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October 21, 2014

Posts by Matt Fuller

378 Posts

October 20, 2014

Hensarling Touts Tax Reform If GOP Wins Both Chambers

gop meeting013 091614 445x296 Hensarling Touts Tax Reform If GOP Wins Both Chambers

If Republicans win both chambers of Congress, the GOP can’t afford to play it safe, says Hensarling, left. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If Republicans are looking to temper expectations for a GOP-controlled 114th Congress, Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling isn’t doing such a good job.

Hensarling sat down with the Wall Street Journal recently, and in a wide-ranging interview published Monday, the Texas Republican offered up the sort of quotes that can easily be thrown back in the faces of Republicans if they don’t accomplish a major tax overhaul.

“It’s a put-up or shut-up moment for us,” Hensarling said of a tax rewrite.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Hensarling explained that an overhaul is possible in 2015 because the reputation of the IRS has been badly damaged and because Republicans will have no excuse for not addressing taxes if they win the Senate.

Of course, even if the GOP does control both chambers, they’re practically guaranteed not to hold the sort of Senate majority capable of passing major tax changes without Democratic votes — a fact that Hensarling seemed to overlook. Instead, the six-term congressman was bullish on legislation that would cut tax rates, eliminate loopholes and establish an easier filing system.

“Nothing says economic growth like fundamental tax reform,” he said. Full story

By Matt Fuller Posted at 6:30 p.m.
Uncategorized

October 16, 2014

For Senate Candidates, Ebola Hearing Takes Precedence Over Stump

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Gardner took time off from the stump to return to Washington for the Ebola hearing. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With Ebola dominating the news just weeks before the mid-term election, every member of Congress is feeling pressure to get to the bottom of federal missteps in responding to the health crisis — including the two House members looking to move up to Senate.

Both lawmakers, Republican Cory Gardner of Colorado and Democrat Bruce Braley of Iowa, took time off from the stump to participate Thursday in the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee’s hearing on Ebola.

The hearings, broadcast nationwide on C-SPAN and covered wall-to-wall online and on virtually every broadcast news outlet, offered each would-be senator — both members of the subcommittee — a chance to raise their respective profiles.

gm hearing012 040114 445x289 For Senate Candidates, Ebola Hearing Takes Precedence Over Stump

Braley followed suit with Gardner and took time off to return to D.C. for the Ebola hearing. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

For Gardner, a Republican looking to unseat Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, that meant coming down hard on the witnesses and bolstering his case for a travel ban — a key difference that has emerged between him and Udall.

For Braley, a Democrat who is running for an open Senate seat in Iowa, that meant clearly stating that his No. 1 priority is defending Americans from the disease and publicly advocating for an Ebola-related drug produced in his home state. Full story

By Matt Fuller Posted at 4:56 p.m.
Health Care

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.
Members

October 15, 2014

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

 

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Burgess and other lawmakers look for answers on the Ebola crisis. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As a handful of House members return to the Capitol Thursday for a special recess hearing on Ebola, lawmakers in both parties are grappling with a practical — and political — question: Who gets the blame?

“It’s a tough one,” Rep. Michael Burgess said during a pen-and-pad briefing Wednesday with reporters.

Burgess, who is also a doctor, wondered aloud whether fault lies with the fact that Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola fatality in the U.S., was allowed in the country in the first place; whether the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, where Duncan died, ignored safeguards; or whether the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not been, as the Texas Republican, said, “as forthcoming with information as they said they were.”

Burgess said the Texas hospital — where two health care workers have now contracted Ebola from coming into contact with Duncan — is probably prepared to take “some pretty tough questions tomorrow,” referring to the hearing to take place at noon Thursday on the U.S. public health response to Ebola. (You can watch the hearing live on rollcall.com.) Full story

October 2, 2014

Secret Service Hearing Spotlights Chaffetz’s Chairmanship Hopes

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As the GOP’s point-man for the Secret Service Oversight hearing, Chaffetz raised his profile. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The sudden resignation Wednesday of Secret Service Director Julia Pierson was about more than a single fence-jumping incident at the White House or Tuesday’s troubling hearing on Capitol Hill, Rep. Jason Chaffetz told CQ Roll Call.

The Utah Republican, who earned notice — especially in GOP circles — for his forceful questioning of Pierson at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, said the turn of events over the past 24 hours really is the culmination of months of a painstaking bipartisan probe of a troubled federal agency.

“I’ve been investigating the Secret Service for more than a year,” Chaffetz said, referencing work done by his Oversight subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Secret Service. Chaffetz, who has developed sources within the agency, said the pressure leading to Pierson’s departure had been building.

“This is not a knee-jerk reaction to what happened at the White House,” Chaffetz said. Full story

September 30, 2014

Texas Congressman: More Doctors Needed in Congress

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Burgess wants more doctors participating in the nation’s health care decisions. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Michael C. Burgess has a new goal: Bring more doctors to Congress.

Burgess, who is a doctor himself, is redirecting his Lone Star Leadership PAC to focus on helping doctors — and other health care professionals, such as nurses and hospital administrators, Burgess half-begrudgingly notes — become lawmakers.

Burgess told CQ Roll Call on Tuesday doctors need to take on a bigger role in health care policy decisions.

“Not only do they not have a seat at the table, they’re not even in the room,” Burgess said. “And they don’t even understand that they need to be in the room.”

To that end, the Texas Republican has launched what he is calling the “STAT Initiative.” (The name, he said, is meant to “imply the immediacy.”) Full story

Dissidents Planning Boehner Coup Face Long Odds

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The anti-Boehner wing in the House plans to try again to unseat the speaker next January. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner is on a stronger footing with the House GOP rank and file than he has been in years. But when the new Congress convenes in January, that won’t stop the party’s anti-Boehner wing from staging another revolt.

Lawmakers and aides say Boehner has improved his position in the GOP conference since the start of 2013, when 12 Republicans surprised the Ohio Republican on the floor by refusing to vote for him as speaker. That coup attempt went nowhere, but the anti-Boehner effort in the new 114th Congress is counting on reinforcements.

At least five conservatives likely to win in November already say they’re apt to support someone else for speaker. Several current members — Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Louie Gohmert of Texas — they won’t support Boehner. And even members who support the speaker acknowledge he will face opposition.

Indiana Republican Marlin Stutzman told CQ Roll Call he will be voting for Boehner come January, but said there could be anywhere between “20 and 50” other Republicans voting against Boehner on the floor.

“It’s interesting, you know, some of the people that have approached me,” Stutzman said. “[I was] surprised that they were in that camp. It’s not your typical, traditional folks you would think.”  Full story

September 25, 2014

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

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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

September 23, 2014

Congress in No Rush to Return for ISIS War Authorization

The United States has begun a bombing campaign in Syria, but don’t bet on Congress returning to Washington to vote on a new war authorization anytime soon.

Shortly after airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria started, some lawmakers started pushing again for an authorization vote. But so far, leaders aren’t gearing up to bring their members back to town.

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., tweeted Monday night it was “irresponsible and immoral” that congressional leaders had chosen to recess for nearly two months instead of debating and voting on war. And the ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, released a statement saying it’s “time for Congress to step up and revise the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force in a way that supports the targeted actions underway, but also prevents the deployment of American ground forces that would drag us into another Iraq War.”

Van Hollen tweeted that Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, should call the House back to debate a new Authorization to Use Military Force.

Boehner’s office deferred to the White House when asked about the issue. Full story

September 18, 2014

Boehner Lists Tax Reform Among House GOP’s Top Priorities for 2015

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Boehner at the Capitol Tuesday (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In what was hyped as a potential road map for House Republicans in the 114th Congress, Speaker John A. Boehner laid out a five-point vision for creating growth and mobility in America on Thursday.

On the 12th floor suite of the American Enterprise Institute, Boehner pushed tax reform, reduced spending, and improvements to the legal, regulatory and education systems as items Congress needed to address in order to make America “the best place to work, save and invest.”

The Ohio Republican said Congress could do it “the Washington way” — “move around some dirt, see what happens” — or they could “lay a solid foundation for growth and mobility, not pick one thing over the other.” Full story

By Matt Fuller Posted at 3:27 p.m.
Uncategorized

September 17, 2014

Odd Coalitions, Unusual Fractures in Syria, Continuing Resolution Votes (Video)

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House Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller was one of the highest-ranked Republicans to vote no on the amendment to arm Syrian rebels. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House fractured along untraditional lines Wednesday, voting 319-108 to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government and 273-156 to adopt an amendment arming Syrian rebels.

Neither vote was typical. Roughly equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats voted against both proposals. But there were some interesting trends hidden in both votes.

On the vote to fund the government, 143 Democrats joined 176 Republicans in support of the CR, while 55 Democrats and 53 Republicans voted against the bill.

On the vote to arm Syrian rebels, 159 Republicans and 114 Democrats voted for the proposal, while 85 Republicans and 71 Democrats voted against. Full story

House Votes to Arm Syrian Rebels; CR Passes (Updated) (Video)

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Boehner, left, and McCarthy pushed through a continuing resolution that includes support for the president’s request to train and arm Syrian rebels. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 7:03 p.m. | After voting to give President Barack Obama the authority to arm and train Syrian rebels, the House passed legislation Wednesday to fund the government until Dec. 11, moving the bill to avoid a government shutdown and address Islamic State organizations to the Senate.

House lawmakers voted 319-108 to pass the continuing resolution, with 143 Democrats joining 176 Republicans in support of the measure. 55 Democrats and 53 Republicans voted against the bill.

A vote on the spending bill, which will continue government spending through Dec. 11 at a $1.012 trillion level, was delayed last week so lawmakers could attach a request from the president to give him Title 10 authority to fight the Islamic State group.

That authority would allow the Obama administration to equip Syrian rebels for the intended purpose of fighting ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also referred to as ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Obama praised the House and urged the Senate to follow suit on the legislation, which he reiterated is not an authorization for the use of U.S. troops in Syria.

“Today’s vote is another step closer to having the authorization to train and equip vetted elements of the moderate Syrian opposition so they can defend themselves against, and ultimately push back on, ISIL forces,” he said in a statement.  Full story

September 16, 2014

Could Democrats Blindside GOP on the Continuing Resolution?

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Pelosi said Democrats have leverage on the continuing resolution and should seek a longer extension of the Ex-Im Bank. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 6:28 p.m. | Democrats have indicated numerous times that they support — perhaps a bit reluctantly — the continuing resolution. But Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi seems to be having second thoughts about giving in so easily.

Asked Tuesday afternoon why Democrats wouldn’t withhold their support on the continuing resolution to get a better deal on reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, Pelosi responded that she was “all for that.”

“I would like to see us use our leverage,” Pelosi said.

Republicans are relying on Democrats to help them pass the continuing resolution. But if Democrats voted no and made Republicans pass the spending bill on their own, GOP leaders would almost certainly be short on the votes needed.

Pelosi said she thought Republicans “probably” had the votes. Pressed on whether Republicans had the votes without Democrats, Pelosi said she didn’t know. But she did seem supportive of using Democratic leverage, though she did say running up against a government shutdown “weakens our leverage.”

Just minutes before Pelosi entered the Democratic briefing, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., seemed resigned to accept the current bill Republicans had put forth, and earlier in the day, during his weekly pen-and-pad briefing, Hoyer said Democrats wouldn’t withhold their support on the CR for a better deal on the Ex-Im Bank. “You don’t get perfect,” Hoyer said.

Democrats uniting behind a strategy that sinks the CR still seems unlikely, but it seems to still be an option Democratic leaders are mulling over.

Michael Steel, spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, shared his reaction to the Pelosi comments with CQ Roll Call via email:

“Did Rep. Pelosi tell President Obama she is threatening to shut down the government over an unrelated issue after he said he needs the authority to train properly-vetted Syrian rebels in the CR as soon as humanly possible?” he asked.

A spokesman for Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., had a similar question.

“Has the Minority Leader spoken to the President today?” asked Mike Long.

 

Related:

Bipartisan Bloc Coalesces Behind CR, Syrian Rebels Amendment

McCarthy Suggests Post-Election Vote Authorizing Military Force

Path Forward on CR, Title 10 Authority Starts to Crystalize

Obama Asserts Authority to Take on ISIS Without Congress

Congress Locked in ISIS War Muddle

Inhofe: Obama Speech Prompts ‘Sigh of Relief’ From ISIS

Obama Speech Excerpt: We’re Going to (Air) War Against ISIS

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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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 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

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