Tuesday, March 31, 2015

POSTED: Tuesday, March 31, 2015, 11:58 AM

WASHINGTON – Pat Toomey isn’t named in the latest Quinnipiac Poll, but the Republican senator probably likes it anyway.

The poll, out Tuesday morning, shows Hillary Clinton’s numbers sinking in Pennsylvania – and that could be a key factor in Toomey’s tough 2016 re-election fight.

The poll, one of three Quinnipiac released in swing states (Ohio and Florida are the others), shows a sharp drop in Pennsylvanians approval of Clinton, the Democratic front-runner in waiting. Her favorability in Pennsylvania stood at 48-47, according to the poll, down from 55-38 Feb. 3. And her lead in the commonwealth has narrowed in head-to-head matchups against Republican hopefuls like Jeb Bush and Chris Christie. Clinton even trails Rand Paul, 45-44. (Clinton’s ratings also fell in Ohio and Florida, the survey found). 

POSTED: Friday, March 20, 2015, 4:51 PM
Bucks County Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, a Republican, will chair the Task Force to Investigate Terrorist Financing.

WASHINGTON – Bucks County Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick will lead a House task force aimed at finding ways to cut off financing for terrorist groups, the House Financial Services Committee announced this week. 

Fitzpatrick, a Republican, will chair the Task Force to Investigate Terrorist Financing, which will work on the issue for six months and recommend legislation, if needed, to bolster U.S. efforts to stop financing from reaching terrorist groups such as ISIS.

The bipartisan task force of around 20 lawmakers will look into “terrorist financing, evaluating the security of the U.S. banking system and asking the tough questions as to whether or not we are doing enough,” Fitzpatrick said in a telephone interview Friday.

POSTED: Wednesday, March 18, 2015, 4:22 PM
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)

WASHINGTON – In the latest Senate flare up, Republicans are getting some help from Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.), reflecting how the ground has shifted under him since the GOP took over the Senate in January. 

Three times this week, including once Wednesday, Casey has voted to advance a bill that has faced fierce Democratic opposition over language restricting federal spending on abortion.

Each time, he has been one of just four Democrats to back the bill while the rest of his party’s senators oppose it in a procedural blockade that has stalled the measure. All of the Democratic supporters, like Casey, come from moderate to conservative states -- the others being from Indiana, North Dakota and West Virginia. The bill won 57 votes Wednesday, but needed 60 to overcome a Democratic filibuster threat. 

POSTED: Wednesday, March 11, 2015, 6:54 PM

WASHINGTON – More than 140,000 people who submitted flood insurance claims after damage from superstorm Sandy will get a chance to have their cases reviewed, opening the door to increased payments for those short-changed by questionable insurance practices, New Jersey Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker said Wednesday. 

The two Democrats also said that the man who oversaw the federal flood insurance program, David Miller, has resigned after numerous reports that insurers altered at least some engineering reports in order to give out lower payments. The senators made the announcement after a meeting with Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate.

Menendez called it “a very good meeting.” Booker said, “FEMA gets it now.”

POSTED: Wednesday, March 11, 2015, 2:44 PM
U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania. (Staff file photos)

WASHINGTON – Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) hammered Senate Republicans’ controversial letter to Iranian leaders Wednesday, calling it “reckless.”

“This is a misguided and reckless attempt to circumvent a sitting U.S. President by going directly to the leader of the Iranian regime – a longtime adversary of the United States. It is clear that many Americans find it offensive,” Casey said in a statement, joining the still simmering fight in unusually strong terms.

Casey previously sat on the Senate foreign affairs committee and chaired the subcommittee focused on the Middle East. He has signed on as a co-sponsor of a plan to impose new sanctions against Iran, despite White House appeals to wait as the U.S. and other countries negotiate with Iran over the country’s nuclear weapons program.

POSTED: Tuesday, March 10, 2015, 5:39 PM
Sen. Pat Toomey. ( File photo )

WASHINGTON – Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) added his signature to a hotly-debated  letter to Iranian leaders warning them that any nuclear deal they strike with President Obama might not last.

The letter, signed by 47 Republicans, is aimed at cutting off a potentially bad deal that would leave Iran with a route to obtaining nuclear weapons, according to those who signed it.

It has provoked a scathing response from Democrats – who say it undermines the office of the presidency and the White House's power to set foreign policy, and undercuts negotiations aimed at avoiding a military conflict. The letter has also brought more subtle critiques from some key Republicans who say it could hurt the bipartisan cooperation needed for the Senate to truly influence the outcome in Iran, the most pressing foreign policy issue of the moment.

POSTED: Tuesday, March 10, 2015, 3:20 PM
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. talks about his future and the agenda of the Democrats who are now in the minority, Wednesday, March 4, 2015, during an interview with The Associated Press in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington. Reid, 75, is wearing special glasses as part of his recovery from injuries suffered in a violent exercise accident in January. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON – Sen. Bob Menenedez (D., N.J.) got a vote of confidence Tuesday from the Senate’s top Democrat, who called him an “outstanding senator” but refused to speculate on the New Jerseyan’s future.

Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) was asked about Menendez and the rumors of looming corruption charges five different ways Tuesday, but said little other than standing by Menendez, the ranking member of the foreign relations committee and face of Senate Democrats on international policy.

“Senator Menendez has done a stalwart job as chair of the committee, and as far as I’m concerned has been an outstanding senator,” Reid said at a news conference. (Menendez was chairman until Republicans took over the Senate in January; he remains the top Democrat on the panel).

POSTED: Monday, March 9, 2015, 3:07 PM
FILE - In this March 1, 2013, file photo, Sen. Robert Menendez listens during a news conference, at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, N.J. Attorney General Eric Holder is declining to say if he has approved the filing of corruption charges against Menendez. Nor is Menendez shedding much light on the situation. A statement issued by the senator's office Friday, March 6, 2015, says many false allegations have been made about his ties with Dr. Salomon Melgen, who is a friend and donor to Menendez's campaigns. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

WASHINGTON – It was business as usual for New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez Monday – at least in public – just days after reports surfaced that he could face federal corruption charges in the coming weeks.

Menendez, the top Senate Democrat on foreign affairs, appeared as a speaker at an afternoon policy discussion on Russia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a foreign affairs think-tank situated near many foreign embassies. He was immediately followed by Zbigniew K. Brzezinski, the former national security advisor to President Carter.

A clutch of reporters awaited Menendez at the academic event, though the senator avoided those waiting at the front door, arriving through another route. He spoke without any acknowledgement of the questions swirling around him, instead focusing on pushing for a stronger U.S. response to Russia’s aggression, including tougher sanctions, more military aide to Ukraine and a tougher military presence in the Balkans.

About this blog

Jonathan Tamari is the Inquirer’s Washington correspondent. He writes about the lawmakers, politics and policy that affect Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Tamari previously covered the Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL. Before that he worked in Trenton, reporting on the characters and color of New Jersey state government. He lives in Washington.

Reach Jonathan at jtamari@phillynews.com.

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