WASHINGTON – New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the chairman of the influential Senate Foreign Relations committee, sounded skeptical of the deal the Obama administration and several leading nations have struck with Iran.
“In my view, this agreement did not proportionately reduce Iran's nuclear program for the relief it is receiving,” Menendez said in a statement issued Saturday. “Given Iran's history of duplicity, it will demand ongoing, on the ground verification. Until Iran has verifiably terminated its illicit nuclear program, we should vigorously enforce existing sanctions.”
Menendez, a Democrat, has long been hawkish in Iran, pressing for stronger sanctions even as President Obama sought to open negotiations with the country’s leaders. Menendez said he hopes new sanctions will still be considered by the Senate, with a six month window for the administration and Iran to reach a final agreement on the country’s nuclear program. Should the talks fail, he said, the sanctions would be ready for implementation.
WASHINGTON – It’s not unusual to see visitors stop by the plaque outside Sen. Bob Casey’s office here: “The Senate Office once occupied by John F. Kennedy” it reads.
Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat with a huge appetite for history, occupies the Senate office once held by JFK. While many lawmakers and staffers prefer the more spacious suites in newer office buildings, Casey asked for Kennedy’s former office when it came open in 2009.
The arrangement is somewhat different – Kennedy had the desk in front of a fireplace Casey has moved it 90 degrees. The photos here were taken Friday in the office. The picture of Kennedy is from his days as a senator, sitting in the office. Casey has a copy there, courtesy of JFK's presidential library.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan (R., Pa.) has stepped into the furor over sexual assault in the military, co-sponsoring a bipartisan bill that would limit pre-trial hearings that have reportedly led to invasive questioning that, critics say, effectively put accusers on trial.
Meehan’s bill with U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D., Calif.) would limit preliminary hearings known as “Article 32” hearings to establishing probable cause, much like similar proceedings in civilian courts. The proposal comes as concern mounts over the frequently of military sexual assaults, the way they are handled, and the invasive lines of questioning toward accusers reported in some Article 32 hearings.
A release for Meehan’s proposal cited a recent New York Times report that told of a Naval Academy sophomore who accused three Academy athletes of raping her. In the preliminary hearing, the woman was questioned for roughly 30 hours by the defense, and was asked about whether she wore underwear the night of the incident and about her oral sex technique – sparking outrage from critics who said the preliminary hearings have become trials unto themselves, and could provoke a “chilling” effect on crime victims.
WASHINGTON – The Senate’s Tuesday lunches are an odd institution.
The Senators arrive for separate meals – Republicans in one room, Democrats in another -- in which they debate and discuss the issues of the moment, decide on strategy and plot out of the rest of the week. For reporters, this is a target-rich environment – all 100 Senators arriving at roughly the same place at roughly the same time, all in underground tunnels and narrow hallways.
It's an easy time for the hill's media mob to buttonhole lawmakers, pick up information and stockpile quotes.
WASHINGTON – Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.), voted in favor of a gay-rights bill Thursday morning, joining Democrats and a handful of Republicans to help it clear the Senate.
With final votes still being counted, Toomey was one of 10 Republicans to support the bill Thursday.
"I have long believed that more legal protections are appropriate to prevent employment discrimination based on sexual orientation," Toomey said in a news release. "I also believe we need to strike a reasonable balance between protecting workers and protecting religious freedom."
WASHINGTON – One targeted South Jersey Republican is out – but another one is staying in.
U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, of Ventnor (by Atlantic City) will run for re-election next year, a campaign aide said Wednesday. We asked about his plans in the wake of U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan’s announcement that he won’t run in 2014 and unsubstantiated rumors that LoBiondo was getting out. Was he in for 2014?
“Definitely” came the one-word reply from LoBiondo’s campaign manager.
Jonathan Tamari / Inquirer Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan, a Burlington County Republican, will not seek re-election next year, he announced Wednesday morning.
"After a great deal of thought and discussions with my family, I have decided not to seek re-election in 2014," Runyan said in a statement released this morning. "Politics shouldn't be a career and I never intended to make it one."
WASHINGTON – The first openly-gay lawmaker elected in Pennsylvania, state Rep. Brian Sims, praised Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey for supporting a bill Monday night that would ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Sims, a Philadelphia Democrat, had particularly strong praise for Toomey, a Republican who is generally conservative on social issues but was one of seven Republicans to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), helping it move past a key procedural step and setting the stage for final Senate approval later this week.
“I have long believed that civil rights cannot be a one party issue. Sen. Casey has supported LGBT civil rights from nondiscrimination to marriage equality, and I am proud to see him continue to demonstrate that support tonight,” Sims said in a news release. “I am especially proud of Sen. Toomey who tonight confirmed to Americans across the nation that civil rights is not an issue of right and left, but an issue of right and wrong. Senator Toomey’s vote in support of ENDA shows that a conservative ideology and support for LGBT equality are not mutually exclusive.”