Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 29, 2014

Posts by Emma Dumain

55 Posts

November 6, 2014

Power Plays: House Gavel and Ranking Member Battles (Updated)

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Utah’s Chaffetz is one of dozens of lawmakers jockeying for leadership roles on House committees. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated Nov. 17, 11:18 a.m. | As the 114th Congress begins to take shape, members of the House from both parties are angling for new roles on committees. CQ Roll Call is following every twist and turn in this running tally.

Get started with our guide to the GOP chairmanship fights. Check out our reporting from last week on House GOP leadership elections and stay tuned for the results of the Democrats’ leadership votes this week.

We’ve been chronicling the Energy and Commerce ranking member race all year, and the exciting conclusion is now just days away. But with a strengthened Republican majority, it’s a whole new landscape for Democrats — who might remain in the minority for awhile.

Here’s a list of who wants what and the contests shaping up for open committee seats on both sides of the aisle. We’ll update it frequently to reflect the races where two or more candidates have emerged — and instances where challengers have dropped their bids.

Armed Services 

— Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, for chairman, possibly fielding a challenge from J. Randy Forbes R-Va.

Energy and Commerce

— Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., vs. Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, D-Calif., for ranking member.

Financial Services

— Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas. (Rep. Frank D. Lucas, R-Okla., at one point had said he was considering a challenge, but he has since decided against it.) Full story

October 16, 2014

Don Young: the Kodiak Bear of Capitol Hill (Video)

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Colorful iconoclast or uncaring jerk? Young marches to his own beat, and Alaska voters don’t really seem to mind. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

He’s flouted ethics rules. Twisted a staffer’s arm. Even allegedly threatened a life, telling his Democratic challenger this fall that the last person to touch him “ended up on the ground dead” — a fact he told CQ Roll Call there was “some truth” to.

And yet, for 20 elections now, voters in Alaska have sent him back to Washington, D.C.

Rep. Don Young, the House’s longest-serving Republican, has survived more than four decades in Congress despite a reputation for being ornery, aggressive — and maybe even a little unstable.

In many ways, his confrontational style fits the personality of his far-flung state. Young’s press secretary, Matt Shuckerow, said Alaskans face some of the most severe difficulties in the country, and they count on Young to be a “loud voice.”

But at what point does the “Last Frontier” mentality become too much — even for the Last Frontier?

Young isn’t shy about his abrasive style. He told CQ Roll Call last week that most other folks on Capitol Hill are “cookie cutters.” He said while he’s always been himself, it’s rare his colleagues actually believe in their actions. “It’s all done for that TV camera,” he said.

As for himself, he’s “a big teddy bear” — up to a point.

“As long as you don’t cross that line,” he said. “If you cross the line, I’m not a teddy bear.”

He’s more like a grizzly.

Full story

By Matt Fuller and Emma Dumain Posted at 2:18 p.m.

October 6, 2014

‘Contract With America’ Set High-Water Mark for GOP Unity

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DeLay, left, chats with Chabot during a Sept. 17 reception marking the anniversary of the 1994 “Contract With America.” (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay — or “The Hammer,” as he was known in his leadership days — recently called the GOP Class of 1994 “the greatest freshman class … to walk into the House of Representatives.”

Newt Gingrich, who won the speaker’s gavel in 1995 as a reward for orchestrating the first House Republican takeover in four decades, agreed.

“This is not just a game,” he said last month. “This is about how the free people govern themselves, and [that] class was as fine an example of that as I’ve seen in my lifetime.”

The men, from Texas and Georgia respectively, were preaching to the choir: They’d been invited back to Capitol Hill to deliver remarks to more than 40 members of the ‘94 class who reunited to celebrate the fast-approaching 20th anniversary of the historic election.

But the praise did more than just puff the egos of former and current lawmakers attending the event. It unplugged a spigot of nostalgia for what many of the Republicans on hand recalled as halcyon days of legislating. Full story

September 16, 2014

Bipartisan Bloc Coalesces Behind CR, Syrian Rebels Amendment

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Despite reservations, Democrats are lining up behind the House GOP’s proposed continuing resolution and an underlying amendment on Syria, Hoyer said. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Despite lingering reservations on both sides of the aisle, a coalition of Republicans and Democrats is coming together behind proposals to arm Syrian rebels and fund the government beyond Sept. 30.

Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer confirmed Tuesday that, despite some provisions his colleagues don’t like — namely a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank through only June 30, 2015 — Hoyer and a significant bloc of Democrats would not withhold their support on the continuing resolution. “You don’t get perfect,” Hoyer told reporters at his weekly pen-and-pad briefing.

The Maryland Democrat also said Democrats would support an amendment proposal from Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., that would give the Obama administration the authority it requested to arm and train Syrian rebels in order to combat Islamic terrorists.

With the support from Democrats, passage of the CR and adoption of the Syria amendment look increasingly assured. There are plenty of remaining concerns regarding the trustworthiness of the Syrian rebels. But with Republican and Democratic leadership supporting the measure — not to mention the White House, which has been calling members to drum up support for the proposal — passage of the CR does not appear to be in doubt. Full story

September 9, 2014

Boehner Says House Will Wait to Hear Obama’s ISIS Plan

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Boehner said the House will wait to hear the president’s plan on ISIS. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner repeatedly refused to say Tuesday whether he supports more U.S. troops in the Middle East or if Congress should authorize military action against ISIS, telling reporters the House needs to hear from President Barack Obama.

Boehner is scheduled to visit the White House later Tuesday — along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. — and the president may very well ask for congressional authorization to ramp up action against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

But that doesn’t mean he’d get it — at least not anytime soon.

House Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., said Tuesday he didn’t think the House even has time to debate and vote on an authorization for military force before leaving for the pre-election recess in early October. Even if there were time, it’s unclear if there would be the votes.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney came before House Republicans Tuesday in a closed-door meeting to discuss the terrorist threat in the Middle East. And while many Republicans were quick to show deference to one of the major architects of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan — “He’s a man of great gravitas and poise,” said Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz. — many other Republicans were taking Cheney’s words with more than a grain of salt.

Justin Amash, R-Mich., said it was time for the GOP to stop listening to Cheney, particularly on foreign policy. ”Because Republicans don’t agree with him,” Amash said.

Cheney’s message to Republicans, according to members exiting the meeting, was that a strong America would provide for a stable world environment.

“And that the president’s failure of leadership, and incompetence in leadership, has put us into — put the world into — a very unstable position, has imperiled the security of the United States, and that we need to rebuild our military and have a better foreign policy so that we can restore the stability to the world,” said Rep. Bill Flores of Texas, summing up Cheney’s warning to lawmakers.

Regardless of Cheney’s message, both parties are concerned about the possibilities of a another long and costly war in the Middle East. But they are also concerned about doing nothing.

Long one of the most hawkish members of the House, Rep. Peter T. King, R-N.Y., told reporters that Obama has the authority to act without congressional authorization, and that the White House should execute a military response to ISIS, the insurgent group in control of parts of Iraq and Syria, without waiting for consent from Capitol Hill.

“I think it’s better if Congress would give approval,” King said. But he added that it would be better to give authorization “after the fact.”

King explained that debate could slow down action and distract from the task at hand, and he recalled the messiness of last year’s debate over whether to take military action in Syria.

“It would complicate the message,” King said. “I know allies were very disappointed last year when [Obama] was lining up support and then he pulled the rug out.”

Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said he looked forward to hearing what Obama had to say regarding a strategy to combat ISIS, both in his scheduled address on Wednesday evening and after the White House meeting with House and Senate leaders later on Tuesday.

“If the president does not lay out a clear policy that members of Congress and the American people and our military and our enemies understand, then I don’t think there’ll be any action taken,” Sessions said. “If there’s no clear plan, what would the president be asking us to do?”


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

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July 9, 2014

President’s Party Asks Why He’s Avoiding the Border

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Cuellar joined other Democrats saying Obama needs to see the crisis at the border firsthand. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated, 8 p.m. | With ongoing protests in California, business leaders in Washington calling for a legislative overhaul and lawmakers trading barbs on Capitol Hill, President Barack Obama heard from all sides of the immigration debate Wednesday — including some particularly pointed criticism from a member of his own party.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, a fifth-term Democrat from the Texas border town of Laredo, ripped Obama for not scheduling a visit to the Rio Grande Valley while on a two-day fundraising swing through the state.

The president, speaking to reporters Wednesday evening after meeting in Dallas with Gov. Rick Perry and other Texas leaders on the crisis, defended his decision not to visit the border.

“This isn’t theater,” he said. “I’m not interested in photo-ops. I’m interested in solving the problem.”

Lawmakers from both parties want Obama to take charge of a more robust federal response — though there is wide disagreement as to what that response should be — to the surge of tens of thousands of central American women and children who have illegally crossed the Texas border in recent months.

Obama said in Dallas that Perry suggested moving forward with steps to secure the border with or without congressional approval.

“He suggested maybe you just need to go ahead and act,” Obama said. “And I had to remind him I am getting sued right now by Mr. Boehner, apparently, for going ahead and acting instead of going through Congress.”

Full story

June 18, 2014

2010 Class Plots Comeback Strategy in Late-Night Meeting

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The newly elected members of Congress pose for the freshman class photo on the House steps of the Capitol in 2010. (Bill Clark/Roll Call File Photo)

They said it wasn’t a meeting about leadership races.

At 9 p.m. Tuesday night, between 30 and 40 members of the House Republican class of 2010 met in the drafty Ways and Means Committee room in the Longworth House Office Building for roughly an hour. And while leadership races weren’t the main topic of the discussion, one can’t help but wonder how such a meeting will affect the bids of 2010 members Raúl R. Labrador to be majority leader and Marlin Stutzman to be majority whip — both of whom were present for the meeting.

Over offerings of cheese, hummus and craisins, members said they discussed how the 2010 tea party wave could reassert the dominance it had when lawmakers first came to Washington — and a meeting agenda obtained by CQ Roll Call seemed to back that up.

At the top of that agenda, a question is posed in a large font: “Will anyone remember the class of 2010?”

The agenda goes on to discuss strategies for improving communication within the 2010 class, including conducting a monthly meeting and potentially starting a political action committee to help 2010 class members.

Indeed, members repeatedly insisted the meeting wasn’t about the leadership elections. Full story

By Matt Fuller and Emma Dumain Posted at 12:13 a.m.

May 27, 2014

Isla Vista Shooting Prompts Consideration of Mental Health Bills

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Murphy is among the Republicans calling for action on mental health legislation after the shootings in California. (Bill Clark/Roll Call File Photo)

Mental health bills are getting a fresh look after the Isla Vista massacre, with lawmakers in both chambers and both parties pushing Congress to act.

In the aftermath of the killing spree blamed on Elliot Rodger, Democrats activated, issuing what seem like ritual news releases and tweets ripping Congress for failing to act on gun legislation, particularly in the wake of the 2012 massacre in Newtown, Conn.

But few expect Congress to resurrect a gun debate in the shadow of the midterm elections. Full story

By Steven Dennis and Emma Dumain Posted at 5:34 p.m.

May 23, 2014

Ethics Committee Decides to Investigate Grimm, Then Waits

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The Ethics committee opted to wait until Grimm’s indictment is resolved. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House Ethics Committee announced it established a special subcommittee to investigate Rep. Michael G. Grimm, already under federal indictment for allegations of misconduct, but the subcommittee members unanimously voted to wait as the Feds pursue the case against the New York Republican.

Ethics Chairman Rep. K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, was named chairman of the subcommittee and ranking Democratic Rep. Linda T. Sánchez of California will hold the same role. Also serving on the panel are Ethics members Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., and Ted Deutch, D-Fla.

The committee issued a brief statement Friday suggesting they will hold off in deference to the Justice Department:

Full story

May 9, 2014

Democrats Still Undecided on Benghazi Committee Response

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On the Benghazi panel, Israel said Democrats are waiting on Speaker Boehner (Tom Williams/Roll Call File Photo)

Despite several private meetings on the issue, House Democrats remained undecided Friday morning about how to respond to the GOP’s special investigative committee formed to investigate the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

Initial reports coming out of the room at a caucus meeting Friday morning signaled that they were far from reaching consensus about whether to fully engage, ignore the committee altogether — or something in between.

From rank-and-filers such as Rep. Gerald Connolly of Virginia to members of leadership such as Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel of New York, the line was, “We’re still waiting on the speaker.” Full story

Dozens of Democrats Defect, Join GOP on Research Tax Cut

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Despite Pelosi’s admonishments, 63 Democrats crossed party lines to back a research and development tax cut. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Scores of Democrats rebuffed the White House and their own leadership on Friday, voting for a bill to permanently extend a tax cut encouraging companies to invest in research and development.

The vote passed 274-131, with 62 Democrats breaking with their party to vote with all but one Republican to pass the bill.

President Barack Obama’s administration and House Democratic leaders had panned the bill because it does not offset the cost of the tax credits. The administration issued a veto threat earlier this week.

The defections are particularly striking because at a private meeting immediately preceding the vote, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, Assistant Leader James E. Clyburn of South Carolina and Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen of Maryland sharply admonished Democrats planning to vote for the bill.

Voting “yes,” they argued, sets a precedent for a half-dozen more tax extenders Republicans plan to bring to the floor without offsets, and the budget cuts needed to pay for them will ostensibly come from Democratic priorities. Full story

May 8, 2014

Democrats Consider Naming Just One Member to Benghazi Committee

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DeLauro suggested having Pelosi name just one Democrat to the Benghazi committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Democrats are considering naming just one person to the special committee investigating the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, a move that would serve as a symbolic protest of the panel’s creation, but would also allow Democrats access to information obtained by committee Republicans.

The Benghazi committee proposal was floated late Thursday in a letter to Democratic members from Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the co-chairwoman of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and a trusted member of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s inner circle.

Members had discussed naming five members, or not naming any at all. Calling the creation of the committee “deeply partisan,” the Connecticut Democrat suggested a compromise.

“If there is a sense of the caucus that we should participate, I suggest you consider a third option: naming just one Democratic member as an official panel participant,” she wrote in the letter obtained by CQ Roll Call. “Such a participant could maintain Democratic access to committee proceedings and material, question witnesses, monitor the House Majority’s activities and provide a powerful voice to raise issues and make appropriate public comments.”

DeLauro did not suggest who that member could be. Democrats plan to meet Friday morning to discuss their options.

Democrats have objected to the creation of the committee, in part, because it provides seven slots for Republicans and five for Democrats, a move they have said portends a partisan bent to the proceedings. In a meeting earlier this week, many Democrats thought they should boycott the committee outright. Still other Democrats believe they should fully participate.

For instance, Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., another member of Pelosi’s inner circle, on Thursday reiterated his support for appointing a full slate of Democrats to the committee, but dismissed suggestions that Democrats opt in with partial participation by naming just one of their own to go up against Republicans.

“I think we ought to participate with all five,” Waxman told reporters. “The problem with [having one] is you get all the Republicans asking questions and then you have one Democrat.”

Waxman said ideally both sides would have equal representation, which Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., asked Speaker John A. Boehner for on Tuesday, but ultimately five was better than none.

“Whenever you have people forming a special committee for an investigation, especially with Republicans, there’s a tendency to overreach,” he argued. “Democrats ought to be there to call them out on it if they do.”

Meanwhile, Boehner’s and Pelosi’s camps are trying to hash out an agreement in which Democrats would participate in the panel, and in exchange would have a say in decisions about issuing subpoenas and other things usually in the majority’s power, according to senior aides. It is not clear, however, what extra powers Boehner could grant the minority.

Boehner is expected to name his remaining slots on Friday. He has already chosen Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. to chair the committee.

April 30, 2014

Cantor to Meet With Grimm Wednesday

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., will meet with recently-indicted Rep. Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y., on Wednesday, a GOP leadership aide confirmed to CQ Roll Call.

The meeting will be pivotal for Grimm, who is battling 20 federal charges of misconduct related to the ownership and operation of a health food restaurant prior to his election to Congress in 2010.

It also will be pivotal for Cantor: GOP leaders have so far been mum on how they will deal with their scandal-plagued colleague in an election year.

Cantor took a firm stance Tuesday regarding Rep. Vance McAllister, R-La., who said he will not seek re-election after surveillance footage revealed the married father of five kissing a married staffer.

McAllister’s plan to serve out the remaining months of his term didn’t sit well with Cantor, who told the Louisiana Republican to resign now.

Grimm has not only said he won’t resign, he’ll seek a third term. Cantor’s response to that plan could chart the course for Grimm’s ultimate political survival.

By Emma Dumain Posted at 10:54 a.m.
Eric Cantor, Ethics

April 29, 2014

Boehner Walks Back Immigration Comments (Video)

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 5:26 p.m. | John A. Boehner in a closed-door meeting with Republicans Tuesday morning apologized for comments over the recess that some in the GOP Conference perceived as mocking opponents of comprehensive immigration overhaul — and the speaker reassured lawmakers there is no conspiracy to bring up such a bill over their objections.

Boehner said he meant to make a joke, but not at his members’ expense, when he flippantly noted at a Rotary Club meeting in his district last week that some Republicans are reluctant to consider an immigration rewrite.

At a press conference after the meeting, Boehner told reporters the same thing.

“There was no mocking,” Boehner said. “Listen, you all know me. You tease the ones you love. But some people misunderstood what I had to say. And I wanted to make sure that members understood that the biggest impediment we have in moving immigration reform forward is [the president]. Full story

Boehner Mum on Grimm’s Pursuit of Another Term

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner made his first public comments Tuesday on the indictment of Rep. Michael G. Grimm on fraud and tax evasion charges, telling reporters he thinks the New York Republican was right to resign his committee post.

“Listen,” the Ohio Republican said at his weekly press conference. “He has stepped down from his committee assignment last night. I think he made the right decision.”

Pressed further, Boehner stressed, “I think all members should be held to the highest ethical standard. Mr. Grimm is under indictment. He resigned from his committee assignment and I think he made the right decision.” Full story

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