Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 30, 2014

Posts in "John Boehner"

July 29, 2014

Dysfunctional Congress Sprints to Chaotic Finish

A Congress known for its dysfunction and acrimony may be on the verge of a rare triple combo — passing major bills addressing the border crisis, the Veterans Affairs scandal and the Highway Trust Fund in one week. But if it happens, it’s going to be like the rest of the 113th: ugly.

The pre-August sprint got off on the right foot with the announcement Monday of a $17 billion deal to slash wait times at the Department of Veterans Affairs, followed Tuesday by the 97-0 confirmation of former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new Veterans Affairs secretary.

A highway patch seemed likely too, although not without last-minute wrangling between the two chambers over the fine print.

But the border supplemental remained very much in doubt — perhaps appropriately for a Congress that has failed to complete an immigration overhaul. Full story

Boehner Blasts Reid, Won’t Allow ‘Immigration Reform’ on Border Bill (Video)

Speaker John A. Boehner vowed the House would not allow the Senate to add any “comprehensive immigration reform bill or anything like it, including the DREAM Act” to the House’s $659 million border bill Tuesday.

“Senator Reid, embarrassed that he cannot strong-arm the Senate into passing the blank check President Obama demanded, is making a deceitful and cynical attempt to derail the House’s common-sense solution,” the Ohio Republican said in a statement aimed at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., after Reid suggested he could add immigration to the border bill.

“So let me be as clear as I can be with Senator Reid: the House of Representatives will not take up the Senate immigration reform bill or accept it back from the Senate in any fashion,” he said. “Nor will we accept any attempt to add any other comprehensive immigration reform bill or anything like it, including the DREAM Act, to the House’s targeted legislation, which is meant to fix the actual problems causing the border crisis. Such measures have no place in the effort to solve this crisis, and any attempt to exploit this crisis by adding such measures will run into a brick wall in the People’s House.” Full story

Advocates Grade Congress on Immigration (Updated)

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Immigration overhaul advocates hold a large rally in front of the White House Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Frustrated by lack of action and unfulfilled promises on the immigration overhaul front, a coalition of 10 advocacy groups is out to hold House members accountable for the extent to which they were unhelpful to the cause.

A new scorecard for all 435 members’ immigration votes, statements and co-sponsorships aims to draw a stark portrait of “who stands with us and who does not,” said Hispanic Federation President José Calderón. The rankings come as Congress nears a boiling point on an emergency funding request from President Barack Obama intended to mitigate the crisis at the border as children cross illegally into the United States.

The first-of-its-kind scorecard was released Monday, as advocates gathered a stone’s throw from the Capitol for the grand unveiling, calling for action and scolding lawmakers for what they see as stonewalling on a critical issue.

“Every ‘zero’ you see in that scorecard is personal to us,” said Rocio Sáenz, a member of the board of directors for Mi Familia Vota.

“There is some explaining that needs to be done as to why they said to us in private that they supported immigration reform, yet their report card says different,” said Tony Suárez, vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

Republicans received significantly lower rankings than Democrats. Clarissa Martínez de Castro, the deputy vice president of the National Council of La Raza Office of Research, Advocacy and Legislation, said the discrepancy reflected a “Republican leadership failure,” though the organizations behind the scorecard insist the results are based on the facts and aren’t motivated by party preference.

Here’s a look at the rankings, based on members’ positions in 11 different areas over the past several months: Full story

July 24, 2014

Boehner Still Pushing on Border Supplemental, VA Crisis (Video)

With time running out before the August recess, Speaker John A. Boehner still wants deals for a border supplemental and to address the VA health care crisis, but put the onus on the Democrats and the White House to move in the GOP’s direction.

Boehner said Republicans were still talking with their colleagues about a supplemental spending package to address the flood of children crossing the border, and he said those conversations would continue in the days leading up to the August recess.

“But understand: It’s time for the White House to get their act together,” the Ohio Republican said. “They want to change the ’08 law and address the underlying problem here, or don’t they?” Full story

July 23, 2014

Boehner Pens Letter to Obama on Border Crisis, Congressional Response

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Boehner is asking if Obama backs changes to the 2008 trafficking law that Republicans contend is fueling the border crisis. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner wrote to the president Wednesday to tell him that it is “difficult to see how” Congress could address the ongoing crisis at the border without addressing the 2008 human trafficking law that many Republicans contend has helped create the surge of migrants on the Southwest border.

With congressional Democrats increasingly digging in their heels on proposed changes to the 2008 law, Boehner called on Obama to reaffirm the administration’s support for revisions that would expedite deportations of migrant minors from Central America.

Full text of the letter follows: Full story

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

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 5:06 p.m. | House Republicans laid out their requirements for President Barack Obama’s border crisis spending request Wednesday: National Guard troops, more judges for expedited deportations and changes to a 2008 trafficking law that would make it easier to send Central American minors home.

But with little more than a week before lawmakers are supposed to leave town for the August recess, Democrats digging in against changing the 2008 law, and some conservatives complaining the deportation provisions aren’t harsh enough, it’s not clear GOP leaders have the votes needed to send their bill to the Senate.

Throughout the day Wednesday, GOP leaders, appropriators and stakeholder members huddled with colleagues to corral support for a possible $1.5 billion bill — the White House originally asked for $3.7 billion — to fund enforcement agencies that have been stretched thin by the overwhelming surge of Central American migrants in southern Texas.

But as of Wednesday afternoon, no formal piece of legislation had been introduced and no decisions had been made as to whether the GOP’s funding proposal and its separate policy provisions would be contained in one package or two.

Appropriations Democrats had not even been briefed on the details of a spending package, according to a Democratic committee aide.

Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., told reporters: “When the leadership lays out the plans for timing of what we do, we’ll be ready. … It’s pretty close to being ready.”

Meanwhile, a sizable number of rank-and-file Republicans said Wednesday that doing nothing at all would be better than passing legislation the Democrat-controlled Senate would likely make more lenient on undocumented immigrants — or that Obama would just ignore like he has, they say, with other laws on the books.

“We like her ideas,” said Rep. John Fleming, R-La., of the recommendations put forth by Kay Granger, R-Texas, the chairwoman of the specially appointed GOP working group tasked with coming up with the border recommendations. “The problem is, if we pass them, they’ll be gone.” Full story

July 22, 2014

Boehner on Obamacare: ‘It Cannot Be Fixed’

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Boehner and other Republicans said the court ruling is an indication Obamacare is broken. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

On the same day a federal appeals court upheld an IRS subsidy for Obamacare, GOP lawmakers seized on the opportunity of a conflicting ruling — Halbig v. Burwell — to make the point that the 2010 health care law is broken.

After a 2-1 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said the government could not subsidize insurance in the 36 states that defaulted to the federal health care exchanges, Speaker John A. Boehner offered one of his harshest rebukes of the Affordable Care Act yet, saying the ruling was further proof the law is “completely unworkable.”

“It cannot be fixed,” the Ohio Republican said in a statement.

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health Chairman Joe Pitts, R-Pa., sent out a joint press release that called the Halbig ruling “a clear rebuke of the administration’s effort to extend subsidies where the law did not provide them.”

“The ruling also dramatically limits the IRS’ legal authority to enforce the individual and employer mandates,” the missive said.

That is true — or, at least, it could be true, if the rest of the D.C. Circuit Court agrees. The administration has asked the rest of the court — all 11 judges — to review the decision “en banc,” and even if the liberal-leaning court agrees, there are other cases before other courts that could undermine the decision. Full story

The Border Supplemental and ‘the Height of Irresponsibility’

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Hoyer said there should be no debate over caring for the migrant children detained on the Texas border. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With the August recess fast approaching and emergency funding to deal with the border crisis seemingly no closer to passage than it was a week ago, Democrats and Republicans are firing up a new round of the blame game.

Shortly after Speaker John A. Boehner pointed the finger at the White House and congressional Democrats for the lack of action on a spending package to address the sharp rise of unaccompanied minors crossing the border, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer redirected the blame right back at Republicans.

“I think it would be the height of irresponsibility to leave without addressing this humanitarian issue,” Hoyer said Tuesday during his weekly pen-and-pad briefing with reporters. 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 21, 2014

McCarthy Takes Over Visible Leader Duties as Staff Transitions

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Cantor, right, has essentially handed the majority leader baton off to McCarthy. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy does not officially step into his new job as majority leader until August, but for all intents and purposes, the California Republican has already assumed the visible duties of his next leadership role.

McCarthy laid out the week’s schedule during a weekly colloquy with Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer on the House floor on July 17, and earlier in the week, it was McCarthy, not Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who addressed the press. McCarthy also handled the colloquy the week before, and Cantor has not attended GOP leadership press conferences since the day after he lost a primary.

McCarthy has continued to manage the whip duties as well, while Majority Whip-elect Steve Scalise of Louisiana ramps up his operation.

Scalise was set to take on a more visible role in conference leadership with his delivery of the weekly Republican address this weekend.

As McCarthy and Scalise raise their profiles, Cantor has quietly stepped to the background, giving few interviews and avoiding the spotlight since his stunning June 10 primary loss to college professor Dave Brat.

Behind the scenes, however, the Virginia Republican’s staff is still handling many issues while McCarthy builds his operation. Legislative requests from members, for instance, are still being handled by Cantor’s member services shop and his staff is also overseeing committee work.

Some members of McCarthy’s team have begun handling floor scheduling, aides said. But Cantor’s floor team has irreplaceable institutional knowledge and contains some staffers who have worked there for years, since before Republicans gained the majority.

Cantor has continued to attend some daily leadership meetings, but for the most part McCarthy has taken over at regular meetings of committee chairmen.

McCarthy will retain the spacious first-floor office suite he currently enjoys as majority whip (although he will soon have a new plaque outside the door reflecting his changed title). That marks a return to the old office layouts — when Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio was majority leader, he occupied that office.

Over the August break, Scalise will move into Cantor’s second floor office, which is directly off of Statuary Hall. His chosen chief deputy, Rep. Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina, will occupy an office on the third floor above what will be Scalise’s office.

While the Cantor team — one of the most highly regarded on the Hill — helps with the transition, solicits contributions from fellow Republicans to help retire debt from the campaign and looks for jobs, the next move for their boss remains a mystery.

The Virginia lawmaker has said he will serve out the rest of his term and is still casting votes, but his Twitter accounts are quiet — his @GOPLeader account, which once buzzed with multiple tweets each day on House action, hasn’t been updated since June 30.

In one of the few interviews he’s given since his primary loss, Cantor told ABC’s Jonathan Karl just days after the defeat, “I don’t think that I want to be a lobbyist, but I do want to be — play a role in the public debate.”

Since then, Cantor — and his top staffers — have been the subjects of speculation from Wall Street to K Street and back.

Nels Olson, who runs the Washington office of recruiting firm Korn Ferry, told CQ Roll Call last month that Cantor and his his top staffers will be attractive prospects for Washington shops doing business on Capitol Hill.

“Those individuals will have an opportunity to make a transition,” Olson said.

Ivan Adler, a headhunter with the McCormick Group, said Cantor “may be the perfect candidate for K Street.”

Others have suggested that with his fundraising prowess — he raised more than $6 million and outspent his opponent dramatically in the June primary — Cantor would be an attractive choice as a successor to Reince Priebus at the Republican National Committee.

The New York Daily News reported recently that Cantor has been spotted in the Hamptons on New York’s Long Island twice since losing his race last month — once to attend a Father’s Day service at a synagogue in Westhampton Beach and again at a campaign event for Republican congressional candidate Lee Zeldin. Politico reported he is scheduled to return there in August.

Cantor’s congressional operation employs about 35 people — in his leadership, personal and district offices — with a combined 2013 payroll of $3 million, according to data compiled by LegiStorm.

July 17, 2014

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

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(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

July 16, 2014

Watch Live: House Rules Committee Hearing on Proposed Lawsuit of President Barack Obama

The House Rules Committee holds a hearing on initiating a House lawsuit against President Barack Obama over failing to enforce the Affordable Care Act.

The hearing begins at 10 a.m. and you can watch live below:

July 15, 2014

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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