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August 23, 2014

Posts in "Howard “Buck” McKeon"

August 8, 2014

Congressional Leaders Back Iraq Airstrikes; Hawks Push for Broader War on ISIL

Updated 11:22 a.m. | Congressional leaders are backing President Barack Obama’s decision to authorize air strikes in Iraq as the first bombs began falling, although hawks are pushing for a far broader military campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also knowns as ISIS.

Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, announced Friday morning that the U.S. had dropped bombs on assets of the group.

“Two F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near Erbil. ISIL was using this artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Erbil where U.S. personnel are located,” Kirby said. “The decision to strike was made by the U.S. Central Command commander under authorization granted him by the commander in chief.”

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June 11, 2014

Hagel: President Made Final Decision on Bergdahl Swap (Video)

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Hagel testified that the final decision on the Bergdahl swap rested with Obama. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, testifying Wednesday before the House Armed Services Committee, told lawmakers that the Obama administration could have done a better job communicating with Congress on the decision to trade five Taliban prisoners for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

“Wars are messy, and they’re full of imperfect choices,” Hagel told the panel in his opening remarks. But he defended the White House decision to make the trade without notifying Congress, and he made it clear the decision came from the top.

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Watch Live: House Armed Services Hearing on Bowe Bergdahl Exchange

The House Armed Services Committee holds a hearing Wednesday on President Barack Obama’s decision to exchange five Taliban prisoners from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Department of Defense General Counsel Stephen Preston will testify about the swap.

The hearing, “The May 31, 2014 Transfer of Five Senior Taliban Detainees,” begins at 10 a.m.

June 9, 2014

House Republicans Stress Concerns Over Bergdahl, Prisoner Swap

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Bachmann and others still skeptical after briefing. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Republicans made one thing clear Monday evening: They would not soon abandon calls for congressional oversight into the Obama administration’s decision to swap five Guantánamo Bay Taliban prisoners for U.S. prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl.

Emerging from their first briefing from White House officials on the details of Army Sgt. Bergdahl’s May 31 release from Taliban custody, GOP lawmakers’ tempers were running high.

Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., said he was “not satisfied” by the information he received. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., scoffed at the premise that the briefing was “classified” because, she said, no new information was disseminated to members. And veteran Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said the officials were “trying to put lipstick on a pig.”

Above all, members appeared to be most upset that no member of Congress in either chamber was consulted prior to the transfer of the Taliban prisoners for Bergdahl, arguing that President Barack Obama acted unilaterally and, perhaps, in violation of the law. Full story

June 3, 2014

Boehner Backs Hearings on Bergdahl Swap for ‘Taliban 5′

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Boehner (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 4:11 p.m. | Speaker John A. Boehner charged the Obama administration with intentially keeping the swap of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban officials from Congress ahead of time and backed a push for hearings by Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon Tuesday.

The Taliban officials were transferred to Qatar from the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, without the legally required 30 days Congressional notification.

The Ohio Republican acknowledged Tuesday that an exchange like the one that took place Saturday had been previously discussed years ago.

But he said that while Congress kept the idea secret despite concerns about the wisdom of a transfer, the administration intentionally kept them in the dark.

“There was every expectation that the administration would re-engage with Congress, as it did before, and the only reason it did not is because the administration knew it faced serious and sober bipartisan concern and opposition,” Boehner charged.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel also pointed to a statement by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on June 21, 2013 when asked about the possibility of exchanging five Guantanamo prisoners for Bergdahl.

“We would not make any decisions about transfer of any detainees without consulting with Congress,” Carney said, per the White House transcript.

The White House and President Barack Obama have contended the lack of notice was due to the desire to complete the deal and get Bergdahl home safely, and the White House has contended the lack of notice was lawful.

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June 2, 2014

McKeon: Obama Broke Law in Bergdahl-Guantanamo Prisoner Swap (Updated)

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McKeon said Monday the administration broke the law with Bergdahl swap. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 7:45 p.m. | The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Monday there will be hearings on whether the Obama administration broke the law in trading five Guantánamo Bay detainees for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who’d been held by the Taliban for five years.

“My perception is he broke the law by not informing Congress 30 days before,” Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., said in an appearance on MSNBC, referring to a 2013 law that requires the administration to notify Congress before detainees from the detention camp are released.

“We will be holding hearings. I’m sorry that this is being portrayed as a Republican issue. Democrats also voted for this law. It was important for our national security.” he said. “This is not a partisan issue.

“We passed a law last year,” he said. “It passed overwhelmingly on the floor and through the Senate and the president signed it. And although he said now he had a disclaimer along with it that he apparently didn’t support the law, he did sign it.” Full story

May 30, 2014

House Marijuana Votes Earn Backing of Rare Bipartisan Coalition (Video)

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Rohrabacher helped steer the medical marijuana amendment through the House. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In a series of late-night votes that marijuana-rights advocates say reflect a nation’s changing attitudes, the Republican-controlled House moved early Friday  to block the federal government from interfering with state laws on pot and hemp.

The most far-reaching of the votes — a measure to cut funds for Drug Enforcement Agency raids on medical marijuana operations — passed 219-189 on the strength of an unusual coalition that cut across traditional partisan lines.

The medical marijuana measure was offered by conservative Republican Dana Rohrabacher of California as an amendment to the fiscal 2015 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill. 

There were 49 Republicans who voted “yes” on the medical marijuana amendment, jointly sponsored by Rohrabacher; Sam Farr, D-Calif.; Don Young, R-Alaska; Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.; Tom McClintock, R-Calif.; Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.; Paul Broun, R-Ga.; Jared Polis, D-Colo.; Steve Stockman, R-Texas; Barbara Lee, D-Calif.; Justin Amash, R-Mich.; and Dina Titus, D-Nev. Full story

May 15, 2014

Conservatives Prepare to Go to Battle Over ENLIST Act


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Denham’s ENLIST Act is seen by some as an immigration overhaul that Republicans could support, though others dismiss the proposal as “amnesty.” (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Heritage Action for America isn’t the only conservative advocacy group prepared to go to the mattresses over possible efforts in the House next week to tack an immigration-related provision onto the defense authorization bill.

Shortly after Heritage announced it would score lawmakers’ votes on the National Defense Authorization Act if it includes language to allow certain illegal immigrants to gain citizenship through military service, the Madison Project also weighed in.

The group, which backs conservative candidates for office and fights for conservative causes on Capitol Hill, warned that Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., plans to offer the legislation, known as the ENLIST Act, as an amendment to the NDAA that’s due on the floor in the coming days.
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May 5, 2014

Steny Hoyer’s Theory on Benghazi Committee: Slap at Issa?

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Hoyer and an aide (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer has a theory on the Benghazi special select committee — and the announcement that Rep. Trey Gowdy will lead it — that is sure to roil Republicans: The Maryland Democrat suggests the new panel may be a rebuke of House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa.

“Either they think Issa is a competent chairman, and has been pursuing a competent investigation, or they don’t,” Hoyer said to reporters during his weekly pen-and-pad briefing. “He’s had subpoena power.”

Hoyer noted that the California Republican has held numerous hearings on Benghazi and has found “no smoking gun, no wrongdoing.”

During Hoyer’s briefing, Speaker John A. Boehner announced that Gowdy would lead the proposed Benghazi committee — and Issa was one of the first to praise the move.

“Speaker Boehner could not have chosen a Member more committed to getting the full truth about the before, during, and after of the Benghazi terrorist attacks than Congressman Trey Gowdy,” Issa said in a statement issued five minutes after Boehner made his announcement.

“Trey has been an integral contributor to the Oversight Committee investigation and takes the knowledge we have gained, through subpoenas and individual testimony, to his new role leading the new Select Committee,” Issa said of the South Carolina Republican. “I look forward to continuing to work with him as he leads the effort, across committee jurisdictions, to find facts, accountability, and needed reforms.”

Of course, if you didn’t buy the theory Republicans were displeased with Issa’s performance on Benghazi, Hoyer offered an alternative narrative why GOP leadership was creating a special committee.

“Political pressure from the base, people who simply want to, for political sake solely, pursue this matter, apparently have availed upon the speaker to change his mind,” Hoyer said.

Hoyer noted that Boehner said less than a month ago that a special committee on Benghazi was unnecessary, and he noted that Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., said he was satisfied with the investigation.

White House emails revealed last week that administration adviser Ben Rhodes sent a previously unrevealed email to then-U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice shortly after the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi urging Rice to emphasize that the attack was “rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”

A senior GOP aide told CQ Roll Call that Boehner was “furious” to learn the Obama administration had withheld that email from a congressional subpoena, and that it was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Still, Hoyer didn’t seem to buy it, and though he said he didn’t know what presence Democrats would have on the committee, he expected Democrats to vote against the creation of it.

May 2, 2014

Boehner Proposes Creation of Special Benghazi Committee (Updated)

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 3:34 p.m. | Speaker John A. Boehner is proposing the House create a special committee to investigate the attack and aftermath of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, his office announced Friday.

“The House committees that have been investigating this attack have done extraordinary work, using their subpoena power, holding dozens of hearings, and conducting hundreds of interviews,” Boehner said in a statement on the same day House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., subpoenaed Secretary of State John Kerry to testify before Congress about the administration’s response to the attack. “Without this work we would not know much that we do today.”

“But it’s clear that questions remain, and the administration still does not respect the authority of Congress to provide proper oversight,” Boehner said. “This dismissiveness and evasion requires us to elevate the investigation to a new level.”

The Ohio Republican said he intended the committee to have “robust authority,” and he said he expected it to work quickly to get answers. Full story

April 4, 2014

ENLIST Act Rebuffed by McKeon, But Denham Wants Immigration Amendment Vote in NDAA

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Denham was rebuffed, but will keep trying to attach his immigration plan to other legislation. (Douglas Graham/Roll Call File Photo)

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon said Friday afternoon there will be no pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants who serve in the military attached to this year’s defense spending bill.

The decision poured cold water on a behind-the-scenes bipartisan effort, headed up by another California Republican, Rep. Jeff Denham, to include such a provision in the fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.

Denham said he understands the chairman’s decision and predicted there will be opportunities to resurrect his bill, the ENLIST Act.

McKeon, a co-sponsor of the Denham bill, said the timing wasn’t right.

“I have reached this conclusion without regard to my views on the underlying policy, but because I do not believe the chairman’s mark should be the original venue for this debate,” McKeon said. “Over the past several days I have heard from members on and off the committee on both sides of the issues. They have made sound arguments and raised valid concerns.”

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

December 3, 2013

Defense Authorization Conferees Meet in Secret

The Senate has not passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act — yet — but the main players in an NDAA conference aren’t waiting.

The chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House Armed Services committees — House Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., House ranking member Adam Smith, D-Wash., Senate Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Senate ranking member James M. Inhofe, R-Okla. — met Monday to discuss how they could conference the defense authorization act in a nearly impossible timeline. Full story

May 23, 2013

Military Sexual Assault a ‘National Disgrace,’ Boehner Says

As pressure mounts on Capitol Hill to address the rising number of cases of sexual assault in the military, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, suggested that he supports the House taking action through legislation.

“I want to applaud Buck McKeon, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, who will address this in the defense authorization bill,” Boehner said Thursday of his California Republican colleague. “I also want to applaud the work of Congressman Mike Turner, who has been on the Department of Defense now for over two years to get to the bottom of this.

“It’s outrageous,” Boehner continued, “and, frankly, it’s a national disgrace.”

He did not elaborate, though, on what specific proposal he believes should be included in the DOD bill.

As our CQ Roll Call colleague Megan Scully reported earlier this week, the growing alarm over the increasing number of sexual-assault cases has resulted in a flurry of legislation. There are at least four legislative proposals circulating through the House and four in the Senate.

While the fiscal 2014 defense authorization bill may adopt some of those proposals when the full Armed Services Committee meets to mark up the bill on June 5, Scully reported, they are likely to divide members on either side of the aisle and within their own parties.

One of the biggest points of contention could relate to chain of command issues — some lawmakers want military lawyers or an independent panel to rule on sexual assault cases, while currently military commanders decide how to proceed.

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