Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 25, 2014

April 24, 2014

Video Shows Boehner Mocking Colleagues on Immigration

A video clip has been posted of Speaker John A. Boehner mocking his colleagues’ reluctance to take on an immigration overhaul today while campaigning for re-election in Ohio:

“As the speaker often says to his colleagues, you only tease the ones you love,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said in an email.

Boehner tried to rally his troops earlier this year to support leadership’s immigration principles, but less than 10 percent of his conference has publicly supported them according to our immigration whip count.

Boehner’s broader comments today on health care, immigration, the tea party and more are covered here.

Boehner: Too Late to Just Repeal Obamacare, GOP Should Tackle Immigration (Video) (Updated)

boehner 197 022714 445x296 Boehner: Too Late to Just Repeal Obamacare, GOP Should Tackle Immigration (Video) (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 10:27 p.m. | Speaker John A. Boehner said Thursday that changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act make it impossible to just repeal the health care law unless Congress has a replacement ready as well.

Speaking at a Rotary Club meeting in his Ohio district, the speaker also mocked members of his own GOP conference for not wanting to address immigration, knocked the tea party — or, more specifically, organizations that raise money purporting to represent the tea party — and expounded upon the role of money in education, according to a news report from a newspaper near his district.

On health care, Boehner said simply repealing the Affordable Care Act “isn’t the answer” and it would take time to transition to a new system.

“When we were debating Obamacare in 2010 we offered an alternative that consisted of eight or nine points that would make our insurance system work a lot better.

(To) repeal Obamacare … isn’t the answer. The answer is repeal and replace. The challenge is that Obamacare is the law of the land. It is there and it has driven all types of changes in our health care delivery system. You can’t recreate an insurance market overnight.

“Secondly, you’ve got the big hospital organizations buying up doctor’s groups because hospitals get reimbursed two or three times doctor’s do for the same procedure just because it’s a hospital. Those kinds of changes can’t be redone.

“So the biggest challenge we are going to have is — I do think at some point we’ll get there — is the transition of Obamacare back to a system that empowers patients and doctors to make choices that are good for their own health as opposed to doing what the government is dictating they should do.”

Spokesman Brendan Buck downplayed Boehner’s comments. “For four years now the House Republican position has been repeal-and-replace,” he said.

The GOP, however, has taken a number of votes to repeal the law, including bills that would have completely repealed the law without replacing it. The party hasn’t unified behind a replacement, let alone voted on one, since Boehner took the speaker’s gavel. Republicans however have been working to craft such a bill for months. Boehner’s comments seem to reflect the new reality of the law. With 8 million people having signed up on the Affordable Care Act exchanges, and every state having adapted to the new regulations, repealing the law effective overnight would be messy in the extreme without at least a transition period.

On immigration, Boehner gave his impersonation of the Republican refusal to take on the issue.

“Here’s the attitude. Ohhhh. Don’t make me do this. Ohhhh. This is too hard,” Boehner whined before a luncheon crowd at Brown’s Run County Club in Madison Township.

“We get elected to make choices. We get elected to solve problems and it’s remarkable to me how many of my colleagues just don’t want to. … They’ll take the path of least resistance.”

Boehner said he’s been working for 16 or 17 months trying to push Congress to deal with immigration reform.

“I’ve had every brick and bat and arrow shot at me over this issue just because I wanted to deal with it. I didn’t say it was going to be easy,” he said.

Here’s a video clip:

Buck played down the mocking as a form of affection. “As the speaker often says to his colleagues, you only tease the ones you love,” he said in an email.

On the tea party, Boehner said he had issues with organizations who purport to represent the tea party.

“There’s the tea party and then there are people who purport to represent the tea party.

“I’ve gone to hundreds of tea party events over the last four years. The makeup is pretty much the same. You’ve got some disaffected Republicans, disaffected Democrats. You always have a handful of anarchists.They are against everything. Eighty percent of the people at these events, are the most ordinary Americans you’ve ever met. None of whom have ever been involved in politics. We in public service respect the fact that they brought energy to the political process.

“I don’t have any issue with the tea party. I have issues with organizations in Washington who raise money purporting to represent the tea party, those organizations who are against a budget deal the president and I cut that will save $2.4 trillion over 10 years. They probably don’t know that total federal spending in each of the last two years has been reduced, the first time since 1950.

“They probably don’t realize that we protected 99 percent of the American people from an increase in their taxes. They were against that too, the same organizations. There are organizations in Washington that exist for the sheer purpose of raising money to line their own pockets.

“I made it pretty clear I’ll stand with the tea party but I’m not standing with these three or four groups in Washington who are using the tea party for their own personal benefit.”

Heritage Action CEO, Mike Needham didn’t take kindly to Boehner’s remarks, releasing a statement late Thursday:

“It’s disappointing, but by now not surprising, that the Republican Speaker is attacking conservatives looking to retake the Senate. The Republican Party should be large enough for fact-based policy debates. Unfortunately, John Boehner is more interested in advancing the agenda of high-powered DC special interests than inspiring Americans with a policy vision that allows freedom, opportunity, prosperity and civil society to flourish.”

Boehner, who is a former chairman of the committee that is now called Education and the Workforce, also offered his opinions on education policy and the controversial No Child Left Behind, which he helped draft.

“All we said with no child left behind is that we ought have expectations for what kids learn and we ought to publish test results so that we know who is learning and who isn’t.

“I don’t think the issue with education is money. If money were going to solve the education problem we would have solved it a long time ago. I think there is a structural problem. It’s not about our kids. Kids are in school 9 percent of the time between birth and age 18. That means 91 percent of the time they are home or they are out in their community. We have books. We have educational TV. We may go and visit places that help reinforce their education. Or they are out in the neighborhood or they are playing team sports or they are part of the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. They are involved in things that reinforce their education.

“But it you are poor and you go to a rotten school or live in a rotten neighborhood, you have no chance. You are probably not going to get the basics.

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.

House Members Push for Open Debate on NSA Snooping

holt 211 062813 445x294 House Members Push for Open Debate on NSA Snooping

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Bipartisan House members are calling for an open debate when the House takes up legislation later this year dealing with a controversial National Security Agency intelligence gathering program.

Rep. Rush D. Holt, D-N.J., a longtime opponent of the NSA program, is gathering signatures on a letter that he plans to send to top House leaders asking that if a bill reauthorizing the program comes to the floor, it comes under an open rule, meaning any member can offer an amendment.

Holt told CQ Roll Call that because opposition to the NSA phone metadata program cuts across ideological, geographical and generational lines, a range of opinions should be debated, rather than just a few preselected amendments.

“What the government, acting through the NSA, has done is treat Americans as suspects first and citizens second,” he said of the program. Full story

Curt Clawson Would Make 50 Richest in Congress List

Curt Clawson, the self-funding businessman who won Tuesday’s Republican primary scramble to replace former Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla. (cocaine scandal), would be among the richest members of Congress if he wins the GOP-leaning Florida district in the special election June 24.

Clawson is a former college basketball star (during his campaign, he challenged President Barack Obama to a shooting contest) and manufacturing executive who spent most of the last decade running the world’s largest maker of aluminum auto wheels.

He loaned $2.65 million to his own campaign, according to his pre-primary Federal Election Report.

According to financial disclosures, the automotive CEO, who consistently cast himself as the Washington “outsider” during his campaign, has a minimum net worth of more than $13 million, which would place him in the middle of the pack on Roll Call’s most recent “50 Richest” list. Full story

April 23, 2014

Obama’s Drug Clemency Push Slammed by House GOP Chairman

goodlatte 071 011514 261x335 Obamas Drug Clemency Push Slammed by House GOP Chairman

Goodlatte (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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

April 22, 2014

Kinzinger, Schock Plead for Immigration Overhaul

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Kinzinger says a secure border must be the first step in any immigration overhaul. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

An immigration overhaul may seem like a toxic issue to most in the GOP, but, in Illinois, it’s a battle cry.

Illinois Republican Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Aaron Schock delivered video testimonials, recorded in the same room, for a pro-immigration event being hosted Tuesday in Chicago by the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, which also features former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

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.

“It’s time to vote,” Becerra said.

By Matt Fuller Posted at 4:20 p.m.
Immigration

Ethics Office: Unnamed House Member Under Investigation

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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.

Full story

By Matt Fuller Posted at 4:13 p.m.
Ethics

Black Caucus Open to Working With ‘Nice Guy’ Ryan

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., said Tuesday the Congressional Black Caucus is open to working with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., on bipartisan legislative action on reducing poverty.

Ryan, who came under fire from black leaders after recent comments about inner-city unemployment, will hold a hearing next week examining the results of the War on Poverty, and has also accepted an invitation to meet with the CBC.

Moore said the caucus sees the Ryan meeting as an opportunity. Full story

House Conservatives Agitate for Change in Leadership — but Can They Take Boehner’s Gavel?

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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.

Full story

Brain Drain: Self-Imposed Term Limits Shuffle Committees, House GOP Leadership

 

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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

April 21, 2014

White House, Perez Continue Unemployment Extension Push (Updated)

Labor 01 040913 238x335 White House, Perez Continue Unemployment Extension Push (Updated)

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

Biden Meets U.S. Congressional Delegation in Ukraine

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(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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.

Full story

Hastert, Illinois Republicans to Call for Immigration Overhaul

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Hastert (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

An immigration overhaul may not have enough GOP support to pass the House, but the idea has found some Republican support in Illinois.

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.

By Matt Fuller Posted at 3:07 p.m.
Immigration

Ranking Member Fundraising Battle: Pallone Gets Cash From Tech, Health Care Industries

APPLE presser001 020812 445x300 Ranking Member Fundraising Battle: Pallone Gets Cash From Tech, Health Care Industries

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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.

He spent $49,000, according to the PAC filing.

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.

Full story

April 18, 2014

Cantor Leads CODEL to Asia

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(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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.

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