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April 24, 2014

Posts in "Appropriations"

April 10, 2014

Boehner Hammers Obama Administration Over Benghazi, IRS (Video)

Speaker John A. Boehner had a few things to say Thursday morning.

During his weekly press conference, which lasted just over 6 minutes, Boehner criticized former director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the IRS, Lois G. Lerner, and knocked Democrats for playing politics rather than working with Republicans to create jobs. But Boehner most notably and vociferously went after the Obama administration for putting up roadblocks to answers on Benghazi, Fast and Furious and the IRS scandal.

The Ohio Republican also addressed the recent kissing controversy surrounding Louisiana Republican Vance McAllister, saying he had spoken to the freshman Congressman and expects all members to be held to the highest ethical standards.

Boehner said Republicans were “trying to build a consensus” on an Obamacare replacement bill, and were waiting for Democrats to offer an unemployment extension that was paid for and would address the economic problems in the United States.

Boehner’s press conference turned into an outburst, however, when he fielded a question from Fox News’s Chad Pergram regarding Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s intimation that he had been treated unfairly because of his race.

Watch the full press conference below:

March 11, 2014

Cantor Scores First GOP Rebranding Win as Pediatric Research Bill Sails Through Senate

cantor121013 445x295 Cantor Scores First GOP Rebranding Win as Pediatric Research Bill Sails Through Senate

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., cheered the passage of one of his top priorities Tuesday, as a pediatric research funding bill he laboriously pushed through the House easily passed the Senate.

The bill is the first piece of legislation under the umbrella of Cantor’s much-publicized Republican rebrand to pass the Senate, and his office now expects President Barack Obama to sign the bill into law.

“So often everyone is focused on what Congress cannot accomplish that we overlook the good that can be done when both parties work together,” Cantor said in a statement.

Of course, the road to passage was not so simple for the legislation. It moves $126 million over 10 years that would be used to pay for political conventions into a fund that can only be applied to pediatric research through the National Institutes of Health.

Yet many House Republicans opposed the bill because they would rather see the money used to offset the deficit. Top Democrats, meanwhile, called the $126 million a pittance in the NIH budget and said Cantor was simply trying to obscure several years of Republican-led cuts to medical research.

It was not until Cantor rebranded the bill itself that he found legislative success.

The bill was renamed for Gabriella Miller, a 10-year-old Virginia girl who died last year. Afflicted with brain cancer, she nonetheless made viral YouTube videos advocating for heightened awareness for pediatric diseases.

With Miller’s parents watching from the House chamber’s visitors gallery, the bill passed in December on a 295-103 vote despite objections from Democratic leaders.

It passed the Senate on Tuesday with unanimous consent.

January 22, 2014

‘Regular Order’ Is a Tall Order in an Election Year

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Lummis said the open appropriations process simply takes too long to accomplish. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Lawmakers heralded the sweeping spending bill signed into law last week as a return to regular order, but politicking and the short election-year calendar have many doubtful that they can actually resume regular lawmaking at all.

Writing and passing the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill built trust among bipartisan House and Senate appropriators, who fashion themselves the last vestige of old-school, institutional policymaking. Both sides believe members of the other party want to pass and conference all 12 spending bills by the September deadline.

“We’ve got 12 bills. Those are going to be hard,” House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., said. “But … having amendments, debating your priorities, that’s good for the institution, that’s good for Congress. We need to reclaim the power of the purse.”

The budget deal Ryan negotiated with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., last year aids this process, starting both sides off with a common number of $1.014 trillion (not counting overseas contingency operations) for fiscal 2015 — $2 billion more than this year. What remains untested is whether congressional leaders and the rank and file are willing to let the process bear out.

The dilemma lies in the very openness regular order affords. House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., said he wants to see all 12 bills come to the floor under an open rule, meaning any lawmaker can offer amendments.

“We’ll take them through the regular process, you know, like a car wash, and the amendments will be fought out in subcommittee, then full committee then conference,” he said.

The problem with a car wash is while the vehicle might emerge sparkling clean, the grime always seems to rub off on someone nearby. In the case of spending bills, leaders may be wary of hundreds of politically charged amendments on everything from abortion to immigration to Obamacare — forcing swing-district members into tough votes while weighing bills down with poison-pill riders that cost bipartisan support.

Appropriators are bombarded with these riders, which they see as overtly political and often duplicative and come from members trying to look tough back home, particularly in election years.

“It’s maddening,” said Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., an appropriator and member of the GOP whip team. “I believe in regular order, but I believe in sane regular order where members aren’t just given the ability to grandstand for purely political purposes.”

It’s particularly maddening for appropriators when members secure amendments but vote against the underlying bill. Rooney said the whip team is already discussing ways to not only dissuade members from bringing those amendments, but to make it known on the floor who is offering amendments in good faith and who, as he put it, is “just grandstanding for their Facebook page.”

“We’re much more cognizant of that as we move forward and I am going to be a stickler about that as we move forward too because that drives me crazy,” he said. But, he added, it’s possible some bills move ahead, likely those dealing with military spending, while others are bundled into a continuing resolution.

The Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee bill, for instance, is routinely snagged by riders cutting funding to the EPA. Panel Chairman Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said he and his fellow cardinals must do a better job of persuading members to keep amendments to a minimum, particularly his fellow Republicans, who he said offer the bulk of the changes.

“Part of the challenge for us is convincing our members that adding 200 amendments to a bill is not really productive,” he said. “Make sure they’re meaningful amendments and not press release amendments.”

They have had limited success in that endeavor in the past. Conservative Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise, R-La., said he’s looking forward to amendments from his members targeting the IRS on the Financial Services Subcommittee bill and slashing Obamacare funding in the Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee product.

“That’s why we’re here is to tackle the tough issues,” he said. “We’re pushing them to do that. Our goal is to have a full open process.”

An analog problem for leaders is one of time. The process cannot start until the president sends his budget to Congress, which is not expected until well after the statutory Feb. 3 deadline. A return to regular order in the Senate would require far more than agreement on the top-line spending level; it would also necessitate a change in strategy on the part of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. GOP senators note that only four minority amendments have seen floor votes since July of last year, as Reid has repeatedly maneuvered to avoid having his vulnerable senators take tough votes.

And if the process isn’t finished by the August recess, any attempt at real policymaking will be eclipsed by pure politics until Election Day.

Appropriators estimate they will need a minimum of a full month of floor time, perhaps more, in June or July to complete the 12 bills. It is dubious, some aides said, that leaders would allot so much time in the dead center of a pivotal election year to unpredictable floor debates, rather than voting on targeted political messaging bills to corner their opponents.

And because each bill will likely come with hundreds of amendments, the open process simply takes too long, said Rep. Cynthia M. Lummis, a former appropriator. That is why she has come to favor a rule for floor debate that limits amendments.

“It would be literally unmanageable. When you’re allocating floor time, that’s not realistic,” the Wyoming Republican said. “I don’t believe a fully open rule is the way to go because of the effort of both parties to try to run out the clock on amendment after amendment” on the controversial bills.

Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, though, has made an open process a central plank of his tenure. That, said National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden is not likely to change.

“I don’t know if that’s in the speaker’s DNA,” the Oregonian said. “The one time you have the ability to come affect policy on the floor is during appropriations with amendments. I doubt that will be denied.”

January 17, 2014

The One House Appropriator Who Didn’t Vote for the Omnibus

kingston 195 101513 259x335 The One House Appropriator Who Didnt Vote for the Omnibus

Kingston speaks to reporters in October. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The omnibus passed the House this week in an overwhelming fashion, 359-67. But only one of the 67 lawmakers who voted against it is a member of the Appropriations Committee: Jack Kingston, an old-school appropriator who has become increasingly more conservative.

As the Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee chairman, Kingston is the third highest-ranking appropriator in the House. He was a big part of crafting the omnibus, particularly provisions heralded by conservatives for cutting money used to implement Obamacare. But apparently that wasn’t enough to appease the Georgia Republican. On Wednesday, he very quietly voted “no” without so much as a news release.

On Tuesday, while Kingston said he was undecided on the $1.1 trillion omnibus — which he said he was “still reading through” — he certainly sounded like a legislator who supported the measure.

“There are a lot of conservative victories in this bill,” he said in an off-the-floor interview. “And so I think people realize there are some things in here that were hard fought.” Full story

January 15, 2014

Appropriations Chairman ‘Giddy’ Over Blowout Omnibus Vote

rogers 018 070913 330x219 Appropriations Chairman Giddy Over Blowout Omnibus Vote

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers said he was “almost giddy” after the strong bipartisan vote to pass the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill on the House floor Wednesday afternoon.

“This gives us a big boost here, this vote, this big vote,” said the Kentucky Republican, “this spirit and attitude that prevailed.” Full story

House Passes $1.1 Trillion Omnibus

The House on Wednesday afternoon passed the $1.1 trillion omnibus appropriations bill funding the government through Sept. 30 with a large bipartisan majority.

Lawmakers voted 359-67 on the omnibus package of all 12 annual spending bills to fund federal operations, sending the bill to the Senate and almost certainly ending the risk of a government shutdown. Full story

By Emma Dumain Posted at 4:23 p.m.

January 14, 2014

Omnibus Expected to Pass, but Will Conservatives Fall in Line?

When the omnibus comes to the House floor on Wednesday, members won’t be asking whether the bill will pass but rather by how much.

The chances are slim that House Republicans, still fatigued from the political fallout of the government shutdown, will galvanize around bringing down the $1.1 trillion spending bill needed to fund the government through September.

“I think many of the members are resigned to the fact that we’re gonna pass an omnibus bill,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., who opposed the October shutdown strategy. “I think a lot of our members have learned some lessons since the shutdown.”

But the measure is a proverbial landmine for hard-line conservatives, prompting many of them to make carefully calibrated choices about how they’re going to vote.

On the eve of House floor consideration of the omnibus, a number of Republicans interviewed by CQ Roll Call were still mulling their options. Full story

January 13, 2014

A Few Highlights — Or Lowlights — From the Omnibus

On Monday evening, appropriators from both chambers unveiled a massive omnibus spending bill to fund the government through the end of September, the culmination of just a few weeks of work and bipartisan negotiations.

The House is expected to pass the 1,582-page package of all 12 appropriations bills this week, if for no other reason than to dispel anxiety over another government shutdown and encourage a return to the age of “regular order.”

But, as with any major piece of legislation, the final product necessitated some compromises, and there are policy riders that are sure to ruffle feathers from members on both sides of the aisle — even if they won’t be enough to sink the whole ship.

Here are a handful of the provisions House lawmakers will have to swallow in the name of passing the spending bill: Full story

January 9, 2014

Spending Bill Won’t Be Passed by Next Week’s Deadline, Appropriations Chairman Says

gop meeting008 101013 367x335 Spending Bill Wont Be Passed by Next Weeks Deadline, Appropriations Chairman Says

Rogers, center, said Congress will likely have to pass a stopgap spending measure before moving to an omnibus appropriations bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers told reporters Thursday afternoon that members should expect to vote on a very short-term continuing resolution next week — a sign that a final fiscal 2014 appropriations package will not be passed by the Jan. 15 deadline.

The Kentucky Republican would not get into details about what issues were preventing appropriators from unveiling the 12-bill omnibus imminently.

“I don’t think it would be wise to negotiate through the press,” he said. “We’re having very productive, quiet meetings, very sensible and responsible, and I think we’ll get there, but we still have some things yet to overcome.” Full story

By Emma Dumain Posted at 4:40 p.m.

January 3, 2014

Cantor Lays Out January Legislative Agenda

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Cantor, center, outlined the House’s January legislative agenda on Friday. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House will have a busy January judging by the lengthy legislative agenda Majority Leader Eric Cantor circulated among his colleagues on Friday.

The Virginia Republican’s memo, obtained by 218, lays out the obvious items of business: passing conference reports for the farm bill and for legislation funding the nation’s water programs, plus an appropriations bill for the remainder of fiscal 2014.

The GOP-run House will also continue to assail the president’s health care law, starting next week with a measure to address potential security breaches on Cantor released a memo on that specific priority on Thursday.

Cantor also told lawmakers to familiarize themselves with other initiatives that could come to the floor in the weeks ahead, such as a possible Iran sanctions resolution that has been on the back-burner since late last year.

Full story

December 30, 2013

The House Year in Review

This year, doing the business of the People’s House was, at best, a struggle. It’s well-known that 2013 was, legislatively, the least productive session in congressional history. Leaders strained to get to 218 — a majority in the 435-seat House (in case you had no idea where the blog name came from). And there were some pretty notable news stories as a result of all this congressional dysfunction.

But as painful as the year was for members, covering the House was a pleasure, one which we here at 218 only had the honor of doing for about half the year.

In that short time, 218 — or “Goppers,” as we were formerly known, which rhymes with “Whoppers,” for all you still wondering about that — had more than a few favorite stories.

Among the labors of love, there was a piece about the 10 Republicans who could one day be speaker, a story on an internal August playbook that went out to House Republicans telling them to profess how they were fighting Washington, and a piece (in response to his “calves the size of cantaloupes” comment) asking the question: How do you solve a problem like Steve King? Full story

December 12, 2013

House Passes Budget Deal

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House passed a budget agreement Thursday night that, though modest, could fundamentally change how Capitol Hill functions for the remainder of the 113th Congress.

Lawmakers voted 332-94 on the deal negotiated by House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Breaking the vote down by party, Republicans were split 169-62, while Democrats divided themselves 163-32.

The vote was a difficult one for many members. Full story

December 11, 2013

Democrats Holding Back on Budget Deal

House Democratic leaders responded Wednesday with reservations to the emerging budget deal, as few would commit publicly to the framework and none would say how many rank-and-file members would support it.

Only Rep. James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., stated his outright support for the agreement, which would shrink the sequester for two years but without raising any tax revenue. Most Democrats are concerned about extending unemployment benefits set to expire Dec. 28. But while leaders decried Republicans for not wanting to pass UI, they also largely declined to acknowledge in front of the cameras the political reality: Without a must-pass vehicle, jobless benefits are all but impossible to pass.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., would not say how she plans to vote but did not have many positive takes on the deal. According to aides, Republicans are going to need a good chunk of votes to approve the agreement, as they expect to lose quite a few Democrats.

Full story

December 10, 2013

33 House Republicans Want a Sequester-Level CR, Just in Case

Thirty-three conservative House Republicans — including one committee chairman — have signed onto a letter urging leadership to bring to the floor a “clean” one-year continuing resolution that funds the government at sequester levels.

But don’t construe this plea as a coordinated assault on a budget deal that could emerge as soon as Tuesday afternoon, according to Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, who spearheaded the letter along with Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise.

And don’t use it to characterize how all the lawmakers would vote should the deal replace the sequester, as expected.

“The letter is not, ‘What are we going to vote for, what can we support?,’” Mulvaney told CQ Roll Call in a phone interview. “All we’re saying is, ‘Look, if we don’t get anything we can support, we are not going to tolerate a government shutdown.’” Full story

December 6, 2013

All Quiet on the Conference Front

murray ryan 323 103013 445x315 All Quiet on the Conference Front

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

No news is, well, news, as Congress nears pressing deadlines to reach a budget deal and pass a farm bill — and there doesn’t appear to be an agreement for either one, at least before Monday.

House GOP aides familiar with the status of both negotiations say conferees will continue to talk in the days ahead, but there are no formal scheduled meetings at the moment.

“We’re waiting on some of the proposals that were discussed Wednesday to be scored and then they’ll reassess accordingly,” said a House GOP aide familiar with the farm bill negotiations. The top four farm bill conferees met on Wednesday and described the meeting as “productive.” Full story

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