Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 24, 2014

Posts by Matt Fuller

April 3, 2014

Fort Hood Shooting Reopens Unresolved Issues

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Carter and his Texas colleagues want to recognize victims of the 2009 Fort Hood massacre. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Another deadly shooting at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas has pushed still unresolved issues related to the massacre there nearly five years ago back to the congressional forefront.

Even before Wednesday’s incident that reportedly left four dead and 14 wounded, Texas lawmakers in particular have been continuing to push for victims from the November 2009 tragedy to be recognized by the federal government. Nidal Malik Asan killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others at Fort Hood — an incident that shocked the nation and kicked off debate inside and outside of Washington.

For one, there were issues with the compensation benefits for the veterans wounded and the families of those killed — and the Texas delegation has fought for years to award Purple Hearts to the soldiers killed or wounded.

Another debate has centered on exactly how to classify the shooting: was it a terrorist attack, or an act of work-place violence?

Earlier this week, Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, issued a press release detailing his intentions to question Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. over why the Obama administration did not label the shooting an act of terror.

Late Wednesday as more information about the shootings was revealed, Carter issued a statement pointedly referencing the 2009 incident.

“The idea that a second attack could happen at Fort Hood is heartbreaking not only to the victims, but to the survivors. The knowledge that a soldier could attack another soldier is devastating to the emotional wellbeing of our troops, which is why in the aftermath of this tragedy support for our troops is more important than ever,” Carter said. “We need to rally around the community and provide the safety and security these people deserve. It is my mission in Congress to ensure that the victims of the 2009 attack and today’s attack are protected and helped from this point forward. While we do not know the motives of the shooter at this time, I will continue to investigate this crisis until all the facts are known. But for now the best we can do is to pray and support the community.”

Full story

April 1, 2014

Van Hollen Rips 2015 Ryan Budget as ‘The Worst’

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It’s no surprise the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, didn’t like the Republican budget proposal from the Budget Chairman, Paul D. Ryan. But it might be a surprise exactly how much Van Hollen hates it.

“This is the worst budget for America that we’ve seen,” Van Hollen said as he began a pen-and-pad briefing on the blueprint Tuesday.

Ryan officially released his 2015 budget proposal Tuesday morning, and it was clear from the outset that Democrats were not going to like the Wisconsin Republican’s spending vision.

While the budget abides by the defense and non-defense caps laid out in the recent budget deal for fiscal 2015, Ryan’s newest blueprint proposes raising defense spending by $483 billion over 10 years and cutting non-defense spending by $791 billion in that same period.

“It takes that area to sequester levels,” Van Hollen said of non-defense spending, “then doubles the sequester cut to those non-defense areas — and then goes beyond that.” Full story

March 27, 2014

Secret ‘Doc Fix’ Deal Angers Rank and File (Video)

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The House on Thursday passed a bill that likely did not have the votes to pass.

It was clear that a bill to avert a pay hike for doctors was short on support, so Republican leaders struck a closed-door agreement with Democrats to pass the bill by voice vote while members were not yet in the chamber, according to members and aides from both parties.

The bipartisan power move to hold a voice vote allowed members to avoid a tough roll call, which would have forced them either to vote for a bill they do not support or allow doctors who treat Medicare patients to take a pay cut, incensing powerful outside interests.

The tactic flies in the face of Speaker John A. Boehner’s pledge to be a transparent and rule-abiding Congress, members and aides said.

“I’ve seen a lot of dumb things, but I’ve never seen anything quite as comical as this,” Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., the longest serving member in the history of Congress, told CQ Roll Call.

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., said House leaders essentially passed the bill while members’ backs were turned. “No one objected. No one was there to object,” he said.

Full story

March 24, 2014

Hoyer Renews Call for ‘Grand Bargain’

Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer really wants a grand bargain, and he says now, “when we don’t have a crisis breathing down our necks,” is the time to do it.

At a Third Way event at the Columbus Club, tucked into one of the more opulent corners of Union Station — the Maryland Democrat delivered an address Monday morning calling on Republicans and Democrats to come to the table and change America’s long-term fiscal outlook. Full story

March 21, 2014

Cantor Says House Budget Will Conform to ‘Spending Limits’ (Updated)

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 3:44 p.m. |Majority Leader Eric Cantor is telling House Republicans they will produce a budget that adheres to spending limits and balances the budget in ten years.

“We owe it to the American people to demonstrate how we will allocate their tax dollars and balance the budget,” Cantor wrote Friday to House Republicans.

The Virginia Republican noted that President Barack Obama’s budget “blows past” the spending caps previously agreed to for fiscal 2015, but the the House GOP’s budget will conform to the agreed upon “spending limits.”

The pluralization of that last word is key: There are rumors that House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan intends to offer a budget that would adhere to the overall spending limit, but would exceed the defense spending caps, which are unpopular with a number of Republicans. Full story

March 14, 2014

CBC Chastises Ryan Remarks on Poverty (Updated)

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 11:39 p.m. | The Congressional Black Caucus has invited Rep. Paul D. Ryan to a CBC meeting to discuss their perspectives on poverty after the House Budget chairman made some self-described “inarticulate” remarks on the subject.

Ryan recently said there was a “tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.” On Thursday, the Wisconsin Republican clarified those remarks.

But CBC Chairwoman Marcia L. Fudge, D-Ohio, thinks this might be a teachable moment — or at least an opportunity to grab some more headlines.

On Friday, she wrote that CBC members were “deeply troubled” by Ryan’s remarks, characterizing them as “highly offensive.”

Fudge  and fellow CBC member Gwen Moore, D-Wis., also indicated that Ryan’s apology, in which he said the government’s response to poverty had “inadvertently created a poverty trap,” continued to offend CBC members.

Update: After the letter was released, Ryan was spotted on the House floor sitting between Moore and Barbara Lee, D-Calif., another Black Caucus member who had criticized Ryan’s remarks.

From the letter:

The problem many people in poverty face is not isolation, but rather the lack of resources to help ensure all people have the opportunity to succeed and contribute to society, such as adequate transportation, infrastructure, job training programs and other resources to search for jobs and become gainfully employed. A serious policy conversation on poverty should not begin with assumptions or stereotypes. Poverty in our nation is a critical problem that must be approached with diligence and the utmost respect for those who are trapped by poverty’s grasp.

Fudge invited Ryan to review the CBC budget with members and to attend one of the group’s weekly meetings “to discuss our perspectives on poverty in search of finding constructive common ground.”

The letter was signed by Fudge and Moore.

Ryan’s office has not responded publicly to the letter.

Emma Dumain contributed to this report.

By Matt Fuller Posted at 11:24 a.m.
Democrats, Paul Ryan

March 13, 2014

Republicans Block Democratic Attempt to Force Public Issa Apology on House Floor (Updated) (Video)

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 8:12 p.m. | Republicans once again blocked a Democratic resolution demanding a House floor apology from Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa for silencing Rep. Elijah E. Cummings last week during an IRS hearing.

The nearly party line vote to table the privileged resolution came after a theatrical display of protest on the floor, with Democrats refusing to give up on the issue.

“This was not just a violation of Mr. Issa’s treatment of Mr. Cummings,” said Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., a freshman lawmaker who introduced the resolution on Thursday. “My resolution was about Mr. Issa’s offense against the House.”

“If we don’t enforce the rules,” Kildee said, “where do we go?”

As Kildee and his Democratic colleagues offered the resolution, they defiantly held pictures of Issa making the throat-cutting motion, displaying the image on iPads, iPhones and paper. A floor procedure kerfuffle, in which a new House precedent may have been established, ensued.

Presiding officer Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, insisted that that “House will not proceed” as long as Democrats continued to hold up their iPads displaying the image.

“Regular order would be putting the iPads down,” Simpson said.

When Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., made a parliamentary inquiry as to where in the House rules it stated members could not hold up iPads, Simpson said the ruling was at the discretion of the chair.

Democrats moaned, but eventually, begrudgingly, put down their iPads and iPhones. (Rules Committee ranking Democrat Louise M. Slaughter quietly held up her phone even after Simpson’s ruling.)

Members continued holding up the pictures that Democrats had printed out, but Simpson wasn’t having that either.

The presiding officer declared that “only the member under recognition can hold up the display,” and eventually, after the theatrics and rules were settled, the Democrats put down their pictures and offered the resolution.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., promptly moved to table it, both sides screamed a voice vote, a roll call vote was ordered, and the House voted 217-173 in favor of tabling the resolution, with six Republicans and four Democrats voting present. (The present votes came from the nine members of the Ethics Committee and Issa. The Ethics Committee may yet have to consider the issue.)

(On Thursday evening, a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, reiterated Boehner’s continued support for Issa.)

One Democrat, Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia, voted with Republicans in favor of tabling.

While Democrats offered the resolution, Cummings quietly sat separated from his Democratic colleagues beside Rep. James P. Moran, D-Va. As the vote took place, Cummings quickly and quietly slipped out of the chamber.

Issa already apologized personally to Cummings, the ranking member of Issa’s panel, last week, and Cummings accepted the apology.

But that’s not enough for many of Cummings’ colleagues.

“Ranking Member Cummings accepted Chairman Issa’s apology, but it is clear that the Chairman has violated House rules and seriously offended a lot of other Members of Congress in the process, and they are not satisfied with the way he is conducting the committee,” a Democratic committee aide told CQ Roll Call.

Democrats could continue to offer similar resolutions, trying to grab more headlines and increasingly paint Issa as a chairman tyrant, but Republicans look poised to just as quickly shelve the resolutions and move on.

Fellow Oversight and Government Reform Committee colleague Gerrold Connolly, D-Va., hopes Democrats continue to press the issue.

“Even if Elijah didn’t want us to do this, this is on behalf of the institution,” Connolly told CQ Roll Call after the vote, adding that he hopes House GOP leaders ultimately decide to push Issa to make amends publicly.

“He privately apologized to Mr. Cummings, then went on Fox News and accused him of having a ‘hissy fit,’” Connolly said. “How sincere was that apology?”

(The “hissy fit” interview was pretaped before the apology, Issa’s office noted last week.)

The House voted on party lines to shelve another resolution condemning Issa’s conduct last week.

Here’s the text of the resolution provided via email by Democratic aides: Full story

Ethics Committee Gets New Staff Director

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Conaway had plenty of praise for Rust. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Ethics Committee announced a major staffing decision Thursday, with a longtime committee staffer becoming the staff director and chief counsel.

Tom Rust, who has served in a number of roles on the Ethics panel since 2009 — including as a nonpartisan staff attorney, a member of several units on the committee, and as interim staff director and chief counsel — fills the shoes of former staff director and chief counsel Dan Schwager, who left last November. Full story

By Matt Fuller Posted at 4:06 p.m.

March 11, 2014

Issa Issues Report Ripping Lois Lerner

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Darrell Issa has apologized to Oversight and Government Reform Committee ranking Democrat Elijah E. Cummings for cutting off his mic, but the chairman isn’t changing the course of his committee.

The California Republican issued a 141-page report Tuesday on the involvement of Lois Lerner, the former director of IRS exempt organizations, in the targeting of prospective tax-exempt organizations. Full story

March 5, 2014

Issa, Cummings Feud Boils Over

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The committee dustup between Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa and ranking Democrat Elijah E. Cummings has Democrats and Republicans at each other’s throats and demanding apologies.

On Wednesday, Issa cut off Cummings’ microphone after abruptly adjourning a hearing with IRS official Lois Lerner. Issa spent about 15 minutes asking Lerner questions, even though she made it clear she would be invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. But before Cummings could speak, Issa adjourned the committee.

When Cummings protested and asked for the chance to ask a procedural question, Issa gave him a moment to do so. But when the Maryland Democrat launched into statement attacking Republicans, Issa cut him off.

“We’re adjourned. Close it down,” Issa told committee staff.

Full story

Boehner Rips Obama Policies as Emboldening Putin on Ukraine

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner ripped years of President Barack Obama’s policies for failing to dissuade Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to encroach into Ukraine.

“The steps that had not been taken over the last three or four years by the president allowed Putin to believe that he could do what he’s doing without any reaction from us,” Boehner said Wednesday morning.

The Ohio Republican said his conference and Democrats were “trying to work with the president to strengthen his hand.” Full story

March 3, 2014

Ryan Calls for Overhaul of Anti-Poverty Programs

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A 204-page report released Monday by House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan provides ammunition for critics of government anti-poverty programs — but could also provide fodder for Democrats looking for an election-year bludgeon against Republicans.

“For too long, we have measured compassion by how much we spend instead of how many people get out of poverty,” Ryan said in a statement Monday. “We need to take a hard look at what the federal government is doing and ask, ‘Is this working?’”

The Wisconsin Republican said the report would “help start the conversation” and that the report “shows that some programs work; others don’t.” He also said that for many other anti-poverty programs, “we just don’t know.” Full story

February 27, 2014

Pelosi Says Her Work in Congress Isn’t Finished

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Pelosi, left, says she’s not going anywhere anytime soon. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Amid a fresh round of retirement rumors, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters Thursday she isn’t done in Congress.

Many have wondered whether the retirements of some of the California Democrat’s allies would make it too lonely at the top.

But even though some of her closest colleagues are leaving Capitol Hill — including Energy and Commerce ranking Democrat Henry A. Waxman of California and Pelosi’s “consigliere,”  George Miller of California — Pelosi said she isn’t going anywhere.

“They go at their pace, I go at mine,” she said.

She waxed poetic about her colleagues who have announced they won’t be seeking re-election including her California pals and the House dean, Rep. John D. Dingell of Michigan — calling them “fabulous members” and “legislative virtuosos” — but she said she has not reached the sunset of her career.

“When it is, you’ll know,” Pelosi said. “I’m too busy, as long as there is 1 in 5 children in America who lives in poverty.”

Pelosi said it was “very sad” that these Democrats were leaving, but the House is a “constantly reinvigorated body — that’s what our founders intended.”

You can find the Roll Call Casualty List here.

Boehner Says Tea Party Is Raising Money ‘Beating Up on Me’ (Video)

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker John A. Boehner gave a nice assessment of the tea party Thursday on its unofficial five year anniversary, but stressed he isn’t exactly happy with groups like the Tea Party Patriots who are trying to fire him.

“My gripe is not with the tea party; my gripe is with some Washington organizations who feel like they got to go raise money by beating up on me and others,” Boehner told reporters.

The Ohio Republican also said he has ”great respect for the tea party and the energy they have brought to the electoral process.”

As we wrote today, Congress seems to have a mostly mixed assessment of the conservative movement.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Thursday morning also fielded questions about the tea party and its legacy.

The California Democrat said the tea party had “hijacked” the Republican Party, and that tea partyers “considered it a success when they shut down government.”

Pelosi said her message to Republicans was this: “Take back your party, this isn’t who you are.”

Tea Party Pointing Fingers at GOP Leadership, 5 Years In

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Rick Santelli rant heard ’round the world five years ago is credited with starting the tea party, and if you ask Republicans in Congress, the conservative movement has a mixed legacy.

“There’s a reality that we have a president that is further left than any president we’ve ever had in history, and there’s a reality that Harry Reid is a compliant, willing accomplice of the president to accomplish his agenda,” Rep. Michele Bachmann told CQ Roll Call. “So knowing that, I think the tea party is doing as well as it can.”

The Minnesota Republican founded and is still serving as chairwoman of Congress’ Tea Party Caucus, but she is calling it quits this year instead of seeking re-election.

Bachmann identified the 2010 election as “clearly” the “high-water mark” for the movement: “The tea party was responsible for removing the gavel from Nancy Pelosi’s hands and putting it in John Boehner’s hand and making him speaker. That effectively put the brakes on the Obama agenda in a very forthright way.”

But five years in, the political movement is not easy to evaluate. Among the sentiments we heard from Republican lawmakers as we assessed the tea party over the past week were that it’s been successful, that it’s pushed legislative change on spending issues, that it’s still experiencing growing pains, and even that it’s “dangerous.”

Full story

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