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February 8, 2016

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February 4, 2016

Committee Chairs to Flesh Out Details of House Agenda


UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 3: From left, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., House Oversight chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., walk to the House floor for votes on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

From left, McCarthy, Chaffetz and Ryan walk to the House floor Wednesday for votes. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

All 20 chairmen of the standing legislative House committees will play lead roles in developing the 2016 GOP policy agenda,  as House leaders Thursday announced details of six new task forces.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced membership of the task forces that will focus on national security, a tax code rewrite, a health care overhaul, poverty and welfare, regulations, and constitutional authority. Full story

Freedom Caucus Seeks Leverage in Budget Talks


Are House Republicans in danger of not being able to pass a budget? Not quite yet.

Many conservative Republicans, especially those in the House Freedom Caucus, are unhappy with leadership’s decision to write a Republican budget resolution with the fiscal 2017 spending level approved in last year’s budget deal. But they also say they they’re willing to get behind the plan if they can secure some other concessions in the process.

“Right now, there are a number of us who are looking for a way to get to ‘yes'; and that’s a pretty high bar to get to,” caucus member Mark Meadows, R-N.C., told Roll Call. Full story

Long-Ignored Hero of Flint Water Crisis: ‘I’m Just a Mom’


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Walters, right, raised alarm bells over tainted water in Flint, Mich., but no one listened.

For months, state and federal officials ignored LeeAnne Walters’ complaints about the drinking water in her hometown of Flint, Michigan. They saw no reason to answer her, even though her son was so sick that doctors thought he had cancer and other family members, too, were losing hair and breaking out in rashes.

They didn’t respond even when Walters pointed to repeated tests by government agencies and independent scientists showing that hazardous levels of lead had leached into the water.

In fact, it was not until she started sharing an internal Environmental Protection Agency memo, confirming the high lead levels, that officials started to pay attention.

Full story

February 3, 2016

Flint Hearing: ‘What Good is the EPA?’


 

UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 3: Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, questions witnesses during the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Examining Federal Administration of the Safe Drinking Water Act in Flint, Michigan on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Chaffetz pledged to continue investigating.  (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Environmental Protection Agency came under sharp criticism Wednesday for failing to inform Flint, Mich., residents for nearly a year that their drinking water was contaminated with lead, and House members vowed to continuing investigating the “manmade crisis.”

“It’s important for the EPA to tell people that their water is poisoning their kids,” House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, shouted into his microphone at Wednesday’s hearing. “Why didn’t they do that? What good is the EPA if they can’t do that.”

Full story

Outrage, Apologies and Subpoenas in Flint Crisis


Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., worked for both release of Flint native Hekmati from Iranian custody and more attention to Flint water crisis(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Kildee hopes to look beyond EPA’s role. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Environmental Protection Agency came under sharp criticism Wednesday for failing to inform Flint, Mich., residents for nearly a year that their drinking water was contaminated with lead, and House members vowed to continuing investigating the “manmade crisis.”

“It’s important for the EPA to tell people that their water is poisoning their kids,” House Oversight and Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, shouted into his microphone at Wednesday’s hearing. “Why didn’t they do that? What good is the EPA if they can’t do that.”

Full story

February 1, 2016

McCarthy: Iowa Isn’t the Barometer


UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 11: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., holds a news conference with the Republican members of the California congressional delegation to discuss California water legislation in the Capitol on Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy dodged questions about presidential candidates during a sit-down with reporters Monday, but he did offer his thoughts on what the results of the Iowa caucuses will mean: Not much.

“It means it’s not over yet,” the California Republican said when asked what it will mean if Donald Trump or Ted Cruz wins the Iowa caucuses Monday night. “I think New Hampshire and the others probably matter more for who the Republican nominee is than Iowa.” Full story

January 27, 2016

Democrats Talk Unity as Pelosi Knocks Sanders


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Pelosi’s dismissal of Sanders’ single-payer health care plan was not a statement of opposition to the idea so much as it was a reality check on his ability to deliver on his idea. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

BALTIMORE — As House Democrats gathered here Wednesday to show their unity, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi indicated there’s at least one Democrat who doesn’t share their vision for the future: presidential candidate Sen. Bernard Sanders.

Specifically, Pelosi was addressing Sanders’ plan for a single-payer health care system, an idea she’s supported in the past but one she said is not politically viable.

Full story

House Democrats to Craft Agenda


ocratic Caucus chairman Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., speaks during the House Democrats' news conference on poverty and the House Republicans' budget on Tuesday, March 19, 2013. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) Copyright © Roll Call Group

Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra promises “top-notch speakers” for House retreat in Baltimore. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

With House Republican leaders promising to go on offense this year, House Democrats will huddle in Baltimore starting Wednesday to contemplate the best defense. Which, naturally, is a good offense.

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and Salman Khan, founder of an online education company, will provide keynote addresses to frame the caucus’s annual issues conference, which will also feature breakout sessions on LGBT equality, national security, criminal justice overhauls and trade, according to a copy of the agenda obtained by Roll Call. Full story

January 26, 2016

Ryan’s 2016 Agenda Likely to Be Sidelined Until 2017


UNITED STATES - JANUARY 12: Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., conducts a news conference in the Capitol after a meeting of the House Republican conference, January 12, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Ryan wants Republicans to develop policy ideas, but isn’t guaranteeing floor votes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker Paul D. Ryan wants Republicans to “go on offense on ideas” in 2016, but he has only committed to drafting the playbook, not running the plays.

The leadership strategy of protecting members from difficult votes was one Ryan’s predecessor, John A. Boehner of Ohio, employed — and one that did not always sit well with conservatives. So what does it mean if Ryan prevents his members from voting on the “bold” 2016 agenda he wants them to get behind? Full story

January 21, 2016

GOP Request for Planned Parenthood Data Raises Privacy, Security Concerns


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Schakowsky raised concerns about documents requested by the panel investigating Planned Parenthood. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Six Democrats serving on a select panel investigating Planned Parenthood are accusing their Republican counterparts of issuing document requests that “pose grave privacy and security concerns.”

In a letter sent Thursday to the panel’s Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., the Democratic members of the select committee cite a recent request to a health care provider in which Republicans ask for “a list of any students, residents, or other medical personnel” who have participated in an abortion, prenatal or postnatal infant care, as well as all communications between the provider and any government officials.

Full story

Rahm Emanuel, in Panel on Policing, Doesn’t Mention Laquan McDonald


UNITED STATES - JANUARY 20: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel participates in a panel discussion at the U.S. Conference of Mayors 84th Winter Meeting being held at the Capitol Hilton, January 20, 2016. Also appearing are St. Louis Police Chief Col. D. Samuel Dotson III, left, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, second from right, and Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Chicago Mayor Emanuel spoke on a policing panel, and didn’t mention the shooting of Laquan McDonald. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Only a few blocks away from the White House where he once served as chief of staff, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke on a panel about community policing, but did not so much as mention Laquan McDonald.

Speaking at the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ winter meeting, Emanuel weighed in on reducing violence and improving relationships between police and communities, but without referencing McDonald, the black 17-year-old shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer in 2014. The footage of the fatal shooting, which appeared to show McDonald holding a small knife and walking away from police, was not released until late last year; it has led to calls by some for the mayor to resign.

Full story

January 20, 2016

Iran Swap, Flint Water Crisis Put Kildee in Spotlight


Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., worked for both release of Flint native Hekmati from Iranian custody and more attention to Flint water crisis(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Kildee worked for both release of Flint native Hekmati from Iranian custody and more attention to Flint water crisis. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In a rare confluence of events, Michigan Democrat Dan Kildee finds himself at the center of two of the country’s biggest political stories this week. One ended Saturday, with the release of Flint native Amir Hekmati and four other Americans from an Iranian prison. The other, the federal state of emergency over lead poisoning in Flint’s water, was just beginning. Full story

January 15, 2016

Ryan’s 5-Point Plan to Promote the GOP


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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

BALTIMORE — Speaker Paul D. Ryan announced here Friday his five-point plan for a policy agenda to help Republicans sweep the 2016 elections: addressing national security, restoring economic growth, rethinking healthcare, overhauling poverty programs and restoring the constitution.

“These are the ideas that we will be advancing,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “We will work with our colleagues through our committee-led task forces. That means every member and their constituents will have the chance to provide their input. I suspect that we will have a complete agenda by the time we have a nominee.”

Ryan said lawmakers, working across committees, would flesh out these broad ideas and bring proposals back to the GOP leadership. He declined to specify what form the agenda would take and whether the House will eventually vote on the ideas that members develop.

“We haven’t finalized the process; we just launched the process,” he said, standing with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

“The point is the four of us aren’t going to predetermine everything,” Ryan added. “That’s not the style we have here. So we’re going to do this together with our members. But believe you me, the people of this country will know who we are and what we stand for when this is done, and they will be given a choice in 2016.”

McCarthy, speaking with reporters after the news conference, declined to say whether the agenda would take the form of a policy blueprint rather than actual legislation. “We don’t want to prejudge” the outcome, he said. “We will roll everything out. Do we roll it out all together? Do we roll it out individually? The conference will decide together.”

Much of the work will be done by what Ryan called  “committee-led tasks forces,” McCarthy said. “He does not want to to go around committees, but when you take those five different buckets, right, there’s different committees working within that. … You’re going to have these different groups of committee chairs working in these tasks forces, so it goes through committee.”

McMorris Rodgers said the committee chairmen will lead the effort to flesh out the agenda and that process will start immediately.

“Some if it will be within the committee,” she said. “But then there will be opportunities made available for all members to have an opportunity to be a part of submitting ideas, having a conversation about what exactly is the strategy in that policy areas.”

Asked about whether the agenda would appeal to all of the GOP nominees, Ryan said, “This is about ideas, not personalities.”

The goal is to put together an agenda that fixes problems and will make Congress work again. “We’re not sitting here thinking about how the nominee is going to be,” he said. “We don’t have time to think about that.”

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.

Contact McPherson at lindseymcpherson@rollcall.com or follow her on Twitter at @lindsemcpherson

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January 14, 2016

Everybody’s for Curing Cancer


UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 03: Vice President Joe Biden makes remarks during a bust unveiling ceremony for former Vice President Dick Cheney in the Capitol Visitor Center's Emancipation Hall, December 3, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Biden will spearhead a campaign to cure cancer. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

President Barack Obama’s call for a cure for cancer during his State of the Union address placed him in a long line of real and fictional political leaders who have made the same appeal, using much of the same language, from President Richard M. Nixon in 1971 to President Josiah Bartlet on a 2002 episode of the television show “The West Wing.”

Only, Obama’s proposal to “make America the country that cures cancer once and for all,” could actually gain some traction. While the details of the plan — including such basics as how much it would cost and where the money would be spent — were still unclear the day after his address, the proposal was greeted with considerable interest and support from congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle. Full story

January 12, 2016

Ryan’s Guest List Reinforces Focus on Poverty


Ryan has promised to vote on an override of Obama's expected veto of the reconciliation bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Ryan has invited “front line poverty fighters” as his guest for the State of the Union. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan is using the occasion of the first State of the Union Address since he took his GOP leadership position to signal that tackling poverty and other urban ills will remain atop his agenda as he attempts to rally his fractious party around a common set of goals.

Ryan has invited a long list of anti-poverty advocates to join him for Tuesday night’s address, including an advocate of a welfare overhaul considered one of Ryan’s mentors, a Texas pastor who ministers to former gang members and a former homeless woman who founded a nonprofit group for homeless youth.

Full story

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