Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 28, 2014

Posts in "Barack Obama"

July 24, 2014

Texas GOP Delegation to Obama: Enforce Immigration Law

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Smith took the lead on sending a letter to Obama on the border crisis (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House and Senate Republicans of the Texas congressional delegation are the latest contingent to stake out a position on the border crisis as time left to act on the issue before the August recess recedes.

On Thursday, all 26 Lone Star State Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill — 24 in the House and two in the Senate — signed on to a letter to President Barack Obama that lays out actions they want him to take to respond to the surge of child migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. Full story

After Fights Over Cuckoo Clocks and Billable Hours, Rules Panel Backs Resolution Allowing House to Sue Obama

rules005 071614 445x300 After Fights Over Cuckoo Clocks and Billable Hours, Rules Panel Backs Resolution Allowing House to Sue Obama

Slaughter and McGovern saw their attempts to amend the resolution rebuffed in the Rules Committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House Rules Committee, already known for not being a bastion of cross-party comity, devolved into significant partisan rancor Thursday morning over a resolution to allow the House to sue the president of the United States.

The panel advanced consideration of the measure in a party-line, 7-4, vote after nearly two hours of debate, with Democrats and Republicans accusing each other in turn of playing political games.

Democrats said Republicans’ pursuit of a lawsuit against Barack Obama for making unilateral changes to the Affordable Care Act after the law was passed, with Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts accusing his GOP counterparts of acting out of “hatred” for the president and at one point calling the Republicans “cuckoo clocks.” Full story

July 23, 2014

House GOP Forges Ahead on Border Funding Legislation With No Clear Endgame

rogers091013 445x317 House GOP Forges Ahead on Border Funding Legislation With No Clear Endgame

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 5:06 p.m. | House Republicans laid out their requirements for President Barack Obama’s border crisis spending request Wednesday: National Guard troops, more judges for expedited deportations and changes to a 2008 trafficking law that would make it easier to send Central American minors home.

But with little more than a week before lawmakers are supposed to leave town for the August recess, Democrats digging in against changing the 2008 law, and some conservatives complaining the deportation provisions aren’t harsh enough, it’s not clear GOP leaders have the votes needed to send their bill to the Senate.

Throughout the day Wednesday, GOP leaders, appropriators and stakeholder members huddled with colleagues to corral support for a possible $1.5 billion bill — the White House originally asked for $3.7 billion — to fund enforcement agencies that have been stretched thin by the overwhelming surge of Central American migrants in southern Texas.

But as of Wednesday afternoon, no formal piece of legislation had been introduced and no decisions had been made as to whether the GOP’s funding proposal and its separate policy provisions would be contained in one package or two.

Appropriations Democrats had not even been briefed on the details of a spending package, according to a Democratic committee aide.

Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., told reporters: “When the leadership lays out the plans for timing of what we do, we’ll be ready. … It’s pretty close to being ready.”

Meanwhile, a sizable number of rank-and-file Republicans said Wednesday that doing nothing at all would be better than passing legislation the Democrat-controlled Senate would likely make more lenient on undocumented immigrants — or that Obama would just ignore like he has, they say, with other laws on the books.

“We like her ideas,” said Rep. John Fleming, R-La., of the recommendations put forth by Kay Granger, R-Texas, the chairwoman of the specially appointed GOP working group tasked with coming up with the border recommendations. “The problem is, if we pass them, they’ll be gone.” Full story

July 22, 2014

Boehner Puts Onus on Democrats for Tenuous Status of Border Funding Bill

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Boehner says Democrats’ rejection of changes to 2008 trafficking law could complicate passage of border funding bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House Republican Conference on Wednesday will hear task force recommendations on dealing with the surge of migrant children on the Texas border, Speaker John A. Boehner said Tuesday — but he cautioned that the president’s request for emergency funds will go nowhere if Democrats backpedal on support for expedited deportations.

“In order to resolve this crisis in a timely manner, however, the White House must engage both parties on constructive solutions,” the Ohio Republican said in a statement. “After first supporting common-sense changes to the 2008 law that is making it more difficult to resolve this crisis, the White House backpedaled and failed to include those changes in its formal request to Congress. Meanwhile, many Democrats in Congress have reversed themselves and now say no changes to the 2008 law are acceptable.

“As I said last week, I don’t believe the American people will support sending more money to the border unless both parties work together to address these policies and actually solve this problem,” he said.

“The lack of leadership from this White House, and President Obama’s refusal to stand up to critics in his own political party, are jeopardizing our ability to find common ground and help the kids who are caught in the middle of this crisis.” Full story

July 18, 2014

Anger on Capitol Hill Grows as Details on Flight MH17 Emerge

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Thornberry said Obama needs to increase the defense budget. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:29 p.m. | Members of Congress from both parties and chambers took to the airwaves, to social media and the Internet Friday to express a growing anger over indications of Russian involvement in the missile attack that took down an airliner and all 298 aboard over Ukraine on Thursday.

In an appearance on Fox News, Rep. Mac Thornberry, expected to be the next chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said that President Barack Obama needs to move immediately to increase the U.S. defense budget. The Texas Republican also said Obama should look at how President Ronald Reagan handled a similar incident in the 1980s when Russia shot down a Korean airliner.

“I went back and looked at President Reagan’s statement after the Korean airline downer and I’m struck by the fact that he used very clear language, he called it a massacre, he called it an act of barbarism, he called the Soviets out for not telling the truth,” Thornberry said. “Even more important than what he said was what he did. He took several steps to isolate the Soviets … and he called on Congress to increase the defense budget. That’s what the president needs to do in a few minutes.” Full story

July 17, 2014

Carter and Goodlatte Put Down Their Own Markers to Solve Border Crisis

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The specially appointed House GOP border surge working group is poised to submit its formal policy recommendations to party leaders, while two of its members appear to be pursuing alternate tracks.

On Thursday, Reps. John Carter of Texas and Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia introduced separate bills that would make more conservative revisions to current immigration law than many of their peers on either side of the aisle would prefer.

The bills would also tack farther to the right than the set of recommendations expected to be put forth by the GOP working group to address the child migrant crisis at the Southwest border.

Full story

July 16, 2014

One Day Closer to Recess and Still No House Border Funding Bill

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House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers of Kentucky. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House wrapped up Wednesday, one day closer to the August recess and still with no clear indication of when Republicans will unveil their response to President Barack Obama’s emergency funding request for $3.7 billion for the Texas border crisis.

But lawmakers insisted the framework for their border funding bill is beginning to crystallize.

Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., confirmed that the plan was still to move through the chamber a single package providing both policy changes and financial assistance.

“We’re ready on the money part,” Rogers told reporters. “We’ve got to craft it, we’ve got to get it scored and do all of those things, but as soon as we get the final policy inserts, we can go pretty quick.”

Full story

House Democratic Women Calling for ‘Clean’ Border Funding Bill

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California Democrats Loretta Sanchez and Lucille Roybal-Allard, seen standing here with fellow members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, want a “clean” border funding bill. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

A group of House Democratic women are circulating a letter to Speaker John A. Boehner calling for a “clean” funding bill to bolster resources at the U.S.-Mexico border.

They are in particular warning against the inclusion of language that would tweak a 2008 trafficking law they argue would strip apprehended immigrant minors — especially young girls — of protections against speedy removals back to their home countries where they face likely face imminent danger. Full story

Watch Live: House Rules Committee Hearing on Proposed Lawsuit of President Barack Obama

The House Rules Committee holds a hearing on initiating a House lawsuit against President Barack Obama over failing to enforce the Affordable Care Act.

The hearing begins at 10 a.m. and you can watch live below:

July 15, 2014

Why House Conservatives Don’t Support Obama Impeachment

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One of Labrador’s arguments against an Obama impeachment push: “President Joe Biden.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A curious line of reasoning emerged Tuesday as to why conservatives in Congress aren’t chomping at the bit to impeach a president that they believe has broken the law: There isn’t enough time.

At a monthly panel discussion with conservative lawmakers, members were asked if they would support impeaching President Barack Obama for selective enforcement of some laws and dramatic reinterpretations of others.

While a number of the lawmakers seemed to think impeachment was warranted, no one was offering to write up the proceedings.

“The president deserves to be impeached,” said Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas. “Plain and simple.”

But, as Weber pointed out, it isn’t so simple.

“We’ve got so much on our plate that it’s not practical,” he said, noting that such an endeavor wouldn’t pass the Senate even though “he definitely deserves it.” Full story

Border Funding Request Takes Shape in House

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Granger is leading a GOP task force to make recommendations on the child migrant border surge. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 4:45 p.m. | House Republicans could, by the week’s end, unveil their legislative response to the president’s $3.7 billion request to bolster resources at the southwest border.

The response is likely to cost less and incorporate policy riders sure to rile up Democrats on the left — but still might not be stringent enough to satisfy members on the hard right.

Rep. Kay Granger of Texas, the chairwoman of a special GOP working group convened by Speaker John A. Boehner to make policy recommendations on the child migrant border surge, told reporters Tuesday her group is focused on increasing border security funding, adding National Guard troops on the border and having more immigration judges to preside over deportation hearings and asylum requests.

With a formal report not yet public at the time she spoke with the press, Granger also said the group supported tweaking a 2008 trafficking law to allow all unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border to choose to return to their home countries rather than await trial to be deported, a right currently afforded only to children from countries contiguous to the United States.

“Tweak it, not change it, not repeal it,” Granger stressed, “but to treat all children the same.” Full story

July 14, 2014

Homeland Security Secretary to Meet With Blue Dog Democrats

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Johnson will meet with the Blue Dog Coalition on Monday night. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will meet with Blue Dog Democrats on Monday evening, sources confirmed to CQ Roll Call, as the Democratic Caucus writ large struggles to coalesce around a response to the surge of unaccompanied minors at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Johnson’s meeting on Capitol Hill with the fiscal conservative contingent of the House Democratic Caucus comes as one the coalition’s own, Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, prepares to offer controversial legislation that would make significant revisions to a 2008 trafficking law that Republicans are saying would help alleviate the border crisis. Full story

July 10, 2014

House Resolution Authorizes Suing Obama Over Affordable Care Act

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Boehner says the House lawsuit will focus on Obama’s changes to the Affordable Care Act. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Republicans plan to sue President Barack Obama for failing to enforce the Affordable Care Act, according to a resolution authorizing the lawsuit posted on the House Rules Committee website.

The president’s failure to enforce the employer mandate will be the focus of the lawsuit, Speaker John A. Boehner said in a statement.

“In 2013, the president changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it,” the Ohio Republican said. “That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work. No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own.”

Ironically, Boehner will be suing Obama to enforce the law even though the House has voted to delay or repeal the employer mandate itself. Full story

July 9, 2014

President’s Party Asks Why He’s Avoiding the Border

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Cuellar joined other Democrats saying Obama needs to see the crisis at the border firsthand. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated, 8 p.m. | With ongoing protests in California, business leaders in Washington calling for a legislative overhaul and lawmakers trading barbs on Capitol Hill, President Barack Obama heard from all sides of the immigration debate Wednesday — including some particularly pointed criticism from a member of his own party.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, a fifth-term Democrat from the Texas border town of Laredo, ripped Obama for not scheduling a visit to the Rio Grande Valley while on a two-day fundraising swing through the state.

The president, speaking to reporters Wednesday evening after meeting in Dallas with Gov. Rick Perry and other Texas leaders on the crisis, defended his decision not to visit the border.

“This isn’t theater,” he said. “I’m not interested in photo-ops. I’m interested in solving the problem.”

Lawmakers from both parties want Obama to take charge of a more robust federal response — though there is wide disagreement as to what that response should be — to the surge of tens of thousands of central American women and children who have illegally crossed the Texas border in recent months.

Obama said in Dallas that Perry suggested moving forward with steps to secure the border with or without congressional approval.

“He suggested maybe you just need to go ahead and act,” Obama said. “And I had to remind him I am getting sued right now by Mr. Boehner, apparently, for going ahead and acting instead of going through Congress.”

Full story

July 8, 2014

A Tale of Two Congressional Visits to the Southwest Border

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Lofgren had a different experience visiting the U.S.-Mexico border than her GOP colleagues. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 5:30 p.m. | House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., touted his delegation’s fact-finding trip to the Texas border last week as bipartisan, but lawmakers from both parties arrived back in Washington Tuesday as divided on immigration as ever.

According to Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., Democrats and Republicans went their separate ways on least three of the delegation’s stops along the border, where local, state and federal officials are struggling to deal with a surge of immigrant minors — many of them unaccompanied — attempting to enter the country illegally.

“I honestly think they were looking for an opportunity to confirm … without any data, that somehow this is Obama’s fault,” Lofgren said of the Republicans on the trip.

Lofgren’s comments to CQ Roll Call on Monday came several days after Goodlatte told reporters he saw “some aspects we can work with on a bipartisan basis,” but acknowledged that Democrats ultimately “view this issue differently than we do.”

Lofgren said she and the other Democrats from the Judiciary Committee delegation — Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and Joe Garcia of Florida — invited Goodlatte and the participating Republicans — Darrell Issa of California and Blake Farenthold of Texas — to three meetings that she said would have given them more information to bring back to Washington, D.C.

Goodlatte and Issa — the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee — declined, with Farenthold agreeing to tag along on a visit to a refugee assistance program being facilitated by Catholic volunteers.

Goodlatte spokeswoman Jessica Collins told CQ Roll Call the differences in itineraries were not intended as slights: “The trip was scheduled for partial days on both Wednesday and Thursday in order to accommodate members traveling from different parts of the country. Both Democrats and Republicans added additional visits to the trip for Wednesday. Democrats who arrived early on Wednesday morning made their own arrangements for visits.”

The wide gap in perspectives on the cause and effect of the border surge may not have been bridged by a more collaborative trip to Texas last week, given how political the debate has become. Ultimately, Democrats want to help the president address the crisis, while Republicans are inclined to blame him for its escalation.

That continues to be the case on Capitol Hill this week, as lawmakers confront whether to greenlight President Barack Obama’s $3.8 billion request to bolster border resources and alleviate some of the chaos there.

House Democrats — Lofgren among them — might have chafed at the proposal had Obama included a provision giving Homeland Security officials more discretion to deport immigrant children apprehended at the border, but absent that language, they stand ready to assist.

“My basic response is, this is a reasonable request and the House of Representatives, the United States Senate, will respond positively to it,” Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters Tuesday. “I hope that’s the case.”

House Republicans are more noncommittal. Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers of Kentucky said his committee would “take a close and thorough look.”

Rep. Kay Granger of Texas, whom Speaker John A. Boehner has appointed to lead a GOP “working group” to advise leadership on the border crisis, said the task force will meet Wednesday to discuss the larger issues surrounding the president’s proposal, with a goal of updating the whole conference next week.

Boehner, through a spokesman, suggested he was peeved that Obama’s funding request did not authorize the National Guard to “provide humanitarian support in affected areas.”

And other Republicans don’t want to do anything at all. Goodlatte put out a statement saying the crisis remains Obama’s to fix.

“President Obama created this disaster at our southern border and now he is asking to use billions of taxpayer dollars without accountability or a plan in place to actually stop the border crisis,” he said.

Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican and Goodlatte’s predecessor at the helm of the Judiciary Committee, was more blunt: “Congress shouldn’t give President Obama a single penny until we see him use the current resources to secure the border, increase interior enforcement, and reduce illegal immigration.”

Goodlatte and Issa implied their findings at the border would bolster the GOP response in Congress regarding the child migrant border surge.

During a conference call with a small group of reporters on July 3, the two lawmakers said they were fully confident that Obama used executive orders to render immigration laws so lax that children in Central America believe that once they enter the United States, they will automatically qualify for legalization proceedings.

Their suspicions were confirmed during a ride-along with border patrol agents near the Rio Grande River, where they witnessed individuals being taken into custody and then had a chance to interact with them.

“Their stories are basically, ‘I wanted to come to the United States, I wanted to be reunited with a family member in the United States and I’ve been told that if I come, they’ll let me in,’” Goodlatte said.

Lofgren had a different takeaway from her border visit. While she acknowledged that smugglers “have engaged in misleading efforts” to convince children to sneak across the border, she was certain there were more factors at stake.

“Here’s the thing,” she said. “OK, the smugglers are giving this pitch, but even if you can believe that was true, what would it take to give your 8-year-old to some smuggler to go off for a thousand miles? You don’t do that just because you’re going to get permission [to stay in the U.S.] You’re doing it because things have deteriorated to the point where it actually seems it’s smarter to get your kid out of there than to face the warlords who are threatening her life.”

Lofgren cited one briefing that she said would have been particularly enlightening for her absent Republican counterparts: a meeting with volunteer lawyers who said more than half the children who enter the country illegally across the Southwest border are found eligible for asylum as the victims of human trafficking, abandonment or abuse.

But even that statistic runs counter to one being touted by Republicans. According to a release from Goodlatte, a “key finding” from the border trip last week was that “many of these minors and families are able to game the asylum process since most applications are rubberstamped for approval.”

The same release cites an internal DHS memo stating “there is proven or possible fraud in up to 70% of asylum applications.”

Lofgren also described a visit to the Brownsville holding center where she saw children “sleeping on the cement with little tin foil blankets,” and a 3-year-old toddler traveling alone whose only word appeared to be “Miami.”

What she witnessed, she said, reinforced her position that Congress must, at minimum, address the overcrowding at detention facilities and improve conditions for children being held there. “We do need the resources to deal with these kids and I hope we’ll have a bipartisan effort to deal with that,” she said.

Goodlatte reiterated Tuesday that Congress shouldn’t act when the president could with his own resources.

“Republicans are committed to solving this problem, including seeking changes to current law,” he said. “However, no amount of resources or changes will be effective in stemming the surge of illegal border crossings if President Obama continues to ignore the law.”

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