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August 31, 2014

Posts in "Robert Goodlatte"

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

Cantor Voting Rights Act Legacy is Failure to Deliver, Democrats Say

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Democrats wonder if Cantor was all talk on the Voting Rights Act. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Passing a new Voting Rights Act in the GOP-dominated House was never going to be easy, supporters acknowledge. But with a powerful Republican such as Eric Cantor as an ally, hope flickered for nearly a year.

Then came June 10 and the shocking primary defeat that tanked Cantor’s congressional career — taking with it, in all likelihood, any prospect for an update of the landmark 1965 civil rights legislation that had been weakened by a 2013 Supreme Court ruling.

Even with Cantor as majority leader, said a House aide close to the VRA negotiations, “I would have speculated that it was certainly a very steep climb. That it was unlikely, but there was still hope.”

But with the Virginia Republican out of the mix, the aide said, “it doesn’t appear we’re going to see it this Congress.”

It’s a disappointing turn that has some Democrats wondering if Cantor ever deserved the benefit of a doubt on minority voting rights. Full story

July 29, 2014

Advocates Grade Congress on Immigration (Updated)

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Immigration overhaul advocates hold a large rally in front of the White House Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Frustrated by lack of action and unfulfilled promises on the immigration overhaul front, a coalition of 10 advocacy groups is out to hold House members accountable for the extent to which they were unhelpful to the cause.

A new scorecard for all 435 members’ immigration votes, statements and co-sponsorships aims to draw a stark portrait of “who stands with us and who does not,” said Hispanic Federation President José Calderón. The rankings come as Congress nears a boiling point on an emergency funding request from President Barack Obama intended to mitigate the crisis at the border as children cross illegally into the United States.

The first-of-its-kind scorecard was released Monday, as advocates gathered a stone’s throw from the Capitol for the grand unveiling, calling for action and scolding lawmakers for what they see as stonewalling on a critical issue.

“Every ‘zero’ you see in that scorecard is personal to us,” said Rocio Sáenz, a member of the board of directors for Mi Familia Vota.

“There is some explaining that needs to be done as to why they said to us in private that they supported immigration reform, yet their report card says different,” said Tony Suárez, vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

Republicans received significantly lower rankings than Democrats. Clarissa Martínez de Castro, the deputy vice president of the National Council of La Raza Office of Research, Advocacy and Legislation, said the discrepancy reflected a “Republican leadership failure,” though the organizations behind the scorecard insist the results are based on the facts and aren’t motivated by party preference.

Here’s a look at the rankings, based on members’ positions in 11 different areas over the past several months: Full story

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 17, 2014

Carter and Goodlatte Put Down Their Own Markers to Solve Border Crisis

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The specially appointed House GOP border surge working group is poised to submit its formal policy recommendations to party leaders, while two of its members appear to be pursuing alternate tracks.

On Thursday, Reps. John Carter of Texas and Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia introduced separate bills that would make more conservative revisions to current immigration law than many of their peers on either side of the aisle would prefer.

The bills would also tack farther to the right than the set of recommendations expected to be put forth by the GOP working group to address the child migrant crisis at the Southwest border.

Full story

July 8, 2014

A Tale of Two Congressional Visits to the Southwest Border

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Lofgren had a different experience visiting the U.S.-Mexico border than her GOP colleagues. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 5:30 p.m. | House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., touted his delegation’s fact-finding trip to the Texas border last week as bipartisan, but lawmakers from both parties arrived back in Washington Tuesday as divided on immigration as ever.

According to Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., Democrats and Republicans went their separate ways on least three of the delegation’s stops along the border, where local, state and federal officials are struggling to deal with a surge of immigrant minors — many of them unaccompanied — attempting to enter the country illegally.

“I honestly think they were looking for an opportunity to confirm … without any data, that somehow this is Obama’s fault,” Lofgren said of the Republicans on the trip.

Lofgren’s comments to CQ Roll Call on Monday came several days after Goodlatte told reporters he saw “some aspects we can work with on a bipartisan basis,” but acknowledged that Democrats ultimately “view this issue differently than we do.”

Lofgren said she and the other Democrats from the Judiciary Committee delegation — Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and Joe Garcia of Florida — invited Goodlatte and the participating Republicans — Darrell Issa of California and Blake Farenthold of Texas — to three meetings that she said would have given them more information to bring back to Washington, D.C.

Goodlatte and Issa — the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee — declined, with Farenthold agreeing to tag along on a visit to a refugee assistance program being facilitated by Catholic volunteers.

Goodlatte spokeswoman Jessica Collins told CQ Roll Call the differences in itineraries were not intended as slights: “The trip was scheduled for partial days on both Wednesday and Thursday in order to accommodate members traveling from different parts of the country. Both Democrats and Republicans added additional visits to the trip for Wednesday. Democrats who arrived early on Wednesday morning made their own arrangements for visits.”

The wide gap in perspectives on the cause and effect of the border surge may not have been bridged by a more collaborative trip to Texas last week, given how political the debate has become. Ultimately, Democrats want to help the president address the crisis, while Republicans are inclined to blame him for its escalation.

That continues to be the case on Capitol Hill this week, as lawmakers confront whether to greenlight President Barack Obama’s $3.8 billion request to bolster border resources and alleviate some of the chaos there.

House Democrats — Lofgren among them — might have chafed at the proposal had Obama included a provision giving Homeland Security officials more discretion to deport immigrant children apprehended at the border, but absent that language, they stand ready to assist.

“My basic response is, this is a reasonable request and the House of Representatives, the United States Senate, will respond positively to it,” Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters Tuesday. “I hope that’s the case.”

House Republicans are more noncommittal. Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers of Kentucky said his committee would “take a close and thorough look.”

Rep. Kay Granger of Texas, whom Speaker John A. Boehner has appointed to lead a GOP “working group” to advise leadership on the border crisis, said the task force will meet Wednesday to discuss the larger issues surrounding the president’s proposal, with a goal of updating the whole conference next week.

Boehner, through a spokesman, suggested he was peeved that Obama’s funding request did not authorize the National Guard to “provide humanitarian support in affected areas.”

And other Republicans don’t want to do anything at all. Goodlatte put out a statement saying the crisis remains Obama’s to fix.

“President Obama created this disaster at our southern border and now he is asking to use billions of taxpayer dollars without accountability or a plan in place to actually stop the border crisis,” he said.

Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican and Goodlatte’s predecessor at the helm of the Judiciary Committee, was more blunt: “Congress shouldn’t give President Obama a single penny until we see him use the current resources to secure the border, increase interior enforcement, and reduce illegal immigration.”

Goodlatte and Issa implied their findings at the border would bolster the GOP response in Congress regarding the child migrant border surge.

During a conference call with a small group of reporters on July 3, the two lawmakers said they were fully confident that Obama used executive orders to render immigration laws so lax that children in Central America believe that once they enter the United States, they will automatically qualify for legalization proceedings.

Their suspicions were confirmed during a ride-along with border patrol agents near the Rio Grande River, where they witnessed individuals being taken into custody and then had a chance to interact with them.

“Their stories are basically, ‘I wanted to come to the United States, I wanted to be reunited with a family member in the United States and I’ve been told that if I come, they’ll let me in,’” Goodlatte said.

Lofgren had a different takeaway from her border visit. While she acknowledged that smugglers “have engaged in misleading efforts” to convince children to sneak across the border, she was certain there were more factors at stake.

“Here’s the thing,” she said. “OK, the smugglers are giving this pitch, but even if you can believe that was true, what would it take to give your 8-year-old to some smuggler to go off for a thousand miles? You don’t do that just because you’re going to get permission [to stay in the U.S.] You’re doing it because things have deteriorated to the point where it actually seems it’s smarter to get your kid out of there than to face the warlords who are threatening her life.”

Lofgren cited one briefing that she said would have been particularly enlightening for her absent Republican counterparts: a meeting with volunteer lawyers who said more than half the children who enter the country illegally across the Southwest border are found eligible for asylum as the victims of human trafficking, abandonment or abuse.

But even that statistic runs counter to one being touted by Republicans. According to a release from Goodlatte, a “key finding” from the border trip last week was that “many of these minors and families are able to game the asylum process since most applications are rubberstamped for approval.”

The same release cites an internal DHS memo stating “there is proven or possible fraud in up to 70% of asylum applications.”

Lofgren also described a visit to the Brownsville holding center where she saw children “sleeping on the cement with little tin foil blankets,” and a 3-year-old toddler traveling alone whose only word appeared to be “Miami.”

What she witnessed, she said, reinforced her position that Congress must, at minimum, address the overcrowding at detention facilities and improve conditions for children being held there. “We do need the resources to deal with these kids and I hope we’ll have a bipartisan effort to deal with that,” she said.

Goodlatte reiterated Tuesday that Congress shouldn’t act when the president could with his own resources.

“Republicans are committed to solving this problem, including seeking changes to current law,” he said. “However, no amount of resources or changes will be effective in stemming the surge of illegal border crossings if President Obama continues to ignore the law.”

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

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 27, 2014

Members of Congress Heading for Border to Witness Child Migrant Crisis

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Goodlatte is taking a bipartisan delegation to the border next week to witness the child migrant crisis. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The surge of unaccompanied immigrant children illegally crossing the southern border is drawing House lawmakers to the region for fact-finding visits during the July Fourth recess week.

Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., a former immigration lawyer whose panel just convened a hearing on the issue, will lead a bipartisan group on a trip to the Rio Grande Valley sector of the U.S.-Mexico border next week.

“Word has spread around the world about the Obama Administration’s lax immigration enforcement and administration legalization programs and it has encouraged thousands of children, teenagers, and families from Central America to come to the United States illegally and take advantage of this situation,” Goodlatte said in a statement announcing his upcoming visit. “Law enforcement officials who testified at the House Judiciary Committee earlier this week state that this surge shows no signs of stopping.” Full story

June 25, 2014

Voting Rights Rally Calls on Congress to Act

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Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., presides over the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Voting Rights Amendment Act on Wednesday. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

One year after the Supreme Court gutted key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, activists gathered outside the House to implore Congress to act.

Several House Democrats joined roughly 100 activists on a hot Wednesday afternoon to voice support for the Voting Rights Amendment Act. The rally followed a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill’s Senate counterpart.

“This court made a destructive and bad decision one year ago today,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as she gestured across First Street towards the Supreme Court.

“Within our power we have a bipartisan bill that doesn’t do everything,” said Pelosi, “But it does correct the decision of the court. We’re calling upon the Speaker of the House to give us our vote on this bill.”

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, told the crowd that the majority of the House would support the bill, which was introduced by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., in January.

The bill addresses the high court’s 5-4 ruling that essentially struck down the core of the VRA pre-clearance requirement. Under the provision, several states, counties and cities were required to have any changes to election laws pre-approved by a federal court. The Supreme Court ruled that the method to determine which states were subject to pre-clearance was outdated and unconstitutional, putting the onus on Congress to modernize the formula.

Amending the VRA gained a surprising ally in Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The Virginia Republican voiced his support of congressional action to address the court’s decision shortly after the ruling.

But Cantor’s shocking loss earlier this month dampened prospects that a VRA rewrite will come to the floor of the House.

“I think Eric Cantor would have stepped forward in the best traditions of Judaism and tried to give people rights and opportunities,” Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., told CQ Roll Call after he spoke at the rally. “I think his defeat makes it less likely that Republicans will have that voice within their caucus.”

However, Assistant Minority Leader James E. Clyburn, said Cantor’s defeat does not affect the likelihood of the VRA bill coming to the floor because Republicans generally oppose the legislation.

“I think he was slow-walking this thing the whole time,” said Clyburn, “and having him where he is helps the country focus the attention that it wasn’t Eric Cantor, it is the Republican philosophy” that kept this bill from advancing.

Throughout the rally, Democratic House members and activists focused their attention on Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chair of the House Judiciary Committee, calling on him to hold a hearing on the bill.

“I think he is the stick in the spokes at this point in time,” Clyburn said of Goodlatte. The South Carolina Democrat said that he had not spoken with the chairman, but Goodlatte’s fellow Virginian, Democratic Rep. Robert C. Scott, has been talking with the chairman about the VRA issue.

 

June 5, 2014

Goodlatte Warns Deportation Changes Hurt Immigration Overhaul Prospects

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Immigration reform in the balance? Goodlatte says he worries Obama’s move on deportation could put legislation in peril. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The powerful chairman of a committee dealing with immigration legislation is not happy about the Obama administration’s changes to a program for so-called DREAMers.

Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., blasted the Department of Homeland Security’s Thursday announcement about the program helping certain undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation.

It comes only a week after DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson got an earful from Goodlatte and other Judiciary Republicans about the Obama administration’s alleged executive overreach and the effect it might have on the House’s willingness to move on immigration overhaul legislation this year.

In a statement, Goodlatte accused Obama administration officials of having “quietly made several changes” to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which President Barack Obama created through executive order in June 2012 to halt the removals of immigrants brought into the country illegally by their parents — referred to as “DREAMers.” Full story

May 30, 2014

House Marijuana Votes Earn Backing of Rare Bipartisan Coalition (Video)

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Rohrabacher helped steer the medical marijuana amendment through the House. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In a series of late-night votes that marijuana-rights advocates say reflect a nation’s changing attitudes, the Republican-controlled House moved early Friday  to block the federal government from interfering with state laws on pot and hemp.

The most far-reaching of the votes — a measure to cut funds for Drug Enforcement Agency raids on medical marijuana operations — passed 219-189 on the strength of an unusual coalition that cut across traditional partisan lines.

The medical marijuana measure was offered by conservative Republican Dana Rohrabacher of California as an amendment to the fiscal 2015 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill. 

There were 49 Republicans who voted “yes” on the medical marijuana amendment, jointly sponsored by Rohrabacher; Sam Farr, D-Calif.; Don Young, R-Alaska; Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.; Tom McClintock, R-Calif.; Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.; Paul Broun, R-Ga.; Jared Polis, D-Colo.; Steve Stockman, R-Texas; Barbara Lee, D-Calif.; Justin Amash, R-Mich.; and Dina Titus, D-Nev. Full story

May 28, 2014

On Immigration, the Pressure Mounts for Eric Cantor

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The pressure is on for Cantor, as political factions from both sides of the aisle clamor for action on immigration. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

RICHMOND, Va. — Political forces from the left and the right gathered at the Virginia state Capitol Wednesday with a shared objective: Ratchet up the immigration pressure on Eric Cantor.

On one side were the pro-immigration activists — led by an Illinois Democrat — calling for the House majority leader to at least allow legislation an up-or-down vote. On the other was a political rival all-too-ready to hang the word “amnesty” around the Virginia Republican’s neck.

In the middle of the debate, walking a political tightrope with less than two weeks to go before a closely-watched primary and as the clock steadily ticks down on the 113th Congress, is Cantor.

“We have come here to say … stop being an obstacle. Stop standing in the way,” said Luis V. Gutiérrez, D-Ill., a leader in the national fight to pass an immigration overhaul bill who was invited to speak at Wednesday’s event by the group CASA de Virginia. “Become a hero of our community and become someone who can help the tens of thousands of Virginians who need help because of this broken immigration system.”

Half an hour earlier, Cantor’s June 10 primary opponent David Brat held a brief outdoor news conference on the steps of the building, where he had a different perspective on Cantor.

“Eric Cantor has been the No. 1 cheerleader in Congress for amnesty,” Brat told a half-dozen reporters. “Eric Cantor has spearheaded the amnesty push in the House. … There is no Republican in this country who is more liberal on immigration than Eric Cantor.”

Conservatives’ biggest turncoat? Immigration’s most stubborn opponent?

It wouldn’t seem Cantor could be both, but the No. 2 Republican in the House has tripped alarms on both sides of the sprawling, complicated and emotional debate in recent weeks. Full story

May 19, 2014

Rep. Denham to Continue to Push for ENLIST Act in NDAA

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Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif. (Douglas Graham/Roll Call File Photo)

The Republican leadership of the House has signaled its intent to block consideration of any immigration-related amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act this week, but Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., hasn’t given up — yet.

Denham, who caused a stir last month by pledging to force a House vote on an amendment to the NDAA that would create a legal status pathway to undocumented immigrants who served the military — the so-called ENLIST Act — has filed that amendment with the House Rules Committee, which was set to meet Monday evening to determine whether to allow that amendment, and countless others, to be subject for debate. Full story

May 16, 2014

GOP Leaders Will Block ENLIST Act on House Floor Next Week

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Denham’s ENLIST Act hits new wall. (Douglas Graham/Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., promised earlier this year he would force a floor vote on legislation to create a legal status pathway for illegal immigrants who served in the military — but GOP leadership intends to thwart that plan.

Doug Heye, a spokesman for Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., confirmed to reporters Friday that when the National Defense Authorization Act comes up for consideration by the full House next week, Denham won’t be permitted to seek consideration of his amendment, known as the ENLIST Act.

“No proposed ENLIST amendments to NDAA will be made in order,” Heye said in an e-mail statement. Full story

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