Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 27, 2014

August 26, 2014

Larson: Congress Should End Vacation, Get to Work on ISIS

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Larson, D-Conn., says vacation is over and Congress needs to come back to work. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With the White House weighing more air strikes against jihadists in northern Iraq and possibly Syria, Rep. John B. Larson said Congress needs to cancel its August recess and get back to work in Washington.

The Connecticut Democrat said in a statement Tuesday that there are still open questions about whether President Barack Obama has the authority to take military action against the Islamic State, as the jihadists have named the region of Iraq and Syria under their control.

Congress isn’t scheduled to return to Washington until Sept. 8. Full story

August 25, 2014

House Lawsuit Against Obama Price Tag: Up to $350K

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Boehner and House GOP have hired a D.C. firm to handle Obama lawsuit. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

D.C. law firm BakerHostetler will handle the House Republicans’ lawsuit against President Barack Obama.

House Administration Chairwoman Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., said the firm has been contracted to represent the House in the district court civil suit.

According to the contract, the lawsuit will cost the House up to $350,000, billed at a rate of $500/hour.
“The president must be held accountable, and the House will continue to act in an open and transparent manner to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution,” Miller said in a Monday statement.

The lawsuit, authorized on July 30 by the House, calls for the courts to rein in a president who, Republicans contend, has overstepped his authority by unilaterally changing federal law in his implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Many legal experts say the lawsuit faces long odds in the courts, but one of the highest-profile constitutional scholars in the country, former Reagan and George Bush lawyer David Rivkin, has said the case has merit — and he’s a partner at the firm the Republicans hired.

Democrats immediately weighed in on the announcement, sharply criticizing the $500 per hour contract as wasteful spending.

“This outrageous waste of taxpayer dollars is yet another reminder of House Republicans’ misguided priorities,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y., in a statement. “Only in John Boehner’s world does it make sense to pay lawyers $500 per hour to work on a partisan lawsuit while refusing to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for hardworking Americans trying to feed their families.”

Related:

Lawmakers Battle Over Legal Arguments on Obama Lawsuit

House Votes to Sue Obama

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

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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Congressman: Get Ready for Immigration Move From Obama

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Gutierrez said Monday the president’s move on immigration could be “unprecedented” in scope. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Reacting to a report that President Barack Obama is mulling unilateral action that could impact almost half the nation’s estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez said Monday, “It’s music to my ears.”

The Illinois Democrat, one of Congress’ most vocal supporters of a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s immigration system, said in an appearance on MSNBC that Obama has been forced to take action because of gridlock in the House.

“We want to get as many as we can out of the vicious cycle of deportation,” Gutiérrez said. “But I think if the president takes such a move … I think it would be a huge move.”

His comments came after reporter Chris Jansing told MSNBC’s Jose Diaz-Balart that administration sources have said the White House is weighing executive action that would impact up to 5 million illegal immigrants.  Full story

By David Eldridge Posted at 12:55 p.m.
Uncategorized

August 22, 2014

Gowdy Hires Top Lawyer for Benghazi Committee

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Gowdy’s Benghazi select committee will hold its first hearing next month. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After an extended period of quiet, the special committee for investigating the attacks in Benghazi may be readying for action.

Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. announced Friday he has hired a retired three-star general to lead the panel’s legal team.

Lt. Gen. Dana K. Chipman was the senior military lawyer for the Army for four years as judge advocate general at the Pentagon, Gowdy’s office said. He retired last November after 33 years on active duty.

Full story

Boehner Calls Bergdahl Swap ‘Potentially Serious Lapse in Judgment’ (Updated)

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Boehner says GAO ruling confirms Obama overstepped his authority in  approving Bergdahl prisoner swap. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:15 p.m. | Speaker John A. Boehner said Friday that the news the Obama administration ignored the power of the purse in a national security matter should be no surprise.

The Ohio Republican was responding to a Government Accountability Office finding, issued a day earlier, that the Obama administration acted outside federal law in the swap of five Taliban members for the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Full story

August 21, 2014

McKeon Wants Probe Into Leak of Covert Foley Rescue Attempt

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McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, wants answers on who leaked news of the secret mission in Syria. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A leading House Republican says the Obama administration needs to plug the leaks that led to revelations of an unsuccessful covert mission earlier this summer to rescue journalist James Foley and other hostages from jihadist captors in Syria.

Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, commended the U.S. forces involved, but he criticized the Obama administration for confirming the operation after news organizations, citing unnamed sources, reported on the mission.

McKeon, in a statement issued Thursday, said:

Successful or not, such operations are incredibly sensitive, even after they have concluded. Disclosure of these missions puts our troops at risk, reduces the likelihood that future missions will succeed, and risks the lives of hostages and informants alike. While I believe it was unwise for the White House and Department of Defense to formally acknowledge this operation; it is outrageous that someone would be so selfish and short sighted to leak it to the media.”

He called on Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to investigate and determine the source of the leak.

ABC News, citing “senior administration sources,” reported Wednesday that U.S. special operations members engaged in a firefight with jihadists at a site in Syria where Foley and the others were believed to be held, but withdrew when it became apparent the hostages were not there.

The administration has said it only acknowledged the operation because media organizations were going public with the news anyway.

The Islamic State insurgents who control parts of Syria and northern Iraq released a video this week showing the brutal beheading of Foley and vowed more executions if the U.S. continues its ramped-up campaign of airstrikes in the region.

August 20, 2014

Paul Ryan Rules Out Another Government Shutdown

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Ryan, kicking off his book tour in Philadelphia, ruled out another government shutdown. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

PHILADELPHIA — House Republicans won’t shut down the government in September, Heritage Action is “constructive at the end of the day” and a person can write a book without necessarily running for president.

Those were some of the points Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., hit home during an exclusive interview with CQ Roll Call Wednesday afternoon from the ornate Union League Building in downtown Philadelphia.

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The House Budget Committee chairman and 2012 vice presidential nominee was in the city to kick-off a 10-day national tour promoting his new book, which hit the stands Tuesday.

“The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea” is part-memoir, part-sweeping policy proposal, and Ryan will be spending some of the waning days of August recess touting it in Wisconsin, Chicago, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas and California.

Full story

August 19, 2014

Pope Francis Hints at U.S. Visit, Address to Congress

A papal visit to Washington next year — including a possible address to Congress — could be in the works.

Although the Vatican has not confirmed or denied any official travel plans, Pope Francis told reporters accompanying him on a flight home from South Korea that he’s weighing U.S. stops in Washington, Philadelphia and New York City in 2015. 

“Next year I would like to go to Philadelphia, for the [World Meeting of Families],” the pontiff said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “Then, I have been invited by the president of the United States to the American Congress. And also the secretary-general of the United Nations has also invited me to the Secretariat of the U.N. in New York. So maybe the three cities together.”    

House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, earlier this year invited the pope to address a joint session of Congress.

The Vatican reported Tuesday the pope is mourning the deaths of three of his relatives — the wife and two young children of the pontiff’s 38-year-old nephew — killed in a car crash in Argentina.

Veteran Staffer to Head Port of Pittsburgh Commission | Hill Climber

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Martinko will become the executive director of the Port of Pittsburgh Commission. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s deputy staff director is leaving Congress to become executive director of the Port of Pittsburgh Commission.

Stephen Martinko was the lead House negotiator for the bipartisan Water Resources Reform and Development Act, one of the few pieces of legislation enacted by Congress this year.

“His ability to understand and then explain complex policies to members of Congress, staffers, and stakeholders on both sides of the aisle has helped transform the way the Committee does business,” committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said of the deputy staff director in a press release.

trans Veteran Staffer to Head Port of Pittsburgh Commission | Hill Climber Full story

By Bridget Bowman Posted at 12:25 p.m.
Hill Climber, Staff

August 18, 2014

Cantor Communications Director Lands at Purple

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Cooper, left, is joining a bipartisan firm. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former Eric Cantor communications director Rory Cooper has joined Purple Strategies, moving from Capitol Hill following his boss’ shocking loss to work as managing director for the Alexandria-based public relations shop.

Cooper, who starts Monday, will help design, sell and implement strategic campaigns for the bipartisan firm’s clients. “From the first minute I ever walked in the door at Purple, I knew this was going to be a team that I wanted to work with every day,” Cooper told CQ Roll Call.

Purple co-founder Steve McMahon lauded his new hire as “talented, tough and tenacious.”

Cooper, 37, worked for Cantor two years, coming to the Hill after four years at the Heritage Foundation and seven years in the George W. Bush administration. He padded his résumé in a number of roles: policy adviser at the Department of Energy, government affairs director at NASA and, at the White House, as a member of the team that helped create the Department of Homeland Security after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Full story

August 15, 2014

Washington Leaders Praise Police Tactic Changes in Ferguson (Video)

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Cummings praises a quieter night in Ferguson, Mo. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 11:03 a.m. | Rep. Elijah E. Cummings on Friday praised a change in police tactics in Ferguson, Mo., that was followed, finally, by a peaceful night in the troubled St. Louis suburb.

“The change in security tactics in Ferguson, and the intervention of Gov. [Jay]  Nixon has greatly improved a horrible situation,” the Maryland Democrat said. “There is never an excuse for violence and aggression — on the part of the police or citizens — and the right to peacefully protest must be respected. This community has been rocked by the death of a young man with a bright future, and they deserve an opportunity to appropriately express outrage at this tragedy.”

Nixon on Thursday put the Missouri Highway Patrol in charge of security in Ferguson, after several nights of violent clashes between local authorities and protesters upset about the Aug. 9 police shooting of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown.

On Friday, Ferguson police identified Darren Wilson as the officer who shot Brown.

Rep. James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., welcomed the decision in Ferguson to release the name of the officer, and said he hopes that the events in Missouri serve as a wake-up call to minority voters.

“I was thinking this morning about all this rhetoric about being ‘tough on crime.’ It’s one thing to be tough on crime. I’m tough on crime. But it’s something else to be death on blacks. And that’s what seems to be happening,” he said in an appearance on MSNBC.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, in a statement issued Friday, questioned the aggressive response by Ferguson police to protesters earlier in the week.

“I have been shocked by the military-like response from the local police,” the Vermont Democrat said. “No one questions that law enforcement must maintain order, and certainly some of these protests have warranted intervention. But equipping police officers with the tools of war does nothing to repair a torn community … American streets are not a warzone. They shouldn’t be treated like one.”

 

Related:

New Focus on Civil Rights, Militarized Cops Emerges in Wake of Ferguson

As Ferguson Police-Protester Clashes Escalate, Congress Wades In

Obama Calls for Calm, Healing

CBC Members Call for Full DOJ Investigation

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

By David Eldridge Posted at 10:11 a.m.
Uncategorized

August 14, 2014

Democrats Call for Judiciary Hearings on Ferguson Violence

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A police officer standing watch as demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown conceals her identity. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Three senior Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are calling on panel chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., to hold hearings on the violence that has erupted in Ferguson, Mo., following the police shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager on Aug. 9.

“For the past five days, the citizens of Ferguson have protested the killing of of an unarmed teenager by local police,” wrote ranking member John Conyers Jr., Mich., and two subcommittee chairmen, Robert C. Scott of Virginia and Steve Cohen of Tennessee, in their letter on Thursday afternoon. “Last night, law enforcement broke up the protest with brutal force: confronting demonstrators in riot gear and armored vehicles, arresting journalists, and firing tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd.

“These incidents raise concerns that local law enforcement is out of control and, instead of protecting the safety and civil liberties of the residents of Ferguson, is employing tactics that violate the rights of citizens … this situation requires immediate congressional scrutiny,” they continued. Full story

As Ferguson Police-Protester Clashes Escalate, Congress Wades In (Video)

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(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Updated 12:53 p.m. | Lawmakers are beginning to speak out in reaction to the protests and police response in Ferguson, Mo., following the killing of an unarmed African-American teenager by police on Aug 9.

Many members of Congress are defending the public’s right to protest while calling for peace — and are using social media to voice their support. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wrote on Facebook, “This is America, not a war zone. The people of Ferguson, Missouri just want answers. We all want answers.”

Local police have dramatically increased their response to the protests after incidents of looting and confrontations following Michael Brown’s death. President Barack Obama was scheduled to give a statement Thursday afternoon from Martha’s Vineyard, where he is vacationing, and may address the events in Ferguson.

Missouri Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II said in a statement that he is “deeply disturbed by all I have seen and heard,” and noted he and three other Democrats are calling for a full federal investigation into Brown’s death.

“Ferguson deserves better, and the rights of our citizens and of our free press shall not be denied,” Cleaver said. “I will pray for peace in Ferguson. And I will work for justice.” Full story

Cantor Voting Rights Act Legacy is Failure to Deliver, Democrats Say

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Democrats wonder if Cantor was all talk on the Voting Rights Act. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Passing a new Voting Rights Act in the GOP-dominated House was never going to be easy, supporters acknowledge. But with a powerful Republican such as Eric Cantor as an ally, hope flickered for nearly a year.

Then came June 10 and the shocking primary defeat that tanked Cantor’s congressional career — taking with it, in all likelihood, any prospect for an update of the landmark 1965 civil rights legislation that had been weakened by a 2013 Supreme Court ruling.

Even with Cantor as majority leader, said a House aide close to the VRA negotiations, “I would have speculated that it was certainly a very steep climb. That it was unlikely, but there was still hope.”

But with the Virginia Republican out of the mix, the aide said, “it doesn’t appear we’re going to see it this Congress.”

It’s a disappointing turn that has some Democrats wondering if Cantor ever deserved the benefit of a doubt on minority voting rights. Full story

August 13, 2014

Garamendi on McCain, Graham: ‘Those Two Would Like to Bomb Everywhere’

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Garamendi says Congress needs to weigh in on the “slippery slope” of intervention in Iraq. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. John Garamendi on Wednesday joined the chorus of lawmakers from both parties warning against mission creep in Iraq drawing the U.S. back into a war in the Middle East.

Garamendi, in an appearance on MSNBC, said he believes President Barack Obama, who has ordered air strikes on insurgents, humanitarian aid and more troops to Iraq to protect U.S. interests, is operating within the bounds of the War Powers Act, but the California Democrat cautioned that Congress must weigh in if intervention in the splintered country is ramped up further. Full story

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