Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 28, 2014

Posts by Matt Fuller

337 Posts

July 25, 2014

New GOP Optimism for Border Supplemental Before August (Updated)

House Republican Conference 22 120313 445x295 New GOP Optimism for Border Supplemental Before August (Updated)

Granger said the GOP plans to pass a border bill next week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 12:01 p.m. |Republican lawmakers emerged from a special conference meeting Friday morning with renewed optimism that they could pass a slimmed-down border supplemental package before the August recess. But passage still may not be as easy as some expect.

House Republicans are looking at a less than $1 billion package, according to lawmakers leaving the meeting, though no legislative text has been released. Appropriators were previously aiming for a package at about $1.5 billion — already down from the the $3.7 billion the president proposed to address the flood of unaccompanied minors crossing the Southwest border.

Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, the leader of a Republican working group on the crisis, said Friday morning that the measure Republicans aim to pass next week would still look similar to the recommendations she and her working group recently released.

“I really feel very, very hopeful,” Granger said at the prospect of passing a bill next week. “I just think we had a chance to present our findings and our recommendations. We came back today and explained more and listened to people.”

The border group’s plan drew a lukewarm response Wednesday when Granger presented the proposal to the conference. Apparently some lawmakers were still concerned that the president or the Senate could negate whatever legislation they pass. But, as Granger said, “there were far fewer problems today than there were yesterday.”

Granger said the package would retain the “major pieces” of the working group’s recommendations: “Change the 2008 law, secure the border and send the children back in an organized way working with the countries.”

A key piece of the GOP proposal — and a key sticking point with Democrats — is the revision of a 2008 law on human trafficking. Republicans want to amend the law to allow for the speedy deportation of children coming from Central America. Under the current law, those children are entitled to an immigration hearing to determine whether they can get refugee status.

On Friday, during her weekly news conference, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pleaded with Republicans to not “hold the children hostage to the cosmetics of how tough you are on the border.

Pelosi had initially seemed open to the idea of making changes to the 2008 law, but she quickly changed her mind after many Democrats expressed opposition to that idea. “There’s no reason why they have to be tied and I hope that the Republicans will come to that conclusion,” Pelosi said Friday.

Pelosi’s comments were echoed by 13 members of the Congressional Women’s Working Group on Immigration Reform — all Democrats — who sent a letter Friday to Boehner asking the speaker to submit a supplemental bill without the riders Republicans are almost certain to attach.

Changing the 2008 law seems like it almost definitely would be part of a Republican border proposal.

What’s “up in the air,” according to Indiana Republican Marlin Stutzman, is whether Republicans try to end the president’s executive order Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, more commonly referred to as DACA. Stutzman said he’d be surprised if Republicans try to end DACA in this package, but that “it was suggested a couple of times.”

There were an estimated 30 Republicans who spoke during the conference meeting, so a few voices on DACA would not be a significant call for immediate action.

Still, Republicans have very few votes they can lose on the measure before it’s in serious trouble of not passing. Democrats are unlikely to bail them out with more than a handful of votes — if any at all — and there are more than a few hard-line Republicans on the border supplemental.

“I think that we’re still very divided,” John Fleming, R-La., said. “I think that — I know that — there’s a number in there that didn’t speak up at all and feel as I do: that, at most, we should call the president out through a resolution that he must act, and that we can’t act until he does.”

Many lawmakers apparently thought it would be a good idea to adopt a resolution stating that it was the sense of the House that the president ought to enforce immigration laws. That could win some more votes for Republicans. But that doesn’t seem like it would appease Fleming.

“Because the idea that we’re going to pass legislation and it’s actually going to be signed into law is just nonsense,” Fleming said. “It isn’t going to happen. Everybody in that room knows that, at most, this would be, cover-your-butt kind of legislation.”

Kansas Republican Tim Huelskamp expressed a similar sentiment.

“You can’t trust this president,” he said. “I mean, he could go in and do an executive order again next week.”

Huelskamp said he wanted to see the legislative text before he made his decision on the supplemental, but he seemed to suggest it was on the president, not Congress, to act to address the border.

“At the end of the day, this is the president’s border crisis, and he has to show how he’s going to solve it,” Huelskamp said.

But many Republicans seem to see the need to pass something before the August recess.

Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said it seemed like every Republican was coalescing around “some type of Granger-modified plan.” And Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said there was “growing consensus that the House will act, not to merely manage the problem, as the president wants, but to stop the problem.”

Brady added that, “if we worried about what the Senate does or doesn’t do, this House would not have sent over 300-plus bills on the jobs, the economy and getting the budget under control.”

And as Stutzman said: “We got to find a way to get there. I think we do. You talk to — you listen to some of the members, especially down on the border states, they don’t want to have to go home and deal with this all summer long.”

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.

July 24, 2014

Ethics Investigations Since 2009 — in One Chart

The Office of Congressional Ethics recently released its second-quarter report for 2014, and in the middle is a pie graph that gives congressional nerds some insight into what ethical lapses the OCE has been looking into since its inception.

The chart tracks preliminary investigations conducted by the independent ethics office, and, as the graph illustrates, the plurality of investigations since February 2009 — 46 percent — have involved campaign activities.

2Q 2014 Types thumb 600x306 151 Ethics Investigations Since 2009 — in One Chart

The OCE reports it has conducted 137 preliminary investigations since 2009, with 49 of those cases transmitted to the Ethics Committee for review.

In addition to the pie chart, the OCE’s quarterly report also reveals that the Ethics Committee is supposed to name two members under investigation on Friday, though no details of the investigation are expected to be released and the Ethics Committee will likely vote to take an additional 45 days to consider the matter.

The OCE also revealed in the quarterly report it voted to refer an entity to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for failing to register under the Lobbyist Disclosure Act.

By Matt Fuller Posted at 4:29 p.m.
Ethics

Boehner Still Pushing on Border Supplemental, VA Crisis (Video)

With time running out before the August recess, Speaker John A. Boehner still wants deals for a border supplemental and to address the VA health care crisis, but put the onus on the Democrats and the White House to move in the GOP’s direction.

Boehner said Republicans were still talking with their colleagues about a supplemental spending package to address the flood of children crossing the border, and he said those conversations would continue in the days leading up to the August recess.

“But understand: It’s time for the White House to get their act together,” the Ohio Republican said. “They want to change the ’08 law and address the underlying problem here, or don’t they?” Full story

July 23, 2014

Boehner Pens Letter to Obama on Border Crisis, Congressional Response

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Boehner is asking if Obama backs changes to the 2008 trafficking law that Republicans contend is fueling the border crisis. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner wrote to the president Wednesday to tell him that it is “difficult to see how” Congress could address the ongoing crisis at the border without addressing the 2008 human trafficking law that many Republicans contend has helped create the surge of migrants on the Southwest border.

With congressional Democrats increasingly digging in their heels on proposed changes to the 2008 law, Boehner called on Obama to reaffirm the administration’s support for revisions that would expedite deportations of migrant minors from Central America.

Full text of the letter follows: Full story

Cruz Meets With Conservatives to Discuss Border Crisis (Updated)

BtOrPguIUAAp6VE Cruz Meets With Conservatives to Discuss Border Crisis (Updated)

Cruz talks border crisis over breakfast. (Photo from @RepJeffDuncan’s Twitter feed.)

Updated 1:23 p.m. | Sen. Ted Cruz once again met with a group of the House’s most conservative lawmakers Wednesday morning to discuss potential legislative responses to the flood of children crossing the border.

Cruz met with “more than 20″ House Republicans Wednesday morning, according to Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, to discuss a supplemental package meant to address the influx of unaccompanied minors at the border. “I didn’t have a hard count, but I know that it was more than 20,” King said.

According to the Iowa Republican, lawmakers had breakfast and listened to Cruz’s take on the crisis.

“The main agenda was to hear from Ted Cruz and his perspective on immigration,” King said. “And then many people around the table weighed in and we had an open discussion.”

King noted that lawmakers didn’t know the exact details of the package at the time — Republicans learned more about it in conference Wednesday morning. But, in general, lawmakers seem concerned that whatever the House sends over to the Senate will be amended to not include changes to a 2008 human trafficking law. Republicans want the law changed to expedite the deportation of children from Central American countries who are coming to the United States in droves.

“There’s an understanding that whatever might go to the Senate will come back to us, if it comes back at all, and we would describe it as ‘terrible,’ King said. “And so, again, there’s no one who has explained how you can start something in the House and get it to the president’s desk and think that you’ve improved the situation when you have a president that, and, I think, a Harry Reid in the Senate — they don’t even want to amend the 2008 bill. They’re for what that’s causing.”

The group heard from a number of lawmakers, including Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., who was considering offering his own fix for the border crisis. Following the border working group’s release of their suggestions, Salmon issued a statement signing off on their recommendations.

“The House will now take up these recommendations so that we can quickly send them to the Senate for a vote and to the President for implementation,” Salmon said. “I expect that whatever proposal we pass will remain fiscally responsible and not add to our deficit.”

The meeting was part of a regular breakfast with the Conservative Opportunity Society, of which King is the chairman.

Members met in the narrow Henry J. Hyde room of the Capitol, where a quote above the door from William Allen White reads: “Whoever is fighting for liberty is defending America.”

By Matt Fuller Posted at 12:09 p.m.
Immigration

July 22, 2014

Boehner on Obamacare: ‘It Cannot Be Fixed’

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Boehner and other Republicans said the court ruling is an indication Obamacare is broken. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

On the same day a federal appeals court upheld an IRS subsidy for Obamacare, GOP lawmakers seized on the opportunity of a conflicting ruling — Halbig v. Burwell — to make the point that the 2010 health care law is broken.

After a 2-1 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said the government could not subsidize insurance in the 36 states that defaulted to the federal health care exchanges, Speaker John A. Boehner offered one of his harshest rebukes of the Affordable Care Act yet, saying the ruling was further proof the law is “completely unworkable.”

“It cannot be fixed,” the Ohio Republican said in a statement.

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health Chairman Joe Pitts, R-Pa., sent out a joint press release that called the Halbig ruling “a clear rebuke of the administration’s effort to extend subsidies where the law did not provide them.”

“The ruling also dramatically limits the IRS’ legal authority to enforce the individual and employer mandates,” the missive said.

That is true — or, at least, it could be true, if the rest of the D.C. Circuit Court agrees. The administration has asked the rest of the court — all 11 judges — to review the decision “en banc,” and even if the liberal-leaning court agrees, there are other cases before other courts that could undermine the decision. Full story

The Border Supplemental and ‘the Height of Irresponsibility’

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Hoyer said there should be no debate over caring for the migrant children detained on the Texas border. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With the August recess fast approaching and emergency funding to deal with the border crisis seemingly no closer to passage than it was a week ago, Democrats and Republicans are firing up a new round of the blame game.

Shortly after Speaker John A. Boehner pointed the finger at the White House and congressional Democrats for the lack of action on a spending package to address the sharp rise of unaccompanied minors crossing the border, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer redirected the blame right back at Republicans.

“I think it would be the height of irresponsibility to leave without addressing this humanitarian issue,” Hoyer said Tuesday during his weekly pen-and-pad briefing with reporters. Full story

Chaffetz on Oversight: More Results, Less Confrontation

chaffetz 254 052914 445x299 Chaffetz on Oversight: More Results, Less Confrontation

Chaffetz, R-Utah, would be among only a handful of House members who have earned a full chairmanship in less than five terms. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In the past 89 years, there have been four members of Congress who became committee chairmen in their fourth term. Rep. Jason Chaffetz is trying to become the fifth.

Chaffetz hasn’t even banked six full years in the House yet. But with Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa term-limited after this session, the 47-year-old Utah Republican is making a bid to head the chamber’s most powerful investigatory panel.

Like his top rival for the gavel, Michael Turner of Ohio, Chaffetz says he wants to move Oversight in a new direction. But Chaffetz, like Issa, still wants to go “full throttle” on the executive branch.

“I’m very grateful to Darrell Issa,” Chaffetz told CQ Roll Call. “He’s been very good to me, he’s given me a great opportunity, but we’d all do things a little bit differently.” Full story

July 17, 2014

Boehner Losing Optimism on Addressing Border Crisis Before August Recess (Video)

Boehner 17 011614 445x295 Boehner Losing Optimism on Addressing Border Crisis Before August Recess (Video)

Boehner is less optimistic about passing a border bill before the August recess. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner seems to be losing confidence that Congress can pass legislation addressing the wave of children coming across the border before lawmakers head back to their districts for the August recess.

Asked on Thursday during his weekly news conference whether he thought Congress would address the crisis before the recess, Boehner said, “I would certainly hope so, but I don’t have as much optimism as I’d like to have.”

Boehner noted Republicans are working with a group of lawmakers tasked with providing recommendations to address the border crisis — the task force is expected to make recommendations soon, potentially as soon as Thursday — and he said Republicans were working with the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Harold Rogers of Kentucky, to come up with a supplemental bill to address the crisis. Full story

July 16, 2014

Lawmakers Battle Over Legal Arguments for Boehner Lawsuit (Video)

sessions 312 102913 445x296 Lawmakers Battle Over Legal Arguments for Boehner Lawsuit (Video)

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions defended the lawsuit against Obama in Wednesday’s hearing. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

 

Is Boehner’s lawsuit against President Barack Obama a way to protect the Constitution’s balance of power or an ill-conceived waste of tax dollars lacking any legal merit?

Those were the conflicting assessments offered up in Wednesday’s House Rules Committee hearing on the proposed lawsuit by politicians and legal experts on opposite sides of the aisle.

The constitutional experts who testified before the panel split on whether the lawsuit, which Speaker John A. Boehner is expected to bring before the House for a vote next week, poses a real legal threat to the White House’s increasing reliance on executive actions. Full story

Chairman: Ethics Committee Can Only ‘Offer Up Advice’

conaway 027 120211 1 445x332 Chairman: Ethics Committee Can Only Offer Up Advice

Conaway says the panel’s job is to enforce the House rules. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Open government advocates and congressional watchdogs, frustrated with what they decry as a culture of corruption on Capitol Hill, would like to see the House Ethics Committee take more aggressive action on cleaning up Congress.

But the panel’s chairman, K. Michael Conaway of Texas, says it’s not the Ethics Committee’s job to bring forward a more ethical House.

“The members themselves bring forth an ethical House,” Conaway told CQ Roll Call in a recent hallway interview. “The committee itself is just trying to do two things: one, offer up advice to help folks stay inside the white lines, and then when somebody doesn’t, deal with that.”

The Ethics Committee has been in the spotlight again recently, flip-flopping — under pressure — on a disclosure rule for privately-funded travel that the bipartisan panel had quietly dropped.

Government accountability groups, such as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said Congress needs more disclosure, not less.

But Conaway, who earlier this month defended the attempt to loosen disclosure rules, said the committee is not “in and of itself” responsible for producing a higher ethical standard. “The members are responsible for how ethical the House is, and, quite frankly, how ethical the House is perceived to be by the general public.”

The Texas Republican, who is widely expected to trade his Ethics gavel for the Agriculture chairmanship next Congress, said the legacy of the Ethics Committee under his guidance would be, “that we did the work well, and, for the most part, stayed out of the headlines.” Full story

July 15, 2014

Why House Conservatives Don’t Support Obama Impeachment

Labrador022 071514 445x296 Why House Conservatives Dont Support Obama Impeachment

One of Labrador’s arguments against an Obama impeachment push: “President Joe Biden.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A curious line of reasoning emerged Tuesday as to why conservatives in Congress aren’t chomping at the bit to impeach a president that they believe has broken the law: There isn’t enough time.

At a monthly panel discussion with conservative lawmakers, members were asked if they would support impeaching President Barack Obama for selective enforcement of some laws and dramatic reinterpretations of others.

While a number of the lawmakers seemed to think impeachment was warranted, no one was offering to write up the proceedings.

“The president deserves to be impeached,” said Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas. “Plain and simple.”

But, as Weber pointed out, it isn’t so simple.

“We’ve got so much on our plate that it’s not practical,” he said, noting that such an endeavor wouldn’t pass the Senate even though “he definitely deserves it.” Full story

Poll: Majority Finds Boehner Lawsuit ‘Political Stunt’

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Survey respondents skeptical of Boehner’s Obama lawsuit. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A new survey from a Democrat-associated polling firm has found that 51 percent of respondents say Speaker John A. Boehner’s lawsuit against the president is a “political stunt.”

Americans United for Change paid for the automated survey, conducted by Public Policy Polling, which asked 1,161 registered voters if the lawsuit was a “legitimate suit” or a “political stunt.” More than half the respondents said political stunt, while 41 percent said it was a legitimate suit. Eight percent of respondents said they weren’t sure. Full story

By Matt Fuller Posted at 9:44 a.m.
John Boehner

July 14, 2014

Homeland Security Secretary Meets with Democrats on Supplemental, Changes to 2008 Human Trafficking Law

johnson 240 052914 445x311 Homeland Security Secretary Meets with Democrats on Supplemental, Changes to 2008 Human Trafficking Law

Johnson met with moderate Democrats on the border crisis Monday night. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson met with moderate Democrats Monday night to discuss the immigration crisis on the Texas border. And while the lawmakers did not emerge united on President Barack Obama’s request for $3.7 billion in emergency funding or with an agreement on new legislation to expedite the return of Central American minors, Johnson called the discussions “productive.”

After the meeting, Johnson said the administration was committed to finding a response to the influx of children coming over the border that is ”humanitarian and consistent with our laws and our values.”

The first order of business, Johnson said, was approving the $3.7 billion supplemental funding request to address the situation — a request Johnson said Congress should ”scrutinize and review … carefully.” Full story

Democrat Wants Accountability on Obama Lawsuit

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Boehner faces questions over the cost of the House lawsuit against the White House. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 4:35 p.m. | The ranking Democrat on the House Administration Committee, Robert A. Brady, is demanding some oversight on Speaker John A. Boehner’s lawsuit against President Barack Obama.

Brady sent a letter to the Ohio Republican saying he expects Republicans to be “open and transparent” about how much money they use “in pursuing this highly dubious and partisan lawsuit.”

The Pennsylvania Democrat, as the ranking member of the House Administration Committee, seems to want some say over who handles the case, and he wants “normal oversight” on the contract.

Boehner is asking the House this month to approve filing a lawsuit against the president for not enforcing the employer mandate on the 2010 health care law.

Here is the full text of the Brady letter:

Dear Speaker Boehner:

Within the draft resolution to initiate a lawsuit against the President, we learned that you intend to seek authorization to “employ the services of outside counsel and other experts.” Such authority clearly falls under the jurisdiction of the Committee on House Administration, and as such, I am writing to express my expectation that Republicans will be open and transparent about the use of taxpayer money in pursuing this highly dubious and partisan lawsuit.

As evidenced by House Republicans’ conduct in the $2.3 million failed effort to defend the discriminatory and unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act in the courts, strong bipartisan oversight is clearly necessary in any plan to hire outside counsel. The Republican majority must not be permitted to use taxpayer dollars as a slush fund to award a no-bid contract to high-priced, politically connected Republican lawyers without any transparency or accountability to the House or the American people.

Our opposition to the deeply partisan basis of your lawsuit in no way diminishes the need for normal oversight of the terms of any contract signed by Republican Leadership obligating the House to pay millions of dollars on private attorneys. Therefore, I expect you will honor regular order through my committee, even with this highly irregular lawsuit.

The American people deserve to know how and where their tax dollars are being spent, and House Administration Committee Democrats insist on regular consultation and transparency in the selection criteria and process, cost, and lobbying connections of any counsel or experts hired in the name of the House.

Sincerely,
Robert Brady
Ranking Member, House Administration Committee

 

Correction: An earlier version of this post reported, due to an editing error, that the House would consider the lawsuit this week. The vote is expected later this month.

 

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