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November 1, 2014

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October 21, 2014

New Ebola Restrictions Not Enough for Republicans Pushing Travel Ban

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Goodlatte and other lawmakers are calling for an Ebola travel ban. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

While the Obama administration continues to put in place additional measures to identify travelers potentially infected with Ebola, the early Republican response is in: It’s still not enough.

The administration announced Tuesday that travelers to the United States from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will have to travel through one of five major U.S. airports and go through additional Ebola screening.

The Department of Homeland Security introduced the additional measures, mandating that all foreign nationals coming from those three Ebola-stricken countries in Africa will undergo secondary screening and be forced to land at one of five airports: Kennedy Airport in New York, Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport, Chicago O’Hare in Illinois or Dulles Airport in Virginia.

Those passengers, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement, would be subject to “added protocols, including having their temperature taken, before they can be admitted into the United States.”

The additional screening for passengers coming from those countries at those airports was already taking place, but now those passengers are mandated to land at one of those five airports. Full story

October 1, 2014

Boehner Slams ‘Incompetence’ at Secret Service, Wants Review

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Boehner joined a growing chorus of lawmakers demanding answers on screw ups at the Secret Service. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker John A. Boehner slammed the Secret Service Wednesday for “a culture of complacency and incompetence,” backed an independent review and implied new leadership might be needed.

The Ohio Republican backed House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul’s proposal for a blue ribbon commission to review the agency:

“Given the Secret Service’s proud history and the duties it is charged with, we are right to expect nothing but candor and clarity from its leaders, particularly at a time when Americans are as aware as ever that we live in a dangerous world,” Boehner said in his statement. “Unfortunately, the Secret Service director’s appearance before Chairman Issa’s Oversight & Government Reform Committee has created more questions than answers.  Already, we have learned of a prior security breach in Atlanta that she failed to mention. The more we discover, the clearer it becomes that the Secret Service is beset by a culture of complacency and incompetence.”

Boehner said President Barack Obama needs to make a decision soon about the agency’s leadership.

“As such, the president must make a swift determination on whether the agency is being well-served by its current leadership.  Moreover, I fully support Chairman McCaul’s plan for a top-to-bottom, independent review of the agency.  The courageous men and women of the Secret Service who put their lives in harm’s way every day deserve the best possible leadership and a culture worthy of their sacrifices.”

Earlier Wednesday, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had similar comments, also backing an independent review.

 

Related:

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Secret Service Takes Beating in Rare Recess Hearing

Secret Service Director Testimony Omits Elevator Incident With Obama

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Pelosi Says Debate, Vote Should Be Held on Military Authorization (Video)

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Pelosi said Congress should have stayed in town to vote on an Authorization for Use of Military Force. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., reiterated her enthusiasm at a Wednesday morning news conference for Congress to debate and ultimately vote on an Authorization for Use of Military Force to further combat the Islamic State terrorist group.

“Congress has a role in defining how our country degrades and defeats ISIS,” Pelosi said, referring to the insurgent terrorist organization that’s also known as ISIL.

She said that there have been “conversations among members informally about what form an authorization should take that will secure our national security interests as well [one that] could pass in both houses of Congress.

“These conversations should be moved from the informal to the official,” she said. Full story

September 18, 2014

After Today, House Is Done Through the Elections

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Ruiz and Young check their phones as they walk down the House steps following a series of votes on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

It’s official: The House is closing up shop until after the midterm elections.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office announced Thursday there will be no votes on Friday and said the four-day session originally scheduled to begin on Sept. 29 has been canceled, pending Senate approval of the continuing resolution that passed the House Wednesday.

That means lawmakers will be sprinting to the exits — and the quick trip to the airport — after the close of business Thursday. Full story

September 17, 2014

House Votes to Arm Syrian Rebels; CR Passes (Updated) (Video)

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Boehner, left, and McCarthy pushed through a continuing resolution that includes support for the president’s request to train and arm Syrian rebels. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 7:03 p.m. | After voting to give President Barack Obama the authority to arm and train Syrian rebels, the House passed legislation Wednesday to fund the government until Dec. 11, moving the bill to avoid a government shutdown and address Islamic State organizations to the Senate.

House lawmakers voted 319-108 to pass the continuing resolution, with 143 Democrats joining 176 Republicans in support of the measure. 55 Democrats and 53 Republicans voted against the bill.

A vote on the spending bill, which will continue government spending through Dec. 11 at a $1.012 trillion level, was delayed last week so lawmakers could attach a request from the president to give him Title 10 authority to fight the Islamic State group.

That authority would allow the Obama administration to equip Syrian rebels for the intended purpose of fighting ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also referred to as ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Obama praised the House and urged the Senate to follow suit on the legislation, which he reiterated is not an authorization for the use of U.S. troops in Syria.

“Today’s vote is another step closer to having the authorization to train and equip vetted elements of the moderate Syrian opposition so they can defend themselves against, and ultimately push back on, ISIL forces,” he said in a statement.  Full story

September 8, 2014

Dingell Hospitalized in Detroit

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The longest serving member in the history of the House has been hospitalized in Detroit, but he’s expected to make a full recovery.

The office of Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., said Monday the 88-year old congressman and dean of the House experienced abdominal pain.

“Today, Congressman John D. Dingell (D-MI12) was admitted to Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit with abdominal pain. Dingell is doing well, is receiving an IV treatment of antibiotics, and remains in good spirits. Doctors expect him to be released in a few days, and Dingell expects to be in Washington for Congressional session next week,” Dingell’s office said in a statement.

Full story

August 14, 2014

As Ferguson Police-Protester Clashes Escalate, Congress Wades In (Video)

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(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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

House Votes to Sue Obama (Updated) (Video)

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

Oklahoma Republicans to Obama: No More Child Migrants at Fort Sill

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Seven Oklahoma Republicans, led by Sen. Inhofe, called for the administration to end its practice of detaining illegal immigrants at Fort Sill.  (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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

Wolf Wants Washington’s Birthday Restored to Correct Date

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Wolf wants George Washington’s birthday celebrated on the correct date. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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.

House GOP Scores Short Highway Trust Fund Extension

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Republicans and Democrats in the House joined forces to avert a shutdown of highway transportation funding. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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

Labrador Announces Candidacy for Majority Leader (Updated)

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Labrador says he’s in the race for majority leader. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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

Pete Sessions Drops Out of Majority Leader Race, Clearing Way for Kevin McCarthy (Updated)

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House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions in his office. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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.

Hensarling announced Thursday morning that he wouldn’t be running for the position.

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.

Related stories:

Cantor Quake Sets of GOP Leadership Fights

Leadership Shuffle Begins After Cantor Shocker

Dave Brat: 11 Things to Know

Republican Senate Primary Challengers Jump on Eric Cantor Loss

Eric Cantor’s Defeat Was in the Immigration Tea Leaves

10 Republicans Who Could Be Speaker

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June 10, 2014

Boehner Statement on Cantor’s Defeat

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.

Full story

Eric Cantor’s Defeat Was in the Immigration Tea Leaves (Video)

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

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