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September 1, 2014

Posts in "Rules and procedure"

July 31, 2014

Republicans Regroup on Border Funding Bill

The House will hold off on leaving town for its five-week August recess until Republicans find the votes to pass legislation addressing the border crisis.

It could happen as early as Friday morning — the GOP will gather at 9 a.m. to discuss new policy proposals to accompany a $659 million appropriations bill they abruptly yanked from consideration Thursday. Republicans departing from an emergency conference meeting Thursday afternoon told reporters they felt confident that, through a process of educating colleagues and agreeing to make some changes to existing legislative language, they could muster enough votes to pass the new measure.

If a deal isn’t reached by then, said Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., “I think we’ll be back here the next day.”

“If we have to work longer or through the weekend, I think there’s a genuine desire to do that,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said.

Rep. Raúl R. Labrador told reporters he was prepared to stay in town to hash out an agreement, even if it meant missing a religious ritual on Saturday back home in Idaho in anticipation of his son’s upcoming nuptials.

It remains to be seen how party leaders expect to come up with any new proposal that sufficiently addresses the demands of some of the conference’s most conservative hold-outs.

Full story

July 24, 2014

After Fights Over Cuckoo Clocks and Billable Hours, Rules Panel Backs Resolution Allowing House to Sue Obama

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Slaughter and McGovern saw their attempts to amend the resolution rebuffed in the Rules Committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House Rules Committee, already known for not being a bastion of cross-party comity, devolved into significant partisan rancor Thursday morning over a resolution to allow the House to sue the president of the United States.

The panel advanced consideration of the measure in a party-line, 7-4, vote after nearly two hours of debate, with Democrats and Republicans accusing each other in turn of playing political games.

Democrats said Republicans’ pursuit of a lawsuit against Barack Obama for making unilateral changes to the Affordable Care Act after the law was passed, with Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts accusing his GOP counterparts of acting out of “hatred” for the president and at one point calling the Republicans “cuckoo clocks.” Full story

July 16, 2014

Watch Live: House Rules Committee Hearing on Proposed Lawsuit of President Barack Obama

The House Rules Committee holds a hearing on initiating a House lawsuit against President Barack Obama over failing to enforce the Affordable Care Act.

The hearing begins at 10 a.m. and you can watch live below:

June 27, 2014

Conservatives Regroup to Force Leadership to Change

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Labrador worked the phones but came up short. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

They may have lost their fight to change leadership, but they intend to force leadership to change.

Conservatives who backed Raúl R. Labrador’s bid for majority leader are saying they are already on to the next battle to force change from within the House Republican Conference.

Austin Scott, R-Ga., who was one of Labrador’s earliest supporters, told CQ Roll Call that like-minded lawmakers are “extremely likely” to pursue an effort to address how the House operates.

“A lot of us, not just conservatives, are going to press to rewrite the rules of the House,” Scott said.

Specifically, Scott mentioned frustration regarding the three-day rule, which is supposed to give members at least three days time between when a bill is posted and when it comes up for a vote. In practice, House leaders could post a bill at 11:59 p.m. on a Tuesday and vote on it at 12:01 a.m. on a Thursday, which is why Scott called it, “technically, the 24-hours and two-minutes” rule.

Labrador found some traction in his message of abiding by the three-day rule, allowing more votes on amendments, giving more power to the committees and members and taking power away from leadership staffers.

The winner of the race, current Whip Kevin McCarthy of California, seemed to glom onto that message, adopting much of Labrador’s platform in his candidates’ forum speech ahead of the closed-door vote.

Whether McCarthy can actually make those changes before he faces another leadership challenge remains to be seen. He’ll be majority leader for 15 days before the next leadership elections are held on Nov. 17.

And Labrador, who finds himself at a congressional crossroads, could lead a pressure campaign for McCarthy and the rest of the leadership team to solidify those promises.
Full story

June 25, 2014

Georgia’s Woodall Up for ‘Placeholder’ Chairman of Republican Study Committee

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Woodall, R-Ga., is up for interim chairman of the powerful Republican Study Committee (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated, 3:05 p.m. | Members of the conservative Republican Study Committee will vote after the July 4 recess on whether to install two-term Georgia Rep. Rob Woodall as a “placeholder” chairman for the remainder of the year, with colleagues saying his selection is all but certain.

On Wednesday afternoon, on his way downstairs to the weekly RSC meeting in the basement of the Capitol, Woodall told CQ Roll Call that “the founders and past chairmen are going to recommend to the membership that I be the placeholder ’til elections happen in November, and the membership will have to ratify that.”

He said he expected the vote to take place at that very meeting, but former RSC chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, ultimately told reporters after the huddle dispersed that due to procedural issues, the vote would be postponed. Jordan added that the delay had nothing to do with members’ support for Woodall, which was substantial. Other members exiting the meeting confirmed that characterization of the situation. Full story

June 20, 2014

House Democrats Overwhelmingly Vote Against Funding Combat Operations in Iraq (Updated)

lee 211 031913 445x289 House Democrats Overwhelmingly Vote Against Funding Combat Operations in Iraq (Updated)

Lee is leading the antiwar effort in the House. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 2:57 | With President Barack Obama grappling with how to respond to the escalating violence in Iraq and the rapid rise of an insurgent terrorist organization there, House Democrats have spoken: They overwhelmingly want to cut off funding for combat in the region, especially boots on the ground.

Late Thursday, 142 Democrats and a handful of Republicans joined forces behind an amendment to the fiscal 2015 defense appropriations bill that would have barred any spending on combat operations in Iraq.

The amendment failed 165-250, but the overwhelming Democratic support for the provision signals a Congress increasingly weary of war. Full story

June 16, 2014

Roskam-Scalise Whip Race Heats Up, Gets Ugly

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From left, Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, Reps. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., Roskam, R-Ill., and Scalise, R-La., talk earlier this year. Scalise and Roskam are now rivals for the house whip post. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The two front-runners in the race to become the next House majority whip spent the weekend shoring up support with potential allies — and, through staff, taking swipes at each other.

A source close to Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam, in an emailed memo to CQ Roll Call, said the 90-plus members in the House who have pledged to vote for the Illinois Republican are “rock solid,” while Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise’s numbers are “soft” and “all over the place since Thursday — at 100, 120, over 100, etc. etc.

“No one wants a whip who can’t count,” the source continued, “and no one wants a whip who overpromises and under-delivers.” Full story

June 9, 2014

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

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 20, 2014

Democrats Still Undecided on Benghazi Committee Participation

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Pelosi is still undecided on whether he caucus will appoint members to the special committee on Benghazi. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Democrats are still weighing whether they will appoint members to the GOP-led special committee to investigate the September 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya — but don’t call it a caucus-wide “division,” two senior lawmakers implored.

“[It's] the wrong word,” Caucus Vice Chairman Joseph Crowley of New York said at a Tuesday morning news conference. “The caucus is not divided. … What the caucus is doing is helping our leadership come up with a plan on how to approach what is a very serious issue.”

“Democrats’ concern has always been whether this will be a legitimate process, to make a sincere effort to learn something new, or whether it’s really … a campaign cash-raising tool,” added Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra of California. Full story

May 19, 2014

Heritage Action Key Votes Water Bill Ahead of House Consideration

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The water bill heading for a final vote is earmark free, after a long process from Shuster, left and Rahall. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Heritage Action stopped short of urging lawmakers on Saturday morning to reject the conference report for a key water resources and infrastructure bill, but finished the job on Monday by saying it would “key vote” the legislation.

The advocacy group’s warning that lawmakers will be graded based on their vote may not be enough to sink the legislation on the House floor under a simple majority vote, but it could jeopardize passage of the bill in its current spot on the suspension calendar, where it will need an affirmative two-thirds majority to pass.

“This massive piece of legislation crosses five out of six red lines,” Heritage Action spokesman Dan Holler said in a statement Monday on the Water Resources Reform and Development Act. Holler said the bill’s flaws include excessive spending, a failure to privatize a sufficient number of government-funded projects and a lack of provisions to “reduce bureaucracy.”

Full story

Indicted Rep. Michael Grimm Appears in New York Court

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Rep. Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y., spoke to reporters last month after being indicted in federal court (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Embattled Rep. Michael G. Grimm appeared in court Monday, but neither he nor his legal team would reveal the next step in the New York Republican’s legal battle — including whether he will seek a speedy trial to resolve 20 counts of fraud and tax evasion before the midterm elections.

“Now we are in litigation, and we are bound by the rules of conduct, and we are not going to be trying the case in the press,” Elizabeth Kase, Grimm’s attorney, told CQ Roll Call during a brief phone call following the 11 a.m. hearing from which Grimm departed without making statements to the press.

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

House GOP Touts Water Bill as a Sign of Thriving, Post-Earmark World

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The water bill heading for a final vote is earmark free, after a long process and compromise from Shuster, left and Rahall, among others. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated, May 17, 3:31 p.m. | The notion of passing a major infrastructure bill through the House and Senate without earmarks seemed, at first, unthinkable.

After all, it’s a highly dysfunctional Congress, there’s an army of outside conservative groups ready to thwart legislation that doesn’t meet their standards and members from both parties have complained an earmark moratorium is a reason it’s tough to get anything done.

But Speaker John A. Boehner insists things can get done, and he and Rep. Bill Shuster have a bipartisan water bill coming up to prove it. Should they succeed in the next few days, it might pave the way for a highway bill without special projects attached.

The bill is the bipartisan, bicameral conference report for the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, and the speaker touts it as “a significant policy achievement.”

“Earmarks aren’t coming back on my watch,” the Ohio Republican told CQ Roll Call in a statement. “With the reforms in this agreement, Chairman Shuster has proven that we can do water resources bills without earmarks, and for that he deserves great credit.”

As a first-term chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Shuster would have had an easier time seven years ago, when legislation to fund key water and infrastructure initiatives around the country was last signed into law.

That water bill was historically one of the only pieces of legislation to repeatedly come before Congress composed almost entirely of earmarks, basically constituting a laundry list of line items handpicked by lawmakers to pay for specific projects in their districts.

So Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican, got to work early in the 113th Congress. He labored with his committee’s ranking member Nick J. Rahall II, a West Virginia Democrat facing a difficult re-election battle, to build consensus for the billions of dollars worth of water projects. (The final conference report hasn’t been scored, but House aides predicted the cost will be close to the Senate’s bill, which would cost $5.7 billion over five years.)

Shuster also reached out to the chairman and ranking member of the subcommittee with WRRDA jurisdiction, Republican Bob Gibbs of Ohio and Democrat Timothy H. Bishop of New York.

Supported by party leadership and staff, Shuster set out to build consensus in uncharted territory. The congressman’s goal, according to GOP committee aides, was to educate everyone who would have a stake in the final bill.

He invited industry groups to Capitol Hill to weigh in, and he traveled across the country to learn what was important outside the Beltway. Shuster also took a hands-on approach to the social media campaign surrounding the effort, even lending his voice to an “explainer” video walking laymen through the ins and outs of reauthorizing water infrastructure projects.

Anticipating pushback from the right over legislation typically criticized for wasteful spending and government overreach, Shuster made sure conservatives were all on board, from Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise of Louisiana to to the usual suspects in the outside advocacy group community.

Heritage Action for America spokesman Dan Holler told CQ Roll Call that Shuster’s gestures went a long way toward his group’s inclination not to score votes on the measure when it first passed the House last fall, which meant there weren’t political consequences for backing it on the floor.

“You pull back and look at what this bill is, it is not something that we would generally be supportive of, [but] they went through a very painstaking process through this, and that really gave them an opportunity to explain what they were doing,” Holler said.

And Republican and Democratic committee staff worked on getting around the whole earmark problem.

In the past, individuals would take their water infrastructure requests to the Army Corps of Engineers — which executes construction and maintenance activities — directly to their representatives on Capitol Hill. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and its Senate counterpart, the Committee on Environment and Public Works, would then fashion new authorization bills based on those requests.

While the practice clearly ran afoul of the earmarking ban, stopping it would mean ceding authority to the executive branch. The Senate’s approach to skirting its own earmark prohibition involved automatically authorizing projects with positive reviews from the Army Corps of Engineers.

But Shuster and other House Republicans didn’t like the idea of handing over project selection powers to the Obama administration — or any future administration — for fear that Congress wouldn’t be able to easily wrest back that power.

For WRRDA, their solution was to create a whole new process wherein local sponsors would take their projects directly to their regional Army Corps of Engineers office for review. Positively reviewed projects would be submitted to Congress as part of annual reports, and lawmakers would get to review those reports before including them in future water bills.

Shuster and company took their pitch to Republican leaders, who gave them the green light to move ahead. The bill overwhelmingly passed the House late last year, with just three dissenting votes. When both chambers finally finished hashing out one combined water bill, the House’s framework prevailed.

Two days after the conference report’s release, Holler told reporters that Heritage Action and the group’s think tank and policy arm, the Heritage Foundation, felt that while the final product was a step in the right direction, its conservative credentials had been diluted by the Democratic-controlled Senate during negotiations.

“We’re not exactly impressed,” Holler said, but he stopped short of suggesting the group would seek to punish lawmakers who vote “yes.” Even if Heritage Action does decide to score votes, the bill is likely to pass, given its wide bipartisan support and the compelling narrative Republicans have created around the bill as one that doesn’t betray the party’s values.

The last WRRDA measures became law in 2007, only after Congress took a rare vote to override President George W. Bush’s veto of the legislation on the grounds that it spent too much — on earmarks. Shuster’s goal? Reauthorizing the law in 2016 and every two years hence.

In an interview with CQ Roll Call, Bishop said lawmakers felt “a sense of urgency” to get to work because it had been seven years since the last legislation. He dubbed the earmark ban “bad public policy,” but admitted the process worked well this year.

Practically speaking, WRRDA is so unique it’s not likely to give lawmakers a template they can replicate in other comparable bills. It could, however, create precedent going forward in an earmark-free Congress, especially in the case of the highway bill, which needs to be reauthorized this year and probably won’t enjoy as smooth and bipartisan a legislative journey.

The Senate is already generating new ideas on how to retain lawmakers’ supervision of project selection without relying on earmarks, no doubt inspired by provisions in the water bill.

Earlier this month, the Environment and Public Works Committee approved the Senate’s proposed highway legislation, which would include a new grant program run by the Transportation Department that would spend $400 million annually on projects of regional or national significance.

There is a similar, existing DOT initiative known as TIGER, but the Senate program would be subject to greater congressional oversight: If lawmakers don’t like what they see, they’ll be able to block funding with a joint resolution of disapproval.

The Senate proposal is an attempt to get to the heart of objections to the earmark ban, the argument that it diminishes Congress’ power over purse strings.

On the House side of the Capitol, Shuster has no illusions about the challenges of passing a highway bill, particularly when the matter of funding is still in question. But a Republican Transportation committee staffer called WRRDA a “blueprint” for Shuster going forward.

The chairman expressed similar remarks at an association gathering earlier this year: “I’m really lucky that I had the WRRDA bill first … I learned a tremendous amount on how to put something together.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated the day after it was published to add breaking news about Heritage Action’s stance on the legislation.

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