Washington (CNN) – A year after Congress voluntarily agreed to give up earmarks - pork barrel spending projects critics say cost too much and may have an outsized influence on some lawmakers - the special-interest provisions have crept slowly back into legislation, two senators warned on Wednesday.
"There is an effort under way to go back to earmarking as usual, as it used to be," said Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pennsylvania. "I think that would be a disaster for our country and our congress and we intend to do our very best to prevent that."
Washington (CNN) - The Senate Tuesday easily defeated an amendment that would have removed from a defense policy bill new rules for the detention and due process of suspected terrorists.
The bipartisan 61-37 vote was a defeat for the Obama administration, which opposes the proposed changes and has suggested the president would veto the bill unless they are removed.
(CNN) - Senate Republicans for the first time Tuesday indicated they would back an extension of the payroll tax cut, which some in the party argued had failed to provide enough economic bang for the buck as the Obama administration and congressional Democrats had promised.
Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said the GOP would offer a bill this week to extend the payroll tax cut for one year and offset its costs in a way that is more agreeable to Republicans than a surtax on incomes over $1 million, which Democrats had proposed.
Washington (CNN) – The fact that $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts would be triggered by the failure of the deficit reduction super committee to reach a deal made it harder for the committee to make tough decisions on entitlement and tax reform, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, a GOP member of the committee said Monday.
“I haven’t talked about this publicly at all. I do think having the sequester in place was important for the markets among others, because they knew there would be $1.2 trillion,” Portman said. “I think it was important to be able to pass the debt limit because there had to be some sort of trigger that guaranteed it.”
Washington (CNN) - The Senate's number two Democrat said Wednesday the surprising proposal this week by Republicans to include tax increases for the first time as part of a deficit-reduction deal might be a "breakthrough" that could lead to a hard-sought agreement in the congressional super committee.
The reaction from Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois - just two weeks to the day before the committee's November 23 deadline - was in sharp contrast to the response from other top Democrats who panned the proposal. Democratic aides described it as a "joke" aimed more at lowering income rates for the wealthy than raising revenue to pay down the debt.
Washington (CNN) - Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski told CNN on Tuesday she is "concerned" that the most recent charge of sexual harassment against Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain "is not an isolated incident" and that he should quit the race if there is any truth to the claims.
"I'm learning about this at the same time as any of the rest of you. But I would suggest that if, in fact, there is substance to the claims - and now there are apparently four individuals that have been involved or who have come forward - if that's the case, I think that his opportunity as a nominee are gone," the senator said.
Washington (CNN) - In a pair of votes aimed more at making political points than law, the Senate rejected competing Democratic and Republican proposals to boost construction of roadways and other infrastructure projects.
Republicans blocked the Democratic bill, which would have approved about $50 billion for projects and another $10 billion to start an "infrastructure bank," because it relied on a surtax on people earning more than $1 million a year.
Washington (CNN) - In the wake of an unscripted and confrontational interview with a reporter from a conservative news organization last week, staff for Vice President Biden phoned a Senate official to raise concerns about the reporter's conduct and to inquire whether the reporter violated any rules governing news coverage on Capitol Hill, a person familiar with the incident told CNN.
In the interview, which took place in a crowded public hallway in the Russell Senate Office Building, Human Events reporter Jason Mattera pointedly questioned Biden about his assertion that rape and other crimes would rise if Congressional Republicans voted down part of the president's jobs bill aimed at funding police jobs.
(CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden had a tense exchange Wednesday with a reporter who questioned him about comments suggesting that if Republicans block a bill aimed at preserving police jobs, rapes and other crimes would increase.
"Do you regret using the rape reference to describe Senate opposition" to the bill, Jason Mattera asked Biden as he left a rally with police unions and others who have faced the budget ax in recent months.
Washington (CNN) - Senate Democrats Tuesday staunchly defended their decision to include a tax increase in a bill designed to prevent teachers and firefighters from getting laid off, even though they know the revenue hike is a poison pill for most Republicans and some Democrats making it highly unlikely the measure will pass.
"The choice is very stark with our colleagues across the aisle," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said at a news conference. "Do you want to employ teachers and firefighters or do you want to protect those who earn over a million dollars a year from paying a small amount more in taxes."
Programming note: GOP presidential candidates next face off at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday, October 18, in the CNN Western Republican Presidential Debate in Las Vegas, Nevada. Submit your questions for the debate here.