Wednesday, July 1, 2015

POSTED: Wednesday, May 13, 2015, 2:00 PM
An aerial view of the Amtrak Train 188 derailment in Port Richmond on May 13, 2015. ( DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer )

WASHINGTON – Philadelphia Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.) proposed a $1.3 billion boost to Amtrak funding Wednesday, roughly 13 hours after the train derailment in his home city, but was blocked by Republicans who raised concerns about increased spending.

The debate in a House Appropriations Committee meeting came as Democrats – acknowledging they don’t know the cause of the incident Tuesday night – warned that a lack of investment in infrastructure prevents critical maintenance and could lead to more accidents. The committee was considering a GOP spending bill that would cut Amtrak funding by around $200 million.

“We should have some concern about the safety of our citizens, those who have elected us,” Fattah said in a morning hearing on a spending bill covering transportation, housing and other areas. While officials don’t know what caused the accident, “we do know if we don’t invest in the capital infrastructure of our country, there will be future accidents.”

Jonathan Tamari @ 2:00 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, May 12, 2015, 12:16 PM

WASHINGTON – A new political group affiliated with Karl Rove’s American Crossroads super PAC has launched a $400,000 ad buy in Pennsylvania backing Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) as part of its national push to bolster targeted Republican senators.

The new organization, a 501(c)4 non-profit known as One Nation, plans to launch radio and digital ads Tuesday in Pennsylvania. The buy is part of a $2 million advertising effort nationwide backing five Republicans who Democrats have made top targets in next year’s elections.

One Nation, whose president, Steven Law, is also president of American Crossroads, says it is working to be “a catalyst” for “constructive solutions” to break political gridlock. Its Pennsylvania ads highlight Toomey’s recent vote to approve a long-sought change to Medicare payments. He was one of 92 senators who voted for the broadly popular bill.

Jonathan Tamari @ 12:16 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, May 11, 2015, 7:54 PM
NJ Senator Robert Menendez. ( Elizabeth Robertson / Philadelphia Inquirer )

WASHINGTON – Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) filed Monday to move his corruption trial from New Jersey to Washington, D.C., his lawyer arguing that “almost all of the conduct at issue took place there and that “the vast majority of potential witnesses” live or work there.

The filing also says that holding the case in New Jersey could disrupt the functioning of the federal government, since at least three other Senators named in the indictment will all “likely be called as witnesses at trial” and that the charges also involve interactions with congressional aides, cabinet secretaries and other high-ranking officials. Moving the case to Washington would minimize disruptions and “ensure that any trial does not unnecessarily interfere” with the operation of the federal government, said a motion from lawyers for Menendez and fellow defendant Salomon Melgen, a South Florida eye doctor accused of bribing the senator.

It further argues that “prejudicial leaks” about the Menendez case may make it difficult to find an unbiased jury in New Jersey.

Jonathan Tamari @ 7:54 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, May 5, 2015, 6:02 PM
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey. (Nabil K. Mark/Centre Daily Times/MCT)

WASHINGTON – Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) waded into the roiling debate over law enforcement Tuesday, defending most officers as honorable and dedicated and worrying that mobs are clamoring to punish police whether or not they are found guilty of wrongdoing.

“My concern specifically is over the growing scapegoating of police officers in America today,” Toomey said in a 15-minute speech on the Senate floor.

He acknowledged that there are “real and horrible” cases of misconduct and that “unlawful” police activity “absolutely cannot be tolerated, not even one little bit.”

Jonathan Tamari @ 6:02 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, May 5, 2015, 3:52 PM
State Sen. Jeff Van Drew

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R., N.J.) could face his toughest challenge yet if national Democrats get their way.

The party’s national Congressional campaign arm is pushing state Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D., Cape May) to finally make his long-rumored run for Congress as they seek to oust LoBiondo, an 11-term incumbent, PolitickerNJ reported Tuesday.

Van Drew has a long history of winning state legislative races in the moderate district and has close ties to the powerful South Jersey political operation led by insurance broker George Norcross, III and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D., Gloucester). Unlike some national party picks, Van Drew would likely receive enthusiastic support from operatives experienced in local politics.

Jonathan Tamari @ 3:52 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, May 5, 2015, 12:03 PM

WASHINGTON –  A new group backed by President Obama has turned to Mayor Nutter and Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) for support as the president eyes his long-term legacy and focuses on helping young minority men growing up in poor communities.

Booker and Nutter are among a star-studded list of board members or advisors to the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, which the New York Times described as “the nucleus” of Obama’s plans after he leaves office.

Among others who will help the group are executives from PepsiCo, News Corporation and Sprint, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Attorney General Eric Holder, music star John Legend, ex-athletes such as Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Jerome Bettis and the mayors of Indianapolis and Sacramento, the Times reported.

Jonathan Tamari @ 12:03 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, May 1, 2015, 9:36 AM

McLean, VA – Gov. Christie stuck to a familiar political script Friday morning, hours before the first legal domino was expected to fall in the so-called "Bridgegate" lane closure scandal that has shadowed his presidential ambitions.

Christie, speaking to a business-friendly crowd in Northern Virginia, once again talked up the importance of federal entitlement reform, bashed President Obama’s foreign policy and touched on immigration reform. He even had the audience at the Consumer Electronics Association event laughing at jokes about Social Security, and spoke about how Superstorm Sandy helped make him ready to be president.

But in roughly an hour on stage Christie didn’t say a word about the guilty plea expected Friday by one-time ally David Wildstein for his role in shutting down access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in an apparent act of political retribution. Wildstein’s plea would mark a new phase in the long-running investigation into the 2013 lane closures that have cast a shadow over Christie’s presidential ambitions, sending him tumbling down the pecking order in the Republican’s primary field.

Jonathan Tamari @ 9:36 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, April 30, 2015, 3:45 PM
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) (Photo by Mark Wilson (Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) has joined the call for more forceful Congressional oversight over any nuclear deal with Iran, despite members of both parties warning that proposals like his plan with Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) could sink a bipartisan bill and result in no Congressional review at all.

At issue is a bill that would give Congress a say over a potential nuclear deal between the U.S., its international negotiating partners and Iran. That proposal, crafted to win enough bipartisan support to overcome a presidential veto, would let lawmakers reject any final Iran deal – though with a high threshold. The disapproving resolution would likely need 67 Senate votes to stand in the face of a potential veto.

In other words, if just 34 senators approve of an Iran deal, or decline to override a veto from President Obama, a nuclear accord could take effect. The deal could also go forward if Congress simply failed to pass a measure disapproving of the agreement.

Jonathan Tamari @ 3:45 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
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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