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OKLAHOMA CITY — This is a state that knows what it’s like to recover from a disaster.
From the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, to the destruction wreaked by two of the largest tornadoes ever recorded tearing through its suburbs, there has been a thread running through the tragedies: Oklahomans pull together.
Revisiting the areas most devastated by the deadly Moore tornado in 2013, it’s clear rubble is not the only thing that’s lingered. At the busy intersection of Telephone Road and Southwest Fourth Street in Moore, signs of rebuilding are slowly starting to appear. The tornado leveled part of the neighborhood and a gas station, ripped through a medical complex and crumpled cars from the nearby highway, tossing them in another direction.
More than a year later, slabs of concrete are all that remain of large buildings. Wreaths and crosses still dot the ground where some didn’t survive. But new shops and buildings have opened, presenting physical evidence of Oklahomans’ resilience in times of disaster.
The sense of community here goes far beyond the usual camaraderie in which any state could express pride. The Oklahoma congressional delegation likes to express that pride, and some have given the deep bonds within the community a name.
“Oklahoma has a respect for our neighbors,” Rep. Markwayne Mullin told CQ Roll Call in an interview. “That’s the Oklahoma standard.”
Marijuana, accusations of perjury, election integrity and asparagus were the range of topics covered in Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing. Attorney General Eric Holder testified before the committee in a hearing designed for oversight on the Department of Justice. Holder and members of the committee had some tense exchanges as congressmen tried to nail down the attorney general on specific enforcement of laws. Check out Roll Call’s top moments below:
As Hannah Hess reported, Holder was asked by members from both sides of the aisle about the current marijuana laws and if the Obama administration has any plans to change how they classify drug offenses:
Holder also said the DOJ won’t scale back marijuana punishments by rescheduling the drug, as House Democrats have been pushing President Barack Obama to do, saying he was “satisfied” with what the department is doing.
“The notion that somehow we have retreated from our enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act with regard to marijuana is not accurate,” Holder told the House Judiciary Committee. He reiterated a DOJ memo laying out eight areas of priority for pot prosecutions, including marketing to minors, driving under the influence and criminal cartels.
“That’s not inconsistent with, I think, the way in which the Justice Department was acting before,” Holder continued in response to a question from Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C. “We remain committed to enforcement of marijuana laws that would involve those eight factors,” he added.
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., asked Holder if he was planning to investigate Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper for alleged perjury. As Roll Call previously reported, Holder declined to confirm or deny that the director was under investigation:
“Director Clapper’s perjury in my opinion has been covered extensively,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “In light of this, are you willing to discuss whether or not the Justice Department is investigating Director Clapper for his statements before the Senate?
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. refused to say whether the DOJ was conducting an investigation.
“I’m really not in a position to confirm whether the department is investigating any particular matter, but we are reviewing the material that you and other members of the committee have provided to us, and I can assure you that we will take any action that is appropriate,” Holder said.
Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-VA., started off the hearing saying he was “concerned” about directives issued by the Department of Justice about the President’s ability to determine which laws to prosecute. “I am concerned about some of the decisions and some of the directives that have been issued by you and others in the Department of Justice,” Goodlatte said. “Is it your view that there is any limit to the president’s prosecutorial discretion?”
Holder said that the discretion must be done in a “constitutional way” and added that there is a “vast amount of discretion.”
“…[D]iscretion has to be used in an appropriate way so that you’re acting consistent with the aims of the statute,” Holder said. “But at the same time, making sure that you are acting in a way that’s consistent with our values, consistent with the Constitution and protecting the American people.”
Representative Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and the Attorney General had a very tense exchange during the hearing. The two have a long history of tense committee banter and Holder took the chance to remind the Texas Republican of their previous history when he ended their Tuesday exchange with, “good luck with your asparagus.”
Watch the full hearing below and visit Roll Call’s YouTube page for previous hearings and full weekly leadership pressers.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra’s testimony before Tuesday’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee had fairly low drama despite the emotional subject matter. The hearing — titled “The GM Ignition Switch Recall: Why Did It Take So Long?” — was meant to investigate GM’s culpability and response to faulty ignition switches in small cars. The ignition switches are believed to have resulted in injuries and deaths of several car owners.
According to CQ.com, House Investigators found that GM knew about the defects for a decade:
Investigators for subcommittee reported that GM executives knew for more than a decade about the defective ignition switches. In findings released over the weekend, the House investigators said federal highway safety regulators identified potential problems with Chevrolet Cobalts as early as 2007 but saw no “discernible trend” and “decided not to pursue a more formal investigation.”
Members pressed Barra on GM’s response and asked her to define what future steps the car company was going to take to avoid safety issues in the future. “Our customers who have been affected by this recall are getting our full and undivided attention,” Barra said.
Before the hearing, members and customers affected by the faulty ignition switches held a press conference asking for legislative support and asked GM to create a fund for the victims. Below are photos from that press conference and from the hearing captured by the CQ-Roll Call photo team:
Updated 3:55 p.m. | General Motors CEO Mary Barra is testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on Tuesday as part of an investigation into the company’s recall of ignition switches. David Friedman, the acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is also scheduled to testify.
Roll Call will be updating this post with video of the testimony from the hearing — titled “The GM Ignition Switch Recall: Why Did It Take So Long?” — which is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. Eastern.
Ms. Barra vowed to “find out” why there was a long delay in GM announcing a safety defect in her opening statement before the committee. “Sitting here today, I cannot tell you why it took so long for a safety defect to be announced for this program. But I can tell you we will find out.”
From a promising candidate in 1999 to a successful member of leadership in 2014, CQ Roll Call’s photography team has followed Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., throughout his career in Congress. Rogers’ retirement is expected to leave a “big hole” in the House, considering his extensive work with U.S. intelligence and national security.
Rogers is the 22nd member and 12th Republican to retire from Congress this cycle. You can find out more about retirements at Roll Call’s Casualty List.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer sparred over unemployment benefits Friday as they discussed next week’s floor schedule.
Cantor confirmed that the House would move on a short-term stopgap spending bill next week and the three day measure would expire on Saturday, Jan. 18 — a date picked to give both chambers some wiggle room to pass an omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year.
Cantor also complained about the lack of bipartisan support for a GOP job-training bill and suggested that Congress should be correcting the problem of chronic unemployment through such training. The Virginia Republican invited Hoyer to look “toward the more optimistic future for this country and economy.”
Hoyer, D-Md., said passing a long-term job-training bill wouldn’t solve the short-term problem of families who are looking to put “food on their table today, tomorrow and the next day.”
“I think the richest country on the face of the earth can do both,” Hoyer said. “I think that we ought to do both, and we have done both in the past.”