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October 2, 2014

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October 1, 2014

Losing Cummings Set Off Chain Reaction for Secret Service Director

cummings 03 042704 445x310 Losing Cummings Set Off Chain Reaction for Secret Service Director

When Cummings lost confidence in Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, others followed. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As CNN’s Wolf Blitzer noted Wednesday afternoon, when a White House appointee loses the backing of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Elijah E. Cummings, you know you’re in trouble.

That’s where embattled Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, appointed to the job less than two years ago by President Barack Obama, found herself Thursday as a growing chorus of lawmakers — including Democrats Cummings and Pelosi — demanded answers and accountability for an embarrassing series of security lapses involving the agency.

Cummings, the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was the first, most senior Democrat to suggest that maybe it was time for new leadership at the Secret Service.

Wednesday morning, less than 24 hours after Pierson’s problematic testimony at a rare, mid-recess hearing on Capitol Hill, Cummings told MSNBC that his “confidence and trust” in Pierson “had eroded,” and that he did “not feel comfortable with her” in charge of the agency.

Those comments seemed to have set off a chain reaction among lawmakers in both parties struggling with their positions on whether Pierson should stay or go.

Soon after, Pelosi announced at a press conference that if Cummings was bothered by Pierson’s record at the Secret Service, then so was she.

I support his suggestion,” Pelosi told reporters. “I am subscribing to his superior judgment and knowledge on the subject.”

On the other side of the aisle, South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy cited Cummings, too.

“When Elijah Cummings says that he has lost confidence in someone, the White House better pay attention,” Gowdy told Fox News.

“He’s hardly a tea party Republican,” said Gowdy, the chairman to Cummings’ ranking member on the special Benghazi investigative committee. “He does not criticize the administration unless it’s warranted. And, he has lost confidence in Director Pierson’s leadership.”

And Cummings’ comments were an indication of how little support Pierson could expect from Democrats on Capitol Hill. This was, after all, a lawmaker who, in February, had been described by a spokesman for Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa as an “errand runner for the Obama White House.”

In an interview with CQ Roll Call Wednesday evening, Cummings said he hadn’t heard about Gowdy’s comments from earlier in the day, but that he was gratified by them.

“I think it is — I hope, I hope — it’s about integrity,” he said. “But also always putting the country first.”

“Put country before party,” he added, giving a shout-out to the late Republican Rep. Jack Kemp, who used the phrase often.

 

Related:

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson Resigns

Boehner Slams ‘Incompetence’ at Secret Service, Wants Review

Pelosi Calls for Review of Secret Service Security Lapses

Secret Service Takes Beating in Rare Recess Hearing

Secret Service Director Testimony Omits Elevator Incident With Obama

Omar Gonzalez Charged in White House Breach

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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September 29, 2014

Hoyer: ‘Atlas Shrugged’ No Way to Run a Country

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Hoyer says don’t count on the Senate switching hands. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Five weeks and one day before the midterm elections, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer made the case for Democrats to retake control of the House, delivering a scathing takedown of Republican leadership in the process.

In a Monday morning speech at the National Press Club, the House’s No. 2 Democrat mocked Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, for recently boasting that the House under GOP rule is so transparent “you can even bring your iPad on the floor.”

“That may be the case,” Hoyer scoffed, “but you can’t bring a bill to raise the minimum wage to the floor. Or to extend unemployment insurance. Or to extend the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act. You can’t bring a bipartisan bill to fix our broken immigration system.” Full story

September 25, 2014

Boehner: Don’t Expect War Authorization Vote in Lame-Duck Session

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Boehner says the new Congress, not the lame duck, should vote on war authorization for operations in Syria. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner thinks Congress should debate authorizing use of force against the Islamic State in Syria — but not until new members of the House and Senate take office in January.

The Ohio Republican told The New York Times in an interview published Thursday morning the lame-duck session following the midterms in November would not be an appropriate time to make those decisions.

“Doing this with the whole group of members who are on their way out the door, I don’t think that is the right way to handle this,” Boehner told the Times.

That statement is sure to rankle many members on both sides of the aisle who had hoped the House would weigh in as soon as possible on President Barack Obama’s decision to use airstrikes to target the terrorist organization, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Full story

September 22, 2014

Republicans to Obama: Show Us How You’ll Change Immigration Law

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Goodlatte wants Obama to share his plans for executive action on immigration reform. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama has said he won’t make sweeping changes to immigration policy until after the midterm elections in order to protect vulnerable Democrats in tight races, but House Republicans don’t want to wait to see what the president has up his sleeve.

On Monday, all 22 Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Obama demanding that he make public “the recommendations he has received for the anticipated executive actions he will take to further dismantle our nation’s immigration laws.”

Disclosing the suggestions for how he would overhaul the nation’s immigration system without the participation of Congress, the 22 lawmakers argued, “could go some way toward repairing the damage to the American political process caused by the secrecy with which your Administration has considered changes to our immigration system.”

Read the full letter here: Full story

Pushing for Minimum Wage Boost, Nader Decries Vacationing Congress

nader6 080702 445x291 Pushing for Minimum Wage Boost, Nader Decries Vacationing Congress

Nader criticized Congress’ small number of working days this fall in a letter. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Between Aug. 1 and Nov. 12, the House will have only been in session for eight days — translating to a $788 per hour wage for Speaker John A. Boehner.

For an Ohio minimum-wage earner who wants to match the sum of that hourly paycheck, he or she will have to work 99 hours.

That’s all according to consumer-rights activist Ralph Nader, who sent a letter to Boehner on Monday stating his grievances. He also said that the average rank-and-file lawmaker will make $614 an hour.

Lawmakers from both parties point out that just because they aren’t in session doesn’t mean they aren’t working, but Nader said he crunched the numbers to prove a point: House lawmakers make substantially more than the average American, yet work substantially fewer hours.

And still, Nader bemoans, Republican leadership refuses to allow a vote to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Full story

September 18, 2014

Energy and Commerce Race Heats Up as Election Nears

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Ranking member rivals Eshoo and Pallone chatted earlier this year at a press conference. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

After a quiet couple of months, the race to be the ranking Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee is heating up again.

As the November election nears, the two Democrats vying for the party’s top spot on the panel are stepping up efforts to show off their clout.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey made the bolder move on Thursday, releasing a letter signed by 50 of his supporters that outlines why they think he should be given the assignment over his opponent, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo of California. Full story

Party Like it’s 1994: Gingrich, DeLay Reunite With ‘Greatest Class’

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Ginghrich arrives for the reception celebrating the anniversary of the 1994 Contract with America. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

While most of Congress trekked down Pennsylvania Avenue Wednesday night to the annual White House picnic, a select group of current and former members took a trip down Memory Lane instead, converging on the Hill to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the historic House GOP class of 1994. 

A half-dozen lawmakers joined nearly 40 former colleagues, including former speaker Newt Gingrich, inside the National Resources Committee hearing room to reminisce about one of the biggest “wave” elections in congressional history.

In the midterms that year, the party recaptured power in the chamber, with new members having campaigned successfully on what would become the 104th Congress’s defining document: The Contract with America.

“You are going to go down in history … as the greatest freshman class, at least in the last century, to walk into this House of Representatives,” said Tom DeLay of Texas, who in 1995 was the House majority whip before going on to serve as majority leader. “You are people of incredible character and incredible strength and you stood on your principles.” Full story

September 17, 2014

Pelosi Backs Obama, but Says ‘We Just Don’t Whip War Votes’ (Video)

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Pelosi: “We just don’t whip war votes.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Democratic leaders aren’t whipping votes on the continuing resolution and an amendment to give President Barack Obama authority to arm Syrian rebels against the terrorist group the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

But Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi used her regularly-scheduled Wednesday morning news conference to make an impassioned case for members to support their president.

“I don’t know how the vote will turn out,” the California Democrat said. “It’s not a vote we whip. We just don’t whip war votes. But I do think that, as members weigh the factors, that they will, I think, give points to the president for all that he has done, diplomatically, politically, humanitarian-wise and ask for this distinct piece.” Full story

Parties’ Shared Benghazi Goals: Win the Hearings, Control the Narrative

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On the eve of a new round of hearings, Cummings made it clear Democrats intend to defend the Obama administration’s handling of the 2012 Benghazi terror attacks. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Reps. Trey Gowdy and Elijah E. Cummings say they don’t want the Select Committee on Benghazi to be driven by partisanship, and both have made overtures over the past four months to prove they mean it.

But no matter how many times the South Carolina Republican and Maryland Democrat huddle in the Speaker’s Lobby and pledge to treat the committee’s mission with dignity, the chairman and ranking member probably won’t be able to drown out the partisan voices on sidelines just 48 days from the midterm elections.

On the eve of the committee’s first public hearing, set for Wednesday morning, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and progressives, on Capitol Hill and off, were already drawing battle lines. Full story

September 15, 2014

Path Forward on CR, Title 10 Authority Starts to Crystalize

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

After postponing consideration last week of a stop-gap spending measure to fund the government past Sept. 30, House GOP leaders are poised in the days ahead to bring that same piece of legislation to the floor.

That vote, however, will now likely be coupled with consideration of an amendment to the underlying bill that would authorize the Obama administration to train and arm Syrian rebels against the insurgent terrorist organization known as the Islamic State or ISIS.

This bifurcated approach would make it considerably easier for members — on both sides of the aisle — to vote against the ISIS language but not the continuing resolution, taking off the table the threat of a revolt large enough to risk another government shutdown. Full story

September 11, 2014

No. 2 House Democrat Predicts Two-Part Vote on ISIS Request

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Hoyer predicts two House votes on the president’s ISIS authority request. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer said Thursday afternoon that he expects Congress will vote next week to grant President Barack Obama authority to arm Syrian rebels against the insurgent terrorist group known as the Islamic State or ISIS.

But the Maryland Democrat also said he expected that that vote wouldn’t be Congress’s last word on the subject.

“I believe a two-step process is what we will, I think, pursue,” Hoyer told CQ Roll Call and the Washington Post on Thursday during a taping of the C-SPAN program “Newsmakers,” set to air on Sunday morning. “I think there will be consideration of the president’s request to train and equip regional players.”

Then, after the elections, Hoyer said he anticipated “consideration of a larger authorization for the use of military force.”

Full story

September 9, 2014

Boehner Says House Will Wait to Hear Obama’s ISIS Plan

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Boehner said the House will wait to hear the president’s plan on ISIS. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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?”

Related:

McCarthy: ‘Friends Don’t Trust Us, Enemies Don’t Fear Us’

House, Senate Laying Groundwork for War on ISIS 

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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September 8, 2014

September Congressional Agenda: Must-Pass Bills and Messaging Gambits

boehner 051 050714 445x312 September Congressional Agenda: Must Pass Bills and Messaging Gambits

Boehner wants to contrast House action with Senate inaction. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With Congress back in town Monday after five weeks off, plenty of Republicans and Democrats have made it clear the session’s No. 1 priority is passing a spending bill to avoid a government shutdown.

There’s also a lot of bipartisan consensus, it turns out, on No. 2 — which can be summed up fairly neatly under the heading “Make the Other Guys Look Bad Ahead of the Elections.”

In a final, jam-packed sprint to Nov. 4 — the House is in session just 12 days, the Senate 15 — members in both chambers will be scrambling to check off those top two items, and a few others as well.

First Things First. No one wants another government shutdown. Federal funding runs out on Sept. 30, so Congress has to pass a short-term continuing resolution to keep agencies operational or risk a repeat of last year’s disaster that put congressional approval ratings at an all-time low. Leaders on both sides of the aisle and rotunda say they want a policy-rider free CR that runs through early December, but some Republicans could revolt over immigration executive orders or reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.

Which Leads Us to … Reauthorizing the Ex-Im. Funding for the institution that underwrites sales of U.S. goods abroad will expire at the end of the month, and its future is shaky: Far-right lawmakers say the Export-Import Bank represents corporate welfare, while other Republicans say that dissolving the institution would be catastrophic for small businesses. There’s growing interest in extending the bank’s charter for just a few months to buy Congress more time to reach a long-term agreement, but aides to senior GOP lawmakers caution that a deal on how to proceed is still elusive.

War on ISIS. It’s not clear whether Congress will be compelled to act on legislation authorizing air strikes in the region following the execution by Islamic extremists of two American journalists. But calls are coming from both sides of the aisle for Congress to definitively authorize President Barack Obama to use force against ISIS, the group that controls parts of Syria and Iraq. For the time being, the only planned House response is in the form of committee hearings. In the Democratic-controlled Senate, an aide said that “we are many steps away from knowing whether this is going to be an issue to come to Congress or not.”

The GOP ‘Closing Argument.’ Republicans intend to pass a number of jobs and energy bills over the next few weeks in what Speaker John A. Boehner referred to recently as a “closing argument” before the midterms: The GOP is working for Americans, while “the leader of the dysfunctional, do-nothing Senate plans to spend the final legislative days before November talking about the Koch brothers.”

Spotlight on Benghazi. Along with taking already-passed bills and re-bundling them to send over to the Democratic Senate a second time, House Republicans will also remind voters that they are paying attention to national security concerns: South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the specially-created committee to probe the 2012 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, will convene the panel’s first hearing this month.

Pelosi’s Aces: UI, Immigration. Democrats don’t control the legislative agenda in the House, but they have a couple of cards they can play to try and spare their party of some bloodletting this fall. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s troops will likely continue to support White House plans to use executive orders to grant more stays of deportation to undocumented immigrants in light of the GOP’s failure to act on comprehensive overhaul legislation. They will also undoubtedly focus on the GOP’s refusal to extend the emergency unemployment insurance program, nine months after funding lapsed.

Speaking of the Koch Brothers … In the Senate, Democrats will kick off their first day back by proceeding with a vote to cut off debate on a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court ruling allowing unlimited campaign spending by corporations and individuals. They are banking that Republicans filibuster the effort so they can spend their remaining weeks before the midterms reconsidering items from Majority Leader Harry Reid’s “fair shot” agenda, the first of which would be a bill to improve college affordability. A proposal to raise the federal minimum wage would follow.

Senate Republicans Playing It Safe. Reid’s Republican colleagues, anticipating a banner year at the polls in November, have not tipped their hands as to how they want to spend September. To thwart Reid’s wish to force politically loaded votes on the Senate floor, GOP leaders could urge members to allow debate on the campaign finance bill — the quintessential symbolic messaging measure that will never advance.

Humberto Sanchez and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

House, Senate Laying Groundwork for War on ISIS

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September 3, 2014

House GOP Plan for September: Shame the Senate

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Boehner told Republicans the House will be busy in September. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker John A. Boehner outlined the September legislative agenda in a Wednesday afternoon conference call with House Republican lawmakers, describing a scheduled 12-day session that will be “brief, but busy.”

The most pressing item on the agenda is a short-term spending bill to avert a government shutdown on Sept. 30, but Boehner also spoke strongly and at length, according to a read-out from a source on the call, in favor of using the remaining legislative days before the November elections to draw “a very stark contrast between ourselves and the Democrats who run Washington.”

The Republican-led House, Boehner said, “is going to spend September focused on American solutions to help get people back to work, lower costs at home and restore opportunity for all Americans.”

House Republicans’ “closing argument” before they depart for the campaign trail ahead of Election Day, Boehner said, will be moving legislation designed to have tangible results for the American people, while the “do-nothing Senate plans to spend the final legislative days before November talking about the Koch brothers.”

Boehner’s comments mirrored an early August memo from Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., alerting members that leadership would be taking dozens of jobs and energy bills that have already been passed individually by the House and bundling them together in packages to send over to the Senate again — a move intended to put more pressure on the chamber’s Democratic leadership.

With the GOP almost certain to retain control of the House in the 114th Congress, the chamber’s Republicans now appear to be rallying to help tilt the balance of power in the Senate.

 

Related:

Gutieérrez, Activists Urge Obama to Act on Immigration Before Elections

House, Senate Lay Groundwork for War on ISIS

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

August 20, 2014

Paul Ryan Rules Out Another Government Shutdown

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Ryan, kicking off his book tour in Philadelphia, ruled out another government shutdown. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

PHILADELPHIA — House Republicans won’t shut down the government in September, Heritage Action is “constructive at the end of the day” and a person can write a book without necessarily running for president.

Those were some of the points Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., hit home during an exclusive interview with CQ Roll Call Wednesday afternoon from the ornate Union League Building in downtown Philadelphia.

RollCall On the Road Logo300x3008 240x234 Paul Ryan Rules Out Another Government Shutdown

The House Budget Committee chairman and 2012 vice presidential nominee was in the city to kick-off a 10-day national tour promoting his new book, which hit the stands Tuesday.

“The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea” is part-memoir, part-sweeping policy proposal, and Ryan will be spending some of the waning days of August recess touting it in Wisconsin, Chicago, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas and California.

Full story

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