Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 11, 2016

Posts by David M. Drucker

74 Posts

May 17, 2013

5 Takeaways From the Ways and Means IRS Hearing

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

George, left, and Miller are sworn in before testifying at the Ways and Means Committee hearing. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

On a rare Friday of congressional action, the first hearing was held to examine the IRS scandal involving the extra, and in some cases unprecedented, scrutiny given to conservative organizations that applied for tax-exempt status over a two-year period covering 2010 to 2012.

Acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller was in the hot seat for nearly four hours, as the House Ways and Means Committee grilled him on how and why the federal tax-collecting agency appeared to inject politics into what is supposed to be an independent process. Miller, who will leave his job next month, was joined by Treasury Department Inspector General J. Russell George — he received a considerably more friendly reception.

As the hearing progressed, Ways and Means members slowly but surely veered into typical partisan camps. Republicans insisted that a political conspiracy was behind the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups. Democrats tried to walk a line between disapproval of the IRS’ actions, while defending the credibility of the IRS and accusing the GOP of using the scandal to undermine Obamacare, which requires the agency to hire thousands of new agents to police the new law.

Here are the top five takeaways from Friday’s hearing:

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May 16, 2013

Q&A With Gov. Brian Sandoval (Part II)

CARSON CITY, Nev. — Gov. Brian Sandoval has cut a lower, less-partisan profile than many Republican chiefs executive.

But as a Hispanic Republican and the relatively popular leader of a Western swing state that sided with President Barack Obama last November, Sandoval might be uniquely qualified to offer his party political advice as it seeks to recover in the wake of the disappointing 2012 elections.

In part two of our discussion pulled from my wide-ranging interview conducted earlier this week in the governor’s private office in Nevada’s historic Capitol, Sandoval sounded off on how efforts to change U.S. immigration law might affect the GOP nationally, and what he really thought when 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney talked about “self deportation” as an immigration policy.

The governor revealed some of his thinking about the political landscape at home ahead of the 2014 and 2016 elections and discussed how the actions of the Congress and the White House, or lack thereof, have affected his ability to help Nevada recover from an economic downturn that was felt more acutely in the Silver State than perhaps any other state in the nation.

And we closed the interview with a short segment on Sandoval’s choice of footwear — and discovered a Capitol Hill connection.

Q. Over time, will the Senate immigration reform proposal help the image of the GOP with different ethnic demographics?

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Did Justice Monitor Congress’ Phone Calls With AP?

Rep. Devin Nunes

Nunes said he believes the Obama administration seized AP phone records to track GOP House members. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Some Republicans are concerned that the Justice Department was essentially able to spy on Congress through its seizure of Associated Press phone records.

Expanding on a Wednesday interview with conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, Rep. Devin Nunes told me Thursday morning that there is no other explanation in light of the DOJ’s acknowledgment that, as part of its inquiry into national security leaks, it subpoenaed AP phone records from the House press gallery. That’s a prime spot from which reporters frequently initiate and receive telephone calls from members of Congress and their staff.

The California Republican said that the AP phone records scandal that has focused on First Amendment infringement actually runs deeper, and should examine what he is convinced includes an illegal violation of the separation of powers by President Barack Obama’s administration.

“As I pointed out to Hugh Hewitt, there’s no question that Justice knows what members of Congress the AP was talking to during the two-month time period,” Nunes told CQ Roll Call.

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May 15, 2013

WH Email Dump Proves GOP Case on Benghazi, Boehner’s Office Says

A spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner said late Wednesday that White House emails just released by the Obama administration bolster the findings of a House Republican investigation into the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

The White House released 100 pages of emails in a beefed up effort to prove false the GOP charges that the administration attempted to cover up the true nature of the Benghazi attack, which resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three others. Here is the full statement from Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck:

“The House interim report found that ‘senior State Department officials requested the talking points be changed to avoid criticism for ignoring the threat environment in Benghazi’ and that those changes were ultimately made. Those findings are confirmed by the emails released today, and they contradict statements made by the White House that it and the State Department only changed one word in the talking points. The seemingly political nature of the State Department’s concerns raises questions about the motivations behind these changes and who at the State Department was seeking them. This release is long overdue and there are relevant documents the Administration has still refused to produce. We hope, however, that this limited release of documents is a sign of more cooperation to come.”

Q&A: Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval

CARSON CITY, Nev. — From his spacious office in the Silver State’s historic Capitol, Gov. Brian Sandoval keeps one eye focused on Washington, D.C., as he attempts to mitigate the political and economic minefield that has become the implementation of Obamacare.

The first-term Republican governor opposed the Affordable Care Act and joined the lawsuit challenging the legality of President Barack Obama’s landmark health care law. But after the Supreme Court upheld the statute, he moved ahead with the creation of a state health insurance exchange, deciding he would rather have Nevada shape its citizens’ access to care under the law rather than have federal bureaucrats do it 3,000 miles away.

But that doesn’t mean Sandoval, who is up for re-election in 2014 and has been mentioned as a GOP vice-presidential candidate, is happy with the law’s implications for Nevada’s arduous recovery from what was arguably an economic depression brought on by the 2008 real estate collapse. Nor is the governor pleased with the Obama administration’s slow and uncertain pace for writing the regulations that will dictate how states are supposed to operate under the new health care regime.

In part one of my broad interview with Sandoval: our discussion about Obamacare and his thoughts on an immigration overhaul. As a Hispanic Republican and a former federal judge who both presided over citizenship ceremonies and prosecuted undocumented immigrants for breaking immigration laws, Sandoval shared his unique perspectives on the matter and the bill that is currently winding its way through the Senate.

Q. Let’s talk about the Affordable Care Act. We know about the old debate, but now there’s the new debate about implementation. Is the implementation process making it harder for Nevada businesses to expand, or for other businesses that want to expand into Nevada, is the uncertainty around the Affordable Care Act making things difficult?

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May 14, 2013

GOP: No ‘There, There’ on White House Benghazi Pushback

A Republican aide told me moments ago that nothing revealed in an exclusive CNN report contradicts the House GOP investigation that suggests an administration cover-up over the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others dead.

Earlier Tuesday, CNN’s Jake Tapper reported on a email he obtained that could indicate that the White House was not collaborating with the State Department to shield President Barack Obama’s administration from any criticism that might arise over the nature of the Benghazi attack. Republicans have insinuated that the administration was sensitive to acknowledging that what happened in Benghazi was pre-planned terrorist attack carried out by Islamic fundamentalists because doing so would have contradicted Obama’s campaign rhetoric that terrorists were on the run because of his policies.

As Tapper reported: “The actual e-mail from then-Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes appears to show that whomever leaked it did so in a way that made it appear that the White House was primarily concerned with the State Department’s desire to remove references and warnings about specific terrorist groups so as to not bring criticism to the department.”

But a House Republican aide said nothing in Tapper’s report absolves the administration from a main point of contention in the House Republican investigation: that the State Department obfuscated and attempted to mischaracterize what happened in Benghazi. When I asked if Tapper’s CNN report took the air out of the House GOP investigation’s sails, the Republican aide referred me to the relevant portion of the inquiry.

Full story

May 8, 2013

5 Top Moments of the Benghazi Hearing

House Republicans on Wednesday attempted to dig deeper into the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others dead, during a nearly day-long Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing.

The political implications of the testimony of three State Department whistle-blowers remain unclear. But the hearing did have some riveting moments and interesting subplots.

Chairman Darrell Issa of California, joined by his fellow Republicans, asked pointed questions intent on laying responsibility for the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi on former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Barack Obama. Democrats led by ranking member Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, meanwhile, moved to undercut the whistle-blowers and shield Clinton and Obama from blame.

Here are the top five moments from Wednesday’s hearing, which is almost assuredly not the last of its kind on this matter:

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What Rubio Wants Out of Immigration Markup

As the Senate immigration bill moves toward a markup in the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Marco Rubio is signaling the changes he supports as he works to make the legislation more palatable to conservatives.

The Florida Republican is a key architect of the “gang of eight” proposal, and his continued backing is crucial to its prospects. A Rubio aide on Wednesday provided CQ Roll Call with a “sampling” of the kinds of amendments to the bill that the senator will urge the Judiciary Committee to approve. About 300 amendments have been filed in committee.

Changes Rubio would support include:

  • An amendment mandating that specific portions of the southwest border be fenced with double-layered fencing, along with the funding to do it.
  • Amendments that would strengthen the grounds for ineligibility/inadmissibility for currently undocumented aliens convicted of more than one misdemeanor.
  • Amendments that would increase the number of background checks that immigrants are subject to as they go through the process to make sure they do not violate the criminal/national security grounds for eligibility. The issue has cropped up in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing.
  • Amendments that go after immigrants who commit welfare fraud, and by extension, those that create a rebuttable presumption that an immigrant is a public charge if they accept state and local welfare benefits.
  • Amendments that eliminate all of the exceptions for eligibility for the Registered Provision Immigrant program for people who were illegally here and were either removed or left the country after Dec. 31, 2011 and then re-entered illegally. They should not be allowed to qualify for a program when they don’t meet the physical presence requirement that we fought for, Rubio contends.

Rubio Meeting Softens Immigration Skeptic’s View

At least one tea party skeptic of the immigration overhaul bill created by the “gang of eight” emerged from a private Tuesday meeting with Sen. Marco Rubio encouraged that the Florida Republican is committed to adjusting the legislation in a way that would make it palatable to conservatives.

Niger Innis, of expressed deep reservations with the Senate bill before the gathering, which featured about 30 conservative supporters and skeptics of the comprehensive rewrite package. In a statement provided to this blog before the meeting, Innis referred to the bill as “more Schumer than Rubio,” in reference to New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, one of four Democrats in the gang of eight. Innis also made a point of expressing suspicion about the legislation’s pathway to citizenship component, which he called “amnesty.”

But Wednesday morning, Innis sounded a slightly different tune after hearing Rubio’s remarks about where the legislation is headed and the changes he is committed to pushing. Although Innis did not change his mind about the group’s legislation in its current form — and made clear that activist members of are unlikely to support the proposal — he signaled that his grass-roots organization is poised to back Rubio’s immigration effort if he can push the changes to the bill that he has said he wants.

Full story

Benghazi Hearing: Grandstanding or Fact-Finding?

Whether House Republicans can remain focused on eliciting real information and avoid political grandstanding is a major subplot of Wednesday morning’s Benghazi hearing.

Even under normal circumstances, members of Congress tend to do a poor job of using their question time to actually ask questions, and follow their initial questions with pointed follow-ups.

Members typically use committee question time to pontificate — especially if there are network television cameras in the room, as there will be when the House Oversight and Government Reform panel convenes to hear testimony from witnesses of the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The attack left Ambassador Christopher Stevens an three others dead. So it was interesting to read the transcript of an interview with Rep. Trey Gowdy.

The South Carolina Republican and former prosecutor told conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt that he is concerned that House Republicans will waste the opportunity afforded to them by the hearing in light of recent revelations about what happened in Benghazi. He worries his colleagues will not focus on fact-finding, but on political point-scoring.

Full story

By David M. Drucker Posted at 9:54 a.m.

May 7, 2013

Conservatives Expect Immigration Bill to Move Right

Conservatives exiting a private meeting with Sen. Marco Rubio to discuss immigration reform predicted that legislation pending before Congress would move significantly to the right as it proceeds toward President Barack Obama’s desk.

The Florida Republican, a key architect of the Senate bill, called the gathering to update conservative supporters and skeptics of a comprehensive immigration overhaul. Rubio also invited feedback and recommendations to strengthen the package in his bid to build support among the conservative grass roots and GOP lawmakers.

More than one who attended the meeting said changes are probably needed to strengthen the border security measures — and to counter conservative fears that neither this White House, nor future administrations, will follow through on the legislation’s security directives.

“Whatever bill makes it to the president’s desk will be different than the one that we see now, and I think it will move significantly to the right,” said Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst with the libertarian Cato Institute and one of 30 who attended the late Tuesday afternoon meeting.

An individual present at the meeting described the hour-plus exchange as mostly positive, adding that about 30 people attended, including representatives of tea party groups. When asked if Rubio’s staff provided any refreshments, a few who were present said that plenty of water bottles were provided, a sly reference to the senator’s State of the Union rebuttal, when he paused mid-speech to a big gulp of bottled water. A partial list of those who were present is included after the jump.

Full story

Rubio to Hear From Immigration Critics

At least one conservative organization attending a Tuesday afternoon meeting to discuss immigration reform with Sen. Marco Rubio is opposed to the “gang of eight” bill.

TheTeaParty.Net is a grass-roots organization on the guest list of about two dozen grass-roots conservative leaders invited to discuss the Senate immigration overhaul with the Florida Republican. The group released a statement ahead of the meeting making clear that it opposes the legislation in its current form.

In the statement, TheTeaParty.Net Chief Strategist Niger Innis makes clear that the group is open to hearing from Rubio out of respect for his conservative bona fides. But at this point, the group views the proposal as “more Schumer than Rubio” — a reference to Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of the gang — because of the path to citizenship component, which the organization refers to as amnesty.

See TheTeaParty.Net’s statement after the jump.

Full story

Rubio Meeting Supporters of Immigration Overhaul

Rubio has been trying to slow down the immigration effort for a number of reasons. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rubio, center, is set to meet Tuesday with grass-roots conservative leaders to discuss immigration. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Marco Rubio is scheduled to meet Tuesday with about two dozen grass-roots conservative leaders to discuss an immigration rewrite.

The late afternoon gathering, set for the Florida Republican’s Capitol Hill office, is closed to the press. Rubio is also scheduled to participate in a tele-townhall meeting Tuesday to promote the immigration overhaul bill from the Senate “gang of eight.” That event, set for the evening, was organized by the Hispanic Leadership Network, which is affiliated with the Republican-friendly American Action Network.

According to a Republican who plans to attend the Tuesday afternoon meeting in Rubio’s office, most of those invited, though not necessarily all, are supporters of the Senate immigration bill. Senate hearings on the group’s legislation are set to continue this week.

May 6, 2013

Ryan Critical of Heritage Immigration Study

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan was critical of The Heritage Foundation study predicting a heavy cost to the taxpayer if Congress approves an immigration overhaul that includes a path to citizenship.

In a statement provided to CQ Roll Call, the Wisconsin Republican had this to say about the Heritage report that the Senate bill’s “amnesty” component would cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion over several decades: “The Congressional Budget Office has found that fixing our broken immigration system could help our economy grow. A proper accounting of immigration reform should take into account these dynamic effects.”

Heritage defended its study during its unveiling Monday, saying its methodology adheres to that recommended by the National Academy of Sciences.

Heritage: Immigration Reform to Cost Taxpayers $6.3 Trillion

The Heritage Foundation on Monday unveiled its much anticipated study projecting that the Senate “gang of eight” immigration bill would cost the taxpayers $6.3 trillion.

The conservative think tank didn’t disappoint either its critics or its supporters; both expected the organization to predict a prohibitive taxpayer burden in the event that the nearly 11 million illegal residents are legalized and offered a path to eventual citizenship. The libertarian Cato Institute and the conservative Americans for Tax Reform previously predicted that the Heritage study would reveal such findings, much like a similar 2007 analysis by the think tank that supporters of an immigration rewrite blame in part for sinking the last effort to overhaul U.S. immigration law.

Heritage President Jim DeMint, the former South Carolina senator, was scheduled to discuss the new study at 11:30 a.m. during a news conference. The longtime Republican lawmaker and tea party stalwart has moved pre-emptively to defend Heritage’s research. A link to the full analysis is here, a summary of its findings can be found after the jump. Heritage remains strongly opposed to congressional efforts to pass a comprehensive immigration overhaul, and is particularly against the path to citizenship component.

Full story

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