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Posts by Emma Dumain
August 14, 2014
Three senior Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are calling on panel chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., to hold hearings on the violence that has erupted in Ferguson, Mo., following the police shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager on Aug. 9.
“For the past five days, the citizens of Ferguson have protested the killing of of an unarmed teenager by local police,” wrote ranking member John Conyers Jr., Mich., and two subcommittee chairmen, Robert C. Scott of Virginia and Steve Cohen of Tennessee, in their letter on Thursday afternoon. “Last night, law enforcement broke up the protest with brutal force: confronting demonstrators in riot gear and armored vehicles, arresting journalists, and firing tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd.
“These incidents raise concerns that local law enforcement is out of control and, instead of protecting the safety and civil liberties of the residents of Ferguson, is employing tactics that violate the rights of citizens … this situation requires immediate congressional scrutiny,” they continued. Full story
Passing a new Voting Rights Act in the GOP-dominated House was never going to be easy, supporters acknowledge. But with a powerful Republican such as Eric Cantor as an ally, hope flickered for nearly a year.
Then came June 10 and the shocking primary defeat that tanked Cantor’s congressional career — taking with it, in all likelihood, any prospect for an update of the landmark 1965 civil rights legislation that had been weakened by a 2013 Supreme Court ruling.
Even with Cantor as majority leader, said a House aide close to the VRA negotiations, “I would have speculated that it was certainly a very steep climb. That it was unlikely, but there was still hope.”
But with the Virginia Republican out of the mix, the aide said, “it doesn’t appear we’re going to see it this Congress.”
It’s a disappointing turn that has some Democrats wondering if Cantor ever deserved the benefit of a doubt on minority voting rights. Full story
August 12, 2014
Updated: 12:18 p.m. | The chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus and two of her colleagues are calling on the Justice Department to probe deeply into the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo.
Chairwoman Marcia L. Fudge, D-Ohio, co-signed a letter Monday evening addressed to Attorney General Eric. H. Holder Jr., with Judiciary ranking member John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., and the Democratic lawmaker who represents the Ferguson area, Rep. William Lacy Clay.
The letter acknowledged and expressed gratitude for the DOJ investigation already underway regarding the incident, in which a Ferguson policeman shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. Police have said the teen tried to take an officer’s gun, but at least one witness said the teen was shot without cause.
“The St. Louis County Police Department, which is currently investigating the shooting, claims that the shooting occurred after Mr. Brown assaulted the officer and the two men struggled for the officer’s gun,” the members wrote, “but local community members have expressed strong skepticism and outrage about this explanation. According to one eye witness account, several shots hit Mr. Brown as he attempted to flee with his hands in the air … More broadly, press reports suggest that Mr. Brown’s shooting may be symptomatic of larger racial tensions in Ferguson.”
August 8, 2014
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy doesn’t state the obvious in his Friday memo to colleagues about what the chamber must contend with next month: Avoiding a government shutdown at the end of September.
The California Republican instead outlined some other legislative items that could come to the floor in the few short weeks Congress is back in Washington before recessing again, bills that appear designed to give members prime messaging opportunities in their last sprint to the midterm elections. Full story
Updated 11:22 a.m. | Congressional leaders are backing President Barack Obama’s decision to authorize air strikes in Iraq as the first bombs began falling, although hawks are pushing for a far broader military campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also knowns as ISIS.
Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, announced Friday morning that the U.S. had dropped bombs on assets of the group.
“Two F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near Erbil. ISIL was using this artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Erbil where U.S. personnel are located,” Kirby said. “The decision to strike was made by the U.S. Central Command commander under authorization granted him by the commander in chief.”
August 6, 2014
Democrats commemorated the 48th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act last year with hopes that by today a fix for the landmark law would have reached President Barack Obama’s desk.
But on Wednesday, its 49th birthday came and went with no clear endgame for advancing legislation, and lawmakers took to email inboxes and social media to articulate their continued determination to get something done.
“Until House Republican leadership works with Democrats to protect this fundamental right, [voting rights] will continue to be at risk,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel of New York. Full story
August 5, 2014
President Barack Obama isn’t the only high-profile politician who hasn’t felt a need to visit the U.S.-Mexico border yet.
On Tuesday, Speaker John A. Boehner’s spokesman suggested that his boss, too, was for the time being plenty well-versed on the issues that culminated in last Friday’s party-line vote on $694 million legislation to address the crisis caused by the child migrant surge.
“The Speaker has heard from many, including our Border Working Group led by Texas Rep. Kay Granger, about the humanitarian crisis on our southern border. That’s why the House acted last week on legislation to provide needed relief and begin to fix the problems,” said the Ohio Republican’s spokesman, Michael Steel. “At this point, President Obama should call Senate Democrats back to Washington to act, too.”
Steel’s statement came swiftly in response to a CQ Roll Call inquiry about a press release from the office of freshman Democrat Pete Gallego of Texas, who has sent Boehner a written invitation to come down and see the crisis first-hand. Full story
Newly installed House Majority Whip Steve Scalise helped resurrect the GOP’s border legislation last week, but his strategy for shoring up the votes has left some members and aides wondering whether he will be able to keep an unruly flock in line.
Worrying about making the rank and file happy, he assisted in salvaging a $694 million appropriations measure to bolster resources at the U.S.-Mexico border largely by giving in to the demands of the far-right contingent of the GOP conference — including Reps. Steve King of Iowa and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota — rather than bringing down the proverbial hammer.
There’s anxiety among more moderate parts of the party over how Scalise will help hold the conference together to avoid another government shutdown when the chamber reconvenes next month, and how his own desires to win re-election to the whip position in November could factor into how he does his job.
August 1, 2014
When Eric Cantor bid the House farewell in a floor speech Thursday, he apparently meant it.
At the time, Cantor had not yet disclosed his intent to resign his seat as of Aug. 18. He was merely ending his tenure as majority leader a little less than two months after his sudden primary defeat in June, handing the gavel off to his successor, Kevin McCarthy of California.
But when it came time for a major test for Cantor’s House Republicans, the ousted Virginian was already long gone.
Cantor was among the 20 lawmakers who did not vote Friday night, on what was meant to be the first official date of the five-week August recess. The House, like the Senate, was scheduled to go home the day before, but lawmakers were forced to stay an extra day to get consensus on legislation to address the child migrant border surge at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Updated 11:51 p.m. | House Republicans voted to prohibit President Barack Obama from granting what they consider to be an unconstitutional amnesty to illegal immigrants Friday.
The bill would effectively end Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA — a program that has allowed hundreds of thousands of “Dreamers” brought to the United States illegally by their parents to get work permits and avoid deportation. And it would prohibit the president from expanding the program, as he has been reportedly considering doing for as many as five million additional immigrants.
The 216-192 vote included four Democrats voting “yes” — Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota, Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, John Barrow of Georgia, and Nick J. Rahall II of West Virginia.
Eleven Republicans broke ranks to oppose it — Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, Jeff Denham of California, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Mike Coffman of Colorado, David Valadao of California, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, David Reichert of Washington, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Joe Heck of Nevada, Mark Amodei of Nevada, and Fred Upton of Michigan.
The bill won’t get taken up any time soon by the Democrat-controlled Senate, which already left for August recess. And it’s unlikely to be signed into law by Obama, who started DACA through an executive action in 2012 and vowed to veto the bill earlier Friday. Full story
Updated 11:04 p.m. | House Republicans found the votes late Friday night to pass a $694 million appropriations bill aimed at stemming the tide of the child migrant surge at the U.S-Mexico border.
It passed almost entirely along party lines, 223-189, freeing Republicans to go home for the August recess able to tell constituents they took action to address the crisis — unlike the Senate, which was unable to pass its own border funding bill Thursday but left town anyway. Only a single Democrat, Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, voted for the package.
Four Republicans voted no: Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, Walter B. Jones of North Carolina and Paul Broun of Georgia.
The House’s bill, however, isn’t expected to go anywhere, with Democrats and President Barack Obama torching it Friday. Full story
Updated 12:44 p.m. | House Republicans emerged from a closed-door meeting Friday morning with a revised plan to address the child migrant border crisis — one leaders hope to pass later today.
The latest plan will still require the House to vote on the border funding bill before being allowed to vote on language to stop the expansion of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, according to members exiting the conference meeting.
Both components, however, will look slightly different.
The appropriations bill, which was $659 million on Thursday night, will now include an additional $35 million to bolster National Guard resources at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The bill, which also contains numerous related policy riders, will also expand on language tweaking a 2008 trafficking law in order to expedite deportations of the migrants.
The measure originally called for treating all unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border the same in terms of whether they could volunteer for deportation back to their home countries. Now, the legislation will incorporate the stronger language of legislation recently introduced by Republican Reps. John Carter of Texas, Robert Aderholt of Alabama and Jack Kingston of Georgia.
July 31, 2014
The House will hold off on leaving town for its five-week August recess until Republicans find the votes to pass legislation addressing the border crisis.
It could happen as early as Friday morning — the GOP will gather at 9 a.m. to discuss new policy proposals to accompany a $659 million appropriations bill they abruptly yanked from consideration Thursday. Republicans departing from an emergency conference meeting Thursday afternoon told reporters they felt confident that, through a process of educating colleagues and agreeing to make some changes to existing legislative language, they could muster enough votes to pass the new measure.
If a deal isn’t reached by then, said Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., “I think we’ll be back here the next day.”
“If we have to work longer or through the weekend, I think there’s a genuine desire to do that,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said.
Rep. Raúl R. Labrador told reporters he was prepared to stay in town to hash out an agreement, even if it meant missing a religious ritual on Saturday back home in Idaho in anticipation of his son’s upcoming nuptials.
It remains to be seen how party leaders expect to come up with any new proposal that sufficiently addresses the demands of some of the conference’s most conservative hold-outs.
Updated 4:52 p.m. | House GOP leaders ditched their plans to vote on a border supplemental Thursday after failing to secure the votes to pass it — but plan to try again Friday before jetting out of town for the August recess.
“We will stay until we vote,” Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., told reporters after an emergency meeting held at 3 p.m. Another GOP conference meeting was called for 9 a.m Friday, a GOP leadership aide said.
Asked if talks would continue Thursday night, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters “Oh, yeah.”
Earlier, chaos reigned in the House as GOP leaders’ carefully crafted gambit to win conservative votes fell apart.
“We don’t think we have the votes,” said Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, one of the architects of the bill. But she said the whip count was “very close” with about 214 supporters, including Democrats.
“There are people who just don’t want to do anything,” she said. “They don’t want to spend the money.”
While GOP leaders initially indicated they would not vote on the border supplemental, a number of lawmakers pushed them to reconsider.
“I’m going to talk to the whip and the leaders to try and talk them into doing something else,” said Rep. John Carter, R-Texas on his way to the whip’s office.
Carter said he’s been telling his GOP colleagues, “60 percent of something is better than 100 percent of nothing.”
The $659 million bill intended to deal with the crisis of child migrants coming across the border would have been followed by a vote on separate legislation prohibiting President Barack Obama from granting deportation relief and work permits to any more illegal immigrants.
GOP leaders, led by Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, issued a joint statement pinning the blame for pulling the bill on Obama. Full story
Just hours after shifting gears on a strategy to pass a $659 million appropriations bill to bolster resources at the U.S.-Mexico border, House Republicans are moving ahead, more confident they have the votes.
Rank-and-file members emerged from a GOP Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club on Thursday morning with a sense that the gambit — giving conservatives a standalone vote to stop the expansion of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program after they pass the border funding bill — would be enough to bring conservative holdouts on board.
Many Republicans argue that DACA, the 2012 executive order granting stays of deportation to young undocumented immigrants brought into the country illegally by their parents, is responsible for the influx of child migrants who have come to believe that if the can get over the border and into the United States, they will be allowed to stay and put on a path to legal status. They insisted that any legislation to stem the tide of the border surge would have to address that executive action, especially after news reports Obama is considering expanding the program to as many as five million more immigrants here illegally. Full story