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October 31, 2014

October 31, 2014

When Being a County Supervisor Is More Appealing Than Congress

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McLeod is leaving Congress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

LOS ANGELES — Washington’s lousy with politicians who decry the city’s endless cycle of partisan sniping, gridlock and dysfunction. Still, every election, there they are, fighting for one more term — unwilling to leave the nation’s capital even when they lose.

But that’s not Gloria Negrete McLeod.

One term in Congress was enough, thank you, for the California Democrat who is convinced that she can do more good as part of the five-member San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors than she can as one of 435 votes in the U.S. House.

The 73-year-old congresswoman, elected in 2012, is retiring after just one term — in part because she doesn’t like the long cross-country commute to Washington and in part because she feels Congress is at a standstill.

“I would have stayed in Congress until they carried me out,” McLeod told CQ Roll Call. “But it’s a place where nothing gets done.” Full story

October 30, 2014

GOP: Obama’s Immigration Action Will Cripple 2016 Democrats

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Diaz-Balart said Obama’s promised unilateral action on immigration will backfire in 2016. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans have an immigration problem, and Democrats may have an answer.

When President Barack Obama, as expected, moves ahead with an executive action on immigration, he could be handing Republicans the out they need on an issue that is expected to plague the GOP in national elections for years.

By acting on his own, politicians and pollsters told CQ Roll Call, Obama may take immediate pressure off Congress to address the nation’s immigration system while also giving Republicans a legitimate reason to bash the overhaul. Republicans — particularly those with 2016 aspirations — can slam the immigration action as an executive overreach.

Congressional Democrats are already playing defense against that line of attack. On Thursday, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi penned an op-ed with Illinois Democrat Luis V. Gutiérrez and California Democrat Zoe Lofgren, arguing that the president’s authority to defer removal of illegal immigrants has precedent.

Of course, there are plenty of questions remaining regarding the president’s executive order — who will be included, how the action will impact enforcement and the extent of the deferments. But Democrats and Republicans are already starting to ask the question that’s always most important in Washington: How does this affect the next election?

Republicans contend — perhaps a bit hopefully — that unilateral action will backfire on Obama and the Democrats.

Pro-immigration overhaul Republican Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida told CQ Roll Call that, “short-term,” the president might receive a bump from voters. “But, I think, long-term, it’s going to be devastating.”

There are videos, the Miami congressman said, of Obama arguing that he lacks the legal authority to act alone on immigration. And when the public is inundated with those videos, Diaz-Balart predicted, they’ll turn on a unilateral immigration action.

“I think it will personally destroy him,” Diaz-Balart said of Obama. Full story

October 29, 2014

Boehner, White House Spar Over ‘Chickenshit’ Comment

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Netanyahu addressed Congress in 2011. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The reported description of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “chickenshit” by a senior administration official has set off a rhetorical exchange between Speaker John A. Boehner and the White House.

That unnamed official was quoted by The Atlantic as having said, “The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickenshit.”

“I am tired of the administration’s apology tour.  The president sets the tone for his administration. He either condones the profanity and disrespect used by the most senior members of his administration, or he does not,” Boehner said in a statement Wednesday. “It is time for him to get his house in order and tell the people that can’t muster professionalism that it is time to move on.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that Boehner has had previous “salty” word choices of his own.

“It’s an interesting observation by the speaker of the House who, you all know, has a penchant for using some pretty salty language himself. So, it’s a little rich to have a lecture about profanity from the speaker of the House,” Earnest said, referring to reported comments Boehner made about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., during the fiscal cliff battle.

Full story

October 28, 2014

Indicted Grimm Says Financial Services Chair Saving Him a Seat

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Grimm says Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling is saving a spot for him on the panel. (Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If outgoing House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas decides to challenge Rep. Jeb Hensarling for the Financial Services gavel and succeeds, it wouldn’t be a setback for just the current chairman.

Rep. Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y., who gave up his seat on the powerful committee earlier this year after being indicted on 20 counts of fraud and tax evasion, says Hensarling has promised he can return to the panel if he is cleared.

Grimm has maintained his innocence and expects to be exonerated when he stands trial in December — after he wins re-election next week.

“[He] has already said my spot is waiting,” Grimm told the Staten Island Advance’s editorial board last week. “The chairman of Financial Services has donated to my campaign. He’s supporting me fully.”

David Popp, a committee spokesman for Hensarling, confirmed to the Advance that Grimm’s statement was “accurate.” Full story

Congressional Hispanic Caucus: All In on Perez for Attorney General

 

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Perez (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama hasn’t yet made public his pick for a replacement for outgoing Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., but the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has: It wants current Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez to take the job.

“Secretary Perez has a proven record of championing and defending the rights of all Americans,” Chairman Rubén Hinojosa said in a statement. “The CHC supported Tom Perez in his nomination to the Department of Labor, and the Caucus will continue to support him if he is formally nominated for the position of U.S. Attorney General.”

Rep. Ben Ray Luján, the first vice chairman of the CHC, announced that group has endorsed Perez for attorney general. The endorsement comes as Obama considers a nominee to head the Department of Justice.

“The Congressional Hispanic Caucus proudly endorses Secretary Tom Perez to serve as the next Attorney General of the United States,” said Hinojosa, the Texas Democrat who chairs the 27-member caucus. “We hope Secretary Perez will be the President’s nominee of choice to head the Department of Justice.”

“Throughout a distinguished career that includes Secretary of Labor and Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Tom Perez has demonstrated a deep commitment to justice and civil rights,” said Luján, a New Mexico Democrat. “As a dedicated public servant, he has stood up for working families and advocated for the rights of all Americans — especially the most vulnerable.”

Perez, a Harvard Law School graduate who served as a deputy assistant attorney general during the Clinton administration before returning to the Justice Department in 2009, is the son of Dominican immigrants. He was confirmed as labor secretary in July 2013.

The White House said earlier this month that Obama will not name a nominee after the midterm elections.

 

Related stories:

No Attorney General Pick Until After Elections, White House Says

Obama Has Another Key DOJ Post to Fill

New Choice to Head DOJ Civil Rights Division Has Early Conservative Support

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October 27, 2014

For ‘The Gipper’: Scalise Rallies GOP With 1964 Reagan Speech

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Scalise and other Republicans on Monday looked to the words of the late President Reagan for inspiration. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

On Monday, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., gave his 233 House Republican colleagues and a handful of congressional candidates a virtual pep talk, emailing around a copy of President Ronald Reagan’s famous “A Time for Choosing” speech, along with a note on its significance.

Reagan’s speech, which turned 50 Monday, was originally delivered on behalf of the 1964 Republican presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater. Scalise wrote to members that the speech — which is often referred to simply as “The Speech” — is still relevant today as the GOP fights for fiscal restraint, smaller government and other conservative values.

A campaign spokesman, in a statement, described Scalise’s correspondence as “a token of inspiration as we enter into the final days of the mid-term elections.”

It also could be seen as a goodwill gesture from the still-new House GOP majority whip looking to endear himself with members, old and new. He faces re-election to a full, two-year term as whip the week Congress reconvenes for the lame duck session. Full story

October 26, 2014

Cynthia Lummis: ‘Our Hearts Are Broken’ After Husband’s Death

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Lummis represents Wyoming in the House. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Alvin Wiederspahn, a former state legislator and the husband of Rep. Cynthia M. Lummis, R-Wyo., died Friday at the age of 65, according to a statement from the lawmaker on Saturday.

“Last night, my husband, Al, passed away peacefully in his sleep in our home in Cheyenne,” Lummis said. “Annaliese and I know that God has taken Al home to heaven, but right now our hearts are broken.” Full story

October 24, 2014

Watch Live: House Oversight Hearing on Ebola Threat

The House Oversight and Government Reform committee holds a 9:30 a.m. hearing on the federal government’s response to the Ebola virus, which has killed more than 4,500 people in West African nations.

Witnesses include officials from the Defense Department, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security.

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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October 23, 2014

GOP Gavel Fights: 11 House Committee Chairmanships In Play

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Hensarling may have a challenger for the Financial Services’ gavel. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Almost every House member is on the stump this month, wrapping up re-election bids, with most cruising to new terms and a handful on both sides of the aisle scrambling to hang on to their jobs. But for a select few GOP lawmakers — those actively seeking committee chairmanships — the final days before Nov. 4 are as much about lining up support among colleagues as they are about connecting with voters.

Every two years, after the Election Day dust settles, members return to Capitol Hill for a lame-duck session that includes the selection of colleagues to serve as senior lawmakers on the chamber’s standing committees during the new Congress.

Republicans, widely expected to retain the majority this cycle, will be particularly busy during the lame duck, scheduled to begin Nov. 12, when it comes to doling out committee leadership appointments. Thanks to retirements, possible assignment shuffles and a 20-year rule capping panel leadership at three terms, as many as 11 out of 21 committees could see new chairmen in the 114th Congress.

A twelfth committee could even be at play, if term-limited Agriculture Chairman Frank D. Lucas of Oklahoma decides to challenge Jeb Hensarling’s grip on the Financial Services gavel, as he recently suggested he might.

For the decidedly open chairmanships, some lawmakers are expected to win their desired posting without competition, while others will be facing off against their peers. All of the slots are filled by a secret ballot vote of members on the Republican Steering Committee, comprised of party leaders, top-tier panel chairmen and regional representatives.

Here’s a rundown of 11 committee gavels that are up for grabs, and which members stand to snag them. Full story

October 22, 2014

McCarthy Offers Glimpse of GOP’s 2015 Priority: ‘Government Reform’

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McCarthy offers a glimpse of the GOP agenda. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy sent a memo to House Republicans Wednesday providing an early sketch of how a new Republican Congress would purportedly operate.

While the memo wasn’t exactly a legislative outline — the email is titled “Government Competency,” and seems intended as much for public consumption as for Republican members of Congress — McCarthy alludes to how he would like the GOP House to draft a 2015 legislative agenda.

“To be successful, we need every member and every committee to participate in this grand and ongoing project of government reform,” McCarthy wrote. “In the coming weeks, please take a moment and think about areas of government reform you would like to focus on during the next Congress.”

McCarthy mentions that, “working with our committees,” Republicans will be formulating the components of a government operations overhaul for 2015.

“A portion of our 2015 legislative agenda will focus on reforming and streamlining federal agencies so government works as it should,” McCarthy said.

The 1,410-word email reads more like a press release than a memo intended just for the eyes of House Republicans. It starts with an anecdote from former President Ronald Reagan on buying a car in the Soviet Union, provides numerous instances of government inefficiency or incompetence and blames many of those issues on President Barack Obama and his administration.

The full text of the memo:

MEMORANDUM

TO: House Republicans

FROM: Kevin McCarthy

DATE: October 22, 2014

SUBJECT: Government Competency

“Sincerity and competence is a strong combination. In politics, it is everything.”

– Peggy Noonan

Ronald Reagan joked “in the Soviet Union automobiles were mainly owned by elite bureaucrats. For average citizens it could take an average of 10 years to get a car, you had to file paperwork with the government…and you had to pay in advance! So one day a man did this and the dealer said, ‘okay in 10 years come get your car.’ ‘Morning or afternoon?’ the man asked. ‘Well what difference does it make?’ asked the dealer. The man replied, ‘the plumber is coming in the morning.’” Today, Reagan’s quip could be an apt description of dealing with the federal government. Consider the following:

· Last month, the FDA finally approved the use of a second 3-D imaging system, which can improve the detection of breast cancer in women. Multiple 3-D imaging systems have been used outside the U.S. for years. The lack of access to multiple systems in the U.S. has meant fewer diagnoses and higher costs.

· A non-partisan study last year found that the average government processing time for an interstate natural gas pipeline from pre-filing to certification was 558 days. The government’s failure to approve energy infrastructure projects in a timely fashion means higher energy prices for families and businesses.

· In August of this year, an individual requesting a hearing to review a decision made by the Social Security Administration regarding their eligibility for benefits faced an average wait time of 7 to 22 months (depending on where in the country they live).

· Before Congress enacted reforms earlier this year, it could take from 10 to 15 years for the Corps of Engineers just to complete a feasibility study for a flood control or navigation project.

· It can take more than a decade to acquire all the government permits for a mineral production project. According to one report, the United States currently ranks last, along with Papua New Guinea, in permitting delays out of the twenty-five major mining countries.

· A recent non-partisan study found that nearly half of the Social Security Administration’s scheduled continuing disability reviews for children with mental impairments were overdue, and an estimated 205,000 were overdue by more than 3 years.

Every week seems to bring a new revelation of government agencies failing to accomplish their core functions. The Veterans Administration for years did not treat patients in a timely manner and covered up the backlogs; the IRS did not adequately preserve basic records; the Administration spent more than $2.1 billion on a broken and unsecure website to facilitate a law that Americans don’t like; the Secret Service failed to protect the White House; the government had a failed strategy to confront Ebola; and on foreign policy, nobody thinks America is safer or stronger than we were six years ago. The list goes on and on.

The recent blunders and scandals are not just the product of failed policy, but represent serious management failures by the President and his Administration.

Some of these problems cannot be fully addressed without a change of Administration. However, the bullets above detail many government failures that Congress can fix, even if they don’t make front page headlines.

It is important to emphasize that we want our government to be competent not just for competency sake. Rather, the government’s role in our lives must be measured, limited in its ambitions, constitutionally based, and focused on the big things that only governments can address. Unfortunately, the federal government today interferes too often in too many aspects of our daily lives, both big and small.

Restoring competency in government requires both shrinking government to its appropriate scope and mission and reforming how government operates in its core sphere.

Inefficient, ineffective, and incompetent federal agencies along with failed government policies have real world consequences. They hurt economic growth and job creation. Restoring economic growth and job creation will be the central policy goal of the next Congress and restoring competence in government will be part of that effort. The inability of the government to accomplish its most basic tasks has eroded the public’s trust in government, as polls have repeatedly shown. Worse, throughout the country there is an emerging sense of resignation that our great country is on the decline.

We must work to end this cycle of failings and make government functional again. Building off our progress in the 2012 highway bill and WRRDA this year, a portion of our 2015 legislative agenda will focus on reforming and streamlining federal agencies so government works as it should.

The House has already passed energy legislation to improve the permitting process for pipelines, and with a new majority, I am confident the bill won’t be ignored in the Senate. The same is true for reforms we passed for federal mining permits and FDA reforms that the Energy and Commerce Committee has already begun working on.

While individual parts of our agenda may not grab headlines, we must make government work if we are to promote a growing economy that brings stability and greater opportunity for all Americans.

To be successful, we need every member and every committee to participate in this grand and ongoing project of government reform. In the coming weeks, please take a moment and think about areas of government reform you would like to focus on during the next Congress. Working with our committees, we will be formulating the components of this reform initiative as we put together the legislative agenda for 2015.

But beyond reforming agencies, we must legislate differently in order to restore trust in government. When we took the majority in 2011, we introduced greater transparency and accountability to the legislative process. For example, we ended the practice of approving “such sums” authorizations where legislation would authorize new spending without actually specifying the amount to be spent.

I am in the process of reviewing and updating these protocols (LINK) for the new Congress, and already have a few ideas. One reform I would like to include is sunsetting new agency reports. Different provisions added to our laws over the years has resulted in a legal requirement that 466 different agencies and non-profits submit over 4,200 different reports to Congress this year. The annual number of reports demanded by law increased nearly 25 percent in the past 25 years.Many, like the annual “Report to Congress on Dog and Cat Fur Protection,” are no longer relevant. However, absent Congressional action, agencies and non-profits must still submit these reports. We can save taxpayer money and thousands of hours of time by sunsetting these requirements.

I would also like to work with the committees to include basic regulatory reforms in any legislation that authorizes or requires new regulations. As you know, we have passed a number of government-wide reforms to the regulatory process, such as increasing public input in the regulatory process, requiring agencies to adopt the least costly proposal, and requiring regulators to limit the impact of regulations on small businesses. Unfortunately, these bills have not advanced in the Senate. Yet, there is no reason we cannot work towards implementing these reforms on an agency by agency or program by program basis.

Government competence requires collaboration, which is why I want to hear from you as to any ideas you may have on how we proceed to rebuild trust in government. Specifically, if you have any legislative ideas or process reforms you would like considered as we formulate next year’s legislative agenda and revise on our internal protocols, please email or call me or have your staff reach out to mine.

I look forward to seeing you in November and, as always, please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance.

Finally, congratulations to James Lankford for being the first to correctly identify Statuary Hall as the room in which the British started the fire that destroyed most of the Capitol on August 24, 1814. This month’s trivia question:

In 1789, Congress sent twelve proposed Constitutional amendments to the states for ratification. By December of 1791, a sufficient number of states had ratified amendments three through twelve and they became our Bill of Rights. In 1992, with the vote of Michigan, the second of the original twelve amendments was ratified and became our 27th Amendment.

What is the remaining unratified amendment and were it to be ratified today, what would be the impact on Congress?

 

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By Matt Fuller Posted at 2:11 p.m.
Kevin McCarthy

McCarthy Calls Iran Nuclear Deal Reports ‘Worrisome’

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McCarthy: No rubber stamp on Iran nuclear talks. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated, 2:27 p.m.: Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy vowed Wednesday that House Republicans will not sit idly by while the Obama administration unilaterally negotiates a resolution with Iran over that country’s nuclear program.

The Obama administration, according to news reports, is considering sweetening its offer to Iran in the ongoing negotiations, allowing the regime to operate 4,000 centrifuges, up from an earlier 1,300.

The White House and the State Department have not commented on the the reports, which originated with an Iranian news agency.

But the development has set off alarms with lawmakers like McCarthy, who called the news “worrisome.” The California Republican promised “extensive oversight” of the administration’s handling of the Iranian negotiations.

The Senate’s No. 2-ranked Republican, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, also warned the president against overstepping his authority on the Iran deal.

“The American people will not tolerate a President who wheels and deals with a radical regime behind their backs and dodges congressional oversight every chance he gets,” the Texas Republican said in a statement. “Any agreement with Iran to provide further relief from U.S. sanctions must be done in conjunction with Congress in an open and transparent way to ensure it advances America’s national security.”

Here’s McCarthy’s full statement:

Recent reports have suggested the Obama Administration believes it can negotiate a deal with Iran and provide significant sanctions relief to the Iranian regime without Congressional support. This Administration has a long record of ignoring and threatening to ignore Congress.

While this unilateralism alone is distressing, it is made even more worrisome in light of additional reports that the Administration may be willing to yet again make significant concessions to the Iranians in the nuclear negotiations. As the President and his team know full well, there is overwhelming, bipartisan concern on Capitol Hill about Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, its sponsorship of terrorism, its promotion of instability throughout the region, and its appalling human rights record. Congress will not simply look the other way if the Administration agrees to a deal that does not make sufficient progress in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program. Although the precise mechanics of Congressional approval or disapproval will depend on what exactly the President decides to do, the nature of the agreement, and a variety of other factors, I can promise that Congress will conduct extensive oversight regarding the details of any deal or extension of the current Joint Plan of Action.

Separate from the conduct of the nuclear negotiations, I remain concerned the Administration lacks an effective strategy to combat Iran’s malign influence throughout the region. Whether in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, or Yemen, Iran’s support for terrorism and its destabilizing activities threaten the interests and security of the United States and its key allies and partners in the region. I look forward to the Administration consulting with Congress about how to confront this grave threat.

Related stories:

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House GOP May Act on Senate Iran Sanctions Bill

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Energy and Commerce Rivals Battle to the Wire

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Ranking member rivals Eshoo and Pallone. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Since January, Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. and Anna G. Eshoo have been positioning themselves as the obvious choice to be the top Democrat on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee.

But after 10 months of cutting checks and courting colleagues, they’re still not finished campaigning to replace the panel’s current ranking member, retiring Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California.

Members of the House Democratic Caucus won’t settle the hotly contested race until late-November at the earliest, meaning Pallone of New Jersey and Eshoo of California will have to stay on the offensive, showing they’re both team players and power players who are ready — and able — to help their friends out.

Along the way, they are pulling pages from the same playbook — with a few key exceptions.

Full story

Report: Don Young Talks Bull Sex, Suicide at Alaska High School

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Young’s remarks on suicide caused a stir in Alaska. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Don Young reportedly stunned a crowd at Wasilla High School in Alaska by blaming suicide in part on a lack of support from family and friends and talking about sex between bulls to describe his opposition to same-sex marriage.

The 81-year-old Republican, who is seeking re-election, stunned people in the audience Tuesday who were grieving after a student committed suicide at the school days earlier, by blaming friends and family along with alcohol and depression, the Alaska Dispatch News reported.

Wasilla Principal Amy Spargo ripped the congressman’s remarks as hurtful and untrue.

“When I heard ‘a lack of support from family’ and I heard ‘a lack of support from friends,’ I felt the oxygen go out of the room, but I gasped as well,” Spargo said. “It just isn’t true in these situations. It’s just such a hurtful thing to say.” Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 9:40 a.m.
Members

October 21, 2014

New Ebola Restrictions Not Enough for Republicans Pushing Travel Ban

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Goodlatte and other lawmakers are calling for an Ebola travel ban. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

While the Obama administration continues to put in place additional measures to identify travelers potentially infected with Ebola, the early Republican response is in: It’s still not enough.

The administration announced Tuesday that travelers to the United States from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will have to travel through one of five major U.S. airports and go through additional Ebola screening.

The Department of Homeland Security introduced the additional measures, mandating that all foreign nationals coming from those three Ebola-stricken countries in Africa will undergo secondary screening and be forced to land at one of five airports: Kennedy Airport in New York, Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport, Chicago O’Hare in Illinois or Dulles Airport in Virginia.

Those passengers, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement, would be subject to “added protocols, including having their temperature taken, before they can be admitted into the United States.”

The additional screening for passengers coming from those countries at those airports was already taking place, but now those passengers are mandated to land at one of those five airports. Full story

October 20, 2014

Hensarling Touts Tax Reform If GOP Wins Both Chambers

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If Republicans win both chambers of Congress, the GOP can’t afford to play it safe, says Hensarling, left. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If Republicans are looking to temper expectations for a GOP-controlled 114th Congress, Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling isn’t doing such a good job.

Hensarling sat down with the Wall Street Journal recently, and in a wide-ranging interview published Monday, the Texas Republican offered up the sort of quotes that can easily be thrown back in the faces of Republicans if they don’t accomplish a major tax overhaul.

“It’s a put-up or shut-up moment for us,” Hensarling said of a tax rewrite.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Hensarling explained that an overhaul is possible in 2015 because the reputation of the IRS has been badly damaged and because Republicans will have no excuse for not addressing taxes if they win the Senate.

Of course, even if the GOP does control both chambers, they’re practically guaranteed not to hold the sort of Senate majority capable of passing major tax changes without Democratic votes — a fact that Hensarling seemed to overlook. Instead, the six-term congressman was bullish on legislation that would cut tax rates, eliminate loopholes and establish an easier filing system.

“Nothing says economic growth like fundamental tax reform,” he said. Full story

By Matt Fuller Posted at 6:30 p.m.
Uncategorized

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