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October 25, 2014

Posts by David Eldridge

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October 22, 2014

McCarthy Calls Iran Nuclear Deal Reports ‘Worrisome’

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McCarthy: No rubber stamp on Iran nuclear talks. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated, 2:27 p.m.: Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy vowed Wednesday that House Republicans will not sit idly by while the Obama administration unilaterally negotiates a resolution with Iran over that country’s nuclear program.

The Obama administration, according to news reports, is considering sweetening its offer to Iran in the ongoing negotiations, allowing the regime to operate 4,000 centrifuges, up from an earlier 1,300.

The White House and the State Department have not commented on the the reports, which originated with an Iranian news agency.

But the development has set off alarms with lawmakers like McCarthy, who called the news “worrisome.” The California Republican promised “extensive oversight” of the administration’s handling of the Iranian negotiations.

The Senate’s No. 2-ranked Republican, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, also warned the president against overstepping his authority on the Iran deal.

“The American people will not tolerate a President who wheels and deals with a radical regime behind their backs and dodges congressional oversight every chance he gets,” the Texas Republican said in a statement. “Any agreement with Iran to provide further relief from U.S. sanctions must be done in conjunction with Congress in an open and transparent way to ensure it advances America’s national security.”

Here’s McCarthy’s full statement:

Recent reports have suggested the Obama Administration believes it can negotiate a deal with Iran and provide significant sanctions relief to the Iranian regime without Congressional support. This Administration has a long record of ignoring and threatening to ignore Congress.

While this unilateralism alone is distressing, it is made even more worrisome in light of additional reports that the Administration may be willing to yet again make significant concessions to the Iranians in the nuclear negotiations. As the President and his team know full well, there is overwhelming, bipartisan concern on Capitol Hill about Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, its sponsorship of terrorism, its promotion of instability throughout the region, and its appalling human rights record. Congress will not simply look the other way if the Administration agrees to a deal that does not make sufficient progress in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program. Although the precise mechanics of Congressional approval or disapproval will depend on what exactly the President decides to do, the nature of the agreement, and a variety of other factors, I can promise that Congress will conduct extensive oversight regarding the details of any deal or extension of the current Joint Plan of Action.

Separate from the conduct of the nuclear negotiations, I remain concerned the Administration lacks an effective strategy to combat Iran’s malign influence throughout the region. Whether in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, or Yemen, Iran’s support for terrorism and its destabilizing activities threaten the interests and security of the United States and its key allies and partners in the region. I look forward to the Administration consulting with Congress about how to confront this grave threat.

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October 16, 2014

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

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October 9, 2014

McCarthy Riffs on SNL’s ‘The Californians’ With Highway Tips for Obama

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McCarthy riffs on SNL’s “Californians” with driving tips for Obama. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, showing off a lighter side rarely seen in his predecessor, offered some overly-elaborate highway navigation tips — a la Saturday Night Live’s soap-opera parody “The Californians” — for President Barack Obama’s fundraising trip to the West Coast.

The Bakersfield native, who took over the No. 2 position in the House from Virginia Republican Eric Cantor less than three months ago, made the driving suggestions in a press release encouraging the president to get out of Los Angeles and visit struggling agricultural areas in the state’s interior.

Borrowing from SNL’s goofy recurring sketch, in which characters with exaggerated Valley accents obsess over navigational details, McCarthy (or, more likely, his press shop) offered Obama an alternative to hanging out in Hollywood with the glitterati:

“He should take Colorado to Lincoln, hop on the 10, go north on the 405 to the 5 — get off at Lyons for a double-double from In-n-Out — then take the 5 to the 99 to the 65.”

Here’s the whole release:

In California, the President Should Take the 10 to the 405 to the 5 to…

Today, the President will be in West L.A. enjoying the Santa Monica sunshine and giving a speech on the economy. The President has been talking a lot lately about how great the economy is doing. While it may look good for some in the Los Angeles basin, a trip throughout the Golden state would show the President that many Californians are frustrated with his Administration’s economic policies.

So, before the President leaves California, he should take a little trip. He should take Colorado to Lincoln, hop on the 10, go north on the 405 to the 5—get off at Lyons for a double-double from In-n-Out—then take the 5 to the 99 to the 65.

On this route, he’ll pass through Bakersfield and into the Central Valley, where the nation’s largest vegetable, fruit, and nut producers are located. But right now the drought has made life tough for people in Central Valley communities, and the Obama Administration’s policies sure haven’t helped. Sadly, the Obama economy and the Administration’s harmful water regulatory burdens have left California in a far more precarious place than West L.A.

Labor force participation in California is only 61.9 percent, below the national rate of 62.7 percent, which is a full 3.4 percent lower than in 2008. Unemployment in counties across California, especially in the Central Valley, is still in the double digits.

If the President is serious about growing the economy and creating opportunity in California, he should direct his Administration to immediately ease the harmful policies that send precious water out to the ocean instead of to our communities. That would create real economic growth and provide greater opportunity to the next generation of our farmers.

So while the President is out West, he should take a trip on the freeway out of the big cities and see how the rest of California is doing.

 

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October 7, 2014

Murphy: CDC Needs Tighter Ebola Screening Rules

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Murphy wants tighter travel restrictions on Ebola-afflicted countries. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention need to move more quickly to tighten restrictions on travelers coming to the U.S. from Ebola-afflicted areas, said Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa.

Murphy, a member of the GOP Doctors Caucus, told CNN Tuesday morning that the enhanced screening processes proposed so far by the CDC do not go far enough. Murphy wants to see some travel from West Africa restricted until visitors are proven virus-free.

The CDC has pushed back against tighter travel restrictions on Liberia, the African nation at the center of the epidemic, arguing that such rules could hamper the American-led effort to contain the outbreak.

“For [the CDC] to simply be dismissive and say ‘We can’t isolate those countries,’ they’re going down the wrong rabbit hole and trying to give the American public a false sense of security,” Murphy said.

“The chance of getting this, spreading across 300 million Americans, is certainly very small. But the American public certainly is also saying ‘We don’t want this to be spreading at all,’” the congressman said.

“No one is saying, ‘quarantine an entire continent.’ What we’re saying is more sophisticated screening, look at travel restrictions for individuals, continue to send aid there,” the six-term congressman said. “We’re not saying isolate everything from that. But right now the CDC is saying, ‘It’s OK for people to come and go, we’ll just ask some questions.’ It’s not enough. I don’t think the American public is comfortable with that. I hope in the next few days the CDC is going to ramp up other ways of screening folks and having more restrictions on people coming out of Africa.”

Murphy is one of a growing number of lawmakers, including the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat, New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, calling for a more robust federal response to the outbreak.

Schumer on Sunday said screenings should include, “fever checks and health surveys in both airports and ports.”

Murphy is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, is scheduled to hold an Ebola hearing on Capitol Hill next week.

The House Homeland Security Committee will hold its own Ebola hearing on Friday at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

That committee’s chairman, Texas Republican Michael McCaul, said the hearing is being held at the airport to symbolize the interconnectedness of a world in which “threats to the homeland are only a flight away.”

Correction, 3:40 p.m.: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the name of the committee and the time of the hearing. The hearing was last month before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

 

Related:

CDC Director Testifies on Ebola Crisis

Schumer: Screen Passengers From Ebola-Stricken Areas

No Ebola Travel Ban, White House Says

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October 1, 2014

Montel Williams Urges Obama to ‘Make the Call!’ on Jailed Marine (Video)

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During the hearing Wednesday, Williams called on Obama to reach out personally to the Mexican president. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

President Barack Obama and Mexico each took a tongue-lashing from Republican House members at a rare mid-recess Capitol Hill hearing Wednesday on the case of a U.S. Marine imprisoned for six months in Mexico on questionable charges.

Lawmakers at the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere heard from the mother of Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, who has been held in Mexico since he crossed the border in March with three guns in his vehicle. Talk-show host Montel Williams, a former Marine who has become a leading advocate for the release of the Afghanistan veteran, also testified.

“If this hearing’s going to stop in 10 minutes, I think the president needs to pick up the phone in 15. Make the call. Make the call today,” Williams said, his voice breaking with emotion as he urged Obama to personally call on Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to free Tahmooressi. Full story

September 24, 2014

Bipartisan Quartet Ratchets Up Congressional Pressure on NFL

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Costa and three House members are upping the pressure on sports leagues. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Congressional pressure for the NFL and other major sports leagues to get a handle on domestic violence continues to ratchet up.

A week after one senator proposed stripping the National Football League of its antitrust exemptions, a bipartisan quartet of House members is circulating a petition calling for football, baseball, hockey, soccer and basketball executives to review policies and take “the strongest possible stance” against violence directed at women and children.

The group — Jim Costa, D-Calif.; Ted Poe, R-Texas; Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y.; and Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo. — is asking colleagues to sign the petition by Friday. Full story

September 22, 2014

113th Congress Could Yield Fewest Laws in 60 Years

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House members leave for recess on Aug. 18. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Say this about the 113th Congress: It’s managed to live down to low expectations.

With only a lame-duck, post-Election Day mop-up session left before a new Congress takes office in January, the 113th is on track to be one of the least productive congresses — in terms of laws passed and signed by the president — in 60 years.

The 113th Congress, which passed a continuing resolution to keep the government funded through Dec. 11 before heading out of town, has seen just 165 pieces of legislation enacted.

The total from the House Clerk tracks only through August and lists 164 measures — more than 100 pieces of legislation below the 283 measures enacted in the 112th Congress and well below the 383 in the 111th Congress.

Another handful of bills have been sent to the president, but unless the 113th has an unprecedented burst of productivity when members return for the lame duck, the die is cast.

As Georgia Democrat Hank Johnson told CQ Roll Call last week, “This has been the most do-nothingest Congress.”

It’s a distinction Democrats insist is a disgrace and an abdication of the responsibility of governing. Full story

September 18, 2014

After Today, House Is Done Through the Elections

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Ruiz and Young check their phones as they walk down the House steps following a series of votes on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

It’s official: The House is closing up shop until after the midterm elections.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office announced Thursday there will be no votes on Friday and said the four-day session originally scheduled to begin on Sept. 29 has been canceled, pending Senate approval of the continuing resolution that passed the House Wednesday.

That means lawmakers will be sprinting to the exits — and the quick trip to the airport — after the close of business Thursday. Full story

ISIS or ISIL? On the Hill, Depends on Whom You Ask

 

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One protester used ISIL at a congressional hearing, but the term ISIS is more common. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Is it “ISIS,” “ISIL,” or something else entirely? On Capitol Hill, the answer depends on whom you ask — and neither party labels nor ideological leanings seem to have any bearing on the answer.

For many lawmakers, broadcasters and the reprehensible group itself, the term of choice is clearly ISIS, which stands for the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.” The terrorists rebranded themselves as the “Islamic State” in July, and the acronym ISIS has grown exponentially in notoriety and infamy in the wake of the brutal videotaped beheadings of three Westerners, including two Americans. Full story

September 17, 2014

Benghazi Hearing Opening Statements From Gowdy, Cummings

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Cummings said previous Benghazi proves had devolved into partisan proceedings. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House Select Committee on Benghazi got off to a relatively subdued start Wednesday, though the panel’s Republican chairman and ranking Democrat managed to take a few veiled jabs at each other in their opening statements.

Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., pushed back at Democrats who have argued the hearing is just a rehash of questions about the 2012 terror attack that killed four Americans.

“Some question the need for this committee,” he said. “I respect your right to disagree, but the mark of a professional, indeed the mark of character, is to do a good job even if you do not think the task should have been assigned in the first place.”

Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the ranking Democrat who has been at the forefront of those questioning the need for another round of hearings, responded a few minutes later.

“Too often over the past two years, the congressional investigation into what happened in Benghazi has devolved into unseemly partisanship. Today, we have an opportunity to focus on reform,” he said, reading from prepared remarks.

Here is Cummings’ complete statement as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding today’s hearing. I know every Member of this panel is dedicated to ensuring that our work honors the memories of the four Americans who were killed in Benghazi—Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty. 

I want to thank our colleague, Representative Schiff, for proposing the topic of today’s hearing. Too often over the past two years, the congressional investigation into what happened in Benghazi has devolved into unseemly partisanship. Today, we have an opportunity to focus on reform. How can we learn from the past to make things better in the future? This kind of oversight can be productive, it can be critical, and it can sometimes even be tedious, but it can also save people’s lives.

I sincerely hope the Select Committee will stay on the course of constructive reform and keep this goal as our North Star. It would be a disservice to everyone involved to be lured off this path by partisan politics.

Today, we will review the recommendations of the Accountability Review Board, which was chaired by Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Michael Mullen, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During our previous investigation in the House Oversight Committee, Chairman Gowdy and I heard directly from both men about how seriously they took their roles. Ambassador Pickering called it a “debt of honor.”

Their report was independent, it was adopted unanimously by all Board members, and it was a blistering examination of what went wrong at the State Department. They made 29 recommendations, and Secretary Clinton accepted all of them.

After they issued their report, the State Department Inspector General issued his own report finding that “the Department wasted no time addressing the recommendations.” The Department has been working on implementing these recommendations for the past year and a half, and Congress should ensure that it finishes the job.

Today, I would like our witnesses to provide an update on the status of several of the Board’s recommendations.

First, the Board found that the Department’s response to the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi was “inadequate.” It was inadequate at the post in Benghazi, at the Embassy in Tripoli, and here in Washington. Ambassador Pickering explained that the post did not take action despite crossing several “tripwires” that should have caused officials to review security more closely and develop a stronger response. The Board recommended that the Department change its procedures to make sure that security breaches are reviewed immediately.

Today, the Department reports that it has created a new process that requires posts to report “tripwires” as soon as they are crossed so security officials can review them immediately and take action if necessary. I want to know if this process is now fully operational, and, if so, how it has been working so far. 

The Board also found that we should not have relied so heavily on local militia groups, like the February 17 militia, to protect our post. The Board called this reliance “misplaced,” and it found that these security forces were “poorly skilled.” The Board recommended that the Department strengthen security “beyond the traditional reliance on host government security support in high risk, high threat posts.”

Today, the Department reports that it has 17 new Marine Security Guard Detachments and another new Marine unit to enhance security in changing threat environments. In addition, the State Department is now using new funding from Congress to hire 151 new personnel in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, or DS. I want to hear from our witnesses about whether these actions are sufficient, or whether we need to do more.

The Board also found fault with a Deputy Assistant Secretary within DS who denied repeated requests for additional security in Benghazi. At the time, this official oversaw the security of all 275 diplomatic posts around the world.

To address this problem, the Department created a new position to focus exclusively on the security needs of roughly 30 posts experiencing the highest threats. The Board praised this action, stating that it could be “a positive first step if integrated into a sound strategy for DS reorganization.” Today, I want to hear from the State Department specifically about how this new position is working and whether they believe we should make additional changes.

Everyone understands that diplomacy, by its nature, sometimes requires us to be in very dangerous places. Our diplomats work in high-threat environments, and although we cannot eliminate every risk, we must do everything we can to keep Americans as safe as possible when they are serving overseas.

With that, I want to conclude by recognizing the tremendous sacrifices that are made every single day around the world by our diplomatic corps, the intelligence community, and our military servicemembers on behalf of the American people. 

 

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Gowdy leads the Benghazi select committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Here is Gowdy’s complete statement, as prepared for delivery:

A little over two years ago, four Americans were killed serving our country in Benghazi, Libya. Two were killed when a facility emblematic of our country was set on fire. Two were killed because they dared to fight back and defend themselves and others. Sean Smith, Chris Stevens, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty represented us. They represented our country and our values. We sent them to do that. They were killed in an attack rooted in the animus some people hold toward us, simply because we are us.

To the family, friends, and loved ones of those killed, we can never adequately express our condolences and gratitude. As you have helped us understand, the four killed were more than just pictures on a TV screen. They were sons, husbands, fathers, brothers, and friends. And they were our fellow Americans.

I remain hopeful there are still things left in our country that can transcend politics. I remain convinced our fellow citizens deserve all of the facts of what happened before, during, and after the attacks in Benghazi and they deserve an investigative process worthy of the memory of those who died and worthy of the trust of our fellow citizens.

Some question the need for this committee. I respect your right to disagree, but the mark of a professional, indeed the mark of character, is to do a good job even if you do not think the task should have been assigned in the first place. Given the gravity of the issues at hand, I am willing to risk answering the same question twice rather than risk not answering it once. I am willing to reconsider previously held beliefs in light of new, additional, complimentary or contradictory evidence. I am willing to approach anew witnesses previously interviewed in light of the real possibility that additional questions may be warranted.

As we are keenly aware, all documents responsive to congressional requests have not been produced. Moreover, there are witnesses with information or access to information with whom no committee of Congress has spoken. I am optimistic the vast and varied backgrounds of our colleagues can be put to great use on behalf of our fellow citizens. The House of Representatives constituted this committee to find all of the facts, and I intend to do so fully and in a manner worthy of the people we serve. 

Our fellow citizens have legitimate and high expectations:

(1) They expect us to protect and defend those we send to represent us,

(2) They expect us to move heaven and earth to help those representing us who are in harm’s way;

(3) They expect government to tell the truth in the aftermath of a tragedy;

(4) They expect we will not continue to make the same mistakes over and over again.

Which leads to this hearing.

Benghazi was not the first time our diplomatic facilities and people have been attacked. The barracks in Beirut, our facilities in Tanzania and Kenya are a few that come to mind amid too many others. And after those attacks, groups came together and made recommendations on how to prevent future attacks. That is the process seemingly followed. An attack takes place, we commission a group to study how to make sure it doesn’t happen again, we pronounce it is time to move on and yet it happens again. So to those who believe it is time to move on, that there is nothing left to discover, that all questions have been asked and answered, that we have learned the lessons to be learned— we have heard that before. And yet the attacks and the tragedies keep coming. 

It is stunning to see the similarities in the recommendations made decades ago and the recommendations made after Benghazi. If you doubt that, compare the recommendations made nearly 25 years ago with those made after Benghazi. We do not suffer from a lack of recommendations. We do not suffer from a lack of boards, commissions and blue ribbon panels. We suffer from a lack of implementing and enacting those recommendations. That must end.

So it is appropriate to review the recommendations of the most recent ARB and Rep. Adam Schiff is to be credited for suggesting we do so. It is also fair for us to ask why have we not done a better job implementing recommendations made decades ago. Why does it take an attack on our people and facilities for us to make recommendations? Why not evaluate the threat before the attack? Why not anticipate rather than react?

The people we work for yearn to see the right thing done, for the right reasons, and in the right way. They want to know that something can rise above the din of politics. They want to trust the institutions of government. So to fulfill the duties owed to those we serve and in honor of those who were killed perhaps we can be what those four brave men were: neither Republican nor Democrat. We can just be Americans in pursuit of the facts, the truth, and justice no matter where that journey takes us.

 

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By David Eldridge Posted at 11:26 a.m.
Uncategorized

September 15, 2014

ISIS Puts Spotlight Back on Terror as Benghazi Hearings Kick Off

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Gowdy leads the Benghazi select committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 12:16 p.m. | After months of behind-the-scenes work that saw the House Benghazi Select Committee virtually disappear from the media landscape, the much-hyped investigatory panel returns to the spotlight this week with its first public hearing.

The 10 a.m. Wednesday hearing comes less than a week after the two-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Libya that killed four Americans and at a time when the rise of ISIS has refocused much of the country’s attention on terror and the Middle East.

The Benghazi committee, announced with great fanfare in May by House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and immediately dismissed as a political stunt by Democrats, has spent the summer hiring staff and reviewing evidence.

There was — and still is — an expectation among Republicans that Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a former prosecutor, will go after top administration officials involved in the handling of the incident and its aftermath, including former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and current Secretary John Kerry.

But neither of those two political heavyweights will appear this week, and Wednesday’s hearing looks to be more deliberative than explosive — which may be a sign that Gowdy is determined to deliver on promises to the Democrats on the committee that he would not politicize the investigation.

Wednesday’s hearing focuses on the implementation of recommendations from an independent review board and recommendations from the Benghazi Independent Panel on Best Practices.

The committee will hear from Greg Starr, the assistant secretary of State for diplomatic security, Mark Sullivan, the former director of the Secret Service, and Todd Keil, the former assistant secretary of infrastructure protection for the Department of Homeland Security.

Sullivan and Keil served on the Independent Panel of Best Practices, which issued 40 recommendations for increased diplomatic security a little over a year ago — chief among them being the creation of Starr’s job.

The hearing, based on the prospective agenda, seems less focused on Benghazi and more focused on a forward-looking approach to security management practices — a topic that has taken on new importance with the emergence of ISIS, the jihadist insurgents who control parts of Syria and Iraq.

Congress will also weigh a request this week from President Barack Obama to authorize broader military action against the group, which has captured the ire of the American public by posting videos of the beheadings of two U.S. journalists.

The Benghazi attack, of course, will be a topic of discussion Wednesday, and the public will get its first look at whether Gowdy, a prosecutor for 16 years before coming to Congress, can keep the hearing from bogging down in the partisan bickering that plagued the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which had been conducting its own Benghazi probe.

Amanda Duvall, the new committee’s deputy communications director, told CQ Roll Call that Gowdy has long said there would be public hearings. “But the work of an investigation involves depositions and witness interviews that, by nature of what those are, are not public,” Duvall said.

Gowdy announced last month that retired three-star general Lt. Gen. Dana K. Chipman would serve as chief counsel for the panel.

Chipman was the senior military lawyer for the Army for four years as judge advocate general at the Pentagon before he retired last November after 33 years on active duty.

CQ Roll Call reported in July that security clearance backlogs had slowed hiring for the panel.

Republicans provided $3.3 million for the 12-member committee to spend by the end of the year, more than the budgets of at least two House standing committees. The panel can keep working in 2015 with a renewed budget.

The other Republicans on the panel are Reps. Martha Roby of Alabama, Susan Brooks of Indiana, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Peter Roskam of Illinois, Mike Pompeo of Kansas and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia.

The Democrats are Reps. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, Adam Smith of Washington, Adam Schiff of California, Linda T. Sánchez of California, and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.

Correction 12:30 p.m.

An earlier version of the post incorrectly identified Amanda Duvall. She’s the deputy communications director.

 

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Delayed Benghazi Hearings Equal Deliberate Quiet

Meet the Members of the Benghazi Committee

Gowdy Names Phil Kiko as Staff Director for Benghazi Committee

Political Typecasting on the Benghazi Panel

Benghazi Panel Will Have 7 Republicans, 5 Democrats

Benghazi Committee: Democrats Warn Boehner About Partisan Makeup

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September 11, 2014

Inhofe: Obama Speech Prompts ‘Sigh of Relief’ From ISIS

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Inhofe was not a fan of the president’s Wednesday address on combating ISIS. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Reaction to the president’s prime-time speech on ramping up efforts to take on the terror group ISIS ranged, not surprisingly, from very supportive — loyal huzzahs from Democrats such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Richard J. Durbin — to openly dismissive: Sen. Ted Cruz called the president “unserious.”

“Tonight’s speech was disappointing, but not surprising. The President’s approach to ISIS has been – and remains – fundamentally unserious,” the Texas Republican said in a statement.

An even more withering assessment of President Barack Obama’s address came from Oklahoma Republican Sen. James M. Inhofe.

“Tonight, the President’s strategy re-plowed the ground of what he has already done and requested what Congressional leaders have already offered. At ISIL headquarters in Raqqa, Syria, you can hear a sigh of relief.” Full story

September 9, 2014

Former House Budget Committee Chairman to Head Credit Union Group

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Nussle, a former House Budget Committee chairman, is the new president of the nation’s largest association of credit unions. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Another press release announcing another longtime former lawmaker taking another high-profile lobbying gig.

Just another day in Washington, D.C.

The Credit Union National Association, the nation’s largest trade group for credit unions, says former Iowa congressman Jim Nussle, who served eight terms and also worked in the second Bush White House as director of the Office of Management and Budget, has been named president and CEO.

“After an exhaustive search, in which nearly 100 highly qualified candidates were considered, the CUNA Board has unanimously accepted and certified the executive search committee’s recommendation of Jim as the next chief executive of our association,” said CUNA Chairman Dennis Pierce.

Nussle, 54, served in the House from 1991-2007 as a Republican from Iowa’s 1st and 2nd congressional districts. From 2001-06, he served as chairman of the House Budget Committee.

He joined the Bush White House after an unsuccessful bid for the Iowa governorship.

Since then, he’s helped found Growth Energy, a pro-ethanol trade association and The Nussle Group, a public affairs consulting firm.

This YouTube clip captures one of his most memorable moments on the floor of Congress.

 

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September 4, 2014

McCarthy: ‘Friends Don’t Trust Us, Enemies Don’t Fear Us’

 

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McCarthy said Obama needs to step up. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Congress is working on legislation that would authorize more aggressive military action against terror group ISIS — but President Barack Obama has to step up and take the lead in the fight, said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

The California Republican, in a Tuesday interview on conservative talker Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, said he supports efforts to give the president authority to pursue Islamic extremists across borders. But he cautioned against Congress conducting foreign policy.

“We don’t need 535 foreign policy experts trying to run the military,” McCarthy told guest host Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif. “First and foremost, this president has to have a strategy. I mean, what is our foreign policy? I mean, I don’t know what it is. And if we don’t know what it is, our allies don’t know, and our enemies don’t know, so they’re pushing the envelope. Full story

September 3, 2014

House, Senate Laying Groundwork for War on ISIS

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Wolf plans to lead House effort to authorize strikes against ISIS. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As President Barack Obama weighs U.S. options for confronting ISIS, the insurgent group in control of parts of Iraq and Syria, lawmakers in both the House and Senate are moving to ensure that the administration has the authority to take military action if necessary.

Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-Va., said in a statement Wednesday he will introduce legislation when Congress reconvenes next week that would authorize the use of military force against ISIS and other terror groups around the world, including al Nusra, Ansar al Sharia, al Shabaab and Boko Haram.

Separately, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Wednesday in Virginia that Congress should not leave town in September without considering an authorization to use force against ISIS. Full story

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