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Pelosi Dismisses Obamacare Defections, Defends Statements

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi defended her rhetoric leading up to passage of the 2010 health care law Sunday while seeking to minimize the reports of unrest in her caucus and the potential for political fallout in the wake of the law’s rocky rollout.

“I stand by what I said,” the California Democrat told anchor David Gregory on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” responding to two old interviews — one from 2009 and one from 2010 — in which she said that if individuals liked their existing health insurance policies, they could keep them, and that the Affordable Care Act needs to pass in order for the public to see what’s in the bill.

Pelosi’s appearance on the widely watched Sunday talk show comes at a critical time for Democrats, who are being accused of breaking promises to constituents as millions have received notices that their old insurance plans have been canceled because they don’t comport to the new standards of Obamacare, and the enrollment website HealthCare.gov has been riddled with glitches that have prevented those with canceled policies from easily shopping for new ones.

Read More on Roll Call: Pelosi Dismisses Obamacare Defections, Defends Statements

How the Capitol Turned the Day JFK Died

Nov. 22 falls on the Friday before Thanksgiving this year, just as it did 50 years ago. And that extraordinary day in 1963 began on the Hill in ways that would seem familiar to the congressional denizens of today.

The House was done for the week, having pushed through spending bills for public works, arms control and military construction in plenty of time to allow a cluster of Texas Democrats to get home for a high-profile political photo op.

The Senate convened for general speech-making and preliminary debate on the bills set for consideration after the weekend: restricting wheat sales to Soviet bloc nations and delivering federal funds for local library construction. As was the custom, then as now, the chore of acting as presiding officer had been parceled out to several of the freshmen with the lunchtime slot assigned to the youngest in the class, 31-year-old Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

He was in the chair when his brother was killed.

And from that instant, the scene at the Capitol unfolded in ways that may be difficult to comprehend in today’s congressional culture of commuting lawmakers, hyper-partisanship, legislative stasis, saturation live coverage and social-media press relations.

Almost 20 minutes elapsed between when the shots were fired at John F. Kennedy’s motorcade in Dallas and when a messenger delivered the first ominous alert to the president’s youngest sibling, who hustled off the rostrum and called the White House to learn more.

“Will the senator from Vermont yield for an emergency?” Democrat Wayne Morse of Oregon asked, interrupting a speech by Republican William Prouty to propose a quorum call while the horrific explanation for the young Kennedy’s departure swept through the chamber.

Read More on Roll Call: How the Capitol Turned the Day JFK Died

Will Republicans Have a Primary to Replace C.W. Bill Young?

In the final days before the filing deadline, Republicans remain unsure whether lobbyist David Jolly has cleared the GOP field in the competitive special election to succeed the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla.

In recent days, state Rep. Kathleen Peters expressed interest in running for the St. Petersburg-based district, and she has yet to back off.

Democrats cleared the field early for former state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who is all but certain to win the party’s nod on Jan. 14. Republicans rivals to Jolly have talked about running, but all of them have declined bids so far.

Except for Peters.

“From day one, we have been running as if we will be having an opponent for the primary and are moving full speed ahead,” Jolly spokeswoman Sarah Bascom said in a Friday interview with CQ Roll Call.

A Thursday phone message seeking comment from Peters’ office was not returned.

Many people who matter in the region’s GOP politics — donors, elected officials and Young’s widow — quickly lined up behind Jolly after he announced his candidacy two weeks ago.

Read More on Roll Call: Will Republicans Have a Primary to Replace C.W. Bill Young?

The 39 House Democrats Who Defied Obama’s Veto Threat

Updated 4:04 p.m. | President Barack Obama vowed to veto legislation that would let insurers keep selling old policies to new customers, as well as revive them for existing customers for another year, but 39 Democrats defied him and their party leadership Friday and voted for the bill.

All but three of the Democratic members on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Frontline incumbent protection program voted with Upton and the GOP — Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona, Lois Capps of California and John F. Tierney of Massachusetts.

But Kirkpatrick wasn’t exactly aligning herself with the president, either, issuing a blistering statement after the vote.

“The stunning ineptitude of the ACA marketplace rollout is more than a public relations disaster,” she said. “It is a disaster for the working families in my Arizona district who badly need quality, affordable health care.”

Read More on Roll Call: The 39 House Democrats Who Defied Obama’s Veto Threat

Military Sexual-Assault Bills Touch Raw Political Nerve for Democrats

Democrats seem to agree on the need to address the rising number of sexual assaults in the military, but the intraparty battle over the issue has gotten deeply personal and could end up politically damaging to those who have been tagged as “anti-victim.”

Democratic leaders are dreading having what is likely to be an emotionally charged fight play out on the Senate floor when the chamber takes up the Defense authorization bill in the next few weeks.

“I would be less than candid if I didn’t say this has been — for somebody who has fought and has a long history of victim advocacy, from my days as a state legislator to my days as a prosecutor to establishing laws and programs and fighting for victims all my life — that it’s been very difficult to be characterized as anti-victim,” Sen. Claire McCaskill told CQ Roll Call.

The Missouri Democrat has been one of the lead supporters of keeping sexual-assault cases within the military’s chain of command while making other key changes aimed at addressing the issue. On the other side, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has been aggressively pushing to take commanders out of the mix when it comes to sexual-assault allegations.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has been coy about his plans to proceed on competing proposals to curb what has become a crisis in the armed forces. While most of his caucus members support Gillibrand’s framework, at least a dozen Democrats likely will vote for the Senate Armed Services Committee markup language being championed by McCaskill.

Read More on Roll Call: Military Sexual-Assault Bills Touch Raw Political Nerve for Democrats