congress

Sen. Max Baucus’s touching tribute to the late John Chafee

March 11th, 2014 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

CHAFEE BAUCUS ROBB LIEBERMAN BAY

Max Baucus, the longtime U.S. senator from Montana, resigned last month to become President Obama’s new ambassador to China. But before he said his last goodbye to the chamber, Baucus delivered a farewell address that lavished praise on, among others, Rhode Island’s own John Chafee:

It was my honor to have friendships that formed the basis for solving some of the nation’s most difficult problems.

I’ll never forget working together with the late-Senator John Chafee on the Environment and Public Works Committee.

I worked with him for years before finding out he was an amazing war hero, decorated for his service in the Korean War.

Few people knew this about his war record because he didn’t brag about it or use it for political points.

He served because he believed in it, not because he thought he’d get credit for it.

Without a doubt, we need more John Chafees in the world.

Between 1989 and 1990, we sat together in a small room just off the Senate floor, facing wave after wave of unhappy senators – sometimes until one or two in the morning.

He was the ranking Republican member of the EPW committee, and I had become the chairman of the Environmental Protection subcommittee.

Together, we met with our colleagues, ironing out compromises on acid rain, ozone depletion, air quality permits, and scores of other issues.

Senator Chafee later became Chairman of the EPW Committee.

We had our disagreements, but by and large, under Senator Chafee’s chairmanship I recall an oasis of civility.

That friendship helped us pass the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.

It’s a small point – but I always respected that he never raised his voice.

John never lost his temper. He listened carefully to the other person’s point of view. He was the paragon of a senator. •

(1999 file photo: Khue Bui/AP)


Watch Newsmakers: Congressman Joe Kennedy III

February 16th, 2014 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes


Whitehouse: GOP may bend on sequester, taxes in budget talks

October 29th, 2013 at 5:03 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said Monday he’s cautiously optimistic that Senate Democrats and House Republicans can reach an agreement during high-stakes budget talks aimed at keeping the government open and reducing the impact of mandatory across-the-board spending cuts.

A conference committee was created in the bipartisan deal that ended this month’s government shutdown, and ordered to craft a federal spending blueprint by Dec. 13. Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, is the panel’s only member from Rhode Island, Massachusetts or Connecticut.

Read the rest of this story »

• Related: Watch U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse on Newsmakers (Sept. 29)


Watch: Nesi breaks down the latest on the crisis in Congress

October 16th, 2013 at 1:17 pm by under Nesi's Notes


Watch: Sheldon Whitehouse debates Ted Cruz on ‘Crossfire’

October 10th, 2013 at 11:39 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Here’s the video in two parts, via YouTube:

What do you think? Who won?

• Related: Whitehouse will debate Ted Cruz on CNN’s ‘Crossfire’ Thursday (Oct. 9)


Whitehouse will debate Ted Cruz on CNN’s ‘Crossfire’ Thursday

October 9th, 2013 at 8:31 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Whitehouse_Cruz_CNN_Crossfire_10-2013Well, this should be interesting.

U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse will debate U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas – who has become one of the most prominent Republicans in the country for leading the GOP’s shutdown fight – on Thursday’s evening edition of “Crossfire,” the venerable political program CNN recently revived. The program airs at 6:30 p.m.

“The senators and the hosts will debate the latest developments in the partial government shutdown and the looming congressional battle over raising the federal debt ceiling,” a CNN spokeswoman said in an email. Newt Gingrich and Van Jones will also be on the show.

It should be quite a clash of views.

Cruz is a rising Republican star in Congress already being discussed as a possible 2016 presidential candidate, and he thinks the Affordable Care Act is a grave threat to the future of the United States. Whitehouse is, of course, Rhode Island’s second-term junior senator and a vocal liberal Democrat who feels more free than ever to speak his mind after his landslide re-election victory last November.

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Southern New England Dems mostly back Pelosi on shutdown

October 3rd, 2013 at 10:29 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

In the battle over the government shutdown, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi continues to receive support from all but one of the four Southern New England Democrats who serve in the U.S. House.

Congressmen David Cicilline, Jim Langevin and Joe Kennedy III all stood by Pelosi on Thursday and voted against measures sponsored by the Republican leadership that would have restored funding for veterans and the National Guard. Democrats are refusing to agree to those and other GOP proposals that would only partly end the government shutdown that began Tuesday.

Only 157 of 435 congressmen – all Democrats – voted against the funding for veterans, a roll-call vote tailor-made for attack ads in next year’s campaign. The local exception was Democratic Congressman Bill Keating, who represents Cape Cod and is occasionally mentioned as a possible Republican target in 2014.

Keating broke with Cicilline, Langevin and Kennedy on Thursday to back both military funding measures, after also breaking with the Democrats Wednesday and voting to restore funds for the National Institutes of Health. But he joined the other Democrats in opposing a GOP bill to provide funding to reopen the national parks.

Each of the measures is expected to be dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate.

The bills to restore funding for popular federal functions were designed by GOP leaders to make their opponents feel the heat, and the fact that Cicilline, Langevin and Kennedy voted no anyway suggests they are among the most loyal – and politically safe – Democrats in the country.

Democrats hold an advantage in all four congressmen’s districts: President Obama won 66% of the vote in Cicilline’s district, 60% in Langevin’s, 57% in Kennedy’s and 56% in Keating’s last year.


Cicilline: Limit lobbyists’ access to US Capitol during shutdown

October 3rd, 2013 at 11:36 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan report for Politico:

[F]ollowing a POLITICO report that lobbyists are getting access to congressional buildings when the public is having trouble getting in, some lawmakers are outraged. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) is circulating a letter he wants to send to Boehner, asking that access to the House office buildings be limited to “‘essential’ staff and constituents.”

“Not only are lobbyists causing extraordinary delays for constituents waiting to get into our buildings, but they are also being given access to public buildings while the average American is unable to visit the U.S. Capitol building, all of our national monuments and parks, and our national museums,” Cicilline wrote in a letter being circulated to Democratic chiefs of staff. “While our nation’s veterans are being turned away from our national memorials, K street lobbyists are free to roam the hallways of Congress. We strongly feel that registered federal lobbyists should not be able to conduct ‘business as usual’ in the halls of Congress until the shutdown is over.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed is expected to deliver a speech on the Senate floor around noon calling on Speaker Boehner to let the U.S. House vote on a “clean” bill to fund the federal government.

Update: Monte Ward, president of the American League of Lobbyists, fired back at Cicilline on Thursday:

Banning any constituent or citizen from the United States Capitol and the congressional office buildings to keep them from meeting with their elected officials is unconstitutional.

While we respect the Congressman’s frustration for his constituents, we urge him to remember that all citizens, including lobbyists, have a First Amendment right to redress their grievances. Even though the federal government has shut down, the Constitution and Bill of Rights still stand.

The shutdown is an inconvenience for every citizen, lobbyists included. We wish Congress the very best for a legislative outcome that will reopen the government and put America back in business.


RI delegation will give up pay if federal workers lose wages

October 2nd, 2013 at 5:52 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Tim White

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – All four lawmakers in Rhode Island’s congressional delegation will forgo their pay if federal workers lose their wages as a result of the government shutdown, WPRI.com has confirmed.

Read the rest of this story »


Watch: Here’s how the shutdown could impact Rhode Island

September 30th, 2013 at 6:01 pm by under Nesi's Notes


Watch: Jack Reed discusses the looming federal shutdown

September 30th, 2013 at 4:40 pm by under Nesi's Notes


Watch Newsmakers: US Sen. Whitehouse; political analysis

September 29th, 2013 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes


Reed: ‘Extreme’ Republicans may force government shutdown

September 27th, 2013 at 5:29 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Tim White

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said Friday he’s concerned that “extreme elements” of the Republican Party in the U.S. House of Representatives may be pushing the country toward a government shutdown next Tuesday.

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• Related: Whitehouse: Prepare for possible government shutdown (Sept. 23)


Whitehouse: Prepare for possible government shutdown

September 23rd, 2013 at 5:12 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

By Tim White

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said Monday people should be prepared for the federal government to shut down on Oct. 1, saying there is “sufficient enough chance” it could happen.

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• Video: Watch today’s full interview with U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (Sept. 23)


Q&A: Sen. Whitehouse on a government shutdown, debt limit

September 23rd, 2013 at 3:37 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site


Jack Reed, other RI Democrats still undecided on Syria vote

September 9th, 2013 at 4:54 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said Monday he still hasn’t decided whether to support a request for authorization to attack Syria, a sign President Obama has yet to win over one of his own party’s most senior military experts. U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has stayed silent about Syria since Aug. 31.

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• Related: Sen. Whitehouse: US must help Syria as France helped US in 1700s (Jan. 22)


Watch: US Sen Jack Reed on the latest Syria developments

August 30th, 2013 at 2:37 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site


Joe Kennedy III is 23rd-richest in Congress, worth at least $15M

August 20th, 2013 at 6:05 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

ATTLEBORO, Mass. (WPRI) – Freshman Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III isn’t just one of the youngest members of Congress. He’s also one of the wealthiest.

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• Related: Patrick Kennedy inherits millions from late father Ted (Aug. 25, 2010)


Watch Newsmakers: U.S. Sen. Jack Reed

August 18th, 2013 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site


Massive federal cuts hit Providence Police Department

July 31st, 2013 at 5:06 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Dan McGowan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The federal government slashed its aid to the Providence Police Department by 92% over the last two years, from $2.9 million to $243,000, a massive cut that has forced officials to scale back on overtime pay and funding for specialty units.

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RI gaining clout in Congress while Massachusetts loses it

July 29th, 2013 at 12:17 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Michael Mullen, Jack Reed, Edward KennedySurveying the diminished clout of Massachusetts’ congressional delegation, Stonehill College’s Peter Ubertaccio writes for The Boston Globe:

The Bay State now ranks last in Senate seniority, and no member of the Massachusetts congressional delegation holds a committee chair or leadership position in either the Senate or the House. For the first time since early 1919, no member of our House delegation has served with a speaker from Massachusetts. …

Senator Edward Kennedy’s death in 2009 ruptured an important historical axis upon which the Commonwealth so depended for its influence. …

Why does this matter? Seniority, leadership, and clout bring two key benefits: prioritizing federal dollars and articulating political values. …

There is no easy solution to our dilemma. It requires the continued cultivation of political leaders who see their futures within the institutions they now call home.

This is a real challenge for Massachusetts. When I asked U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in January what makes an effective senator, his first response was: “Seniority, which you can’t do much about – it is what it is – but as time goes by you need to be ramping it up the match your seniority.”

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Whitehouse, Warren back up Reed in bid to cap student rates

July 23rd, 2013 at 1:21 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed is getting some backup from two of his fellow Southern New England Democrats as he battles to change a bipartisan compromise on student-loan rates.

U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Sheldon Whitehouse on Tuesday sent email blasts to their campaign supporters in a bid to rally support for Reed, who is seeking to amend the loan legislation to cap students’ interest rates at 6.8%, lower than the 8.25% currently envisioned. The bill could be voted on as soon as today.

“Senator Jack Reed’s amendment is the only plan on the table right now that guarantees student loan interest rates won’t skyrocket above their current levels,” Warren wrote in an email pushing subscribers to sign up on Reed’s website in support. “We need to pass this amendment for our kids and grandkids.” The subject line of Warren’s email said: “The whole system stinks.”

“Unfortunately, our opponents would rather profit off our students than invest in them – so Jack is going to need all of us to stand with him to win this fight,” Whitehouse wrote in his email. “I’ve joined a group of Senators to work to pass Senator Reed’s amendment. But we need your help before this week’s vote.”

The emails are another sign of the increasing closeness of the Rhode Island and Massachusetts U.S. Senate delegations now that Warren and the newly elected Ed Markey have joined Reed and Whitehouse in Washington. All four are down-the-line liberals, and they share many of the same policy passions, notably financial regulation for Reed and Warren and climate change for Whitehouse and Markey.

• Related: Jack Reed pushing to overhaul interest rates on student loans (May 9)


Watch Newsmakers: Fall River Mayor Flanagan, Rep. Cicilline

July 21st, 2013 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site


Reed, Whitehouse embrace transparency on campaign finance

July 17th, 2013 at 5:49 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

whitehouse_reed_campaign_2012Rhode Island’s two U.S. senators are giving advocates of open government in Washington a reason to cheer.

U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse will both start filing their campaign-finance reports electronically, beginning with the latest one for the quarter that ended June 30, their spokesmen told WPRI.com this week.

The addition of Reed and Whitehouse means 17 senators are now filing their reports online – 13 Democrats, two independents who caucus with the Democrats, and two Republicans. Rhode Island is one of only three Senate delegations in which both senators file digitally, along with Montana, California and Vermont.

Senators, unlike lawmakers in the U.S. House, still have the legal right to submit their campaign-finance reports on paper. The Secretary of the Senate delivers the paper copies to the Federal Election Commission, whose employees must manually input the data into the FEC’s online database before they can be reviewed.

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Langevin spends big at eateries; Cicilline repays himself $70K

July 16th, 2013 at 2:16 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Langevin_Cicilline_split_JVCongressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline continued to rebuild their campaign war chests this spring – and in Langevin’s case used some of the proceeds to dine out – after the incumbent Democrats spent heavily on their re-election bids last year.

Langevin brought in $147,908 and spent $90,113 during the three months ended June 30, his campaign disclosed Monday in a Federal Election Commission filing. Langevin finished the second quarter with $235,567 on hand, up from $177,772 on March 31.

Langevin reported spending campaign money at a long list of restaurants, including $4,000 on March 27 at Local 121 in Providence; $2,090 on Feb. 26 at 701 Pennsylvania Avenue Restaurant in Washington; $400 on Feb. 18 at The Capital Grille in Boca Raton, Fla.; and $129 on May 6 at McCormick and Schmick’s in Providence.

Langevin’s campaign took out an unsecured loan for $53,625 from Greenwood Credit Union in February at a 0.0299 interest rate, due in 2019.

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Jack Reed’s war chest hits $2.57M; still a 99% favorite to win

July 15th, 2013 at 3:40 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

jack_reed_student_loans_3-13-2012_APU.S. Sen. Jack Reed may be the least vulnerable incumbent Democrat in the United States, but that isn’t stopping him from stockpiling plenty of money to fund his re-election bid next year.

Reed’s campaign raised $704,411 during the three months ended June 30 and spent $189,677, according to figures his office provided at WPRI.com’s request. Reed, who is seeking a fourth six-year term, finished the second quarter with $2.57 million on hand.

The new fundraising numbers were disclosed the same day Nate Silver, The New York Times’ political numbers guru, released his updated forecast for U.S. Senate races in 2014 – and again gave Reed eye-popping 99% odds of winning re-election next year, unchanged from February.

Other numbers in the updated forecast may be a cause for concern in Reed’s office, however.

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Cicilline taps former Kildee, Schakowsky aide as chief of staff

July 10th, 2013 at 8:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Peter_Karafotas_TwitterCongressman David Cicilline has tapped Peter Karafotas, a veteran aide to U.S. House Democrats from the Midwest, as his new chief of staff, WPRI.com has confirmed. Karafotas will oversee Cicilline’s Washington and Pawtucket offices.

Karafotas worked for Michigan Congressman Dale Kildee from March 2009 until Kildee’s retirement last year, closing out as co-chief of staff, after an earlier stint as the 18-term Democrat’s spokesman.

Karafotas also worked as deputy chief of staff and communications director for Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, an outspoken liberal and member of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s leadership team, from 2007 to 2009.

“Peter brings a wealth of knowledge and firsthand managerial experience with him, and I am excited to welcome such a talented and experienced individual to my team,” Cicilline said in a statement confirming the new hire.

Scott Fay, a former Ted Kennedy aide, has been Cicilline’s chief of staff since the former Providence mayor was elected to succeed Patrick Kennedy in November 2010. Fay, who earned roughly $120,000 last year, is leaving Capitol Hill after more than a decade. He helped Cicilline navigate a politically difficult first term.

“Scott has demonstrated the highest levels of professionalism and skill, and I will miss his good counsel and great work,” Cicilline said.

Karafotas lives in Arlington, Va., with his wife and two daughters. He grew up in Illinois and graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1999. He was a vice president with the Chicago consulting firm Adelstein Liston, a Chicago public-affairs firm from 2005 to 2006, according to his LinkedIn profile.

(photo: Twitter)


Jack Reed gets glowing portrait in behind-the-scenes DC book

July 9th, 2013 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

reed_finance_pic

A new book by veteran Washington Post editor Robert Kaiser takes a behind-the-scenes look at how the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act made its way through Congress, and few politicians come off better than Rhode Island’s senior U.S. senator.

Kaiser’s book, “Act of Congress,” relies on two years of reporting and hundreds of interviews to tell the story of Dodd-Frank specifically and Congress today more broadly. Among those Kaiser interviewed were U.S. Sen. Jack Reed and Kara Stein, a longtime senior aide to Reed on banking issues who was recently nominated to join the Securities and Exchange Commission by President Obama.

Kaiser says Congressman Barney Frank, who led the House’s work on the financial-reform bill, had hoped U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., would share leadership of the Senate Banking Committee with “one of Frank’s favorites, Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a former House colleague” if U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., took over a different committee after Ted Kennedy’s death.

Johnson’s health had become an issue after he suffered a major stroke, while “Reed was liberal, bright, hardworking – Frank’s kind of member,” Kaiser writes.

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Ex-Rep. Chris Fierro leaving Cicilline office for Chafee post

June 20th, 2013 at 12:29 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

chris_fierro_2008Former Woonsocket Rep. Chris Fierro is switching Democrats.

Fierro, 33, is leaving his job as Congressman David Cicilline’s district director after almost two years to take a new position as Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s pick to chair the three-member R.I. Board of Review, a quasi-judicial agency that hears appeals of decisions about unemployment and disability benefits, WPRI.com has confirmed.

The Chafee administration nominated Fierro on June 13, according to Wednesday’s R.I. Senate Journal. Cicilline’s office confirmed that Fierro has accepted the position, which is subject to Senate confirmation. Fierro would succeed Thomas Daniels as the board’s public member and therefore its chairman.

Daniels earned $100,725 during the 2011-12 fiscal year but Fierro will make $77,810, according to the state transparency portal and a Chafee spokesman. Daniels was appointed by Governor Almond and his term expired in 2007, according to the secretary of state’s website.

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Jack Reed: Time to look at balance between security, privacy

June 13th, 2013 at 10:45 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne has a column today about the debate over surveillance, and one of the voices in the piece is that of U.S. Sen. Jack Reed (who also expressed concerns to WPRI last week):

That we’re now more inclined to question the national security state should not surprise anyone. “In the period immediately after the attacks of 9/11, the American people were willing to give the government broad power to keep them safe,” Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), one of Congress’s most thoughtful voices on national security, said in an interview. “Now, more than a decade later, it’s entirely appropriate that Americans are asking about the balance between security and privacy.”

Reed believes that we still need extensive surveillance programs. But he was also in the minority last December in supporting an earlier version of the Merkley proposal on the FISA court decisions. He also favored another amendment, proposed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), that would have required the director of national intelligence to submit a report to Congress and the public on the impact of the revised FISA law on the privacy of U.S. citizens.

This is a rare issue that divides Reed and his junior colleague, Sheldon Whitehouse.

Reed voted yes but Whitehouse voted no on the two measures from December that Dionne references – the Merkley amendment to disclose legal justification for surveillance and the Wyden amendment to require a privacy report. As I wrote in Saturday’s column, Whitehouse’s views may relate to his past service on the Intelligence Committee, his time in law enforcement and his general trust in the federal government.

• Related: Sen. Whitehouse defends Obama on surveillance programs (June 7)