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October 23, 2014

Posts in "Democrats"

October 22, 2014

Energy and Commerce Rivals Battle to the Wire

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Ranking member rivals Eshoo and Pallone. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Since January, Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. and Anna G. Eshoo have been positioning themselves as the obvious choice to be the top Democrat on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee.

But after 10 months of cutting checks and courting colleagues, they’re still not finished campaigning to replace the panel’s current ranking member, retiring Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California.

Members of the House Democratic Caucus won’t settle the hotly contested race until late-November at the earliest, meaning Pallone of New Jersey and Eshoo of California will have to stay on the offensive, showing they’re both team players and power players who are ready — and able — to help their friends out.

Along the way, they are pulling pages from the same playbook — with a few key exceptions.

Full story

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 17, 2014

GOP Lawmakers: Congress Should Pass Ebola Travel Ban

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King wants a vote banning flights from Ebola-stricken countries. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Will the House interrupt its recess to vote on a travel ban or visa suspensions to prevent the further spread of Ebola on U.S. soil?

Highly unlikely.

After all, as airstrikes began in Syria earlier this month to combat the Islamic State terror group, members on both sides of the aisle were calling for Congress to return and vote on a formal Authorization for Use of Military Force measure.

GOP leadership didn’t bite, with Speaker John A. Boehner saying he would only be inclined to reconvene the House if President Barack Obama sent Congress the AUMF language.

In the case of Ebola, senior House Republicans are also downplaying the need to rush back to Washington for a vote on restricting travel from affected African countries to the United States. The Obama administration, they argue, should be taking such action without being compelled to by Congress.

“Let’s first see if the president is willing to work with us to do [a travel ban] now,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., told a small group of reporters Thursday. “He loves to brag about how he can do things with a pen and a phone. … He can approve a travel ban. Today. And we’ve called on him to do that. So let’s see what he says.”

Scalise, a member of the Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, was back on Capitol Hill to participate in a special hearing to probe the Ebola response by the federal government. The occasion pulled many members off the campaign trail, including Senate hopefuls Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Bruce Braley, D-Iowa.

But a subcommittee hearing during a recess, when participation is voluntary, isn’t the same as recalling the House to take a recorded vote, a precarious exercise just weeks before the midterm elections.

Regardless, a handful of lawmakers were clamoring for just that Friday.

 

Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., joined forces with Sen. David Vitter, R-La., sending a letter to Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., urging emergency sessions on both sides of the Rotunda to institute travel bans while “the Obama administration has failed to recognize this public health threat.” Vitter’s Senate colleague, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, also wants members back on Capitol Hill to confront the issue.

Another Florida Republican, Rep. Dennis A. Ross, already has legislative text ready to go that would bar commercial flights to and from Ebola-affected countries until the virus is no longer a threat.

He’ll introduce it when Congress returns for next month’s lame-duck session, Ross said in a statement, though he added that he holds out hope Boehner would “quickly call Congress back into session to debate my legislation.”

 

Related:

Ebola Sparks Obama to Shake Up Leadership Style

For Senate Candidates, Ebola Hearing Takes Precedence Over Stump

As Ebola Crisis Escalates, Lawmakers on Both Sides Turn Up Heat

Murphy: CDC Needs Tighter Ebola Screening Rules

Ohio Senators Seek Information as Cleveland Faces New Ebola Risk

Democratic Senator: Restrict Africa Visas Due to Ebola

 

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October 16, 2014

Republicans, Democrats Trade Punches Over CDC, NIH Ebola Funding

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Scalise says Democrats are politicizing Ebola.  (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House majority whip lashed out at Democrats Thursday for trying to blame Republicans for sanctioning cuts to medical research that might have helped curb the spread of Ebola in the United States.

“It’s a ludicrous attack,” Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., told a small group of reporters following an Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on the Obama administration’s handling of the Ebola crisis.

“You had a hearing today with a number of officials … and not one person asked for an additional dime of money,” Scalise went on. “[Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas] Frieden himself has actually made public comments that he has the resources they need.” Full story

Democrats Blame Budget Battles for Fumbled Ebola Response (Updated)

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The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health officials appeared before a House subcommittee Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 1:50 p.m. | Democrats at Thursday’s rare mid-recess Ebola hearing pushed back at criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of the crisis, arguing that missteps in the federal response are due in part to budget standoffs and last year’s government shutdown.

Colorado’s Diana DeGette, the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee holding the hearing, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has come under fire since the arrival of the virus in the U.S., cannot do its job adequately without proper funding from Congress.

She reiterated a key element of the Obama administration’s approach to addressing the Ebola outbreak: that efforts to contain the disease must be focused on Africa.

“There is no such thing as fortress America when it comes to disease,” she said.

California’s Henry A. Waxman, in his opening statement, echoed his Democratic colleague’s remarks, telling the panel that congressional budget fights that led to sequesters and last year’s government shutdown contributed to the problems with the U.S. response.

“We have our share of responsibility by not funding the infrastructure,” Waxman said.

“Since 2006, CDC’s budget, adjusted for inflation, has dropped by 12 percent. Funding for the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Cooperative Agreement, which supports state and local health departments preparedness activities, has been cut from $1 billion in its first year of funding in 2002 to $612 million in 2014. All of these were also subject to the sequestration. And those who allowed that sequestration to happen by closing the government have to answer to the American people, as well,” said the California Democrat, who is retiring at the end of this term.

Pennsylvania Republican Tim Murphy, chairman of the subcommittee, in his opening remarks said if additional resources are needed, federal officials need to speak up.

“The trust and credibility of the administration and government are waning as the American public loses confidence each day with demonstrated failures of the current strategy,” he said.

“If resources or authorization is needed to stop Ebola in its tracks, tell us in Congress. I pledge — and I believe this committee joins me in pledging — that we will do everything in our power to work with you to keep the American people safe from Ebola outbreak in West Africa,” he said.

 

Related:

Ebola Sparks Obama to Shake Up Leadership Style

As Ebola Crisis Escalates, Lawmakers on Both Sides Turn Up Heat

Murphy: CDC Needs Tighter Ebola Screening Rules

Ohio Senators Seek Information as Cleveland Faces New Ebola Risk

Democratic Senator: Restrict Africa Visas Due to Ebola

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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October 15, 2014

As Ebola Crisis Escalates, Lawmakers on Both Sides Turn Up Heat

 

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Burgess and other lawmakers look for answers on the Ebola crisis. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As a handful of House members return to the Capitol Thursday for a special recess hearing on Ebola, lawmakers in both parties are grappling with a practical — and political — question: Who gets the blame?

“It’s a tough one,” Rep. Michael Burgess said during a pen-and-pad briefing Wednesday with reporters.

Burgess, who is also a doctor, wondered aloud whether fault lies with the fact that Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola fatality in the U.S., was allowed in the country in the first place; whether the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, where Duncan died, ignored safeguards; or whether the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not been, as the Texas Republican, said, “as forthcoming with information as they said they were.”

Burgess said the Texas hospital — where two health care workers have now contracted Ebola from coming into contact with Duncan — is probably prepared to take “some pretty tough questions tomorrow,” referring to the hearing to take place at noon Thursday on the U.S. public health response to Ebola. (You can watch the hearing live on rollcall.com.) Full story

October 10, 2014

Where Does Pelosi Play? The Fine Art of Surrogate Campaigning

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California’s Becerra, left, campaigns in Colorado with Democratic House candidate Romanoff. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House members who want to help their party in the final stretch of campaign season have options. They can offer endorsements. Make calls. Write checks.

But sometimes, nothing says “I care” like getting on a plane and flying across the country to stand alongside a colleague.

In the month before Election Day, members not fighting for their political lives are expected to be team players — and one way to do that is by traveling to different congressional districts as campaign “surrogates.”

It’s not as simple as just showing up: Being a good surrogate is an art, and considerable thought, time and effort go into deciding who should go where, and when, and in what capacity.

Each member has his or her own edge.

Budget Chairman and 2012 vice presidential nominee Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., will draw a crowd, while Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., can bring in buckets of money (she’s raised more than $400 million for Democrats since 2002). Others can open doors that might otherwise be closed, or help a vulnerable member shore up support among a flagging constituency.

And every ambitious lawmaker on Capitol Hill knows that stumping for a fellow member or potential colleague can pay off down the road.

Full story

Pelosi: Call Congress Back for Minimum Wage, War Authorization Votes

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Pelosi wants Congress to come back and vote on the minimum wage and on the use of military force in Iraq and Syria. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called on Speaker John A. Boehner Friday to bring the House back into session to vote on two things: Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and Authorizing Use of Military Force to combat the Islamic State terrorist group.

The former was the subject of a half-hour long conference call hosted by Pelosi, Education and the Workforce ranking member George Miller and Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez.

After making the pitch for higher wages, Pelosi reiterated the importance of Congress returning to Capitol Hill before mid-November’s lame-duck session to let members debate and vote on the scale and scope of U.S. military operations already underway in Syria.

Boehner and other high-ranking Republicans have said that the lame duck is not the right time to engage in a full-scale debate on the topic, that it would be best dealt with by the new congress in January. Pelosi and other Democrats disagree.

“The American people wanted it acted upon … before the election,” Pelosi said.

Taking advantage of the auspicious date — Oct. 10 — Pelosi, Perez and Miller were joined by Janet Rowland, a 20-year-old full-time working mother of three who shared her story with reporters on the call and said a $10.10 per hour minimum wage would better help her juggle her responsibilities, make ends meet and go to school.

The conference call came less than a month before the midterm elections, and Democrats are working hard to make sure voters know that a minimum wage increase is a centerpiece of the party’s policy platform.

Every effort was made to keep the call on the subject. At one point, a journalist asked Perez to comment on media reports that he was a front-runner to succeed retiring Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. Perez did not have a chance to respond to that question specifically, however, before Miller interjected that the query wasn’t related to the purpose of the conference call.

Sticking to his talking points, Perez replied, “My focus on … everything we do is to help the Janet Rowlands of the world.”

Related:

Pelosi Says Debate, Vote Should Be Held on Military Authorization

Boehner: Don’t Expect War Authorization Vote in Lame-Duck Session

After Today, House Is Done Through the Elections

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October 9, 2014

McCarthy Riffs on SNL’s ‘The Californians’ With Highway Tips for Obama

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McCarthy riffs on SNL’s “Californians” with driving tips for Obama. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, showing off a lighter side rarely seen in his predecessor, offered some overly-elaborate highway navigation tips — a la Saturday Night Live’s soap-opera parody “The Californians” — for President Barack Obama’s fundraising trip to the West Coast.

The Bakersfield native, who took over the No. 2 position in the House from Virginia Republican Eric Cantor less than three months ago, made the driving suggestions in a press release encouraging the president to get out of Los Angeles and visit struggling agricultural areas in the state’s interior.

Borrowing from SNL’s goofy recurring sketch, in which characters with exaggerated Valley accents obsess over navigational details, McCarthy (or, more likely, his press shop) offered Obama an alternative to hanging out in Hollywood with the glitterati:

“He should take Colorado to Lincoln, hop on the 10, go north on the 405 to the 5 — get off at Lyons for a double-double from In-n-Out — then take the 5 to the 99 to the 65.”

Here’s the whole release:

In California, the President Should Take the 10 to the 405 to the 5 to…

Today, the President will be in West L.A. enjoying the Santa Monica sunshine and giving a speech on the economy. The President has been talking a lot lately about how great the economy is doing. While it may look good for some in the Los Angeles basin, a trip throughout the Golden state would show the President that many Californians are frustrated with his Administration’s economic policies.

So, before the President leaves California, he should take a little trip. He should take Colorado to Lincoln, hop on the 10, go north on the 405 to the 5—get off at Lyons for a double-double from In-n-Out—then take the 5 to the 99 to the 65.

On this route, he’ll pass through Bakersfield and into the Central Valley, where the nation’s largest vegetable, fruit, and nut producers are located. But right now the drought has made life tough for people in Central Valley communities, and the Obama Administration’s policies sure haven’t helped. Sadly, the Obama economy and the Administration’s harmful water regulatory burdens have left California in a far more precarious place than West L.A.

Labor force participation in California is only 61.9 percent, below the national rate of 62.7 percent, which is a full 3.4 percent lower than in 2008. Unemployment in counties across California, especially in the Central Valley, is still in the double digits.

If the President is serious about growing the economy and creating opportunity in California, he should direct his Administration to immediately ease the harmful policies that send precious water out to the ocean instead of to our communities. That would create real economic growth and provide greater opportunity to the next generation of our farmers.

So while the President is out West, he should take a trip on the freeway out of the big cities and see how the rest of California is doing.

 

Related:

Kevin McCarthy Elected Majority Leader

McCarthy Will Have to Prove Himself on Policy, Fundraising 

Majority Leader-Elect McCarthy Inherits Top Cantor Aides

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October 7, 2014

Murphy: CDC Needs Tighter Ebola Screening Rules

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Murphy wants tighter travel restrictions on Ebola-afflicted countries. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention need to move more quickly to tighten restrictions on travelers coming to the U.S. from Ebola-afflicted areas, said Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa.

Murphy, a member of the GOP Doctors Caucus, told CNN Tuesday morning that the enhanced screening processes proposed so far by the CDC do not go far enough. Murphy wants to see some travel from West Africa restricted until visitors are proven virus-free.

The CDC has pushed back against tighter travel restrictions on Liberia, the African nation at the center of the epidemic, arguing that such rules could hamper the American-led effort to contain the outbreak.

“For [the CDC] to simply be dismissive and say ‘We can’t isolate those countries,’ they’re going down the wrong rabbit hole and trying to give the American public a false sense of security,” Murphy said.

“The chance of getting this, spreading across 300 million Americans, is certainly very small. But the American public certainly is also saying ‘We don’t want this to be spreading at all,’” the congressman said.

“No one is saying, ‘quarantine an entire continent.’ What we’re saying is more sophisticated screening, look at travel restrictions for individuals, continue to send aid there,” the six-term congressman said. “We’re not saying isolate everything from that. But right now the CDC is saying, ‘It’s OK for people to come and go, we’ll just ask some questions.’ It’s not enough. I don’t think the American public is comfortable with that. I hope in the next few days the CDC is going to ramp up other ways of screening folks and having more restrictions on people coming out of Africa.”

Murphy is one of a growing number of lawmakers, including the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat, New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, calling for a more robust federal response to the outbreak.

Schumer on Sunday said screenings should include, “fever checks and health surveys in both airports and ports.”

Murphy is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, is scheduled to hold an Ebola hearing on Capitol Hill next week.

The House Homeland Security Committee will hold its own Ebola hearing on Friday at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

That committee’s chairman, Texas Republican Michael McCaul, said the hearing is being held at the airport to symbolize the interconnectedness of a world in which “threats to the homeland are only a flight away.”

Correction, 3:40 p.m.: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the name of the committee and the time of the hearing. The hearing was last month before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

 

Related:

CDC Director Testifies on Ebola Crisis

Schumer: Screen Passengers From Ebola-Stricken Areas

No Ebola Travel Ban, White House Says

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October 3, 2014

Issa, Cummings Issue Joint Call for Secret Service Review

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Issa . (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The top Republican and Democrat on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee are formally asking Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to conduct a “comprehensive external review” of Secret Service practices and protocol.

In a letter to Johnson on Friday, Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and ranking member Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., emphasized that any such investigation must extend beyond last month’s isolated incident, where an armed intruder scaled the fence of the White House and was able to get inside the presidential residence before being apprehended — by an off-duty officer.

The two lawmakers, who famously clashed earlier this year, said Secret Service Director Julia Pierson’s resignation on Wednesday evening should not preclude a larger probe, given that problems within the agency preceded her tenure. Nor should the committee’s rare, mid-recess hearing on department misconduct be construed as congress closing the book on the chapter.

Full story

October 2, 2014

Secret Service Hearing Spotlights Chaffetz’s Chairmanship Hopes

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As the GOP’s point-man for the Secret Service Oversight hearing, Chaffetz raised his profile. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The sudden resignation Wednesday of Secret Service Director Julia Pierson was about more than a single fence-jumping incident at the White House or Tuesday’s troubling hearing on Capitol Hill, Rep. Jason Chaffetz told CQ Roll Call.

The Utah Republican, who earned notice — especially in GOP circles — for his forceful questioning of Pierson at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, said the turn of events over the past 24 hours really is the culmination of months of a painstaking bipartisan probe of a troubled federal agency.

“I’ve been investigating the Secret Service for more than a year,” Chaffetz said, referencing work done by his Oversight subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Secret Service. Chaffetz, who has developed sources within the agency, said the pressure leading to Pierson’s departure had been building.

“This is not a knee-jerk reaction to what happened at the White House,” Chaffetz said. Full story

October 1, 2014

Losing Cummings Set Off Chain Reaction for Secret Service Director

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When Cummings lost confidence in Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, others followed. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As CNN’s Wolf Blitzer noted Wednesday afternoon, when a White House appointee loses the backing of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Elijah E. Cummings, you know you’re in trouble.

That’s where embattled Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, appointed to the job less than two years ago by President Barack Obama, found herself Thursday as a growing chorus of lawmakers — including Democrats Cummings and Pelosi — demanded answers and accountability for an embarrassing series of security lapses involving the agency.

Cummings, the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was the first, most senior Democrat to suggest that maybe it was time for new leadership at the Secret Service.

Wednesday morning, less than 24 hours after Pierson’s problematic testimony at a rare, mid-recess hearing on Capitol Hill, Cummings told MSNBC that his “confidence and trust” in Pierson “had eroded,” and that he did “not feel comfortable with her” in charge of the agency.

Those comments seemed to have set off a chain reaction among lawmakers in both parties struggling with their positions on whether Pierson should stay or go.

Soon after, Pelosi announced at a press conference that if Cummings was bothered by Pierson’s record at the Secret Service, then so was she.

I support his suggestion,” Pelosi told reporters. “I am subscribing to his superior judgment and knowledge on the subject.”

On the other side of the aisle, South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy cited Cummings, too.

“When Elijah Cummings says that he has lost confidence in someone, the White House better pay attention,” Gowdy told Fox News.

“He’s hardly a tea party Republican,” said Gowdy, the chairman to Cummings’ ranking member on the special Benghazi investigative committee. “He does not criticize the administration unless it’s warranted. And, he has lost confidence in Director Pierson’s leadership.”

And Cummings’ comments were an indication of how little support Pierson could expect from Democrats on Capitol Hill. This was, after all, a lawmaker who, in February, had been described by a spokesman for Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa as an “errand runner for the Obama White House.”

In an interview with CQ Roll Call Wednesday evening, Cummings said he hadn’t heard about Gowdy’s comments from earlier in the day, but that he was gratified by them.

“I think it is — I hope, I hope — it’s about integrity,” he said. “But also always putting the country first.”

“Put country before party,” he added, giving a shout-out to the late Republican Rep. Jack Kemp, who used the phrase often.

 

Related:

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson Resigns

Boehner Slams ‘Incompetence’ at Secret Service, Wants Review

Pelosi Calls for Review of Secret Service Security Lapses

Secret Service Takes Beating in Rare Recess Hearing

Secret Service Director Testimony Omits Elevator Incident With Obama

Omar Gonzalez Charged in White House Breach

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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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

Pelosi Calls for ‘Independent Investigation’ Into Secret Service Lapses (Video)

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Pelosi stopped short of calling for the Secret Service director’s resignation.  (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stopped short on Wednesday of demanding Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resign, but called for an “independent investigation” into the disturbing protocol breaches within the agency that she said were “inexcusable.”

“The challenge may be more than one person,” the California Democrat told reporters at a press conference on Capitol Hill. “Whether she [resigns] or not, I think we need an independent investigation. Her leaving doesn’t end the need to learn more.”

Pelosi’s remarks came a day after the Oversight and Government Reform Committee convened a rare, mid-recess hearing in Washington, D.C. to hear testimony from Pierson and other officials in the wake of revelations that an armed intruder scaled the fence of the White House and actually was able to get inside the presidential residence before finally being apprehended — by an off-duty officer. Full story

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