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August 25, 2014
D.C. law firm BakerHostetler will handle the House Republicans’ lawsuit against President Barack Obama.
House Administration Chairwoman Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., said the firm has been contracted to represent the House in the district court civil suit.
According to the contract, the lawsuit will cost the House up to $350,000, billed at a rate of $500/hour.
“The president must be held accountable, and the House will continue to act in an open and transparent manner to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution,” Miller said in a Monday statement.
The lawsuit, authorized on July 30 by the House, calls for the courts to rein in a president who, Republicans contend, has overstepped his authority by unilaterally changing federal law in his implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Many legal experts say the lawsuit faces long odds in the courts, but one of the highest-profile constitutional scholars in the country, former Reagan and George Bush lawyer David Rivkin, has said the case has merit — and he’s a partner at the firm the Republicans hired.
Democrats immediately weighed in on the announcement, sharply criticizing the $500 per hour contract as wasteful spending.
“This outrageous waste of taxpayer dollars is yet another reminder of House Republicans’ misguided priorities,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y., in a statement. “Only in John Boehner’s world does it make sense to pay lawyers $500 per hour to work on a partisan lawsuit while refusing to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for hardworking Americans trying to feed their families.”
August 22, 2014
Updated 3:15 p.m. | Speaker John A. Boehner said Friday that the news the Obama administration ignored the power of the purse in a national security matter should be no surprise.
The Ohio Republican was responding to a Government Accountability Office finding, issued a day earlier, that the Obama administration acted outside federal law in the swap of five Taliban members for the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
August 21, 2014
A leading House Republican says the Obama administration needs to plug the leaks that led to revelations of an unsuccessful covert mission earlier this summer to rescue journalist James Foley and other hostages from jihadist captors in Syria.
Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, commended the U.S. forces involved, but he criticized the Obama administration for confirming the operation after news organizations, citing unnamed sources, reported on the mission.
McKeon, in a statement issued Thursday, said:
“Successful or not, such operations are incredibly sensitive, even after they have concluded. Disclosure of these missions puts our troops at risk, reduces the likelihood that future missions will succeed, and risks the lives of hostages and informants alike. While I believe it was unwise for the White House and Department of Defense to formally acknowledge this operation; it is outrageous that someone would be so selfish and short sighted to leak it to the media.”
He called on Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to investigate and determine the source of the leak.
ABC News, citing “senior administration sources,” reported Wednesday that U.S. special operations members engaged in a firefight with jihadists at a site in Syria where Foley and the others were believed to be held, but withdrew when it became apparent the hostages were not there.
The administration has said it only acknowledged the operation because media organizations were going public with the news anyway.
The Islamic State insurgents who control parts of Syria and northern Iraq released a video this week showing the brutal beheading of Foley and vowed more executions if the U.S. continues its ramped-up campaign of airstrikes in the region.
August 20, 2014
PHILADELPHIA — House Republicans won’t shut down the government in September, Heritage Action is “constructive at the end of the day” and a person can write a book without necessarily running for president.
Those were some of the points Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., hit home during an exclusive interview with CQ Roll Call Wednesday afternoon from the ornate Union League Building in downtown Philadelphia.
The House Budget Committee chairman and 2012 vice presidential nominee was in the city to kick-off a 10-day national tour promoting his new book, which hit the stands Tuesday.
“The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea” is part-memoir, part-sweeping policy proposal, and Ryan will be spending some of the waning days of August recess touting it in Wisconsin, Chicago, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas and California.
August 14, 2014
Passing a new Voting Rights Act in the GOP-dominated House was never going to be easy, supporters acknowledge. But with a powerful Republican such as Eric Cantor as an ally, hope flickered for nearly a year.
Then came June 10 and the shocking primary defeat that tanked Cantor’s congressional career — taking with it, in all likelihood, any prospect for an update of the landmark 1965 civil rights legislation that had been weakened by a 2013 Supreme Court ruling.
Even with Cantor as majority leader, said a House aide close to the VRA negotiations, “I would have speculated that it was certainly a very steep climb. That it was unlikely, but there was still hope.”
But with the Virginia Republican out of the mix, the aide said, “it doesn’t appear we’re going to see it this Congress.”
It’s a disappointing turn that has some Democrats wondering if Cantor ever deserved the benefit of a doubt on minority voting rights. Full story
August 4, 2014
Marlin Stutzman knows how to plant seeds.
When the Indiana Republican mounted his campaign for majority whip, it was such a long shot he didn’t expect to win — at least not this time.
No one else really expected Stutzman to prevail in the three-way leadership contest, either. But he’s looking years down the road, and is glad he took the gamble.
“Some people are afraid to lose. … Sometimes you have to lose in order to build something for the future,” Stutzman told CQ Roll Call during an hourlong interview in his 7th floor Longworth office.
It’s a lesson he knows well, as a member who entered the House in November 2010 after losing the Indiana Republican Senate primary to Dan Coats in May of that year.
Stutzman, who calls himself “an overachieving farmer,” didn’t see much downside to running and losing. This race was more about getting his name out there to let his colleagues know he’s interested in leadership.
His goal was to build relationships within the GOP conference. Stutzman said a lesson he learned from his scramble into leadership elections was that the conference is not as divided as many think, that the differences are more over strategy than policy.
So what does Stutzman want? The fourth-generation soybean, green bean and seed corn farmer doesn’t exactly seem to know.
August 1, 2014
Updated 11:04 p.m. | House Republicans found the votes late Friday night to pass a $694 million appropriations bill aimed at stemming the tide of the child migrant surge at the U.S-Mexico border.
It passed almost entirely along party lines, 223-189, freeing Republicans to go home for the August recess able to tell constituents they took action to address the crisis — unlike the Senate, which was unable to pass its own border funding bill Thursday but left town anyway. Only a single Democrat, Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, voted for the package.
Four Republicans voted no: Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, Walter B. Jones of North Carolina and Paul Broun of Georgia.
The House’s bill, however, isn’t expected to go anywhere, with Democrats and President Barack Obama torching it Friday. Full story
July 31, 2014
The House will hold off on leaving town for its five-week August recess until Republicans find the votes to pass legislation addressing the border crisis.
It could happen as early as Friday morning — the GOP will gather at 9 a.m. to discuss new policy proposals to accompany a $659 million appropriations bill they abruptly yanked from consideration Thursday. Republicans departing from an emergency conference meeting Thursday afternoon told reporters they felt confident that, through a process of educating colleagues and agreeing to make some changes to existing legislative language, they could muster enough votes to pass the new measure.
If a deal isn’t reached by then, said Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., “I think we’ll be back here the next day.”
“If we have to work longer or through the weekend, I think there’s a genuine desire to do that,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said.
Rep. Raúl R. Labrador told reporters he was prepared to stay in town to hash out an agreement, even if it meant missing a religious ritual on Saturday back home in Idaho in anticipation of his son’s upcoming nuptials.
It remains to be seen how party leaders expect to come up with any new proposal that sufficiently addresses the demands of some of the conference’s most conservative hold-outs.
Updated 4:52 p.m. | House GOP leaders ditched their plans to vote on a border supplemental Thursday after failing to secure the votes to pass it — but plan to try again Friday before jetting out of town for the August recess.
“We will stay until we vote,” Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., told reporters after an emergency meeting held at 3 p.m. Another GOP conference meeting was called for 9 a.m Friday, a GOP leadership aide said.
Asked if talks would continue Thursday night, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters “Oh, yeah.”
Earlier, chaos reigned in the House as GOP leaders’ carefully crafted gambit to win conservative votes fell apart.
“We don’t think we have the votes,” said Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, one of the architects of the bill. But she said the whip count was “very close” with about 214 supporters, including Democrats.
“There are people who just don’t want to do anything,” she said. “They don’t want to spend the money.”
While GOP leaders initially indicated they would not vote on the border supplemental, a number of lawmakers pushed them to reconsider.
“I’m going to talk to the whip and the leaders to try and talk them into doing something else,” said Rep. John Carter, R-Texas on his way to the whip’s office.
Carter said he’s been telling his GOP colleagues, “60 percent of something is better than 100 percent of nothing.”
The $659 million bill intended to deal with the crisis of child migrants coming across the border would have been followed by a vote on separate legislation prohibiting President Barack Obama from granting deportation relief and work permits to any more illegal immigrants.
GOP leaders, led by Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, issued a joint statement pinning the blame for pulling the bill on Obama. Full story
July 30, 2014
Sen. Ted Cruz rallied conservatives Wednesday to “end President Obama’s amnesty” in a meeting late Wednesday — as GOP leaders agreed to vote on legislation Cruz is backing to do just that.
Meeting in Cruz’s Dirksen office over We, The Pizza; Starburst; Skittles; Shiner Bock beer; Yuengling; white wine; and three selections of Dr. Pepper — Diet Dr. Pepper, Dr. Pepper Ten, and the original, full-flavored stuff — 13 House Republicans stopped by the Cruz gathering, which lasted more than an hour and 40 minutes.
The members, in the order in which they arrived, were: Reps. Steve King of Iowa, Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan, Steve Stockman of Texas, Randy Neugebauer of Texas, Paul Broun of Georgia, Todd Rokita of Indiana, John Fleming of Louisiana, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, and finally Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who showed up for the last 10 minutes of the meeting.
The major topic of discussion, members said, was opposition to the $659 million border supplemental bill if it did not include legislation Cruz wants ending President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which grants deportation relief to children brought here illegally by their parents. Full story
Updated 11:07 p.m. | In a bid to shore up votes for their border supplemental, Republican leaders plan to give conservatives a vote Thursday prohibiting President Barack Obama from granting deportation relief to more illegal immigrants.
One vote will be on the $659 million appropriations bill aimed at curbing the flow of child migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, which includes policy riders that have alienated nearly all Democrats.
On the condition of that bill passing, members would then be allowed to a vote on standalone language prohibiting the expansion of Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program granting deportation relief and work permits to children brought here illegally by their parents. Republicans charge that DACA has acted as a magnet for unaccompanied children to come to the United States, although recent immigrants are not eligible.
Obama has promised to do all he can on his own on immigration by the end of the summer — and recent news reports that he may expand DACA’s deportation relief to as many as 5 million additional illegal immigrants have roiled the GOP.
Language targeting DACA would be similar to legislation pushed in the Senate by Texas Republican Ted Cruz, who, as negotiations were ongoing, was hosting conservative House members in his Capitol Hill office to discuss strategy on the matter. Cruz’s bill has a companion in the House, sponsored by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. The legislation would prohibit the administration from granting deportation and other relief to any more illegal immigrants. It does not target people who have already enrolled in DACA.
The Rules Committee finalized the plan late Wednesday on a party line vote.
Ranking member Louise M. Slaughter, D-N.Y., offered an amendment to strike the language that would bar Obama from continuing or expanding DACA. It was defeated along party lines, 3-8.
Rules Democrat Jim McGovern of Massachusetts took issue with the timing of the proposal’s introduction, which coincided with Cruz’s dinner.
“Mr. Cruz has considerably more sway than some of the leaders in the House,” he quipped.
Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, took issue with the criticism, saying there has been “a continuing dialogue within our conference about what would and would not be in [the bill], and yesterday we became aware of what was in, and that created a set of circumstances where there were certain discussions.”
The plan would force conservatives — many of whom have a history of voting for amendments and then voting against the underlying bill — to back the supplemental first if they want a chance to constrain what some conservatives, like Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, have blasted as “administrative amnesty.”
The plan also came after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., roiled conservatives by suggesting the House’s bill could be used to conference a comprehensive immigration bill. That prompted Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, to blast Reid and vow no “immigration reform” of any kind would be added to the bill.
It’s not clear what will happen if the House border makes it to the Senate. Although the rule doesn’t combine the border bill with the DACA language — as leadership at one point considered — the White House earlier Wednesday threatened a veto of the border bill on its own.
Matt Fuller contributed to this report.
July 29, 2014
Frustrated by lack of action and unfulfilled promises on the immigration overhaul front, a coalition of 10 advocacy groups is out to hold House members accountable for the extent to which they were unhelpful to the cause.
A new scorecard for all 435 members’ immigration votes, statements and co-sponsorships aims to draw a stark portrait of “who stands with us and who does not,” said Hispanic Federation President José Calderón. The rankings come as Congress nears a boiling point on an emergency funding request from President Barack Obama intended to mitigate the crisis at the border as children cross illegally into the United States.
The first-of-its-kind scorecard was released Monday, as advocates gathered a stone’s throw from the Capitol for the grand unveiling, calling for action and scolding lawmakers for what they see as stonewalling on a critical issue.
“Every ‘zero’ you see in that scorecard is personal to us,” said Rocio Sáenz, a member of the board of directors for Mi Familia Vota.
“There is some explaining that needs to be done as to why they said to us in private that they supported immigration reform, yet their report card says different,” said Tony Suárez, vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
Republicans received significantly lower rankings than Democrats. Clarissa Martínez de Castro, the deputy vice president of the National Council of La Raza Office of Research, Advocacy and Legislation, said the discrepancy reflected a “Republican leadership failure,” though the organizations behind the scorecard insist the results are based on the facts and aren’t motivated by party preference.
Here’s a look at the rankings, based on members’ positions in 11 different areas over the past several months: Full story
The House Judiciary Committee holds a 10 a.m. oversight hearing questioning Leon Rodriguez, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, who was sworn in on July 9.
July 28, 2014
There’s no shortage of House conservatives who think President Barack Obama has broken the law — or is simply not enforcing it. But none of these brash right-wingers slamming the president for executive overreach are stepping up to offer articles of impeachment. Why?
“Because it is unwise,” said Rep. Mo Brooks. The Alabama Republican was like many others CQ Roll Call attempted to pin down, and wouldn’t comment on whether he thinks the president deserves to be impeached. “It does not make any difference what I think,” Brooks said, identifying the major procedural hurdle facing any such effort — there is “no chance” the Senate would impeach the president.
Calling it a “moot point,” Brooks pulled out the Serenity Prayer from his wallet and read: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
Similar sentiments came from even the most ardent anti-Obama flamethrowers, with Steve Stockman of Texas calling it a “futile endeavor.”
“Not going anywhere with the Senate,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas. “It sucks all the air out of the room.”
Even Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a few months ahead of her retirement, didn’t want to talk about impeachment, literally making a shooing motion with her hands when CQ Roll Call raised the question.
July 25, 2014
Updated 12:01 p.m. |Republican lawmakers emerged from a special conference meeting Friday morning with renewed optimism that they could pass a slimmed-down border supplemental package before the August recess. But passage still may not be as easy as some expect.
House Republicans are looking at a less than $1 billion package, according to lawmakers leaving the meeting, though no legislative text has been released. Appropriators were previously aiming for a package at about $1.5 billion — already down from the the $3.7 billion the president proposed to address the flood of unaccompanied minors crossing the Southwest border.
Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, the leader of a Republican working group on the crisis, said Friday morning that the measure Republicans aim to pass next week would still look similar to the recommendations she and her working group recently released.
“I really feel very, very hopeful,” Granger said at the prospect of passing a bill next week. “I just think we had a chance to present our findings and our recommendations. We came back today and explained more and listened to people.”
The border group’s plan drew a lukewarm response Wednesday when Granger presented the proposal to the conference. Apparently some lawmakers were still concerned that the president or the Senate could negate whatever legislation they pass. But, as Granger said, “there were far fewer problems today than there were yesterday.”
Granger said the package would retain the “major pieces” of the working group’s recommendations: “Change the 2008 law, secure the border and send the children back in an organized way working with the countries.”
A key piece of the GOP proposal — and a key sticking point with Democrats — is the revision of a 2008 law on human trafficking. Republicans want to amend the law to allow for the speedy deportation of children coming from Central America. Under the current law, those children are entitled to an immigration hearing to determine whether they can get refugee status.
On Friday, during her weekly news conference, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pleaded with Republicans to not “hold the children hostage to the cosmetics of how tough you are on the border.
Pelosi had initially seemed open to the idea of making changes to the 2008 law, but she quickly changed her mind after many Democrats expressed opposition to that idea. “There’s no reason why they have to be tied and I hope that the Republicans will come to that conclusion,” Pelosi said Friday.
Pelosi’s comments were echoed by 13 members of the Congressional Women’s Working Group on Immigration Reform — all Democrats — who sent a letter Friday to Boehner asking the speaker to submit a supplemental bill without the riders Republicans are almost certain to attach.
Changing the 2008 law seems like it almost definitely would be part of a Republican border proposal.
What’s “up in the air,” according to Indiana Republican Marlin Stutzman, is whether Republicans try to end the president’s executive order Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, more commonly referred to as DACA. Stutzman said he’d be surprised if Republicans try to end DACA in this package, but that “it was suggested a couple of times.”
There were an estimated 30 Republicans who spoke during the conference meeting, so a few voices on DACA would not be a significant call for immediate action.
Still, Republicans have very few votes they can lose on the measure before it’s in serious trouble of not passing. Democrats are unlikely to bail them out with more than a handful of votes — if any at all — and there are more than a few hard-line Republicans on the border supplemental.
“I think that we’re still very divided,” John Fleming, R-La., said. “I think that — I know that — there’s a number in there that didn’t speak up at all and feel as I do: that, at most, we should call the president out through a resolution that he must act, and that we can’t act until he does.”
Many lawmakers apparently thought it would be a good idea to adopt a resolution stating that it was the sense of the House that the president ought to enforce immigration laws. That could win some more votes for Republicans. But that doesn’t seem like it would appease Fleming.
“Because the idea that we’re going to pass legislation and it’s actually going to be signed into law is just nonsense,” Fleming said. “It isn’t going to happen. Everybody in that room knows that, at most, this would be, cover-your-butt kind of legislation.”
Kansas Republican Tim Huelskamp expressed a similar sentiment.
“You can’t trust this president,” he said. “I mean, he could go in and do an executive order again next week.”
Huelskamp said he wanted to see the legislative text before he made his decision on the supplemental, but he seemed to suggest it was on the president, not Congress, to act to address the border.
“At the end of the day, this is the president’s border crisis, and he has to show how he’s going to solve it,” Huelskamp said.
But many Republicans seem to see the need to pass something before the August recess.
Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said it seemed like every Republican was coalescing around “some type of Granger-modified plan.” And Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said there was “growing consensus that the House will act, not to merely manage the problem, as the president wants, but to stop the problem.”
Brady added that, “if we worried about what the Senate does or doesn’t do, this House would not have sent over 300-plus bills on the jobs, the economy and getting the budget under control.”
And as Stutzman said: “We got to find a way to get there. I think we do. You talk to — you listen to some of the members, especially down on the border states, they don’t want to have to go home and deal with this all summer long.”
Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.