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April 24, 2014

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April 22, 2014

House Conservatives Agitate for Change in Leadership — but Can They Take Boehner’s Gavel?

boehnercantor090613 445x296 House Conservatives Agitate for Change in Leadership — but Can They Take Boehners Gavel?

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Conservatives are increasingly — and not so quietly — showing the early signs of a speakership revolt. But short of a sudden groundswell of opposition from the GOP rank and file, or a magic wand, Speaker John A. Boehner is the one who controls his fate.

Just don’t tell that to the Ohio Republican’s foes.

“I think pretty well everybody’s figured Mr. Boehner’s going to be gone, and the question is Cantor and McCarthy,” said Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan. “But most conservatives are saying it’s not just at the top; it’s all the way through.”

Huelskamp, who was more than an active player in the last Boehner coup, told CQ Roll Call there are “a lot of meetings going on” about who could be speaker in the 114th Congress, and if Boehner should decide to say, conservatives are discussing how to remove him.

“I think there’s efforts underway to do that,” Huelskamp said.

It’s common congressional knowledge that Huelskamp and Boehner aren’t the best of friends. Boehner stripped Huelskamp of his seat on Financial Services for the 113th. And Huelskamp had a whip list the last time conservatives tried to usurp the speakership. Recently asked about his relationship with Boehner, Huelskamp summed it up this way: “I don’t smoke and I don’t suntan.”

The plan to ditch Boehner sounds similar to the GOP rebellion that ousted Newt Gingrich at the end of 1998: present the speaker with so much opposition behind closed doors that he’s forced to step aside.

But unlike Gingrich, it’s not the rank-and-file opposing Boehner, it’s not GOP leaders; Boehner’s opposition is localized to the same dissident conservatives who have been a thorn in his side for years.

Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said his boss has “a better relationship with his members right now than at any time.”

“As he has said many times, he fully expects to be speaker again next Congress,” Buck said. And Boehner lieutenants backed those statements up.

Full story

April 17, 2014

Pelosi: Republican Inaction on Unemployment Extension ‘Immoral’


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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday called House Republicans’ refusal to allow a vote on extending unemployment benefits “unconscionable” and “immoral.”

In a letter thanking Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, a Democrat, for their support on the issue, Pelosi, D-Calif., urged the House to take action on a bill that passed the Senate last week.

“It is unconscionable that the House has not acted to renew emergency unemployment insurance,” she wrote. “Never before has Congress allowed emergency unemployment insurance to expire while long-term unemployment rates have remained so high.”

Full story

Staffer Accused of Leaking ‘Kissing Congressman’ Video Resigns, Report Says

The staffer accused of leaking video of Rep. Vance McAllister, R-La., passionately kissing another staff member at his office has resigned, according to the Monroe News Star.

The congressman’s hometown newspaper reported late Wednesday that the staffer in question, Monroe District Office Manager Leah Gordon, submitted her resignation.

McAllister’s chief of staff, Adam Terry, told the Star that Gordon was not fired.

“We won’t terminate or discipline any employee until after our internal investigation of the security breach is complete,” Terry said.

The Louisiana congressman has kept a low profile since the video of him kissing Melissa Peacock, a married staffer, was leaked to the local press in early April. His communications director has said the congressman is spending the recess with his family but plans to return to Congress later this month, when the House reconvenes on April 28.

Many GOP leaders have called for his resignation.  Peacock resigned earlier this month.

Related stories:

A Crash Course in Congressional Hanky-Panky

8 Things to Know About Rep.-Elect Vance McAllister

Vance McAllister Kissing Video Could Prompt Flood of GOP Challengers


By Cameron Easley Posted at 12:20 p.m.

‘Kissing Congressman’ McAllister Plans House Return After Recess

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McAllister and his family at his mock swearing in just last fall. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Vance McAllister will return to the House after the Easter/Passover recess, his communications director told the New Orleans Times Picayune Thursday.

The Louisiana Republican, who’s been absent from the public eye — and from Congress — since an infidelity scandal broke earlier this month, is spending the recess with his family, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Dunagin.

“The congressman is with his wife and family for the remainder of the Easter Recess,” Dunagin told the New Orleans paper. “That’s his No. 1 priority, and his scheduled events will be canceled this week. However, his D.C. and district offices are fully operational and will continue to be. The congressman was elected to do a job, and he looks forward to returning to D.C. following the end of recess.”

The House is expected to reconvene on Monday, April 28.


Related stories:

A Crash Course in Congressional Hanky-Panky

8 Things to Know About Rep.-Elect Vance McAllister

Vance McAllister Kissing Video Could Prompt Flood of GOP Challengers

By David Eldridge Posted at 10:37 a.m.

April 15, 2014

After Afghanistan, Boehner Heads for Abu Dhabi

boehner041514 445x296 After Afghanistan, Boehner Heads for Abu Dhabi

(Courtesy John Boehner)

Updated: 12:08 | John A. Boehner is using social media to document his recess-week overseas trip, posting videos and photos Monday of himself and seven other Republicans in Afghanistan and updating Tuesday with shots from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Team Boehner has photos up on Flicker and posted a video online late Monday of Boehner speaking in sun-drenched Kabul. Full story

‘Kissing Congressman’ McAllister Ducks Tea Party Rally for Counseling

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McAllister, right, has so far resisted calls for his resignation. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The governor, the chairman of his state party and a growing list of other Republicans (including, in all likelihood, the GOP leadership in the House — though they’ve yet to say so publicly) have asked him to step down, but Rep. Vance McAllister, for now, is trying to ride out the storm.

The “kissing congressman,” embroiled in an infidelity scandal, cancelled an appearance Monday at a tea party event in Ruston, La., according to rally organizers, who were told the congressman is spending this week in family counseling sessions, according to the Monroe News Star. Full story

April 10, 2014

Black Congresswomen: Military Hair Rules Unfair to Black Servicewomen

fudge 134 062513 445x296 Black Congresswomen: Military Hair Rules Unfair to Black Servicewomen

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The women of the Congressional Black Caucus want Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to rethink recently-revised Defense Department grooming standards that they say unfairly target hairstyles popular among female African-American soldiers.

In a letter dated Thursday, all 16 women of the CBC joined other critics of the DOD’s grooming policy who contend that the new standards make it more difficult for black servicewomen to maintain and upkeep their hair.

“We understand the intent of the updated regulation is to ensure uniformity in our military,” the CBC members wrote to Hagel, “[but] it is seen as discriminatory rules targeting soldiers who are women of color with little regard to what is needed to maintain their natural hair. Full story

April 9, 2014

McAllister Won’t Ask for FBI Probe of Kissing Video Leak for Now

sotu tw031 012814 1 445x309 McAllister Wont Ask for FBI Probe of Kissing Video Leak for Now

Rep. Vance McAllister, R-La., left, invited Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty to join him at President Obama’s State of the Union address earlier this year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Vance McAllister, struggling with an escalating infidelity scandal, backpedalled Wednesday afternoon on earlier reports that he would seek an FBI probe into the leak of a surveillance tape showing him kissing and embracing a married aide in his Monroe, La., district office.

His staff released a statement Wednesday that said the Republican, elected five months ago, is focused on his family, not an investigation.

The full statement:

“Congressman McAllister’s office will not pursue an FBI investigation at this time regarding the distribution of a video filmed in leased federal office space. Congressman McAllister is focused on earning back the trust of those he has disappointed, and he reiterates his request for privacy for his family during this difficult period.” Full story

April 8, 2014

As McAllister Skips Vote, Angry Husband Says His Family Is Destroyed

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McAllister, right, talks with Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., before McAllister’s swearing in last November. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Vince McAllister missed another roll call vote in the House on Tuesday as fallout from his infidelity scandal continued to escalate, with the husband of the staffer involved in the caught-on-camera incident telling the media that he’s leaving his wife and accusing the congressman of destroying his family.

Heath Peacock told “Inside Edition” that the conservative freshman lawmaker, who ran for the northeast Louisiana seat as a devoted Christian father of five, is to blame for the problems in his marriage.

“He’s had a hand in not only turning my life upside down, but my son’s also. He doesn’t care. He thinks he’s untouchable,” Peacock said, according to a press release from the syndicated tabloid-news program. Full story

March 31, 2014

Ryan Budget Slated for Wednesday Markup

RyanBudget031213 330x225 Ryan Budget Slated for Wednesday Markup

(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Get ready: The new Ryan Budget is coming soon to a committee markup near you.

The House Budget panel is scheduled to consider Chairman Paul D. Ryan’s fiscal 2015 budget — the latest version of “The Path to Prosperity” — on Wednesday morning.

Committee aides say the text will be released Tuesday, though CQ Roll Call’s Paul M. Krawzak has reported that the Wisconsin Republican’s budget will call for deeper and more accelerated spending cuts, perhaps to Medicaid or by speeding up the conversion of food stamps into a block grant program.

Earlier this month, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told colleagues that the blueprint would adhere to spending limits and balance the budget in ten years.

Though the budget will continue to give House Republicans talking point fodder on the campaign trail, it won’t likely manifest itself in a larger, House-Senate budget agreement like the one negotiated at the end of last year between Ryan and his Senate counterpart, Patty Murray, D-Wash.

That’s because Senate Democrats have already signaled that they won’t consider a budget this year.

By Emma Dumain Posted at 3:15 p.m.

February 27, 2014

Eshoo, Pallone Collect Endorsements in Race for Ranking Member

eshoo020314 445x295 Eshoo, Pallone Collect Endorsements in Race for Ranking Member

(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 2:06 p.m. | House Democrats won’t vote for the new ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee until after the midterm elections, but the two lawmakers vying for the slot have already begun courting colleagues and claiming supporters.

On Thursday, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, D-Calif., received a big endorsement from a close friend and fellow Californian who also happens to be the caucus’s top Democrat: Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

“I strongly endorse Anna Eshoo to become the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee,” Pelosi said in a letter to colleagues obtained by CQ Roll Call. “It had not been my intention to make a public endorsement, but since so many of you have asked, I am writing to let you know why I support Anna.” Full story

February 26, 2014

Flood Insurance Bill Goes Back to Rewrite

Updated 1:29 p.m. | House Republican leaders announced Wednesday that a vote on a flood insurance bill would be put off until next week while members negotiate language that can pass the chamber.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told his conference in a private meeting that he will work with Democrats in order to advance the measure. “We are moving it to next week to work on a few remaining technical issues,” he said, according to source in the room.

The bill was expected to come up on Thursday under suspension of the rules, meaning it would need a two-thirds majority vote to pass. But members coming out of the GOP meeting Wednesday morning said they did not think it had enough votes to clear that hurdle.

A GOP leadership aide said Democrats asked leaders to delay consideration of the bill to give them more time to explain it to their members to round up support in their caucus. On Tuesday, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., confirmed his understanding that votes were at issue, adding that House Financial Services ranking member Maxine Waters, D-Calif., was closely involved in tweaking language.

“This measure remains a work in progress,” Waters said in a statement Wednesday. “We continue to work in good faith with Republican leadership to address a number of technical and substantive issues related to the legislation, with the ultimate goal of correcting the unintended consequences of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act. This could not be done overnight.”

Waters was a champion in 2012 of bipartisan legislation with then-Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill., dubbed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which reduced subsidies for homeowners to shore up the cash-strapped National Flood Insurance Program.

With flood insurance premiums now skyrocketing, however, lawmakers — particularly in flood-prone states and districts — are clamoring to revisit that law. The Senate last month passed legislation that would effectively halt implementation of Biggert-Waters for four years, but House Republican leaders said that measure was, for them, a non-starter.

On Tuesday evening, Rep. Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y., insisted that truly bipartisan negotiations were under way on the new, House GOP leadership-blessed flood insurance bill.

“Literally, as we speak, minor edits are being made to the bill so that we can make this a truly bipartisan bill,” said Grimm, who is helping spearhead the effort, in a brief interview with CQ Roll Call. “I personally think, when this comes to the floor … people are going to be surprised that there’s going to be overwhelming support.”

Grimm named Waters and Reps. Gregory W. Meeks of New York and Cedric L. Richmond of Louisiana as Democrats at the negotiating table.

The fate of flood insurance legislation in the House hinges, however, on Republican support, too. The Club for Growth is launching a full-scale campaign to bring down the bill on grounds that it does not fully repeal the National Flood Insurance Program and that it reverts to a time when taxpayers fronted high costs for individuals’ insurance policies.

Seeking to appeal to conservative lawmakers in particular, Club for Growth President Chris Chocola released a statement on Wednesday afternoon praising House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, for his opposition to the flood insurance bill currently pending in the House.

“House Republican Leadership wants to stick taxpayers with the bill for higher subsidies to beach-front properties, but Congressman Hensarling took a principled stand,” said Chocola. “Hensarling has long advocated for reforming the Flood Insurance program, so it’s no surprise that GOP leaders are refusing to run the bill through his committee, and instead, are negotiating directly with the Democrats.

“Republicans in the House could learn a lot by following Congressman Hensarling’s lead when it comes to protecting taxpayers and increasing economic freedom,” Chocola said.

February 11, 2014

Breaking Down the Debt Ceiling Vote

The House voted 221-201 to pass a clean debt ceiling hike for more than a year — and there are a few interesting trends hidden in the breakdown. (The Senate then passed the increase on Wednesday.)

Twenty-eight Republicans voted for the bill, which means this debt ceiling vote was the most extreme example of violating the principle that the speaker does not bring a bill to the floor without a “majority of the majority” — the so-called Hastert Rule, named after former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., who broke that principle 12 times himself.

Before Tuesday, the greatest number of majority defections on a bill that passed the House was 41. (Coincidentally, Democrats and Republicans both achieved that same watermark. Democrats in 2007 with the “Protect America Act” and Republicans in 2002 with the “Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.”)

But Tuesday’s debt limit vote now stands alone with the fewest number of votes from a majority on a bill that passed the House since at least 1991, when digital records of roll call votes became available. Full story

House Narrowly Passes ‘Clean’ Debt Limit Extension (Updated) (Video)

The House narrowly passed legislation Tuesday evening to raise the debt ceiling, all but ensuring that the nation won’t default at the end of the month.

The 221-201 vote, carried by Democrats with just enough Republicans to push the bill over the finish line, represented a capitulation by House GOP leaders, who were forced to proceed with a “clean” measure after their flock failed to unify on any alternative.

Speaker John A. Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and other senior Republicans had hinted over the past few weeks that they wanted to give their rank-and-file members a “sweetener” for raising the debt limit, as many in their flock said they weren’t inclined to write what they called a “blank check” for President Barack Obama and get nothing in return. Full story

By Emma Dumain Posted at 5:29 p.m.

February 6, 2014

Ethics Committee Probing McMorris Rodgers’ Leadership Campaign

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(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House Ethics Committee is reviewing allegations that one of the House GOP’s rising stars violated ethics rules by mingling taxpayer and political money during a competitive campaign for a party leadership position, according to several sources.

House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who delivered the GOP response to the State of the Union address, is accused of hiring political operatives to work alongside her official staff during her bid for the chairmanship.

A complaint was filed in July with the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent watchdog  tasked with investigating alleged wrongdoing by members of Congress. The office does not confirm or deny that investigations are under way. The complaint was referred to the House Ethics Committee over Christmas, according to aides close to McMorris Rodgers.

Nate Hodson, a spokesman for McMorris Rodgers, said the office conformed to House rules during the election.

“We are confident that every activity was compliant with all federal laws, House rules and Standards of Conduct. We are fully cooperating and look forward to seeing this matter dismissed,” he said.

Full story

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