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November 10, 2013 | By Jonathan Tamari, Inquirer Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - One of the first things Cory Booker had to learn was how to get from his office to the Senate floor for a vote. "I'm now a championship spelunker," Booker said Friday, referring to his newfound ability to navigate the tunnels connecting Senate offices to the Capitol. The routes are prime stakeout spots for reporters seeking information and quotes from hemmed-in lawmakers - and places where more than a few senators seem to relish the attention - but Booker didn't play along in his first week on the job. New Jersey's new Democratic senator, a man known to consume his share of the spotlight, instead followed Senate tradition by keeping his head down and politely shunning requests for comment.
NEWS
November 4, 2013 | By Jonathan Tamari, Inquirer Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Another week brings another tricky vote in the Senate for Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey. This time, it's on a top priority for gay-rights groups: a bill to ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA. A key procedural vote was scheduled for Monday evening after the bill gained support last week from moderate Democrats. It has backing from at least four Republicans, but still needs one more vote to clear procedural hurdles.
NEWS
November 1, 2013 | By Jonathan Tamari, Inquirer Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - In less than five months, Jeff Chiesa came to love the U.S. Senate. Appointed by Gov. Christie in June despite never having run for elected office (other than senior class president in high school), the short-term Republican senator was inside the government shutdown that split the Capitol, was briefed on the crisis in Syria, spoke with giants of American politics, and cast one vote that prompted conservative pundit Ann Coulter to declare Christie "dead to me. " On Wednesday, his last day as a senator, Chiesa, a Republican appointed to replace the late Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, retained the same sense of awe as when Vice President Biden swore him in and got on the phone to speak to Chiesa's mother.
NEWS
October 24, 2013 | By Jonathan Tamari, Inquirer Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - The political pendulum swung again for Pat Toomey last week. Cheered by the left and chided by the right for his stance on gun laws in the spring, Pennsylvania's Republican senator saw those reactions reversed last week when he sided with GOP hard-liners at the end of the government shutdown. On a high-profile vote to reopen the government and allow more borrowing to pay its bills, Toomey sided with Ted Cruz and the Senate's most conservative bloc to oppose the bipartisan deal.
NEWS
October 24, 2013 | By Angela Couloumbis, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau
  HARRISBURG - An attorney for Democratic State Sen. LeAnna Washington said Tuesday that a "disgruntled" former employee triggered the search of her legislative offices by investigators with the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office. Philadelphia lawyer Henry E. Hockeimer said the employee was fired this year, but he did not provide further details. "While this matter apparently was triggered by a disgruntled former employee who was terminated earlier this year, Sen. Washington will cooperate and will continue to work hard for her constituents and mentor her staff, as she has for the past 20 years," Hockeimer said in a statement.
NEWS
October 21, 2013 | By Angela Couloumbis, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau
HARRISBURG Agents for the state Attorney General's Office on Friday searched Democratic State Sen. LeAnna Washington's two legislative offices in the Philadelphia area, seeking evidence related to campaign activity, according to three sources familiar with the search. The search warrants were served in the morning at Washington's district offices in Philadelphia and Roslyn, seeking computer hard drives, calendars, paper files, and any other documents related to fund-raising or her political campaign, said the sources, who asked to remain anonymous.
NEWS
October 19, 2013 | By Maddie Hanna, Inquirer Trenton Bureau
TRENTON The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday unanimously approved Gov. Christie's nomination of Faustino Fernandez-Vina to the New Jersey Supreme Court, though not before grilling the Camden County Superior Court assignment judge on hot-button issues. Democrats pressed Fernandez-Vina on same-sex marriage, abortion, and Supreme Court decisions on affordable housing and school funding, but elicited no opinions from the nominee, who said repeatedly that it would be inappropriate for him to comment on decisions by other judges and that his opinions would have no bearing on how he would decide a case.
NEWS
October 18, 2013 | By Amy Worden, Inquirer Staff Writer
HARRISBURG - The Senate unanimously approved a bill Wednesday to increase penalties for arsonists. The bill, which goes to the House, was prompted by arsonists who set 70 fires in Coatesville between February 2008 and March 2009. The fires led to the death of an 83-year-old woman, caused more than $3 million in damage, and left scores of people homeless. "Too often arson is considered primarily a paper crime of fraud, most affecting insurance companies, but that is simply not the case," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. John Rafferty (R., Montgomery)
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