused an unpopular federal government shutdown and nearly tipped the U.S. into default.

The 359-67 vote was a sign of considerable support from Republicans, thanks to a bipartisan deal worked out last month laying out spending for the next two years.

For the first time in years, the House of Representatives is expected to approve a massive new spending bill Wednesday that keeps federal agencies operating until a new fiscal year starts in October.

The so-called "omnibus" package of all 12 annual spending bills is a compromise; it has more money in it than what Congressional Republicans wanted, but less than what President Obama had asked for. There is some disappointment with the measure on both sides of the aisle, but this time nobody is talking about forcing another government shutdown.

The House is expected to vote Wednesday on a $1.1 trillion spending bill that would fund the federal government into October and bring to an end, for now at least, the bitter partisan battles that have led to one government shutdown and threatened to push the U.S. into defaulting on its bills.

The Senate surprised quite a few people in Washington today when it voted to proceed on a bill to temporarily extend emergency unemployment benefits. Six Republicans joined Democrats in voting to get the measure over a key procedural hurdle.

But it was only the first step, and the president is applying pressure to keep it moving.

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