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Posts in "Libertarian"
April 9, 2015
After a two-week respite, April is shaping up to be a month of long nights, nods to the GOP base and divisions on both sides of the aisle.
November 25, 2014
It’s 7:49 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 21 — the first day of Congress’ Thanksgiving recess — and Dave Brat is 11 minutes early.
The man who unseated former Majority Leader Eric Cantor is meeting me at a Starbucks in Navy Yard before driving down to the Richmond suburbs for his first constituent town hall as a congressman. It’s part of a pledge he made to visit all nine counties in his district every month, and Brat has every intention of keeping his word.
He genuinely doesn’t seem to know exactly why or how he beat Cantor — “There’s no perfect interpretation on this, right?” — and he seems less interested in changing Washington than he is in making sure Washington doesn’t change him.
He orders a chocolate croissant, a Venti mocha latte for his campaign manager-turned-senior-adviser who’s also in attendance, and a Venti half-and-half mocha latte for himself. “Extra hot,” he tells the barista. Apparently, Dave Brat knows something about lattes we didn’t. He may be new to Congress, but he’s not new to Starbucks.
He pays $9.68 for the order, sits down in the quietest corner we can find, and begins telling — between bites of pastry — his life story.
“After the primary, when I got all the attention, people said, ‘Who’s Dave Brat?’ All these stories,” he says. “And so then I went around to all these business leaders and said, ‘Hey, I got a thing called a biography!’ You know, please check it out. The press, you know, they want to pigeonhole ya.”
Brat, 50, explains that he grew up in Alma, Mich.; went to high school in Minneapolis; graduated from Hope College; and then worked for the Arthur Andersen accounting firm in Detroit and Chicago before going to Princeton Seminary. “I was going to teach systematic theology, be a professor,” he says.
He speaks in the gravel-voiced tones of western Michigan, and in his frameless glasses, with his hair slicked back, he walks the line of looking like the proverbial Washington wonk and Congress’ version of Gordon Gekko.
But despite the outsider image cultivated in his campaign, Brat is no stranger to D.C. During his time at Princeton, he did a semester in Washington at Wesley Seminary and realized just how much economic policy drove “everything up here.”
He shifted his focus, received a doctorate in economics from American University, and then worked a few years in Washington — first at the World Bank and then for the Army before he took a teaching job 90 miles south at Randolph-Macon College.
He spent 19 years at the school, eventually becoming the college’s Economics Department chairman before deciding to use his experience in local politics to challenge Cantor. (Brat had previously served on a number of state advisory boards and had unsuccessfully run for a Virginia House seat.)
His congressional campaign is now the stuff of political legend. Cantor outspent him nearly 40 to 1, and yet Brat emerged on June 10 as the winner of the GOP primary by 12 points. It was the first time a sitting majority leader had lost in a primary since the position was created in 1899.
He went on to beat Democrat Jack Trammell in the general election by 24 points.
Now that he’s sworn in, Brat is treated like a mini-celebrity at the Capitol. Members of Congress flock to him on the House floor to introduce themselves. Reporters swarm him in the halls to give him their cards. And constituents flood email him with messages that say, “Keep being Dave.”
“There’s been outpouring, yeah,” Brat says, almost surprised to hear that not all members of Congress are greeted with a such hoopla.
“I don’t know what’s normal,” he says. “Everybody’s been totally gracious.”
When asked who specifically has tried to befriend him, he mentions Bill Huizenga — the Republican who represents a part of Michigan where Brat still has family — and conservative MIT-graduate Thomas Massie of Kentucky. He also enumerates fellow GOP members of the Virginia delegation Reps. Robert W. Goodlatte, Morgan Griffith and J. Randy Forbes.
Even GOP leadership has been nice to him. “Boehner’s got just a tremendous personality,” he says.
Asked what it’s like to be “the-guy-who-knocked-off-Cantor,” Brat says he doesn’t view it that way — and he wants to look forward, not backwards. “That’s all in the rearview mirror,” he says.
While immigration was seen as the central issue in Brat’s campaign, and thus the key reason he beat Cantor, Brat thinks his success was more about fiscal issues, actually.
“I think that was the central message, that the economics is broken,” he says. “And then immigration also fits in there, right? So when your labor markets are already broken, it seems to me the answer isn’t to import, you know, 10 million new people.”
On the morning after President Barack Obama’s immigration announcement, Brat calls the executive action “the height of cynicism.” But he stops short of calling it unconstitutional. When asked about impeachment, Brat says he’ll go through the executive order in “slow motion” with “the smartest lawyers in the room and navigate that.
“And then, based on my principles, nobody gets to violate the Constitution,” he says. “If, in fact, anyone has violated the Constitution, yeah, then we have serious, serious issues to deal with.”
And that’s how Dave Brat wants to deal with issues: slowly, methodically, like a rational economist.
According to Brat, the press made fun of him for doing 20-minute stump speeches entirely on economic theory. “They’d say ‘Brat’s going off on his lectures, and da da da da da, and make fun of the things. But the people liked it!”
And he says the voters saw his honesty, his “economic homilies,” and they recognized that the issues he was talking about were the issues he was genuinely most concerned about — and that’s what worked for him.
“I didn’t pick ‘em because they were political winners,” he says.
“I don’t think they want red meat, you know, cage rattlin’, that kind of thing,” Brat says. “They just want rational people to go up and say, ‘Hey, I’m an economist. Here’s exactly what this does. There’s better ways to do it.’”
And he married that economic message with an ethical one.
“My whole life has been putting economics and ethics together,” he says. “And I made it very clear: Ethics, in a nutshell, is where you put the rules down ahead of time.”
Brat made three campaign pledges: To meet with constituents from every county every month; to limit himself to 12 years in Congress; and to put in a “fair” or flat tax.
He knows he can’t really promise that sort of tax overhaul — “I’m not a utopian,” Brat, ever the academic, says — but he does promise he’ll work toward moving the tax needle in that direction.
And he hopes the voters will recognize that he’s advancing the conversation. But if voters are such rational actors, was it a rational decision for his district to throw out someone with as much political clout as Eric Cantor?
Brat pauses, considering the question for five seconds.
“I mean, obviously, I think the answer is yes, because I’m running on Ph.D.-level economic rationality,” he says. “That was the premise of my entire campaign.”
September 16, 2014
Despite lingering reservations on both sides of the aisle, a coalition of Republicans and Democrats is coming together behind proposals to arm Syrian rebels and fund the government beyond Sept. 30.
Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer confirmed Tuesday that, despite some provisions his colleagues don’t like — namely a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank through only June 30, 2015 — Hoyer and a significant bloc of Democrats would not withhold their support on the continuing resolution. “You don’t get perfect,” Hoyer told reporters at his weekly pen-and-pad briefing.
The Maryland Democrat also said Democrats would support an amendment proposal from Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., that would give the Obama administration the authority it requested to arm and train Syrian rebels in order to combat Islamic terrorists.
With the support from Democrats, passage of the CR and adoption of the Syria amendment look increasingly assured. There are plenty of remaining concerns regarding the trustworthiness of the Syrian rebels. But with Republican and Democratic leadership supporting the measure — not to mention the White House, which has been calling members to drum up support for the proposal — passage of the CR does not appear to be in doubt. Full story
September 9, 2014
Speaker John A. Boehner repeatedly refused to say Tuesday whether he supports more U.S. troops in the Middle East or if Congress should authorize military action against ISIS, telling reporters the House needs to hear from President Barack Obama.
Boehner is scheduled to visit the White House later Tuesday — along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. — and the president may very well ask for congressional authorization to ramp up action against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
But that doesn’t mean he’d get it — at least not anytime soon.
House Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., said Tuesday he didn’t think the House even has time to debate and vote on an authorization for military force before leaving for the pre-election recess in early October. Even if there were time, it’s unclear if there would be the votes.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney came before House Republicans Tuesday in a closed-door meeting to discuss the terrorist threat in the Middle East. And while many Republicans were quick to show deference to one of the major architects of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan — “He’s a man of great gravitas and poise,” said Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz. — many other Republicans were taking Cheney’s words with more than a grain of salt.
Justin Amash, R-Mich., said it was time for the GOP to stop listening to Cheney, particularly on foreign policy. “Because Republicans don’t agree with him,” Amash said.
Cheney’s message to Republicans, according to members exiting the meeting, was that a strong America would provide for a stable world environment.
“And that the president’s failure of leadership, and incompetence in leadership, has put us into — put the world into — a very unstable position, has imperiled the security of the United States, and that we need to rebuild our military and have a better foreign policy so that we can restore the stability to the world,” said Rep. Bill Flores of Texas, summing up Cheney’s warning to lawmakers.
Regardless of Cheney’s message, both parties are concerned about the possibilities of a another long and costly war in the Middle East. But they are also concerned about doing nothing.
Long one of the most hawkish members of the House, Rep. Peter T. King, R-N.Y., told reporters that Obama has the authority to act without congressional authorization, and that the White House should execute a military response to ISIS, the insurgent group in control of parts of Iraq and Syria, without waiting for consent from Capitol Hill.
“I think it’s better if Congress would give approval,” King said. But he added that it would be better to give authorization “after the fact.”
King explained that debate could slow down action and distract from the task at hand, and he recalled the messiness of last year’s debate over whether to take military action in Syria.
“It would complicate the message,” King said. “I know allies were very disappointed last year when [Obama] was lining up support and then he pulled the rug out.”
Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said he looked forward to hearing what Obama had to say regarding a strategy to combat ISIS, both in his scheduled address on Wednesday evening and after the White House meeting with House and Senate leaders later on Tuesday.
“If the president does not lay out a clear policy that members of Congress and the American people and our military and our enemies understand, then I don’t think there’ll be any action taken,” Sessions said. “If there’s no clear plan, what would the president be asking us to do?”
May 30, 2014
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
March 13, 2014
“I’m very proud of our House Democrats, not only how they’ve embraced the Affordable Care Act, because they helped create it, but how proud they are of it,” the California Democrat said at her weekly news conference Thursday morning. “I think the Republicans are wasting their time using that as their election issue and they will find that out.”
Pelosi also praised Sink, noting that the race was close and it was a district Republicans had held for 50 years.
“Our candidate Alex Sink, she was so excellent, she was so superb, and she said it just right: There are many good things about the Affordable Care Act that are good for the health and wellbeing for the American people, there are some things that need to be fixed,” Pelosi countered. “And that is the message of our members.” Full story
March 12, 2014
House Republican leaders enjoyed some bragging rights at their Wednesday morning press conference after their candidate, David Jolly, won Tuesday’s hotly-contested special election in Florida to succeed late-Republican Rep. C. W. Bill Young.
“I’ve stood here after losing some special elections,” said Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio. “I’ve tried to put lipstick on a pig, and it was still a pig. So you can bet they’ll try to put lipstick on it today but you all know what the facts are.”
January 15, 2014
A monthly meeting with the press and conservatives lawmakers has become a must-attend event — and not just for the free Chick-fil-A.
The Conversations with Conservatives event, hosted by the Heritage Foundation, brings a group of the most far-right legislators on Capitol Hill together to discuss a wide range of topics. And while lawmakers were, unexpectedly, a bit more reserved on topics like the omnibus this month, they had plenty to say on other issues.
Here are five interesting tidbits from the discussion: Full story
November 11, 2013
While many members of Congress took the Veterans Day holiday as an opportunity to walk in a parade or speak at a veterans cemetery, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner was in Brussels, testifying before European Parliament about the Patriot Act.
Sensenbrenner, one of the chief authors of the Patriot Act, told the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs that Congress had extended broader powers to the National Security Agency and the executive branch more than a decade ago through the legislation — and the NSA had “abused” that trust.
“I firmly believe the Patriot Act saved lives by strengthening the ability of intelligence agencies to track and stop potential terrorists, but in the past few years, the NSA has weakened, misconstrued and ignored the civil liberty protections we drafted into the law,” Sensenbrenner testified. Full story
October 15, 2013
The group appeared to be talking strategy about how they should respond to a tentative Senate deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling without addressing Obamacare in a substantive way, according to sources who witnessed the gathering. The Texas Republican senator and many of the House Republicans in attendance had insisted on including amendments aimed at dismantling Obamacare in the continuing resolution that was intended to avert the current shutdown.
Sources said the House Republicans meeting in the basement of Tortilla Coast with Cruz were some of the most conservative in the House: Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas, Steve King of Iowa, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho, Justin Amash of Michigan, Marlin Stutzman of Indiana, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Tim Huelskamp of Kansas.
The group is a collection of members who have often given leadership headaches in recent years by opposing both compromise measures as well as packages crafted by fellow Republicans. And, it seems, leadership unwittingly became aware of the meetup.
While the dinner meeting was held in a private basement room, the group was spotted by Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who was dining with some other members, including Gregg Harper, R-Miss. McCarthy is a regular at the Capitol Hill restaurant, and a source said he seemed particularly interested in what the group was up to.
While the emerging deal to reopen the government and hike the debt ceiling increase may have been a hot topic, it was not immediately clear what the group actually discussed. But the fact that such a group met with Cruz at all could give House GOP leaders even more heartburn as they consider what to do if the Senate passes the measure. Full story
September 10, 2013
In a major shift from the hawkish foreign policy Congress rubber-stamped a decade ago, newer members of the House, weary of war and fresh from the town hall circuit, are more than three times as likely to oppose military action in Syria than their more senior colleagues.
House lawmakers first elected in 2010 or 2012 overwhelmingly oppose striking Syria, with 12 leaning toward supporting authorization and 103 lawmakers leaning or outrightly against it.
Of the lawmakers who have publicly stated a position on Syria, a recent House whip count from Firedoglake shows little support for intervention: 29 yes, 31 lean yes, 128 lean no, 105 no.
Lawmakers elected before 2010 are leaning against or opposed to action in Syria by a factor of 2.7 to 1. For members elected in the past two cycles, opposition to action in Syria is 8.5 to 1.
That’s a far cry from the Congress that overwhelmingly backed the Iraq War. And the newer members haven’t been following their leaders, whether it be Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., or President Barack Obama.
“We’re reflective of a broader shift in public perception on foreign policy,” Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., told CQ Roll Call late last week.
“People have seen wars that have dragged on for more than a decade,” he said. “We’re tired of wars without end.”
It was 11 years ago, on Oct. 10, 2002, that 215 Republicans — all but eight — joined 85 Democrats to authorize the use of force in Iraq. At that time, according to a Pew Research Center poll, 62 percent of Americans supported military action to end Saddam Hussein’s rule.
Now, according to the latest CNN poll, more than 80 percent of the public says the Syrian government used chemical weapons, but just 39 percent of Americans support even a limited, no-boots-on-the-ground mission. And if you believe the lawmakers interviewed for this report, at least 90 percent of the constituents who have contacted them are against striking Syria.
Over the course of nearly a dozen interviews with freshman and sophomore lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats repeatedly expressed shifting convictions of the American public — and, correspondingly, a shift in the convictions of the lawmakers who were ushered into Congress to represent them.
The House is supposed to be the “people’s chamber,” where members are elected every two years to reflect the changing will of the public. But why, then, the differing levels of support among members who have spent less time in Washington?
The general answer from the junior lawmakers: They are more “constituent minded” than higher-ranking lawmakers. And the public does not want another war.
“They’re living in a D.C. echo chamber,” Amash said of his more senior colleagues. “If you’ve been here a longer amount of time, you’re not interacting with your constituents.”
Amash gave three reasons he thinks more senior members still support war: They don’t listen to their constituents, they are “tied to special interests,” and their voting record binds them to a foreign policy of yore.
Amash also theorized that longtime lawmakers (with “fatter bank accounts”) had stopped listening to constituents.
Amash said in 11 town halls he held last week — including one at a Burger King — “more than 95 percent” of the people he asked for a show of hands were against intervention in Syria.
And Amash has no qualms about following the wishes of his constituents on a matter as serious as war.
“Of all the issues out there, war is the one where you really need the public behind you, because you’re sending out their loved ones,” Amash said.
Indeed, sophomore Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., expressed a similar thought.
“It’s different when it comes to issues of war. It is not the president that goes to war, it’s not Congress; it’s the American people,” said Cicilline, who is leaning against authorization.
Freshman Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., who first served in Congress from 1995 to 2001, said Congress has changed since his first stint.
“It’s not the same ‘go-along, get-along’ crowd,” Salmon said. “A lot of the newer folks that have come in are very constitutionally minded.”
(Freshman Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., expressed nearly the same thought, saying, “You’ve got some really constitutionally minded people elected in the last two cycles.”)
Salmon said the public is “very, very cynical about any kind of war.” And he said the newer members are “a little more dubious” about following leadership.
“The longer you’re in the bubble, the more susceptible you are to the beltway jabber,” Salmon said.
Many members made the point that the difference between junior and senior members wasn’t exclusive to Syria.
“Some of it could be a shift in foreign policy, some of it could be that they represent their constituents more directly,” said Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who was elected in 2012.
Massie cited three votes — on the Amash National Security Agency amendment, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act and the Marketplace Fairness Act (which has yet to receive a vote but has been whipped informally by Massie) — as evidence of his claim that more junior members of Congress are banding together, listening to their constituents and bucking leadership.
Using an extended sports metaphor, Massie said his junior colleagues “all want to be team players,” but leadership — otherwise known as the quarterback — is “calling the wrong plays, going the wrong direction.”
“It’s hard to tackle and block for a quarterback going in the wrong direction,” he said.
“Our leadership is asking us to vote in a way that can really come back to bite us in an election,” Massie said of the Syria resolution.
One sophomore lawmaker, who asked not to be identified as to speak more candidly about the shift, agreed that Syria was politically toxic. The lawmaker theorized that more junior colleagues opposed Syria more aggressively because they are more fearful of losing elections. Senior lawmakers tend to be more insulated from electoral considerations.
Indeed, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., a veteran who supports intervention, worried that politics have crept into the decision-making process for members.
“Politics dissipates when you go overseas,” he said.
Kinzinger, who described himself as part of the “post-Iraq generation in Congress,” said that even though the American public seems to oppose intervention in Syria, “I wasn’t elected to not lead.”
Kinzinger suggested that outside groups, which he wouldn’t refer to by name, had had a hand in influencing newer members.
“Somehow Syria has become a purity vote,” he said, noting that there is a “bit of an isolationist thought coming into our party.”
But freshman Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., suggested that the issue was not isolationism; the issue was Syria.
“While I’m a libertarian-leaning conservative, I’m not libertarian, I’m not an isolationist, I’m sure as hell not a dove,” Radel said. He went on to enumerate his concerns with Syria — concerns that echoed many members.
Radel did think, however, there was something unique about the freshman and sophomore members.
“A lot of us came from the private sector,” he said, “meaning we have not always done politics the way it has always been done.”
But while newer members may have a different, closer style of representation, Congress has long been about, as political scientist David Mayhew put it in his 1974 book, “the electoral connection.”
Another Florida lawmaker, Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson, knows the lesson well. He was voted into Congress in 2008, voted out in 2010 and has returned for the 113th. He summed up a common thought.
“Recently elected members are well aware of the recent lessons of history. Maybe they,” he said, referring to his more senior colleagues, “haven’t learned it as intensely.”
Correction: 5:34 p.m.
An earlier version of this post misstated how long Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., has been in Congress. He is a sophomore.
July 24, 2013
Updated 8:17 p.m. | The White House and Republican and Democratic leadership marshaled their forces Wednesday to narrowly defeat an attempt by Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., to defund the National Security Agency’s blanket collection of telephone records, but not before a heated floor debate pitting civil liberties against national security.
Amash faced extraordinary odds: leadership on both sides of the aisle registered opposition to the amendment; former attorneys general and executive branch officials penned a letter opposing the measure; outside groups such as the Heritage Foundation came out against it; newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal, wrote op-eds rebuffing it; and the White House issued a rare statement of opposition against a House amendment.
The House killed the proposal, 205-217.
But the vote was much closer than the NSA, the White House or leadership wanted. The Amash amendment got 94 Republicans and 111 Democrats to go on record against the NSA surveillance program. A majority of Democrats effectively repudiated President Barack Obama’s handling of the program exposed by leaker Edward Snowden.
Snowden, of course, had called for just such a public debate and votes on the program when he revealed himself as the NSA leaker.
The vote made for strange bedfellows. Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., all voted against the amendment. Pelosi spoke against the Amash’s amendment at a behind-closed-doors Caucus meeting Wednesday, according to a source in the room.
But it was Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, a fellow Michigan Republican, who led the charge against the proposal as a matter of life and death.
He referenced 9/11 and said that, after the 2001 terrorist attack, Americans asked “what if” there were a way we could have prevented the attack.
“What if we had caught it?” Rogers asked. “The good news it’s not theoretical. Fifty-four times this program stopped and thwarted terrorist attacks here and in Europe, saving real lives. This isn’t a game. This is real.”
Rogers said the amendment would have returned the nation to where it was on “Sept. 10.”
At one point, Rogers seemed to take a personal dig at Amash, who has enjoyed a flood of social media support during his NSA battle. Rogers asked his House colleagues, “Are we so small that we can only look at our Facebook likes in this chamber?”
Rogers said he would use an upcoming intelligence authorization bill “to work to find additional privacy protections with this program that has no emails, no phone calls, no names and no addresses. ”
Amash rallied a bipartisan band of backers that stretched across the conservative-liberal divide — from former Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., to ranking Judiciary Democrat John Conyers Jr., D-Mich.
They cast his amendment as a referendum on civil liberties.
“We are here today for a very simple reason,” Amash said, “to defend the Fourth Amendment, to defend the privacy of each and every American.”
“It’s a question of balancing privacy and security,” said Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C. “It’s a question of who will do the balancing. Right now, the balancing is being done by people we do not know, people we do not elect.”
Conyers, the lead Democratic co-sponsor of the amendment, told reporters after the vote that pressure on members to vote against Amash was “heavy.”
He said Democratic leadership may not have been engaging in a formal whip operation, but “there was one in existence” against it.
“They were very worried,” said Conyers, the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee. “And the fact that they won this narrowly means they still are worried because this thing isn’t over yet. This is just the beginning.”
Emma Dumain and Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.
Competing whip operations are heating up as the House prepares to vote on a National Security Agency amendment that has resulted in what one aide described as a “Michigan dog fight.”
Rep. Justin Amash, the sponsor of a defense appropriations amendment that would defund the NSA’s blanket collection of telephone records, is squaring off against fellow Michigan Republican Mike Rogers, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee and fierce opponent of the Amash amendment.
Amash and Rogers are familiar rivals; both were once staring at a potentially bitter primary race for Michigan’s open Senate seat before Rogers announced he would not run.
With GOP leadership maintaining it doesn’t whip for or against amendments, Rogers has stepped up as the major voice against the Amash offering.
Rogers has been using his position as chairman of the Intelligence Committee — and the access to the classified information that such a position affords — to argue that the NSA data collection program is needed. Full story
July 22, 2013
House GOP leadership on Monday gave in to the demands of a small band of libertarian-minded members, allowing them to offer controversial amendments on the National Security Agency, Egypt and Syria.
Late Monday evening, the House Rules Committee made 100 amendments in order to the Defense spending bill, including three amendments that a bloc of Republicans insisted be made in order or else they would attempt to prevent the bill from coming to the floor.
Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash, a regular thorn in the side of leadership, and Kentucky GOP Rep. Thomas Massie led the contingent of conservatives that threatened to vote down the Republican rule on the floor unless certain amendments were approved for votes.
“We’ve conveyed to the whip team that we won’t vote for the rule if they don’t allow debate and votes,” Massie said July 19. “We don’t need all the amendments to be allowed. We need at least one substantial amendment on three things: Egypt, Syria and NSA.”
Amash’s NSA amendment would prevent money from going to the agency’s blanket collection of telephone call records, and Massie’s two amendments would defund military operations in Syria and Egypt. Full story
July 19, 2013
House GOP leaders are scrambling to quell a quiet libertarian rebellion that threatens to block consideration of the Defense appropriations bill.
A small group of Republicans are holding the spending bill hostage until they get votes on several controversial amendments.
“We’ve conveyed to the whip team that we won’t vote for the rule if they don’t allow debate and votes,” Thomas Massie, R-Ky., said Friday. “We don’t need all the amendments to be allowed. We need at least one substantial amendment on three things: Egypt, Syria and NSA.”
Massie has two amendments before the Rules Committee: one that would defund military operations in Syria and one that would defund military operations in Egypt. Another leader in the Republican rebellion, Justin Amash of Michigan, has an amendment that would end funds for the National Security Agency’s blanket collection of telephone call records in the wake of Edward Snowden’s leaking of the program.
Rules Committee member Rich Nugent, R-Fla., has a similar NSA amendment, but the libertarian lawmakers say it insufficiently addresses the issue.
GOP leaders have been coming off a string of impressive victories lately — from passing the farm bill without a single Democratic vote to navigating a No Child Left Behind rewrite. But the Rules Committee postponed their meeting Thursday on the Defense appropriations bill, and leaders are still figuring out if they have the votes to squash the Republican revolt.
Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has pleaded with lawmakers in the group to not shoot down the rule and, consequently, shoot Republicans in the foot.
According to an aide to one lawmaker in the group threatening to vote down the rule, leadership has used “every tool in the toolbox” to block the amendments. The aide said they have faced a number of procedural roadblocks, from leadership saying their amendments legislate on an appropriations bill to having their amendments submitted to the Congressional Budget Office for a score. The aide said it has been a “concerted effort.”
But the lawmakers have cleared the hurdles, they say, and they want votes. They are drafting a letter calling for the opportunity to vote on their amendments, and they are seeking signatories.
On Friday, Jim McGovern, D-Mass., who will be controlling the Defense appropriations rule on the floor for the Democrats, said the Republican Conference is “just chaos.”
“They can’t seem to get their act together. So they got a problem,” McGovern said. “The Republican leadership long ago lost the ability to lead.”
McGovern, who is also a Rules panel member, said Democrats were initially told the Rules Committee was delaying its Thursday meeting on the Defense appropriations bill “out of deference to us” so Democrats could vote in the ranking member of the Natural Resources election, even though no Democrat asked the committee to delay the hearing.
“And then they delayed for another hour, and then they delayed it indefinitely and never told us why,” McGovern said. “We all know why: It’s because of these NSA votes.”
The Rules Committee plans to mark up the rule for the Defense appropriations bill at 5 p.m. on July 22, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Friday that the House will consider the DOD appropriations bill next week.
“We have been working with members all week and will continue to do so,” said Doug Heye, Cantor’s deputy chief of staff.
Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said members and staff were taking the time to carefully review the bill and the amendments.
“It’s real simple: We’ve got a series of very important national security and public policy issues that deal not just with the Congress, but actual real life events that are occurring around the world,” Sessions said Friday. “And it is very apparent to us this is not just an appropriations bill, it’s one that we’ve got to look at broader ramifications.”
Sessions said the Rules Committee would take up the Defense appropriations bill “hopefully next week.”
He predicted the group holding up consideration would eventually come around.
“I think these guys are bright young guys,” Sessions said. “I know them and I know them well, and I hope to give them that confidence that they’ll vote for their favorite Rules Committee chairman’s rule.”