Updated 10:27 p.m. | Speaker John A. Boehner said Thursday that changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act make it impossible to just repeal the health care law unless Congress has a replacement ready as well.
Speaking at a Rotary Club meeting in his Ohio district, the speaker also mocked members of his own GOP conference for not wanting to address immigration, knocked the tea party — or, more specifically, organizations that raise money purporting to represent the tea party — and expounded upon the role of money in education, according to a news report from a newspaper near his district.
On health care, Boehner said simply repealing the Affordable Care Act “isn’t the answer” and it would take time to transition to a new system.
“When we were debating Obamacare in 2010 we offered an alternative that consisted of eight or nine points that would make our insurance system work a lot better.
(To) repeal Obamacare … isn’t the answer. The answer is repeal and replace. The challenge is that Obamacare is the law of the land. It is there and it has driven all types of changes in our health care delivery system. You can’t recreate an insurance market overnight.
“Secondly, you’ve got the big hospital organizations buying up doctor’s groups because hospitals get reimbursed two or three times doctor’s do for the same procedure just because it’s a hospital. Those kinds of changes can’t be redone.
“So the biggest challenge we are going to have is — I do think at some point we’ll get there — is the transition of Obamacare back to a system that empowers patients and doctors to make choices that are good for their own health as opposed to doing what the government is dictating they should do.”
Spokesman Brendan Buck downplayed Boehner’s comments. “For four years now the House Republican position has been repeal-and-replace,” he said.
The GOP, however, has taken a number of votes to repeal the law, including bills that would have completely repealed the law without replacing it. The party hasn’t unified behind a replacement, let alone voted on one, since Boehner took the speaker’s gavel. Republicans however have been working to craft such a bill for months. Boehner’s comments seem to reflect the new reality of the law. With 8 million people having signed up on the Affordable Care Act exchanges, and every state having adapted to the new regulations, repealing the law effective overnight would be messy in the extreme without at least a transition period.
On immigration, Boehner gave his impersonation of the Republican refusal to take on the issue.
“Here’s the attitude. Ohhhh. Don’t make me do this. Ohhhh. This is too hard,” Boehner whined before a luncheon crowd at Brown’s Run County Club in Madison Township.
“We get elected to make choices. We get elected to solve problems and it’s remarkable to me how many of my colleagues just don’t want to. … They’ll take the path of least resistance.”
Boehner said he’s been working for 16 or 17 months trying to push Congress to deal with immigration reform.
“I’ve had every brick and bat and arrow shot at me over this issue just because I wanted to deal with it. I didn’t say it was going to be easy,” he said.
Here’s a video clip:
Buck played down the mocking as a form of affection. “As the speaker often says to his colleagues, you only tease the ones you love,” he said in an email.
On the tea party, Boehner said he had issues with organizations who purport to represent the tea party.
“There’s the tea party and then there are people who purport to represent the tea party.
“I’ve gone to hundreds of tea party events over the last four years. The makeup is pretty much the same. You’ve got some disaffected Republicans, disaffected Democrats. You always have a handful of anarchists.They are against everything. Eighty percent of the people at these events, are the most ordinary Americans you’ve ever met. None of whom have ever been involved in politics. We in public service respect the fact that they brought energy to the political process.
“I don’t have any issue with the tea party. I have issues with organizations in Washington who raise money purporting to represent the tea party, those organizations who are against a budget deal the president and I cut that will save $2.4 trillion over 10 years. They probably don’t know that total federal spending in each of the last two years has been reduced, the first time since 1950.
“They probably don’t realize that we protected 99 percent of the American people from an increase in their taxes. They were against that too, the same organizations. There are organizations in Washington that exist for the sheer purpose of raising money to line their own pockets.
“I made it pretty clear I’ll stand with the tea party but I’m not standing with these three or four groups in Washington who are using the tea party for their own personal benefit.”
Heritage Action CEO, Mike Needham didn’t take kindly to Boehner’s remarks, releasing a statement late Thursday:
“It’s disappointing, but by now not surprising, that the Republican Speaker is attacking conservatives looking to retake the Senate. The Republican Party should be large enough for fact-based policy debates. Unfortunately, John Boehner is more interested in advancing the agenda of high-powered DC special interests than inspiring Americans with a policy vision that allows freedom, opportunity, prosperity and civil society to flourish.”
Boehner, who is a former chairman of the committee that is now called Education and the Workforce, also offered his opinions on education policy and the controversial No Child Left Behind, which he helped draft.
“All we said with no child left behind is that we ought have expectations for what kids learn and we ought to publish test results so that we know who is learning and who isn’t.
“I don’t think the issue with education is money. If money were going to solve the education problem we would have solved it a long time ago. I think there is a structural problem. It’s not about our kids. Kids are in school 9 percent of the time between birth and age 18. That means 91 percent of the time they are home or they are out in their community. We have books. We have educational TV. We may go and visit places that help reinforce their education. Or they are out in the neighborhood or they are playing team sports or they are part of the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. They are involved in things that reinforce their education.
“But it you are poor and you go to a rotten school or live in a rotten neighborhood, you have no chance. You are probably not going to get the basics.
In his video, Kinzinger says, “Now, more than ever, Americans are seeing firsthand how our broken immigration system is really holding our nation back. Through common-sense policies, we have the opportunity to grow our economy, and provide security and well-paying jobs for families all across Illinois and America.”
Kinzinger said he is confident the United States can come together to have the “adult conversations” necessary to approve an immigration overhaul, and he endorsed a path to, at least, legal status for undocumented workers in the United States.
“We must work hard to come to an agreement on how to bring undocumented workers out of the shadows, legally entering the workforce and becoming part of the American melting pot that makes this country great,” Kinzinger said, adding that securing U.S. borders “must be the first step of the reform process.”
Schock had a similar, even stronger message in his video testimonial: He endorsed a pathway to citizenship.
“Quite frankly, I think if a man or a woman likes their American job, wherever they were born, they should be able to keep that job,” he said. “We need a clear path to citizenship for workers who are already here and a fair and efficient on-ramp for those who want to come here.”
Schock said it had been 30 years since Congress had taken any “significant action” to address immigration, seemingly referring to the “Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986,” and he noted that some workers have been waiting 10 years for permanent status.
“That’s long enough,” he said.
The news of Kinzinger and Schock making such public declarations of support for an immigration overhaul had Democratic immigration advocates giddy on Tuesday. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra of California issued a statement that said he was “encouraged” by the words of his colleagues.
“I invite Representatives Schock and Kinzinger to sign the discharge petition to demand a vote on the bi-partisan bill (H.R. 15) to finally fix our broken immigration system,” Becerra said. “It’s long past time for the House to act on comprehensive immigration reform and every day that we delay, thousands of families are torn apart by our broken immigration system. It’s time to turn words into action.”
Becerra ended his statement by saying he hoped Speaker John A. Boehner was listening to the growing number of Democrats and Republicans who support an immigration overhaul.
The Office of Congressional Ethics reported Tuesday an unnamed House member is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee.
According to the three-page OCE quarterly report, which disclosed no member names, the Ethics Committee will release the name of a new member under investigation no later than Sunday — meaning the announcement will likely come by Friday.
The committee must either take an additional 45 days to consider the matter, which is standard for the Ethics Committee, or it must reveal that it has voted to empanel an investigative subcommittee.
Conservatives are increasingly — and not so quietly — showing the early signs of a speakership revolt. But short of a sudden groundswell of opposition from the GOP rank and file, or a magic wand, Speaker John A. Boehner is the one who controls his fate.
Just don’t tell that to the Ohio Republican’s foes.
“I think pretty well everybody’s figured Mr. Boehner’s going to be gone, and the question is Cantor and McCarthy,” said Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan. “But most conservatives are saying it’s not just at the top; it’s all the way through.”
Huelskamp, who was more than an active player in the last Boehner coup, told CQ Roll Call there are “a lot of meetings going on” about who could be speaker in the 114th Congress, and if Boehner should decide to say, conservatives are discussing how to remove him.
“I think there’s efforts underway to do that,” Huelskamp said.
It’s common congressional knowledge that Huelskamp and Boehner aren’t the best of friends. Boehner stripped Huelskamp of his seat on Financial Services for the 113th. And Huelskamp had a whip list the last time conservatives tried to usurp the speakership. Recently asked about his relationship with Boehner, Huelskamp summed it up this way: “I don’t smoke and I don’t suntan.”
The plan to ditch Boehner sounds similar to the GOP rebellion that ousted Newt Gingrich at the end of 1998: present the speaker with so much opposition behind closed doors that he’s forced to step aside.
But unlike Gingrich, it’s not the rank-and-file opposing Boehner, it’s not GOP leaders; Boehner’s opposition is localized to the same dissident conservatives who have been a thorn in his side for years.
Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said his boss has “a better relationship with his members right now than at any time.”
“As he has said many times, he fully expects to be speaker again next Congress,” Buck said. And Boehner lieutenants backed those statements up.
Former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., is slated to join a number of prominent Illinois Republicans and CEOs on Tuesday to call on GOP leaders to pass a national immigration overhaul. Republican Reps. Aaron Schock and Adam Kinzinger are also scheduled to give video testimonials on the subject.
The event is hosted by the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, and it’s being held at the prestigious Chicago Club in the heart of the Windy City.
Among the guests expected to join Hastert, who has stated his support of an overhaul numerous times: Jim Oberweis, the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate against Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill.; former Illinois Republican Govs. James Thompson (1977-1991) and Jim Edgar (1991-1999); and a number of CEOs. You can find a full list of expected speakers here.
Updated 6:05 p.m. | President Barack Obama called House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Wednesday to implore House Republicans to hold a vote on the Senate-passed immigration overhaul, prompting Cantor to say the president hasn’t learned how to work with Congress.
The Virginia Republican’s retort came in the form of a statement on a day of nasty back and forth between the president, Democrats and House GOP leadership over immigration legislation.
Democrats are holding out hope that their discharge petition on a comprehensive immigration overhaul bill can still work — or at least be used as election-year ammo.
House Democrats held a conference call Tuesday to announce their intention to distribute a memo in the districts of 30 House Republicans who have signaled support for an immigration overhaul previously. Democrats are calling on these Republicans, and others, to “put their pen where their mouth is,” as Colorado Democrat Jared Polis put it, and sign the discharge petition for HR 15, the companion bill to the Senate-passed immigration bill.
The discharge petition for the House bill currently has 191 Democratic signatures, meaning nine Democrats still haven’t signed on to the effort. There are, however, 200 co-sponsors for the bill, including three Republicans: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Jeff Denham and David Valadao of California. Full story
Speaker John A. Boehner had a few things to say Thursday morning.
During his weekly press conference, which lasted just over 6 minutes, Boehner criticized former director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the IRS, Lois G. Lerner, and knocked Democrats for playing politics rather than working with Republicans to create jobs. But Boehner most notably and vociferously went after the Obama administration for putting up roadblocks to answers on Benghazi, Fast and Furious and the IRS scandal.
The Ohio Republican also addressed the recent kissing controversy surrounding Louisiana Republican Vance McAllister, saying he had spoken to the freshman Congressman and expects all members to be held to the highest ethical standards.
Boehner said Republicans were “trying to build a consensus” on an Obamacare replacement bill, and were waiting for Democrats to offer an unemployment extension that was paid for and would address the economic problems in the United States.
Boehner’s press conference turned into an outburst, however, when he fielded a question from Fox News’s Chad Pergram regarding Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s intimation that he had been treated unfairly because of his race.
Updated 2:20 p.m. | Speaker John A. Boehner said Thursday it’s up to the White House to make a new proposal before he’ll consider an unemployment benefits extension, as the House left town for two weeks without acting on a bipartisan Senate bill.
Boehner said he had made it clear to the president in December that an unemployment insurance extension would “have to be paid for and would have to include things that would help get our economy moving.”
“They have not put forward anything with regard to how we would create more jobs,” Boehner said. “And so the ball’s still in their court.” Full story
The Louisiana Republican was among 36 lawmakers who did not cast votes on the Budget and Accounting Transparency Act, which had two roll calls Monday night around 7 p.m. when the House returned from the weekend.
McAllister earlier in the day had issued a short statement apologizing and asking for privacy for his family, but didn’t show up for votes and his office door in the Cannon Building was locked. Phone calls to the office went straight to voicemail.
The lights inside were on, but no one so much as opened the door for hours, despite reporters camping out there for a stakeout.
McAllister and his family at the Republican’s mock swearing-in last November. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Freshman Rep. Vance McAllister, a conservative Louisiana Republican who was sworn-in five months ago, asked for privacy for his children and forgiveness from constituents Monday, acknowledging the validity of a video showing him kissing one of his employees.
In a short statement issued a few hours after the Ouachita Citizen, a West Monroe, La., newspaper posted what appeared to be surveillance video, McAllister gave no indication he would resign.
“There’s no doubt I’ve fallen short and I’m asking for forgiveness,” McAllister said in a statement. “I’m asking for forgiveness from God, my wife, my kids, my staff, and my constituents who elected me to serve. Trust is something I know has to be earned whether your a husband, a father, or a congressman. I promise to do everything I can to earn back the trust of everyone I’ve disappointed.”
Rep. Steve King has been known to make, from time to time, some controversial remarks about immigration — and his floor speech on Friday was no exception.
Speaking to a nearly empty chamber, the Iowa Republican said the result of an immigration overhaul would be more dead Americans.
“Because there’s not a day that goes by in this country that there isn’t at least one American citizen that dies at the hands of someone who’s unlawfully present in the United States, whether it is an act of homicide or it’s an act of willful manslaughter, whether it’s an [Operating While Intoxicated] in the streets of America, hardly anybody has gone through the last 10 years and doesn’t at least show that up in their local newspaper, if it doesn’t show up in their neighborhood. And so Steve King’s not dead wrong. Let’s keep more Americans alive.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is one of the most prolific fundraisers in congressional history. But that doesn’t mean she’s a fan of Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling that struck down the aggregate limit on campaign contributions.
Pelosi told reporters Thursday that the court decision was “suffocating the voice of the many.”
The 5-4 McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission ruling overturned the overall limit on what an individual may collectively donate to parties, candidates and political action committees in one election. The limit used to be $123,200. While the Supreme Court didn’t touch so-called base limits — such as the $2,600 cap on contributions to candidates per election or the $74,600 limit for political parties per an election cycle — the ruling allows individuals to give the maximum amount to an unlimited number of candidates.
“The Supreme Court decided to pour even more money into our politics and our process,” Pelosi said.
The California Democrat added that she was not surprised by the ruling, given the Citizens United v. FEC case, but the McCutcheon ruling “adds great insult to terrible injury to our democracy.”
“This is a very existential threat to who we are and how we do our campaigning and our government — and it should be something that should be roundly rejected,” Pelosi said.
But, as one reporter pointed out, Democrats can take advantage of this ruling just as much as Republicans.
Pelosi agreed that candidates have to raise money to win elections, but she characterized the ruling as “an unlimited, constant spigot of undisclosed, God-knows-from-where-and-from-whom supply of money into the system.”