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July 23, 2014

Posts in "Democrats"

July 23, 2014

House GOP Forges Ahead on Border Funding Legislation With No Clear Endgame

rogers091013 330x235 House GOP Forges Ahead on Border Funding Legislation With No Clear Endgame

Rogers says a maximum of $1.5 billion will go toward bolstering resources at the Southwest border (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Republicans laid the groundwork Wednesday morning for legislation to fund more resources at the U.S.-Mexico border and make policy changes to stem the surge of child migrants there, but a path forward is far from clear with just days left in which to act.

Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., presented the conference with an outline for what the committee recommends as a response to President Barack Obama’s initial $3.7 billion request. Rogers said the maximum topline number the chamber will allocate will be $1.5 billion, but it could be much lower, with offsets cobbled together from from any unspent funds from previous appropriations cycles.

At present, however, there is no formal legislative text or even a draft bill to share with colleagues.

“I think it looks like, at this point in time, there’s good support,” Rogers told reporters after the meeting, though he conceded there hadn’t yet been a whip count.

At the same conference meeting Wednesday, Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, detailed an exhaustive list of policy recommendations compiled by the special, seven-member border working group she chairs. The group is, among other things, suggesting that Congress authorize National Guard troops at the border, impose harsher penalties on smugglers, employ more immigration judges and make changes to a 2008 trafficking law that would allow all unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border to self-deport.

“We just stepped back and asked, ‘What is the common sense and most immediate thing we can do?’ And that is to attach this to the supplemental and say, ‘This is what we’re willing to fund and this is what needs to happen,’” Granger said in a press scrum. “It’s not complicated.”

But Granger acknowledged, too, that this was just the first of several meetings that will take place throughout the day to determine the scale and scope of support for moving forward. She said there had not yet been a decision about whether the appropriations bill and the policy recommendations would all be in the same package, or perhaps split into two separate but complementary measures. Full story

July 22, 2014

4 Big Reasons Obama’s Border Funds Request Is in Trouble

House Republican Conference 22 120313 445x295 4 Big Reasons Obamas Border Funds Request Is in Trouble

Granger is leading a GOP task force to make recommendations on the child migrant border surge (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The initial outcry in Washington over the scale and scope of the child migrant surge at the U.S.-Mexico border signaled this could be a moment for rare bipartisan action.

But as with most issues on Capitol Hill, hopes for cooperation soon dissipated with rancor and disagreements now boiling over between the parties — not to mention within Democrats’ and Republicans’ own ranks.

With just days left until the monthlong August recess, lawmakers seemed as far apart as ever Tuesday — the eve of a House Republican Conference meeting that could determine whether, and how, the chamber moves forward with legislation to fund additional resources at the border and various policy changes to stem the tide of the crisis.

Here are four of the biggest reasons that first glimmer of optimism Republicans and Democrats could cobble together a deal might ultimately have been misplaced.

First, for House Republicans, it’s still about immigration. Republican leaders might have hoped that a specially-appointed “working group” tasked with advising the conference on the border crisis would help focus the conversation on the matter at hand, rather than let it devolve into the loaded rhetoric of the immigration debate that has plagued the party for the past year and a half.

It has proved virtually impossible to separate the two issues, however, with tempers still flaring on a number of fronts — from the president’s alleged untrustworthiness to concerns that undocumented immigrants are running rampant on the taxpayer’s dime, and fear that passing a border funding bill that isn’t stringent enough could be perceived by the public as too lenient.

At least 33 House Republicans want Obama to end his executive action that grants stays of deportation for young people brought into the country illegally by their parents, hoping send a message to Central American countries that their children won’t get a free pass at the Southwest border. And the six Republican House members from Oklahoma don’t want any more unaccompanied minors shipped to holding facilities housed at the state’s Fort Sill army base.

There are even divisions within the seven-member House working group regarding just how far to go. The same day the members signed off on its report of recommendations to leadership, two of them — Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia and Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Carter of Texas — introduced their own bills addressing the border crisis that tack significantly further to the right. Spokesmen for the lawmakers said the measures were intended to compliment, not supplement, the task force’s work, but a lack of solidarity among seven, hand-picked members could serve as a harbinger for how hard it will be to build consensus with the larger, unwieldy Republican rank and file.

Second, House Democrats are confounded by a difficult choice. Republicans are united on one thing: Any funding bill that comes to the floor will contain policy riders, and one of those riders will be a revision to a 2008 trafficking law to expedite deportations of unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border. Reality is sinking in among Democratic leaders that a condition of giving the president the money to stem the border crisis will be swallowing what for them is a bitter pill, one they say would strip children of key protections against exploitation and harm in their home countries.

Democratic leaders sense that a growing number of their members, particularly those who hail from the Hispanic and Progressive caucuses, are prepared to withhold their votes on those grounds, meaning they will have to either appeal to their members to hold their noses and vote “yes” or stand with them and vote “no.” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has already begun to harden her stance against changing the 2008 law after saying it wouldn’t be a “deal breaker” for her, though she still has not drawn a line in the sand regarding how she would vote if the language was included.

There could be practical consequences attached to not supporting the funding bill: Republicans could need Democratic votes to get the legislation over the finish line. But there could also be political consequences, with “no” votes opening Democrats up to criticism from Republicans that Pelosi and her party were in favor of the tweaks before they were against them, and that Democrats are turning away from their own party leadership. Speaker John A. Boehner seized upon that talking point Tuesday morning, suggesting in a statement that Democratic leaders’ waffling could jeopardize the entire effort.

Third, both parties are in for a challenging whip operation. If House Republicans want to pass a border funding package that could have some viability in the Senate, it’s going to have to be at least somewhat bipartisan, and they’re going to have to get Democratic votes. In that case, with Republicans on the right reluctant to support legislation that doesn’t contain red-meat policy provisions, and Democrats on the left unwilling to make compromises on changes to the trafficking law, leaders on both sides of the aisle are going to have to corral votes from middle. It’s likely Republicans will have to reach out to Democrats to make a deal, but Democrats won’t necessarily want to help, especially when there’s continued angst over riders and leaders could see an opening to extract compromises in exchange for their votes.

The challenge could be compounded by House GOP leadership’s current state of flux. Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia has been largely out of the loop since losing his June 10 primary — to an opponent who targeted Cantor’s support for an immigration overhaul, no less — and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California, slated to replace Cantor on Aug. 1, has been basically working two jobs. The incoming whip, current Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise of Louisiana, is also dealing with the transition.

A GOP leadership aide close to the whip operation insisted that McCarthy and Scalise are working double-duty in anticipation of their new roles, and said their collaboration and engagement on this particular issue leaves them well prepared to tackle the most ambitious of vote counts. It’s the Democrats’ indecision on where they stand, the aide said, that is making things complicated.

Fourth, the House is stymied by money and time. Republicans are in agreement that the president’s $3.7 billion ask is too high, but how much they want to cut is another sticking point. For some GOP lawmakers, no topline number will be fiscally prudent enough; others might quibble that too conservative a sum might not fund all of the necessarily priorities outlined by the working group.

There’s also the question of whether the funds will be offset or classified as “emergency,” per Obama’s request. Republicans would all prefer the funding to be paid for, even those who don’t insist on it — though there’s a substantial number of members who do. Members don’t, however, know where to find such offsets, with non-controversial savings hard to come by. Whether appropriators are able to present members with a viable option could determine whether the package has enough votes to advance.

All this is taking place as days left until the August recess are down to the single digits.

Should Congress fail to act now, it could pick things back up in September, but the legislative days then are numbered too, before members go off to campaign in advance of the midterms. Plus, they could find themselves consumed with another piece of pressing business: A deal to avoid a government shutdown at the end of that month.

 

Related:

The Other Side of the Border: CQ Roll Call’s Special Report from Guatemala

President’s Party Asks Why He’s Avoiding the Border

Obama ‘Happy to Consider’ Sending National Guard to Border to get Votes on Supplemental

A Tale of Two Congressional Visits to the Southwest Border

Obama Asking Congress for $4.3 Billion for Border Crisis, Wildfires

Alone, Illegal and Underage: The Child Migrant Crisis

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Johnson: Ignoring Border Crisis is Not an Option for Congress (Updated) (Video)

johnson 240 052914 445x311 Johnson: Ignoring Border Crisis is Not an Option for Congress (Updated) (Video)

Homeland Security Secretary Johnson says Congress can’t ignore the administration’s request for emergency funds on the border. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 5:54 p.m. | “Doing nothing in Congress is not an option,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Tuesday, as the clock ticks down out for Congress to provide emergency funding to address the influx of migrant children at the Texas border.

Johnson echoed a warning that he stressed at a July 10 Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, saying that the emergency funding from President Barack Obama is critical to addressing the crisis.

“At the current burn rate, given the capacity we’ve had to surge to deal with this issue, Immigration and Customs Enforcement will run out of money in August. Customs and Border Protection will run out of money in mid September,” Johnson said at a press conference at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters Tuesday afternoon. Full story

Boehner Puts Onus on Democrats for Tenuous Status of Border Funding Bill

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Boehner says Democrats’ rejection of changes to 2008 trafficking law could complicate passage of border funding bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House Republican Conference on Wednesday will hear task force recommendations on dealing with the surge of migrant children on the Texas border, Speaker John A. Boehner said Tuesday — but he cautioned that the president’s request for emergency funds will go nowhere if Democrats backpedal on support for expedited deportations.

“In order to resolve this crisis in a timely manner, however, the White House must engage both parties on constructive solutions,” the Ohio Republican said in a statement. “After first supporting common-sense changes to the 2008 law that is making it more difficult to resolve this crisis, the White House backpedaled and failed to include those changes in its formal request to Congress. Meanwhile, many Democrats in Congress have reversed themselves and now say no changes to the 2008 law are acceptable.

“As I said last week, I don’t believe the American people will support sending more money to the border unless both parties work together to address these policies and actually solve this problem,” he said.

“The lack of leadership from this White House, and President Obama’s refusal to stand up to critics in his own political party, are jeopardizing our ability to find common ground and help the kids who are caught in the middle of this crisis.” Full story

Chaffetz on Oversight: More Results, Less Confrontation

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Chaffetz, R-Utah, would be among only a handful of House members who have earned a full chairmanship in less than five terms. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In the past 89 years, there have been four members of Congress who became committee chairmen in their fourth term. Rep. Jason Chaffetz is trying to become the fifth.

Chaffetz hasn’t even banked six full years in the House yet. But with Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa term-limited after this session, the 47-year-old Utah Republican is making a bid to head the chamber’s most powerful investigatory panel.

Like his top rival for the gavel, Michael Turner of Ohio, Chaffetz says he wants to move Oversight in a new direction. But Chaffetz, like Issa, still wants to go “full throttle” on the executive branch.

“I’m very grateful to Darrell Issa,” Chaffetz told CQ Roll Call. “He’s been very good to me, he’s given me a great opportunity, but we’d all do things a little bit differently.” Full story

July 18, 2014

Anger on Capitol Hill Grows as Details on Flight MH17 Emerge

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Thornberry said Obama needs to increase the defense budget. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:29 p.m. | Members of Congress from both parties and chambers took to the airwaves, to social media and the Internet Friday to express a growing anger over indications of Russian involvement in the missile attack that took down an airliner and all 298 aboard over Ukraine on Thursday.

In an appearance on Fox News, Rep. Mac Thornberry, expected to be the next chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said that President Barack Obama needs to move immediately to increase the U.S. defense budget. The Texas Republican also said Obama should look at how President Ronald Reagan handled a similar incident in the 1980s when Russia shot down a Korean airliner.

“I went back and looked at President Reagan’s statement after the Korean airline downer and I’m struck by the fact that he used very clear language, he called it a massacre, he called it an act of barbarism, he called the Soviets out for not telling the truth,” Thornberry said. “Even more important than what he said was what he did. He took several steps to isolate the Soviets … and he called on Congress to increase the defense budget. That’s what the president needs to do in a few minutes.” Full story

July 17, 2014

Carter and Goodlatte Put Down Their Own Markers to Solve Border Crisis

carter011314 445x291 Carter and Goodlatte Put Down Their Own Markers to Solve Border Crisis

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The specially appointed House GOP border surge working group is poised to submit its formal policy recommendations to party leaders, while two of its members appear to be pursuing alternate tracks.

On Thursday, Reps. John Carter of Texas and Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia introduced separate bills that would make more conservative revisions to current immigration law than many of their peers on either side of the aisle would prefer.

The bills would also tack farther to the right than the set of recommendations expected to be put forth by the GOP working group to address the child migrant crisis at the Southwest border.

Full story

Boehner Losing Optimism on Addressing Border Crisis Before August Recess (Video)

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Boehner is less optimistic about passing a border bill before the August recess. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner seems to be losing confidence that Congress can pass legislation addressing the wave of children coming across the border before lawmakers head back to their districts for the August recess.

Asked on Thursday during his weekly news conference whether he thought Congress would address the crisis before the recess, Boehner said, “I would certainly hope so, but I don’t have as much optimism as I’d like to have.”

Boehner noted Republicans are working with a group of lawmakers tasked with providing recommendations to address the border crisis — the task force is expected to make recommendations soon, potentially as soon as Thursday — and he said Republicans were working with the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Harold Rogers of Kentucky, to come up with a supplemental bill to address the crisis. Full story

GOP Task Force Member Says Border Crisis Recommendations Will Be Released Thursday

salmon023 071514 330x219 GOP Task Force Member Says Border Crisis Recommendations Will Be Released Thursday

Rep. Salmon, R-Ariz. (By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 2:19 p.m. | The House GOP working group tasked with making policy recommendations on how to manage the influx of unaccompanied child migrants on the Southwest border will hand off its formal report to Republican leaders on Thursday, members confirmed.

The proposals contained in that report – which isn’t likely to be made public until next week, according to an aide familiar with the working group – will help the House Appropriations Committee finalize its bill to provide funding to stem the border crisis.

Outstanding disagreements about topline numbers, offsets and controversial policy riders, however, still leave the chances for House passage of an appropriations package before the August recess tenuous at best. Full story

July 16, 2014

One Day Closer to Recess and Still No House Border Funding Bill

rogers 018 070913 445x296 One Day Closer to Recess and Still No House Border Funding Bill

House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers of Kentucky. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House wrapped up Wednesday, one day closer to the August recess and still with no clear indication of when Republicans will unveil their response to President Barack Obama’s emergency funding request for $3.7 billion for the Texas border crisis.

But lawmakers insisted the framework for their border funding bill is beginning to crystallize.

Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., confirmed that the plan was still to move through the chamber a single package providing both policy changes and financial assistance.

“We’re ready on the money part,” Rogers told reporters. “We’ve got to craft it, we’ve got to get it scored and do all of those things, but as soon as we get the final policy inserts, we can go pretty quick.”

Full story

House Democratic Women Calling for ‘Clean’ Border Funding Bill

452026906 330x225 House Democratic Women Calling for Clean Border Funding Bill

California Democrats Loretta Sanchez and Lucille Roybal-Allard, seen standing here with fellow members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, want a “clean” border funding bill. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

A group of House Democratic women are circulating a letter to Speaker John A. Boehner calling for a “clean” funding bill to bolster resources at the U.S.-Mexico border.

They are in particular warning against the inclusion of language that would tweak a 2008 trafficking law they argue would strip apprehended immigrant minors — especially young girls — of protections against speedy removals back to their home countries where they face likely face imminent danger. Full story

Chairman: Ethics Committee Can Only ‘Offer Up Advice’

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Conaway says the panel’s job is to enforce the House rules. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Open government advocates and congressional watchdogs, frustrated with what they decry as a culture of corruption on Capitol Hill, would like to see the House Ethics Committee take more aggressive action on cleaning up Congress.

But the panel’s chairman, K. Michael Conaway of Texas, says it’s not the Ethics Committee’s job to bring forward a more ethical House.

“The members themselves bring forth an ethical House,” Conaway told CQ Roll Call in a recent hallway interview. “The committee itself is just trying to do two things: one, offer up advice to help folks stay inside the white lines, and then when somebody doesn’t, deal with that.”

The Ethics Committee has been in the spotlight again recently, flip-flopping — under pressure — on a disclosure rule for privately-funded travel that the bipartisan panel had quietly dropped.

Government accountability groups, such as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said Congress needs more disclosure, not less.

But Conaway, who earlier this month defended the attempt to loosen disclosure rules, said the committee is not “in and of itself” responsible for producing a higher ethical standard. “The members are responsible for how ethical the House is, and, quite frankly, how ethical the House is perceived to be by the general public.”

The Texas Republican, who is widely expected to trade his Ethics gavel for the Agriculture chairmanship next Congress, said the legacy of the Ethics Committee under his guidance would be, “that we did the work well, and, for the most part, stayed out of the headlines.” Full story

July 15, 2014

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

Hoyer Predicts Easy Passage of ‘Gimmicky’ Highway Bill

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Hoyer predicts “gimmicky” highway bill will pass. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland predicted Democrats will overwhelmingly support a short-term highway trust fund bill on Tuesday, even though they would prefer a long-term fix with more solid pay-fors.

Hoyer said he will vote for the bill, which extends highway funding through May, but called the offsets used to pay for the bill “gimmicky.”

“I think there will be probably overwhelming support,” he said. “When you’re confronted at the end with, ‘You do this or we shut down,’ we’re not for shutting down. We think that the economy would be hurt, people would be hurt, jobs would be lost.” Full story

Border Funding Request Takes Shape in House

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Granger is leading a GOP task force to make recommendations on the child migrant border surge. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 4:45 p.m. | House Republicans could, by the week’s end, unveil their legislative response to the president’s $3.7 billion request to bolster resources at the southwest border.

The response is likely to cost less and incorporate policy riders sure to rile up Democrats on the left — but still might not be stringent enough to satisfy members on the hard right.

Rep. Kay Granger of Texas, the chairwoman of a special GOP working group convened by Speaker John A. Boehner to make policy recommendations on the child migrant border surge, told reporters Tuesday her group is focused on increasing border security funding, adding National Guard troops on the border and having more immigration judges to preside over deportation hearings and asylum requests.

With a formal report not yet public at the time she spoke with the press, Granger also said the group supported tweaking a 2008 trafficking law to allow all unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border to choose to return to their home countries rather than await trial to be deported, a right currently afforded only to children from countries contiguous to the United States.

“Tweak it, not change it, not repeal it,” Granger stressed, “but to treat all children the same.” Full story

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