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October 20, 2014

Posts in "Oversight"

October 17, 2014

Before Ending Chairmanship, Issa Sets Ebola Hearing for Oversight Next Week

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Issa will chair a House hearing on Ebola next week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

California Republican Darrell Issa has a well-deserved reputation for finding ways to bring the issue of the moment into his committee’s jurisdiction.

President Barack Obama’s handling of the Ebola crisis is no exception.

On Friday afternoon, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman announced he would convene a full panel hearing in seven days, on Oct. 24, titled, “The Ebola Crisis: Coordination of a Multi-Agency Response.” Full story

October 16, 2014

Republicans, Democrats Trade Punches Over CDC, NIH Ebola Funding

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Scalise says Democrats are politicizing Ebola.  (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House majority whip lashed out at Democrats Thursday for trying to blame Republicans for sanctioning cuts to medical research that might have helped curb the spread of Ebola in the United States.

“It’s a ludicrous attack,” Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., told a small group of reporters following an Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on the Obama administration’s handling of the Ebola crisis.

“You had a hearing today with a number of officials … and not one person asked for an additional dime of money,” Scalise went on. “[Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas] Frieden himself has actually made public comments that he has the resources they need.” Full story

October 15, 2014

Retiring Bachmann Signals She’s Still in the Game

 Retiring Bachmann Signals Shes Still in the Game

Bachmann spoke Wednesday at the Heritage Foundation. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Michele Bachmann may be retiring at the end of this year, but the woman who rose to prominence by founding the Congressional Tea Party Caucus in 2010 and running for president in 2012 isn’t leaving Washington, D.C., quietly.

In a speech and brief question-and-answer session Wednesday morning at the Heritage Foundation — billed as one of her last public speaking engagements as a member of the House of Representatives — the Minnesota Republican refreshed her audience on the history of the tea party movement and made a case for continuing the fight against higher taxes and bigger government.

But Bachmann also made a handful of policy recommendations that indicate she plans to remain engaged in the political debate, albeit from outside Capitol Hill.

Full story

October 1, 2014

Losing Cummings Set Off Chain Reaction for Secret Service Director

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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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Pelosi Calls for ‘Independent Investigation’ Into Secret Service Lapses (Video)

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Pelosi stopped short of calling for the Secret Service director’s resignation.  (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stopped short on Wednesday of demanding Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resign, but called for an “independent investigation” into the disturbing protocol breaches within the agency that she said were “inexcusable.”

“The challenge may be more than one person,” the California Democrat told reporters at a press conference on Capitol Hill. “Whether she [resigns] or not, I think we need an independent investigation. Her leaving doesn’t end the need to learn more.”

Pelosi’s remarks came a day after the Oversight and Government Reform Committee convened a rare, mid-recess hearing in Washington, D.C. to hear testimony from Pierson and other officials in the wake of revelations that an armed intruder scaled the fence of the White House and actually was able to get inside the presidential residence before finally being apprehended — by an off-duty officer. Full story

September 25, 2014

Lawmakers Weigh In on Holder Resignation (Updated) (Video)

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Attorney General Eric Holder on Capitol Hill earlier this year. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Update 5:05 p.m. | Even before Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s resignation was officially announced, House and Senate lawmakers were sending out statements reacting to the news.

The sentiments broke down neatly along party lines, with Republicans openly cheering an end to Holder’s six years atop the Justice Department and Democrats just as enthusiastically expressing appreciation for the nation’s first black attorney general.

The statements signaled just how polarizing Holder has become on Capitol Hill.

For many GOP lawmakers who had clashed with Holder, it was simply a matter of good riddance.

“I can’t think of any AG in history who has attacked Louisiana more than Holder,” said Sen. David Vitter, R-La., who was first out with a release headed, “Vitter Welcomes News of Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation.”

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., proclaimed, “Eric Holder is the most divisive U.S. Attorney General in modern history and, in a vote supported by 17 Democratic House Members, has the dubious historic distinction of being the first Attorney General held in criminal contempt by the U.S. House of Representatives.” Full story

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 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

September 8, 2014

September Congressional Agenda: Must-Pass Bills and Messaging Gambits

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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

House GOP Plan for September: Shame the Senate

Boehner Defers to Hensarling on Export-Import Bank (Updated)

McConnell, Reid Spar Over Campaign Financing

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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August 27, 2014

Armed Services Chairman Calls for Strategy to Combat ISIS

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McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is calling for the president to consult Congress on the U.S. response to jihadists in Iraq and Syria. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

More House lawmakers are warning President Barack Obama he needs to articulate a broader anti-terrorism strategy — and consult with Congress on that plan — before ramping up military action against anti-U.S. jihadists in northern Iraq and Syria.

Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif. is the most recent member to release such a statement after the group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria executed American photojournalist James Foley last week.

“I challenge the President to engage Congress,” McKeon said in his statement Wednesday. “I’m willing to work with him.”

McKeon added, however, that while a plan to address ISIS’s growing power “may well require additional authorities from Congress … speculation about that before the President has even offered a strategy is putting the cart before the horse.”

Barack Obama, McKeon continued, “need[s] … to explain to the American people what is at stake, what our objectives are, and the strategy for how to achieve them. Only after we understand all this can we contemplate what new authorities might be needed.” Full story

August 14, 2014

Democrats Call for Judiciary Hearings on Ferguson Violence

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A police officer standing watch as demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown conceals her identity. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Three senior Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are calling on panel chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., to hold hearings on the violence that has erupted in Ferguson, Mo., following the police shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager on Aug. 9.

“For the past five days, the citizens of Ferguson have protested the killing of of an unarmed teenager by local police,” wrote ranking member John Conyers Jr., Mich., and two subcommittee chairmen, Robert C. Scott of Virginia and Steve Cohen of Tennessee, in their letter on Thursday afternoon. “Last night, law enforcement broke up the protest with brutal force: confronting demonstrators in riot gear and armored vehicles, arresting journalists, and firing tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd.

“These incidents raise concerns that local law enforcement is out of control and, instead of protecting the safety and civil liberties of the residents of Ferguson, is employing tactics that violate the rights of citizens … this situation requires immediate congressional scrutiny,” they continued. Full story

July 29, 2014

Watch Live: Director of Citizenship and Immigration Services Testifies Before House Committee

The House Judiciary Committee holds a 10 a.m. oversight hearing questioning Leon Rodriguez, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, who was sworn in on July 9.

July 22, 2014

Chaffetz on Oversight: More Results, Less Confrontation

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Chaffetz, R-Utah, would be among only a handful of House members who have earned a full chairmanship in less than five terms. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In the past 89 years, there have been four members of Congress who became committee chairmen in their fourth term. Rep. Jason Chaffetz is trying to become the fifth.

Chaffetz hasn’t even banked six full years in the House yet. But with Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa term-limited after this session, the 47-year-old Utah Republican is making a bid to head the chamber’s most powerful investigatory panel.

Like his top rival for the gavel, Michael Turner of Ohio, Chaffetz says he wants to move Oversight in a new direction. But Chaffetz, like Issa, still wants to go “full throttle” on the executive branch.

“I’m very grateful to Darrell Issa,” Chaffetz told CQ Roll Call. “He’s been very good to me, he’s given me a great opportunity, but we’d all do things a little bit differently.” Full story

July 16, 2014

CDC Chief Pledges to Improve Safety After Biohazard Lapses

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Frieden had to run the gauntlet of lawmakers Wednesday. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A recent incident during which staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was potentially exposed to anthrax is part of a larger pattern of “an insufficient culture of safety,” Director Thomas R. Frieden told a panel of House lawmakers Wednesday.

Frieden faced sharp questions from Republicans and Democrats about how the June incident and other episodes such as the shipment of influenza strains contaminated with a deadly flu virus to a Department of Agriculture laboratory were able to happen, as well as what steps are being taken to prevent future problems. Full story

July 14, 2014

In Race for Oversight Chairmanship, Turner Lays Out Different Direction

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Turner wants to be Issa’s successor as Oversight and Government Reform chairman. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Under California Republican Darrell Issa, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has been the Obama administration’s No. 1 enemy on Capitol Hill, with high-profile hearings on everything from Benghazi to the IRS, to Operation Fast and Furious.

That kind of oversight is part of the committee’s job, according to Rep. Michael R. Turner, an Ohio Republican who is one of the leading candidates to succeed the term-limited Issa as chairman.

But the panel known on the Hill simply as “Oversight” also has the word “reform” in its title, Turner noted. And that aspect of the committee’s mission, he said, will be more of a focus if he takes over the chairmanship.

“I enjoy fixing things,” the six-term congressman said during a sit-down interview in his Rayburn office on July 10. And beyond government waste and inefficiency, one of the things he wants to fix is a committee that “can use some reform itself.” Full story

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