Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 22, 2014

October 22, 2014

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

young064 072314 445x293 Report: Don Young Talks Bull Sex, Suicide at Alaska High School

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

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

gop meeting013 091614 445x296 Hensarling Touts Tax Reform If GOP Wins Both Chambers

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

October 17, 2014

Before Ending Chairmanship, Issa Sets Ebola Hearing for Oversight

issa 251 072314 445x310 Before Ending Chairmanship, Issa Sets Ebola Hearing for Oversight

Issa will chair a House hearing on Ebola. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

California Republican Darrell Issa has a well-deserved reputation for finding ways to bring the issue of the moment into his committee’s jurisdiction.

President Barack Obama’s handling of the Ebola crisis is no exception.

On Friday afternoon, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman announced he would convene a full panel hearing in seven days, on Oct. 24, titled, “The Ebola Crisis: Coordination of a Multi-Agency Response.” Full story

GOP Lawmakers: Congress Should Pass Ebola Travel Ban

king020514 445x312 GOP Lawmakers: Congress Should Pass Ebola Travel Ban

King wants a vote banning flights from Ebola-stricken countries. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Will the House interrupt its recess to vote on a travel ban or visa suspensions to prevent the further spread of Ebola on U.S. soil?

Highly unlikely.

After all, as airstrikes began in Syria earlier this month to combat the Islamic State terror group, members on both sides of the aisle were calling for Congress to return and vote on a formal Authorization for Use of Military Force measure.

GOP leadership didn’t bite, with Speaker John A. Boehner saying he would only be inclined to reconvene the House if President Barack Obama sent Congress the AUMF language.

In the case of Ebola, senior House Republicans are also downplaying the need to rush back to Washington for a vote on restricting travel from affected African countries to the United States. The Obama administration, they argue, should be taking such action without being compelled to by Congress.

“Let’s first see if the president is willing to work with us to do [a travel ban] now,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., told a small group of reporters Thursday. “He loves to brag about how he can do things with a pen and a phone. … He can approve a travel ban. Today. And we’ve called on him to do that. So let’s see what he says.”

Scalise, a member of the Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, was back on Capitol Hill to participate in a special hearing to probe the Ebola response by the federal government. The occasion pulled many members off the campaign trail, including Senate hopefuls Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Bruce Braley, D-Iowa.

But a subcommittee hearing during a recess, when participation is voluntary, isn’t the same as recalling the House to take a recorded vote, a precarious exercise just weeks before the midterm elections.

Regardless, a handful of lawmakers were clamoring for just that Friday.

 

Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., joined forces with Sen. David Vitter, R-La., sending a letter to Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., urging emergency sessions on both sides of the Rotunda to institute travel bans while “the Obama administration has failed to recognize this public health threat.” Vitter’s Senate colleague, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, also wants members back on Capitol Hill to confront the issue.

Another Florida Republican, Rep. Dennis A. Ross, already has legislative text ready to go that would bar commercial flights to and from Ebola-affected countries until the virus is no longer a threat.

He’ll introduce it when Congress returns for next month’s lame-duck session, Ross said in a statement, though he added that he holds out hope Boehner would “quickly call Congress back into session to debate my legislation.”

 

Related:

Ebola Sparks Obama to Shake Up Leadership Style

For Senate Candidates, Ebola Hearing Takes Precedence Over Stump

As Ebola Crisis Escalates, Lawmakers on Both Sides Turn Up Heat

Murphy: CDC Needs Tighter Ebola Screening Rules

Ohio Senators Seek Information as Cleveland Faces New Ebola Risk

Democratic Senator: Restrict Africa Visas Due to Ebola

 

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October 16, 2014

Republicans, Democrats Trade Punches Over CDC, NIH Ebola Funding

scalise 037 101614 445x308 Republicans, Democrats Trade Punches Over CDC, NIH Ebola Funding

Scalise says Democrats are politicizing Ebola.  (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House majority whip lashed out at Democrats Thursday for trying to blame Republicans for sanctioning cuts to medical research that might have helped curb the spread of Ebola in the United States.

“It’s a ludicrous attack,” Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., told a small group of reporters following an Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on the Obama administration’s handling of the Ebola crisis.

“You had a hearing today with a number of officials … and not one person asked for an additional dime of money,” Scalise went on. “[Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas] Frieden himself has actually made public comments that he has the resources they need.” Full story

For Senate Candidates, Ebola Hearing Takes Precedence Over Stump

gardner092813 445x296 For Senate Candidates, Ebola Hearing Takes Precedence Over Stump

Gardner took time off from the stump to return to Washington for the Ebola hearing. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With Ebola dominating the news just weeks before the mid-term election, every member of Congress is feeling pressure to get to the bottom of federal missteps in responding to the health crisis — including the two House members looking to move up to Senate.

Both lawmakers, Republican Cory Gardner of Colorado and Democrat Bruce Braley of Iowa, took time off from the stump to participate Thursday in the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee’s hearing on Ebola.

The hearings, broadcast nationwide on C-SPAN and covered wall-to-wall online and on virtually every broadcast news outlet, offered each would-be senator — both members of the subcommittee — a chance to raise their respective profiles.

gm hearing012 040114 445x289 For Senate Candidates, Ebola Hearing Takes Precedence Over Stump

Braley followed suit with Gardner and took time off to return to D.C. for the Ebola hearing. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

For Gardner, a Republican looking to unseat Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, that meant coming down hard on the witnesses and bolstering his case for a travel ban — a key difference that has emerged between him and Udall.

For Braley, a Democrat who is running for an open Senate seat in Iowa, that meant clearly stating that his No. 1 priority is defending Americans from the disease and publicly advocating for an Ebola-related drug produced in his home state. Full story

By Matt Fuller Posted at 4:56 p.m.
Health Care

The Softer Side of Don Young: A Counterpoint

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Young shows off his softer side while working with Cao in 2010. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Adjectives such as “kind,” “caring,” “fatherly” and “honest” wouldn’t prompt most people to conjure up an image of Rep. Don Young.

Indeed, anyone familiar with Capitol Hill lore connects the Alaska Republican with tales of bad behavior — pulling a knife on a colleague, tracking asbestos through the halls of Congress and allegedly violating House rules for 12 years.

But Young has a softer side, according to a former colleague, two ex-aides and even a one-time political adversary who talked with CQ Roll Call as we profiled the ornery congressman.

Ex-Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao, a Louisiana Republican ousted after just one term in Congress, spent nearly every vote series seated beside Young on the chamber floor. “I found him to be a very warm-hearted individual, a very straightforward individual and an outspoken individual,” Cao said about Young.

Cao said he never heard one complaint “about Young from any of his colleagues” — except, he conceded, for the story “about how he maybe pulled a knife, something along those lines.”

Full story

Don Young: the Kodiak Bear of Capitol Hill (Video)

younge 042903 445x297 Don Young: the Kodiak Bear of Capitol Hill (Video)

Colorful iconoclast or uncaring jerk? Young marches to his own beat, and Alaska voters don’t really seem to mind. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

He’s flouted ethics rules. Twisted a staffer’s arm. Even allegedly threatened a life, telling his Democratic challenger this fall that the last person to touch him “ended up on the ground dead” — a fact he told CQ Roll Call there was “some truth” to.

And yet, for 20 elections now, voters in Alaska have sent him back to Washington, D.C.

Rep. Don Young, the House’s longest-serving Republican, has survived more than four decades in Congress despite a reputation for being ornery, aggressive — and maybe even a little unstable.

In many ways, his confrontational style fits the personality of his far-flung state. Young’s press secretary, Matt Shuckerow, said Alaskans face some of the most severe difficulties in the country, and they count on Young to be a “loud voice.”

But at what point does the “Last Frontier” mentality become too much — even for the Last Frontier?

Young isn’t shy about his abrasive style. He told CQ Roll Call last week that most other folks on Capitol Hill are “cookie cutters.” He said while he’s always been himself, it’s rare his colleagues actually believe in their actions. “It’s all done for that TV camera,” he said.

As for himself, he’s “a big teddy bear” — up to a point.

“As long as you don’t cross that line,” he said. “If you cross the line, I’m not a teddy bear.”

He’s more like a grizzly.

Full story

By Matt Fuller and Emma Dumain Posted at 2:18 p.m.
Members

Democrats Blame Budget Battles for Fumbled Ebola Response (Updated)

ebola101614 445x296 Democrats Blame Budget Battles for Fumbled Ebola Response (Updated)

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health officials appeared before a House subcommittee Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 1:50 p.m. | Democrats at Thursday’s rare mid-recess Ebola hearing pushed back at criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of the crisis, arguing that missteps in the federal response are due in part to budget standoffs and last year’s government shutdown.

Colorado’s Diana DeGette, the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee holding the hearing, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has come under fire since the arrival of the virus in the U.S., cannot do its job adequately without proper funding from Congress.

She reiterated a key element of the Obama administration’s approach to addressing the Ebola outbreak: that efforts to contain the disease must be focused on Africa.

“There is no such thing as fortress America when it comes to disease,” she said.

California’s Henry A. Waxman, in his opening statement, echoed his Democratic colleague’s remarks, telling the panel that congressional budget fights that led to sequesters and last year’s government shutdown contributed to the problems with the U.S. response.

“We have our share of responsibility by not funding the infrastructure,” Waxman said.

“Since 2006, CDC’s budget, adjusted for inflation, has dropped by 12 percent. Funding for the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Cooperative Agreement, which supports state and local health departments preparedness activities, has been cut from $1 billion in its first year of funding in 2002 to $612 million in 2014. All of these were also subject to the sequestration. And those who allowed that sequestration to happen by closing the government have to answer to the American people, as well,” said the California Democrat, who is retiring at the end of this term.

Pennsylvania Republican Tim Murphy, chairman of the subcommittee, in his opening remarks said if additional resources are needed, federal officials need to speak up.

“The trust and credibility of the administration and government are waning as the American public loses confidence each day with demonstrated failures of the current strategy,” he said.

“If resources or authorization is needed to stop Ebola in its tracks, tell us in Congress. I pledge — and I believe this committee joins me in pledging — that we will do everything in our power to work with you to keep the American people safe from Ebola outbreak in West Africa,” he said.

 

Related:

Ebola Sparks Obama to Shake Up Leadership Style

As Ebola Crisis Escalates, Lawmakers on Both Sides Turn Up Heat

Murphy: CDC Needs Tighter Ebola Screening Rules

Ohio Senators Seek Information as Cleveland Faces New Ebola Risk

Democratic Senator: Restrict Africa Visas Due to Ebola

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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Watch Live: CDC Director Returns to Testify on Ebola Threat

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations holds a noon hearing on the U.S. response to the Ebola virus, which has killed more than 4,000 people since the outbreak began in December 2013.

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will testify on what the World Health Organization on Monday called “the most severe, acute health emergency seen in modern times.”

Additional witnesses include representatives from Texas Health Resources, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security.

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October 15, 2014

As Ebola Crisis Escalates, Lawmakers on Both Sides Turn Up Heat

 

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Burgess and other lawmakers look for answers on the Ebola crisis. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As a handful of House members return to the Capitol Thursday for a special recess hearing on Ebola, lawmakers in both parties are grappling with a practical — and political — question: Who gets the blame?

“It’s a tough one,” Rep. Michael Burgess said during a pen-and-pad briefing Wednesday with reporters.

Burgess, who is also a doctor, wondered aloud whether fault lies with the fact that Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola fatality in the U.S., was allowed in the country in the first place; whether the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, where Duncan died, ignored safeguards; or whether the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not been, as the Texas Republican, said, “as forthcoming with information as they said they were.”

Burgess said the Texas hospital — where two health care workers have now contracted Ebola from coming into contact with Duncan — is probably prepared to take “some pretty tough questions tomorrow,” referring to the hearing to take place at noon Thursday on the U.S. public health response to Ebola. (You can watch the hearing live on rollcall.com.) Full story

Retiring Bachmann Signals She’s Still in the Game

 Retiring Bachmann Signals Shes Still in the Game

Bachmann spoke Wednesday at the Heritage Foundation. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Michele Bachmann may be retiring at the end of this year, but the woman who rose to prominence by founding the Congressional Tea Party Caucus in 2010 and running for president in 2012 isn’t leaving Washington, D.C., quietly.

In a speech and brief question-and-answer session Wednesday morning at the Heritage Foundation — billed as one of her last public speaking engagements as a member of the House of Representatives — the Minnesota Republican refreshed her audience on the history of the tea party movement and made a case for continuing the fight against higher taxes and bigger government.

But Bachmann also made a handful of policy recommendations that indicate she plans to remain engaged in the political debate, albeit from outside Capitol Hill.

Full story

October 10, 2014

Where Does Pelosi Play? The Fine Art of Surrogate Campaigning

COPOL14 032 082614 445x288 Where Does Pelosi Play? The Fine Art of Surrogate Campaigning

California’s Becerra, left, campaigns in Colorado with Democratic House candidate Romanoff. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House members who want to help their party in the final stretch of campaign season have options. They can offer endorsements. Make calls. Write checks.

But sometimes, nothing says “I care” like getting on a plane and flying across the country to stand alongside a colleague.

In the month before Election Day, members not fighting for their political lives are expected to be team players — and one way to do that is by traveling to different congressional districts as campaign “surrogates.”

It’s not as simple as just showing up: Being a good surrogate is an art, and considerable thought, time and effort go into deciding who should go where, and when, and in what capacity.

Each member has his or her own edge.

Budget Chairman and 2012 vice presidential nominee Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., will draw a crowd, while Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., can bring in buckets of money (she’s raised more than $400 million for Democrats since 2002). Others can open doors that might otherwise be closed, or help a vulnerable member shore up support among a flagging constituency.

And every ambitious lawmaker on Capitol Hill knows that stumping for a fellow member or potential colleague can pay off down the road.

Full story

Pelosi: Call Congress Back for Minimum Wage, War Authorization Votes

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Pelosi wants Congress to come back and vote on the minimum wage and on the use of military force in Iraq and Syria. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called on Speaker John A. Boehner Friday to bring the House back into session to vote on two things: Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and Authorizing Use of Military Force to combat the Islamic State terrorist group.

The former was the subject of a half-hour long conference call hosted by Pelosi, Education and the Workforce ranking member George Miller and Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez.

After making the pitch for higher wages, Pelosi reiterated the importance of Congress returning to Capitol Hill before mid-November’s lame-duck session to let members debate and vote on the scale and scope of U.S. military operations already underway in Syria.

Boehner and other high-ranking Republicans have said that the lame duck is not the right time to engage in a full-scale debate on the topic, that it would be best dealt with by the new congress in January. Pelosi and other Democrats disagree.

“The American people wanted it acted upon … before the election,” Pelosi said.

Taking advantage of the auspicious date — Oct. 10 — Pelosi, Perez and Miller were joined by Janet Rowland, a 20-year-old full-time working mother of three who shared her story with reporters on the call and said a $10.10 per hour minimum wage would better help her juggle her responsibilities, make ends meet and go to school.

The conference call came less than a month before the midterm elections, and Democrats are working hard to make sure voters know that a minimum wage increase is a centerpiece of the party’s policy platform.

Every effort was made to keep the call on the subject. At one point, a journalist asked Perez to comment on media reports that he was a front-runner to succeed retiring Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. Perez did not have a chance to respond to that question specifically, however, before Miller interjected that the query wasn’t related to the purpose of the conference call.

Sticking to his talking points, Perez replied, “My focus on … everything we do is to help the Janet Rowlands of the world.”

Related:

Pelosi Says Debate, Vote Should Be Held on Military Authorization

Boehner: Don’t Expect War Authorization Vote in Lame-Duck Session

After Today, House Is Done Through the Elections

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