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Posts by Matt Fuller
July 22, 2014
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
July 14, 2014
Homeland Security Secretary Meets with Democrats on Supplemental, Changes to 2008 Human Trafficking Law
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
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.
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.
Under California Republican Darrell Issa, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has been the Obama administration’s No. 1 enemy on Capitol Hill, with high-profile hearings on everything from Benghazi to the IRS, to Operation Fast and Furious.
That kind of oversight is part of the committee’s job, according to Rep. Michael R. Turner, an Ohio Republican who is one of the leading candidates to succeed the term-limited Issa as chairman.
But the panel known on the Hill simply as “Oversight” also has the word “reform” in its title, Turner noted. And that aspect of the committee’s mission, he said, will be more of a focus if he takes over the chairmanship.
“I enjoy fixing things,” the six-term congressman said during a sit-down interview in his Rayburn office on July 10. And beyond government waste and inefficiency, one of the things he wants to fix is a committee that “can use some reform itself.” Full story
July 10, 2014
One day after President Barack Obama urged Congress to move quickly on a request for $3.7 billion in emergency funds to address the Texas border crisis, Speaker John A. Boehner made it clear the spending supplemental will not be rubber-stamped.
“We’re not giving the president a blank check,” Boehner said during his weekly press conference Thursday.
Boehner said one appropriate response to the border crisis was to send in the National Guard, something Obama said yesterday would be considered — though Boehner said the White House wants the spending approved with with “no strings attached.”
“In other words, he won’t do it for the kids; it’s all about politics,” Boehner said.
The Ohio Republican noted that a working group in the House was “reviewing” the supplemental request, and that they would have more to say in the future.
“Beyond that, we’ll wade through the discussion with our members before we make any final decisions,” Boehner said.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had stern words for Speaker John A. Boehner’s, R-Ohio, developing lawsuit targeting the president Thursday, dismissing the proposed action as “subterfuge” and “totally irresponsible.”
“It’s a distraction,” Pelosi said of an intended lawsuit accusing President Barack Obama of overstepping his constitutional authority with the use of executive actions.
Boehner and House Republicans are still deciding which executive action they will sue the president for, but some conservatives are pushing House leaders to go a step further and bring forward articles of impeachment.
Pelosi, who noted she dealt with similar calls from Democrats in the later years of George W. Bush’s presidency, said she decided not to bring forward articles of impeachment on Bush because “it wasn’t something I wanted to put the country through.”
The California Democrat said Thursday that Bush had “sent us into war based on a false representation,” something she called “shameful, irresponsible and wrong,” but she said did not want to move forward with impeachment, “because of what it would mean for the American people.” Full story
July 3, 2014
The border crisis unfolding in Texas is, depending on whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, either President Barack Obama’s fault or an unavoidable humanitarian crisis created by Central American violence and poverty.
Those are the competing narratives emerging in congressional statements, interviews and hearings this week as lawmakers from both parties visit detention centers in Texas and elsewhere to see firsthand the flood of young children and mothers who have entered the country illegally in recent months.
At a Homeland Security Committee field hearing in McAllen, Texas Thursday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry led Republican criticism of the White House, telling lawmakers from both parties the flood of unaccompanied minors is attributable to failed Washington policies.
Perry and other Republicans presented the situation as a national security crisis, with Perry calling on lawmakers to supply more border security agents and more resources.
Specifically, Perry wants the National Guard sent to the border, and he wants the federal government to pay Texas back for the money it has already spent addressing the crisis.
Perry noted that there are, on average, 17 border patrol agents per mile between El Paso, Texas, and the edge of California, while there are only seven border security agents between El Paso and the eastern-most point of the Rio Grande.
Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said to fix the crisis, “the administration must first recognize its failed immigration and border policies are the source of the problem.”
McCaul noted that the committee repeatedly heard last week that “the horrible economic conditions and violence in Central America were the only reason these kids are coming.”
While McCaul said no one questions that the circumstances in these countries are terrible, “these conditions are not new, and they have not suddenly gotten worse.”
“What is new,” McCaul said, “is a series of executive actions by the administration to grant immigration benefits to children outside the purview of the law, a relaxed enforcement posture, along with talk of comprehensive immigration reform.”
But Democrats said the crisis has more to do with human dignity than with law enforcement.
Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, who acted as the ranking member for the field hearing, noted she took lollipops to the holding facility in McAllen that lawmakers had visited earlier in the day.
“This is not a national security crisis,” Jackson Lee said. “This is a humanitarian crisis.”
Perry didn’t seem to disagree — at one point, he noted that “we have multiple crises here” — but he still tried to paint the situation as a national security threat.
He said the border was being penetrated “by countries with strong terrorist ties,” and he said he believes the situation was being manufactured by drug cartels.
Which is why, Perry said, the primary need is enhanced border security.
But some Democrats seemed to think that would have little effect on stemming the tide.
As California Democrat Eric Swalwell noted, children were running into the open arms of border security agents. “Wouldn’t additional border security agents increase the number of open arms these children are running into?” Swalwell asked.
Perry’s answer seemed to be that the situation is complex, but that Washington can’t continue with “the same old policies.”
“I really believe we can find a solution,” he said.
Updated 3:27 p.m. | House Ethics Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway said Thursday on a local Texas radio program that his panel would overturn a change to annual disclosure forms that removed the requirement of lawmakers to report on privately funded trips.
The change to the financial disclosure forms caused a good bit of controversy earlier this week after watchdog groups and some lawmakers — most notably, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — called on the Ethics Committee to undo the disclosure form revision. Full story