- Democrat Eyes Rematch in West Virginia's 2nd District
- Dan Donovan Wins Special Election to Succeed Michael Grimm
- Grimm's N.Y. District Stays in Republican Hands
- Senate Races, Pro Salaries and Perspective on Spending
- Democrats Look Past Tuesday's New York Special Election
Posts in "National Debt"
April 16, 2015
How do Republicans and Democrats from the House and Senate conference a partisan budget that is little more than a messaging document? They don’t — at least, not really.
No one truly expects both sides to come to a consensus agreement on the budget. No one even really expects Democrats to play much of a role in the budget conference. It could be, as one Democratic aide with knowledge of the situation predicted, one public meeting “just for show, just to check that box.”
But there are plenty of House and Senate differences on the budget that will need to be worked out between Republicans and, well, Republicans. Full story
March 23, 2015
As the House returns Monday, Speaker John A. Boehner faces two big tests of his hold on the ever-unruly Republican Conference: pushing through the GOP budget and putting the final touches on a speaker-approved Medicare “doc fix.”
After days of closed-door whip checks and haggling on amendments, the House Budget Committee advanced its fiscal 2016 budget on March 19 by a 22-13 vote. Every Republican supported the measure in committee, but GOP leaders are unlikely to be so lucky if the bill comes to the floor next week, as leaders said it would.
March 19, 2015
Updated 1:02 p.m. | House fiscal conservatives took the upper hand — for the moment — Thursday in their struggle with Republican defense hawks for control of the GOP’s 2016 federal budget proposal.
After 24 hours of uncertainty and stops and starts, the House Budget Committee voted along party lines, 22-13, to send a leaner spending plan to the House floor for a vote. Full story
A marathon markup of House Republicans’ proposed 2016 federal budget ended after midnight Wednesday with no resolution between the two GOP factions — defense hawks on one side, fiscal conservatives on the other — determined to put their own, seemingly incompatible stamps on the largely symbolic spending plan.
Members and aides weren’t immediately sure early Thursday if or when the House Budget panel would reconvene to try again to move the budget out of committee and onto the floor. Full story
March 18, 2015
If the phrase “sustainable growth rate” sounds like it might be useful in putting you to sleep, you might have missed it.
Speaker John A. Boehner is quietly putting the finishing touches on a legacy item that generations of high school civics teachers insist is the third rail of politics: “entitlement reform.” Full story
January 2, 2015
Corrected, Jan. 10, 11:48 p.m.: Colorado Republican Ken Buck turned in his district attorney’s badge on Friday morning.
“That’s an emotional thing,” said the nearly 30-year local law enforcement veteran.
But Buck added that his tenure as D.A. has prepared him for the new job he starts on Tuesday: Member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“I’m not gonna look at a party label when I sit down and talk to somebody about the need to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no,'” Buck pledged in an interview with CQ Roll Call and the Washington Examiner for C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program, set to air Sunday. “I just think it’s so important that we approach this job as problem solvers, not as partisans.” Full story
April 10, 2014
Speaker John A. Boehner had a few things to say Thursday morning.
During his weekly press conference, which lasted just over 6 minutes, Boehner criticized former director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the IRS, Lois G. Lerner, and knocked Democrats for playing politics rather than working with Republicans to create jobs. But Boehner most notably and vociferously went after the Obama administration for putting up roadblocks to answers on Benghazi, Fast and Furious and the IRS scandal.
The Ohio Republican also addressed the recent kissing controversy surrounding Louisiana Republican Vance McAllister, saying he had spoken to the freshman Congressman and expects all members to be held to the highest ethical standards.
Boehner said Republicans were “trying to build a consensus” on an Obamacare replacement bill, and were waiting for Democrats to offer an unemployment extension that was paid for and would address the economic problems in the United States.
Boehner’s press conference turned into an outburst, however, when he fielded a question from Fox News’s Chad Pergram regarding Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s intimation that he had been treated unfairly because of his race.
Watch the full press conference below:
February 11, 2014
Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio took the podium Tuesday at a private Republican Conference meeting across the street from the Capitol, well aware that he was out of options.
His flock had once again left him, and so a bill suspending the nation’s borrowing cap until March 2015 would come to the floor without preconditions, he announced. Then, shunning questions, he hastily walked offstage to stunned silence.
A moment later, he reconsidered and returned.
“You’re not even going to clap for me for getting this monkey off of our backs?” he implored, drawing applause from many of his rank-and-file members, still loyal to the embattled House figurehead.
The debt ceiling has become more burden to Boehner than boon. The exchange, reiterated by several sources inside the room, points to a fundamental shift in dynamics in the debate over how to extend the nation’s borrowing authority. Boehner’s defeatist approach and the tepid, mixed reaction of his membership underscore a growing realization in the conference that the tactic of attaching legislative demands to a debt limit increase is simply unsustainable.
Updated 3:27 p.m. | The House easily passed a bill restoring military pensions that were cut last year, but not before momentary drama over whether Democrats would back the measure.
Because Republicans put the bill on the suspension calendar, it required a two-thirds vote, giving Democrats the ability to block it if they chose to. Top Democratic leaders signaled their opposition, but the bill passed 326-90.
But while opposition to the bill came short, it was still heated.
At one point during the vote, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., went over to Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and the two whips had a spirited discussion. They appeared to be shouting at each other on the floor as a number of lawmakers looked on, including chief deputy whip Peter Roskam, R-Ill., Steve Southerland, R-Fla., and Patrick McHenry, R-N.C. An aide later confirmed they were arguing about the COLA bill.
On Tuesday afternoon, Hoyer called the military cost-of-living adjustment bill, which would extend benefits that were recently cut under the budget by extending sequestration levels for Medicare, “phony.”
“I can tell you I’m going to vote ‘no,’ [Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi] is going to vote ‘no,’ but we haven’t whipped this bill,” Hoyer told CQ Roll Call. “You know, it violates so many principles.”
Hoyer said the offset would extend sequestration “ad nauseam.”
“Secondly,” the Maryland Democrat said, “it seems to break the firewall that everyone’s insisted in the Ryan-Murray agreement,” referring to the recently-passed budget agreement brokered by House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash.
“And thirdly, it’s going to take money from Medicare and senior’s health for military retirees,” Hoyer said. “We ought to not pit those against one another.”
A floor defeat would have been another embarrassment for a GOP leadership who, unable to wrangle enough Republican support to pass their debt ceiling proposal, had to give the floor to Democrats to pass a debt ceiling increase with as minimal Republican support as possible.
But blocking the the military COLA bill could have exposed Democrats to attacks, as the military retiree cutbacks have already become a political hot potato.
The Democratic Senate, meanwhile, is debating its own bill that doesn’t contain any offset.
The House bill would pay for the military retiree benefits by extending sequestration levels for Medicare into 2024. It also would take the additional money that offset would provide — $2.3 billion — and establish a fund to pay for changes to the sustainable growth rate, which is the Medicare physician payment formula.
January 8, 2014
Democrats may have taken up income inequality as their election-year campaign platform, but Republicans appear determined to not let their counterparts own the subject.
To the annoyance of some Democrats, six members of the conservative Republican Study Committee held a news conference Wednesday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the “war on poverty” and to call for a different tactic to address indigence in this nation — one that is leaner on direct aid and more robust in job creation.
“While this war may have been launched with the best of intentions, it’s clear we’re now engaged in a battle of attrition that has left more Americans in poverty than at any other point in our nation’s history,” Rep. Steve Southerland II, R-Fla., said at the beginning of the news conference, noting that more than 46 million Americans live in poverty today. He did not point out, however, that even though the raw number of poverty-stricken people has increased, the percentage of poor Americans has fallen from 19 percent when President Lyndon B. Johnson announced his “unconditional war on poverty” in 1964 to about 15 percent today.
Southerland, the chairman of the RSC’s anti-poverty initiative, said that in the 50 years of the war on poverty, the government has spent more than $15 trillion on programs designed to combat those issues.
“Clearly, the big government ideas of the past need to be improved and aren’t working to the extent that they should,” Southerland said. “We have a moral obligation to break the mold.”
Southerland said there were three pillars to fighting poverty: two-parent families, quality education and a stable job.
“Over the next year, we will be bringing interested members together to discuss conservative solutions that empower individuals and not the federal government,” he said. Full story
January 3, 2014
The House will have a busy January judging by the lengthy legislative agenda Majority Leader Eric Cantor circulated among his colleagues on Friday.
The Virginia Republican’s memo, obtained by 218, lays out the obvious items of business: passing conference reports for the farm bill and for legislation funding the nation’s water programs, plus an appropriations bill for the remainder of fiscal 2014.
The GOP-run House will also continue to assail the president’s health care law, starting next week with a measure to address potential security breaches on HealthCare.gov. Cantor released a memo on that specific priority on Thursday.
Cantor also told lawmakers to familiarize themselves with other initiatives that could come to the floor in the weeks ahead, such as a possible Iran sanctions resolution that has been on the back-burner since late last year.
October 24, 2013
Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee have a simple message for conferees starting to hash out a budget deal next week: Do something about automatic defense spending cuts.
As the House and Senate prepare for their first budget conference in four years, 30 of the 34 Republicans on the Armed Services panel wrote a letter decrying the effects of sequestration, saying, “The concern of a hollowing of the force is very real; indeed, the readiness of our forces has already eroded.”
“Continued sequestration would lead to the reduction of an additional 100,000 soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen from our Armed Forces, and cancellation of important programs providing key technologies and capabilities that allow our military to stay ahead of the threat,” the letter said.
Requests for comment from those four Republicans were not immediately returned, but Claude Chafin, the communications director for the House Armed Services Committee, told CQ Roll Call he didn’t believe there was a “common objection.”
While the four Republicans may have differing reasons for not signing, the 30 Republicans who did sign the letter sent a strong message to House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash. Full story
October 22, 2013
When House Republicans set up a photo-op amid the shutdown of their people ready to sit down and negotiate with the Senate, eight men with rolled-up shirtsleeves sat at a long table before the cameras.
That striking image of an all-male negotiating team won’t repeat itself anytime soon, now that one of the four House Republicans selected to serve on the bicameral, bipartisan budget conference committee is a woman.
Second-term Rep. Diane Black was chosen last week to sit at the conference table alongside three senior lawmakers, a surprise pick that will catapult the Tennessee Republican into her highest-profile role yet.
In an interview with CQ Roll Call, Black said Speaker John A. Boehner called her early in the day on Oct. 16 to ask if she’d be interested in the position, but she didn’t know it was a done deal until later that night.
Black couldn’t say why exactly the Ohio Republican chose her to serve on the prestigious panel tasked with producing a budget by Dec. 13. She speculated that it had something to do with her proven track record in the Tennessee state House and Senate, her training as a nurse and her experience in the business community.
“My past performances should indicate that I am someone who is willing to sit in a meeting and listen to the other side, and that I have been in positions before where I dealt with some very serious issues of setting budgets,” she said.
Rep. Renee Ellmers, chairwoman of the Republican Women’s Policy Committee, said Black’s appointment was in part because of the fallout over the image of the original men’s club of House GOP negotiators.
“It unfortunately played into the message that’s out there from the left that Republicans do not look at women’s issues as vital for America to move forward,” Ellmers told CQ Roll Call.
The North Carolina Republican said that the episode became a “teachable moment” for her party’s leaders. At a recent all-members meeting, Ellmers confronted them about the decision to put eight men but none of the 19 House Republican women in the media spotlight.
“[Boehner] literally got up and said, ‘You know what, Renee, that was a mistake,'” Ellmers recalled. “And I believe that it was just a very innocent mistake, and I don’t think they realized how that looked.
“I believe it is not a mistake that will be made again.”
Aside from the woman factor, Ellmers called Black “an incredible voice for policy” whose grasp of fiscal matters and eye for detail will make her a strong player at the table.
And Black’s appointment might have been strategic on other fronts as well.
Boehner’s three other choices for budget conferees were obvious ones: Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin is chairman of the Budget Committee, Rep. Tom Price of Georgia is the vice chairman of the Budget Committee with strong ties to the party’s conservative wing, and Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma is an appropriator and a key Boehner ally.
Black hails from the iconoclastic class of 2010, whose members would have clamored for “one of their own” to serve on the budget conference. She’s also a team player who, like other mainstream House Republicans, wants to rewrite entitlement programs and exclude tax increases as part of any budget deal. Leadership can probably trust her not to stray too far from the party line.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said Black is the perfect marriage of all the right criteria: “As a member of both the Ways and Means and Budget committees — and part of the House GOP’s historic class of 2010 — Rep. Black brings a hard-nosed, common-sense perspective to this group.”
Ryan, in an emailed statement, called her a “key member” of the Budget Committee and a “leader for entitlement reform.”
“I know every member of the budget conference will benefit from her knowledge and dedication,” Ryan said.
Black has had a charmed professional life since arriving in Washington, D.C., in 2010. Her freshman colleagues picked her to serve as their representative on the Republican Policy Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee put her in charge of communication outreach, and leaders gave her plum committee slots.
Her appeal at the outset was due in large part to her status as a polished politician coming into office in a pool of political newcomers.
A 12-year veteran of the Tennessee state legislature, she ultimately climbed the ranks to be GOP caucus chairwoman of the state Senate. She uses her background as a nurse in her arguments against Obamacare and abortion. The founder of Aegis Sciences Corp. with her husband, she can talk the talk on jobs and the economy. She is No. 14 on Roll Call’s 50 Richest Members of Congress list, with a minimum net worth of nearly $25 million.
During the 2010 campaign, she doled out contributions to more than a dozen Republican candidates.
Speaking with CQ Roll Call, Black acknowledged that she has been given “incredible opportunities to be in places to be in important conversations.”
She also stressed that just because people outside the insular world of Capitol Hill hadn’t noticed her before, it doesn’t mean she wasn’t always there, clocking long hours and focusing on the tasks at hand.
“I do know there will be more recognition, and what I can say about that is I just plan on working as hard as I can,” Black said. “I just want to let folks know, it’s not my first time at the table.”
October 15, 2013
The freshman senator from Texas is leading a rump group of House tea party conservatives against Boehner and a good part of the House GOP conference, taking the U.S. government to the brink of default on its debts, now only days away according to Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew and other independent experts.
On Tuesday, Boehner presented a plan to his conference that looked similar to a bipartisan deal taking shape in the Senate. Like the Senate plan, it would have funded the government until Jan. 15 and raised the debt ceiling until Feb. 7, according to lawmakers and aides.
Boehner’s version also would have suspended the Obamacare medical device tax for two years, eliminated health care benefits for lawmakers and Cabinet officials, and scrapped a Senate provision to eliminate an Obamacare fee on reinsuring health plans.
But during the GOP’s weekly conference meeting Tuesday morning — which started with a rousing rendition of “Amazing Grace” led by former funeral director Steve Southerland II of Florida — the plan suffered its own kind of funeral. It became clear to leaders there wouldn’t be enough GOP votes to pass it without Democratic support, which looked fleeting.
The Cruz-led conservatives were the most obstinate obstacles. Later in the day, when leaders amended their proposal, it still wasn’t enough for conservatives. The House Rules Committee on Tuesday night had to postpone a meeting to ready the bill for the floor.
As a result, those lawmakers may be unintentionally teaming up with Democrats to prevent Boehner from having any say on the final compromise. GOP moderates are sick of it.
“These are not conservatives that do this,” Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., told CNN on Tuesday afternoon. “To be a conservative, you have to know how to count. And we started off in this without even counting the votes.”
Nunes said the Obamacare-defunding strategy was doomed from the start, calling it “lunacy, plain and simple.” He said the emerging deal in the Senate would show Americans “those that came here to actually govern and make law and actually do something with their voting card versus people who just want to vote ‘no.’”
If mutiny occurs, it will likely be said to have started in the basement of Tortilla Coast, a Capitol Hill eatery. That’s where Cruz and 15 to 20 House Republicans met Monday night to discuss “our strategy going forward,” according to Rep. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana, who was at the private dinner meeting.
The lawmakers who met with Cruz were a hodgepodge of Republican troublemakers who have often been thorns in the side of GOP leadership, including: Stutzman, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Steve King of Iowa, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas and Justin Amash of Michigan.
Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters on Tuesday that by amending the Senate plan at all, Republicans were trying to “snatch confrontation from the jaws of reasonable agreement.”
The White House also ripped the new GOP plan, once again calling the proposal a “ransom” and saying it was “a partisan attempt to appease a small group of tea party Republicans who forced the government shutdown in the first place.”
But if Democrats didn’t like that plan, then they definitely aren’t going to like the GOP’s latest iteration: No medical device tax suspension, but a continuing resolution date of Dec. 15 and the original Vitter amendment, which would eliminate health care subsidies for congressional and executive staff as well as members and Cabinet officials.
That offer is so bad in the eyes of Democrats that even if it passed the House (in no way a certain outcome), the Senate appears ready to reject it outright. Instead, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., would probably use the procedural benefits of the House measure, amend it with the Senate language and send it back to the House.
That’s if he gets a bill at all. House leaders Tuesday evening still had not decided whether they would move ahead with their revised plan or just scrap it and wait for the Senate bill. If they move ahead, House members may be doing Reid a favor by giving him a vehicle and the procedural leverage to avoid dilatory tactics by Cruz and his main Senate ally, Mike Lee of Utah.
Then Boehner will face the same dilemma he has faced all along: Allow a vote on the CR-turned-debt-limit bill and face a conservative mutiny, or delay a vote and risk pinning the party with the blame for default.
Many think Boehner will cave, including Cruz and his House followers. They fear Boehner seems prepared to pass the deal with less than a majority of Republicans and a solid block of Democratic votes — perhaps all 200 of them, according to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who told Bloomberg News her caucus is united behind the Senate plan.
That eventuality will make many inside and outside the GOP conference wonder why Republicans withstood a government shutdown and a poll numbers lashing just to accept a plan endorsed by the opposition.
Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., who was a leader in a moderate blowback against the Cruz crowd, said everyone was a loser on this deal and this process.
“Nobody comes out of this a winner,” Dent said. “Everybody comes out losers. Just a matter of who loses more.”
Emma Dumain and Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.
October 11, 2013
Late into the second week of the government shutdown, factions of House Democrats and Republicans were planting their flags all over Capitol Hill, holding noisy news conferences and staging elaborate demonstrations.
Drowned out from the warring rhetoric, however, were members of what Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., recently called “the political endangered species of Washington, D.C.”
He was talking about moderates, the members of both parties who have been squeezed from the negotiating tables since the 2010 election cycle, which shifted Republicans farther to the right and wiped out the once-prominent contingent of centrist Democrats.
The result, Costa and others agree, has been the breakdown of bipartisanship — a virtue extolled by Democrats and Republicans alike, but one that is difficult to achieve in such a partisan political environment.
It doesn’t mean lawmakers aren’t trying, especially after finding themselves in the midst of government shutdown and looming default.
New Democrat Coalition Chairman Ron Kind of Wisconsin and leading GOP moderate Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania rallied roughly 35 Democrats and Republicans around a proposal to pass a six-month continuing resolution at sequester levels while repealing the medical device tax created by the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.
The fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition released a statement Wednesday calling on Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to “attack our nation’s larger debt and deficit problems head on.” Full story