Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 17, 2014

Posts by Emma Dumain

39 Posts

April 2, 2014

Democrats Force Immigration Vote at Budget Hearing

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Democrats, who recently gathered on the Capitol steps in support of immigration, are using committee hearings to continue to push for the issue. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Democrats Wednesday used a meeting intended to advance House Budget Committee Chairman Paul D. Ryan’s spending blueprint to force Republicans into a symbolic vote on immigration reform.

Freshman Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif., used an all-day markup convened by the Budget committee to force the roll call vote on the Democrats’ immigration legislation. Cardenas offered the text of the immigration bill as an amendment to Ryan’s proposed 2015 budget.

“This is the only amendment that would create jobs and reduce the deficit in one amendment,” Cardenas argued.

He added, “this is the only vote we can get.”

Full story

March 5, 2014

Issa, Cummings Feud Boils Over

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The committee dustup between Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa and ranking Democrat Elijah E. Cummings has Democrats and Republicans at each other’s throats and demanding apologies.

On Wednesday, Issa cut off Cummings’ microphone after abruptly adjourning a hearing with IRS official Lois Lerner. Issa spent about 15 minutes asking Lerner questions, even though she made it clear she would be invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. But before Cummings could speak, Issa adjourned the committee.

When Cummings protested and asked for the chance to ask a procedural question, Issa gave him a moment to do so. But when the Maryland Democrat launched into statement attacking Republicans, Issa cut him off.

“We’re adjourned. Close it down,” Issa told committee staff.

Full story

February 26, 2014

Flood Insurance Bill Goes Back to Rewrite

Updated 1:29 p.m. | House Republican leaders announced Wednesday that a vote on a flood insurance bill would be put off until next week while members negotiate language that can pass the chamber.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told his conference in a private meeting that he will work with Democrats in order to advance the measure. “We are moving it to next week to work on a few remaining technical issues,” he said, according to source in the room.

The bill was expected to come up on Thursday under suspension of the rules, meaning it would need a two-thirds majority vote to pass. But members coming out of the GOP meeting Wednesday morning said they did not think it had enough votes to clear that hurdle.

A GOP leadership aide said Democrats asked leaders to delay consideration of the bill to give them more time to explain it to their members to round up support in their caucus. On Tuesday, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., confirmed his understanding that votes were at issue, adding that House Financial Services ranking member Maxine Waters, D-Calif., was closely involved in tweaking language.

“This measure remains a work in progress,” Waters said in a statement Wednesday. “We continue to work in good faith with Republican leadership to address a number of technical and substantive issues related to the legislation, with the ultimate goal of correcting the unintended consequences of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act. This could not be done overnight.”

Waters was a champion in 2012 of bipartisan legislation with then-Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill., dubbed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which reduced subsidies for homeowners to shore up the cash-strapped National Flood Insurance Program.

With flood insurance premiums now skyrocketing, however, lawmakers — particularly in flood-prone states and districts — are clamoring to revisit that law. The Senate last month passed legislation that would effectively halt implementation of Biggert-Waters for four years, but House Republican leaders said that measure was, for them, a non-starter.

On Tuesday evening, Rep. Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y., insisted that truly bipartisan negotiations were under way on the new, House GOP leadership-blessed flood insurance bill.

“Literally, as we speak, minor edits are being made to the bill so that we can make this a truly bipartisan bill,” said Grimm, who is helping spearhead the effort, in a brief interview with CQ Roll Call. “I personally think, when this comes to the floor … people are going to be surprised that there’s going to be overwhelming support.”

Grimm named Waters and Reps. Gregory W. Meeks of New York and Cedric L. Richmond of Louisiana as Democrats at the negotiating table.

The fate of flood insurance legislation in the House hinges, however, on Republican support, too. The Club for Growth is launching a full-scale campaign to bring down the bill on grounds that it does not fully repeal the National Flood Insurance Program and that it reverts to a time when taxpayers fronted high costs for individuals’ insurance policies.

Seeking to appeal to conservative lawmakers in particular, Club for Growth President Chris Chocola released a statement on Wednesday afternoon praising House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, for his opposition to the flood insurance bill currently pending in the House.

“House Republican Leadership wants to stick taxpayers with the bill for higher subsidies to beach-front properties, but Congressman Hensarling took a principled stand,” said Chocola. “Hensarling has long advocated for reforming the Flood Insurance program, so it’s no surprise that GOP leaders are refusing to run the bill through his committee, and instead, are negotiating directly with the Democrats.

“Republicans in the House could learn a lot by following Congressman Hensarling’s lead when it comes to protecting taxpayers and increasing economic freedom,” Chocola said.

February 13, 2014

Biden to Join Obama at House Democrats’ Retreat

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Cambridge, Md. — Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will rally House Democrats after all.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz told reporters Thursday that even though weather forced Biden to scrap his planned address, he would make the trip with President Barack Obama on Friday.

“He’s coming in the morning,” the Democratic National Committee chairwoman confirmed.

As we reported, Biden had been scheduled to attend the retreat Thursday but canceled. Thomas Freidman also was dropped from the agenda.

For more coverage of the retreat, see here and here.

February 11, 2014

Breaking Down the Debt Ceiling Vote

The House voted 221-201 to pass a clean debt ceiling hike for more than a year — and there are a few interesting trends hidden in the breakdown. (The Senate then passed the increase on Wednesday.)

Twenty-eight Republicans voted for the bill, which means this debt ceiling vote was the most extreme example of violating the principle that the speaker does not bring a bill to the floor without a “majority of the majority” — the so-called Hastert Rule, named after former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., who broke that principle 12 times himself.

Before Tuesday, the greatest number of majority defections on a bill that passed the House was 41. (Coincidentally, Democrats and Republicans both achieved that same watermark. Democrats in 2007 with the “Protect America Act” and Republicans in 2002 with the “Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.”)

But Tuesday’s debt limit vote now stands alone with the fewest number of votes from a majority on a bill that passed the House since at least 1991, when digital records of roll call votes became available. Full story

February 10, 2014

Republican Leaders Pitch Debt Limit Sweetener (Updated)

Updated 9:39 p.m. | House Republican leaders pitched their members a deal Monday night that would pair raising the nation’s borrowing cap for one year with a rollback of military pension cuts — with a vote possible Wednesday.

Republicans posted the text of the bill Monday night, including a $2.3 billion fund that could be used for a patch for Medicare doctor reimbursements. The debt limit would be suspended until March 15, 2015.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said Republicans planned to whip the newest proposal during Monday evening votes.

“I think the goal is to put it on the floor Wednesday,” Nunes said. “We’re just going to whip it.”

The deal is designed to attract Democratic support, which became necessary when GOP leaders found last week that none of their plans could garner 218 votes from Republicans alone. Full story

January 28, 2014

Conservative Battle Cry on Immigration: Remember the Farm Bill

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Mulvaney raised concern about taking up an immigration overhaul. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A new narrative against taking up an immigration overhaul is forming in House conservative circles: Just look at the farm bill.

Some Republicans feel they were steamrolled by the farm bill conference report — a five-year, $1 trillion bill that will see House action on Wednesday — and it is now giving them pause about passing immigration bills in the House.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., raised the concern Tuesday in a closed-door conference meeting of the conservative Republican Study Committee. The House passed agriculture legislation that split what he called the “unholy alliance” of agriculture and nutrition policy, namely the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps. Full story

December 30, 2013

The House Year in Review

This year, doing the business of the People’s House was, at best, a struggle. It’s well-known that 2013 was, legislatively, the least productive session in congressional history. Leaders strained to get to 218 — a majority in the 435-seat House (in case you had no idea where the blog name came from). And there were some pretty notable news stories as a result of all this congressional dysfunction.

But as painful as the year was for members, covering the House was a pleasure, one which we here at 218 only had the honor of doing for about half the year.

In that short time, 218 — or “Goppers,” as we were formerly known, which rhymes with “Whoppers,” for all you still wondering about that — had more than a few favorite stories.

Among the labors of love, there was a piece about the 10 Republicans who could one day be speaker, a story on an internal August playbook that went out to House Republicans telling them to profess how they were fighting Washington, and a piece (in response to his “calves the size of cantaloupes” comment) asking the question: How do you solve a problem like Steve King? Full story

December 11, 2013

Scalise Forces Top RSC Aide to Resign Over Leaks

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Teller, center, was asked by Scalise to resign effective immediately. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The longtime executive director of the conservative Republican Study Committee has been asked to resign by first-term Chairman Steve Scalise, R-La.

Scalise told lawmakers at the weekly closed-door RSC meeting on Wednesday that Paul Teller was let go earlier in the day, according to multiple GOP lawmakers who were in the room.

Scalise confirmed to CQ Roll Call that he had asked Teller to leave. “When I ran to restore the RSC as a member-driven organization, we obviously got a lot of history, a lot of members interested in advancing the conservative agenda and that’s what our focus is,” Scalise said. “And we all rely on staff and we have to have the full trust of our staff. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case, and all the current and former chairmen of the Republican Study Committee support this decision, as well as the founders.”

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Scalise’s immediate predecessor at the helm of the RSC, said, “Paul Teller is a great guy [who's] been great for the conservative movement, but I support Steve and everything he’s doing.”

Sources said Scalise made a brief announcement to the group without much elaboration, saying it was not the appropriate forum in which to do so.

Members exiting the meeting confirmed that Teller was asked to resign, effective immediately, for a record of undermining confidentiality agreements, leaking conversations to outside conservative groups and actively working against the RSC when it was pursuing a strategy with which he disagreed.

“There were some trust issues,” said one lawmaker.

“I like Paul, but I gotta trust Steve’s judgment,” said another. “I’m sure there’s a whole lot more to this than we know right now.”

The move was first reported by Politico.

Teller was in the middle of one of the uglier intra-GOP fights of recent years when, in 2011, he was castigated by Republicans for compiling an internal whip list on the 2011 debt vote. When Teller’s whip list was discovered — along with emails in which he urged outside organizations to help defeat Speaker A. John Boehner’s debt proposal — members targeted by the group were incensed.

Jordan, who was RSC chairman at the time, apologized for the episode, but Teller never regained the trust of many of the Republicans who were targeted. Teller’s firing over leaks to those same outside organizations that have been a thorn in leadership’s side showed how long some of the memories were.

Scalise’s decision to retain Teller late last year was a surprise to many members who wanted him gone. But Teller always retained a strong base of support in the larger conservative infrastructure off Capitol Hill. Teller worked as executive director under seven RSC chairmen.

November 21, 2013

Group Retracts ‘Issa’ Fundraising Letter

Did a well-intentioned email seeking donations for a private veterans organization violate House rules?

The nonprofit Armed Forces Foundation sent out a letter purported to be from Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and is taking responsibility for sending it without Issa’s consent.

“This was a draft letter intended for review and feedback from Congressman Issa that was inadvertently sent to our house file instead,” AFF spokesman Matthew Ballard in an email to CQ Roll Call. “There was no discussion, written or verbal, with the Congressman or any of this staff about this letter.”

The email, which bore the subject line, “It’s Sickening,” asks recipients to contribute to the AFF. The letter was sent on Thursday from what appeared to be the inbox of the powerful California Republican. It was obtained by CQ Roll Call via the chief of staff of a House lawmaker who received it.

“We apologize for any inconvenience or misunderstanding in this matter and have sent a retraction to our house file explaining the situation,” Ballard said. “It was an error on our part and we have apologized to Congressman Issa.”

Full story

October 30, 2013

3 Republicans Sign Onto Democratic Immigration Bill

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Activists gathered on the National Mall earlier this month to press for a comprehensive immigration overhaul. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. David Valado is the third House Republican in four days to sign on to co-sponsor a Democratic comprehensive immigration bill.

While the House isn’t likely to take up that measure, Republicans signaling support for such legislation could pressure leadership to address the issue.

On Wednesday, the California Republican became the latest GOP lawmaker to co-sponsor the Democrats’ bill, which is similar to a bipartisan measure creating a pathway to citizenship that passed the Senate earlier this year. Republican Jeff Denham of California was the first to attach his name to the bill sponsored by Florida Democrat Joe Garcia. On Tuesday, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said she would back the legislation.

While Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, has privately and publicly committed to moving immigration legislation in a piecemeal fashion only, Republicans showing support for a Democratic bill could pressure GOP leaders to do more than the border security bill sponsored by Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas.

Right now, however, it seems Boehner faces more pressure from the right to not bring up a comprehensive immigration bill than he does to address a pathway to citizenship. That could change if more Republicans sign on to the Garcia bill. Full story

October 15, 2013

House GOP Changes Plan Again

Updated 3:49 p.m. | House Republican leaders are floating yet another plan to reopen the government and avert default.

According to Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the latest plan would drop a demand to delay the medical device tax in Obamacare and drop a demand for income verification under Obamacare. Instead, Republicans would target the health benefits of both lawmakers and congressional staff, as well as political appointees. This iteration of the plan would keep the government running until Dec. 15, instead of Jan. 15.

The latest changes came after the plan presented this morning by Speaker John A. Boehner was panned by many Republicans in his conference.

Republican leadership met in Boehner’s office Tuesday afternoon to discuss next steps, and a House GOP aide said that closed-door discussions were currently focused on two areas that could make the fiscal package more palatable to the rank and file — the so-called Vitter language targeting health benefits and changing the date on the CR.

The school of thought on changing the date is that it would give members another opportunity to force Senate Democrats and the White House to endure negotiations over hot-button items related to the health law. Full story

October 12, 2013

House GOP Talks With Obama Break Down as Both Look to Senate

Updated 11:09 a.m. | House Republican talks with President Barack Obama have broken down, with GOP leaders telling their conference Saturday that the White House rejected their offer for a short-term debt limit increase tied to negotiations over reopening the government.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said the sentiment from lawmakers at a morning GOP conference meeting was that the president is not serious about negotiating with House Republicans. He said the White House seems more interested in talking with GOP senators.

“The president has got to be open to working with us,” he said. “Democrats have got to understand we have a seat the table and we have a right to be involved in negotiations.”
Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said House GOP lawmakers are looking to Senate Republicans to hold the line for they party. “It’s now up to the Senate Republicans to hold firm,” the Idaho Republican said.
House Republicans had been looking for the president to sign a debt limit increase while the government remained shuttered and negotiations continued on a spending deal. Several GOP Senators, however, have largely rejected that approach, saying Congress needs to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling before the government runs out of borrowing authority on Oct. 17. Full story

October 9, 2013

Bipartisan Group of Congressional Leaders Meet to Discuss Pathway Ahead

With the government still locked in a shutdown and the debt ceiling deadline just over a week away, Speaker John A. Boehner hosted a meeting with Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer on Wednesday.

It was the first formal discussion between congressional leaders of both parties since a meeting at the White House a week ago, and with the debt ceiling deadline approaching, the meeting could be a make-or-break moment.

The meeting comes as Republicans are trying to find a way to move ahead on broader budget negotiations, which have been stuck since the shutdown began.

The meeting broke up around noon on Wednesday.

October 1, 2013

House Leaders Seize on Ted Cruz’s Idea to End Shutdown (Updated)

Updated 4:23 p.m. | The House will vote Tuesday evening on three bills to reopen various government programs that were shuttered when appropriations lapsed less than 24 hours ago.

One will allow veterans to continue receiving benefits, one will fund daily operation of national parks and museums and one will give the District of Columbia the authority to spend its own funds in the absence of congressional authorization.

The suite of bills is part of a larger plan GOP leaders unveiled on Tuesday afternoon wherein Congress can ensure certain key government functions remain operational — without conceding on a full continuing resolution that doesn’t defund or delay certain provisions of the 2010 health care law.

Though Republican aides said the idea did not originate in the other chamber, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, floated the idea on Monday.

The substance and sequence of all these bills has not yet been determined, but they are not expected to include extraneous policy riders regarding Obamacare. All of the mini-CRs would go to Dec. 15 and would fund agencies at the same sequester level as proposed under the comprehensive CR that the chambers have been battling over for the past week and a half.

Democratic votes will be needed for passage, however, considering a two-thirds majority is needed for bills on the suspension calendar. And so far, that support isn’t guaranteed.
Full story

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