Monday, August 3, 2015

POSTED: Monday, June 29, 2015, 10:21 PM
Cory Booker, then candidate for the US Senate from NJ, talks with the Inquirer's editorial board. (Ed Hille / Staff Photographer)

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker endorsed Hillary Clinton for president Monday night, just hours before Gov. Christie, a longtime ally, was set to announce his own campaign.

“Hillary has fought for her entire career to expand opportunities for all Americans, and these last few months have been amazing to behold,” Booker, a national Democratic figure in his own right, wrote in an e-mail to his supporters. Citing some of the signature issues of his Senate career, Booker said Clintong has backed many of the same causes.

“We've seen Hillary exhibit outstanding leadership not only on apprenticeships and youth unemployment, but also criminal justice reform -- all issues you and I care deeply about,” Booker wrote.

POSTED: Monday, June 22, 2015, 11:54 AM
"The horrendous massacre in Charleston reminds us once again of the pain of Sandy Hook," U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said in a news release. (MARK WILSON / Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) renewed his call Monday for tougher rules to keep guns away from criminals and the mentally ill, just as the debate over gun laws gained new traction in the aftermath of the church shooting in South Carolina.

Toomey made his comments in a news release sent out in advance of his receiving an award, Tuesday night, for sponsoring a 2013 bill to expand background checks for gun purchases after a young man shot and killed 20 young students and six adults at Newtown, Conn.’s Sandy Hook school, and then himself. A group representing the families of the victims, Sandy Hook Promise, will recognize Toomey – one of the few Republicans to support tougher gun laws -- at an awards gala.

"The horrendous massacre in Charleston reminds us once again of the pain of Sandy Hook," Toomey said in a news release. "There are many factors that cause deranged people to commit such heart-wrenching crimes.  Sandy Hook Promise addresses several of those factors.  I continue to believe strongly that as a nation we can and should do more to prevent guns from getting into the hands of people who have no right to them -- criminals and the mentally ill."

POSTED: Monday, June 15, 2015, 4:48 PM

WASHINGTON – Former Chester County Congressman Jim Gerlach will soon take the lead at a group that aims to help businesses build political strength and push their policy priorities.

Gerlach, a six-term Republican who did not seek re-election last year, will move to the Business-Industrial Political Action Committee June 22, after initially taking a government affairs job with the law firm Venable, LLP. Gerlach will be the group's president and chief executive.

The committee describes itself as “dedicated to increasing the political effectiveness of America’s business community” by offering advice on political strategy and building support for its objectives. Its web site boasts of showing companies how to encourage employees, for example, to rally behind business’ policy goals.

POSTED: Monday, June 15, 2015, 2:47 PM
U.S. Sen. Corey Booker. (Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer)

WASHINGTON – Cory Booker is going old school.

The Democratic senator from New Jersey, who often makes his mark on Twitter or Instagram or television, is writing a book due out in January.

The book, called UNITED, will be about “revitalizing the American Dream” and include stories from Booker’s life and people who inspired him, according to a release from Ballantine Bantam Dell, the publisher that announced Monday it has acquired the book. Booker will also talk about policy issues such as criminal justice reform – one of his signature issues in the Senate – the economy and environment, the release said.

POSTED: Wednesday, June 10, 2015, 4:18 PM
Sen. Bob Casey. (ED HILLE/Staff Photographer)

WASHINGTON – Sens. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) and Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) are urging fellow senators to set aside $100 million for security costs at the 2016 Democratic and Republican national conventions in Philadelphia and Cleveland, up from the $20 million approved in a House-passed spending bill.

The two Democrats made their plea in a letter to the chair and vice chair of the Senate subcommittee that oversees security spending, saying similar amounts -- $50 million per host city – have been provided for security ever since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“The presidential nomination conventions are large-scale, complex, and high-profile events that can pose significant security challenges,” the two senators wrote. The “extraordinary measures” required “to ensure a safe and secure environment exceed annual city resources.”

POSTED: Wednesday, June 10, 2015, 3:06 PM
Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman testifies during a hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on June 2, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. ( Alex Wong / Getty Images )

WASHINGTON – The House passed a transportation spending bill Tuesday that cuts Amtrak funding, despite objections from several Pennsylvania Republicans who opposed the cuts and GOP lawmakers from other parts of the country who wanted more reductions.

The $55 billion spending bill for transportation and housing programs narrowly passed late Tuesday, 216-210, with most Republicans supporting it and nearly all Democrats opposing it.

Joining the opposition were four Philadelphia-area Republicans: Reps. Ryan Costello, of Chester County, Mike Fitzpatrick, of Bucks County, Pat Meehan, of Delaware County and Chris Smith, of South Jersey.

POSTED: Wednesday, June 10, 2015, 1:25 PM
FILE - In this May 13, 2015, file photo, emergency personnel work at the scene of a deadly train wreck in Philadelphia. Federal safety regulators and Amtrak officials face questions at a congressional hearing Tuesday, June 2, 2015, on why technology to slow trains that are going too fast wasn't in place before last month's deadly derailment. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

WASHINGTON – Signaling a potentially tougher stand on railroads that have not installed a highly-touted new safety system, a key senator said Wednesday that he is reconsidering a plan to give the rail lines a blanket five-year extension to complete their work.

“If we can figure out a way to get there sooner, we certainly want to be open to that,” said Sen. John Thune (R., S.D.), chairman of the Senate Commerce committee – which oversees railroads. “We’re certainly looking for the best solution, and if that entails something that doesn’t require a blanket five-year extension, then we’re open to that.”

Thune has co-sponsored a bill to give railroads five more years – until the end of 2020 – to install an upgraded rail safety system called Positive Train Control, which can slow or stop speeding trains, and which is supposed to be in place by the end of 2015. The National Transportation Safety Board has said the system, if it had been in place sooner, could have prevented Amtrak #188 from crashing in Philadelphia last month.

POSTED: Tuesday, June 9, 2015, 3:28 PM

WASHINGTON – Philadelphia-based Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo will have a Senate committee hearing Wednesday on his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

The hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee could be a key step in advancing Restrepo’s nomination, which liberal groups and other advocates say has been slowed by political gamesmanship, a charge Republicans have forcefully denied.

Sens. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) and Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) have both applauded Restrepo’s proposed promotion from a District Court seat in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to the Third Circuit, based in Philadelphia. Both plan to speak on Restrepo's behalf at the hearing.

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.

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