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September 16, 2014

Posts by Matt Fuller

364 Posts

September 15, 2014

McCarthy Suggests Post-Election Vote Authorizing Military Force

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McCarthy signals a post-election vote authorizing use of military force. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Emerging from a GOP leadership meeting Monday evening, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy signaled that, after the midterm elections, there’s a decent chance the House holds a new vote authorizing military force in the Middle East.

Asked during an impromptu hallway interview with a gaggle of reporters whether the House would be working on a new Authorization for Use of Military Force to combat Islamic State terrorists, McCarthy said that “after November,” he thought there would be an “opportunity” to at least debate an AUMF.

“I know a lot of members would want start to have that debate, or at least have that discussion, but I think everyone needs to have more information,” the California Republican said. Full story

Path Forward on CR, Title 10 Authority Starts to Crystalize

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

After postponing consideration last week of a stop-gap spending measure to fund the government past Sept. 30, House GOP leaders are poised in the days ahead to bring that same piece of legislation to the floor.

That vote, however, will now likely be coupled with consideration of an amendment to the underlying bill that would authorize the Obama administration to train and arm Syrian rebels against the insurgent terrorist organization known as the Islamic State or ISIS.

This bifurcated approach would make it considerably easier for members — on both sides of the aisle — to vote against the ISIS language but not the continuing resolution, taking off the table the threat of a revolt large enough to risk another government shutdown. Full story

Using Social Media to Showcase the Speaker’s Lighter Side

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Boehner’s social media team isn’t afraid to showcase the speaker’s lighter side. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

What do Speaker John A. Boehner and a windup toy monkey have in common?

More than you’d expect, apparently.

Boehner’s office recently released a YouTube video — straightforwardly titled “The Monkey in the Room” — featuring the Ohio Republican playing with the quirky toy.

The video doesn’t seem to have any real political agenda. It’s just 42 seconds of Boehner and Rep. Devin Nunes’ young children monkeying around, if you will, with an unusual office decoration.


Full story

ISIS Puts Spotlight Back on Terror as Benghazi Hearings Kick Off

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Gowdy leads the Benghazi select committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 12:16 p.m. | After months of behind-the-scenes work that saw the House Benghazi Select Committee virtually disappear from the media landscape, the much-hyped investigatory panel returns to the spotlight this week with its first public hearing.

The 10 a.m. Wednesday hearing comes less than a week after the two-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Libya that killed four Americans and at a time when the rise of ISIS has refocused much of the country’s attention on terror and the Middle East.

The Benghazi committee, announced with great fanfare in May by House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and immediately dismissed as a political stunt by Democrats, has spent the summer hiring staff and reviewing evidence.

There was — and still is — an expectation among Republicans that Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a former prosecutor, will go after top administration officials involved in the handling of the incident and its aftermath, including former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and current Secretary John Kerry.

But neither of those two political heavyweights will appear this week, and Wednesday’s hearing looks to be more deliberative than explosive — which may be a sign that Gowdy is determined to deliver on promises to the Democrats on the committee that he would not politicize the investigation.

Wednesday’s hearing focuses on the implementation of recommendations from an independent review board and recommendations from the Benghazi Independent Panel on Best Practices.

The committee will hear from Greg Starr, the assistant secretary of State for diplomatic security, Mark Sullivan, the former director of the Secret Service, and Todd Keil, the former assistant secretary of infrastructure protection for the Department of Homeland Security.

Sullivan and Keil served on the Independent Panel of Best Practices, which issued 40 recommendations for increased diplomatic security a little over a year ago — chief among them being the creation of Starr’s job.

The hearing, based on the prospective agenda, seems less focused on Benghazi and more focused on a forward-looking approach to security management practices — a topic that has taken on new importance with the emergence of ISIS, the jihadist insurgents who control parts of Syria and Iraq.

Congress will also weigh a request this week from President Barack Obama to authorize broader military action against the group, which has captured the ire of the American public by posting videos of the beheadings of two U.S. journalists.

The Benghazi attack, of course, will be a topic of discussion Wednesday, and the public will get its first look at whether Gowdy, a prosecutor for 16 years before coming to Congress, can keep the hearing from bogging down in the partisan bickering that plagued the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which had been conducting its own Benghazi probe.

Amanda Duvall, the new committee’s deputy communications director, told CQ Roll Call that Gowdy has long said there would be public hearings. “But the work of an investigation involves depositions and witness interviews that, by nature of what those are, are not public,” Duvall said.

Gowdy announced last month that retired three-star general Lt. Gen. Dana K. Chipman would serve as chief counsel for the panel.

Chipman was the senior military lawyer for the Army for four years as judge advocate general at the Pentagon before he retired last November after 33 years on active duty.

CQ Roll Call reported in July that security clearance backlogs had slowed hiring for the panel.

Republicans provided $3.3 million for the 12-member committee to spend by the end of the year, more than the budgets of at least two House standing committees. The panel can keep working in 2015 with a renewed budget.

The other Republicans on the panel are Reps. Martha Roby of Alabama, Susan Brooks of Indiana, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Peter Roskam of Illinois, Mike Pompeo of Kansas and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia.

The Democrats are Reps. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, Adam Smith of Washington, Adam Schiff of California, Linda T. Sánchez of California, and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.

Correction 12:30 p.m.

An earlier version of the post incorrectly identified Amanda Duvall. She’s the deputy communications director.

 

Related stories:

Delayed Benghazi Hearings Equal Deliberate Quiet

Meet the Members of the Benghazi Committee

Gowdy Names Phil Kiko as Staff Director for Benghazi Committee

Political Typecasting on the Benghazi Panel

Benghazi Panel Will Have 7 Republicans, 5 Democrats

Benghazi Committee: Democrats Warn Boehner About Partisan Makeup

Reid Says There Will Be No Senate Committee to Investigate Benghazi (Video)

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September 11, 2014

Boehner: ‘An F-16 Is Not a Strategy’ (Video)

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Boehner said the president’s anti-ISIS plan doesn’t go far enough. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner forcefully beat the drums of war Thursday, suggesting more action would be needed to defeat Islamic State group terrorists than just U.S. air strikes or the arming of Syrian rebels.

“An F-16 is not a strategy,” Boehner said during his weekly news conference. “And airstrikes alone will not accomplish what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Boehner said President Barack Obama had made clear that he doesn’t want U.S. boots on the ground. “Well somebody’s boots have to be on the ground,” Boehner said. Full story

By Matt Fuller Posted at 1:21 p.m.
John Boehner

Pelosi Suggests Holiday Surprise on Immigration (Video)

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Pelosi said she is “confident” the president will act on immigration before Christmas. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is correct, President Barack Obama’s delayed executive action on immigration may be coming sooner than expected.

During the California Democrat’s weekly press conference on Thursday, Pelosi asked for those affected by the immigration issue to be hopeful that “by Thanksgiving or Christmas” there’d be “more security in their lives.”

Pelosi said she was “confident” action would be taken, and she said such an action had the strong support of Democrats.

Obama recently announced he would delay promised executive action, which is expected to defer the deportations of as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants, until after the November elections.

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By Matt Fuller Posted at 12:14 p.m.
Nancy Pelosi

September 10, 2014

Delay Opens Door for More Continuing Resolution Complications

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Obama’s last-minute “Title 10 authority” request could make it tougher for Hoyer and other Democrats to oppose the GOP spending bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The decision by House leadership on Wednesday afternoon to postpone action on the GOP’s proposed continuing resolution gives critics another week to dissect the stopgap spending bill.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy blamed the delay Wednesday on a last-minute request from the White House, which a day earlier asked that the so-called “Title 10 authority” be added to the CR shortly after Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers introduced the $1.012-trillion bill.

President Barack Obama actually called Rogers to ask that the authority be included in the CR, which as written now would keep the government up and running through Dec. 11.

But conservatives emerged from a Tuesday night meeting with Sen. Ted Cruz expressing a desire to change how long the government will be funded under the bill. A number of Republicans want to extend the CR to March 1, when Republicans are optimistic they will control both the House and the Senate.

Cruz called on House Republicans Wednesday to reject the Dec. 11 option.

“It would be a serious mistake for House Republicans to pass a Continuing Resolution that would ensure that Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats would come back to Washington, after many of them will have likely lost their seats, for a no-holds barred lame duck session where they will be free to pass legislation that the American people will never be able to hold them responsible for,” the Texas Republican said in a statement provided to CQ Roll Call.

Another issue is the Export-Import Bank. The House-proposed bill extends the credit agency to June 30.

While it doesn’t end the bank as many conservatives wanted, it’s being sold to the far right as a strategy to decouple the bank from a spending bill. By sunsetting the CR and the Ex-Im Bank on different dates, conservatives are hopeful the bank will truly die by next summer — though that might just be wishful thinking.

The bank’s biggest opponent, Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas, signed off on the deal, and he may be able to allay many GOP concerns.

“Not the first time that I’ve swallowed hard in my congressional career,” Hensarling said Wednesday.

But Democrats may not be so inclined to go along with that Ex-Im deal. Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters earlier this week he wanted an Ex-Im extension of five years at a minimum, and he feels he’s in a sound negotiating position.

Still, the new defense language that was requested by Obama might undermine Democratic attempts to strike a better Ex-Im deal.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Wednesday that Congress should give the Title 10 authority to the president. “That is one way of helping build an international coalition,” he said.

Obama adviser Lisa Monaco spent part of Wednesday on the Hill lobbying, and the president and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. have called members lobbying for the authority.

If Republicans include the president’s request, it becomes more difficult for Democratic leadership to lobby against the underlying bill. That may be the secret to getting the measure over the finish line.

House GOP leaders insist the delay is solely about the president’s request, not a problem with leadership lining up votes — an explanation many Republicans members said they believe.

Rep. Tom Cole said he never thought the CR was going to be a “tough vote.”

“I know the Democrats have tried to jam us a little bit on Ex-Im,” the Oklahoma Republican said. “But really? You’re going to shut down the government because the authorization that we provide doesn’t go as far as you would like? I mean, I think that’s a pretty weak stick to try to wield.”

Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., thought members were better off taking more time to educate themselves on the threat Islamic State poses, and he said it was appropriate to take more time to consider the implications of arming Syrian rebels. “This is substantive policy change,” he said.

Of course, no matter what changes in the bill, there will be opponents to the legislation, which Rogers said would come up for a vote next week on Wednesday.

Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., said he already had problems with the military funding in the bill — the bill provides a slushy $85.2 billion for overseas contingency operations, significantly above the roughly $60 billion the administration requested — and he didn’t buy the argument that extending Ex-Im and decoupling it with a spending bill would make it any easier to end. “I’ve been here too long,” he said.

Citing problems with the process, Arizona Republican Matt Salmon said he is committed to voting against any CR.

“This process where we use it every year to run government is asinine,” Salmon said.

Salmon called the repeated use of continuing resolutions amount to a “dereliction of duty,” and unlike many of his colleagues who are supporting the bill, Salmon thinks leaving the CR exposed to attacks on the left and right hurt its prospects of passage.

“It’s always more troublesome the longer anything hangs out there,” he said.

Humberto Sanchez, Steven T. Dennis and Emma Dumain contributed to this report.

 

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By Matt Fuller Posted at 6:06 p.m.
Uncategorized

Is Special GOP Conference Meeting an Early Sign of CR Discontent?

House Republicans have announced a special conference meeting for Thursday, reportedly to address members’ questions about the White House’s strategy for taking on the Islamic State, the terror group in control of parts of Iraq and Syria.

But the meeting could also be the first sign of trouble for the pending bill to fund the government past Sept. 30.

Republican leadership has scheduled a 9 a.m. members-only gathering on the same day the House is slated to vote on the continuing resolution. According to a memo obtained by CQ Roll Call, the special meeting is on ISIS or ISIL, as the insurgents are also known.

“With the president’s speech tonight, we wanted to make sure we had an scheduled opportunity for members to discuss the strategy we anticipate he will lay out as it relates to ISIL,” a Republican aide with knowledge of the conference meeting told CQ Roll Call in an email.

However, with conservatives already voicing opposition to a number of components in the continuing resolution — namely that the funding goes until Dec. 11, and that the Export-Import Bank is funded until June 30 — the votes could also be looking tight. Republicans are expected to whip check the CR during Wednesday afternoon votes, so they will have a better sense of the vote count then. But a vote delay could still be in the cards if members want to add provisions regarding ISIL.

Having sufficient Republican votes lined up is crucial for House passage, as Democrats are signaling that they might not be willing to help unless certain changes get made. Regarding ISIL, House Democrats are pushing for the inclusion of language giving the Obama administration authority for training and arming Syrian rebels.

And in terms of the Ex-Im Bank, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., showed early signs Tuesday that Democrats may band together in opposition over a short-term extension of the Ex-Im Bank. Hoyer says he wants a five-year extension at a minimum.

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Cruz Hosts Late-Night Strategy Session With House Republicans on CR

 

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After a news conference on immigration earlier Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz held a late-night strategy session with House Republicans on the continuing resolution. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Ted Cruz again met with a small group of House Republicans late Tuesday night, this time to discuss over pizza a conservative strategy on the continuing resolution.

While many of the Cruz meetings have seemed to lack a specific agenda or resolution, members trickled out of Tuesday’s nearly two-hour meeting repeating a similar refrain: We want a new expiration date on the CR.

Earlier in the evening, the House GOP leadership unveiled a bill to keep the government funded through Dec. 11. And the early review from conservatives attending Cruz’s meeting in the Texas Republican’s office was that Dec. 11 is too soon.

Instead, members came out of the meeting saying they wanted the CR to fund the government through March 1.

Pushing the next big spending showdown into March, members of the ‘Cruz Caucus’ said, would give the new 114th Congress, which could include a Republican-controlled Senate, an opportunity to tackle government funding.

A Dec. 11 expiration means Congress will still have to address an omnibus spending package in the lame duck, when, regardless of the election results, Harry Reid of Nevada will still be Senate majority leader. Full story

By Matt Fuller Posted at 12:47 a.m.
Uncategorized

September 9, 2014

House Condemns Obama for Bergdahl Prisoner Swap

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McKeon called the prisoner swap a violation of the law. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House voted 249-163 to disapprove of President Barack Obama’s transfer of five Guantanamo Bay detainees for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, providing a soft rebuke of the president’s actions on the prisoner swap.

On the nonbinding resolution vote, 22 Democrats joined all 227 voting Republicans to condemn the administration for not providing the 30 days of notice required by law before transferring a prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center.

Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., called the prisoner swap an “obvious” violation of the law, and he said Congress needed to understand the national security risks posed by transferring detainees before such a swap takes place.

The ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith of Washington, countered that there was “considerable” debate as to whether the president overstepped his constitutional authority, and that his actions were “in no way unprecedented.” Full story

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?”

Related:

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

House, Senate Laying Groundwork for War on ISIS 

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Boehner: Temporary Ex-Im Bank Deal Is in the Works

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Boehner signals an opening for an Ex-Im Bank deal . (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner was cagey Tuesday morning when asked whether an extension of the Export-Import Bank would be included on the upcoming continuing resolution to keep the government funded. But GOP leadership looks poised to extend the export credit agency, despite opposition from fiscal hawks and a couple of powerful conservative groups.

Boehner told reporters he was working out the details of an extension with Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, a prominent opponent of the bank, and the Ohio Republican said Hensarling “thinks the temporary extension of the Export-Import Bank is in order.”

“Whether it’s a separate issue or in the CR — yet to be decided,” Boehner said.

Hensarling has been the bank’s most formidable political barrier. But if the Texas Republican is onboard with a short-term extension, the matter becomes largely a fait accompli, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s on the CR or not. Putting it on the continuing resolution probably makes it easier to pass, as Democrats who may have been disinclined to vote for a short-term extension may be even more disinclined to vote against funding the government. Full story

September 8, 2014

Spurned Staffer Sends Email Accusing Top Republican of Ethics Violations

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A former staffer for McMorris Rodgers is accusing the fourth-ranked Republican in the House of impropriety. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A former communications director for House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers sent reporters a 1,959-word email Monday accusing the Washington Republican of “retribution” for in connection with an ethics complaint against her office — a serious charge that is the latest alleged impropriety in an ongoing Ethics Committee investigation.

Todd Winer, the former communications director for McMorris Rodgers and, more recently, for Rep. Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho, allegedly brought a complaint against McMorris Rodgers in July 2013 for using taxpayer-funded staff and resources in her bid to become conference chairwoman. The Office of Congressional Ethics referred the case to the Ethics Committee in February, and the Ethics Committee said it was continuing to investigate the matter in March.

Winer called CQ Roll Call after this story was published to deny he was the source of the original complaint.

Since the March announcement, there hasn’t been much public movement on the investigation and Winer, who was working for Labrador, stayed silent.

That is, until now. Full story

September 4, 2014

Details Emerge on House GOP’s September Agenda

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McCarthy shares House “to-do” list with fellow Republicans. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:58 p.m | A bill to fund the government, a resolution condemning the president for not notifying Congress about a prisoner swap and a package of jobs and energy bills are all on House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s latest memo to House Republicans. But notably absent is word on whether the House will vote to authorize military actions in the Middle East or extend the Export-Import Bank.

McCarthy laid out a hefty agenda for the House Thursday, telling his Republican colleagues to expect a vote on a continuing resolution soon as well as a resolution that would show disapproval for the Obama administration not providing 30 days of notice before trading five Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

McCarthy also put together a list of 14 bills that will comprise a jobs package and another 13 bills intended to lower energy costs.

Not mentioned in the lengthy memo is what the House will do regarding the Export-Import Bank, which expires Sept. 30, or a vote on authorizing military activities to combat the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Full story

House Republicans Plan Vote Condemning Obama for Bergdahl Swap

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House plans to vote on a resolution disapproving of President Barack Obama’s actions during the recent Taliban prisoner swap for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a memo from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Thursday.

In the memo to House Republicans, McCarthy mentioned a recent Government Accountability Office report on the prisoner swap which concluded the administration had not fulfilled its obligation in providing advance notice to Congress regarding the transfer of detainees from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

“The  law is clear, and therefore the House will consider H. Res. 644, authored by Representative Scott Rigell, which condemns the failure to comply with the statutory requirement to provide advance notice to Congress,” McCarthy said.

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