Democrats Vow to Push GOP to Address Student Debt

Murray, left, and Schumer, right, said they will push the GOP to address student debt. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Democrats pledged Thursday to prod the Republicans who control Congress to combat student loan debt this year, whether through legislation or floor amendments.  

"I want to make sure that we get this done," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., one of several Democrats unveiling a legislative package to relieve spiraling debt levels. According to the Federal Reserve, student loan debt topped $1.3 trillion in Sept. 2015. "We’re willing to look at any way to get that done.” That could include a tactic that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., floated on Wednesday , which involved trading Democratic support for bringing legislation to the floor in exchange for votes on amendments related to Democratic priorities.  

Cruz Accuses GOP Leadership of Playing Santa for Lobbyists

Cruz told the Friday rally that Republican leadership was "playing Santa Claus to the lobbyists and K Street and the special interests." (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

MECHANICSVILLE, Va. —  Minutes after taking a photo with Santa Claus and wishing him well on Christmas Eve, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz turned Grinch on Republicans on Capitol Hill who backed the omnibus spending bill that cleared earlier Friday.  

"Now, it's Christmastime, so it was Republican leadership playing Santa Claus to the lobbyists and K Street and the special interests, and it's why people are fed up with the Washington cartel," the Texas Republican told reporters before a packed house at the Life Church in suburban Richmond.  

Reid Calls the NRA a GOP 'Quasi-Militant Wing' (Updated)

Reid speaks with Schumer before heading to the Senate floor for a vote on Tuesday. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 12:46 p.m. | Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid lashed out on the National Rifle Association on Thursday as he served notice Democrats would push gun violence amendments during the Senate vote-a-rama on a budget bill.  

"Now, there was a time in my legislative career that I tried to work with the National Rifle Association, but the NRA today is a far cry from [the] sportsmen's organization that I once supported," the Nevada Democrat said. "The NRA once called mandatory background checks 'reasonable.' That's what they said. I'm not making this up."  

Defense Hawks Fine With Boost in War Account

McCain talks to reporters on Capitol Hill. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Top Senate defense hawks are satisfied with the increased Pentagon spending in the new budget deal, and several Democrats doubt that section will mean trouble for the sweeping package.  

The spending plan, which many senators on Tuesday said they are still reviewing, would boost discretionary spending caps by $50 billion in fiscal 2016 and $30 billion in 2017, with those hikes divided evenly between defense and domestic spending. But it also proposes something Democrats and the Obama administration for months have opposed: About $16 billion more than the $58 billion the White House had requested in 2016 for a Pentagon war account.  

Emerging Budget Deal Keeps Senate Democrats Guessing

Reid gestures at a news conference with Senate Democratic leadership team. (Al Drago, CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senior Senate Democrats are optimistic that a sweeping fiscal pact soon could be finalized, but their concerns about the emerging plan show it’s not a done deal just yet.  

Congressional leaders are preparing to unveil a fiscal package that would raise the debt ceiling until March 2017, while also raising defense and domestic spending caps known colloquially as sequestration. The package also would address Medicare Part B by shielding millions of seniors from significant increases to their health insurance premiums and deductibles.  

Senate Stunned Over House GOP Turmoil

Reid greets Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., before the weekly new conference following the Senate Democrats' luncheon in the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Word spread through the Capitol's Senate corridors about House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy not seeking the speaker's gavel just as senators were about to cast the final vote before a weeklong Columbus Day recess.  

As lawmakers, staffers and journalists alike were asking each other what they were hearing and reading on their phones, it was quickly apparent that senators on both sides of the aisle  but especially Republicans  understood the gravity of Thursday's announcement. Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., said it would not be possible for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and his counterpart Harry Reid, D-Nev., to do all the deal-making with the President Barack Obama's administration.  

Democrats to Outline Gun Control Principles After Oregon Shooting

Democrats, led by DPCC chairman Schumer, will hold a news conference Thursday on gun control. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Democrats will kick off their latest gun control effort Thursday on the steps of the Capitol.  

A group of Democratic caucus members, including Oregon's Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, are scheduled to take part. The most recent mass shooting took place at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore. President Barack Obama is expected to travel to Roseburg on Friday.  

Schumer Urges Boehner to Go Big Before Going Home

Schumer wants Boehner to go big before he goes home. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The man in line to be the next leader of Senate Democrats is warning Republicans are "playing with fire" if the debt limit is not addressed before the current speaker's resignation takes effect.  

Sen. Charles E. Schumer may never have thought as highly of Speaker John A. Boehner as he does now. That's because the New York Democrat wants the outgoing Republican from Ohio to move as many deals across the House floor as he can before stepping aside around Halloween.