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April 10, 2014
Speaker John A. Boehner had a few things to say Thursday morning.
During his weekly press conference, which lasted just over 6 minutes, Boehner criticized former director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the IRS, Lois G. Lerner, and knocked Democrats for playing politics rather than working with Republicans to create jobs. But Boehner most notably and vociferously went after the Obama administration for putting up roadblocks to answers on Benghazi, Fast and Furious and the IRS scandal.
The Ohio Republican also addressed the recent kissing controversy surrounding Louisiana Republican Vance McAllister, saying he had spoken to the freshman Congressman and expects all members to be held to the highest ethical standards.
Boehner said Republicans were “trying to build a consensus” on an Obamacare replacement bill, and were waiting for Democrats to offer an unemployment extension that was paid for and would address the economic problems in the United States.
Boehner’s press conference turned into an outburst, however, when he fielded a question from Fox News’s Chad Pergram regarding Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s intimation that he had been treated unfairly because of his race.
Watch the full press conference below:
January 13, 2014
On Monday evening, appropriators from both chambers unveiled a massive omnibus spending bill to fund the government through the end of September, the culmination of just a few weeks of work and bipartisan negotiations.
The House is expected to pass the 1,582-page package of all 12 appropriations bills this week, if for no other reason than to dispel anxiety over another government shutdown and encourage a return to the age of “regular order.”
But, as with any major piece of legislation, the final product necessitated some compromises, and there are policy riders that are sure to ruffle feathers from members on both sides of the aisle — even if they won’t be enough to sink the whole ship.
Here are a handful of the provisions House lawmakers will have to swallow in the name of passing the spending bill: Full story
January 8, 2014
Democrats may have taken up income inequality as their election-year campaign platform, but Republicans appear determined to not let their counterparts own the subject.
To the annoyance of some Democrats, six members of the conservative Republican Study Committee held a news conference Wednesday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the “war on poverty” and to call for a different tactic to address indigence in this nation — one that is leaner on direct aid and more robust in job creation.
“While this war may have been launched with the best of intentions, it’s clear we’re now engaged in a battle of attrition that has left more Americans in poverty than at any other point in our nation’s history,” Rep. Steve Southerland II, R-Fla., said at the beginning of the news conference, noting that more than 46 million Americans live in poverty today. He did not point out, however, that even though the raw number of poverty-stricken people has increased, the percentage of poor Americans has fallen from 19 percent when President Lyndon B. Johnson announced his “unconditional war on poverty” in 1964 to about 15 percent today.
Southerland, the chairman of the RSC’s anti-poverty initiative, said that in the 50 years of the war on poverty, the government has spent more than $15 trillion on programs designed to combat those issues.
“Clearly, the big government ideas of the past need to be improved and aren’t working to the extent that they should,” Southerland said. ”We have a moral obligation to break the mold.”
Southerland said there were three pillars to fighting poverty: two-parent families, quality education and a stable job.
“Over the next year, we will be bringing interested members together to discuss conservative solutions that empower individuals and not the federal government,” he said. Full story
January 3, 2014
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.
December 30, 2013
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
December 12, 2013
The bipartisan budget deal might have a tougher time passing than Republican or Democratic leaders first thought.
Although House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that she didn’t think her members would “let this bill go down,” she also said Democrats are likely to vote against the rule — the procedural vote that brings the bill to the floor.
If that’s the case, and Democrats remain unified in that effort, it won’t take many in the GOP to sink the rule.
There are many more than 20 Republicans who hate this deal. A group of them assembled at a monthly “Conversations with Conservatives” event Wednesday, where Rep. Raúl R. Labrador, R-Idaho, said the only part of him that was “undecided” on this vote was “whether I’m a strong no or a really strong no.”
”I think it’s a terrible plan,” he said.
Indeed, plenty of conservatives — who have exhibited willingness in the past to play politics with the procedural rule vote — are wondering what’s in this deal for them.
To make matters worse, those Republican members are frequently in contact with the outside conservatives groups that Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, has blasted for two consecutive days. And given the news releases and Twitter fights, conservative groups such as Heritage Action for America abhor this deal and GOP leadership more than ever before. (To make matters even worse, a top conservative staffer beloved by the groups was forced to resign Wednesday amid charges that he was leaking member-level conversations to the groups.)
If the conservative groups and the band of Republicans can mount a speedy offensive, they can sink the rule, and, potentially, the budget deal.
For Democrats, there’s a calculated risk in allowing that to happen. On one hand, this is probably just about the only budget deal they’re going to get. Allowing it to go down could prevent any sort of relief from the sequester. On the other, if Republicans need help on the rule, Democrats might — just might — be able to extract some other legislative concessions, and tops on their wish list is an extension of unemployment insurance.
Democrats have made it clear that the absence of an unemployment insurance extension is a major issue for them. Pelosi herself has issued less than lukewarm words on the deal because it does not include it.
Boehner has signaled that Republicans could be open to dealing with that issue separately from the budget, but he has made no firm commitment. Democrats, meanwhile, are insistent Congress extend the benefits.
On Thursday, Pelosi said she didn’t “even think it should be paid for,” a reference to the Republican insistence that such an extension have an offset.
Either way, the rule is due up for consideration on Thursday afternoon. It’s an open question how it plays out. Will Republicans be able to pass the rule on their own? Will any Republicans break from their ranks? Will Democrats help at all? And what might the legislative implications be if Democrats have to help?
December 11, 2013
House Speaker John A. Boehner appears to have had enough of outside groups trying to assert their influence on congressional affairs.
At a press conference on Wednesday morning, the typically even-keeled Ohio Republican lashed out against those groups that oppose the bipartisan budget agreement and threaten to bring it down by “scoring” the GOP votes.
“You mean the groups who came out and opposed it before they ever saw it?” Boehner asked a reporter who had just begun to ask him about the growing discontent among influential groups such as Heritage Action for America, Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity.
“They’re using our members, and they’re using the American people for their own goals,” Boehner went on, his voice growing louder and his tone growing sharper. “This is ridiculous.
“Listen,” he said. “If you’re for more deficit reduction, you’re for this agreement.” Full story
December 5, 2013
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wants unemployment insurance legislation to be passed this year, but she sent conflicting signals Thursday about what Democrats’ demands would be.
First, she seemed to be drawing a line in the sand by saying Democrats would not support any forthcoming budget agreement that doesn’t include an extension of unemployment benefits.
“We are making a very clear statement that we cannot, cannot support a budget agreement that does not include unemployment insurance in the budget or as a sidebar in order to move it along,” Pelosi said at a special hearing convened by the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee specifically on the subject of unemployment insurance.
Later she seemed to walk back those remarks during a Democratic leadership press conference, clarifying that she would not make her vote on a budget agreement contingent upon a one-year extension of emergency unemployment insurance aid.
“What I said was … as we go forward with the budget, I wanted to see unemployment insurance in there,” Pelosi said. “It could be separate from that as well.” Full story
December 4, 2013
One day after Speaker John A. Boehner told Senate Democrats to “get serious” about negotiations over the farm bill and a budget agreement, the Ohio Republican gave a defensive speech on the House floor blaming Democrats for Congress’ lack of legislative accomplishments this year.
“The Senate and the president continue to stand in the way of the American people’s priorities,” Boehner said. “When will they learn to say ‘yes’ to common ground? When will they start listening to the American people?”
Boehner seemed to be responding to various news reports that the first year of the 113th Congress has been the least productive in modern congressional history.
That will likely still be true even if Congress is able to craft a budget agreement, as well as a farm bill deal before leaving town for the holidays. The top four farm bill conference committee members are scheduled to meet Wednesday and budget negotiators have until Dec. 13 to deliver a budget agreement for fiscal 2014.
October 24, 2013
Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee have a simple message for conferees starting to hash out a budget deal next week: Do something about automatic defense spending cuts.
As the House and Senate prepare for their first budget conference in four years, 30 of the 34 Republicans on the Armed Services panel wrote a letter decrying the effects of sequestration, saying, “The concern of a hollowing of the force is very real; indeed, the readiness of our forces has already eroded.”
“Continued sequestration would lead to the reduction of an additional 100,000 soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen from our Armed Forces, and cancellation of important programs providing key technologies and capabilities that allow our military to stay ahead of the threat,” the letter said.
Conspicuously missing from the Republican signatories are four lawmakers: Mike Coffman of Colorado, Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Rich Nugent of Florida.
Requests for comment from those four Republicans were not immediately returned, but Claude Chafin, the communications director for the House Armed Services Committee, told CQ Roll Call he didn’t believe there was a “common objection.”
While the four Republicans may have differing reasons for not signing, the 30 Republicans who did sign the letter sent a strong message to House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash. Full story
October 16, 2013
Updated 5:17 p.m. | Speaker John A. Boehner’s shutdown strategy over the past few weeks may not have helped his party in the polls or extracted anything significant from Democrats, but the fight itself appears to have improved his own job security.
GOP lawmakers from across the conference say there are no coup attempts in the works and few complaints over the job Boehner did on the shutdown and debt limit fights — even if Republicans ended up taking a deal none of them were happy about.
“We fought the good fight, we just didn’t win,” Boehner told WLW Radio’s Bill Cunningham on Wednesday afternoon.
He repeated the message to his Republican colleagues to a standing ovation later that day, telling them they would live to fight another day.
Conservatives who once plotted an end to the Ohio Republican’s speakership praised him for taking the fight this far — and pinned the blame on squishier lawmakers who they say failed to stand strong. And moderates who have been railing against the shutdown strategy from the beginning pushed the blame on Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, whom they feel forced Boehner into a doomed strategy he never wanted to deploy.
“I’ve actually been really proud of Speaker Boehner the last 2 1/2 weeks,” Rep. Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho said at a monthly Conversations With Conservatives event Wednesday. “I don’t think he should be ashamed of anything that he has done.”
Labrador said he is actually more upset with his Republican colleagues than he is with Boehner.
“It’s been Republicans here who apparently always want to fight, but they want to fight the next fight that has given Speaker Boehner the inability to be successful in this fight,” Labrador said. “So if anybody should be kicked out, it probably should be Republicans, and not Speaker Boehner. … I don’t think Speaker Boehner has anything to worry about right now.
“This is the kind of speaker that I have been looking for for the last 2 1/2 years,” he said.
Former Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan said there was “absolutely no talk” of staging a conservative mutiny.
“Absolutely no talk of anything along those lines. No talk,” the Ohio Republican said.
Jordan told CQ Roll Call Wednesday afternoon that Boehner’s standing with the conference is actually better today than it was two months ago.
“I think, over the last several weeks, we’ve been unified as a conference. I think the speaker has been leading that charge,” he said.
Tea party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota also said there was no threat of a revolt. “He has done an incredible job holding the caucus together through all this; he did everything he could to get a good, positive result, and I’m proud of him,” she said of Boehner.
Even Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who has been coy over the past couple of weeks in speculating whether Boehner would face a conservative mutiny if he brought up a “clean” debt limit or continuing resolution, said he didn’t think there was that kind of “tension” within the conference that could challenge Boehner.
Moderates had a different take: Blame Cruz, not Boehner.
Rep. Peter T. King of New York called for Republicans to speak out against Cruz.
“I think it’s important for Republican leaders around the country to speak out against him and neutralize him, otherwise he’ll start to say the same nonsense again in December or January,” King said of Cruz. “He’s the guy that caused this, he’s the guy that caused us defeat, he’s the guy who was a fraud because he never had a strategy to begin with. If we were to let him do it again, it’s our fault.”
King said he had no criticism of Boehner and his lieutenants, who were faced with a difficult task of leading a volatile GOP conference through uncharted political terrain.
Conservative Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona said Boehner had done a “phenomenal job” in dealing with the “disparate feelings and emotions and ideas and opinions over the last couple of weeks.”
Salmon said there was no “douplespeak” from the speaker.
“I think he spoke from the gut and spoke from the heart,” Salmon said. “And while people may disagree, I think that he proved himself in this process to be an honorable man, and I think that runs across the gamut — conservatives, moderates, everybody in between. I think they saw a guy that was far less motivated by political instincts and far more by his gut and his heart, and I applaud him for that.”
Boehner gave Republicans the battle they wanted on Obamacare. They came back from the August recess demanding a fight on the health care law, and while Republicans didn’t win that fight, they seem to respect Boehner for listening to the conference. The only expense seems to be the party’s standing in the polls.
But that didn’t seem to faze Salmon.
“We don’t live or die by polls,” he said. “I think after all is said and done, we will live or die by the things that we get accomplished and while some of this fight is postponed, it’s not over.”
Boehner, too, said he would continue to fight.
“There is no giving up on our team, and there is no giving up in me,” he told WLW.
And he brushed off a question about Cruz, dismissing the infighting in his party.
“We’re a little bit more independent-minded than our friends across the aisle,” Boehner said.
Emma Dumain contributed to this report.
October 5, 2013
On day five of the government shutdown and Congress’s second consecutive Saturday session, House Democrats made more overtures to Republicans in an effort to keep the pressure on them and show the outside world that they are willing to negotiate.
Whether the GOP is prepared to bite, or whether Democrats are making the kind of concessions necessary to satisfy a small group of centrist Republicans who want very specific sweeteners as conditions of voting to reopen the government or raise the debt limit, remain to be seen.
Democrats announced Saturday that, in exchange for Republicans appointing conferees to hash out a long dormant budget resolution, they would forfeit their right to offer a “motion to instruct” the House conferees. That’s a tactic minority lawmakers are allowed to employ if a conference report hasn’t been filed within 20 days of appointing conferees. It’s also one of the few devices available to the minority party to break majority hegemony in the House.
A motion to instruct, while non-binding, would essentially tell conferees to take a certain position in the House-Senate conference negotiations. It’s often designed to put members on record on a politically loaded position.
Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said last April that he was reluctant to appoint conferees because motions to instruct “become politically motivated bombs to throw up on the House floor.”
“We will give up that right,” said the Budget Committee’s ranking member, Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., on Saturday.
A conference on the budget would be a victory for House and Senate Democrats, who have been clamoring for the opportunity to negotiate with Republicans on a comprehensive spending blueprint before passing individual spending bills in their respective chambers.
The timing of finally convening a bicameral budget conference would also be significant given the current Oct. 17 deadline for Congress to agree on legislation to raise the debt limit. It’s becoming likely that the debt limit will be rolled into a package that also contains a government-funding continuing resolution along with some provisions on deficit reduction.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she made Boehner aware on Saturday morning that Democrats were prepared to take the threat of a motion to instruct off the table if Republicans would go forward with appointing budget conferees. She said Boehner “knows it’s a good faith effort on our front.”
But the speaker remained unmoved.
“At this point, it’s Senate Democrats and the President who are blocking progress on reopening the government and providing the American people fairness under ObamaCare,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel in an email to CQ Roll Call.
Doug Heye, a spokesman for Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., was similarly oblique on what Republican leadership thinks of Pelosi’s offer: ”What Washington needs to do is come together and talk so we can re-open our government, and that is exactly the House Republicans’ focus.”
Almost 20 House Republicans have said they would support a “clean” CR, and they have expressed interest in creating a more hospitable environment for spending negotiations between the two parties. On Saturday, Democrats made sure to let those Republicans know they won’t be let off the hook for not engaging in the minority party’s efforts.
“We are holding [them] accountable,” said Steve Israel of New York, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “You cannot act like an independent pit bull at home and act like a tea party lapdog in Washington.”
Earlier this week, Democrats began to circulate for signatures a letter calling on Boehner to bring a “clean,” short-term continuing resolution to the floor. They announced Saturday that they had garnered 200 Democratic signatures (195 excluding five non-voting delegates). No Republicans have signed on so far.
On Friday, Democrats offered a “discharge petition” to force a vote on a clean CR, which Republicans are also generally disinclined to support.
Currently, the only proposal which House Republicans will support on the record is one being spearheaded by leading GOP moderate Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania and New Democrat Coalition Chairman Ron Kind of Wisconsin. That proposal calls for a six-month CR at sequester levels and a repeal of the medical device tax that funds parts of the health law. Dent said on Saturday that about 20 of his GOP colleagues were on board.
Democratic leadership isn’t excited about the idea, though, with Pelosi saying last week that she didn’t like a CR that maintained the sequester number for an extended length of time. Van Hollen reiterated that negotiations about issues such as taxes belong in the context of the budget, not a continuing resolution.
A handful of Republicans said Saturday that one impediment to moving this proposal forward lay in pressure from senior Democrats to members of their caucus not to endorse any solution to the fiscal impasse unless it involves a clean spending bill.
A Democratic leadership aide denied that any formal deterrents were taking place on the Dent-Kind initiative, and added that it made sense that it was the only proposal so far that would garner on-the-record support from significant number of Republicans.
“Of course Republicans like it best,” the aide said. “It repeals the medical device tax and it would hold their number longer.”
October 1, 2013
Exactly 12 hours after the government shutdown began, the eight House Republicans appointed to serve on a continuing resolution conference committee staged a photo-op.
Facing a crowd of reporters and flashing cameras, the gentlemen sat on one side of a long conference table in the speaker’s suite of offices, all in their shirtsleeves to visually signal their readiness to get to work and reopen the government — and to try to point out that Democrats were not there to join them.
“As you see, there’s no one here on the other side of the table,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. “All of us are here, sitting at a table, waiting for the Senate Democrats to join us so we can resolve our differences.”
After three unsuccessful attempts to force the Senate to accept a short-term spending bill that contained different riders aimed at undermining Obamacare, the House, in the early morning hours of Tuesday, sent the other chamber a motion to go to conference — along with a CR that would delay the individual mandate’s implementation for one year and eliminate health care subsidies for those serving in the legislative and executive branches.
The Senate packed up and left after the stroke of midnight on Tuesday before the House had even voted on that measure. Senators came back at 9:30 a.m. and swiftly voted to table it, with Democrats saying there was nothing to negotiate. Senate Democratic leaders have said they will accept nothing more than a rider-free CR to resume government funding. Full story
September 24, 2013
As House Republicans prepare their opening bid on a debt limit increase, Speaker John A. Boehner’s old standard for raising the debt limit is looking less like a demand and more like a dream.
Republican leaders seem to have shifted their emphasis from the “Boehner rule” — which insists on dollar-for-dollar “cuts or reforms” in return for a debt ceiling increase — to other wish list items, including a one-year delay of Obamacare and approval of the the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Republicans have set aside the Boehner rule before. In February, they passed a short-term debt ceiling increase tied to an insistence that Senate Democrats finally take up a budget resolution.
This time around, the White House and Senate Democrats dismiss out-of-hand the idea they will negotiate any additional spending cuts — let alone go dollar for dollar.
But aides to the Ohio Republican insist the rule is alive and well.
“While we’re still working on the details, the proposal will comply with the Boehner rule in terms of reducing the deficit,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said Tuesday.
What wasn’t clear Tuesday was how, exactly, the bill would do that. Full story
September 6, 2013
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., outlined a plan Friday to hold federal spending and the debt limit hostage — but not necessarily over Obamacare.
“House Republicans will demand fiscal reforms and pro-growth policies which put us on a path to balance in ten years in exchange for another increase in the debt limit,” Cantor wrote in a memo to GOP lawmakers.
With President Barack Obama vowing not to negotiate, the United States faces a default crisis a little over a month after lawmakers return.
Cantor’s threat has a somewhat different standard than the demand from Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, that any increase in the debt ceiling be accompanied by an equivalent amount of “cuts and reforms.” Boehner’s demand, known as the “Boehner rule,” was violated earlier this year when the House punted on the debt limit, but the speaker recently promised a “whale of a fight” this fall.
Cantor also said Republicans would demand Obama agree to keep the sequester in place past Sept. 30 — and slash $64 billion from the levels Obama signed months ago. Full story