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July 24, 2014

July 24, 2014

Ethics Investigations Since 2009 — in One Chart

The Office of Congressional Ethics recently released its second-quarter report for 2014, and in the middle is a pie graph that gives congressional nerds some insight into what ethical lapses the OCE has been looking into since its inception.

The chart tracks preliminary investigations conducted by the independent ethics office, and, as the graph illustrates, the plurality of investigations since February 2009 — 46 percent — have involved campaign activities.

2Q 2014 Types thumb 600x306 151 Ethics Investigations Since 2009 — in One Chart

The OCE reports it has conducted 137 preliminary investigations since 2009, with 49 of those cases transmitted to the Ethics Committee for review.

In addition to the pie chart, the OCE’s quarterly report also reveals that the Ethics Committee is supposed to name two members under investigation on Friday, though no details of the investigation are expected to be released and the Ethics Committee will likely vote to take an additional 45 days to consider the matter.

The OCE also revealed in the quarterly report it voted to refer an entity to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for failing to register under the Lobbyist Disclosure Act.

By Matt Fuller Posted at 4:29 p.m.
Ethics

Texas GOP Delegation to Obama: Enforce Immigration Law

smith 027 030613 330x221 Texas GOP Delegation to Obama: Enforce Immigration Law

Smith took the lead on sending a letter to Obama on the border crisis (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House and Senate Republicans of the Texas congressional delegation are the latest contingent to stake out a position on the border crisis as time left to act on the issue before the August recess recedes.

On Thursday, all 26 Lone Star State Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill — 24 in the House and two in the Senate — signed on to a letter to President Barack Obama that lays out actions they want him to take to respond to the surge of child migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. Full story

Miller Fires Back at Sanders After VA Talks Stall Over Money (Video) (Updated)

miller 061 050714 445x296 Miller Fires Back at Sanders After VA Talks Stall Over Money (Video) (Updated)

Miller (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:21 p.m. | House Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., took issue with charges from Senate Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that Miller was seeking to ram through a GOP plan to reduce wait times for medical care at the Veterans Administration.

Miller rebutted the allegation after a Thursday meeting of negotiators tasked with drafting a compromise proposal, which was boycotted by all Democrats except Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona. He plans to hold another meeting Monday.

“I heard all kinds of rhetoric thrown around on the [Senate] floor today that this was a take-it-or-leave-it offer, not true; that we had not been negotiating in good faith, certainly not true. Sen. Sanders knows that,” Miller said. “All we wanted to do today was to come together in public, make the offer and leave, and that is what we just did. That is all that would have happened had the Democrats just come.”

Full story

After Fights Over Cuckoo Clocks and Billable Hours, Rules Panel Backs Resolution Allowing House to Sue Obama

rules005 071614 445x300 After Fights Over Cuckoo Clocks and Billable Hours, Rules Panel Backs Resolution Allowing House to Sue Obama

Slaughter and McGovern saw their attempts to amend the resolution rebuffed in the Rules Committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House Rules Committee, already known for not being a bastion of cross-party comity, devolved into significant partisan rancor Thursday morning over a resolution to allow the House to sue the president of the United States.

The panel advanced consideration of the measure in a party-line, 7-4, vote after nearly two hours of debate, with Democrats and Republicans accusing each other in turn of playing political games.

Democrats said Republicans’ pursuit of a lawsuit against Barack Obama for making unilateral changes to the Affordable Care Act after the law was passed, with Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts accusing his GOP counterparts of acting out of “hatred” for the president and at one point calling the Republicans “cuckoo clocks.” Full story

Boehner Still Pushing on Border Supplemental, VA Crisis (Video)

With time running out before the August recess, Speaker John A. Boehner still wants deals for a border supplemental and to address the VA health care crisis, but put the onus on the Democrats and the White House to move in the GOP’s direction.

Boehner said Republicans were still talking with their colleagues about a supplemental spending package to address the flood of children crossing the border, and he said those conversations would continue in the days leading up to the August recess.

“But understand: It’s time for the White House to get their act together,” the Ohio Republican said. “They want to change the ’08 law and address the underlying problem here, or don’t they?” Full story

July 23, 2014

Boehner Pens Letter to Obama on Border Crisis, Congressional Response

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Boehner is asking if Obama backs changes to the 2008 trafficking law that Republicans contend is fueling the border crisis. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner wrote to the president Wednesday to tell him that it is “difficult to see how” Congress could address the ongoing crisis at the border without addressing the 2008 human trafficking law that many Republicans contend has helped create the surge of migrants on the Southwest border.

With congressional Democrats increasingly digging in their heels on proposed changes to the 2008 law, Boehner called on Obama to reaffirm the administration’s support for revisions that would expedite deportations of migrant minors from Central America.

Full text of the letter follows: Full story

House GOP Forges Ahead on Border Funding Legislation With No Clear Endgame

rogers091013 445x317 House GOP Forges Ahead on Border Funding Legislation With No Clear Endgame

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 5:06 p.m. | House Republicans laid out their requirements for President Barack Obama’s border crisis spending request Wednesday: National Guard troops, more judges for expedited deportations and changes to a 2008 trafficking law that would make it easier to send Central American minors home.

But with little more than a week before lawmakers are supposed to leave town for the August recess, Democrats digging in against changing the 2008 law, and some conservatives complaining the deportation provisions aren’t harsh enough, it’s not clear GOP leaders have the votes needed to send their bill to the Senate.

Throughout the day Wednesday, GOP leaders, appropriators and stakeholder members huddled with colleagues to corral support for a possible $1.5 billion bill — the White House originally asked for $3.7 billion — to fund enforcement agencies that have been stretched thin by the overwhelming surge of Central American migrants in southern Texas.

But as of Wednesday afternoon, no formal piece of legislation had been introduced and no decisions had been made as to whether the GOP’s funding proposal and its separate policy provisions would be contained in one package or two.

Appropriations Democrats had not even been briefed on the details of a spending package, according to a Democratic committee aide.

Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., told reporters: “When the leadership lays out the plans for timing of what we do, we’ll be ready. … It’s pretty close to being ready.”

Meanwhile, a sizable number of rank-and-file Republicans said Wednesday that doing nothing at all would be better than passing legislation the Democrat-controlled Senate would likely make more lenient on undocumented immigrants — or that Obama would just ignore like he has, they say, with other laws on the books.

“We like her ideas,” said Rep. John Fleming, R-La., of the recommendations put forth by Kay Granger, R-Texas, the chairwoman of the specially appointed GOP working group tasked with coming up with the border recommendations. “The problem is, if we pass them, they’ll be gone.” Full story

Cruz Meets With Conservatives to Discuss Border Crisis (Updated)

BtOrPguIUAAp6VE Cruz Meets With Conservatives to Discuss Border Crisis (Updated)

Cruz talks border crisis over breakfast. (Photo from @RepJeffDuncan’s Twitter feed.)

Updated 1:23 p.m. | Sen. Ted Cruz once again met with a group of the House’s most conservative lawmakers Wednesday morning to discuss potential legislative responses to the flood of children crossing the border.

Cruz met with “more than 20″ House Republicans Wednesday morning, according to Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, to discuss a supplemental package meant to address the influx of unaccompanied minors at the border. “I didn’t have a hard count, but I know that it was more than 20,” King said.

According to the Iowa Republican, lawmakers had breakfast and listened to Cruz’s take on the crisis.

“The main agenda was to hear from Ted Cruz and his perspective on immigration,” King said. “And then many people around the table weighed in and we had an open discussion.”

King noted that lawmakers didn’t know the exact details of the package at the time — Republicans learned more about it in conference Wednesday morning. But, in general, lawmakers seem concerned that whatever the House sends over to the Senate will be amended to not include changes to a 2008 human trafficking law. Republicans want the law changed to expedite the deportation of children from Central American countries who are coming to the United States in droves.

“There’s an understanding that whatever might go to the Senate will come back to us, if it comes back at all, and we would describe it as ‘terrible,’ King said. “And so, again, there’s no one who has explained how you can start something in the House and get it to the president’s desk and think that you’ve improved the situation when you have a president that, and, I think, a Harry Reid in the Senate — they don’t even want to amend the 2008 bill. They’re for what that’s causing.”

The group heard from a number of lawmakers, including Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., who was considering offering his own fix for the border crisis. Following the border working group’s release of their suggestions, Salmon issued a statement signing off on their recommendations.

“The House will now take up these recommendations so that we can quickly send them to the Senate for a vote and to the President for implementation,” Salmon said. “I expect that whatever proposal we pass will remain fiscally responsible and not add to our deficit.”

The meeting was part of a regular breakfast with the Conservative Opportunity Society, of which King is the chairman.

Members met in the narrow Henry J. Hyde room of the Capitol, where a quote above the door from William Allen White reads: “Whoever is fighting for liberty is defending America.”

By Matt Fuller Posted at 12:09 p.m.
Immigration

GOP Calls for Troops on Border, Speedier Deportations

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Granger and the GOP border crisis task force called for more troops and speedier deportations. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner’s hand-picked House GOP  ”working group” on the border crisis released its recommendations Wednesday.

“Our focus has been to ensure the safety of the children and it has remained a top priority throughout this process,” said Texas Rep. Kay Granger, who chaired the group.

The task force called for deploying the National Guard and changing a 2008 law Republicans say is hindering the speedy return of Central American minors to their home countries.

“Anyone who has been to South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley knows that the men and women of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection are doing a remarkable job, but they are stretched thin with the massive surge of children crossing the border, and the quickest way to provide relief is by deploying the National Guard. The National Guard would also assist with the humanitarian care and needs of the unaccompanied minors, which will free up the Border Patrol to focus on their primary mission,” Granger said in a statement.

“The recommendation to amend the Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act of 2008 is something both parties agree on and modifications to the law can be done to expedite the process while ensuring proper protections are in place for the children who need them. We recommend amending the 2008 law, so that all unaccompanied minors are treated the same for the purpose of removal. This would be done by requiring unaccompanied minors who do not wish to be voluntarily returned to their home country to remain in Health and Human Services’ custody while they await an expedited immigration court hearing that must promptly occur after they are screened by child welfare officials,” she said. Full story

By David Eldridge Posted at 10:10 a.m.
Uncategorized

July 22, 2014

4 Big Reasons Obama’s Border Funds Request Is in Trouble

House Republican Conference 22 120313 445x295 4 Big Reasons Obamas Border Funds Request Is in Trouble

Granger is leading a GOP task force to make recommendations on the child migrant border surge (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The initial outcry in Washington over the scale and scope of the child migrant surge at the U.S.-Mexico border signaled this could be a moment for rare bipartisan action.

But as with most issues on Capitol Hill, hopes for cooperation soon dissipated with rancor and disagreements now boiling over between the parties — not to mention within Democrats’ and Republicans’ own ranks.

With just days left until the monthlong August recess, lawmakers seemed as far apart as ever Tuesday — the eve of a House Republican Conference meeting that could determine whether, and how, the chamber moves forward with legislation to fund additional resources at the border and various policy changes to stem the tide of the crisis.

Here are four of the biggest reasons that first glimmer of optimism Republicans and Democrats could cobble together a deal might ultimately have been misplaced.

First, for House Republicans, it’s still about immigration. Republican leaders might have hoped that a specially-appointed “working group” tasked with advising the conference on the border crisis would help focus the conversation on the matter at hand, rather than let it devolve into the loaded rhetoric of the immigration debate that has plagued the party for the past year and a half.

It has proved virtually impossible to separate the two issues, however, with tempers still flaring on a number of fronts — from the president’s alleged untrustworthiness to concerns that undocumented immigrants are running rampant on the taxpayer’s dime, and fear that passing a border funding bill that isn’t stringent enough could be perceived by the public as too lenient.

At least 33 House Republicans want Obama to end his executive action that grants stays of deportation for young people brought into the country illegally by their parents, hoping send a message to Central American countries that their children won’t get a free pass at the Southwest border. And the six Republican House members from Oklahoma don’t want any more unaccompanied minors shipped to holding facilities housed at the state’s Fort Sill army base.

There are even divisions within the seven-member House working group regarding just how far to go. The same day the members signed off on its report of recommendations to leadership, two of them — Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia and Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Carter of Texas — introduced their own bills addressing the border crisis that tack significantly further to the right. Spokesmen for the lawmakers said the measures were intended to compliment, not supplement, the task force’s work, but a lack of solidarity among seven, hand-picked members could serve as a harbinger for how hard it will be to build consensus with the larger, unwieldy Republican rank and file.

Second, House Democrats are confounded by a difficult choice. Republicans are united on one thing: Any funding bill that comes to the floor will contain policy riders, and one of those riders will be a revision to a 2008 trafficking law to expedite deportations of unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border. Reality is sinking in among Democratic leaders that a condition of giving the president the money to stem the border crisis will be swallowing what for them is a bitter pill, one they say would strip children of key protections against exploitation and harm in their home countries.

Democratic leaders sense that a growing number of their members, particularly those who hail from the Hispanic and Progressive caucuses, are prepared to withhold their votes on those grounds, meaning they will have to either appeal to their members to hold their noses and vote “yes” or stand with them and vote “no.” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has already begun to harden her stance against changing the 2008 law after saying it wouldn’t be a “deal breaker” for her, though she still has not drawn a line in the sand regarding how she would vote if the language was included.

There could be practical consequences attached to not supporting the funding bill: Republicans could need Democratic votes to get the legislation over the finish line. But there could also be political consequences, with “no” votes opening Democrats up to criticism from Republicans that Pelosi and her party were in favor of the tweaks before they were against them, and that Democrats are turning away from their own party leadership. Speaker John A. Boehner seized upon that talking point Tuesday morning, suggesting in a statement that Democratic leaders’ waffling could jeopardize the entire effort.

Third, both parties are in for a challenging whip operation. If House Republicans want to pass a border funding package that could have some viability in the Senate, it’s going to have to be at least somewhat bipartisan, and they’re going to have to get Democratic votes. In that case, with Republicans on the right reluctant to support legislation that doesn’t contain red-meat policy provisions, and Democrats on the left unwilling to make compromises on changes to the trafficking law, leaders on both sides of the aisle are going to have to corral votes from middle. It’s likely Republicans will have to reach out to Democrats to make a deal, but Democrats won’t necessarily want to help, especially when there’s continued angst over riders and leaders could see an opening to extract compromises in exchange for their votes.

The challenge could be compounded by House GOP leadership’s current state of flux. Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia has been largely out of the loop since losing his June 10 primary — to an opponent who targeted Cantor’s support for an immigration overhaul, no less — and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California, slated to replace Cantor on Aug. 1, has been basically working two jobs. The incoming whip, current Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise of Louisiana, is also dealing with the transition.

A GOP leadership aide close to the whip operation insisted that McCarthy and Scalise are working double-duty in anticipation of their new roles, and said their collaboration and engagement on this particular issue leaves them well prepared to tackle the most ambitious of vote counts. It’s the Democrats’ indecision on where they stand, the aide said, that is making things complicated.

Fourth, the House is stymied by money and time. Republicans are in agreement that the president’s $3.7 billion ask is too high, but how much they want to cut is another sticking point. For some GOP lawmakers, no topline number will be fiscally prudent enough; others might quibble that too conservative a sum might not fund all of the necessarily priorities outlined by the working group.

There’s also the question of whether the funds will be offset or classified as “emergency,” per Obama’s request. Republicans would all prefer the funding to be paid for, even those who don’t insist on it — though there’s a substantial number of members who do. Members don’t, however, know where to find such offsets, with non-controversial savings hard to come by. Whether appropriators are able to present members with a viable option could determine whether the package has enough votes to advance.

All this is taking place as days left until the August recess are down to the single digits.

Should Congress fail to act now, it could pick things back up in September, but the legislative days then are numbered too, before members go off to campaign in advance of the midterms. Plus, they could find themselves consumed with another piece of pressing business: A deal to avoid a government shutdown at the end of that month.

 

Related:

The Other Side of the Border: CQ Roll Call’s Special Report from Guatemala

President’s Party Asks Why He’s Avoiding the Border

Obama ‘Happy to Consider’ Sending National Guard to Border to get Votes on Supplemental

A Tale of Two Congressional Visits to the Southwest Border

Obama Asking Congress for $4.3 Billion for Border Crisis, Wildfires

Alone, Illegal and Underage: The Child Migrant Crisis

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Johnson: Ignoring Border Crisis is Not an Option for Congress (Updated) (Video)

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Homeland Security Secretary Johnson says Congress can’t ignore the administration’s request for emergency funds on the border. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 5:54 p.m. | “Doing nothing in Congress is not an option,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Tuesday, as the clock ticks down out for Congress to provide emergency funding to address the influx of migrant children at the Texas border.

Johnson echoed a warning that he stressed at a July 10 Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, saying that the emergency funding from President Barack Obama is critical to addressing the crisis.

“At the current burn rate, given the capacity we’ve had to surge to deal with this issue, Immigration and Customs Enforcement will run out of money in August. Customs and Border Protection will run out of money in mid September,” Johnson said at a press conference at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters Tuesday afternoon. Full story

Boehner on Obamacare: ‘It Cannot Be Fixed’

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Boehner and other Republicans said the court ruling is an indication Obamacare is broken. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

On the same day a federal appeals court upheld an IRS subsidy for Obamacare, GOP lawmakers seized on the opportunity of a conflicting ruling — Halbig v. Burwell — to make the point that the 2010 health care law is broken.

After a 2-1 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said the government could not subsidize insurance in the 36 states that defaulted to the federal health care exchanges, Speaker John A. Boehner offered one of his harshest rebukes of the Affordable Care Act yet, saying the ruling was further proof the law is “completely unworkable.”

“It cannot be fixed,” the Ohio Republican said in a statement.

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health Chairman Joe Pitts, R-Pa., sent out a joint press release that called the Halbig ruling “a clear rebuke of the administration’s effort to extend subsidies where the law did not provide them.”

“The ruling also dramatically limits the IRS’ legal authority to enforce the individual and employer mandates,” the missive said.

That is true — or, at least, it could be true, if the rest of the D.C. Circuit Court agrees. The administration has asked the rest of the court — all 11 judges — to review the decision “en banc,” and even if the liberal-leaning court agrees, there are other cases before other courts that could undermine the decision. Full story

The Border Supplemental and ‘the Height of Irresponsibility’

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Hoyer said there should be no debate over caring for the migrant children detained on the Texas border. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With the August recess fast approaching and emergency funding to deal with the border crisis seemingly no closer to passage than it was a week ago, Democrats and Republicans are firing up a new round of the blame game.

Shortly after Speaker John A. Boehner pointed the finger at the White House and congressional Democrats for the lack of action on a spending package to address the sharp rise of unaccompanied minors crossing the border, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer redirected the blame right back at Republicans.

“I think it would be the height of irresponsibility to leave without addressing this humanitarian issue,” Hoyer said Tuesday during his weekly pen-and-pad briefing with reporters. Full story

Boehner Puts Onus on Democrats for Tenuous Status of Border Funding Bill

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Boehner says Democrats’ rejection of changes to 2008 trafficking law could complicate passage of border funding bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House Republican Conference on Wednesday will hear task force recommendations on dealing with the surge of migrant children on the Texas border, Speaker John A. Boehner said Tuesday — but he cautioned that the president’s request for emergency funds will go nowhere if Democrats backpedal on support for expedited deportations.

“In order to resolve this crisis in a timely manner, however, the White House must engage both parties on constructive solutions,” the Ohio Republican said in a statement. “After first supporting common-sense changes to the 2008 law that is making it more difficult to resolve this crisis, the White House backpedaled and failed to include those changes in its formal request to Congress. Meanwhile, many Democrats in Congress have reversed themselves and now say no changes to the 2008 law are acceptable.

“As I said last week, I don’t believe the American people will support sending more money to the border unless both parties work together to address these policies and actually solve this problem,” he said.

“The lack of leadership from this White House, and President Obama’s refusal to stand up to critics in his own political party, are jeopardizing our ability to find common ground and help the kids who are caught in the middle of this crisis.” Full story

Chaffetz on Oversight: More Results, Less Confrontation

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Chaffetz, R-Utah, would be among only a handful of House members who have earned a full chairmanship in less than five terms. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In the past 89 years, there have been four members of Congress who became committee chairmen in their fourth term. Rep. Jason Chaffetz is trying to become the fifth.

Chaffetz hasn’t even banked six full years in the House yet. But with Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa term-limited after this session, the 47-year-old Utah Republican is making a bid to head the chamber’s most powerful investigatory panel.

Like his top rival for the gavel, Michael Turner of Ohio, Chaffetz says he wants to move Oversight in a new direction. But Chaffetz, like Issa, still wants to go “full throttle” on the executive branch.

“I’m very grateful to Darrell Issa,” Chaffetz told CQ Roll Call. “He’s been very good to me, he’s given me a great opportunity, but we’d all do things a little bit differently.” Full story

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