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September 21, 2014

Posts in "Oversight"

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

July 3, 2014

Goodlatte: Border Crisis ‘Disaster of President Obama’s Own Making’

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Goodlatte, R-Va., says the president must take responsibility for the border crisis. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After concluding a bipartisan, fact-finding tour of the immigrant crisis on the Southwest border, House Judiciary Committee Republicans said Thursday the onus is on President Barack Obama — not Congress — to address the surge of Central American women and children entering the country illegally.

In a conference call with a small group of reporters, Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said that while there were may be some things the House could do to confront the matter head-on, this was a crisis of Obama’s making and he should be the one to fix it.

Full story

July 2, 2014

33 House Republicans to Obama: End Deportation Stays for ‘Dreamers’

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Issa spearheaded a letter to Obama calling for the end of DACA. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who at one point was said to be writing his own immigration overhaul legislation and this week is at the Texas border visiting detention centers, has sent President Barack Obama a letter calling for an end to the 2012 executive order granting stays of deportation to children brought into the country illegally by their parents.

Reversing the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals order, known as DACA, would “send a clear signal to all individuals that our immigration laws will be enforced,” the California Republican and thirty-two House GOP cosigners wrote.

DACA doesn’t apply to the thousands of children who have crossed the border illegally in recent months, but critics of the Obama policy say it has contributed to a general misunderstanding in some Central American countries that young people will be allowed to stay in the U.S.

Issa and his backers also say Obama should “make an explicit public comment that you will not support legislation that extends legal status to newly arriving illegal aliens no matter the age.”

Full story

Congressman: We Can’t Just Kick Them Off a Bus in Guatemala

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Farenthold, R-Texas, wants Congress to respond to the surge of unaccompanied minors at the U.S.-Mexico border (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama deserves blame for much of the misery in overcrowded illegal immigrant facilities on the Southwest border, a conservative Texas congressman told CQ Roll Call Wednesday.

But “instant deportation,” Republican Blake Farenthold said, is no answer to the crisis.

The second-term congressman is part of a group of lawmakers taking a firsthand look this week at Texas facilities that have been stretched to the breaking point in recent weeks as thousands of Central American children and mothers have streamed across the border seeking asylum.

The sudden surge of young immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador is a direct result of the president’s rhetoric on immigration, Farenthold said.

“He telegraphed a message that if you’re a kid, you’re gonna get to stay,” Farenthold explained.

But the Corpus Christi lawmaker, who before 2012 redistricting represented the area now at the center of national scrutiny, is also frustrated with many of his constituents — and even with some of his colleagues — who call for instant deportation of “alien” children.

“We can’t just take them to the town square in Guatemala and kick them off the bus,” Farenthold said. “I also make the point that, if I were to send my child on a journey this perilous, child protective services would be knocking on my door trying to take away custody of my children.

“Here’s the thing with border security,” he continued. “Let’s assume it’s 100 percent secure, we catch anybody who crosses the border within a mile of the border, alright? Even if we capture a child, we still have to do something with that child.”

The “national security” and “humanitarian crisis” elements of the child migrant border surge are different, according to Farenthold — a distinction that needs to be clear for both Republicans and Democrats as Congress reconvenes next week with just 16 legislative work days scheduled before the August recess.

Full story

June 26, 2014

Pelosi Asks Boehner for Bipartisan Response to Border Crisis

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Border crisis: Pelosi says Republicans need to include Democrats in discussions on how to address the surge of illegal immigrant children along the Southwest border. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says Republicans need to consult with Democrats in their formal examination of the surge of immigrant children attempting to cross the Southwest border.

In a letter sent Thursday afternoon, the California Democrat implored Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, not to shut Democrats out of the process of looking critically at the issues and making informed policy recommendations to the Congress.

Her pleas for cross-party collaboration come two days after Boehner announced he would convene an all-Republican “working group” on what members on both sides of the aisle have characterized as a “national security and humanitarian crisis” — a crisis the GOP increasingly is blaming on President Barack Obama.

Full story

June 17, 2014

Issa Subpoenas Lois Lerner’s Hard Drive for ‘Lost’ IRS Emails

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The IRS says Lerner’s emails were lost in a computer crash. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House is consumed this week with the upcoming GOP leadership elections in the wake of Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary defeat, but Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa doesn’t want that reality to take the pressure off the IRS.

The California Republican is plowing ahead with his panel’s year-long investigation into alleged misconduct at the IRS in its targeting of certain conservative outside groups applying for tax-exempt status. Full story

June 9, 2014

Veterans Affairs Problems Run Deep, Witnesses Tell House Panel (Video)

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Changes are needed in VA facilities, witnesses told Veterans Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

On the same day an internal audit revealed 57,000 veterans had waited more than 90 days for their first medical appointments, a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on the VA signaled that fixing the problems in the sprawling federal bureaucracy will be far more difficult than just upping spending or passing a single piece of legislation.

In a hearing that took a far more conciliatory and fact-finding tone than previous committee meetings on the subject, Veterans Affairs and Government Accountability Office witnesses spoke at length about the challenges in addressing medical wait times.

For one, Debra Draper of the GAO testified, 43 percent of medical consultations at the VA are closed without the veteran ever seeing a doctor, mostly due to no-shows and cancelled appointments, either by the patient or the doctor.

“Blind scheduling,” as Draper called it, which simply assigns a veteran a doctor’s appointment in a letter without consulting with the patient, resulted in far higher instances of veterans missing appointments than scheduling appointments over the phone.

Full story

By Matt Fuller Posted at 10:28 p.m.
Oversight

House Republicans Stress Concerns Over Bergdahl, Prisoner Swap

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Bachmann and others still skeptical after briefing. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Republicans made one thing clear Monday evening: They would not soon abandon calls for congressional oversight into the Obama administration’s decision to swap five Guantánamo Bay Taliban prisoners for U.S. prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl.

Emerging from their first briefing from White House officials on the details of Army Sgt. Bergdahl’s May 31 release from Taliban custody, GOP lawmakers’ tempers were running high.

Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., said he was “not satisfied” by the information he received. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., scoffed at the premise that the briefing was “classified” because, she said, no new information was disseminated to members. And veteran Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said the officials were “trying to put lipstick on a pig.”

Above all, members appeared to be most upset that no member of Congress in either chamber was consulted prior to the transfer of the Taliban prisoners for Bergdahl, arguing that President Barack Obama acted unilaterally and, perhaps, in violation of the law. Full story

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