Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 2, 2014

Posts by Matt Fuller

July 17, 2014

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

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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)

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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’

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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

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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

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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.

 

In Race for Oversight Chairmanship, Turner Lays Out Different Direction

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Turner wants to be Issa’s successor as Oversight and Government Reform chairman. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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

Boehner Says Border Crisis Won’t Get ‘Blank Check’ (Video)

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No  ”blank check” for the border, says Boehner. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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.

By Matt Fuller Posted at 12:31 p.m.
John Boehner

Pelosi Slams Boehner Lawsuit of Obama (Video)

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Pelosi said the proposed Obama lawsuit is “subterfuge.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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

GOP Says Border Crisis is Obama’s Fault; Democrats Blame Violence, Poverty

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Dueling narratives: Republicans such as Perry insist the border crisis is a national security threat, while Democrats call it a humanitarian crisis. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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.

 

Related: 

Diaz-Balart: ‘Boehner’s Never Told Me’ Immigration Overhaul Is ‘Dead’

Goodlatte Warns Deportation Changes Hurt Immigration Overhaul Prospects

Immigration Protests Focus on 22 Republicans Across Country

Immigration Overhaul for 2014: Decidedly Not Dead

Boehner Walks Back Immigration Comments

Video Shows Boehner Mocking Colleagues on Immigration

Where Do House Republicans Stand on Immigration Principles? (Updated Whip Count)

 

By Matt Fuller Posted at 3:59 p.m.
Uncategorized

Ethics Chairman Says Panel Will Reverse Decision on Travel Disclosures (Updated)

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Conaway said the panel is backtracking on a ruling loosening disclosure rules. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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.

According to National Journal, which first broke the news about the change, Conaway told a local talk radio program in his Texas district that the committee would “reverse the decision.”

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

By Matt Fuller Posted at 2:07 p.m.
Uncategorized

July 1, 2014

Pelosi, Government Watchdogs Slam Ethics Committee Disclosure Change (Updated)

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Pelosi is critical of new rules on House travel. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 2:58 p.m. | Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is calling on the House Ethics Committee to reverse a change regarding travel disclosure requirements, characterizing the new rule as a step in the direction of less transparency.

The statement came Tuesday afternoon, after a National Journal report on a change to members’ annual financial disclosure forms. Under the new guidance, members do not have to say on their yearly disclosure forms what trips they took and how much they cost.

Members still have to get pre-approval from the Ethics Committee before taking privately funded trips, and they have to fill out a post-travel disclosure form 15 days after a trip; that information is available in searchable form on the House Clerk’s website.

But Pelosi said Tuesday that while the Ethics Committee seems to want to simplify the disclosure process, “Congress must always move in the direction of more disclosure, not less.”

“If the Ethics Committee does not act, then we will call upon the Speaker to allow a vote on legislation to reverse this decision,” Pelosi said in her statement. “In the meantime, Members are encouraged to disclose such trips to both the Clerk and in their annual disclosures.”

But Speaker John A. Boehner’s staff didn’t think Pelosi or her staff had done their research.

A spokesman for Boehner, Michael Steel, said Pelosi’s staff “needs to talk to her representative on the Ethics Committee, who signed off on this bipartisan change to reduce duplicative paperwork.”

In a rare public statement, the Ethics Committee staff director, Tom Rust, noted that members still needed prior approval from the Ethics Committee and still needed to file paperwork after the trip.

“Neither of those requirements has been changed or diluted in any way,” Rust said.

He also noted that it was the Committee’s nonpartisan staff who recommended the change to the financial disclosure forms. ”The Committee adopted these changes and publicly highlighted them on page 2 of the financial disclosure instructions, which were provided to all financial disclosure filers and posted on the Committee’s public web site months ago,” Rust said. “The Committee is committed to effective and efficient public disclosure, and will continue to look for opportunities to improve the public filings required of Members and staff.”

But even before the Ethics Committee could defend itself, government watchdog groups were already having a field day with the new guidance.

Melanie Sloan, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, called the change a ”blatant attempt to avoid accountability.”

“The only Americans who would possibly be in favor of this change are members of Congress,” Sloan said in a release.

On the phone Tuesday, Sloan explained that she doesn’t believe the clerk’s office forms are as easily accessible as the financial disclosure forms. She also wasn’t buying the explanation that the annual forms were duplicative and therefore unnecessary, noting in an ironic tone that, “there’s never any duplication in the government.”

In 2007, the House mandated that members disclose their travel to the House clerk. Before that, the yearly report was the only official reporting mechanism available to the public.

Part of the reasoning for the Ethics Committee change may have its roots in those House rules adopted in 2007. House Rule XXV states that these trips should be considered gifts to the House, not individual members.

Still, Sloan wasn’t buying the argument.

“Whatever explanation they’re giving, the point is to decrease the accountability for these trips,” she said.

 

Earmarks Aren’t Coming Back, Boehner Vows in New Video

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Boehner reiterates his opposition to earmarks in new video. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner’s office is out with a new video slamming Senate Democrats and pledging that as long as the Ohio Republican is speaker, “there will be no earmarks.”

In the video, which uses a score befitting an NFL Films promo, Boehner says the American people have entrusted House Republicans to do things differently.

“So when it comes to earmarks, we’ve kept our promise,” he says in footage ripped from his weekly news conference on May 22. Full story

House GOP’s Secret Vote, Deconstructed

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Scalise leaves the hearing room after the June 19 secret vote electing him majority whip. Only three people know the leadership vote totals. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

It’s been 12 days since House Republicans elected a new majority leader and majority whip behind the closed doors of the House Ways and Means Committee room. And though the ballots and vote totals were a secret, plenty of members and staff think they have an idea. The problem is, they’re probably wrong.

With the exception of the three members who counted the ballots — Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Bill Flores of Texas, and Virginia Foxx of North Carolina — no one definitively knows the vote totals.

Unless, of course, they cracked the safe in conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers’s Cannon office, where the ballots are kept. Those ballots — numbered sheets of paper with candidate names scrawled on each — have not yet been destroyed, contrary to earlier practices, an aide confirmed.

Full story

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