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October 24, 2014

Posts by Emma Dumain

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October 23, 2014

GOP Gavel Fights: 11 House Committee Chairmanships In Play

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Hensarling may have a challenger for the Financial Services’ gavel. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Almost every House member is on the stump this month, wrapping up re-election bids, with most cruising to new terms and a handful on both sides of the aisle scrambling to hang on to their jobs. But for a select few GOP lawmakers — those actively seeking committee chairmanships — the final days before Nov. 4 are as much about lining up support among colleagues as they are about connecting with voters.

Every two years, after the Election Day dust settles, members return to Capitol Hill for a lame-duck session that includes the selection of colleagues to serve as senior lawmakers on the chamber’s standing committees during the new Congress.

Republicans, widely expected to retain the majority this cycle, will be particularly busy during the lame duck, scheduled to begin Nov. 12, when it comes to doling out committee leadership appointments. Thanks to retirements, possible assignment shuffles and a 20-year rule capping panel leadership at three terms, as many as 11 out of 21 committees could see new chairmen in the 114th Congress.

A twelfth committee could even be at play, if term-limited Agriculture Chairman Frank D. Lucas of Oklahoma decides to challenge Jeb Hensarling’s grip on the Financial Services gavel, as he recently suggested he might.

For the decidedly open chairmanships, some lawmakers are expected to win their desired posting without competition, while others will be facing off against their peers. All of the slots are filled by a secret ballot vote of members on the Republican Steering Committee, comprised of party leaders, top-tier panel chairmen and regional representatives.

Here’s a rundown of 11 committee gavels that are up for grabs, and which members stand to snag them. Full story

October 22, 2014

Energy and Commerce Rivals Battle to the Wire

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Ranking member rivals Eshoo and Pallone. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Since January, Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. and Anna G. Eshoo have been positioning themselves as the obvious choice to be the top Democrat on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee.

But after 10 months of cutting checks and courting colleagues, they’re still not finished campaigning to replace the panel’s current ranking member, retiring Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California.

Members of the House Democratic Caucus won’t settle the hotly contested race until late-November at the earliest, meaning Pallone of New Jersey and Eshoo of California will have to stay on the offensive, showing they’re both team players and power players who are ready — and able — to help their friends out.

Along the way, they are pulling pages from the same playbook — with a few key exceptions.

Full story

October 17, 2014

Before Ending Chairmanship, Issa Sets Ebola Hearing for Oversight

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

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

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

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

GOP Lawmakers: Congress Should Pass Ebola Travel Ban

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

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

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

Highly unlikely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Related:

Ebola Sparks Obama to Shake Up Leadership Style

For Senate Candidates, Ebola Hearing Takes Precedence Over Stump

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

Murphy: CDC Needs Tighter Ebola Screening Rules

Ohio Senators Seek Information as Cleveland Faces New Ebola Risk

Democratic Senator: Restrict Africa Visas Due to Ebola

 

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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October 16, 2014

Republicans, Democrats Trade Punches Over CDC, NIH Ebola Funding

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

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

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

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

The Softer Side of Don Young: A Counterpoint

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full story

October 15, 2014

Retiring Bachmann Signals She’s Still in the Game

 Retiring Bachmann Signals Shes Still in the Game

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

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

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

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

Full story

October 10, 2014

Where Does Pelosi Play? The Fine Art of Surrogate Campaigning

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

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

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

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

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

Each member has his or her own edge.

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

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

Full story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related:

Pelosi Says Debate, Vote Should Be Held on Military Authorization

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

After Today, House Is Done Through the Elections

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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October 3, 2014

Issa, Cummings Issue Joint Call for Secret Service Review

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Issa . (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The top Republican and Democrat on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee are formally asking Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to conduct a “comprehensive external review” of Secret Service practices and protocol.

In a letter to Johnson on Friday, Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and ranking member Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., emphasized that any such investigation must extend beyond last month’s isolated incident, where an armed intruder scaled the fence of the White House and was able to get inside the presidential residence before being apprehended — by an off-duty officer.

The two lawmakers, who famously clashed earlier this year, said Secret Service Director Julia Pierson’s resignation on Wednesday evening should not preclude a larger probe, given that problems within the agency preceded her tenure. Nor should the committee’s rare, mid-recess hearing on department misconduct be construed as congress closing the book on the chapter.

Full story

October 1, 2014

Losing Cummings Set Off Chain Reaction for Secret Service Director

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When Cummings lost confidence in Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, others followed. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As CNN’s Wolf Blitzer noted Wednesday afternoon, when a White House appointee loses the backing of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Elijah E. Cummings, you know you’re in trouble.

That’s where embattled Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, appointed to the job less than two years ago by President Barack Obama, found herself Thursday as a growing chorus of lawmakers — including Democrats Cummings and Pelosi — demanded answers and accountability for an embarrassing series of security lapses involving the agency.

Cummings, the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was the first, most senior Democrat to suggest that maybe it was time for new leadership at the Secret Service.

Wednesday morning, less than 24 hours after Pierson’s problematic testimony at a rare, mid-recess hearing on Capitol Hill, Cummings told MSNBC that his “confidence and trust” in Pierson “had eroded,” and that he did “not feel comfortable with her” in charge of the agency.

Those comments seemed to have set off a chain reaction among lawmakers in both parties struggling with their positions on whether Pierson should stay or go.

Soon after, Pelosi announced at a press conference that if Cummings was bothered by Pierson’s record at the Secret Service, then so was she.

I support his suggestion,” Pelosi told reporters. “I am subscribing to his superior judgment and knowledge on the subject.”

On the other side of the aisle, South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy cited Cummings, too.

“When Elijah Cummings says that he has lost confidence in someone, the White House better pay attention,” Gowdy told Fox News.

“He’s hardly a tea party Republican,” said Gowdy, the chairman to Cummings’ ranking member on the special Benghazi investigative committee. “He does not criticize the administration unless it’s warranted. And, he has lost confidence in Director Pierson’s leadership.”

And Cummings’ comments were an indication of how little support Pierson could expect from Democrats on Capitol Hill. This was, after all, a lawmaker who, in February, had been described by a spokesman for Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa as an “errand runner for the Obama White House.”

In an interview with CQ Roll Call Wednesday evening, Cummings said he hadn’t heard about Gowdy’s comments from earlier in the day, but that he was gratified by them.

“I think it is — I hope, I hope — it’s about integrity,” he said. “But also always putting the country first.”

“Put country before party,” he added, giving a shout-out to the late Republican Rep. Jack Kemp, who used the phrase often.

 

Related:

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson Resigns

Boehner Slams ‘Incompetence’ at Secret Service, Wants Review

Pelosi Calls for Review of Secret Service Security Lapses

Secret Service Takes Beating in Rare Recess Hearing

Secret Service Director Testimony Omits Elevator Incident With Obama

Omar Gonzalez Charged in White House Breach

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

Pelosi Calls for ‘Independent Investigation’ Into Secret Service Lapses (Video)

pelosi 005 100114 445x296 Pelosi Calls for Independent Investigation Into Secret Service Lapses (Video)

Pelosi stopped short of calling for the Secret Service director’s resignation.  (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stopped short on Wednesday of demanding Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resign, but called for an “independent investigation” into the disturbing protocol breaches within the agency that she said were “inexcusable.”

“The challenge may be more than one person,” the California Democrat told reporters at a press conference on Capitol Hill. “Whether she [resigns] or not, I think we need an independent investigation. Her leaving doesn’t end the need to learn more.”

Pelosi’s remarks came a day after the Oversight and Government Reform Committee convened a rare, mid-recess hearing in Washington, D.C. to hear testimony from Pierson and other officials in the wake of revelations that an armed intruder scaled the fence of the White House and actually was able to get inside the presidential residence before finally being apprehended — by an off-duty officer. Full story

September 29, 2014

Hoyer: ‘Atlas Shrugged’ No Way to Run a Country

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Hoyer says don’t count on the Senate switching hands. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Five weeks and one day before the midterm elections, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer made the case for Democrats to retake control of the House, delivering a scathing takedown of Republican leadership in the process.

In a Monday morning speech at the National Press Club, the House’s No. 2 Democrat mocked Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, for recently boasting that the House under GOP rule is so transparent “you can even bring your iPad on the floor.”

“That may be the case,” Hoyer scoffed, “but you can’t bring a bill to raise the minimum wage to the floor. Or to extend unemployment insurance. Or to extend the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act. You can’t bring a bipartisan bill to fix our broken immigration system.” Full story

September 25, 2014

Lawmakers Weigh In on Holder Resignation (Updated) (Video)

holderl 018 060613 445x308 Lawmakers Weigh In on Holder Resignation (Updated) (Video)

Attorney General Eric Holder on Capitol Hill earlier this year. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Update 5:05 p.m. | Even before Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s resignation was officially announced, House and Senate lawmakers were sending out statements reacting to the news.

The sentiments broke down neatly along party lines, with Republicans openly cheering an end to Holder’s six years atop the Justice Department and Democrats just as enthusiastically expressing appreciation for the nation’s first black attorney general.

The statements signaled just how polarizing Holder has become on Capitol Hill.

For many GOP lawmakers who had clashed with Holder, it was simply a matter of good riddance.

“I can’t think of any AG in history who has attacked Louisiana more than Holder,” said Sen. David Vitter, R-La., who was first out with a release headed, “Vitter Welcomes News of Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation.”

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., proclaimed, “Eric Holder is the most divisive U.S. Attorney General in modern history and, in a vote supported by 17 Democratic House Members, has the dubious historic distinction of being the first Attorney General held in criminal contempt by the U.S. House of Representatives.” Full story

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

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Boehner says the new Congress, not the lame duck, should vote on war authorization for operations in Syria. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner thinks Congress should debate authorizing use of force against the Islamic State in Syria — but not until new members of the House and Senate take office in January.

The Ohio Republican told The New York Times in an interview published Thursday morning the lame-duck session following the midterms in November would not be an appropriate time to make those decisions.

“Doing this with the whole group of members who are on their way out the door, I don’t think that is the right way to handle this,” Boehner told the Times.

That statement is sure to rankle many members on both sides of the aisle who had hoped the House would weigh in as soon as possible on President Barack Obama’s decision to use airstrikes to target the terrorist organization, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Full story

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