House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte ripped President Barack Obama’s new plans to grant clemency to potentially thousands of nonviolent drug offenders Wednesday.
The Virginia Republican says Congress, not the president, should determine the length of sentences. But the president has absolute authority under the Constitution to issue pardons — though Obama has to date used that authority sparingly.
The administration has noted that thousands of prisoners could be affected by the drug clemency push, especially those sentenced under laws older and harsher than the guidelines set down in a 2010 sentencing rewrite signed by Obama. If those prisoners were sentenced today, many would already be free.
But Goodlatte ripped the idea.
“In an unprecedented move to dramatically expand the clemency process for federal drug offenders, President Obama has again demonstrated his blatant disregard for our nation’s laws and our system of checks and balances embedded in the U.S. Constitution,” he said. “This new clemency initiative applies to current federal inmates, including drug offenders with prior felony convictions or drug offenders who may have possessed a firearm during the commission of their offense. Members of gangs and drug trafficking organizations could also be eligible for commutation under President Obama’s subjective determination. Full story
In his video, Kinzinger says, “Now, more than ever, Americans are seeing firsthand how our broken immigration system is really holding our nation back. Through common-sense policies, we have the opportunity to grow our economy, and provide security and well-paying jobs for families all across Illinois and America.”
Kinzinger said he is confident the United States can come together to have the “adult conversations” necessary to approve an immigration overhaul, and he endorsed a path to, at least, legal status for undocumented workers in the United States.
“We must work hard to come to an agreement on how to bring undocumented workers out of the shadows, legally entering the workforce and becoming part of the American melting pot that makes this country great,” Kinzinger said, adding that securing U.S. borders “must be the first step of the reform process.”
Schock had a similar, even stronger message in his video testimonial: He endorsed a pathway to citizenship.
“Quite frankly, I think if a man or a woman likes their American job, wherever they were born, they should be able to keep that job,” he said. “We need a clear path to citizenship for workers who are already here and a fair and efficient on-ramp for those who want to come here.”
Schock said it had been 30 years since Congress had taken any “significant action” to address immigration, seemingly referring to the “Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986,” and he noted that some workers have been waiting 10 years for permanent status.
“That’s long enough,” he said.
The news of Kinzinger and Schock making such public declarations of support for an immigration overhaul had Democratic immigration advocates giddy on Tuesday. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra of California issued a statement that said he was “encouraged” by the words of his colleagues.
“I invite Representatives Schock and Kinzinger to sign the discharge petition to demand a vote on the bi-partisan bill (H.R. 15) to finally fix our broken immigration system,” Becerra said. “It’s long past time for the House to act on comprehensive immigration reform and every day that we delay, thousands of families are torn apart by our broken immigration system. It’s time to turn words into action.”
Becerra ended his statement by saying he hoped Speaker John A. Boehner was listening to the growing number of Democrats and Republicans who support an immigration overhaul.
The Office of Congressional Ethics reported Tuesday an unnamed House member is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee.
According to the three-page OCE quarterly report, which disclosed no member names, the Ethics Committee will release the name of a new member under investigation no later than Sunday — meaning the announcement will likely come by Friday.
The committee must either take an additional 45 days to consider the matter, which is standard for the Ethics Committee, or it must reveal that it has voted to empanel an investigative subcommittee.
Conservatives are increasingly — and not so quietly — showing the early signs of a speakership revolt. But short of a sudden groundswell of opposition from the GOP rank and file, or a magic wand, Speaker John A. Boehner is the one who controls his fate.
Just don’t tell that to the Ohio Republican’s foes.
“I think pretty well everybody’s figured Mr. Boehner’s going to be gone, and the question is Cantor and McCarthy,” said Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan. “But most conservatives are saying it’s not just at the top; it’s all the way through.”
Huelskamp, who was more than an active player in the last Boehner coup, told CQ Roll Call there are “a lot of meetings going on” about who could be speaker in the 114th Congress, and if Boehner should decide to say, conservatives are discussing how to remove him.
“I think there’s efforts underway to do that,” Huelskamp said.
It’s common congressional knowledge that Huelskamp and Boehner aren’t the best of friends. Boehner stripped Huelskamp of his seat on Financial Services for the 113th. And Huelskamp had a whip list the last time conservatives tried to usurp the speakership. Recently asked about his relationship with Boehner, Huelskamp summed it up this way: “I don’t smoke and I don’t suntan.”
The plan to ditch Boehner sounds similar to the GOP rebellion that ousted Newt Gingrich at the end of 1998: present the speaker with so much opposition behind closed doors that he’s forced to step aside.
But unlike Gingrich, it’s not the rank-and-file opposing Boehner, it’s not GOP leaders; Boehner’s opposition is localized to the same dissident conservatives who have been a thorn in his side for years.
Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said his boss has “a better relationship with his members right now than at any time.”
“As he has said many times, he fully expects to be speaker again next Congress,” Buck said. And Boehner lieutenants backed those statements up.
Kline is among the Republicans who could be forced to hand over a gavel given self-imposed term limits, though he may receive a waiver. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
House Republicans are facing a brain drain of historic proportions atop their committees — as many as half of their chairmen could be forced to step down next year, thanks to a 20-year-old rule.
The shakeup is due mostly to the GOP’s self-imposed limit, adopted in 1994, on how long a Republican congressman can chair a committee. It’s a policy that is widely popular within the Republican Conference, but is increasingly being questioned by members losing their gavels.
The impending shuffle will do little to change the demographics of the Republican leadership structure — almost all of the white men leading the committees will be replaced by other white men. But critics say the debate is about more than optics. Term limits, they say, effectively sideline some of the party’s most effective legislators.
“You want the best person in the job and I just think to have an arbitrary term limit cuts into that,” said Rep. Peter T. King, R-N.Y., a former Homeland Security Committee chairman and a longtime opponent of the practice. “Term limits are anti-democratic. You’re telling voters they can’t vote for someone they want to vote for.”
Proponents, however, say the negatives associated with limiting chairmen or ranking members to three terms are outweighed by the positives of keeping committees vital with fresh ideas and preventing a small group of members from consolidating too much power. Full story
Perez is Labor secretary. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Updated 4:40 p.m. | The White House and Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez continue to press the House to pass an unemployment benefits extension — but so far there’s no word of a new offer to sweeten the pot for Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio.
“We continue to press Congress to take action to restore those benefits,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday. “Extending them would be, of course, hugely impactful to the families who receive them directly, but also of great benefit to the economy, and Congress ought to take action.”
Carney said he didn’t have an update on what the White House might be willing to offer Boehner. Full story
Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. was expected to meet with a congressional delegation of members in Ukraine on Monday to discuss the unrest in the region and how the United States can support Ukraine’s independence.
As part of a larger tour of the area, Biden planned to meet with House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., and ranking member Eliot L. Engel, D-N.Y., as well as other members of both parties who are touring the area.
Former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., is slated to join a number of prominent Illinois Republicans and CEOs on Tuesday to call on GOP leaders to pass a national immigration overhaul. Republican Reps. Aaron Schock and Adam Kinzinger are also scheduled to give video testimonials on the subject.
The event is hosted by the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, and it’s being held at the prestigious Chicago Club in the heart of the Windy City.
Among the guests expected to join Hastert, who has stated his support of an overhaul numerous times: Jim Oberweis, the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate against Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill.; former Illinois Republican Govs. James Thompson (1977-1991) and Jim Edgar (1991-1999); and a number of CEOs. You can find a full list of expected speakers here.
Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. received donations from health care groups and technology giants, and gave money to more than a dozen fellow Democrats, including some in vulnerable seats, a new filing for his leadership political action committee shows.
The New Jersey Democrat, vying for the ranking member slot on the Energy and Commerce Committee in a closely-contested race, raised $116,000 for Shore PAC in the month of March. Among the groups giving money were Microsoft, AT&T, Comcast and NBC Universal.
Pallone also racked up cash from health care groups, including the American Medical Association, American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Hospital Association, American Psychiatric Association, American College of Cardiology, American College of Surgeons Professional Association and the American Academy of Neurology.
Members he gave to include Reps. Nick J. Rahall II of West Virginia; Raul Ruiz of California; Kyrsten Sinema, Ann Kirkpatrick and Ron Barber of Arizona; Tim Walz of Minnesota; John Barrow of Georgia; Dan Maffei of New York and Timothy H. Bishop of New York; Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire and Brad Schneider of Illinois, among others.
Pallone’s rival for the panel position to replace retiring Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Anna G. Eshoo of California, raised $203,000 over the quarter, a longer filing period, for her leadership PAC. Her donations mostly came from high-tech and telecommunication firms.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., on Friday began a congressional delegation trip to Asia, where he will meet with the prime minister of Japan and the president of South Korea as well as key U.S. ambassadors in the region.
Cantor and a group of members, including House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., will visit Japan, South Korea and China, meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, as well as ex-Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who is now the U.S. Ambassador to China, and Caroline Kennedy, the U.S. Ambassador to Japan.
Cantor will focus on economics, national security and regional stability, his office said, following a speech he gave in February at the Virginia Military Institute where he called for more engagement in the region.
“While the situation in the Middle East continues to deteriorate and Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has raised new concerns about security in Europe, the United States must also remain engaged in promoting peace and stability in Asia,” Cantor said in a statement.
Cantor and Ryan are joined by Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, who will likely head the Armed Services Committee next year; also on the trip are Reps. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., Kay Granger; R-Texas, Kristi Noem, R-S.D.; Aaron Schock, R-Ill.; Paul Cook, R-Calif.; and Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii.
Correction, 6:53 p.m.: A previous version of this story misidentified the South Korean president. She is Park Geun-hye.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday called House Republicans’ refusal to allow a vote on extending unemployment benefits “unconscionable” and “immoral.”
In a letter thanking Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, a Democrat, for their support on the issue, Pelosi, D-Calif., urged the House to take action on a bill that passed the Senate last week.
“It is unconscionable that the House has not acted to renew emergency unemployment insurance,” she wrote. “Never before has Congress allowed emergency unemployment insurance to expire while long-term unemployment rates have remained so high.”
The Louisiana Republican, who’s been absent from the public eye — and from Congress — since an infidelity scandal broke earlier this month, is spending the recess with his family, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Dunagin.
“The congressman is with his wife and family for the remainder of the Easter Recess,” Dunagin told the New Orleans paper. “That’s his No. 1 priority, and his scheduled events will be canceled this week. However, his D.C. and district offices are fully operational and will continue to be. The congressman was elected to do a job, and he looks forward to returning to D.C. following the end of recess.”
The House is expected to reconvene on Monday, April 28.
Updated 6:05 p.m. | President Barack Obama called House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Wednesday to implore House Republicans to hold a vote on the Senate-passed immigration overhaul, prompting Cantor to say the president hasn’t learned how to work with Congress.
The Virginia Republican’s retort came in the form of a statement on a day of nasty back and forth between the president, Democrats and House GOP leadership over immigration legislation.