Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 31, 2014

July 30, 2014

Facing Immigration Revolt, Republicans May Vote to Ban ‘Administrative Amnesty’

In a bid to shore up votes for their border supplemental, Republican leaders are tentatively planning to give conservatives a vote Thursday prohibiting President Barack Obama from granting deportation relief to more illegal immigrants.

One vote would be on the $659 million appropriations bill aimed at curbing the flow of child migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, which includes policy riders that have alienated nearly all Democrats.

On the condition of that bill passing, members would then be allowed to vote on standalone language prohibiting the expansion of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program granting deportation relief and work permits to children brought here illegally by their parents. Republicans charge DACA has acted as a magnet for unaccompanied children to come to the United States, although recent immigrants are not eligible. Full story

House Votes to Sue Obama (Updated) (Video)

The House voted mostly along party lines Wednesday to authorize suing President Barack Obama, which Republicans called a principled move to rein in an increasingly lawless president and Democrats and the White House dismissed as a taxpayer-financed political stunt.

The resolution adopted 225-201 would authorize a lawsuit against the president over his implementation of the Affordable Care Act, with five Republicans joining all the Democrats in opposition — Paul Broun of Georgia, Steve Stockman of Texas, Scott Garrett of New Jersey, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Walter B. Jones of North Carolina.

GOP leaders plan to sue over his decision to delay the employer mandate without authorization from Congress.

Republicans say the unilateral employer mandate delay is just one example of the White House’s disregard for the rule of law. Indeed, when Speaker John A. Boehner first announced his intent to sue the president, Republicans weren’t sure which action they would target. They had a menu of options to chose from, which Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, highlighted during the floor debate Wednesday.

“By circumventing Congress, the president’s actions have marginalized the role that the American people play in creating the laws that govern them,” said Sessions. “Specifically, the president has waived work requirements for welfare recipients, unilaterally changed immigrations laws, released the Gitmo Five without properly notifying Congress — which is the law — and ignored the statutory requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Full story

VA Health Care Overhaul Passes House

Updated 5:04 p.m. | The House voted overwhelmingly to pass the compromise health care overhaul aimed at slashing wait times at Veterans Affairs facilities. The bill is expected to easily pass the Senate and head to President Barack Obama’s desk before Congress leaves for the August recess.

The bill — crafted by House Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Bernard Sanders, I-Vt. — proved so popular that leaders brought it to the floor under suspension of the rules, an expedited floor procedure requiring a two-thirds majority for passage. It passed 420-5, despite the conservative group Heritage Action for America announcing it would key vote against its package on its annual scorecard.

Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, cheered the rare bipartisan achievement:

“Allowing the lives of our nation’s veterans to slip through the cracks of a broken bureaucracy is not just unacceptable, it’s immoral,” he said in a statement. “Making sure veterans have timely access to care is one of the first things we must do to address the crisis at the VA.  We also need real accountability, and making it easier to fire or demote the senior managers who are not doing their jobs is a positive step forward.  But, this agreement is just the beginning. Much more work needs to be done to fix the widespread problems at the VA, and it’s going to require the president to outline a long-term plan.”

The easy passage marked a major turnaround from late last week, when talks stalled.

Full story

House Democrats Weigh Voting Down Highway Bill

Democrats are apparently considering a tactic of voting down the House highway bill in hopes that Republicans would have to accept the Senate measure that offers a different timeline for funding construction projects. Asked whether there would be new Democratic opposition to the bill on Wednesday, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland suggested it is possible.

“We think the Senate bill is far better policy, and we’re discussing now our response to that,” Hoyer told reporters.

The Senate passed an amended form of the bill Tuesday, 79-18, changing some of the offsets in the bill and the length of the measure from May to December. Though the Senate bill is a shorter term, the idea is to force Congress to find a more permanent solution in the lame-duck, not in May, at “the beginning of the next construction season,” as Hoyer put it.

Democrats overwhelmingly supported the House version of the bill on July 15 when the measure passed 367-55. There were 45 Republicans voting against the measure. If those same 45 Republicans maintain their opposition, Democrats could force the GOP’s hand. At the very least, some of the Republican dissenters would need to flip their vote to help the measure pass the chamber.

The same would be true of the Democrats who voted for the bill, which Speaker John A. Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel was happy to point out.

Full story

Majority Leader-Elect McCarthy Inherits Top Cantor Aides

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Four Eric Cantor aides will keep their jobs but have a new boss by the end of the week. Neil Bradley, Rob Borden, Robert Story Karem and Roger Mahan will work for incoming Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.

Bradley will remain deputy chief of staff, a position he also held for two years when Cantor was the minority whip and when Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri was House majority whip.

Full story

Majority Whip-Elect Steve Scalise Staffs Up

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Scalise staffers took stock of his leadership bid. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The new House GOP leadership team is staffing up.

On Tuesday evening, just days before he officially assumes the rank of No. 3 House Republican with Kevin McCarthy poised to take on the post of No. 2, Majority Whip-Elect Steve Scalise, R-La., released the names of the aides who will either join his office or follow him into his new suite in the Capitol proper.

Many of the men and women currently on his payroll — either in his personal office or at the Republican Study Committee where he served as chairman — will stay on board, assuming equivalent titles or taking on new ones. Full story

Bill Foster, Congress’ Science Guy

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Foster in his Longworth office on Capitol Hill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Not everyone gets cards from Fermilab.

Democrat Bill Foster’s Longworth office is a modest one, its small waiting area festooned with the requisite Lincolnia befitting a House member from Illinois.

Amid the Land of Lincoln regalia is a more personal effect of the man who represents the 11th District, offering a hint of his role as Congress’ science guy. Displayed on the shelves are greetings and salutations from his friends at Fermilab, the national laboratory where Foster helped hunt down the top quark and pursue other experimental physics for nearly a quarter century. The snow-scaped image of Fermilab’s upside-down-Y-shaped Wilson Hall helps define who Foster is: a man whose scientific acumen has informed his life as an entrepreneur, physicist and public servant.

Foster has been proudly flying the science flag in the halls of Congress. On the floor, he’s gleefully pushed for the House’s science measures, even working in references to Star Wars.

In June he hobnobbed with Bill Nye the Science Guy at the White House Maker Faire, a kind of summit to push innovative entrepreneurship.

This is a man who seems comfortable verging into science geekiness.

Full story

July 29, 2014

Pelosi: GOP Border Bill ‘Unjust and Inhumane’

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi blistered the GOP’s border bill as “unjust and inhumane” in a statement Tuesday.

“We must have a heart, and look into our souls to guide us in our treatment of these desperate children,” the California Democrat said of the tens of thousands of unauthorized migrants who have flooded the border. “While we are reminded of the critical importance of passing comprehensive immigration reform, we must do so much more than the Republicans’ unjust and inhumane proposal.”

It’s not unusual for Pelosi to blast a Republican measure, but in this case, it’s not clear Republicans can pass their bill if Pelosi puts the hammer down on Democrats who cross party lines.  Full story

Dysfunctional Congress Sprints to Chaotic Finish

A Congress known for its dysfunction and acrimony may be on the verge of a rare triple combo — passing major bills addressing the border crisis, the Veterans Affairs scandal and the Highway Trust Fund in one week. But if it happens, it’s going to be like the rest of the 113th: ugly.

The pre-August sprint got off on the right foot with the announcement Monday of a $17 billion deal to slash wait times at the Department of Veterans Affairs, followed Tuesday by the 97-0 confirmation of former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new Veterans Affairs secretary.

A highway patch seemed likely too, although not without last-minute wrangling between the two chambers over the fine print. Full story

Boehner Blasts Reid, Won’t Allow ‘Immigration Reform’ on Border Bill (Video)

Speaker John A. Boehner vowed the House would not allow the Senate to add any “comprehensive immigration reform bill or anything like it, including the DREAM Act” to the House’s $659 million border bill Tuesday.

“Senator Reid, embarrassed that he cannot strong-arm the Senate into passing the blank check President Obama demanded, is making a deceitful and cynical attempt to derail the House’s common-sense solution,” the Ohio Republican said in a statement aimed at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., after Reid suggested he could add immigration to the border bill.

“So let me be as clear as I can be with Senator Reid: the House of Representatives will not take up the Senate immigration reform bill or accept it back from the Senate in any fashion,” he said. “Nor will we accept any attempt to add any other comprehensive immigration reform bill or anything like it, including the DREAM Act, to the House’s targeted legislation, which is meant to fix the actual problems causing the border crisis. Such measures have no place in the effort to solve this crisis, and any attempt to exploit this crisis by adding such measures will run into a brick wall in the People’s House.” Full story

Former Rep. M. Caldwell Butler Dies at 89 (Video)

Former Rep. M. Caldwell Butler, a Virginian congressman who came to office in the midst of President Richard M. Nixon’s impeachment, died early Tuesday. He was 89.

B001182 142x240 Former Rep. M. Caldwell Butler Dies at 89 (Video)

U.S. House of Representatives

The Republican served Virginia’s 6th district from 1972 to 1983 and was a member of the Judiciary Committee. It was on that panel, that he voted, as a freshman, to impeach Nixon following the Watergate scandal. Out of the committee’s 17 Republicans, Butler was one of the six to join committee Democrats in recommending impeachment.

Butler’s wife, June, died last month.

The Judiciary Committee recognized the loss of the Roanoke congressman Tuesday, with Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., announcing Butler’s passing.

Goodlatte, the current representative for Virginia’s sixth district, remembered Butler as “a public servant in the truest sense of the word.”

“He was a friend of everyone who knew him and someone who I had great respect,” Goodlatte said. “He will be badly missed.”

At Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing, ranking member John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., recalled serving alongside Butler on Judiciary, regularly exchanging views.

“Our friendship was never impaired by the different perspectives that we had on how government should run,” Conyers said.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., also remembered Butler, calling him “a man of tremendous principle.”

Butler graduated with a law degree from the University of Virginia in 1950 and practiced law in Roanoke. He served in Virginia’s House of Delegates from 1962 to 1971.

Republicans Honor Cantor’s Tenure (Video)

The House Republican Conference paid tribute to outgoing Majority Leader Eric Cantor Tuesday morning with a video showcasing the Virginia Republican’s legislative career.

“While it’s impossible to fully capture your leadership on behalf of House Republicans, I wanted to remind everyone of a few of your many highlights,” Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington said introducing the video.

The video takes note of the bipartisan pediatric research bill Cantor championed, and includes a mention of his Jewish faith. It is set to triumphant music and includes flattering photos of Cantor working on a variety of issues, stressing bipartisanship and coming together for a common good.

The tribute concludes with the majority leader sounding a hopeful note: ”Each setback is an opportunity and that there is always optimism for the future.”

Watch below:

Full story

Will Democrats Bail Out Republicans on Border Supplemental?

As House Republicans search for the votes to pass a $659 million border supplemental bill, the key to getting the measure across the finish line may rest with one group: Democrats.

Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., seemed to indicate Tuesday there would be some support for the border supplemental on the Democratic side, though exactly how many Democratic votes Republicans could count on was a mystery.

Hoyer said he thought the $659 million was “inadequate,” and said doing it for just two months was “bad policy.”

“But I don’t think it would be a poison pill, if you will,” he said. “Essentially, we’re arguing how long a time are we going to appropriate the money for.”

Indeed, many Republicans may have trouble swallowing a $659 million price tag to address the border crisis for just two months, but the money could be the key for Democrats. Of course, many Democrats still have a problem with the proposed changes to a 2008 law on human trafficking that would essentially expedite the deportation of children from Central America, and those provisions certainly make passage in the Democratic Senate tricky. But the bill might have tacked just enough to the middle to at least make it through the House.

At least that was the tone Hoyer struck Tuesday, even as he noted that he didn’t personally like the bill.

Pressed on why Democrats wouldn’t withhold all their support and make Republicans pass the bill with only GOP votes, Hoyer suggested that relying on Democratic votes to pass the supplemental was a risky strategy for Republicans.

“Well if they need it, they’re throwing dice,” Hoyer said.

But he didn’t say Democratic leadership would be clamping down on its members to ensure no Democrat votes for the proposal. “I don’t know how much support there’s going to be on this side for their proposition,” Hoyer said.

The No. 2 House Democrat indicated he wouldn’t exactly be helping Republicans pass the bill. “I don’t see myself trying to get them votes for a language change,” he said, referring to the 2008 trafficking law. But Hoyer didn’t express great confidence in his ability to whip against this vote.

“I wish I could be as assured that I could give votes or not give votes that you premise,” Hoyer said.

Advocates Grade Congress on Immigration (Updated)

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Immigration overhaul advocates hold a large rally in front of the White House Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Frustrated by lack of action and unfulfilled promises on the immigration overhaul front, a coalition of 10 advocacy groups is out to hold House members accountable for the extent to which they were unhelpful to the cause.

A new scorecard for all 435 members’ immigration votes, statements and co-sponsorships aims to draw a stark portrait of “who stands with us and who does not,” said Hispanic Federation President José Calderón. The rankings come as Congress nears a boiling point on an emergency funding request from President Barack Obama intended to mitigate the crisis at the border as children cross illegally into the United States.

The first-of-its-kind scorecard was released Monday, as advocates gathered a stone’s throw from the Capitol for the grand unveiling, calling for action and scolding lawmakers for what they see as stonewalling on a critical issue.

“Every ‘zero’ you see in that scorecard is personal to us,” said Rocio Sáenz, a member of the board of directors for Mi Familia Vota.

“There is some explaining that needs to be done as to why they said to us in private that they supported immigration reform, yet their report card says different,” said Tony Suárez, vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

Republicans received significantly lower rankings than Democrats. Clarissa Martínez de Castro, the deputy vice president of the National Council of La Raza Office of Research, Advocacy and Legislation, said the discrepancy reflected a “Republican leadership failure,” though the organizations behind the scorecard insist the results are based on the facts and aren’t motivated by party preference.

Here’s a look at the rankings, based on members’ positions in 11 different areas over the past several months: Full story

$659 Million Border Bill Planned by GOP (Updated) (Video)

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Rogers, center, said funding for Israel and wildfires would not be in the GOP’s border bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 11:17 a.m. | Republicans hope to pass $659 million in supplemental spending for the border crisis before leaving for the August recess, Speaker John A. Boehner said after a GOP conference meeting Tuesday.

The Ohio Republican said the House will “attempt to move this bill” on Thursday and said he anticipated the measure would have “sufficient support,” but noted there is still “a little more work to do to” to shore up the votes.

Two-thirds of the funding will be for border security, with $40 million going to prevention and $197 million going to humanitarian assistance, according to a GOP aide. It will run through Sept. 30.

The bill is far smaller than the $3.7 billion President Barack Obama sought for border security alone. Full story

By Emma Dumain Posted at 10:36 a.m.
Immigration

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