Dingell is on the mend at a Washington hospital. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Retiring Rep. John D. Dingell, hospitalized last week after a hip fracture, will likely spend the holidays at George Washington University Hospital recuperating, according to a Facebook update from the congressman’s wife.
The 88-year-old Michigan Democrat, the nation’s longest-serving congressman ever (he took office in 1955), is “making steady progress and is far better than when he was admitted,” Debbie Dingell wrote Tuesday. Full story
Pelosi signals she’d rather fight than move to the middle. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Wide swaths of House Democrats have said they attribute Election Day losses to the caucus’s lack of a unified message, a strong pitch they can sell to voters and, above all else, a true sense their actions will match up with their rhetoric.
So when Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi broke with the White House last week and fought against a trillion-dollar spending package containing policy riders abhorred by her caucus, progressives cheered the return of their liberal champion. Full story
Clyburn and 56 other Democrats backed the “cromnibus.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Updated 1:18 p.m., Friday, Dec. 12: The House passed the cromnibus Thursday night 219-206, with 162 Republicans and 57 Democrats voting for the bill, and 67 Republicans and 139 Democrats voting against. While the vote was close, the breakdown split along familiar lines. But there were some interesting trends and deviations in the vote. Full story
Boehner needed help getting the bill over the finish line. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Updated 10:19 p.m. | The House narrowly advanced a trillion-dollar spending bill Thursday night to fund nearly all federal operations through the end of the fiscal year.
The measure passed 219-206 and now goes to the Senate, where lawmakers have just a few hours to avert a government shutdown; funding runs out at 11:59 p.m.
Sixty-seven Republicans joined 139 Democrats voting “no,” a volume of opposition ultimately not great enough to stymie the bill that was, by all accounts, controversial — even for those who voted “yes.” Full story
Israel characterized House Democrats’ reaction to the spending bill as grim. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
As House Republican leaders try to shore up support for the “cromnibus” on their side of the aisle, it’s becoming less of a sure bet that House Democrats can be relied upon to make up for the shortfall if need be.
After taking a “wait-and-see” approach over the past week on the massive appropriations bill needed to fund the government past Thursday, Democrats on Wednesday began staking out positions — from consternation to flat-out opposition — to the 289,861-word, $1.013 trillion measure unveiled the night before. Full story
“Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” as a symbol of protest against injustice is here to stay, Rep. Al Green said Wednesday on the floor of the House.
“This is not going to go away,” the Texas Democrat said during a short, public response to critics — chiefly MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough — who have taken issue with Green’s and other black lawmakers’ use, during congressional proceedings two days earlier, of a gesture that has come to symbolize frustration over the police shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
Green said the “Hands Up” movement that has germinated in the wake of last summer’s shooting is the latest in a long line of historic protests, including the Boston Tea Party, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Selma march and Rosa Parks’ refusal to sit at the back of the bus in Montgomery. Full story
Luján, right, will bring a quiet intensity to his job as Israel’s replacement at the DCCC. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who has ruffled plenty of feathers lately, reclaimed some goodwill with her caucus Monday, bypassing more established members to name Ben Ray Luján the next chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
It won’t erase all of the negativity percolating among her flock — demoralized after Election Day and antsy over the stasis at the leadership table — but the decision to elevate the New Mexico Democrat is being called “smart” and “savvy,” even by those who count themselves among Pelosi’s critics.
Rep. Maxine Waters of California, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the top Democrat on Financial Services, said Pelosi’s pick was “refreshing” and “lovely.” Full story
Pelosi and her leadership team face questions about their handling of the midterms. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Updated 3:34 p.m. | House Democrats came back to work Wednesday still reeling from last week’s bruising election results — and looking for answers about what went wrong.
For many lawmakers, it wasn’t enough to blame the loss of at least a dozen House seats on an unpopular president, gerrymandered districts and a host of other factors beyond the party’s control. Going forward, they say they want their leadership to do some soul-searching, and so far it hasn’t happened.
A few members challenged Pelosi for her suggestion that voter suppression accounted for low Democratic turnout, a source on the call said.
A handful of Democratic aides said there was general frustration that the DCCC, at the eleventh hour, had to shift precious dollars around to help incumbents who should have been safe — or should have been warned by the DCCC much earlier to get back to their districts and protect their seats.
Meanwhile, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., was telling his local newspaper the party’s messaging needed to change. Democrats wouldn’t win elections, he said, talking about Pelosi’s favored “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds” agenda.
“Where the hell were the Democrats? What were we talking about?” he asked. “We’re losing white men. Why are we not talking about that? Why are we always concerned with what’s the politically correct thing to say?”
“Where’s the humility?” a senior Democratic aide lamented. “Don’t we want to self-assess here?”
Over the weekend, it looked like party leaders were starting to come around to the idea about how the elections went for Democrats on a national leavel. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida announced that a special panel of “key party stakeholders and experts” would perform a “top-to-bottom assessment” of what went wrong this cycle and how to do better next time.
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., tweeted that Wasserman Schultz “is right: Dems need a thorough, honest analysis of what went wrong. … Business as usual is not the clarion call we need now.”
Even the House’s third-ranking Democrat, Assistant Leader James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, acknowledged there should be some examination of how the messaging strategy was executed.
“A couple of weeks before the election, my travels around the country, in and out of these congressional districts, led me to the conclusion that our message, or a lack thereof, was causing a problem,” Clyburn told CQ Roll Call on Monday. “Where was the Democratic message in this campaign? People couldn’t tell you.”
A leadership aide pushed back against the thesis that House Democrats lacked a compelling narrative on the campaign trail, and that leaders are required to self-flagellate to prove they’re disappointed.
The aide told CQ Roll Call that the caucus had numerous opportunities to collaborate on a party platform ahead of the midterms, with Pelosi and Israel holding listening sessions to hone talking points and messaging strategy. The result was the “Middle Class Jumpstart” economic agenda, which House Democrats promised to implement within their first 100 days of regaining control of the chamber.
Attendance was always high at these special planning meetings, the leadership aide continued; if members now are saying they didn’t like the message or appreciate the tone, it’s not because they never had the chance to make their feelings known. Also, grousing about a lack of message, the aide said, is par for the course for Democrats every two years.
“I think we went beyond doing enough,” Rep. Jose E. Serrano of New York said Wednesday, in defense of the caucus’s strategy this election cycle.
At least one tradition, however, is missing from this year’s election aftermath: Calls for an imminent change at the leaders’ table. It’s a far cry from 2010 when Democrats lost control of the chamber and there was considerable chatter about whether it the time had come for Pelosi to step aside after 12 years in leadership.
“It does not just fall on Nancy,” Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona told CQ Roll Call Wednesday, adding that responsibility for what went wrong on Election Day was a “shared one” among the whole House Democratic Caucus.
So for the time being, even ambitious lawmakers clamoring to move up in the House’s party power structure are keeping their powder dry, perhaps expecting 2016 to be the year where a sea change finally takes place at the very top.
There are also fewer members in elected office willing to risk even a symbolic challenge of Pelosi, Clyburn or Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland. There is now a shortage of fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats willing to “take one for the team,” as ex-Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina did four years ago.
But it doesn’t mean that Democrats don’t want to see some changes. That’s especially true for the dozens of members who were elected in 2012 eager to compromise and get things done, even if it meant working with Republicans.
One member of that class, Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., said there needs to be a “whole different level of engagement” between members and leadership going forward, and she predicted the caucus would be confronted with the challenge of evaluating the status quo.
“I am ready to talk and have an action plan ready on Wednesday,” Lujan Grisham told CQ Roll Call on Nov. 8, adding that she wanted to see the 2016 cycle built around talking points that focused more on positive ideas and less on partisan finger-pointing.
In a separate interview on Tuesday, first-term Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., one of the most vulnerable incumbents of the cycle, said members were undeniably getting antsy with business-as-usual in the senior ranks.
“I think you’re going to have some of the more senior members frustrated about when we’re going to get the House back,” said Murphy, “and you got some younger, newer members who kind of want to be set free and don’t want to be tied down as much.
“They want to talk about the things that got them elected in the first place,” he continued. “This is a new generation of leadership.”
Correction 4:26 p.m.
An earlier version of this post misstated the state that Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. represents in Congress. He represents New Jersey.
Ranking member rivals Eshoo and Pallone. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Since January, Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. and Anna G. Eshoo have been positioning themselves as the obvious choice to be the top Democrat on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee.
But after 10 months of cutting checks and courting colleagues, they’re still not finished campaigning to replace the panel’s current ranking member, retiring Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California.
Members of the House Democratic Caucus won’t settle the hotly contested race until late-November at the earliest, meaning Pallone of New Jersey and Eshoo of California will have to stay on the offensive, showing they’re both team players and power players who are ready — and able — to help their friends out.
Along the way, they are pulling pages from the same playbook — with a few key exceptions.
California’s Becerra, left, campaigns in Colorado with Democratic House candidate Romanoff. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
House members who want to help their party in the final stretch of campaign season have options. They can offer endorsements. Make calls. Write checks.
But sometimes, nothing says “I care” like getting on a plane and flying across the country to stand alongside a colleague.
In the month before Election Day, members not fighting for their political lives are expected to be team players — and one way to do that is by traveling to different congressional districts as campaign “surrogates.”
It’s not as simple as just showing up: Being a good surrogate is an art, and considerable thought, time and effort go into deciding who should go where, and when, and in what capacity.
Each member has his or her own edge.
Budget Chairman and 2012 vice presidential nominee Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., will draw a crowd, while Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., can bring in buckets of money (she’s raised more than $400 million for Democrats since 2002). Others can open doors that might otherwise be closed, or help a vulnerable member shore up support among a flagging constituency.
And every ambitious lawmaker on Capitol Hill knows that stumping for a fellow member or potential colleague can pay off down the road.
Boehner, left, and McCarthy pushed through a continuing resolution that includes support for the president’s request to train and arm Syrian rebels. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Updated 7:03 p.m. | After voting to give President Barack Obama the authority to arm and train Syrian rebels, the House passed legislation Wednesday to fund the government until Dec. 11, moving the bill to avoid a government shutdown and address Islamic State organizations to the Senate.
House lawmakers voted 319-108 to pass the continuing resolution, with 143 Democrats joining 176 Republicans in support of the measure. 55 Democrats and 53 Republicans voted against the bill.
A vote on the spending bill, which will continue government spending through Dec. 11 at a $1.012 trillion level, was delayed last week so lawmakers could attach a request from the president to give him Title 10 authority to fight the Islamic State group.
That authority would allow the Obama administration to equip Syrian rebels for the intended purpose of fighting ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also referred to as ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Obama praised the House and urged the Senate to follow suit on the legislation, which he reiterated is not an authorization for the use of U.S. troops in Syria.
“Today’s vote is another step closer to having the authorization to train and equip vetted elements of the moderate Syrian opposition so they can defend themselves against, and ultimately push back on, ISIL forces,” he said in a statement. Full story
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
Hoyer predicts two House votes on the president’s ISIS authority request. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer said Thursday afternoon that he expects Congress will vote next week to grant President Barack Obama authority to arm Syrian rebels against the insurgent terrorist group known as the Islamic State or ISIS.
But the Maryland Democrat also said he expected that that vote wouldn’t be Congress’s last word on the subject.
“I believe a two-step process is what we will, I think, pursue,” Hoyer told CQ Roll Call and the Washington Post on Thursday during a taping of the C-SPAN program “Newsmakers,” set to air on Sunday morning. “I think there will be consideration of the president’s request to train and equip regional players.”
Then, after the elections, Hoyer said he anticipated “consideration of a larger authorization for the use of military force.”