Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 24, 2014

Posts by Bridget Bowman

17 Posts

September 16, 2014

Bipartisan Bloc Coalesces Behind CR, Syrian Rebels Amendment

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Despite reservations, Democrats are lining up behind the House GOP’s proposed continuing resolution and an underlying amendment on Syria, Hoyer said. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Despite lingering reservations on both sides of the aisle, a coalition of Republicans and Democrats is coming together behind proposals to arm Syrian rebels and fund the government beyond Sept. 30.

Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer confirmed Tuesday that, despite some provisions his colleagues don’t like — namely a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank through only June 30, 2015 — Hoyer and a significant bloc of Democrats would not withhold their support on the continuing resolution. “You don’t get perfect,” Hoyer told reporters at his weekly pen-and-pad briefing.

The Maryland Democrat also said Democrats would support an amendment proposal from Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., that would give the Obama administration the authority it requested to arm and train Syrian rebels in order to combat Islamic terrorists.

With the support from Democrats, passage of the CR and adoption of the Syria amendment look increasingly assured. There are plenty of remaining concerns regarding the trustworthiness of the Syrian rebels. But with Republican and Democratic leadership supporting the measure — not to mention the White House, which has been calling members to drum up support for the proposal — passage of the CR does not appear to be in doubt. Full story

September 11, 2014

Deadline for Obama’s Immigration Action Hard to Pin Down (Video)

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Grisham and other Hispanic lawmakers took their immigration overhaul concerns to the administration. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

End of the year? By Christmas? By Thanksgiving?

There seems to be some disagreement among the supporters of immigration rights as to when, exactly, President Barack Obama will step in with his promised unilateral action.

But overall, frustrated advocates seemed more optimistic Thursday after a clear-the-air session with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.

McDonough told reporters that the president would act on immigration “before the end of the year” as he left a meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

CHC Whip Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., said McDonough told them the president would act “by the holiday season.”

Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez, D-Ill. who attended the meeting, talked about a “Thanksgiving blessing” a day earlier in an interview on MSNBC, but on Thursday, he was referring to a “holiday season” deadline as well.

“We are moving forward. And this will be a season, the season, you know, I’ve said this: The holiday season must be a blessing for millions of undocumented families across America,” Gutiérrez said, “where they too can, you know, reap the rewards of their bountiful work for the year.”

The talk of immigration action around the holidays mirrored a statement by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Thursday that there would be movement “by Thanksgiving or Christmas.”

The CHC members said they expressed their frustration with the president delaying action until after the November elections.

“There were a range of emotions expressed, including frustration and anger,” Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said.

The members leaving the meeting would not talk in detail about how exactly McDonough said the president is willing to address the immigration system.

However, one member, who asked to speak on background to discuss the meeting, said it was clear “the president’s going to go as far as he can under the law.”

Gutiérrez and other advocates have suggested the president has the authority to at least temporarily defer the deportation of up to as many as 5 million of the nation’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants.

CHC members will convene Tuesday to discuss their official caucus response to the immigration developments.

Related stories:

Obama Hasn’t Decided When to Act on Immigration

House Republicans Rally to Pass Border Funding Bill

Senate Fails to Pass Border Supplemental

Republicans Regroup on Border Funding Bill

Ted Cruz Rallies House Conservatives to End ‘Obama’s Amnesty’

White House Excoriates GOP Deportation Demands

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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September 10, 2014

House Members Dominate 50 Richest List

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The House dominates the 2014 richest members of Congress list.

Members of the House outnumbered their Senate counterparts on Roll Call’s 50 Richest Members of Congress list by a margin of more than 2-to-1.

A total of 35 representatives made the list, 22 Republicans and 13 Democrats. The combined minimum net worth of those lawmakers totaled $1.28 billion.

Full story

August 28, 2014

Army Veteran Shane Scherer Joins Roskam’s Staff as Constituent Advocate | Hill Climber

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Roskam has hired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Shane Scherer is joining his district office. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As President Barack Obama addressed the American Legion Wednesday and stressed the importance of regaining veterans’ trust after the Veterans Affairs health care crisis, retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Shane Scherer was in the middle of his second week as a congressional staffer.

Scherer recently began his new role as veterans constituent advocate for Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., the former chief deputy whip. Scherer will be based in Roskam’s district office in Illinois.

“I wanted to continue doing my duty for the public, so this is an opportunity to jump back in that role in a different setting,” Scherer told CQ Roll Call in a Wednesday phone interview.

The retired sergeant is part of the Wounded Warrior Program, which awards two-year fellowships in House offices to disabled veterans who have served on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001.

According to Patricia Orsini, the director of the Wounded Warrior Program, a total of 135 veterans have participated in the program since it began in 2008. There are currently 40 Wounded Warrior fellows in the House.

“We just target disabled veterans who want to get hired and have an opportunity to really make a difference,” Orsini said Wednesday. She added that many fellows go on to become permanent staffers in Congress or at the VA. “It really opens doors, especially for those who want to stay in the advocacy field,” she said.

Scherer said that he was enjoying his experience working for Roskam so far, particularly “the opportunity to help people once again.”

Scherer was deployed in Afghanistan from July 2008 to May 2009. Eleven days before he was scheduled to return home, Scherer suffered life-threatening injuries during an attack on his base. He sustained a traumatic brain injury and spent months recovering and re-learning basic functions, such as walking and talking. Today he does not have any feeling in his left foot and hand.

“His remarkable recovery is a testament to his strength, resilience, and unparalleled determination to help the country he nearly lost his life defending,” Roskman said in a statement announcing Scherer’s hire.

According to Roskam, Scherer “will be responsible for helping our local veterans receive the care and attention they deserve.”

Scherer said his personal experience receiving care at a VA hospital will be beneficial in his new role, which will involve helping fellow veterans navigate the VA and other federal agencies.

“I understand the ins and outs in what it’s like to be involved in all levels of care in the VA,” said Scherer. “I relate and can connect on a very personal level, having the same experience.”

August 19, 2014

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

July 25, 2014

Paul Ryan Unveils Anti-Poverty Program

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(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., unveiled a sweeping anti-poverty proposal Thursday, which aims to streamline federal funding to states.

In a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, Ryan proposed a pilot program that would give participating states an “opportunity grant.” The grant would consolidate funding for 11 federal programs, such as food stamps, housing assistance, child care, etc., into one funding stream to the state.

“In effect, the state would say, give us some space and we can figure this out,” the Wisconsin Republican said Thursday.

Ryan said states could volunteer to participate in the program and would have to agree to a number of conditions, including allowing a neutral third party to track their program’s progress. Full story

By Bridget Bowman Posted at 3:03 p.m.
Paul Ryan

Pelosi: Don’t Tack Expedited Deportations to Border Bill (Video)

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Pelosi says changes to speed up deportations shouldn’t be a part of the House border bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday morning that a bill to provide emergency funding for the child migrant crisis at the Southern border should not be tied to changes in a 2008 human trafficking law.

“You want to have a separate bill on 2008? Discuss it there. But don’t hold the children hostage to the cosmetics of how tough you are on the border,” Pelosi said at a news conference Friday morning.

The trafficking law is a major point of contention between Republicans and Democrats, with Republicans arguing that changes in the law would expedite deportations of the tens of thousands of children at the border and Democrats saying such changes would infringe upon a child’s right to due process.

“There’s no reason why they have to be tied and I hope that the Republicans will come to that conclusion,” Pelosi said. She later added, “I very firmly believe that it would be a mistake to do immigration law on a supplemental bill.” Full story

July 22, 2014

Johnson: Ignoring Border Crisis is Not an Option for Congress (Updated) (Video)

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Homeland Security Secretary Johnson says Congress can’t ignore the administration’s request for emergency funds on the border. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 5:54 p.m. | “Doing nothing in Congress is not an option,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Tuesday, as the clock ticks down out for Congress to provide emergency funding to address the influx of migrant children at the Texas border.

Johnson echoed a warning that he stressed at a July 10 Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, saying that the emergency funding from President Barack Obama is critical to addressing the crisis.

“At the current burn rate, given the capacity we’ve had to surge to deal with this issue, Immigration and Customs Enforcement will run out of money in August. Customs and Border Protection will run out of money in mid September,” Johnson said at a press conference at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters Tuesday afternoon. Full story

July 11, 2014

Hispanic Caucus Lobbying to Block Trafficking Change

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The CHC held a news conference Friday to discuss changes to a trafficking law. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

House Democrats are growing increasingly concerned about Republican calls to revise a 2008 human trafficking law in exchange for approving President Barack Obama’s $3.8 billion supplemental funding request to address the child migrant crisis at the Southwest border.

Liberals are doubling down on their efforts to fight for passage of what they call a “clean” supplemental, as some of their colleagues signal they are open to making concessions.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said at her weekly news conference Thursday that revisiting the 2008 trafficking law was “not a deal breaker” when it came to her vote on the funding request, with Obama having already said he was open to it, too.

But at a Friday immigration-focused news conference convened by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, members directed their ire at fellow CHC colleague, Rep. Henry Cuellar. Full story

July 9, 2014

President’s Party Asks Why He’s Avoiding the Border

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Cuellar joined other Democrats saying Obama needs to see the crisis at the border firsthand. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated, 8 p.m. | With ongoing protests in California, business leaders in Washington calling for a legislative overhaul and lawmakers trading barbs on Capitol Hill, President Barack Obama heard from all sides of the immigration debate Wednesday — including some particularly pointed criticism from a member of his own party.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, a fifth-term Democrat from the Texas border town of Laredo, ripped Obama for not scheduling a visit to the Rio Grande Valley while on a two-day fundraising swing through the state.

The president, speaking to reporters Wednesday evening after meeting in Dallas with Gov. Rick Perry and other Texas leaders on the crisis, defended his decision not to visit the border.

“This isn’t theater,” he said. “I’m not interested in photo-ops. I’m interested in solving the problem.”

Lawmakers from both parties want Obama to take charge of a more robust federal response — though there is wide disagreement as to what that response should be — to the surge of tens of thousands of central American women and children who have illegally crossed the Texas border in recent months.

Obama said in Dallas that Perry suggested moving forward with steps to secure the border with or without congressional approval.

“He suggested maybe you just need to go ahead and act,” Obama said. “And I had to remind him I am getting sued right now by Mr. Boehner, apparently, for going ahead and acting instead of going through Congress.”

Full story

June 25, 2014

Voting Rights Rally Calls on Congress to Act

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Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., presides over the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Voting Rights Amendment Act on Wednesday. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

One year after the Supreme Court gutted key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, activists gathered outside the House to implore Congress to act.

Several House Democrats joined roughly 100 activists on a hot Wednesday afternoon to voice support for the Voting Rights Amendment Act. The rally followed a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill’s Senate counterpart.

“This court made a destructive and bad decision one year ago today,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as she gestured across First Street towards the Supreme Court.

“Within our power we have a bipartisan bill that doesn’t do everything,” said Pelosi, “But it does correct the decision of the court. We’re calling upon the Speaker of the House to give us our vote on this bill.”

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, told the crowd that the majority of the House would support the bill, which was introduced by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., in January.

The bill addresses the high court’s 5-4 ruling that essentially struck down the core of the VRA pre-clearance requirement. Under the provision, several states, counties and cities were required to have any changes to election laws pre-approved by a federal court. The Supreme Court ruled that the method to determine which states were subject to pre-clearance was outdated and unconstitutional, putting the onus on Congress to modernize the formula.

Amending the VRA gained a surprising ally in Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The Virginia Republican voiced his support of congressional action to address the court’s decision shortly after the ruling.

But Cantor’s shocking loss earlier this month dampened prospects that a VRA rewrite will come to the floor of the House.

“I think Eric Cantor would have stepped forward in the best traditions of Judaism and tried to give people rights and opportunities,” Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., told CQ Roll Call after he spoke at the rally. “I think his defeat makes it less likely that Republicans will have that voice within their caucus.”

However, Assistant Minority Leader James E. Clyburn, said Cantor’s defeat does not affect the likelihood of the VRA bill coming to the floor because Republicans generally oppose the legislation.

“I think he was slow-walking this thing the whole time,” said Clyburn, “and having him where he is helps the country focus the attention that it wasn’t Eric Cantor, it is the Republican philosophy” that kept this bill from advancing.

Throughout the rally, Democratic House members and activists focused their attention on Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chair of the House Judiciary Committee, calling on him to hold a hearing on the bill.

“I think he is the stick in the spokes at this point in time,” Clyburn said of Goodlatte. The South Carolina Democrat said that he had not spoken with the chairman, but Goodlatte’s fellow Virginian, Democratic Rep. Robert C. Scott, has been talking with the chairman about the VRA issue.

 

June 9, 2014

Toby Moffett Settles in at Mayer Brown | Life After Congress

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Moffett in the lobby of Mayer Brown. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As a longtime lobbyist who happens to be a former member of Congress, ex-Rep. Toby Moffett, D-Conn., thinks criticism of the so-called revolving door is a bit unfair. “You see former quarterbacks and all-star baseball players just moving seamlessly into the media and they’re treated with reverence because they know the game,” he said, adding, “Why wouldn’t the same be true for people who know the political game?”

Moffett, who left Congress in 1983, is settling into life at Mayer Brown as a senior adviser to the law firm’s government and global trade group. He is based in D.C., but will focus on the firm’s clients that have a stake in Africa, ranging from the Moroccan ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s soccer team.

Prior to joining Mayer Brown last month, Moffett ran his own lobbying firm, The Moffett Group. Moffett said the company no longer exists and he now oversees the group’s clients under the Mayer Brown umbrella.

Full story

May 21, 2014

Former Congresswoman Selected as Cuomo Running Mate

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Former Rep. Hochul is on the Cuomo ticket. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll CallFile Photo)

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has chosen former Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Hochul to be his 2014 running mate Wednesday afternoon.

Cuomo announced Hochul as his choice for lieutenant governor in a video message at the Democratic convention on Long Island, according to multiple New York media reports.

Hochul was elected to Congress in a 2011 special election to fill the seat vacated by GOP Rep. Chris Lee, who resigned amid a shirtless scandal.  Hochul’s election in the Republican western New York district was one of the first races for the House Majority PAC, which works to elect Democratic House members.  However, Hochul lost her seat the following year to GOP Rep. Chris Collins.

By Bridget Bowman Posted at 4:45 p.m.
Uncategorized

May 9, 2014

Deadline for Immigration Overhaul Is August, Says Diaz-Balart (Video)

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Mario Diaz-Balart sees August as the deadline for immigration legislation this year (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The deadline to pass immigration legislation is this August, said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., who is part of the effort to develop an immigration bill that could pass the House.

“The legislative process in essence, frankly, has to work on deadlines. There’s a deadline. And the deadline is that if we don’t get it done by August it doesn’t happen,” Diaz-Balart told CQ Roll Call at the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute’s awards gala Thursday.

“If Congress doesn’t act by the August break, the president is going to do something. And once that happens, two things happen,” said Diaz-Balart. “No. 1 is that the possibility of any further negotiations — of any — disintegrate.”

Full story

April 30, 2014

Paul Ryan Meets With Congressional Black Caucus After Poverty Comments

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus reported mixed reactions Wednesday to their meeting with Rep. Paul D. Ryan over comments the Wisconsin Republican made regarding poverty in inner cities that some in the CBC considered “highly offensive.”

CBC Chairwoman Marcia L. Fudge, D-Ohio, told reporters after the meeting that the two sides reached a consensus that poverty affects all communities across the country.

“Clearly there was some concern about comments that had been made about the culture in which we find this poverty,” said Fudge.  “But we have agreed today that it is across the board.  There is no particular place or people who experience poverty at a different rate than others.”

Ryan also told reporters that the meeting was part of an effort to expand the debate surrounding poverty. “I think what we’re trying to accomplish here is improving the tone of debate,” said Ryan, “so that more people are invited to this debate so that we do a better job of actually getting control of our problems with poverty.”

Fudge invited Ryan to meet with her caucus in March and said that the representatives had “a very cordial, respectful conversation.”

Fudge later said Ryan did not necessarily apologize for his comments, but reiterated that his phrasing was “inarticulate.”  Fudge added, “But his policies belie that and basically say that he believes what he said.  He may not just have wanted to have said it in that way.” Full story

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