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November 20, 2014

Posts by Matt Fuller

November 13, 2014

Boehner Wins GOP Nod for Third Term as Speaker

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Boehner won the nod from his caucus Thursday. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Republicans renominated John A. Boehner as speaker Thursday, putting the Ohio Republican in line for a third term in January, when the entire House will vote on leadership positions. Full story

By Matt Fuller Posted at 2:12 p.m.
Uncategorized

As Obama Weighs Executive Action on Immigration, Is Government Shutdown Possible? (Video)

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Rogers, left, said a government shutdown is off the table. But some Republicans disagree. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

While House Republicans consider how to fund the government beyond December and how to stop President Barack Obama’s expected executive action on immigration, there are two words that have suddenly, unexpectedly re-entered the GOP lexicon: government shutdown.

Arizona Republican Rep. Matt Salmon has penned a letter, with more than 50 Republican co-signers, to House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers of Kentucky and ranking Democrat Nita M. Lowey of New York asking them to include a rider on a bill to fund the government — either an omnibus or another continuing resolution — that would block funds for the purpose of implementing any executive action on immigration. Full story

Midterm GOP Wave Quells Talk of Anti-Boehner Vote

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Boehner has a lot to smile about these days. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Republican leaders who have faced opposition from the most conservative wing of their own caucus in recent years may have stumbled across the best way to quash an intraparty revolt: Win.

Last week’s Election Day gains have quieted the talk of a mutiny against John A. Boehner that has obsessed some conservatives since a failed attempt to dethrone the speaker at the start of the 113th Congress. Even tea party members who have long spouted anti-Boehner bombast and candidates who hinted on the trail they would look elsewhere for leadership are sounding pleased with the status quo.

“I like what I’m seeing,” Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas said Wednesday of Boehner. Full story

November 12, 2014

GOP Policy Chairman Race Divides Conference

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Woodall is one of three vying for the top seat on the GOP Policy Committee (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Republicans hold their leadership elections Thursday, and while the top spots will almost certainly stay the same, there is one race that’s actually a real contest: GOP Policy Committee chairman.

Tom Reed of New York, Rob Woodall of Georgia and Luke Messer of Indiana are all vying for the spot, which heads up the partisan committee that hands out policy research to Republicans. The position is being vacated by James Lankford of Oklahoma, who is headed to the Senate.

All three candidates have a real shot, according to members, but Woodall may be the slight front-runner — just by virtue of the fact he will draw heavy support from the conservative wing of the party. The happy-go-lucky Woodall served as interim chairman of the massive Republican Study Committee after Steve Scalise left that position to become majority whip in June.

Still, Messer and Reed are both respected members of the conference with sharp speaking skills and plenty of support. Full story

House Expediting Vote on Cassidy’s Keystone Pipeline Bill (Updated) (Video)

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The House is preparing to vote on a Keystone Pipeline bill from Cassidy, shown here on the campaign trail earlier this fall. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:27 p.m. | In a bid to help their Republican colleague Bill Cassidy of Louisiana bolster his Senate chances, Republicans in the House are moving forward with a bill that would once again approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Cassidy, who is currently in a runoff election with Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, is the sponsor of the legislation. And aides say Cassidy’s bill is the same as a bill before the Senate.

The House Rules Committee will meet on the bill Wednesday night, and a vote on the measure looks like it will occur Thursday, aides said. Full story

November 10, 2014

‘Net Neutrality’ Is Latest Obama Overreach, GOP Says

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Issa and other Republicans are calling “net neutrality” another example of presidential overreach. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After consistently accusing President Barack Obama of overstepping his executive authority on issues such as immigration, health care and the environment, Republicans ramped up their rhetoric on another front: the Internet.

The GOP criticism came after the White House released a statement Monday morning — complete with a YouTube video — affirming the president’s support for the concept of net neutrality, the principle that all data on the Internet should be treated equally and that Internet service providers should not be able to charge more for faster access to some sites.

That principle has the support of voters — at least among the minority who actually know what net neutrality means — and it’s a contrast with Republicans that Democrats and the White House have been eager to embrace.

Still, Republicans argue net neutrality amounts to a massive federal takeover of a huge sector of the economy — in this case, the Internet — a la the Affordable Care Act.

Full story

November 6, 2014

Boehner on Obama’s Immigration Action: ‘He’s Going to Burn Himself’ (Video)

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Boehner, in his first post-election press conference, warned the president against unilateral action on immigration. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

In his first news conference after Tuesday’s elections, Speaker John A. Boehner had stern words for President Barack Obama and his expected executive action on immigration, telling the president he was inviting “big trouble” if he continued to act without Congress on issues such as immigration.

Asked whether the president would be “poisoning the well” with Congress if he issued an executive action on immigration, Boehner offered this advice: ”When you play with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself. And he’s going to burn himself if he continues to go down this path.”

Full story

Power Plays: House Gavel and Ranking Member Battles (Updated)

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Utah’s Chaffetz is one of dozens of lawmakers jockeying for leadership roles on House committees. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated Nov. 17, 11:18 a.m. | As the 114th Congress begins to take shape, members of the House from both parties are angling for new roles on committees. CQ Roll Call is following every twist and turn in this running tally.

Get started with our guide to the GOP chairmanship fights. Check out our reporting from last week on House GOP leadership elections and stay tuned for the results of the Democrats’ leadership votes this week.

We’ve been chronicling the Energy and Commerce ranking member race all year, and the exciting conclusion is now just days away. But with a strengthened Republican majority, it’s a whole new landscape for Democrats — who might remain in the minority for awhile.

Here’s a list of who wants what and the contests shaping up for open committee seats on both sides of the aisle. We’ll update it frequently to reflect the races where two or more candidates have emerged — and instances where challengers have dropped their bids.

Armed Services 

— Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, for chairman, possibly fielding a challenge from J. Randy Forbes R-Va.

Energy and Commerce

— Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., vs. Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, D-Calif., for ranking member.

Financial Services

— Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas. (Rep. Frank D. Lucas, R-Okla., at one point had said he was considering a challenge, but he has since decided against it.) Full story

The Boehner-McConnell Relationship: Mutual Respect, Low Drama

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McConnell, celebrating Tuesday’s Republican wave with his wife, has a track record of working with Boehner. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

John A. Boehner and Mitch McConnell have never been best friends.

But they aren’t enemies, either. Far from it, say staffers and sources who know both lawmakers. The speaker and the Senate’s presumptive new majority leader have built, over the years, a solid professional relationship based on a sturdy sense of mutual respect.

That relationship is in the spotlight now more than ever, with Republicans emboldened in the wake of Tuesday’s wave election that saw the GOP pick up at least eight seats in the Senate and more than a dozen in the House.

Sources told CQ Roll Call that Boehner and McConnell don’t have to be close personally to get things done.

“While they’ve never played horseshoes on the speaker’s lawn, they spend a lot of time together, speak regularly and have demonstrated an unprecedented working relationship between the leaders of the House and Senate,” Don Stewart, a McConnell spokesman, told CQ Roll Call. Full story

November 5, 2014

Despite Drubbing, Pelosi and Hoyer Plan to Stick Around

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Pelosi and Hoyer: Not stepping aside. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Not 24 hours after Tuesday’s elections, congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle were looking to get out in front of their bids to stay in leadership.

Despite a Democratic drubbing, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland both intend to remain leaders of their caucus in the 114th Congress. Pelosi was first on the draw, sending a “Dear Colleague” letter Wednesday announcing her intent to remain minority leader. Hoyer wasn’t far behind; he sent his “Dear Colleague” letter announcing his bid to remain in the whip post a few hours later.

Hoyer highlighted his ability in the 113th Congress to keep Democrats united on key fights, from the farm bill to legislation reopening the government after a 2-week partial shutdown. Among the priorities he promised to fight for were voter protection, a sustainable fiscal path and deficit reduction that does not “come on the backs of the most vulnerable.”

Pelosi and Hoyer have filled the No. 1 and 2 Democratic spots since 2003. Full story

October 30, 2014

GOP: Obama’s Immigration Action Will Cripple 2016 Democrats

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Diaz-Balart said Obama’s promised unilateral action on immigration will backfire in 2016. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans have an immigration problem, and Democrats may have an answer.

When President Barack Obama, as expected, moves ahead with an executive action on immigration, he could be handing Republicans the out they need on an issue that is expected to plague the GOP in national elections for years.

By acting on his own, politicians and pollsters told CQ Roll Call, Obama may take immediate pressure off Congress to address the nation’s immigration system while also giving Republicans a legitimate reason to bash the overhaul. Republicans — particularly those with 2016 aspirations — can slam the immigration action as an executive overreach.

Congressional Democrats are already playing defense against that line of attack. On Thursday, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi penned an op-ed with Illinois Democrat Luis V. Gutiérrez and California Democrat Zoe Lofgren, arguing that the president’s authority to defer removal of illegal immigrants has precedent.

Of course, there are plenty of questions remaining regarding the president’s executive order — who will be included, how the action will impact enforcement and the extent of the deferments. But Democrats and Republicans are already starting to ask the question that’s always most important in Washington: How does this affect the next election?

Republicans contend — perhaps a bit hopefully — that unilateral action will backfire on Obama and the Democrats.

Pro-immigration overhaul Republican Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida told CQ Roll Call that, “short-term,” the president might receive a bump from voters. “But, I think, long-term, it’s going to be devastating.”

There are videos, the Miami congressman said, of Obama arguing that he lacks the legal authority to act alone on immigration. And when the public is inundated with those videos, Diaz-Balart predicted, they’ll turn on a unilateral immigration action.

“I think it will personally destroy him,” Diaz-Balart said of Obama. Full story

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?

 

Related stories:

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McCarthy Calls Iran Nuclear Deal Reports ‘Worrisome’

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Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

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
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