Wednesday, May 6, 2015

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.

Jonathan Tamari @ 2:44 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
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.

Jonathan Tamari @ 5:39 PM  Permalink |
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).

Jonathan Tamari @ 3:20 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
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.

Jonathan Tamari @ 3:07 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, March 6, 2015, 2:24 PM
U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez.

WASHINGTON – Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.), facing potential criminal charges, said Friday night he has always behaved appropriately and "in accordance with the law" and that "I am not going anywhere."

Menendez spoke briefly in Newark Friday amid reports that federal prosecutors are readying corruption charges against him. CNN first reported the news Friday afternoon. After a brief statement, Menendez said he could not take questions because of the ongoing investigation.

The charges have been signed off on by Attorney General Eric Holder and could come within weeks, CNN reported, citing people briefed on the case. A Department of Justice spokesman said he could not confirm nor deny the report, declinging to comment any further.

Jonathan Tamari @ 2:24 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, March 3, 2015, 6:56 PM

WASHINGTON – Another fight, another vote to defuse it from Philadelphia-area Republicans.

All seven House Republicans from the Philadelphia suburbs voted in favor of funding the homeland security department for the rest of the fiscal year Tuesday, ending a standoff that had threatened to shut down the department. In doing so, the local GOP lawmakers voted with Democrats and against a majority of their House colleagues to end the dispute – much as they previously did when it came to ending fights over the fiscal cliff, aid for superstorm Sandy and the 2013 government shutdown.

The local Republicans were seven of just 75 Republicans to support the bill, along with 182 Democrats. Most Republicans – 167 – opposed the plan.

Jonathan Tamari @ 6:56 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, March 3, 2015, 4:52 PM
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks about Iran during a joint meeting of Congress in the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol on March 3, 2015, in Washington. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – Lawmakers from the Philadelphia area gave a generally warm reception Tuesday to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress – though some Democrats were still angered by the way it came about.

Rep. Brendan Boyle (D., Pa.), – who shook Netanyahu’s hand as he entered the House chamber, and whose district includes Cheltenham, where the Israeli leader went to high school – said he entered the speech skeptical about international negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, and found his view reinforced.

“I’m deeply concerned with what I’m hearing coming out of the,” talks, said Boyle, a member of the House foreign affairs committee. As it has been outlined, “I would find that sort of a deal unacceptable.”

Jonathan Tamari @ 4:52 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, March 2, 2015, 3:43 PM

WASHINGTON – Joe Sestak will formally launch his Senate campaign Wednesday at Independence Hall, he announced in a news release Monday.

Sestak, a former admiral and Delaware County congressman, has long made clear that he intended to run for Senate in a bid to unseat Republican Pat Toomey in 2016. He has already been fundraising and making appearances across the state in the hopes of a rematch from their race in 2010.

Sestak “is running to restore Americans’ lost trust in their political leaders by being accountable to the people,” said the announcement.

Jonathan Tamari @ 3:43 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.

Reach Jonathan at jtamari@phillynews.com.

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