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August 14, 2014
Updated 12:53 p.m. | Lawmakers are beginning to speak out in reaction to the protests and police response in Ferguson, Mo., following the killing of an unarmed African-American teenager by police on Aug 9.
Many members of Congress are defending the public’s right to protest while calling for peace — and are using social media to voice their support. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wrote on Facebook, “This is America, not a war zone. The people of Ferguson, Missouri just want answers. We all want answers.”
Local police have dramatically increased their response to the protests after incidents of looting and confrontations following Michael Brown’s death. President Barack Obama was scheduled to give a statement Thursday afternoon from Martha’s Vineyard, where he is vacationing, and may address the events in Ferguson.
Missouri Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II said in a statement that he is “deeply disturbed by all I have seen and heard,” and noted he and three other Democrats are calling for a full federal investigation into Brown’s death.
“Ferguson deserves better, and the rights of our citizens and of our free press shall not be denied,” Cleaver said. “I will pray for peace in Ferguson. And I will work for justice.” Full story
July 30, 2014
The House voted mostly along party lines Wednesday to authorize suing President Barack Obama, which Republicans called a principled move to rein in an increasingly lawless president and Democrats and the White House dismissed as a taxpayer-financed political stunt.
The resolution, adopted 225-201, would authorize a lawsuit against the president over his implementation of the Affordable Care Act, with five Republicans joining all the Democrats in opposition — Paul Broun of Georgia, Steve Stockman of Texas, Scott Garrett of New Jersey, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Walter B. Jones of North Carolina.
GOP leaders plan to sue over his decision to delay the employer mandate without authorization from Congress.
Republicans say the unilateral employer mandate delay is just one example of the White House’s disregard for the rule of law. Indeed, when Speaker John A. Boehner first announced his intent to sue the president, Republicans weren’t sure which action they would target. They had a menu of options to chose from, which Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, highlighted during the floor debate Wednesday.
“By circumventing Congress, the president’s actions have marginalized the role that the American people play in creating the laws that govern them,” said Sessions. “Specifically, the president has waived work requirements for welfare recipients, unilaterally changed immigrations laws, released the ‘Gitmo Five’ without properly notifying Congress — which is the law — and ignored the statutory requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Full story
July 21, 2014
The Oklahoma congressional delegation is proud of its Fort Sill Army Base, but that doesn’t mean it wants to play host to thousands more unaccompanied child migrants awaiting deportation proceedings.
On Monday, one of the state’s two GOP senators and all six Republican congressmen called on the Obama administration to reverse its decision to send up to 5,000 more “unaccompanied alien children,” or UAC, to the Lawton army base on top of the countless children already being held there. They also want the administration to rethink plans to keep Fort Sill an active detention center through January 2015. Full story
July 15, 2014
Frank R. Wolf wants George Washington’s birthday celebrated on … well, his birthday.
Thanks to the Virginia Republican, a longtime admirer of the nation’s first president, the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to the Interior Department’s annual budget Tuesday instructing the agency to move the holiday for Washington’s birthday back to his actual birthday, Feb. 22.
The official celebration of George Washington’s birthday was moved to the third Monday in February in 1971 and has since come to be known as Presidents’ Day, even though the law was never changed to recognize other presidents.
Wolf’s amendment is supported by George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and a number of leading authors and historians, including David McCullough, Ron Chernow and Richard Bookhiser, but would have to be approved by the Senate and signed by the president.
It that happens, the change would take effect in 2017.
“Unfortunately, few Americans living today remember the legacy of President Washington and his contribution to this country,” Wolf said in a statement. “I believe Congress has unwittingly contributed to this lack of historical understanding by relegating Washington’s Birthday to the third Monday in February to take advantage of a three-day weekend. It is time to change the focus of the holiday from celebrating sales at the mall to celebrating the significance of President Washington’s birth and the birth of our nation.”
Wolf is retiring at the end of this term after serving 17 terms in Congress.
A short-term extension of highway funding easily passed the House in a 367-55 vote Tuesday, setting up a rare bipartisan cross-Dome deal that will likely avert a shutdown of construction projects around the country.
Neither side heralded the bill as a breakthrough in bipartisanship, but House Republican leaders scored a tactical victory by crafting a package that the White House endorsed, many Democrats voted for and that passed over the objections of conservative outside groups.
Only 10 Democrats and 45 Republicans voted against the patch. Full story
June 13, 2014
Updated 2:09 p.m. | Raúl R. Labrador is a candidate for majority leader.
Labrador announced his decision in a news release Friday afternoon. The Idaho Republican faces an uphill battle to defeat Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, who is seen as the overwhelming favorite for the position.
After Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, decided not to run, a number of conservative lawmakers turned to Labrador to be their candidate. And after Rules Chairman Pete Sessions dropped out of the race Thursday night, McCarthy was unopposed.
Labrador’s candidacy changes that. Full story
June 12, 2014
Updated 9:49 p.m. | Rules Chairman Pete Sessions of Texas has dropped out of the race to replace Eric Cantor as majority leader, helping clear a path for Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California to ascend to the No. 2 post in the House.
Sessions stressed party unity in a statement to CQ Roll Call.
“After thoughtful consideration and discussion with my colleagues, I have made the decision to not continue my run for House Majority Leader. Today, it became obvious to me that the measures necessary to run a successful campaign would have created unnecessary and painful division within our party. At this critical time, we must remain unified as a Republican Conference. As always, I stand ready and willing to work with our team to advance the conservative agenda that the American people demand and deserve.”
McCarthy was heavily favored to beat Sessions in the race, quickly lining up support while the Texas delegation wrangled over whether to back Sessions or Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling.
A group of conservative lawmakers told CQ Roll Call Thursday they still wanted an alternative candidate to McCarthy — and Sessions for that matter — and were expecting to announce one soon.
When CQ Roll Call raised the possibility of Raúl R. Labrador, one lawmaker in the group called it “an astute guess.”
A source familiar with Labrador’s thinking said a lot of members were encouraging the Idaho Republican to run for the position.
But any bids at this point would be very long shots at best — and the focus will now turn to the wide open races down ballot — especially for McCarthy’s whip job.
Sessions’ campaign started just hours after Cantor’s stunning primary loss Tuesday to Dave Brat.
Sessions, who has a deep contact list from his two stints as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, was texting members past 2 a.m., asking for their early support.
By Wednesday, he was the first candidate officially in the race to be majority leader, and he was already looking to cast himself as the conservative alternative to McCarthy, who had not announced his candidacy for Majority Leader but was all-but-certain to jump in the race as soon as Cantor announced his resignation.
In an interview Wednesday afternoon in his Rules Committee office, Sessions told CQ Roll Call that he already had a whip team, and he was already lining up commitments.
But looming over his candidacy was Hensarling, who was largely seen as a more conservative and viable opponent to McCarthy.
Sessions made it clear from the outset that he had no interest in squaring off against his fellow Texan.
“Certainly,” Sessions said of Hensarling Wednesday afternoon, “it’s not in our best interest to run against each other.”
The Texas GOP delegation, a close-knit group which operates more like a family, decided to hold a meeting Wednesday night to discuss the race. Both Sessions and Hensarling said their piece, and members left it up to them to decide who would run.
But by Thursday morning, Hensarling had decided it was not the “right office at the right time,” clearing the way for Sessions to be the Texas candidate.
Sessions went before a group of Southern Republicans to make his pitch, and his campaign was in full swing.
Still, speculation swirled throughout the Capitol that Sessions might still step aside. McCarthy was piling up commitments, and his ascension to the Majority Leader post looked imminent.
Sessions stayed positive, however. He met with his fellow Texans at their weekly Thursday lunch, and his fellow Texans emerged from their lunch of Tortilla Coast and Blue Bell ice cream swearing monolithic support for Sessions.
“Pete Sessions is running for Majority Leader, and I think Pete Sessions will be the next Majority Leader,” said the delegation’s dean, Joe L. Barton.
When a reporter asked him if all 24 Texas Republicans would be voting for Sessions, Barton declared that question “asinine.”
In Barton’s mind, there was no question that they would all support Sessions.
As the day went on, however, the math looked worse for Sessions. McCarthy continued to collect votes, with allies claiming the California Republican already had a majority of the conference solidly swearing their support.
Sessions began to see the writing on the wall. And, according to his staff, ever the good Eagle Scout, Sessions sought unity over division, and he didn’t think his continued presence in the race would help the party.
He decided to call it quits.
June 10, 2014
House GOP leaders weren’t expecting Majority Leader Eric Cantor to lose his primary Tuesday night against Tea Party-backed challenger Dave Brat, so nobody had statements ready when the race was called shortly after 8 p.m.
Reflections on the Virginia Republican’s defeat only began to filter in during the very late hours of the evening.
All were brief, free of political rancor for Brat and of any hints at personal ambitions to climb the ranks with the House’s No. 2 GOP lawmaker out of the picture in the 114th Congress.
Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., widely considered to now be angling for Cantor’s job, said “every single Member of this conference is indebted to Eric’s graciousness and leadership.”
Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., called Cantor “a great friend and colleague.”
Perhaps the most revealing assessment of the evening’s turn of events came from Speaker John A. Boehner. Earlier, he exited from a local Italian restaurant and declined to speak with reporters who were waiting for him.
Many immigration advocates thought Eric Cantor’s expected primary victory against his challenger opposed to an immigration overhaul would embolden the House majority leader to put an immigration bill on the floor this summer.
That theory, or at least that closely held hope, was obliterated Tuesday evening, as the Virginia Republican suffered a stunning defeat at the hands of university professor Dave Brat.
The tea leaves for Cantor’s fate might have been read by the most prescient political observers two weeks ago in his home district of Richmond, where Brat held a press conference on the steps of the state capitol building to denounce the House’s No. 2 Republican for having the “most liberal” record on immigration of any sitting GOP lawmaker in Congress.
“Eric Cantor has been the No. 1 cheerleader in Congress for amnesty,” said Brat on May 28 to half a dozen reporters, referencing Cantor’s stated support for overhauling the nation’s immigration system and providing a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants, especially those brought into the country illegally by their parents.
“There is no Republican in this country,” Brat continued, “who is more liberal on immigration than Eric Cantor.” Full story
Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio cast doubt Tuesday on the administration’s claim that it did not inform members of Congress about the prisoner swap that freed Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl due to a fear of leaks, and said the swap will lead to consequences.
“The biggest issue here is a violation of a policy that the United States has had for many, many years that we don’t negotiate with terrorists,” he said. “The fact is we have violated that policy and as a result, this made America less safe, here and all around the world. And we’re going to pay for it. There is not any doubt in my mind there are going to be costs … lost lives, associated with what came out of this.”
Boehner said he and several other members of Congress were briefed multiple times in the run up to the special forces raid of Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.
“Six times before Osama bin Laden was taken down I was briefed on it. I was briefed multiple times over the course of the six months. I was given a heads up several days before it happened. So this idea that they couldn’t trust us with not leaking anything, it’s just not true,” Boehner told reporters. Full story
May 30, 2014
Following the resignation Friday morning of Veterans’ Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, criticized President Barack Obama again for not doing more to solve problems surrounding the scheduling system and waiting lists at the Phoenix VA Health Care System.
“[Shinseki's] resignation, though, does not absolve the president of his responsibility to step in and make things right for our veterans,” Boehner said during a Friday afternoon news conference. “Business as usual cannot continue. And until the president outlines a vision and an effective plan for addressing the broad dysfunction at the VA, today’s announcement really changes nothing. One personnel change cannot be used as an excuse to paper over a systemic problem.”
May 22, 2014
Updated May 22, 1:38 p.m. | After a year of global criticism of the reach of American phone and data surveillance programs, the House approved new restrictions Thursday that critics dismissed as watered down.
The USA Freedom Act — backed by Republicans and Democrats and supported by President Barack Obama — would shift the collection and storage of phone metadata from the National Security Agency to private phone companies.
The measure passed 303-121, with critics on both sides of the aisle saying the bill would not do enough to curb potential abuse and provide legislative oversight of intelligence agencies.
Some privacy advocates pulled support for the measure this week, calling it hollow and riddled with loopholes.
Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., who led the battle to end the NSA’s bulk metadata collection last summer and was a co-sponsor of the Freedom Act, posted a lengthy explanation why he was voting against the bill. Full story
May 14, 2014
An effort to legalize illegal immigrants who join the military sputtered weeks ago in committee when House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon declined to put it in his defense-authorization bill. But Heritage Action sent out word Wednesday the proposal better stay dead.
The advocacy arm of the right-leaning Heritage Foundation announced it would key vote against the National Defense Authorization Act if the ENLIST Act is added as an amendment.
Chief Executive Officer Michael A. Needham called the proposal “amnesty.” Full story
May 7, 2014
The House Rules Committee holds a hearing on establishing a special committee to investigate the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
You can watch the hearing, which begins at 2 p.m. today, below:
May 5, 2014
Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips has a message for House Republicans: When the Export-Import Bank approaches its Sept. 30 expiration date, do nothing.
“We’re asking Congress to do something it does exceeding well,” Phillips wryly told a room of allies and reporters on Capitol Hill on Monday. “Just don’t do anything.”
The call to inaction was echoed by several other speakers on hand representing Heritage Action for America, Americans for Tax Reform and FreedomWorks, among others. The coalition of conservative groups strongly oppose the reauthorization of the institution designed to help U.S. companies finance goods for sales overseas, which they call anachronistic, a slush fund, corporate welfare and “cronyism.”
The Monday gathering in the Rayburn House Office Building also kicked off what is expected to be a coordinated campaign to push lawmakers — especially Republicans who have the majority in the House — to reject the Ex-Im Bank’s reauthorization. The Obama administration is backing a five-year extension for the bank, along with a lift to its lending cap to $160 billion through September 2019.
Outside groups are poised to issue key votes, buy air time against noncommittal members and inundate town halls during the decisive August recess ahead of the midterm elections in November. Last week, 30 conservative organizations signed onto a letter articulating their opposition.
“All too often the Republican Party is … tagged as being the party of corporate welfare and big business. This is an opportunity to flip that on its head,” Heritage Action Communications Director Dan Holler said at the event on Monday. “Think about an election cycle where Republicans can … credibly claim that they are in Washington fighting against corporate welfare. That’s a game changer for a lot of voters.
“It’s great policy,” Holler continued, “and the politics will follow.” Full story