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

Posts by Matt Fuller

September 9, 2014

House Condemns Obama for Bergdahl Prisoner Swap

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McKeon called the prisoner swap a violation of the law. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House voted 249-163 to disapprove of President Barack Obama’s transfer of five Guantanamo Bay detainees for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, providing a soft rebuke of the president’s actions on the prisoner swap.

On the nonbinding resolution vote, 22 Democrats joined all 227 voting Republicans to condemn the administration for not providing the 30 days of notice required by law before transferring a prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center.

Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., called the prisoner swap an “obvious” violation of the law, and he said Congress needed to understand the national security risks posed by transferring detainees before such a swap takes place.

The ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith of Washington, countered that there was “considerable” debate as to whether the president overstepped his constitutional authority, and that his actions were “in no way unprecedented.” Full story

Boehner Says House Will Wait to Hear Obama’s ISIS Plan

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Boehner said the House will wait to hear the president’s plan on ISIS. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner repeatedly refused to say Tuesday whether he supports more U.S. troops in the Middle East or if Congress should authorize military action against ISIS, telling reporters the House needs to hear from President Barack Obama.

Boehner is scheduled to visit the White House later Tuesday — along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. — and the president may very well ask for congressional authorization to ramp up action against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

But that doesn’t mean he’d get it — at least not anytime soon.

House Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., said Tuesday he didn’t think the House even has time to debate and vote on an authorization for military force before leaving for the pre-election recess in early October. Even if there were time, it’s unclear if there would be the votes.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney came before House Republicans Tuesday in a closed-door meeting to discuss the terrorist threat in the Middle East. And while many Republicans were quick to show deference to one of the major architects of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan — “He’s a man of great gravitas and poise,” said Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz. — many other Republicans were taking Cheney’s words with more than a grain of salt.

Justin Amash, R-Mich., said it was time for the GOP to stop listening to Cheney, particularly on foreign policy. ”Because Republicans don’t agree with him,” Amash said.

Cheney’s message to Republicans, according to members exiting the meeting, was that a strong America would provide for a stable world environment.

“And that the president’s failure of leadership, and incompetence in leadership, has put us into — put the world into — a very unstable position, has imperiled the security of the United States, and that we need to rebuild our military and have a better foreign policy so that we can restore the stability to the world,” said Rep. Bill Flores of Texas, summing up Cheney’s warning to lawmakers.

Regardless of Cheney’s message, both parties are concerned about the possibilities of a another long and costly war in the Middle East. But they are also concerned about doing nothing.

Long one of the most hawkish members of the House, Rep. Peter T. King, R-N.Y., told reporters that Obama has the authority to act without congressional authorization, and that the White House should execute a military response to ISIS, the insurgent group in control of parts of Iraq and Syria, without waiting for consent from Capitol Hill.

“I think it’s better if Congress would give approval,” King said. But he added that it would be better to give authorization “after the fact.”

King explained that debate could slow down action and distract from the task at hand, and he recalled the messiness of last year’s debate over whether to take military action in Syria.

“It would complicate the message,” King said. “I know allies were very disappointed last year when [Obama] was lining up support and then he pulled the rug out.”

Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said he looked forward to hearing what Obama had to say regarding a strategy to combat ISIS, both in his scheduled address on Wednesday evening and after the White House meeting with House and Senate leaders later on Tuesday.

“If the president does not lay out a clear policy that members of Congress and the American people and our military and our enemies understand, then I don’t think there’ll be any action taken,” Sessions said. “If there’s no clear plan, what would the president be asking us to do?”

Related:

McCarthy: ‘Friends Don’t Trust Us, Enemies Don’t Fear Us’

House, Senate Laying Groundwork for War on ISIS 

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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Boehner: Temporary Ex-Im Bank Deal Is in the Works

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Boehner signals an opening for an Ex-Im Bank deal . (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner was cagey Tuesday morning when asked whether an extension of the Export-Import Bank would be included on the upcoming continuing resolution to keep the government funded. But GOP leadership looks poised to extend the export credit agency, despite opposition from fiscal hawks and a couple of powerful conservative groups.

Boehner told reporters he was working out the details of an extension with Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, a prominent opponent of the bank, and the Ohio Republican said Hensarling “thinks the temporary extension of the Export-Import Bank is in order.”

“Whether it’s a separate issue or in the CR — yet to be decided,” Boehner said.

Hensarling has been the bank’s most formidable political barrier. But if the Texas Republican is onboard with a short-term extension, the matter becomes largely a fait accompli, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s on the CR or not. Putting it on the continuing resolution probably makes it easier to pass, as Democrats who may have been disinclined to vote for a short-term extension may be even more disinclined to vote against funding the government. Full story

September 8, 2014

Spurned Staffer Sends Email Accusing Top Republican of Ethics Violations

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A former staffer for McMorris Rodgers is accusing the fourth-ranked Republican in the House of impropriety. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A former communications director for House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers sent reporters a 1,959-word email Monday accusing the Washington Republican of “retribution” for in connection with an ethics complaint against her office — a serious charge that is the latest alleged impropriety in an ongoing Ethics Committee investigation.

Todd Winer, the former communications director for McMorris Rodgers and, more recently, for Rep. Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho, allegedly brought a complaint against McMorris Rodgers in July 2013 for using taxpayer-funded staff and resources in her bid to become conference chairwoman. The Office of Congressional Ethics referred the case to the Ethics Committee in February, and the Ethics Committee said it was continuing to investigate the matter in March.

Winer called CQ Roll Call after this story was published to deny he was the source of the original complaint.

Since the March announcement, there hasn’t been much public movement on the investigation and Winer, who was working for Labrador, stayed silent.

That is, until now. Full story

September 4, 2014

Details Emerge on House GOP’s September Agenda

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McCarthy shares House “to-do” list with fellow Republicans. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:58 p.m | A bill to fund the government, a resolution condemning the president for not notifying Congress about a prisoner swap and a package of jobs and energy bills are all on House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s latest memo to House Republicans. But notably absent is word on whether the House will vote to authorize military actions in the Middle East or extend the Export-Import Bank.

McCarthy laid out a hefty agenda for the House Thursday, telling his Republican colleagues to expect a vote on a continuing resolution soon as well as a resolution that would show disapproval for the Obama administration not providing 30 days of notice before trading five Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

McCarthy also put together a list of 14 bills that will comprise a jobs package and another 13 bills intended to lower energy costs.

Not mentioned in the lengthy memo is what the House will do regarding the Export-Import Bank, which expires Sept. 30, or a vote on authorizing military activities to combat the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Full story

House Republicans Plan Vote Condemning Obama for Bergdahl Swap

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House plans to vote on a resolution disapproving of President Barack Obama’s actions during the recent Taliban prisoner swap for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a memo from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Thursday.

In the memo to House Republicans, McCarthy mentioned a recent Government Accountability Office report on the prisoner swap which concluded the administration had not fulfilled its obligation in providing advance notice to Congress regarding the transfer of detainees from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

“The  law is clear, and therefore the House will consider H. Res. 644, authored by Representative Scott Rigell, which condemns the failure to comply with the statutory requirement to provide advance notice to Congress,” McCarthy said.

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September 2, 2014

Steve Scalise Rounds Out Staff

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Now hiring: House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As the new GOP leadership team continues to staff up, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise has announced a slate of new employees for his leadership and personal office.

Moira Bagley Smith, the former communications director for Sen. Rand Paul, has crossed the dome to become the House GOP whip’s new communications director. Smith — who once worked at Roll Call, the Republican National Committee and The Daily Caller — left Paul’s office at the end of 2013.

Scalise also announced the hiring of Dan Sadlosky as policy adviser. Sadlosky returns to Scalise’s office after a stint as a legislative assistant for Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash. He was previously a legislative assistant for Scalise as well.

In the same release, Scalise also announced the hiring of Conner Brace as a staff assistant and Kevin O’Keefe as an intern.

“I’m proud to welcome these new members to my Washington staff,” Scalise said in a press release. “All of them bring to the team their unique and varied experiences, dedication to public service, and commitment to representing the values, interests, and people of Southeast Louisiana. They will play an integral role as we work to unite the Republican Conference around conservative solutions that move America forward.”

The new hires come as the August recess draws to a close and the House begins its legislative dash to the November elections. Congress still has to pass a continuing resolution before Oct. 1 to keep the government funded, and the House could be dealing with legislation on war funding and authorization in the next month. Additionally, Scalise will face another leadership election shortly after the midterm elections, though it’s unclear if anyone will challenge him for the No. 3 spot.

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By Matt Fuller Posted at 6:01 p.m.
Steve Scalise

Cantor’s New Gig Will Pay More Than $1M Per Year

cantor001 073114 445x294 Cantors New Gig Will Pay More Than $1M Per Year

Cantor makes his way to the House floor in the Capitol on his last day as leader, (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

That didn’t take long.

Just weeks after Rep. Eric Cantor resigned from Congress — which was just days after he stepped down as House majority leader following his stunning primary defeat in June — the Virginia Republican has a new job.

He’ll be the vice chairman and managing director of Moelis & Company, which describes itself as “a leading global investment bank.” Cantor will also be elected to the bank’s board of directors, according to an official press release that went out Tuesday morning. Full story

August 18, 2014

Cantor Communications Director Lands at Purple

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Cooper, left, is joining a bipartisan firm. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former Eric Cantor communications director Rory Cooper has joined Purple Strategies, moving from Capitol Hill following his boss’ shocking loss to work as managing director for the Alexandria-based public relations shop.

Cooper, who starts Monday, will help design, sell and implement strategic campaigns for the bipartisan firm’s clients. “From the first minute I ever walked in the door at Purple, I knew this was going to be a team that I wanted to work with every day,” Cooper told CQ Roll Call.

Purple co-founder Steve McMahon lauded his new hire as “talented, tough and tenacious.”

Cooper, 37, worked for Cantor two years, coming to the Hill after four years at the Heritage Foundation and seven years in the George W. Bush administration. He padded his résumé in a number of roles: policy adviser at the Department of Energy, government affairs director at NASA and, at the White House, as a member of the team that helped create the Department of Homeland Security after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Full story

August 11, 2014

House Democrat: Look for Obama Impeachment if GOP Wins

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Clyburn predicts Obama’s impeachment if GOP holds House. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

During a Twitter town hall event Monday, Rep. James E. Clyburn, the assistant minority leader, predicted that if Republicans retain the House, President Barack Obama will be impeached.

Responding to a question from Twitter user @LiberalPhenom asking when Democrats would stand up to Republicans and shut down the talk of Obama’s impeachment, Clyburn didn’t seem to think there was a real way to do that.

Of course, Republicans already hold the House, and if any member wanted a vote on impeachment proceedings, he or she could get it within two legislative days.

While there has been some chatter on the right about impeachment, it’s been Democrats who have been using the talk to their benefit, fundraising off the threat and dinging Republicans for the thus-far-theoretical effort.

When CQ Roll Call checked in with some of the most conservative members of the House, no one seemed ready to draft articles of impeachment — at least not yet.

 

While Clyburn’s prediction is dependent on Republicans maintaining the House, it will likely be tested. Hardly anyone believes the House will flip control. Instead, this seems like another effort from Democrats to play up the impeachment talk to make the case that, come November, voters should go with Democrats.

By Matt Fuller Posted at 3:48 p.m.
Barack Obama

August 4, 2014

Marlin Stutzman’s Long Game

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Stutzman first arrived in 2010, and has bigger-picture goals that are years in the making. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Marlin Stutzman knows how to plant seeds.

When the Indiana Republican mounted his campaign for majority whip, it was such a long shot he didn’t expect to win — at least not this time.

No one else really expected Stutzman to prevail in the three-way leadership contest, either. But he’s looking years down the road, and is glad he took the gamble.

“Some people are afraid to lose. … Sometimes you have to lose in order to build something for the future,” Stutzman told CQ Roll Call during an hourlong interview in his 7th floor Longworth office.

It’s a lesson he knows well, as a member who entered the House in November 2010 after losing the Indiana Republican Senate primary to Dan Coats in May of that year.

Stutzman, who calls himself “an overachieving farmer,” didn’t see much downside to running and losing. This race was more about getting his name out there to let his colleagues know he’s interested in leadership.

His goal was to build relationships within the GOP conference. Stutzman said a lesson he learned from his scramble into leadership elections was that the conference is not as divided as many think, that the differences are more over strategy than policy.

So what does Stutzman want? The fourth-generation soybean, green bean and seed corn farmer doesn’t exactly seem to know.

Full story

July 31, 2014

House Sends Highway Bill Back to Senate

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Blumenauer expressed his dissatisfaction with the House’s move. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In the frenetic legislative run-up to the August recess, House lawmakers sent their version of a highway bill back to the Senate after voting to disagree with that chamber’s amendment to the legislation.

The House voted 272-150 to send the original $10.8 billion House bill back to the Senate, with 227 Republicans and 45 Democrats once again supporting the measure. Democrats had been considering voting down the highway bill in a gambit meant to force Republicans to accept the Senate changes, but that plan never quite materialized.

Still, significantly more Democrats voted against the House bill this time. On July 15, the House passed the bill 367-55, with 45 Republicans and 10 Democrats voting against it. This time, both Republicans and Democrats cracked down on their members to vote with their party.

On Tuesday, the Senate voted 79-18 to change some of the offsets in the bill and the length of the measure from May to December. The idea with changing the term of the bill is to force Congress to find a more permanent solution in the lame-duck session.

House Democrats came to the House floor Thursday to express their dissatisfaction with the patch.

Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., said that by insisting on the House bill, Congress would be denying certainty to the highway and construction industry.

“They are going to slide into the next Congress,” Blumenauer said. “We are going to duck all the tough issues. We haven’t heard anything that deals with how we are going to move forward.”

Fellow Oregon Democrat Peter A. DeFazio noted that the United States was now 26th in infrastructure in the world, and he said as former bicycle mechanic, he knew how to patch a tube. “But if you get to the point where you can’t see the tube anymore for the patches, then it’s time for a new tube.”

The bill now goes back to the Senate.

Cantor Delivers Final Speech as Majority Leader (Video)

Eric Cantor delivered a somber farewell as majority leader Thursday, telling his House colleagues that he has “truly lived the American Dream.”

In a “one-minute” speech that lasted nearly 10 minutes — the standing ovation alone stretched to 60 seconds — Cantor delivered a doleful goodbye from his leadership post.

In his farewell as majority leader, Cantor touched on his background and his legislative accomplishments, noting one of his “proudest moments” was watching the president sign the “Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act.” He outlined the direction he thought the country needed to go, and he thanked some of his colleagues and staff.

Presiding over the chamber, Speaker John A. Boehner dabbed at tears with a handkerchief as Cantor recognized him for showing “us all your kind heart and soft spot from time to time.” Cantor said that he and Boehner met at least once a day every day the House had been in session for the past five years — a testament to a relationship that saw its share of tumultuous moments but had been greatly repaired in recent years.

Already Cantor has slowly faded to the exit, stepping aside for new leaders after his surprise primary defeat in June to Republican challenger Dave Brat.

Full story

By Matt Fuller Posted at 12:45 p.m.
Eric Cantor

July 30, 2014

Ted Cruz Rallies House Conservatives to End ‘Obama’s Amnesty’

cruz001 052114 445x298 Ted Cruz Rallies House Conservatives to End Obamas Amnesty

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Ted Cruz rallied conservatives Wednesday to “end President Obama’s amnesty” in a meeting late Wednesday — as GOP leaders agreed to vote on legislation Cruz is backing to do just that.

Meeting in Cruz’s Dirksen office over We, The Pizza; Starburst; Skittles; Shiner Bock beer; Yuengling; white wine; and three selections of Dr. Pepper — Diet Dr. Pepper, Dr. Pepper Ten, and the original, full-flavored stuff — 13 House Republicans stopped by the Cruz gathering, which lasted more than an hour and 40 minutes.

The members, in the order in which they arrived, were: Reps. Steve King of Iowa, Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan, Steve Stockman of Texas, Randy Neugebauer of Texas, Paul Broun of Georgia, Todd Rokita of Indiana, John Fleming of Louisiana, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, and finally Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who showed up for the last 10 minutes of the meeting.

The major topic of discussion, members said, was opposition to the $659 million border supplemental bill if it did not include legislation Cruz wants ending President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which grants deportation relief to children brought here illegally by their parents. Full story

House Democrats Weigh Voting Down Highway Bill

Democrats are apparently considering a tactic of voting down the House highway bill in hopes that Republicans would have to accept the Senate measure that offers a different timeline for funding construction projects. Asked whether there would be new Democratic opposition to the bill on Wednesday, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland suggested it is possible.

“We think the Senate bill is far better policy, and we’re discussing now our response to that,” Hoyer told reporters.

The Senate passed an amended form of the bill Tuesday, 79-18, changing some of the offsets in the bill and the length of the measure from May to December. Though the Senate bill is a shorter term, the idea is to force Congress to find a more permanent solution in the lame-duck, not in May, at “the beginning of the next construction season,” as Hoyer put it.

Democrats overwhelmingly supported the House version of the bill on July 15 when the measure passed 367-55. There were 45 Republicans voting against the measure. If those same 45 Republicans maintain their opposition, Democrats could force the GOP’s hand. At the very least, some of the Republican dissenters would need to flip their vote to help the measure pass the chamber.

The same would be true of the Democrats who voted for the bill, which Speaker John A. Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel was happy to point out.

Full story

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