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July 21, 2014
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy does not officially step into his new job as majority leader until August, but for all intents and purposes, the California Republican has already assumed the visible duties of his next leadership role.
McCarthy laid out the week’s schedule during a weekly colloquy with Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer on the House floor on July 17, and earlier in the week, it was McCarthy, not Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who addressed the press. McCarthy also handled the colloquy the week before, and Cantor has not attended GOP leadership press conferences since the day after he lost a primary.
McCarthy has continued to manage the whip duties as well, while Majority Whip-elect Steve Scalise of Louisiana ramps up his operation.
Scalise was set to take on a more visible role in conference leadership with his delivery of the weekly Republican address this weekend.
As McCarthy and Scalise raise their profiles, Cantor has quietly stepped to the background, giving few interviews and avoiding the spotlight since his stunning June 10 primary loss to college professor Dave Brat.
Behind the scenes, however, the Virginia Republican’s staff is still handling many issues while McCarthy builds his operation. Legislative requests from members, for instance, are still being handled by Cantor’s member services shop and his staff is also overseeing committee work.
Some members of McCarthy’s team have begun handling floor scheduling, aides said. But Cantor’s floor team has irreplaceable institutional knowledge and contains some staffers who have worked there for years, since before Republicans gained the majority.
Cantor has continued to attend some daily leadership meetings, but for the most part McCarthy has taken over at regular meetings of committee chairmen.
McCarthy will retain the spacious first-floor office suite he currently enjoys as majority whip (although he will soon have a new plaque outside the door reflecting his changed title). That marks a return to the old office layouts — when Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio was majority leader, he occupied that office.
Over the August break, Scalise will move into Cantor’s second floor office, which is directly off of Statuary Hall. His chosen chief deputy, Rep. Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina, will occupy an office on the third floor above what will be Scalise’s office.
While the Cantor team — one of the most highly regarded on the Hill — helps with the transition, solicits contributions from fellow Republicans to help retire debt from the campaign and looks for jobs, the next move for their boss remains a mystery.
The Virginia lawmaker has said he will serve out the rest of his term and is still casting votes, but his Twitter accounts are quiet — his @GOPLeader account, which once buzzed with multiple tweets each day on House action, hasn’t been updated since June 30.
In one of the few interviews he’s given since his primary loss, Cantor told ABC’s Jonathan Karl just days after the defeat, “I don’t think that I want to be a lobbyist, but I do want to be — play a role in the public debate.”
Since then, Cantor — and his top staffers — have been the subjects of speculation from Wall Street to K Street and back.
Nels Olson, who runs the Washington office of recruiting firm Korn Ferry, told CQ Roll Call last month that Cantor and his his top staffers will be attractive prospects for Washington shops doing business on Capitol Hill.
“Those individuals will have an opportunity to make a transition,” Olson said.
Ivan Adler, a headhunter with the McCormick Group, said Cantor “may be the perfect candidate for K Street.”
Others have suggested that with his fundraising prowess — he raised more than $6 million and outspent his opponent dramatically in the June primary — Cantor would be an attractive choice as a successor to Reince Priebus at the Republican National Committee.
The New York Daily News reported recently that Cantor has been spotted in the Hamptons on New York’s Long Island twice since losing his race last month — once to attend a Father’s Day service at a synagogue in Westhampton Beach and again at a campaign event for Republican congressional candidate Lee Zeldin. Politico reported he is scheduled to return there in August.
Cantor’s congressional operation employs about 35 people — in his leadership, personal and district offices — with a combined 2013 payroll of $3 million, according to data compiled by LegiStorm.
July 15, 2014
A short-term extension of highway funding easily passed the House in a 367-55 vote Tuesday, setting up a rare bipartisan cross-Dome deal that will likely avert a shutdown of construction projects around the country.
Neither side heralded the bill as a breakthrough in bipartisanship, but House Republican leaders scored a tactical victory by crafting a package that the White House endorsed, many Democrats voted for and that passed over the objections of conservative outside groups.
Only 10 Democrats and 45 Republicans voted against the patch. Full story
House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland predicted Democrats will overwhelmingly support a short-term highway trust fund bill on Tuesday, even though they would prefer a long-term fix with more solid pay-fors.
Hoyer said he will vote for the bill, which extends highway funding through May, but called the offsets used to pay for the bill “gimmicky.”
“I think there will be probably overwhelming support,” he said. “When you’re confronted at the end with, ‘You do this or we shut down,’ we’re not for shutting down. We think that the economy would be hurt, people would be hurt, jobs would be lost.” Full story
A spate of sudden firings at the House Homeland Security Committee last month adds to a pattern of extensive turnover that has left members and staffers questioning the panel’s leadership and its commitment to border security and counterterrorism policy.
A new staff director for Chairman Michael McCaul of Texas cleaned house at the committee, dismissing five top policy staffers on June 20, including his top advisers on border security and counterterrorism, both of whom McCaul hired less than two years ago. There have been at least five other staff departures since McCaul became chairman last year.
The brain drain comes a few months after McCaul hired Brendan Shields to reorganize the panel as staff director — and leaves the full committee without some of its most experienced policy aides against the backdrop of a crisis of Central American children illegally crossing the Southern border and instability in Iraq, Syria and the rest of the Middle East.
“I kind of wonder if Brendan Shields has turned on a television in the last six months or picked up a New York Times,” said a former government official, who was not among the fired staffers but knows people involved with the committee. “Is he not paying attention to what’s going on in Syria? In Libya? … Has he turned on CNN and seen the holding pens with thousands of children coming across the border?”
McCaul and his spokesman declined to comment, and an email sent to Shields on July 11 garnered an automatic reply noting he was out of the country, but expected to return Monday. Shields was in Brazil during the FIFA World Cup, according to sources.
Interviews with a dozen current and former staffers and members close to the committee revealed that members have been told that the reorganization is meant to empower the subcommittees and reduce redundancies and staff overlap to save money. Yet the firings are only one part of what has been a wider staff exodus from the committee over the last year.
July 9, 2014
Rep. Rob Woodall of Georgia was unanimously selected to be the chairman of the Republican Study Committee for the remainder of the 113th Congress.
Woodall will serve out the remainder of Rep. Steve Scalise’s term, when the Louisianan becomes the next majority whip after July 31. The move gives the Republican Conference leadership structure some finality, after the shocking defeat of Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia in a primary.
“I look forward to working with Rob in our new roles as we continue promoting the conservative solutions necessary to unite our conference and get our country back on track,” Scalise said in a statement.
Several members are vying to succeed Woodall in the 114th Congress: Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas, Andy Harris of Maryland, Cynthia M. Lummis of Wyoming and Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina.
July 7, 2014
Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio is moving cautiously toward a late-July vote to authorize a lawsuit against President Barack Obama, juggling legal and political considerations as he tries to check executive power and stoke the Republican base.
Committee staffers are discussing several executive actions Boehner could target in a lawsuit and trying to whittle the list down to the fewest number of actions that would give the suit the best chance of being heard by a skeptical judiciary.
In a Sunday op-ed on CNN.com, Boehner came no closer to defining which specific executive action he would scrutinize, but he did outline a few broad areas where he believes the president has overstepped his authority.
“The Constitution makes it clear that the President’s job is to faithfully execute the laws,” Boehner wrote. “And, in my view, the President has not faithfully executed the laws when it comes to a range of issues, including his health care law, energy regulations, foreign policy and education.”
Notably, Boehner did not make explicit mention of immigration law, the arena in which Obama took one of his most well-known executive actions. The administration’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals memorandum directs immigration officials to use prosecutorial discretion when dealing with undocumented immigrants who came to the country as young children. Full story
July 1, 2014
Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio has said he intends to hang on to the reins, and now he is cracking the whip.
Boehner is exerting pressure on top committee chairman to raise more money for the National Republican Congressional Committee as the party tries to win a dozen or more seats in November’s elections.
Boehner has told members affiliated with the NRCC to urge committee and subcommittee chairman to chip in, and he is leading by example. Last week, at a closed-door House Republican meeting at NRCC headquarters, Boehner announced a donation of $1.5 million to the House GOP’s campaign wing with a matching donation from Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. They were joined by Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas and Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, who each handed over checks of $1 million to the NRCC. Full story
June 25, 2014
Updated, 2:57 p.m. | Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio confirmed Wednesday that he will initiate a lawsuit on behalf of the House against President Barack Obama over the administration’s use of executive actions.
Boehner, saying he believes the president is ignoring laws passed by Congress, cast the move toward a lawsuit, which was first reported by Roll Call, as a continuation of the age-old struggle over the balance of powers among the three branches of government.
“This is about defending the institution in which we serve,” Boehner told reporters. “What we’ve seen clearly over the last five years is an effort to erode the power of the legislative branch. I believe the president is not faithfully executing the laws of our country, and behalf of the institution and our constitution, standing up and fighting for this is in the best long-term interest of the Congress.”
June 24, 2014
Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, told Republicans Tuesday he could have an announcement within days on whether the House will file a lawsuit against President Barack Obama, challenging the executive actions that have become the keystone of the administration.
The lawsuit could set up a significant test of constitutional checks and balances, with the legislative branch suing the executive branch for ignoring its mandates, and the judiciary branch deciding the outcome.
Boehner told the House Republican Conference during a closed-door meeting Tuesday morning that he has been consulting with legal scholars and plans to unveil his next steps this week or next, according to sources in the room.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said further action is necessary because the Senate has not taken up bills passed by the House targeting executive actions. The House has passed a bill expediting court consideration of House resolutions starting lawsuits targeting executive overreach and another mandating that the attorney general notify Congress when the administration decides to take executive action outside of what has been authorized by Congress.
“The president has a clear record of ignoring the American people’s elected representatives and exceeding his constitutional authority, which has dangerous implications for both our system of government and our economy,” Steel said. “The House has passed legislation to address this, but it has gone nowhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate, so we are examining other options.” Full story
Updated 1:36 p.m. | Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio declined to commit to reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, saying instead Tuesday morning that he is trying find common ground between his members who want to end the bank and those who want to continue funding it.
Boehner said he is looking to tomorrow’s Financial Services Committee hearing on the subject, and will rely on Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas, who has said he wants to let the program expire to lay out the way ahead. Boehner’s comments come amid revelations that some Ex-Im Bank employees were fired for allegedly accepting bribes.
“I’m looking forward to the chairman outlining how we’re going to deal with this rather controversial subject, especially in light of some of the employees who were let go, who are accused of kickbacks and other schemes to pad their own pockets,” Boehner said. Full story
June 23, 2014
Rep. Kevin McCarthy took the stage on June 20 at his first public address since being elected majority leader looking to reintroduce himself to the public.
Focusing on his Everyman roots in Bakersfield, Calif., he told a gathering of social conservatives that he paid his way though college with a mixture of lottery luck and entrepreneurship, eventually being elected to the very congressional office from which he was once turned down for an internship.
“You’ve got to understand where I come from. I’m the grandson of a cattle rancher, the son of a firefighter, and I had the opportunity to run for majority leader. Only in America do we have this,” he told the audience at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference, to applause. “I’m not an attorney. I don’t have poli-sci degree.” Full story
June 19, 2014
Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio said he is looking to the White House to craft an overall strategy to quell the spread of terrorism in Iraq and the Middle East, which he said has been “exponentially” on the rise during President Barack Obama’s presidency.
His comments come a day after he met with the president at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., along with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and the top two Senate leaders, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi doesn’t appear to think that there was foul play in the Internal Revenue Service’s misplacement of key emails from Lois Lerner, the ex-agency official at the center of the ongoing IRS scandal.
At her weekly press conference Thursday morning, the California Democrat said her takeaway from reports that Lerner’s emails have been lost forever was simply that the IRS needs to upgrade its technology infrastructure.
June 18, 2014
Candidates for House Republican leadership made their final pitches Wednesday morning, pressing for unity while leading their factions into what will be a divisive Thursday vote to decide the future of the conference.
Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California retained his position as a lock to become majority leader, although Rep. Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho is mounting an upstart challenge, driven by a simmering dissatisfaction with leadership.
But the race to replace McCarthy remains fluid. Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise of Louisiana got a boost Wednesday morning. Reps. Joe Pitts and Bill Shuster, both of Pennsylvania, pledged their support to Scalise and said they would whip their 11 GOP Keystone State colleagues, many of whom remain undecided, according to a source familiar with the group.
June 17, 2014
Candidates for House majority whip are pushing their cases hard in the last hours of the race, each promising to heal a party scarred by infighting and at the same time, wrangle the conference into a united voting bloc.
In the run-up to Thursday’s pivotal vote, Rep. Peter Roskam, the chief deputy whip, is touting himself as the most experienced candidate — and the only one who will be a disciplinarian toward rambunctious members who vote out of step with leadership.
The Illinois Republican said he would punish members who vote against leaders’ priorities, according to a member familiar with his pitch. Although that is much more difficult in a post-earmark world, Roskam laid out a slate of ideas, including refusing to take up unruly members’ bills, withholding plum committee assignments and even banishing rebels from the weekly conference breakfast, denying them a free meal if they do not play with the rest of the team. Full story