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April 17, 2014

Posts in "Oversight"

April 9, 2014

House Republicans Ask Holder to Pursue Criminal Charges for Ex-IRS Official (Updated)

irs hearing020 052213 445x296 House Republicans Ask Holder to Pursue Criminal Charges for Ex IRS Official (Updated)

Lerner (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 4:30 p.m. | The House Ways and Means Committee voted Wednesday in support of launching a criminal investigation into the woman at the center of the IRS scandal — just one day before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is set to vote on holding Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress.

In a 23-14 party line vote, the Ways and Means panel approved submission of a formal letter to Eric H. Holder Jr., asking that the attorney general pursue charges against the former IRS official using evidence uncovered during the committee’s year-long investigation.

Wednesday’s action — coming after a rare closed-to-the-press meeting — is the latest salvo in what has rapidly escalated into a fiercely partisan battle over the extent to which lawmakers should probe Lerner’s actions. Full story

Holder Testifies Before House Judiciary: What You Missed (Video) (Updated)

Marijuana, accusations of perjury, election integrity and asparagus were the range of topics covered in Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing.  Attorney General Eric Holder testified before the committee in a hearing designed for oversight on the Department of Justice. Holder and members of the committee had some tense exchanges as congressmen tried to nail down the attorney general on specific enforcement of laws. Check out Roll Call’s top moments below:

As Hannah Hess reported, Holder was asked by members from both sides of the aisle about the current marijuana laws and if the Obama administration has any plans to change how they classify drug offenses:

Holder also said the DOJ won’t scale back marijuana punishments by rescheduling the drug, as House Democrats have been pushing President Barack Obama to do, saying he was “satisfied” with what the department is doing.

“The notion that somehow we have retreated from our enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act with regard to marijuana is not accurate,” Holder told the House Judiciary Committee. He reiterated a DOJ memo laying out eight areas of priority for pot prosecutions, including marketing to minors, driving under the influence and criminal cartels.

“That’s not inconsistent with, I think, the way in which the Justice Department was acting before,” Holder continued in response to a question from Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C. “We remain committed to enforcement of marijuana laws that would involve those eight factors,” he added.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., asked Holder if he was planning to investigate Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper for alleged perjury. As Roll Call previously reported, Holder declined to confirm or deny that the director was under investigation:

“Director Clapper’s perjury in my opinion has been covered extensively,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “In light of this, are you willing to discuss whether or not the Justice Department is investigating Director Clapper for his statements before the Senate?

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. refused to say whether the DOJ was conducting an investigation.

“I’m really not in a position to confirm whether the department is investigating any particular matter, but we are reviewing the material that you and other members of the committee have provided to us, and I can assure you that we will take any action that is appropriate,” Holder said.

Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-VA., started off the hearing saying he was “concerned” about directives issued by the Department of Justice about the President’s ability to determine which laws to prosecute. “I am concerned about some of the decisions and some of the directives that have been issued by you and others in the Department of Justice,” Goodlatte said. “Is it your view that there is any limit to the president’s prosecutorial discretion?”

Holder said that the discretion must be done in a “constitutional way” and added that there is a “vast amount of discretion.”

“…[D]iscretion has to be used in an appropriate way so that you’re acting consistent with the aims of the statute,” Holder said. “But at the same time, making sure that you are acting in a way that’s consistent with our values, consistent with the Constitution and protecting the American people.”

Representative Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and the Attorney General had a very tense exchange during the hearing. The two have a long history of tense committee banter and Holder took the chance to remind the Texas Republican of their previous history when he ended their Tuesday exchange with, “good luck with your asparagus.”

Watch the full hearing below and visit Roll Call’s YouTube page for previous hearings and full weekly leadership pressers.

By Meredith Dake and JM Rieger Posted at 12:11 p.m.
Oversight

April 8, 2014

Holder to Gohmert: ‘You Don’t Want To Go There, Buddy’ (Video)

Things got heated Tuesday between Rep. Louie Gohmert and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. Tuesday at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on oversight of the Justice Department.

Gohmert, who was questioning the attorney general about releasing documents relating to the Holy Land Foundation’s 2008 conviction of providing financial assistance to Hamas, then suggested contempt was “not a big deal” to Holder.

“You don’t want to go there, buddy,” Holder quickly shot back. “You should not assume that that is not a big deal to me. … Don’t ever think that.”

The Texas Republican was quick to respond.

“So we’ve been trying to get to the bottom of [Operation] Fast and Furious where people died … and we can’t get the information to get to the bottom of that, so I don’t need lectures from you about contempt,” he said.

Gohmert, who last May told Holder not to cast “aspersions on [his] asparagus,”  was at the butt end of the joke Tuesday, when Holder got the last word.

“Good luck with your asparagus,” Holder said.

Sensenbrenner: Intelligence Director Committed Perjury (Video)

During a Justice Department oversight hearing Tuesday, the former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee accused Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. of committing perjury during his Jan. 29 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said he believed Clapper’s refusal to acknowledge whether warrantless searches of Americans’ communications had been conducted was perjurious after Clapper appeared to concede the point in a letter last week to Sen. Ron Wyden.

“Director Clapper’s perjury in my opinion has been covered extensively,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “In light of this, are you willing to discuss whether or not the Justice Department is investigating Director Clapper for his statements before the Senate?

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. refused to say whether the DOJ was conducting an investigation.

“I’m really not in a position to confirm whether the department is investigating any particular matter, but we are reviewing the material that you and other members of the committee have provided to us, and I can assure you that we will take any action that is appropriate,” Holder said. Full story

April 2, 2014

What You Missed in the GM Hearings (Slideshow) (Video)

gm hearing010 040114 445x299 What You Missed in the GM Hearings (Slideshow) (Video)

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

General Motors CEO Mary Barra’s testimony before Tuesday’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee had fairly low drama despite the emotional subject matter. The hearing — titled “The GM Ignition Switch Recall: Why Did It Take So Long?” — was meant to investigate GM’s culpability and response to faulty ignition switches in small cars. The ignition switches are believed to have resulted in injuries and deaths of several car owners.

According to CQ.com, House Investigators found that GM knew about the defects for a decade:

Investigators for subcommittee reported that GM executives knew for more than a decade about the defective ignition switches. In findings released over the weekend, the House investigators said federal highway safety regulators identified potential problems with Chevrolet Cobalts as early as 2007 but saw no “discernible trend” and “decided not to pursue a more formal investigation.”

Members pressed Barra on GM’s response and asked her to define what future steps the car company was going to take to avoid safety issues in the future. “Our customers who have been affected by this recall are getting our full and undivided attention,” Barra said.

Before the hearing, members and customers affected by the faulty ignition switches held a press conference asking for legislative support and asked GM to create a fund for the victims. Below are photos from that press conference and from the hearing captured by the CQ-Roll Call photo team:

Full story

By Meredith Dake Posted at 7:18 p.m.
Oversight

April 1, 2014

GM CEO Testifies on Recall of Ignition Switches (Updated) (Video)

gm hearing015 0401141 445x296 GM CEO Testifies on Recall of Ignition Switches (Updated) (Video)

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Updated 3:55 p.m. | General Motors CEO Mary Barra is testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on Tuesday as part of an investigation into the company’s recall of ignition switches. David Friedman, the acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is also scheduled to testify.

Roll Call will be updating this post with video of the testimony from the hearing — titled “The GM Ignition Switch Recall: Why Did It Take So Long?” — which is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. Eastern.

gmrecall 004 040114 445x320 GM CEO Testifies on Recall of Ignition Switches (Updated) (Video)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) From left, Cherie Sharkey, whose son died in a Chevy Cobalt crash in 2012, and Laura Christian, whose daughter died in Chevy Cobalt crash in 2005, attended a news conference on GM’s defective ignition outside the U.S. Capitol before the hearing.

 

Ms. Barra vowed to “find out” why there was a long delay in GM announcing a safety defect in her opening statement before the committee. “Sitting here today, I cannot tell you why it took so long for a safety defect to be announced for this program. But I can tell you we will find out.”

Full story

By Meredith Dake Posted at 2:08 p.m.
Oversight

March 17, 2014

RSC Chairman: ‘We’re Not Done’ Until Obamacare Alternative Hits House Floor

scalise 038 020514 445x296 RSC Chairman: Were Not Done Until Obamacare Alternative Hits House Floor

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House GOP leadership intends to put forward a formal framework for repealing and replacing Obamacare, but has so far stopped short of promising to turn that framework into actual legislative text.

Should leaders decline to take that next step, it won’t sit well with Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise.

“I feel good about where we are right now,” the Louisiana Republican told CQ Roll Call in a phone interview on Monday, “but we’re not done until we get a bill on the floor. Full story

March 13, 2014

Republicans Block Democratic Attempt to Force Public Issa Apology on House Floor (Updated) (Video)

DCbuildings 007 120213 445x289 Republicans Block Democratic Attempt to Force Public Issa Apology on House Floor (Updated) (Video)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 8:12 p.m. | Republicans once again blocked a Democratic resolution demanding a House floor apology from Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa for silencing Rep. Elijah E. Cummings last week during an IRS hearing.

The nearly party line vote to table the privileged resolution came after a theatrical display of protest on the floor, with Democrats refusing to give up on the issue.

“This was not just a violation of Mr. Issa’s treatment of Mr. Cummings,” said Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., a freshman lawmaker who introduced the resolution on Thursday. “My resolution was about Mr. Issa’s offense against the House.”

“If we don’t enforce the rules,” Kildee said, “where do we go?”

As Kildee and his Democratic colleagues offered the resolution, they defiantly held pictures of Issa making the throat-cutting motion, displaying the image on iPads, iPhones and paper. A floor procedure kerfuffle, in which a new House precedent may have been established, ensued.

Presiding officer Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, insisted that that “House will not proceed” as long as Democrats continued to hold up their iPads displaying the image.

“Regular order would be putting the iPads down,” Simpson said.

When Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., made a parliamentary inquiry as to where in the House rules it stated members could not hold up iPads, Simpson said the ruling was at the discretion of the chair.

Democrats moaned, but eventually, begrudgingly, put down their iPads and iPhones. (Rules Committee ranking Democrat Louise M. Slaughter quietly held up her phone even after Simpson’s ruling.)

Members continued holding up the pictures that Democrats had printed out, but Simpson wasn’t having that either.

The presiding officer declared that “only the member under recognition can hold up the display,” and eventually, after the theatrics and rules were settled, the Democrats put down their pictures and offered the resolution.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., promptly moved to table it, both sides screamed a voice vote, a roll call vote was ordered, and the House voted 217-173 in favor of tabling the resolution, with six Republicans and four Democrats voting present. (The present votes came from the nine members of the Ethics Committee and Issa. The Ethics Committee may yet have to consider the issue.)

(On Thursday evening, a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, reiterated Boehner’s continued support for Issa.)

One Democrat, Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia, voted with Republicans in favor of tabling.

While Democrats offered the resolution, Cummings quietly sat separated from his Democratic colleagues beside Rep. James P. Moran, D-Va. As the vote took place, Cummings quickly and quietly slipped out of the chamber.

Issa already apologized personally to Cummings, the ranking member of Issa’s panel, last week, and Cummings accepted the apology.

But that’s not enough for many of Cummings’ colleagues.

“Ranking Member Cummings accepted Chairman Issa’s apology, but it is clear that the Chairman has violated House rules and seriously offended a lot of other Members of Congress in the process, and they are not satisfied with the way he is conducting the committee,” a Democratic committee aide told CQ Roll Call.

Democrats could continue to offer similar resolutions, trying to grab more headlines and increasingly paint Issa as a chairman tyrant, but Republicans look poised to just as quickly shelve the resolutions and move on.

Fellow Oversight and Government Reform Committee colleague Gerrold Connolly, D-Va., hopes Democrats continue to press the issue.

“Even if Elijah didn’t want us to do this, this is on behalf of the institution,” Connolly told CQ Roll Call after the vote, adding that he hopes House GOP leaders ultimately decide to push Issa to make amends publicly.

“He privately apologized to Mr. Cummings, then went on Fox News and accused him of having a ‘hissy fit,’” Connolly said. “How sincere was that apology?”

(The “hissy fit” interview was pretaped before the apology, Issa’s office noted last week.)

The House voted on party lines to shelve another resolution condemning Issa’s conduct last week.

Here’s the text of the resolution provided via email by Democratic aides: Full story

Pelosi Praises Feinstein, Calls CIA Director’s Statements ‘Befuddling’

pelosi031314 445x264 Pelosi Praises Feinstein, Calls CIA Directors Statements Befuddling

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi praised Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a fellow California Democrat, on Thursday for her “courage” in standing up to the intelligence community, though stopped short of saying whether she believed the CIA had, in fact, spied on Senate Intelligence Committee computer files.

“I salute Sen. Feinstein,” Pelosi said at her weekly news conference of the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “I’ll tell you, you take on the intelligence community, you’re a person of courage, and she does not do that lightly. Not without evidence, and when I say evidence, documentation of what it is that she is putting forth.”

Pelosi added that she has always fought for checks and balances on CIA activity and its interactions with Congress: “You don’t fight it without a price because they come after you and they don’t always tell the truth.

“Whatever else there is should be examined in terms of what happened and who let that happen,” she continued. “This may be one of the healthiest things we can do because I know one thing: Whatever it is, the intelligence community writes a report on that, they leave, they write a book on it, all of a sudden it becomes conventional … gossip that that’s what happened there and we really have to have the ground truth.”

While Pelosi admitted she was not intimately familiar with CIA Director John O. Brennan’s statements in which he vehemently denied Feinstein’s claims but said that she found what comments of his she had read “befuddling.”

“I have high regard for him,” Pelosi caveated. “I’ll probably see him over the St. Patrick holiday and maybe get an attitude where he thinks this is going.”

March 11, 2014

Hoyer Cautious on Feinstein’s CIA Charges

The House’s No. 2 Democrat spoke carefully on Tuesday when addressing Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s accusations that the CIA tapped into Senate Intelligence Committee computer files.

“First of all, it’s a serious allegation, and Sen. Feinstein is a serious legislator, so I don’t think she made it lightly” said Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., of Feinstein, a California Democrat who serves as chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence panel.

“On the other hand,” Hoyer continued, “John Brennan, director of the CIA … specifically and categorically said, ‘This did not happen.‘ But it’s a serious allegation, and it would be a serious breach between the executive and legislative branches if this in fact occurred.

“I haven’t made a conclusion that, ‘yes or no,’ but I do believe, when Sen. Feinstein, who is a very responsible legislator, asserts this, then it bears very careful investigation and scrutiny and determination as to whether it’s true,” said Hoyer. “If it’s true, it’s very serious.” Full story

March 6, 2014

Issa Apologizes to Cummings, but Accuses Him of ‘Hissy Fit’ (Updated)

DCbuildings 007 120213 445x289 Issa Apologizes to Cummings, but Accuses Him of Hissy Fit (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated March 7, 6:20 p.m. | In an interview with his local newspaper, Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa said he has apologized to Rep. Elijah E. Cummings for cutting off his microphone at a Wednesday hearing — although in a separate interview he told Fox News that Cummings had a “hissy fit” and “broke the decorum of the House.”

“Mr. Cummings is a member of Congress who works very hard for his constituents,” Issa told U-T San Diego after the House voted 211-186 on party lines to shelve a resolution offered by Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Marcia Fudge to condemn Issa’s actions.  Fudge also wrote to Speaker John A. Boehner asking the Ohio Republican to strip Issa of his gavel over his treatment of Cummings, D-Md.

Boehner had backed Issa and said he was within his rights to adjourn the hearing. Full story

January 29, 2014

Law Enforcement Mostly Mum on Grimm Threats

grimm012914 445x303 Law Enforcement Mostly Mum on Grimm Threats

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

How do law enforcement officials react when a member of Congress threatens a credentialed member of the press with bodily harm in a public place on camera? Slowly.

Members of the Fourth Estate might seek more than an apology from Rep. Michael G. Grimm for his threat to throw a New York television reporter off a balcony during a post-State of the Union interview. But so far, they seem to be the only ones willing to demand some sort of action beyond accepting Grimm’s day-after contrition.

The Radio-Television Correspondents Association, an organization representing more than 3,600 broadcast journalists who report on Congress, is still weighing how to handle the New York Republican’s aggressive treatment of NY1 television reporter Michael Scotto — and the reporters seem to be the only group intent on holding the second-term lawmaker accountable. Full story

January 17, 2014

Boehner: Obama ‘Must Not Allow Politics to Cloud His Judgment’ on NSA

While President Barack Obama is proposing a series of changes to the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, Speaker John A. Boehner gave the suggestions a frosty reception and isn’t convinced they are needed.

In a brief statement on Friday afternoon, the Ohio Republican said Obama “must not allow politics to cloud his judgment” in making tweaks to the systems in place to keep Americans safe.

“The House will review any legislative reforms proposed by the administration,” Boehner said, “but we will not erode the operational integrity of critical programs that have helped keep America safe.” Full story

January 13, 2014

A Few Highlights — Or Lowlights — From the Omnibus

On Monday evening, appropriators from both chambers unveiled a massive omnibus spending bill to fund the government through the end of September, the culmination of just a few weeks of work and bipartisan negotiations.

The House is expected to pass the 1,582-page package of all 12 appropriations bills this week, if for no other reason than to dispel anxiety over another government shutdown and encourage a return to the age of “regular order.”

But, as with any major piece of legislation, the final product necessitated some compromises, and there are policy riders that are sure to ruffle feathers from members on both sides of the aisle — even if they won’t be enough to sink the whole ship.

Here are a handful of the provisions House lawmakers will have to swallow in the name of passing the spending bill: Full story

January 3, 2014

Cantor Lays Out January Legislative Agenda

GOP leadership conference 13 102913 445x295 Cantor Lays Out January Legislative Agenda

Cantor, center, outlined the House’s January legislative agenda on Friday. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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.

Full story

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