Immigration activists gathered at the White House on Thursday in the wake of Obama’s announcement. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Speaker John A. Boehner said “the House will, in fact, act” to respond to President Barack Obama’s sweeping immigration executive orders — but the Ohio Republican offered no details on the type, scale and scope of such action Friday morning.
In a 4-minute news conference outside his office, Boehner said the nation’s immigration system is “broken,” and “the American people expect us to work together to fix it.
“And we ought to do it in a Democratic process,” he continued, “moving bills through the people’s House, through the Senate and to the president’s desk.”
But Boehner also accused Obama of trying to “deliberately sabotage” the prospects for congressional action by issuing his executive orders and “making it impossible for me to do what he wanted me to do.”
Boehner said, “I warned the president over and over again.” Full story
Pelosi praised previous Republican presidents on immigration. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Nancy Pelosi, defending Barack Obama, praised Republican presidents who historically took unilateral action on immigration — with the minority leader even drawing parallels between Obama’s proposed executive order and Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.
“Does the public know that the Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order?” Pelosi asked during a news conference Thursday. “People have to understand how presidents have made change in our country.”
The California Democrat cited the history of U.S. presidents making significant changes without going through Congress, and she brought up the pattern of Republican presidents in the past 50 years exerting their executive authority to act on immigration.
Asked whether Republicans had a case that what the president was proposing was unconstitutional, Pelosi said Obama’s action was “absolutely, positively” not outside his constitutional bounds. Full story
Brown, who had the most seniority, is the new ranking member of the VA Committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Wednesday was a good day for the Congressional Black Caucus: In just a matter of hours, the powerful group saw Democrats’ seniority system — a tradition that has long protected minority lawmakers from being passed over for leadership positions — prevail not once, but twice.
First, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. — the No. 3 Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee — beat the No. 5 panel Democrat, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo of California, in the race to be ranking member.
He’s not a member of the CBC, but Pallone showed that lawmakers had no intention of bowing to pressure from some party leaders, such as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, to disregard the House Democratic Caucus’s deference to the decades-old seniority precedent. Full story
Pallone topped Eshoo, 100-90. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Updated 4:57 p.m. | In a triumph for the seniority system and a blow to Nancy Pelosi’s clout, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey beat Rep. Anna G. Eshoo of California in a hard-fought race for ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Brown, left, and Walz, center, each are vying for the ranking member position on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Updated 9:28 a.m. | Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota thought there would be a vote after Thanksgiving on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee ranking member race. As it turns out, his face-off against Rep. Corrine Brown of Florida will happen on Wednesday.
It gives Walz less time than he and his allies said they anticipated to build support around his uphill challenge of Brown, who benefits from seniority and the backing of the Congressional Black Caucus, of which she is a member.
Before the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee can meet to vote on a recommendation to the full House Democratic Caucus, Walz will have to clear an additional hurdle: A vote on whether he is even eligible to hold the post.
Walz is the highest-ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress and has had a seat at the Veterans’ Affairs Committee table since 2007. He is, however, on the committee via waiver, and his opponents say it doesn’t qualify him to run against Brown, who after nearly two decades on the committee is next in line to succeed the current retiring ranking member, Michael H. Michaud of Maine. Full story
Luján, right, will bring a quiet intensity to his job as Israel’s replacement at the DCCC. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who has ruffled plenty of feathers lately, reclaimed some goodwill with her caucus Monday, bypassing more established members to name Ben Ray Luján the next chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
It won’t erase all of the negativity percolating among her flock — demoralized after Election Day and antsy over the stasis at the leadership table — but the decision to elevate the New Mexico Democrat is being called “smart” and “savvy,” even by those who count themselves among Pelosi’s critics.
Rep. Maxine Waters of California, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the top Democrat on Financial Services, said Pelosi’s pick was “refreshing” and “lovely.” Full story
Eshoo and Pallone are vying for the ranking membership of the Energy and Commerce Committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Rep. Anna G. Eshoo of California has won the recommendation of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee to be the next ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee — but she’s not out of the water yet.
At 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, the full caucus will vote between her and Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, closing the chapter on what has been the most fraught committee leadership race of the cycle. Full story
House Democrats are continuing to criticize Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s refusal to allow Rep. Tammy Duckworth — a double amputee Iraq War veteran whose pregnancy has made her unable to travel — to vote by proxy in leadership elections this week.
Pelosi and her allies have been saying since Nov. 13, when the issue first came up, that House Democratic Caucus rules prohibit proxy votes, and that allowing exceptions for the Illinois Democrat would create a slippery-slope scenario.
Members and aides are privately seething over what they see as Pelosi’s latest attempt to stack the deck against Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., who is running for ranking member on the Energy and Commerce Committee against Pelosi’s closest friend and fellow Californian, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo.
Edwards continues her climb up the Democratic Party leadership ladder. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
At a surprise press conference Monday, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi introduced the appointed members of a reconfigured leadership team.
The California Democrat’s top lieutenants in the 114th Congress will overwhelmingly include familiar faces in new roles, a signal that she will continue a practice of rewarding and empowering her allies as needs shift within the caucus.
A clear sign of that tradition comes with the re-appointment of Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., as co-chairwoman of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.
At one point, Steering and Policy leadership positions were supposed to come with term limits, but DeLauro has kept her seat at the table for years past her would-be expiration date. Pelosi described DeLauro, a close friend, as a “lioness” and “an institution” who will stay at Steering and Policy “by popular demand.” Full story
Eshoo and Pallone are locked in a race for the Energy and Commerce ranking member slot. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Updated 11:50 a.m. | It started as a race to choose the next ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee; it could ultimately end as a referendum on the status quo.
When House Democrats finally settle the score this week, their choice between Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey and Anna G. Eshoo of California could send a strong message about how deeply members still hew to the seniority system.
And in a caucus growing increasingly antsy over the stasis at the leadership table, this ranking member election could be the closest thing to an up-or-down vote on Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi that members get for the next two years.
Pelosi, who has repeatedly endorsed her close friend Eshoo, is expected to run unopposed for a sixth full term as the House’s top Democrat.
Lawmakers will not say so publicly, but many of them think that if Eshoo loses, it will be because she became a casualty of greater frustrations within the caucus.
The fight sparked by California Democrat Henry A. Waxman’s retirement announcement in January became so dramatic because there was never a clear front-runner or an easy choice. Stakeholders agree Pallone and Eshoo’s policy positions are nearly identical, and their legislative records are unblemished.
So members were forced to consider other factors: Who called them first to ask for their vote? Who gave them money in a tough re-election bid? Who has always been their friend? Full story
Don’t undercut seniority, warns Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Fudge. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
The Congressional Black Caucus is fighting back against new suggestions — particularly coming from the very top of House Democratic leadership ranks — that seniority ought not be the be-all-end-all when it comes to doling out plum committee leadership assignments.
Spearheaded by outgoing Chairwoman Marcia L. Fudge, D-Ohio, the CBC sent out a “dear colleague” email Thursday night to reiterate its support for seniority “as the primary determinant in the committee leadership selection process.”
Under the current system, the CBC would be represented at the top of seven House committees — a record CBC members contend was only possible because seniority prevents black lawmakers from being passed over, intentionally or otherwise.
Fudge’s email comes as the conference weighs a ranking-member race on Energy and Commerce between the more-senior Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey and Anna G. Eshoo of California.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has endorsed her close friend Eshoo multiple times over the past 10 months, on Monday going so far as to send out a letter of her own, calling seniority “a consideration” but “not a determination.”
In her first public remarks since Election Day last week, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi defended her decision to run to keep her post atop the House Democratic Caucus, and doesn’t sound likely to relinquish it anytime soon.
“I don’t understand why this question should even come up,” the California Democrat said at a press conference Thursday. “I’m here as long as the members want me to be here.
Pelosi suggested that she wasn’t, as many expect, looking to serve one more term as minority leader before retiring in 2016 — when, colleagues hope, Hillary Rodham Clinton will be elected president.
“I’m not here on a schedule,” Pelosi said, “except for a mission to get a job done.”
She also hinted that there was implicit sexism in the constant rhetoric of “will she or won’t she.”
“When was the last time you asked Mitch McConnell … ‘aren’t you getting a little old, Mitch?’” said Pelosi of the Republican senator from Kentucky. Full story
Pelosi and her leadership team face questions about their handling of the midterms. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Updated 3:34 p.m. | House Democrats came back to work Wednesday still reeling from last week’s bruising election results — and looking for answers about what went wrong.
For many lawmakers, it wasn’t enough to blame the loss of at least a dozen House seats on an unpopular president, gerrymandered districts and a host of other factors beyond the party’s control. Going forward, they say they want their leadership to do some soul-searching, and so far it hasn’t happened.
A few members challenged Pelosi for her suggestion that voter suppression accounted for low Democratic turnout, a source on the call said.
A handful of Democratic aides said there was general frustration that the DCCC, at the eleventh hour, had to shift precious dollars around to help incumbents who should have been safe — or should have been warned by the DCCC much earlier to get back to their districts and protect their seats.
Meanwhile, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., was telling his local newspaper the party’s messaging needed to change. Democrats wouldn’t win elections, he said, talking about Pelosi’s favored “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds” agenda.
“Where the hell were the Democrats? What were we talking about?” he asked. “We’re losing white men. Why are we not talking about that? Why are we always concerned with what’s the politically correct thing to say?”
“Where’s the humility?” a senior Democratic aide lamented. “Don’t we want to self-assess here?”
Over the weekend, it looked like party leaders were starting to come around to the idea about how the elections went for Democrats on a national leavel. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida announced that a special panel of “key party stakeholders and experts” would perform a “top-to-bottom assessment” of what went wrong this cycle and how to do better next time.
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., tweeted that Wasserman Schultz “is right: Dems need a thorough, honest analysis of what went wrong. … Business as usual is not the clarion call we need now.”
Even the House’s third-ranking Democrat, Assistant Leader James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, acknowledged there should be some examination of how the messaging strategy was executed.
“A couple of weeks before the election, my travels around the country, in and out of these congressional districts, led me to the conclusion that our message, or a lack thereof, was causing a problem,” Clyburn told CQ Roll Call on Monday. “Where was the Democratic message in this campaign? People couldn’t tell you.”
A leadership aide pushed back against the thesis that House Democrats lacked a compelling narrative on the campaign trail, and that leaders are required to self-flagellate to prove they’re disappointed.
The aide told CQ Roll Call that the caucus had numerous opportunities to collaborate on a party platform ahead of the midterms, with Pelosi and Israel holding listening sessions to hone talking points and messaging strategy. The result was the “Middle Class Jumpstart” economic agenda, which House Democrats promised to implement within their first 100 days of regaining control of the chamber.
Attendance was always high at these special planning meetings, the leadership aide continued; if members now are saying they didn’t like the message or appreciate the tone, it’s not because they never had the chance to make their feelings known. Also, grousing about a lack of message, the aide said, is par for the course for Democrats every two years.
“I think we went beyond doing enough,” Rep. Jose E. Serrano of New York said Wednesday, in defense of the caucus’s strategy this election cycle.
At least one tradition, however, is missing from this year’s election aftermath: Calls for an imminent change at the leaders’ table. It’s a far cry from 2010 when Democrats lost control of the chamber and there was considerable chatter about whether it the time had come for Pelosi to step aside after 12 years in leadership.
“It does not just fall on Nancy,” Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona told CQ Roll Call Wednesday, adding that responsibility for what went wrong on Election Day was a “shared one” among the whole House Democratic Caucus.
So for the time being, even ambitious lawmakers clamoring to move up in the House’s party power structure are keeping their powder dry, perhaps expecting 2016 to be the year where a sea change finally takes place at the very top.
There are also fewer members in elected office willing to risk even a symbolic challenge of Pelosi, Clyburn or Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland. There is now a shortage of fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats willing to “take one for the team,” as ex-Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina did four years ago.
But it doesn’t mean that Democrats don’t want to see some changes. That’s especially true for the dozens of members who were elected in 2012 eager to compromise and get things done, even if it meant working with Republicans.
One member of that class, Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., said there needs to be a “whole different level of engagement” between members and leadership going forward, and she predicted the caucus would be confronted with the challenge of evaluating the status quo.
“I am ready to talk and have an action plan ready on Wednesday,” Lujan Grisham told CQ Roll Call on Nov. 8, adding that she wanted to see the 2016 cycle built around talking points that focused more on positive ideas and less on partisan finger-pointing.
In a separate interview on Tuesday, first-term Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., one of the most vulnerable incumbents of the cycle, said members were undeniably getting antsy with business-as-usual in the senior ranks.
“I think you’re going to have some of the more senior members frustrated about when we’re going to get the House back,” said Murphy, “and you got some younger, newer members who kind of want to be set free and don’t want to be tied down as much.
“They want to talk about the things that got them elected in the first place,” he continued. “This is a new generation of leadership.”
Correction 4:26 p.m.
An earlier version of this post misstated the state that Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. represents in Congress. He represents New Jersey.
Ranking member rivals Eshoo and Pallone. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
On Monday afternoon, and for the third time this year, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi endorsed her close friend and fellow Californian Rep. Anna G. Eshoo for ranking member on the Energy and Commerce Committee — and said House Democrats should consider seniority “a consideration” but “not a determination” in doling out committee leadership assignments.
It might be particularly irksome to members of the Congressional Black Caucus, which sees seniority as a way to protect their own from being passed over for chairman and ranking member slots. Full story