Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 18, 2014

Posts by Steven Dennis

67 Posts

April 9, 2014

GOP Post: Unemployment Extension Won’t Create Jobs

A Wednesday afternoon blog post by Ways and Means Republicans suggests that blocking an unemployment benefits extension may have boosted the economy.

“What Happened Since Extended Unemployment Benefits Ended?” the post asks. “More Jobs and Less Long-Term Unemployment, for Starters.”

The post said the emergency unemployment compensation program assisted 24 million people over 5.5 years at a cost of more than $260 billion.

“Despite Democrat claims that spending on unemployment benefits ‘creates jobs faster than almost any initiative you can name,’ all this record-setting benefit spending has bought in recent years is the slowest jobs recovery on record,” the post said. Full story

April 7, 2014

Unemployment Extension: Senate Passage Puts Bill in Boehner’s Court

GOP Caucus 21 121113 445x315 Unemployment Extension: Senate Passage Puts Bill in Boehners Court

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Senate’s vote late Monday to pass an unemployment extension doesn’t mean the more than 2 million people who have lost their benefits can rest easy — the House isn’t likely to touch the issue until the end of the month, if at all.

While a band of House moderates have written to leaders asking them to consider the issue promptly — either with the Senate’s bill or an alternative — Speaker John A. Boehner has been clear that the Senate measure fails to meet his tests of creating jobs and being fiscally responsible. The Ohio Republican hasn’t put forward an alternative of his own.

The real question for House Republicans seems to be this — is there something they can get out of the White House and congressional Democrats in return for releasing benefits to the unemployed? Full story

April 4, 2014

Moran Reignites Perennial Pay Raise Debate

Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., isn’t the only lawmaker to spark a national debate over congressional pay in recent years.

Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy took flak in 2011 when he said he was struggling to pay his bills.

Last year, Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, the second richest member of Congress, complained on the House floor about having to pay higher health insurance premiums.

And Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., got into hot water during last year’s shutdown when she initially refused to give up her pay. “I need my paycheck. That is the bottom line,” she said, before later backtracking.

The issue, of course has perennially been a thorny one for members of Congress. Decades ago, a freshman Moran and a freshman Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, were among the 35 new lawmakers who banded together to push pay raise reform.

Over the years, leaders in both parties have worked across the aisle to protect their pay raises, although in recent years, congressional pay has been frozen, including with a provision in the fiscal cliff deal.

‘Underpaid’ Jim Moran One of the Poorest Members of Congress

moran 030 030114 445x296 Underpaid Jim Moran One of the Poorest Members of Congress

(By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. James P. Moran, who has sparked a national debate after saying that lawmakers on Capitol Hill are “underpaid,” is one of the poorest members of Congress after decades in office and a host of financial troubles over the years.

Moran’s latest financial disclosure statement lists a single reportable financial asset to his name — a money market account with $1,000 to $15,000. He doesn’t list any liabilities.

In fact, Moran has been pulling down a second job of sorts, making $10,000 in 2012 for teaching at George Mason University.

He’s not quite poor enough to land him on this year’s Top 10 ‘Poorest’ list, however.

The longtime appropriator has had plenty of financial difficulties in the past — but has at times been a millionaire too, thanks to marriage.

(Related: Jim Moran, John Boehner Sought Congressional Pay Raise Reform as Freshmen)

Moran in 2004 described himself as “the poorest member of Congress” after he racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses from options trading. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 2:35 p.m.
Ethics

April 3, 2014

Obama Talks Pope, Ukraine, IMF With Boehner, Pelosi, Reid, McConnell

Updated 10 a.m. | President Barack Obama discussed the crisis in Ukraine, his visit with Pope Francis and other issues with congressional leaders Thursday evening at the White House, according to a readout from a White House official.

The meeting with Congress’s big four — Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. — was called by Obama to discuss his big overseas trip and Ukraine.

The White House readout noted the president’s discussion with Pope Francis of immigration and reducing inequality. UPDATE: A Boehner aide said Friday, however, that there was no discussion of immigration at Thursday’s meeting.

Immigration has stalled in the House, and the leaders have been far apart on the president’s agenda to combat inequality, including a minimum wage hike and an extension of unemployment benefits.

Obama also once again urged the leaders to pass IMF legislation, which Boehner has refused to bring to the House floor, and updated the leaders on nuclear security and Saudi Arabia.

Here’s the full White House readout: Full story

March 28, 2014

Judiciary Committee Tries to Assert Jurisdiction on FISA Rewrite

goodlatte 071 011514 261x335 Judiciary Committee Tries to Assert Jurisdiction on FISA Rewrite

Goodlatte is the chairman of the judiciary committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans and Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are trying to assert jurisdiction over legislation revamping the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs — days after the bipartisan leadership of the Intelligence Committee outlined its own plan.

Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., ranking Democrat John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Robert C. Scott, D-Va., issued a cautionary joint statement about President Barack Obama’s latest proposal to end the government’s bulk collection of telephone records and make other changes to intelligence gathering.

Full story

Mike Rogers Retirement Leaves Big Hole in the House

rogers ruppersberger 178 032514 445x296 Mike Rogers Retirement Leaves Big Hole in the House

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The retirement announcement of Intelligence Chairman Mike J. Rogers Friday morning leaves a big hole for the House — and the Sunday talk show circuit — to fill.

Rogers, who will become a radio talk show host, had become in some ways the face of the intelligence community on television, racking up more Sunday show appearances than any other member of Congress each of the last two years. The telegenic former FBI agent repeatedly defended the National Security Agency against attacks following the avalanche of leaks by Edward Snowden, often taking a harder line than the White House.

Rogers had been a hawk against leaks — at one point suggesting the death penalty should be considered for Chelsea Manning for leaking documents to Wikileaks. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 10:15 a.m.
NSA

March 25, 2014

CBO Reaffirms: Immigration Bill Cuts Deficit $900 Billion Over 20 Years

tree lighting009 120313 445x288 CBO Reaffirms: Immigration Bill Cuts Deficit $900 Billion Over 20 Years

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday that the immigration overhaul being pushed by House Democrats — and nearly identical to the version that passed out of committee in the Senate — would slice the deficit by about $900 billion over 20 years.

In a letter to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., CBO Executive Director Douglas Elmendorf essentially reiterated the CBO’s earlier forecast for the Senate’s overhaul, while noting that the House version, H.R. 15, does not include $38 billion for border security in the first 10 years like the bill that passed the Senate. The CBO has estimated nearly $200 billion in cost savings in the first decade and about $700 billion in the second. Full story

March 24, 2014

Tax Reform to Start With Baby Steps in the House

camp 177 022614 445x296 Tax Reform to Start With Baby Steps in the House

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp is pushing ahead with an incremental approach on tax reform for now.

In a memo to committee colleagues on Monday, the Michigan Republican said he planned to take several steps over the next several months, “pav[ing] the way for tax reform by making incremental progress towards full reform.”

In addition to holding “bipartisan meetings with the staff of the [Joint Committee on Taxation] until we have walked through the entire draft” and convening “public hearings on specific portions of the bill,” Camp said that the panel would mark up “permanent legislation” to address the so-called tax extenders which expire every year. Full story

March 13, 2014

Obama Considering New Immigration Enforcement Changes (Updated)

Updated 10:18 p.m. | President Barack Obama told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus leadership Thursday evening he’s considering more changes to the enforcement of immigration laws, amid growing unrest among his allies over his deportation record.

“The President emphasized his deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system,” the White House said in a readout of the meeting. “He told the members that he has asked Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to do an inventory of the Department’s current practices to see how it can conduct enforcement more humanely within the confines of the law.” Full story

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

DCbuildings 007 120213 445x289 Republicans Block Democratic Attempt to Force Public Issa Apology on House Floor (Updated) (Video)

(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

Dingell Has ‘Minimally Invasive’ Heart Procedure in Detroit Hospital (Updated)

Updated 12:55 p.m. | Rep. John D. Dingell underwent a “minimally invasive” heart procedure today at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and is “resting comfortably,” according to his office.

“He recently developed atrial fibrillation, and the procedure will seek to find the source of the abnormal heart rhythm and correct it. He is expected to stay in the hospital overnight and be released Friday,” his office said in a statement.

The Michigan Democrat plans to have a light workload during next week’s recess and plans to return to work when Congress reconvenes March 24.

Dingell recently announced that he would not run for re-election.

By Steven Dennis Posted at 8:54 a.m.
Breaking News

March 6, 2014

Issa Apologizes to Cummings, but Accuses Him of ‘Hissy Fit’ (Updated)

DCbuildings 007 120213 445x289 Issa Apologizes to Cummings, but Accuses Him of Hissy Fit (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated March 7, 6:20 p.m. | In an interview with his local newspaper, Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa said he has apologized to Rep. Elijah E. Cummings for cutting off his microphone at a Wednesday hearing — although in a separate interview he told Fox News that Cummings had a “hissy fit” and “broke the decorum of the House.”

“Mr. Cummings is a member of Congress who works very hard for his constituents,” Issa told U-T San Diego after the House voted 211-186 on party lines to shelve a resolution offered by Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Marcia Fudge to condemn Issa’s actions.  Fudge also wrote to Speaker John A. Boehner asking the Ohio Republican to strip Issa of his gavel over his treatment of Cummings, D-Md.

Boehner had backed Issa and said he was within his rights to adjourn the hearing. Full story

March 5, 2014

Administration Extends Obamacare Grandfathering for 2 More Years

If people like their old health care plans, they can keep them for another two years, the administration said late Wednesday.

In a move that was pre-emptively attacked by House Republican leaders, the administration said plans that were grandfathered for one year after millions received cancellation notices in the individual market will now be able to continue, but will not be able to be renewed after Oct. 1, 2016. The announcement means an estimated 500,000 people in those plans won’t get cancellation notices right before the midterm elections, but does set up a situation where some could get cut off right before the next presidential election.

“This reeks of politics,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio. “Instead of working with Congress to prevent Americans from losing the plans they like and can afford, the president is unilaterally re-writing laws around the election calendar. You have to wonder if he’s more interested in keeping his promise or keeping seats in the Senate.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., ripped reports of this and other delays by the administration as the House voted to delay the individual mandate Wednesday. Full story

Issa Cuts Off Cummings at IRS Hearing (Updated) (Video)

oversight005 091913 445x294 Issa Cuts Off Cummings at IRS Hearing (Updated) (Video)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo) 

Updated 11:57 a.m. | House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., cut off Rep. Elijah E. Cummings’ microphone and adjourned this morning’s hearing on the IRS while Cummings was still speaking — marking a new low in the pair’s rocky relationship.

The dust-up came at the end of the hearing where IRS official Lois Lerner again pleaded the Fifth Amendment and refused to testify — when Cummings, the ranking member of the panel and a Maryland Democrat, sought to ask a question and make a statement on the IRS inquiry.

But Issa cut off Cummings’ microphone with a hand to the throat gesture as Cummings started to make a statement about Issa’s handling of the investigation instead of asking a question.

Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 11:05 a.m.
Darrell issa
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