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November 1, 2014

Posts in "Debt Ceiling"

February 14, 2014

Obama Credits Democratic Unity for Debt Limit Victory

CAMBRIDGE, Md. — President Barack Obama credited House Democrats’ party unity for getting Republican leaders to back off debt limit brinkmanship at the caucus’s annual retreat here.

“This caucus has shown, time and time again, under the most difficult circumstances, the kind of courage and unity and discipline that has made me very, very proud,” Obama said on Friday morning.

There’s no better example, Obama said, than the vote to raise the debt ceiling earlier this week, which passed the House with all but two Democrats voting “yes” — and only 28 Republicans.

“I was just talking to [Minority Leader] Nancy [Pelosi] before I came out here,” he continued. “The fact that we are no longer going to see, I believe, anybody try to hold our government hostage and threaten the full faith and credit of the United States of America in order to contract policy concessions, the fact that we were able to pass a clean debt limit, is just one example of why, when you guys are unified, you guys stick together, this country is better off, and I could not be more proud.”

Obama’s comments followed remarks by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who was originally slated to address the House Democratic Caucus on Thursday but had to reschedule due to inclement weather.

While Biden delivered something of a pep talk to Democrats framed in the context of the 2014 election cycle, Obama steered clear of such rhetoric; in fact, he made no mention at all of the November elections.

But Obama did energize the crowd of lawmakers assembled in a Hyatt Regency ballroom on Friday morning by promising to continue to sign executive orders on specific policy issues on which House Republican refused to budge.

“I want to work with Congress, but I’m not gonna wait, because there’s too much to do,” he said.

Obama conceded that there are some areas in which he could not enact change through his now-infamous “pen and phone” strategy, such as an overhaul of the nation’s immigration system and an increase in the minimum wage across all work sectors.

In those areas, Democrats would have to show resilience on their own.

“Punting and putting things off for another year, another two years, another three years, it hurts people, it hurts our economies, it hurts families and part of what I like to think makes us Democrats is not simply some abstract ideological set of beliefs but the fact that we’re reminded every single day that we’re here to help a whole bunch of folks out there, our neighbors, our communities who are struggling still and need our help and they’re counting on us,” Obama said.

“Good thing is, they got some outstanding members of Congress who are willing to fight for them,” he continued, “regardless of the political costs.”

February 12, 2014

House Democrats Kick Off Retreat in Cambridge

Cambridge, Md. — Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi insisted that her House Democrats weren’t gathered here for a retreat to discuss politics.

“What we’re here to do this week is to talk policy,” she told reporters who asked her predictions for Election Day.

But Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel of New York went right at the politics and the news Rep. Gary G. Miller is retiring. Israel said Democrats will be asking their Republican colleagues again and again before November, ”Whose side are you on?”

“Gary Miller … decided he was on the wrong side and jumped ship,” Israel continued of the California Republican Rep. who announced his retirement earlier in the day. “He knows you cannot continue to defend the indefensible. You can’t continue to defend the wrong priorities and the wrong values in front of the American people.”

Israel told reporters covering the House Democrats’ annual retreat that kicked off on Wednesday at the Hyatt Regency resort that the question would be the dominant theme.

“On every one of [these] issues — rising wages, pay equity, immigration reform, a fair tax code — we’re on the side of the American people,” Israel said Wednesday evening.

Full story

February 11, 2014

Breaking Down the Debt Ceiling Vote

The House voted 221-201 to pass a clean debt ceiling hike for more than a year — and there are a few interesting trends hidden in the breakdown. (The Senate then passed the increase on Wednesday.)

Twenty-eight Republicans voted for the bill, which means this debt ceiling vote was the most extreme example of violating the principle that the speaker does not bring a bill to the floor without a “majority of the majority” — the so-called Hastert Rule, named after former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., who broke that principle 12 times himself.

Before Tuesday, the greatest number of majority defections on a bill that passed the House was 41. (Coincidentally, Democrats and Republicans both achieved that same watermark. Democrats in 2007 with the “Protect America Act” and Republicans in 2002 with the “Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.”)

But Tuesday’s debt limit vote now stands alone with the fewest number of votes from a majority on a bill that passed the House since at least 1991, when digital records of roll call votes became available. Full story

The End of Debt Limit Brinkmanship? (Video)

boehner021114 445x314 The End of Debt Limit Brinkmanship? (Video)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio took the podium Tuesday at a private Republican Conference meeting across the street from the Capitol, well aware that he was out of options.

His flock had once again left him, and so a bill suspending the nation’s borrowing cap until March 2015 would come to the floor without preconditions, he announced. Then, shunning questions, he hastily walked offstage to stunned silence.

A moment later, he reconsidered and returned.

“You’re not even going to clap for me for getting this monkey off of our backs?” he implored, drawing applause from many of his rank-and-file members, still loyal to the embattled House figurehead.

The debt ceiling has become more burden to Boehner than boon. The exchange, reiterated by several sources inside the room, points to a fundamental shift in dynamics in the debate over how to extend the nation’s borrowing authority. Boehner’s defeatist approach and the tepid, mixed reaction of his membership underscore a growing realization in the conference that the tactic of attaching legislative demands to a debt limit increase is simply unsustainable.

Full story

Republicans Plan ‘Clean’ Debt Limit Vote Today (Updated)

Updated 11:42 a.m. | Unable to sell their conference on their latest plan to raise the debt limit, Republican leaders plan to vote today on a “clean” debt limit increase.

“We don’t have 218 votes,” Speaker John A. Boehner told reporters. “When you don’t have 218 votes, you have nothing.”

Boehner said he expects nearly every Democrat to back the clean debt limit increase and said he had spoken to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and she agreed they would.

“Let his party give him the debt ceiling he wants,” the Ohio Republican said of President Barack Obama, who had vowed not to negotiate on the debt limit again.

But some Republicans will still have to vote for the bill.

“We’re going to have to find ‘em, I’ll be one of them,” Boehner said.

Boehner, who has long sought to use the debt limit as a leverage point to move other priorities, called the party’s inability to agree on a plan a “lost opportunity” and “a disappointing moment.”

The plan released last night would have restored military pensions that were cut in last year’s budget deal. Republicans now plan to vote on that issue separately — with both votes planned to be held later today to get ahead of a snowstorm expected later this week, GOP leadership aides said.

The military pension plan was only the latest of many Republican leader trial balloons to get shot down by their rank and file — including proposals to attach the Keystone XL pipeline and repeal a portion of the Affordable Care Act.

Republican leaders were caught between White House and Democratic demands for a clean hike and Republican conservatives who didn’t want to vote for anything, and others who were angry that they would have to choose whether to vote to support the troops or vote against raising the debt limit. Other Republicans complained that the plan would effectively increase spending for nine years only to cut it in the 10th year by extending part of the sequester — when many wanted more cuts sooner.

The difficulty of the task was noted by Boehner last week when he said attaching the canonization of Mother Teresa to the debt limit hike probably wouldn’t be enough to get enough Republican votes to pass a debt limit hike.

“Listen: You’ve all known that our members are not big about voting for an increase in the debt ceiling,” Boehner said today.

Republican were “upset” with Obama’s insistence that he would not negotiate on the issue.

And so, Boehner said, Republicans were asking, “‘Why should I have to deal with his debt limit?

“And so the fact is: We’ll let the Democrats put the votes up. We’ll put a minimum number of votes up to get it passed.”

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said Democrats would provide 180 or more votes. “We’ll see how many Republicans act responsibly,” he said.

But Hoyer reacted incredulously to the GOP leadership’s inability to find 218 Republican votes for any plan.

“Isn’t that pathetic? Isn’t that pathetic? Isn’t that pathetic?” Hoyer said.

Earlier, Boehner left his news conference today singing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.”

Emma Dumain, Daniel Newhauser and Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.

February 10, 2014

House GOP to Huddle Today on Debt Ceiling Strategy

House Republican leadership will gather the troops this evening to plot debt ceiling strategy, aides confirmed Monday morning.

It’s still not clear, however, what that strategy will look like, with some GOP sweeteners off the table and others that could attract Republican support outside the realm of possibility given the Democratic Senate and White House.

But the 5:30 p.m. meeting of the whole House Republican Conference in the basement of the Capitol highlights an increasing sense of urgency in reaching a deal to avoid default before the Feb. 27 deadline — the House is in recess starting Thursday and, along with the Senate, all through next week for the Presidents Day holiday.

If members can agree on terms for raising the debt ceiling and leadership feels confident it has 218 votes to proceed on the House floor, the Monday meeting could set the gears in motion for a vote on Wednesday before the chamber breaks to allow House Democrats to hold their yearly retreat in Cambridge, Md.

Matt Fuller contributed to this report.

By Emma Dumain Posted at 12:01 p.m.
Debt Ceiling

February 6, 2014

Boehner on Debt Ceiling: ‘Still Looking for the Pieces to This Puzzle’ (Updated)

boehner042213 445x291 Boehner on Debt Ceiling: Still Looking for the Pieces to This Puzzle (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 4:37 p.m. | While conceding to a deadline of “before late February” to raise the debt ceiling, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said he still doesn’t have a plan for getting the votes from his conference.

“I think we are still looking for the pieces to this puzzle,” Boehner told reporters at his weekly news conference Thursday. “But we do not want to default on our debt, and we’re not going to default on our debt.”

Throughout the week, GOP leaders floated several bills they offered to tack on to a vote to lift the cap on the nation’s $17 trillion debt. In each case, they were rebuffed by the their rank and file, many of whom refuse to vote for a debt limit increase at all.

“Mother Teresa is a saint now, but if the Congress wanted to make her a saint and attach that to the debt ceiling, we probably couldn’t get 218 votes,” Boehner told reporters.

Full story

February 4, 2014

Republicans Looking for the Exit on Debt Limit

Once considered a leverage point to extract massive concessions from President Barack Obama, the debt ceiling has all but been scratched from House Republicans’ negotiating playbook this year.

Put simply, the GOP has lost its willingness to fight on the issue — negotiation fatigue over a once-reviled hike to the nation’s borrowing limit that may best be summarized by Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio.

“There’s no sense picking a fight we can’t win,” he told his rank and file in a closed-door meeting Tuesday, sources in the room told CQ Roll Call.

That is a sharp contrast from past years, when Republicans considered demanding elements of Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan’s spending blueprint or a full repeal of the health care law in exchange for a temporary hike to the debt limit.

Full story

January 31, 2014

Boehner Wants to Go Big, but Will His Rank and File Follow?

boehner102313 445x310 Boehner Wants to Go Big, but Will His Rank and File Follow?

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

CAMBRIDGE, Md. – Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and his lieutenants came to the GOP retreat looking to convince the conference to go big and back an immigration overhaul, a real health care alternative and more. They left with mixed results.

For three years, Republicans have struggled to coalesce around an alternative to Obamacare. This year, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia vowed his party would finally vote on its own health care plan — something easy to say and harder to do. And Boehner tried to unite the restive conference around a controversial rewrite of the nation’s immigration policy, something that could actually become law.

Of course, it’s no secret that the GOP hasn’t been able to unify on much other than opposition to the president — something President Barack Obama alluded to in a sit-down interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Thursday and in his State of the Union address, when he challenged Republicans to bring forward their own ideas.

“In order to maximize our year, it’s important that we show the American people we’re not just the opposition party, we’re actually the alternative party,” Boehner told reporters Thursday morning.

Cantor and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon both served up variations of the Boehner line to the press.

The GOP push for the year is twofold: show they can govern on the major issues of the day while tamping down on GOP infighting and present a unified face to win control of the Senate.

“We know we’re inextricably bound to them,” Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma said of the Senate. “We certainly don’t want to do things that make it harder for them.”

Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California began the Thursday retreat meetings by presenting a breakdown of House Republican voting patterns by committee, class and geographic region, an attempt to show that dissent of the past years has not been exclusive to the younger, more tea-party-infused classes of 2010 and 2012.

Republicans generally coalesced around the idea of presenting their own health care bill, so it is now leadership’s task to consolidate the ideas and decide whether to move forward with one or several bills.

“I think it’s real important we spell out we have an alternative to this terrible thing called Obamacare,” said Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio.  “As the only part of the federal government that’s currently in Republican hands, I think it’s important we lay out a vision for how we think the country can go.”

But the conference remains bitterly split on an immigration overhaul. Those divisions manifested Thursday, when Republicans held an open debate on principles handed down by Boehner.

Republicans lined up behind three microphones to deliver their thoughts on immigration in one-minute bursts: one microphone for those who support an overhaul, another for those who support the effort but think it’s the wrong time to act, and the third for Republicans who just outright oppose a policy rewrite.

The three-microphone setup may have established the GOP middle ground on the issue as pro-overhaul, but anti-action this year — a dilemma some members said may prevent leadership from pushing ahead.

“The majority of us are for immigration reform,” Rep. Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho said Thursday night after the immigration discussion. “But they understand: not with this president and not with this Senate.”

Boehner and his team believe Republicans would be served well by an overhaul, but as he is wont to say, a leader without a flock is just a man out for a walk. So the speaker told members that the discussion is ongoing and no decisions have been made on any step of an immigration rewrite.

Members repeatedly voiced concerns that Obama could not be trusted to apply tighter border enforcement laws. “The challenge is can we deal with that, can we deal with forcing an administration that nobody trusts to deal with the things that we think need to be dealt with?” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, a proponent of acting this year.

A number of members also voiced concern that Republicans would open themselves up to political attacks from both Democrats and Republican opponents by acting in 2014.

And they are divided over the political risks of an immigration overhaul not just in the short term — Walden told reporters that a proposed policy rewrite would come after the majority of GOP primaries had already taken place — but over the long haul as well.

Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota asked her colleagues on Thursday if Republicans thought Democrats would support an immigration overhaul if 80 percent of those immigrants who would be “granted amnesty” would vote Republican.  She said an immigration overhaul in this fashion would create a “permanent Democrat majority bloc.”

In an interview with CQ Roll Call, Bachmann said multiple members told the conference behind closed doors that an immigration overhaul was “a suicide mission.”

One of those members, Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana, said he thought leadership would cool its efforts to push an immigration rewrite this year.

“My sense is that the consensus here is that we should not move forward and that leaders will abide by that,” Fleming told CQ Roll Call. “On a political basis, this is a suicide mission for Republicans. Why would we want to change the topic for a very toxic problem Democrats have with Obamacare?”

Fleming said Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas, Science Chairman Lamar Smith of Texas, and Budget Vice Chairman Tom Price of Georgia — all of whom are influential in conservative circles — spoke in front of the conference to say an overhaul should not move forward this year.

In the near term, Republicans will have to tackle a hike to the debt ceiling. The retreat ended without a resolution on how leaders can sell the vote to their members.

GOP Discusses Tying Debt Limit to Obamacare

cole092813 445x297 GOP Discusses Tying Debt Limit to Obamacare

Cole said tying a debt ceiling increase to a repeal of a portion of the health care law could benefit the GOP. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

CAMBRIDGE, Md. — House Republicans may again tie a debt ceiling increase to a repeal of a section of President Barack Obama’s health care law, but the plan remains murky after a three-day retreat here.

At an afternoon panel moderated by GOP leaders and former Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Holtz-Eakin, members expressed support for tying a one-year increase to the nation’s borrowing limit to a repeal of the health law’s so called risk corridors, a provision that mitigates risk for insurance companies.

“That’s certainly was an option put forward by some members,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who last year helped craft the GOP’s debt ceiling strategy. Full story

January 30, 2014

Boehner Promises ‘Alternatives’ to Obama’s Policies, Says Defaulting on Debt Is ‘Wrong’

boehner007 112113 445x291 Boehner Promises Alternatives to Obamas Policies, Says Defaulting on Debt Is Wrong

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

CAMBRIDGE, Md. — Speaker John A. Boehner said Thursday that Republicans want to avoid a default on the debt — while coming up with alternatives to President Barack Obama’s policies on a variety of issues including immigration and the economy.

“This afternoon we’re going to have a conversation about the debt limit,” Boehner said. “We know what the obstacles are that we face, but we believe that defaulting on our debt is the wrong thing. We don’t want to do that.”

More broadly, the Ohio Republican said the GOP needs to show the public it’s “not just the opposition party, we’re actually the alternatives party.”

As for those alternatives, details were scant. Republicans are also slated to have a conversation on immigration Thursday, where GOP leaders are expected to hand down a list of “principles” of an immigration overhaul. Full story

January 29, 2014

Immigration, Debt Ceiling Take Center Stage at GOP Retreat

When President Barack Obama called on Congress to pass an immigration rewrite this year at Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, House Republican leaders responded with applause and ovation.

Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio clapped from the dais while Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California joined him from the House floor. Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin jumped to his feet just a few seats away.

But by and large, members of the House Republican Conference in attendance remained seated and stoic, un-enthused at the prospect of undertaking the politically perilous immigration overhaul during an election year, or at all.

As Republicans head to their annual three-day retreat, the challenge for leadership is to ensure that if the team chooses to rise in favor of immigration changes on the House floor again later this year, their conference follows. Full story

January 16, 2014

Boehner Takes Softer Tone on Debt Limit

boehner007 112113 445x291 Boehner Takes Softer Tone on Debt Limit

 (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner appears resigned to raising the debt limit, even though Republicans are unlikely to extract new spending cuts from the White House in return.

The old standard for the Ohio Republican used to be a dollar of spending “cuts or reforms” for every dollar the debt ceiling was raised. That was the “Boehner rule” the speaker applied to the debt ceiling debate in August 2011. But that stance seems to have gone out the window.

While Boehner oversaw debt ceiling raises in February and October of last year that didn’t include those dollar-for-dollar cuts, his rhetoric never seemed to soften.

When President Barack Obama took the stance that he wouldn’t negotiate over the debt ceiling, Boehner was adamant, as recently as October, that “it doesn’t work that way.”

On Thursday, he had a different attitude.

“The president has not only made clear that he will not negotiate on the debt limit, he’s also made clear, as have Democrats on Capitol Hill, that they won’t talk about our long-term spending problem unless Republicans are willing to raise taxes. Republicans are not willing to raise taxes,” Boehner said at his weekly news conference. “So we find ourselves in a fairly difficult box.”

Boehner said he didn’t know when the debt ceiling would need to be raised — Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew recently said it would need to be raised more likely in February than March — but he said he supported raising it. He didn’t mention any conditions for that action, either.

Republicans are expected to discuss the issue at their annual retreat in two weeks, and they are unlikely to put forward any plan on the debt ceiling before that time.

January 3, 2014

Cantor Lays Out January Legislative Agenda

GOP leadership conference 13 102913 445x295 Cantor Lays Out January Legislative Agenda

Cantor, center, outlined the House’s January legislative agenda on Friday. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House will have a busy January judging by the lengthy legislative agenda Majority Leader Eric Cantor circulated among his colleagues on Friday.

The Virginia Republican’s memo, obtained by 218, lays out the obvious items of business: passing conference reports for the farm bill and for legislation funding the nation’s water programs, plus an appropriations bill for the remainder of fiscal 2014.

The GOP-run House will also continue to assail the president’s health care law, starting next week with a measure to address potential security breaches on HealthCare.gov. Cantor released a memo on that specific priority on Thursday.

Cantor also told lawmakers to familiarize themselves with other initiatives that could come to the floor in the weeks ahead, such as a possible Iran sanctions resolution that has been on the back-burner since late last year.

Full story

December 30, 2013

The House Year in Review

This year, doing the business of the People’s House was, at best, a struggle. It’s well-known that 2013 was, legislatively, the least productive session in congressional history. Leaders strained to get to 218 — a majority in the 435-seat House (in case you had no idea where the blog name came from). And there were some pretty notable news stories as a result of all this congressional dysfunction.

But as painful as the year was for members, covering the House was a pleasure, one which we here at 218 only had the honor of doing for about half the year.

In that short time, 218 — or “Goppers,” as we were formerly known, which rhymes with “Whoppers,” for all you still wondering about that — had more than a few favorite stories.

Among the labors of love, there was a piece about the 10 Republicans who could one day be speaker, a story on an internal August playbook that went out to House Republicans telling them to profess how they were fighting Washington, and a piece (in response to his “calves the size of cantaloupes” comment) asking the question: How do you solve a problem like Steve King? Full story

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