Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 22, 2014

Posts by Matt Fuller

428 Posts

December 16, 2014

Chaffetz Lays Out Different Direction for Oversight

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Chaffetz offered a preview of what’s in store for Oversight. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If incoming Chairman Jason Chaffetz made just one thing clear Tuesday, it’s this: The Oversight and Government Reform Committee is not Darrell Issa’s anymore — in fact, Issa won’t even be on the committee next year.

Chaffetz gathered roughly a dozen reporters in his new Rayburn office Tuesday to discuss the 114th Congress and his vision for the Oversight panel, one that focuses less on political scandals and more on the “government reform” part. And it was evident to everyone present the Utah Republican has a dramatically different vision for the panel than that of his predecessor. Full story

December 12, 2014

House Passes Second CR in Near-Empty Chamber

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With Messer presiding over a near-empty chamber, the House approved a continuing resolution to keep the government running. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House quietly passed another continuing resolution Friday that would fund the government through Wednesday, providing the Senate more time, if needed, to pass the longer-term “cromnibus” — but also raising questions about the procedure for a bill that was unexpectedly passed in a nearly empty House chamber.

With just three members on the floor — GOP Policy Chairman Luke Messer of Indiana in the presiding officer’s chair, senior Republican appropriator John Culberson of Texas making the motion, and Republican Study Committee Chairman Bill Flores of Texas standing by — the House passed a new continuing resolution Friday that would extend government funding through Dec. 17. Full story

Marlin Stutzman Claims He Was Hoodwinked

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Stutzman suggests he was misled. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After the “cromnibus” passed Thursday night, Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., made the rather shocking claim that GOP leadership convinced him to vote for the rule allowing the bill to get to the floor by telling him they were pulling the bill anyway.

“Earlier today, I supported the Rule because I was informed by Leadership that the CROmnibus was dead and a short term CR would take its place,” Stutzman said in a news release. “I was very surprised and even more disappointed to see the CROmnibus back on the floor. The American people deserve better.”

Full story

By Matt Fuller and Emma Dumain Posted at 12:03 a.m.

December 11, 2014

Breaking Down the ‘Cromnibus’ Vote (Updated)

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Clyburn and 56 other Democrats backed the “cromnibus.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 1:18 p.m., Friday, Dec. 12: The House passed the cromnibus Thursday night 219-206, with 162 Republicans and 57 Democrats voting for the bill, and 67 Republicans and 139 Democrats voting against. While the vote was close, the breakdown split along familiar lines. But there were some interesting trends and deviations in the vote. Full story

Obama, Hoyer Split With Pelosi on ‘Cromnibus’ (Video)

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Hoyer could be the key to finding enough Democrats to pass the “cromnibus.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Just hours from a government shutdown that everyone once insisted would never happen, House Democrats emerged from an emergency caucus meeting Thursday night much the same way they walked in: without a unified strategy.

Democrats are split on the “cromnibus” spending plan agreed upon by Republican House and Democratic Senate negotiators. The White House and House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland want the cromnibus to pass. But Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California is against it, and she has significant backing from her caucus. Those who might be inclined to vote “yes” are keeping quiet, dodging reporters or saying they are still undecided.

Full story

Lacking Sufficient Support, House GOP Leaders Delay ‘Cromnibus’ Vote (Video)

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 3:09 p.m. | Unsure whether they have the votes to pass a trillion-dollar federal spending package, House GOP leaders on Thursday afternoon delayed a final vote on the “cromnibus.”

They did so with mere hours to go until the government is set to run out of funding, and just before the House was scheduled to vote.

Full story

Boehner Backs Bill, Condemns ‘Cromnibus’ Process (Video)

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Boehner acknowledged frustrations with “cromnibus” process. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The “cromnibus” came together with a last-minute backroom deal between Republicans and Democrats that forced the House to vote on the 1,603-page measure before anyone could reasonably read it, and plenty of lawmakers are upset — including Speaker John A. Boehner.

“This is exactly the way I don’t want to do business,” Boehner said Thursday, just hours before the House was slated to vote on the funding package.

The Ohio Republican campaigned for the speaker’s gavel by pledging to give lawmakers 72 hours before voting on pieces of legislation, and he’s previously been an opponent of pieces of thousand-page legislation.

Full story

‘Cromnibus’ Strains GOP Principles on Open Process

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Boehner put a brave face on the accelerated “cromnibus” process Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As the House prepares to pass a trillion dollar, 1,603-page “cromnibus” Thursday, at least one criticism can be applied to both Republicans and Democrats when the bill comes to a vote: few lawmakers — if any — will have read the entire thing.

It’s not that a $1.1 trillion piece of legislation can — or should — be written in 140 characters like a tweet, or as a 4,543-word document, such as the Constitution. But the cromnibus, coming in at 289,861 words, represents a particularly challenging public relations moment for members of Congress. Full story

December 10, 2014

GOP to Bring Up Bill Blocking Obama Immigration Action — Next Year

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Heather Pina-Ledezma, 6, attends a Wednesday news conference in the Capitol with Democratic senators and families impacted by Obama’s executive action on undocumented immigrants and to call on Republicans to pass immigration legislation. Heather’s mother, Madai, is from Mexico but Heather was born in Annapolis. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

While it may be little consolation to conservatives, House Republicans announced their intention Wednesday to vote on an amendment — in January, when the new Congress is sworn in — that would block the president’s executive action on immigration.

Rules Chairman Pete Sessions said during a panel hearing on the “cromnibus” Wednesday that Republicans plan to bring up legislation similar to an amendment offered by Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina that would prohibit the president from carrying out his immigration action. Full story

By Matt Fuller Posted at 6:13 p.m.

December 9, 2014

Lawmakers Release Massive ‘Cromnibus’ 2 Days Ahead of Shutdown

With roughly 51 hours left before the government runs out of cash, lawmakers released the text Tuesday night of a massive 289,861-word, $1.013 trillion bill to keep federal agencies running past Dec. 11.

The spending package, a carefully negotiated piece of legislation between the Republican House and Democratic Senate, would fund the vast majority of government operations through September with the notable exception of the Department of Homeland Security.

Republicans, frustrated by President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration, want to tighten the purse strings on the DHS, which the bill funds only to Feb. 27. DHS is the agency charged with carrying out much of the president’s immigration orders. Full story

House to Move TRIA Bill Separately

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McCarthy and the House GOP plan to move a separate terrorism insurance bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

In a gambit to jam the Senate, House Republicans are moving ahead with a standalone Terrorism Risk Insurance Act bill they intend to pass in the coming days, taking TRIA out of cromnibus negotiations and risking the program’s future.

As of Tuesday afternoon, TRIA was one of the major remaining roadblocks in cromnibus negotiations, with House Republicans insisting on changes to the Dodd-Frank Act that would alter collateral rules for certain companies trading derivatives.

According to an aide for Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the House is now moving forward with a plan to pass a separate TRIA bill and take the issue out of cromnibus negotiations. The House Rules Committee posted language of the TRIA bill Tuesday afternoon.

With the House and Senate unable to come to a compromise on TRIA, House Republicans are hoping they can force the Senate’s hand by passing the terrorism risk insurance legislation with their Dodd-Frank changes.

But as of Tuesday afternoon, it was unclear whether such a tactic would work — or whether it would derail TRIA.

“This is an attempt to kill the bill, pure and simple,” a Senate Democratic aide told CQ Roll Call. “Adding in an extraneous, unrelated Dodd-Frank issue that Democrats, and the administration, oppose to a bipartisan TRIA bill that has been carefully negotiated puts the future of TRIA in doubt.”

Full story

By Matt Fuller Posted at 1:20 p.m.

December 8, 2014

Cromnibus Stalling Behind Closed Doors (Updated)

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It appears Rogers has a little more work to do. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 7:37 p.m. | With “cromnibus” negotiations bogging down in the House Monday, lawmakers pressing up against their self-imposed deadline were preparing a one- to two-day temporary spending bill that would fund the government until they resolve their differences.

Both the House and Senate want to wrap up the 113th Congress Thursday, the day government runs out of cash, with a final vote on the cromnibus (a combination of a continuing resolution for the Homeland Security department and an omnibus to fund all other federal operations) — but negotiators hit a host of snags Monday afternoon.

“The playing field of questions is much larger than we previously realized,” one senior Republican aide told CQ Roll Call.

GOP aides said the sticking points were forcing changes to the schedule. The situation and target adjournment date were fluid late Monday, with the measure’s original release likely delayed at least to Tuesday, which would push the planned House vote to later in the week. That could mean Senate action on the bill may not come until Friday or the weekend.

“Thursday will not be the last day of the session,” Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said Monday. “That much I’m confident [about]. This Thursday? Not a chance. Maybe this Saturday.”

Others, though, were more optimistic the work would be done on schedule.

Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., said she and House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., have come to an agreement on their parts of the spending bill and that House and Senate leadership negotiators are hammering out remaining issues. She said she still hoped the bill would be filed Monday night.

“Everything is a sticking point until we can get it unstuck and filed,” she said.

Leaving the House floor in the afternoon, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he had to “catch up with” Rogers. The California Republican said negotiators appeared to be “closing in on some final points” and “finishing out final details.” McCarthy, however, wouldn’t commit to a timeline for filing the cromnibus, though he did predict the House, at least, would finish its work by Thursday. Full story

December 4, 2014

Boehner Suggests He Won’t Cave to Conservatives on ‘Cromnibus’ (Video)

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Boehner . (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

As conservatives push back against a bill to fund the government past Dec. 11, Speaker John A. Boehner signaled Thursday that he didn’t expect to make any sizable changes to the so-called “cromnibus” in order to placate voices to the right.

“I expect that we’ll have bipartisan support to pass the omnibus,” Boehner told reporters Thursday, in response to a question on whether the Ohio Republican anticipated needing some Democratic votes to pass the bill, and whether that would give Democrats leverage on negotiating riders in the appropriations bill.

Conservatives are bashing the cromnibus — which would fund all elements of government until October except the Department of Homeland Security, which would be funded until March or February — because it does not block President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration.

Full story

December 3, 2014

Members Offer Rare Display of Emotion With ABLE Act

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Passing the ABLE Act represents a legislative highpoint for Crenshaw. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

There are many votes members of Congress cast that mean absolutely nothing. Procedural motions. Uncontroversial bills and amendments that are forgotten as soon as they are voted on.

Then there are other votes — those constituents may never notice but that are, for some lawmakers, unforgettable.

On Wednesday, the House passed a bill, 404-17, that would establish tax-exempt savings accounts for individuals with disabilities. The bill, which is expected to pass in the Senate, exempts savings, up to certain levels, and distributions from those savings for individuals and families applying for means-tested federal programs.

Currently, people with disabilities can lose access to federal programs such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income once they establish a certain level of savings.

For those eligible, the so-called Achieving a Better Life Experience Act could mean a more independent life, making it easier to prepare for future financial needs. For certain members of Congress, the bill means actually doing something.

For the bill’s sponsor, Florida Republican Ander Crenshaw, the measure is an emotional victory.

“It just means a lot,” Crenshaw told CQ Roll Call Tuesday, choking back tears. “Helpin’ a lot of people.”

“I just see their faces and it just …” he said, trailing off.

No one in his immediate family suffers from a severe disability, but the congressman said he had a young friend with Down syndrome. ”He was my pal, and we’d eat doughnuts together,” Crenshaw said.

The bill the House passed Wednesday represents a major legislative accomplishment in his career, he said.

“It’s pretty heartwarming for me,” he said.

Much is made of the so-called intersection of policy and politics. Hardly noticed, but perhaps more important to lawmakers themselves, is the intersection of policy and personal affairs, the bills that directly play a role in the lives of lawmakers and their loved ones.

For the members who have children with severe disabilities, passage of the ABLE Act represented a deeply personal moment.

“It’s special,” said Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, whose son Alex has Down syndrome. “Really a great feeling.”

The Texas Republican told the story of another piece of legislation — the Family Opportunity Act, which passed in 2005 as part of the Deficit Reduction Act — that’s had a lasting impact on him as a father and as a congressman.

Sessions recounted that Alex went up to President George W. Bush and said, “‘Thank you for helping with the bill.’”

“And the president had to ask: What bill?” Sessions said.

Sessions said that prompted more questions from the president, and eventually Bush, who had known Alex since he was born, became a strong advocate for the legislation, which expanded Social Security Income benefits to certain disabled individuals who were previously ineligible.

Fast forward nine years, Alex is 20. “Turns 21 in a month,” Sessions said, noting that 21 has always represented a sort of coming of age. And with this new piece of legislation, Sessions said he felt the ABLE Act would give people like his son more freedom.

“Happy birthday,” Sessions said. “Happy birthday to parents who want their children to become independent.”

Sessions poured on the praise for members who had made the bill possible, from Crenshaw and Speaker John A. Boehner to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. And just as he named GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the Washington Republican walked by, effusive in her own praise for Sessions, who is the co-chairman of the Down Syndrome Caucus in Congress.

Earlier Tuesday, McMorris Rodgers told a story of a boy who was diagnosed with Down syndrome three days after he was born.

“Seven years later, as a mom of that little boy, nothing has given me greater joy than seeing the positive impact he is having on this world,” McMorris Rodgers said, visibly emotional as Boehner looked on with tears welling in his own eyes.

McMorris Rodgers said the ABLE Act would “empower” many people, “including people like my son Cole, for the opportunity for a better life, and that’s why we are here,” she said. Cole joined his mother on the floor for the vote.

Of course, the ABLE Act has not been without obstacles. As Crenshaw pointed out, he first introduced the bill in 2006.

“Any time you deal with the tax code,” things slow down, Crenshaw explained when asked why the bill had taken so long to get across the finish line.

The bill is complicated by its need for an offset. The Congressional Budget Office calculates the cost to be $2.1 billion over 10 years, and there was talk for a while of including the bill in tax-extender legislation the House also passed Wednesday, which did not have offsets.

That left members scrambling to find a way to pay for the legislation. The bill makes up for the cost of the tax-free accounts by making a number of changes to Medicare payments and other provisions, including a nine-cent raise in the cargo fuel excise tax, charging 15 percent more on certain federal payments to Medicare providers as a means to collect taxes, and raising the age by one year at which Social Security disability insurance benefits would kick in. It also would stop Medicare payments for penis pumps, among other things.

But what lawmakers hope the bill really does is give the disabled and their families a helping hand — something they can point to with pride when their congressional careers come to an end: A few lines in the labyrinthine U.S. tax code that made a difference.

Annie Shuppy contributed to this report.

By Matt Fuller Posted at 6:01 p.m.

Conservative Opposition to Spending Bill Could Give Pelosi Leverage

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King won’t back any bill with funds for the president’s immigration order. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

With many conservatives now insisting they won’t vote for any government spending bill that doesn’t block the president’s executive action on immigration, could House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s Democrats get a sweeter deal in exchange for votes to pass a bill to fund the government beyond Dec. 11?

Conservatives spent much of Wednesday firing up their base, building opposition to any spending bill — omnibus, continuing resolution or “cromnibus” — that doesn’t explicitly defund the immigration order.

“Some will say we’ll vote to fund it for now and then we’ll have reinforcements from the Senate next year,” Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said during a press conference-turned-tea-party-rally Wednesday. “Two problems with that: One of them is that we would have lost our virtue. How do we make the argument that we’re going to defend the Constitution in January, February, March or April, if we’re not willing to defend the Constitution in December?”

King said he was unwilling to vote for any bill that funds the Department of Homeland Security without blocking the executive action, even if it only funded the department for a month.

“This is a matter of principle,” King said. “This is a matter of constitutional issue.” Full story

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