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October 26, 2014

Posts by Matt Fuller

381 Posts

October 23, 2014

GOP Gavel Fights: 11 House Committee Chairmanships In Play

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Hensarling may have a challenger for the Financial Services’ gavel. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Almost every House member is on the stump this month, wrapping up re-election bids, with most cruising to new terms and a handful on both sides of the aisle scrambling to hang on to their jobs. But for a select few GOP lawmakers — those actively seeking committee chairmanships — the final days before Nov. 4 are as much about lining up support among colleagues as they are about connecting with voters.

Every two years, after the Election Day dust settles, members return to Capitol Hill for a lame-duck session that includes the selection of colleagues to serve as senior lawmakers on the chamber’s standing committees during the new Congress.

Republicans, widely expected to retain the majority this cycle, will be particularly busy during the lame duck, scheduled to begin Nov. 12, when it comes to doling out committee leadership appointments. Thanks to retirements, possible assignment shuffles and a 20-year rule capping panel leadership at three terms, as many as 11 out of 21 committees could see new chairmen in the 114th Congress.

A twelfth committee could even be at play, if term-limited Agriculture Chairman Frank D. Lucas of Oklahoma decides to challenge Jeb Hensarling’s grip on the Financial Services gavel, as he recently suggested he might.

For the decidedly open chairmanships, some lawmakers are expected to win their desired posting without competition, while others will be facing off against their peers. All of the slots are filled by a secret ballot vote of members on the Republican Steering Committee, comprised of party leaders, top-tier panel chairmen and regional representatives.

Here’s a rundown of 11 committee gavels that are up for grabs, and which members stand to snag them. Full story

October 22, 2014

McCarthy Offers Glimpse of GOP’s 2015 Priority: ‘Government Reform’

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McCarthy offers a glimpse of the GOP agenda. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy sent a memo to House Republicans Wednesday providing an early sketch of how a new Republican Congress would purportedly operate.

While the memo wasn’t exactly a legislative outline — the email is titled “Government Competency,” and seems intended as much for public consumption as for Republican members of Congress — McCarthy alludes to how he would like the GOP House to draft a 2015 legislative agenda.

“To be successful, we need every member and every committee to participate in this grand and ongoing project of government reform,” McCarthy wrote. “In the coming weeks, please take a moment and think about areas of government reform you would like to focus on during the next Congress.”

McCarthy mentions that, “working with our committees,” Republicans will be formulating the components of a government operations overhaul for 2015.

“A portion of our 2015 legislative agenda will focus on reforming and streamlining federal agencies so government works as it should,” McCarthy said.

The 1,410-word email reads more like a press release than a memo intended just for the eyes of House Republicans. It starts with an anecdote from former President Ronald Reagan on buying a car in the Soviet Union, provides numerous instances of government inefficiency or incompetence and blames many of those issues on President Barack Obama and his administration.

The full text of the memo:

MEMORANDUM

TO: House Republicans

FROM: Kevin McCarthy

DATE: October 22, 2014

SUBJECT: Government Competency

“Sincerity and competence is a strong combination. In politics, it is everything.”

– Peggy Noonan

Ronald Reagan joked “in the Soviet Union automobiles were mainly owned by elite bureaucrats. For average citizens it could take an average of 10 years to get a car, you had to file paperwork with the government…and you had to pay in advance! So one day a man did this and the dealer said, ‘okay in 10 years come get your car.’ ‘Morning or afternoon?’ the man asked. ‘Well what difference does it make?’ asked the dealer. The man replied, ‘the plumber is coming in the morning.’” Today, Reagan’s quip could be an apt description of dealing with the federal government. Consider the following:

· Last month, the FDA finally approved the use of a second 3-D imaging system, which can improve the detection of breast cancer in women. Multiple 3-D imaging systems have been used outside the U.S. for years. The lack of access to multiple systems in the U.S. has meant fewer diagnoses and higher costs.

· A non-partisan study last year found that the average government processing time for an interstate natural gas pipeline from pre-filing to certification was 558 days. The government’s failure to approve energy infrastructure projects in a timely fashion means higher energy prices for families and businesses.

· In August of this year, an individual requesting a hearing to review a decision made by the Social Security Administration regarding their eligibility for benefits faced an average wait time of 7 to 22 months (depending on where in the country they live).

· Before Congress enacted reforms earlier this year, it could take from 10 to 15 years for the Corps of Engineers just to complete a feasibility study for a flood control or navigation project.

· It can take more than a decade to acquire all the government permits for a mineral production project. According to one report, the United States currently ranks last, along with Papua New Guinea, in permitting delays out of the twenty-five major mining countries.

· A recent non-partisan study found that nearly half of the Social Security Administration’s scheduled continuing disability reviews for children with mental impairments were overdue, and an estimated 205,000 were overdue by more than 3 years.

Every week seems to bring a new revelation of government agencies failing to accomplish their core functions. The Veterans Administration for years did not treat patients in a timely manner and covered up the backlogs; the IRS did not adequately preserve basic records; the Administration spent more than $2.1 billion on a broken and unsecure website to facilitate a law that Americans don’t like; the Secret Service failed to protect the White House; the government had a failed strategy to confront Ebola; and on foreign policy, nobody thinks America is safer or stronger than we were six years ago. The list goes on and on.

The recent blunders and scandals are not just the product of failed policy, but represent serious management failures by the President and his Administration.

Some of these problems cannot be fully addressed without a change of Administration. However, the bullets above detail many government failures that Congress can fix, even if they don’t make front page headlines.

It is important to emphasize that we want our government to be competent not just for competency sake. Rather, the government’s role in our lives must be measured, limited in its ambitions, constitutionally based, and focused on the big things that only governments can address. Unfortunately, the federal government today interferes too often in too many aspects of our daily lives, both big and small.

Restoring competency in government requires both shrinking government to its appropriate scope and mission and reforming how government operates in its core sphere.

Inefficient, ineffective, and incompetent federal agencies along with failed government policies have real world consequences. They hurt economic growth and job creation. Restoring economic growth and job creation will be the central policy goal of the next Congress and restoring competence in government will be part of that effort. The inability of the government to accomplish its most basic tasks has eroded the public’s trust in government, as polls have repeatedly shown. Worse, throughout the country there is an emerging sense of resignation that our great country is on the decline.

We must work to end this cycle of failings and make government functional again. Building off our progress in the 2012 highway bill and WRRDA this year, a portion of our 2015 legislative agenda will focus on reforming and streamlining federal agencies so government works as it should.

The House has already passed energy legislation to improve the permitting process for pipelines, and with a new majority, I am confident the bill won’t be ignored in the Senate. The same is true for reforms we passed for federal mining permits and FDA reforms that the Energy and Commerce Committee has already begun working on.

While individual parts of our agenda may not grab headlines, we must make government work if we are to promote a growing economy that brings stability and greater opportunity for all Americans.

To be successful, we need every member and every committee to participate in this grand and ongoing project of government reform. In the coming weeks, please take a moment and think about areas of government reform you would like to focus on during the next Congress. Working with our committees, we will be formulating the components of this reform initiative as we put together the legislative agenda for 2015.

But beyond reforming agencies, we must legislate differently in order to restore trust in government. When we took the majority in 2011, we introduced greater transparency and accountability to the legislative process. For example, we ended the practice of approving “such sums” authorizations where legislation would authorize new spending without actually specifying the amount to be spent.

I am in the process of reviewing and updating these protocols (LINK) for the new Congress, and already have a few ideas. One reform I would like to include is sunsetting new agency reports. Different provisions added to our laws over the years has resulted in a legal requirement that 466 different agencies and non-profits submit over 4,200 different reports to Congress this year. The annual number of reports demanded by law increased nearly 25 percent in the past 25 years.Many, like the annual “Report to Congress on Dog and Cat Fur Protection,” are no longer relevant. However, absent Congressional action, agencies and non-profits must still submit these reports. We can save taxpayer money and thousands of hours of time by sunsetting these requirements.

I would also like to work with the committees to include basic regulatory reforms in any legislation that authorizes or requires new regulations. As you know, we have passed a number of government-wide reforms to the regulatory process, such as increasing public input in the regulatory process, requiring agencies to adopt the least costly proposal, and requiring regulators to limit the impact of regulations on small businesses. Unfortunately, these bills have not advanced in the Senate. Yet, there is no reason we cannot work towards implementing these reforms on an agency by agency or program by program basis.

Government competence requires collaboration, which is why I want to hear from you as to any ideas you may have on how we proceed to rebuild trust in government. Specifically, if you have any legislative ideas or process reforms you would like considered as we formulate next year’s legislative agenda and revise on our internal protocols, please email or call me or have your staff reach out to mine.

I look forward to seeing you in November and, as always, please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance.

Finally, congratulations to James Lankford for being the first to correctly identify Statuary Hall as the room in which the British started the fire that destroyed most of the Capitol on August 24, 1814. This month’s trivia question:

In 1789, Congress sent twelve proposed Constitutional amendments to the states for ratification. By December of 1791, a sufficient number of states had ratified amendments three through twelve and they became our Bill of Rights. In 1992, with the vote of Michigan, the second of the original twelve amendments was ratified and became our 27th Amendment.

What is the remaining unratified amendment and were it to be ratified today, what would be the impact on Congress?

 

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By Matt Fuller Posted at 2:11 p.m.
Kevin McCarthy

October 21, 2014

New Ebola Restrictions Not Enough for Republicans Pushing Travel Ban

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Goodlatte and other lawmakers are calling for an Ebola travel ban. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

While the Obama administration continues to put in place additional measures to identify travelers potentially infected with Ebola, the early Republican response is in: It’s still not enough.

The administration announced Tuesday that travelers to the United States from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will have to travel through one of five major U.S. airports and go through additional Ebola screening.

The Department of Homeland Security introduced the additional measures, mandating that all foreign nationals coming from those three Ebola-stricken countries in Africa will undergo secondary screening and be forced to land at one of five airports: Kennedy Airport in New York, Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport, Chicago O’Hare in Illinois or Dulles Airport in Virginia.

Those passengers, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement, would be subject to “added protocols, including having their temperature taken, before they can be admitted into the United States.”

The additional screening for passengers coming from those countries at those airports was already taking place, but now those passengers are mandated to land at one of those five airports. Full story

October 20, 2014

Hensarling Touts Tax Reform If GOP Wins Both Chambers

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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

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