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October 21, 2014

Posts in "Barack Obama"

October 17, 2014

Before Ending Chairmanship, Issa Sets Ebola Hearing for Oversight

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Issa will chair a House hearing on Ebola. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

California Republican Darrell Issa has a well-deserved reputation for finding ways to bring the issue of the moment into his committee’s jurisdiction.

President Barack Obama’s handling of the Ebola crisis is no exception.

On Friday afternoon, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman announced he would convene a full panel hearing in seven days, on Oct. 24, titled, “The Ebola Crisis: Coordination of a Multi-Agency Response.” Full story

GOP Lawmakers: Congress Should Pass Ebola Travel Ban

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King wants a vote banning flights from Ebola-stricken countries. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Will the House interrupt its recess to vote on a travel ban or visa suspensions to prevent the further spread of Ebola on U.S. soil?

Highly unlikely.

After all, as airstrikes began in Syria earlier this month to combat the Islamic State terror group, members on both sides of the aisle were calling for Congress to return and vote on a formal Authorization for Use of Military Force measure.

GOP leadership didn’t bite, with Speaker John A. Boehner saying he would only be inclined to reconvene the House if President Barack Obama sent Congress the AUMF language.

In the case of Ebola, senior House Republicans are also downplaying the need to rush back to Washington for a vote on restricting travel from affected African countries to the United States. The Obama administration, they argue, should be taking such action without being compelled to by Congress.

“Let’s first see if the president is willing to work with us to do [a travel ban] now,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., told a small group of reporters Thursday. “He loves to brag about how he can do things with a pen and a phone. … He can approve a travel ban. Today. And we’ve called on him to do that. So let’s see what he says.”

Scalise, a member of the Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, was back on Capitol Hill to participate in a special hearing to probe the Ebola response by the federal government. The occasion pulled many members off the campaign trail, including Senate hopefuls Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Bruce Braley, D-Iowa.

But a subcommittee hearing during a recess, when participation is voluntary, isn’t the same as recalling the House to take a recorded vote, a precarious exercise just weeks before the midterm elections.

Regardless, a handful of lawmakers were clamoring for just that Friday.

 

Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., joined forces with Sen. David Vitter, R-La., sending a letter to Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., urging emergency sessions on both sides of the Rotunda to institute travel bans while “the Obama administration has failed to recognize this public health threat.” Vitter’s Senate colleague, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, also wants members back on Capitol Hill to confront the issue.

Another Florida Republican, Rep. Dennis A. Ross, already has legislative text ready to go that would bar commercial flights to and from Ebola-affected countries until the virus is no longer a threat.

He’ll introduce it when Congress returns for next month’s lame-duck session, Ross said in a statement, though he added that he holds out hope Boehner would “quickly call Congress back into session to debate my legislation.”

 

Related:

Ebola Sparks Obama to Shake Up Leadership Style

For Senate Candidates, Ebola Hearing Takes Precedence Over Stump

As Ebola Crisis Escalates, Lawmakers on Both Sides Turn Up Heat

Murphy: CDC Needs Tighter Ebola Screening Rules

Ohio Senators Seek Information as Cleveland Faces New Ebola Risk

Democratic Senator: Restrict Africa Visas Due to Ebola

 

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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October 16, 2014

Republicans, Democrats Trade Punches Over CDC, NIH Ebola Funding

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Scalise says Democrats are politicizing Ebola.  (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House majority whip lashed out at Democrats Thursday for trying to blame Republicans for sanctioning cuts to medical research that might have helped curb the spread of Ebola in the United States.

“It’s a ludicrous attack,” Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., told a small group of reporters following an Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on the Obama administration’s handling of the Ebola crisis.

“You had a hearing today with a number of officials … and not one person asked for an additional dime of money,” Scalise went on. “[Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas] Frieden himself has actually made public comments that he has the resources they need.” Full story

Democrats Blame Budget Battles for Fumbled Ebola Response (Updated)

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The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health officials appeared before a House subcommittee Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 1:50 p.m. | Democrats at Thursday’s rare mid-recess Ebola hearing pushed back at criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of the crisis, arguing that missteps in the federal response are due in part to budget standoffs and last year’s government shutdown.

Colorado’s Diana DeGette, the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee holding the hearing, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has come under fire since the arrival of the virus in the U.S., cannot do its job adequately without proper funding from Congress.

She reiterated a key element of the Obama administration’s approach to addressing the Ebola outbreak: that efforts to contain the disease must be focused on Africa.

“There is no such thing as fortress America when it comes to disease,” she said.

California’s Henry A. Waxman, in his opening statement, echoed his Democratic colleague’s remarks, telling the panel that congressional budget fights that led to sequesters and last year’s government shutdown contributed to the problems with the U.S. response.

“We have our share of responsibility by not funding the infrastructure,” Waxman said.

“Since 2006, CDC’s budget, adjusted for inflation, has dropped by 12 percent. Funding for the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Cooperative Agreement, which supports state and local health departments preparedness activities, has been cut from $1 billion in its first year of funding in 2002 to $612 million in 2014. All of these were also subject to the sequestration. And those who allowed that sequestration to happen by closing the government have to answer to the American people, as well,” said the California Democrat, who is retiring at the end of this term.

Pennsylvania Republican Tim Murphy, chairman of the subcommittee, in his opening remarks said if additional resources are needed, federal officials need to speak up.

“The trust and credibility of the administration and government are waning as the American public loses confidence each day with demonstrated failures of the current strategy,” he said.

“If resources or authorization is needed to stop Ebola in its tracks, tell us in Congress. I pledge — and I believe this committee joins me in pledging — that we will do everything in our power to work with you to keep the American people safe from Ebola outbreak in West Africa,” he said.

 

Related:

Ebola Sparks Obama to Shake Up Leadership Style

As Ebola Crisis Escalates, Lawmakers on Both Sides Turn Up Heat

Murphy: CDC Needs Tighter Ebola Screening Rules

Ohio Senators Seek Information as Cleveland Faces New Ebola Risk

Democratic Senator: Restrict Africa Visas Due to Ebola

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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October 15, 2014

Retiring Bachmann Signals She’s Still in the Game

 Retiring Bachmann Signals Shes Still in the Game

Bachmann spoke Wednesday at the Heritage Foundation. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Michele Bachmann may be retiring at the end of this year, but the woman who rose to prominence by founding the Congressional Tea Party Caucus in 2010 and running for president in 2012 isn’t leaving Washington, D.C., quietly.

In a speech and brief question-and-answer session Wednesday morning at the Heritage Foundation — billed as one of her last public speaking engagements as a member of the House of Representatives — the Minnesota Republican refreshed her audience on the history of the tea party movement and made a case for continuing the fight against higher taxes and bigger government.

But Bachmann also made a handful of policy recommendations that indicate she plans to remain engaged in the political debate, albeit from outside Capitol Hill.

Full story

October 9, 2014

McCarthy Riffs on SNL’s ‘The Californians’ With Highway Tips for Obama

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McCarthy riffs on SNL’s “Californians” with driving tips for Obama. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, showing off a lighter side rarely seen in his predecessor, offered some overly-elaborate highway navigation tips — a la Saturday Night Live’s soap-opera parody “The Californians” — for President Barack Obama’s fundraising trip to the West Coast.

The Bakersfield native, who took over the No. 2 position in the House from Virginia Republican Eric Cantor less than three months ago, made the driving suggestions in a press release encouraging the president to get out of Los Angeles and visit struggling agricultural areas in the state’s interior.

Borrowing from SNL’s goofy recurring sketch, in which characters with exaggerated Valley accents obsess over navigational details, McCarthy (or, more likely, his press shop) offered Obama an alternative to hanging out in Hollywood with the glitterati:

“He should take Colorado to Lincoln, hop on the 10, go north on the 405 to the 5 — get off at Lyons for a double-double from In-n-Out — then take the 5 to the 99 to the 65.”

Here’s the whole release:

In California, the President Should Take the 10 to the 405 to the 5 to…

Today, the President will be in West L.A. enjoying the Santa Monica sunshine and giving a speech on the economy. The President has been talking a lot lately about how great the economy is doing. While it may look good for some in the Los Angeles basin, a trip throughout the Golden state would show the President that many Californians are frustrated with his Administration’s economic policies.

So, before the President leaves California, he should take a little trip. He should take Colorado to Lincoln, hop on the 10, go north on the 405 to the 5—get off at Lyons for a double-double from In-n-Out—then take the 5 to the 99 to the 65.

On this route, he’ll pass through Bakersfield and into the Central Valley, where the nation’s largest vegetable, fruit, and nut producers are located. But right now the drought has made life tough for people in Central Valley communities, and the Obama Administration’s policies sure haven’t helped. Sadly, the Obama economy and the Administration’s harmful water regulatory burdens have left California in a far more precarious place than West L.A.

Labor force participation in California is only 61.9 percent, below the national rate of 62.7 percent, which is a full 3.4 percent lower than in 2008. Unemployment in counties across California, especially in the Central Valley, is still in the double digits.

If the President is serious about growing the economy and creating opportunity in California, he should direct his Administration to immediately ease the harmful policies that send precious water out to the ocean instead of to our communities. That would create real economic growth and provide greater opportunity to the next generation of our farmers.

So while the President is out West, he should take a trip on the freeway out of the big cities and see how the rest of California is doing.

 

Related:

Kevin McCarthy Elected Majority Leader

McCarthy Will Have to Prove Himself on Policy, Fundraising 

Majority Leader-Elect McCarthy Inherits Top Cantor Aides

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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October 7, 2014

Murphy: CDC Needs Tighter Ebola Screening Rules

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Murphy wants tighter travel restrictions on Ebola-afflicted countries. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention need to move more quickly to tighten restrictions on travelers coming to the U.S. from Ebola-afflicted areas, said Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa.

Murphy, a member of the GOP Doctors Caucus, told CNN Tuesday morning that the enhanced screening processes proposed so far by the CDC do not go far enough. Murphy wants to see some travel from West Africa restricted until visitors are proven virus-free.

The CDC has pushed back against tighter travel restrictions on Liberia, the African nation at the center of the epidemic, arguing that such rules could hamper the American-led effort to contain the outbreak.

“For [the CDC] to simply be dismissive and say ‘We can’t isolate those countries,’ they’re going down the wrong rabbit hole and trying to give the American public a false sense of security,” Murphy said.

“The chance of getting this, spreading across 300 million Americans, is certainly very small. But the American public certainly is also saying ‘We don’t want this to be spreading at all,’” the congressman said.

“No one is saying, ‘quarantine an entire continent.’ What we’re saying is more sophisticated screening, look at travel restrictions for individuals, continue to send aid there,” the six-term congressman said. “We’re not saying isolate everything from that. But right now the CDC is saying, ‘It’s OK for people to come and go, we’ll just ask some questions.’ It’s not enough. I don’t think the American public is comfortable with that. I hope in the next few days the CDC is going to ramp up other ways of screening folks and having more restrictions on people coming out of Africa.”

Murphy is one of a growing number of lawmakers, including the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat, New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, calling for a more robust federal response to the outbreak.

Schumer on Sunday said screenings should include, “fever checks and health surveys in both airports and ports.”

Murphy is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, is scheduled to hold an Ebola hearing on Capitol Hill next week.

The House Homeland Security Committee will hold its own Ebola hearing on Friday at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

That committee’s chairman, Texas Republican Michael McCaul, said the hearing is being held at the airport to symbolize the interconnectedness of a world in which “threats to the homeland are only a flight away.”

Correction, 3:40 p.m.: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the name of the committee and the time of the hearing. The hearing was last month before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

 

Related:

CDC Director Testifies on Ebola Crisis

Schumer: Screen Passengers From Ebola-Stricken Areas

No Ebola Travel Ban, White House Says

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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October 1, 2014

Losing Cummings Set Off Chain Reaction for Secret Service Director

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When Cummings lost confidence in Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, others followed. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As CNN’s Wolf Blitzer noted Wednesday afternoon, when a White House appointee loses the backing of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Elijah E. Cummings, you know you’re in trouble.

That’s where embattled Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, appointed to the job less than two years ago by President Barack Obama, found herself Thursday as a growing chorus of lawmakers — including Democrats Cummings and Pelosi — demanded answers and accountability for an embarrassing series of security lapses involving the agency.

Cummings, the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was the first, most senior Democrat to suggest that maybe it was time for new leadership at the Secret Service.

Wednesday morning, less than 24 hours after Pierson’s problematic testimony at a rare, mid-recess hearing on Capitol Hill, Cummings told MSNBC that his “confidence and trust” in Pierson “had eroded,” and that he did “not feel comfortable with her” in charge of the agency.

Those comments seemed to have set off a chain reaction among lawmakers in both parties struggling with their positions on whether Pierson should stay or go.

Soon after, Pelosi announced at a press conference that if Cummings was bothered by Pierson’s record at the Secret Service, then so was she.

I support his suggestion,” Pelosi told reporters. “I am subscribing to his superior judgment and knowledge on the subject.”

On the other side of the aisle, South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy cited Cummings, too.

“When Elijah Cummings says that he has lost confidence in someone, the White House better pay attention,” Gowdy told Fox News.

“He’s hardly a tea party Republican,” said Gowdy, the chairman to Cummings’ ranking member on the special Benghazi investigative committee. “He does not criticize the administration unless it’s warranted. And, he has lost confidence in Director Pierson’s leadership.”

And Cummings’ comments were an indication of how little support Pierson could expect from Democrats on Capitol Hill. This was, after all, a lawmaker who, in February, had been described by a spokesman for Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa as an “errand runner for the Obama White House.”

In an interview with CQ Roll Call Wednesday evening, Cummings said he hadn’t heard about Gowdy’s comments from earlier in the day, but that he was gratified by them.

“I think it is — I hope, I hope — it’s about integrity,” he said. “But also always putting the country first.”

“Put country before party,” he added, giving a shout-out to the late Republican Rep. Jack Kemp, who used the phrase often.

 

Related:

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson Resigns

Boehner Slams ‘Incompetence’ at Secret Service, Wants Review

Pelosi Calls for Review of Secret Service Security Lapses

Secret Service Takes Beating in Rare Recess Hearing

Secret Service Director Testimony Omits Elevator Incident With Obama

Omar Gonzalez Charged in White House Breach

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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

Pelosi Calls for ‘Independent Investigation’ Into Secret Service Lapses (Video)

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Pelosi stopped short of calling for the Secret Service director’s resignation.  (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stopped short on Wednesday of demanding Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resign, but called for an “independent investigation” into the disturbing protocol breaches within the agency that she said were “inexcusable.”

“The challenge may be more than one person,” the California Democrat told reporters at a press conference on Capitol Hill. “Whether she [resigns] or not, I think we need an independent investigation. Her leaving doesn’t end the need to learn more.”

Pelosi’s remarks came a day after the Oversight and Government Reform Committee convened a rare, mid-recess hearing in Washington, D.C. to hear testimony from Pierson and other officials in the wake of revelations that an armed intruder scaled the fence of the White House and actually was able to get inside the presidential residence before finally being apprehended — by an off-duty officer. Full story

Montel Williams Urges Obama to ‘Make the Call!’ on Jailed Marine (Video)

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During the hearing Wednesday, Williams called on Obama to reach out personally to the Mexican president. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

President Barack Obama and Mexico each took a tongue-lashing from Republican House members at a rare mid-recess Capitol Hill hearing Wednesday on the case of a U.S. Marine imprisoned for six months in Mexico on questionable charges.

Lawmakers at the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere heard from the mother of Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, who has been held in Mexico since he crossed the border in March with three guns in his vehicle. Talk-show host Montel Williams, a former Marine who has become a leading advocate for the release of the Afghanistan veteran, also testified.

“If this hearing’s going to stop in 10 minutes, I think the president needs to pick up the phone in 15. Make the call. Make the call today,” Williams said, his voice breaking with emotion as he urged Obama to personally call on Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to free Tahmooressi. Full story

September 25, 2014

Lawmakers Weigh In on Holder Resignation (Updated) (Video)

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Attorney General Eric Holder on Capitol Hill earlier this year. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Update 5:05 p.m. | Even before Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s resignation was officially announced, House and Senate lawmakers were sending out statements reacting to the news.

The sentiments broke down neatly along party lines, with Republicans openly cheering an end to Holder’s six years atop the Justice Department and Democrats just as enthusiastically expressing appreciation for the nation’s first black attorney general.

The statements signaled just how polarizing Holder has become on Capitol Hill.

For many GOP lawmakers who had clashed with Holder, it was simply a matter of good riddance.

“I can’t think of any AG in history who has attacked Louisiana more than Holder,” said Sen. David Vitter, R-La., who was first out with a release headed, “Vitter Welcomes News of Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation.”

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., proclaimed, “Eric Holder is the most divisive U.S. Attorney General in modern history and, in a vote supported by 17 Democratic House Members, has the dubious historic distinction of being the first Attorney General held in criminal contempt by the U.S. House of Representatives.” Full story

Boehner: Don’t Expect War Authorization Vote in Lame-Duck Session

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Boehner says the new Congress, not the lame duck, should vote on war authorization for operations in Syria. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner thinks Congress should debate authorizing use of force against the Islamic State in Syria — but not until new members of the House and Senate take office in January.

The Ohio Republican told The New York Times in an interview published Thursday morning the lame-duck session following the midterms in November would not be an appropriate time to make those decisions.

“Doing this with the whole group of members who are on their way out the door, I don’t think that is the right way to handle this,” Boehner told the Times.

That statement is sure to rankle many members on both sides of the aisle who had hoped the House would weigh in as soon as possible on President Barack Obama’s decision to use airstrikes to target the terrorist organization, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Full story

September 23, 2014

Congress in No Rush to Return for ISIS War Authorization

The United States has begun a bombing campaign in Syria, but don’t bet on Congress returning to Washington to vote on a new war authorization anytime soon.

Shortly after airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria started, some lawmakers started pushing again for an authorization vote. But so far, leaders aren’t gearing up to bring their members back to town.

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., tweeted Monday night it was “irresponsible and immoral” that congressional leaders had chosen to recess for nearly two months instead of debating and voting on war. And the ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, released a statement saying it’s “time for Congress to step up and revise the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force in a way that supports the targeted actions underway, but also prevents the deployment of American ground forces that would drag us into another Iraq War.”

Van Hollen tweeted that Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, should call the House back to debate a new Authorization to Use Military Force.

Boehner’s office deferred to the White House when asked about the issue. Full story

September 22, 2014

Republicans to Obama: Show Us How You’ll Change Immigration Law

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Goodlatte wants Obama to share his plans for executive action on immigration reform. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama has said he won’t make sweeping changes to immigration policy until after the midterm elections in order to protect vulnerable Democrats in tight races, but House Republicans don’t want to wait to see what the president has up his sleeve.

On Monday, all 22 Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Obama demanding that he make public “the recommendations he has received for the anticipated executive actions he will take to further dismantle our nation’s immigration laws.”

Disclosing the suggestions for how he would overhaul the nation’s immigration system without the participation of Congress, the 22 lawmakers argued, “could go some way toward repairing the damage to the American political process caused by the secrecy with which your Administration has considered changes to our immigration system.”

Read the full letter here: Full story

The Oklahoma Guide to Getting Along

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Derick Brock, right, from Mercy Chefs helps a man fold a flag he found in the debris after the May 2013 tornado. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images File Photo)

RollCall On the Road Logo150x150 The Oklahoma Guide to Getting Along

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.”

Full story

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