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January 31, 2015

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January 30, 2015

Democrats Leave Philadelphia United, on Message — for Now

 Jan. 8, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Pelosi got the band back together in Philadelphia. But for how long? (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

PHILADELPHIA — For House Democrats, it seemed fitting they held their annual issues conference in the City of Brotherly Love.

After nearly three months of soul-searching and second-guessing in the wake of a demoralizing midterm election, it took just three days in Philadelphia to restore — at least publicly — a sense of unity and resolve among most of Nancy Pelosi’s troops.

Full story

Biden to House Democrats: ‘Double Down’

Biden gets directions from his staff as he arrives for a photo-op with students participating in the JDRF Children’s Congress in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building on Wednesday, July 10, 2013. Every two years, over a hundred children with type 1 diabetes gather in Washington, D. C. to meet face-to-face with some of the top decision-makers in the U.S. government to help politicians understand what life with type 1 diabetes is like and why research to find the cure for diabetes and its complications is so critical. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) « less

Biden said Democrats need to take credit for the improving economy. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
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PHILADELPHIA — As a House Democratic retreat obsessed with messaging on the middle class came to a close Friday, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. implored his congressional colleagues to not run from the White House’s economic record.

“Let’s resolve to double down,” Biden told House Democrats assembled in the Sheraton ballroom. “Let’s resolve to double down right now.” Full story

January 29, 2015

Key Democrat Criticizes Obama on Trade Negotiations

Levin, D-Mich., speaks during the press conference on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, to announce legislation "to tighten restrictions on corporate tax inversions." (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Levin said Congress needs more transparency from Obama on the Pacific trade deal. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

PHILADELPHIA — As Congress and the White House work on a trade agreement with Pacific countries, a key Democrat in the negotiations is criticizing the Obama administration for a lack of transparency — and more specifically, a lack of access to the actual text.

Ways and Means ranking Democrat Sander M. Levin told reporters assembled at a hotel conference room roundtable that the White House was not allowing members of Congress to know what is being offered by which countries in an emerging trade deal. Full story

Memo Plants Seeds for GOP’s New Immigration Strategy

McCarthy, R-Calif., participates in the press conference announcing House GOP leadership for upcoming session of Congress on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) Copyright © 2014 CQ-Roll Call, Inc.

McCarthy hints at a new GOP line of attack on the president’s immigration policies. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy sent House Republicans a legislative memo Thursday, laying out a February agenda of repealing Obamacare, taking on unfunded mandates, and permanently providing a tax deduction for charitable giving.

But more than messaging, McCarthy may have also begun planting the seed that Republicans might need a different vehicle to fight President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration other than the Department of Homeland Security funding bill. Full story

January 28, 2015

Pelosi Says Netanyahu Address ‘Not Appropriate’

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., conducts her weekly news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center, January 22, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Pelosi offered up a more forceful rebuke of Netanyahu’s plans to address Congress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

PHILADELPHIA — As the controversy builds over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned address to a joint session of Congress this spring, Nancy Pelosi weighed in again Wednesday with a more forceful rebuke of what she and the White House have called a breach in protocol.

“It is not appropriate,” the House minority leader said at the end of a 45 minute news conference with other top Democrats to kick off the House Democratic retreat. The Californian said she had spoken with Netanyahu earlier in the day, and she made her feelings clear that his visit, scheduled for just two weeks before the Israeli elections, could jeopardize fragile nuclear negotiations with Iran. She said it “could send the wrong message.” Full story

Republican Champion of Dodd-Frank Changes Goes After Elizabeth Warren

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 14: Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., waits on one of the buses outside the Rayburn House Office Building as House Republicans prepare to head to Hershey, Pa., for their retreat with Senate Republicans on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Yoder waits on one of the buses that took Republicans to their retreat in Hershey, Pa., earlier this month. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

When your greatest legislative achievement is passing one of the most contentious provisions in the 113th Congress — a Dodd-Frank rollback that lobbyists literally helped write — taking credit for the legislation is a delicate art.

If you celebrate your win with a round of self-congratulatory press releases, you risk incurring the wrath of an American public generally resentful and distrusting of Wall Street. Full story

January 27, 2015

Conservatives Take Credit for Derailing Border Security Bill

 left, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., leave a news conference after a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the Capitol, January 27, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) gop_meeting003_012715.JPG

Boehner, second from right, was joined by other House Republican leaders Tuesday to talk about why the GOP’s border security bill was delayed. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

With inclement weather grounding planes across the country Monday, GOP leaders pulled a border security bill from the floor schedule this week, citing the weather and an already condensed schedule.

One day later, though there are no blizzards conveniently scheduled for next week, Speaker John A. Boehner wasn’t about to commit to a timeline for resurrecting the border bill — a delay that some hard-line conservatives are already chalking up as a victory.

Full story

January 26, 2015

Conservatives Announce New Group That Could Rival RSC — Or Not (Updated)

From left, Reps. Labrador, Jordan, Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and Massie at the voting for the speaker of the House on Jan. 6. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

From left, Labrador, Jordan, Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and Massie confer during the House speaker vote on Jan. 6. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated, 10:23 a.m. | Conservatives announced Monday morning the formation of a new group, the House Freedom Caucus. But with only nine members to start, it’s unclear what such a caucus will mean for another conservative group: the Republican Study Committee.

Instead of a grand news conference, members opted for a quiet press release, announcing the “HFC” before lawmakers even got back to the Capitol. The release said the group — which includes Scott Garrett of New Jersey, Jim Jordan of Ohio, John Fleming of Louisiana, Matt Salmon of Arizona, Justin Amash of Michigan, Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho, Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, Ron DeSantis of Florida and Mark Meadows of North Carolina — would have an agenda of “limited, constitutional government in Congress.” Full story

January 22, 2015

House, Senate Republicans Meet in Secret to Discuss Border Security Bill

Sessions, R-Ala., speaks with a reporter as he arrives for the Senate Republicans' policy lunch in the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sessions, R-Ala., speaks with a reporter as he arrives for the Senate Republicans’ policy lunch in the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Two days after Sen. Jeff Sessions bashed a House border security bill, Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul crossed the Dome Thursday to clear the air and try to secure the support of one of Congress’ most ardent immigration critics.

McCaul — with Rules Chairman Pete Sessions of Texas and freshman Gary Palmer of Alabama in tow — met with Sessions, the Alabama Republican,  Thursday in the senator’s Russell office for roughly 30 minutes. The discussion centered on the House bill and a round of comments from both men that have played out in press releases and news reports. Full story

Pelosi Accuses Boehner of ‘Hubris’

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi dinged Speaker John A. Boehner Thursday for not consulting with Democrats or the White House on the decision to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress.

“It’s out of order in terms of the protocol,” Pelosi said of the invite. Boehner apparently did not consult with the White House on the joint session, nor did he make Democratic leadership aware of the Netanyahu invite. Full story

‘Toughest Border Security Bill Ever’ Sets Table for Piecemeal Strategy

McCaul, R-Texas, heads to the House floor for a vote on Thursday, July 24, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

McCaul heads to the House floor for a vote on July 24, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House is set to vote next week on what some Republicans are proudly calling “the toughest border security bill ever.”

But once the roll is called and the measure is passed, then what? Full story

January 21, 2015

Boehner Invites Netanyahu to Address Congress (Updated)

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 8: Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, holds his weekly press conference in the Capitol on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Boehner has invited Netanyahu to address Congress. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated, 2:26 p.m. | House Speaker John A. Boehner on Wednesday invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint meeting of Congress on Feb. 11 — an invitation the White House called a breach of normal protocol.

The invitation comes just hours after President Barack Obama, in his Tuesday night State of the Union address, warned lawmakers in both chambers he would veto any attempts to increase sanctions against Iran while the administration is involved in negotiations to limit the Islamic republic’s nuclear program.

Boehner said at a press conference that he did not consult the White House prior to sending out the invitation, as is customary when it comes to coordinating such joint sessions.
Full story

January 15, 2015

Boehner, McConnell Attempt to Define the Relationship

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio; and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speak to the press in the Capitol after meeting with the President. (Photo By Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

Boehner and McConnell. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

HERSHEY, Pa. — In their first joint public appearance since Mitch McConnell became Senate majority leader, Speaker John A. Boehner and the Senate’s top Republican came before a Washington press corps — assembled at Lebbie Lebkicher’s Restaurant in the Hershey Lodge Hotel — and described the new relationship between the House and Senate: separate, but together.

Boehner and McConnell were asked how the two chambers would work out the differences on a Department of Homeland Security funding bill, which is the first big test facing Congress. Full story

Lobbyists to Meet With Members at GOP Retreat (Updated)

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 13: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., participates in the press conference announcing House GOP leadership for upcoming session of Congress  on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

McCarthy made a pitch for Republican unity, but some are questioning why some lobbyists are on hand at the Hershey retreat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 2:44 p.m. | HERSHEY, Pa. — Republican lawmakers from the House and Senate came to Hershey for a joint retreat, to get on the same page and get away from Washington for a few days. But they won’t be getting away from lobbyists.

Quite the contrary, actually. According to a GOP lawmaker who requested anonymity to speak more candidly about the retreat, lobbyists — “for those who paid enough, I guess,” the lawmaker said — will be meeting with House Republicans later Thursday, once GOP senators have left after 5:30 p.m.

According to the member, plenty of House Republicans are scratching their heads at that decision. “What are lobbyists going to be doing up here?” the member said.

The president of the Congressional Institute, Mark Strand, who is part of the planning for the GOP retreat, told CQ Roll Call it was “not true” that House Republicans would be meeting with lobbyists at 5:30 p.m. Apparently, there are breakout sessions at that time. But Strand did confirm that “private sector supporters of the institute, some of whom are lobbyists, will attend a reception and dinner later tonight.”

In effect, yes, lobbyists will be meeting lawmakers in Hershey.

That’s nothing new, according to a senior GOP aide.

“While Democrats use taxpayer funds to sponsor their retreats, Republicans have had a long partnership with the bipartisan Congressional Institute to use private funds to organize our issues conferences,” said Nate Hodson, who is the deputy chief of staff for Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chairwoman of the House Republican Conference.

A Democratic leadership aide, asked for a response to the news that Republicans would meet with lobbyists, said the purpose of House Democrats’ Caucus-wide conference was to formulate policy and legislative goals for the year. “Unlike our Republican counterparts, we don’t solicit or accept lobbyist and special interest money to host these working sessions, nor do we invite lobbyists or special interests to attend our conference.”

Overall, the lawmaker who spoke on background said the GOP retreat, which was supposed to put the House and Senate on the same page, had been somewhat disappointing. “It’s all branding, supposedly bigger picture stuff,” the lawmaker said.

“I’ve never been to marriage counseling, but I’m guessing you go there and everyone talks about all these grand things, and then you go back home and do the same old stuff you’ve been doing,” the member said.

The GOP lawmaker told CQ Roll Call that Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy had given a “pretty good speech” — saying, “he’s a pretty good speaker compared to Boehner” — that was mostly about what Republicans need to get out of Hershey, how they need to work together and with the states.

But the lawmaker questioned the wisdom of always consulting with the states. “Now wait a minute, you came from California: Everything fails there for Republicans,” the member said of McCarthy.

Still, the lawmaker said Republicans were discussing their 100-day strategy, how they have to get the Department of Homeland Security funding bill through, how they’ll start appropriations in February and how Republicans plan to get a budget done.

But the lawmaker was disappointed that Republicans seemed to want to only “nibble around on Obamacare” — and there didn’t seem to be any intention of using the budget reconciliation process to tackle the health care law.

“That to me is going to be the big one,” the lawmaker said. “You know, what’s going to happen with the reconciliation, if we’re going to use it for [Obamacare]. And McCarthy made no indication they’d use reconciliation for taking on Obamacare. They’re setting the basis for tax reform.”

Florida Republican Daniel Webster, fresh off his unsuccessful bid for the speaker, told CQ Roll Call Thursday afternoon that Republicans were getting ready to go into a session entirely on budget reconciliation. Earlier Thursday morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., gave a speech about managing expectations. According to Webster, McConnell told Republicans, “Look: Here’s how our process works. It’s pretty rough. We don’t have 60 votes. There are a lot of things that we’re going to have to work on with coalitions.”

Webster said the reaction to the speech was warm. “People get it,” he said. A former speaker of the Florida statehouse and state Senate majority leader, Webster said Congress works the same way that state legislatures work: “House proposes, Senate disposes.”

On the whole, lawmakers said the retreat had a definite ’90s theme, with speakers such as comedian Jay Leno, pollster Frank Luntz, columnist Peggy Noonan, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Arizona Republican Matt Salmon — who was in Congress in the ’90s, left in 2001, and came back in 2012 — compared the retreat to the movie “Hot Tub Time Machine.”

On the topic of jokes, Leno spoke to members Thursday night for about an hour, and according to the member who spoke on background, the joke that got the biggest laugh was that President “Barack Obama had so messed up this country, that Republicans aren’t even safe in their own country clubs.”

“That’s a joke, it means so much, because so many people still think that we go to exclusive resorts and don’t let people in to see what — oh, that’s kind of what we’re doing,” the lawmaker said ironically, aware that reporters would get limited access to lawmakers while Republicans met behind-closed-doors at a resort spa with a nine-hole golf course.

The lawmaker also said Republicans had a “big long spiel” on how the welfare overhaul happened in the ’90s.

“Find out what was the most popular song in 1995, and that’s the one they’re playing in there,” the lawmaker said.

For the record, Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” was No. 1 that year.

Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report.

Related:

GOP Heads to Joint Retreat With Coordination, Realism on Agenda

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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January 13, 2015

Boehner Refuses to Rule Out ‘Clean’ DHS Funding Bill

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 7: Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., arrive to speak to the media following the House Republican Conference meeting in the basement of the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Boehner wouldn’t rule out a “clean” Homeland Security funding bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner wouldn’t rule out Tuesday the possibility the House may have to pass a Department of Homeland Security funding bill that does not block President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration.

That could dampen the enthusiasm of some hard-line conservatives in the House, who were practically ecstatic on Jan. 9 with an emerging GOP strategy to hold votes to defund the president’s executive action and a number of other immigration provisions. But on Tuesday, the speaker was noncommittal. Full story

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