Bob Menendez

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Penn Ave Report: Connecting Congress and the White House at the intersection of politics

35 Years Later, Former Hostages, Lawmakers Cheer Restitution

Isakson led a bipartisan group of lawmakers working to secure restitution for former Iranian hostages. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

In 1979, Johnny Isakson was just one of many Americans tuning in to Ted Koppel's late night reports on the status of Americans taken hostage in Iran — what became the 444 day saga.  

"I was one of the people that was alive when 'Nightline' got started," the Republican senator from Georgia recalled Wednesday. "I took an interest when it happened. Never knew that I would get to the United States Senate, and when I got there on the Foreign Relations Committee, I came to appreciate the work that had been done in the past by people who tried to make compensation happen."  

Obama and the Mythical Arab Ground Force

Pro-Iraqi government forces wait next to armored vehicles on Tuesday in the al-Aramil area before pushing into Anbar province's capital Ramadi. (AFP/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama and Republicans agree on at least one foreign policy issue, calling for Arab countries to do more against the Islamic State. But there are reasons aplenty to see holes in what is a key part of their strategies for defeating the violent extremist group.  

Despite a new Saudi Arabian-led coalition to fight ISIS, the U.S. has gotten little in return from bipartisan calls for its friends in the Middle East to help raise an Arab ground force. And some experts and lawmakers doubt that will dramatically change, further giving the 2016 election the look of a national security referendum. Earnest: Saudi Arabia Human Rights a 'Significant Concern' 

Foreign Relations Leaders Still Question Human Trafficking Report

Corker, left, and Cardin met Thursday with State Department officials and the full Foreign Relations Committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The State Department still has some explaining to do after a closed briefing Thursday with Senate Foreign Relations Committee members over allegations that a report vital to several administration initiatives was watered down for political purposes.  

Committee members have cried politics since July when the annual Trafficking in Persons report was released. After Thursday's briefing, senators called for more transparency in the process that saw Malaysia and Cuba upgraded from the lowest ranking in terms of human-trafficking conditions. “My concerns were not alleviated in any way,” Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said. “I don’t think there is anybody who was there that didn’t feel even more firmly that politics played a major role in determining some of the upgrades in the TIP report.”  

Winds Blowing Against Menendez as He Blasts Iran Deal

As expected, Corker and Menendez are both opposing the Iran deal. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Robert Menendez surprised no one Tuesday when he became the second Democratic senator to oppose the Iran deal, but the momentum is clearly in favor of the deal among Democrats.  

"Unlike President Obama's characterization of those who have raised serious questions about the agreement, or who have opposed it, I did not vote for the war in Iraq, I opposed it, unlike the vice president and the secretary of State, who both supported it," the New Jersey Democrat said. "My vote against the Iraq war was unpopular at the time, but it was one of the best decisions I have ever made."  

Foreign Relations Panel Blasts Human-Trafficking Report

Corker and Cardin prepare for a committee hearing on the Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Testimony from a State Department official Thursday did little to dispel claims that an annual human-trafficking report was driven by politics.  

State Department Undersecretary Sarah Sewall defended the integrity of the report, which upgraded the status of Malaysia and Cuba, to three members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by citing the report’s criteria, Secretary of State John Kerry's public comments, and her own assessment  but occasionally declined to comment on internal deliberations. The committee was unconvinced.  

Menendez Offers Legislative Response to Killing of Cecil the Lion

Menendez and Blumenthal are two of the senators behind the Cecil legislation. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Robert Menendez is spearheading a new effort to curtail trophy killings after national attention was drawn to the killing of Cecil the lion.  

Cecil was the African lion in Zimbabwe who was ultimately shot and killed after being struck with an arrow by an American dentist, sparking no shortage of outrage.