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July 30, 2014

Posts in "Whip Count"

July 29, 2014

Dysfunctional Congress Sprints to Chaotic Finish

A Congress known for its dysfunction and acrimony may be on the verge of a rare triple combo — passing major bills addressing the border crisis, the Veterans Affairs scandal and the Highway Trust Fund in one week. But if it happens, it’s going to be like the rest of the 113th: ugly.

The pre-August sprint got off on the right foot with the announcement Monday of a $17 billion deal to slash wait times at the Department of Veterans Affairs, followed Tuesday by the 97-0 confirmation of former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new Veterans Affairs secretary.

A highway patch seemed likely too, although not without last-minute wrangling between the two chambers over the fine print.

But the border supplemental remained very much in doubt — perhaps appropriately for a Congress that has failed to complete an immigration overhaul. Full story

Advocates Grade Congress on Immigration (Updated)

immigration 306 072814 445x313 Advocates Grade Congress on Immigration (Updated)

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

July 23, 2014

House GOP Forges Ahead on Border Funding Legislation With No Clear Endgame

rogers091013 445x317 House GOP Forges Ahead on Border Funding Legislation With No Clear Endgame

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 5:06 p.m. | House Republicans laid out their requirements for President Barack Obama’s border crisis spending request Wednesday: National Guard troops, more judges for expedited deportations and changes to a 2008 trafficking law that would make it easier to send Central American minors home.

But with little more than a week before lawmakers are supposed to leave town for the August recess, Democrats digging in against changing the 2008 law, and some conservatives complaining the deportation provisions aren’t harsh enough, it’s not clear GOP leaders have the votes needed to send their bill to the Senate.

Throughout the day Wednesday, GOP leaders, appropriators and stakeholder members huddled with colleagues to corral support for a possible $1.5 billion bill — the White House originally asked for $3.7 billion — to fund enforcement agencies that have been stretched thin by the overwhelming surge of Central American migrants in southern Texas.

But as of Wednesday afternoon, no formal piece of legislation had been introduced and no decisions had been made as to whether the GOP’s funding proposal and its separate policy provisions would be contained in one package or two.

Appropriations Democrats had not even been briefed on the details of a spending package, according to a Democratic committee aide.

Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., told reporters: “When the leadership lays out the plans for timing of what we do, we’ll be ready. … It’s pretty close to being ready.”

Meanwhile, a sizable number of rank-and-file Republicans said Wednesday that doing nothing at all would be better than passing legislation the Democrat-controlled Senate would likely make more lenient on undocumented immigrants — or that Obama would just ignore like he has, they say, with other laws on the books.

“We like her ideas,” said Rep. John Fleming, R-La., of the recommendations put forth by Kay Granger, R-Texas, the chairwoman of the specially appointed GOP working group tasked with coming up with the border recommendations. “The problem is, if we pass them, they’ll be gone.” Full story

July 17, 2014

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

carter011314 445x291 Carter and Goodlatte Put Down Their Own Markers to Solve Border Crisis

(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 16, 2014

One Day Closer to Recess and Still No House Border Funding Bill

rogers 018 070913 445x296 One Day Closer to Recess and Still No House Border Funding Bill

House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers of Kentucky. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House wrapped up Wednesday, one day closer to the August recess and still with no clear indication of when Republicans will unveil their response to President Barack Obama’s emergency funding request for $3.7 billion for the Texas border crisis.

But lawmakers insisted the framework for their border funding bill is beginning to crystallize.

Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., confirmed that the plan was still to move through the chamber a single package providing both policy changes and financial assistance.

“We’re ready on the money part,” Rogers told reporters. “We’ve got to craft it, we’ve got to get it scored and do all of those things, but as soon as we get the final policy inserts, we can go pretty quick.”

Full story

July 15, 2014

Border Funding Request Takes Shape in House

granger 194 052014 330x236 Border Funding Request Takes Shape in House

Granger is leading a GOP task force to make recommendations on the child migrant border surge. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 4:45 p.m. | House Republicans could, by the week’s end, unveil their legislative response to the president’s $3.7 billion request to bolster resources at the southwest border.

The response is likely to cost less and incorporate policy riders sure to rile up Democrats on the left — but still might not be stringent enough to satisfy members on the hard right.

Rep. Kay Granger of Texas, the chairwoman of a special GOP working group convened by Speaker John A. Boehner to make policy recommendations on the child migrant border surge, told reporters Tuesday her group is focused on increasing border security funding, adding National Guard troops on the border and having more immigration judges to preside over deportation hearings and asylum requests.

With a formal report not yet public at the time she spoke with the press, Granger also said the group supported tweaking a 2008 trafficking law to allow all unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border to choose to return to their home countries rather than await trial to be deported, a right currently afforded only to children from countries contiguous to the United States.

“Tweak it, not change it, not repeal it,” Granger stressed, “but to treat all children the same.” Full story

July 14, 2014

Homeland Security Secretary to Meet With Blue Dog Democrats

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Johnson will meet with the Blue Dog Coalition on Monday night. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will meet with Blue Dog Democrats on Monday evening, sources confirmed to CQ Roll Call, as the Democratic Caucus writ large struggles to coalesce around a response to the surge of unaccompanied minors at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Johnson’s meeting on Capitol Hill with the fiscal conservative contingent of the House Democratic Caucus comes as one the coalition’s own, Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, prepares to offer controversial legislation that would make significant revisions to a 2008 trafficking law that Republicans are saying would help alleviate the border crisis. Full story

July 11, 2014

Grijalva: Diaz-Balart Immigration Bill Had ‘Very Large’ Support

grijalva092013 445x314 Grijalva: Diaz Balart Immigration Bill Had Very Large Support

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

What was in Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s secret immigration overhaul bill, declared officially dead for the 113th Congress on Thursday afternoon?

Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., described it Friday as a bill of “low-hanging fruit on the immigration reform tree,” and said “it would have had support to pass.”

“The popularity, politically and internally, was very large,” Grijalva said in an interview with journalists from CQ Roll Call and The Washington Post during a taping of the C-SPAN “Newsmakers” program that will air Sunday. Full story

July 10, 2014

Diaz-Balart’s Immigration Overhaul Effort Is Dead for Now

diaz balart 197 062414 330x223 Diaz Balarts Immigration Overhaul Effort Is Dead for Now

Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., will no longer seek to advance his draft immigration bill (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After a year and a half of stops and starts, unbridled optimism and hints of inevitable defeat, Florida Republican Mario Diaz-Balart has declared his efforts to overhaul the nation’s immigration system officially dead for the 113th Congress.

“Despite our best efforts, today I was informed by the Republican leadership that they have no intention to bring this bill to the floor this year,” the congressman told reporters at a hastily convened press conference in the Cannon House Office Building on Thursday afternoon. “It is disappointing and highly unfortunate.”

Later, Diaz-Balart repeated, “I don’t think I can hide my disappointment.” Full story

July 9, 2014

GOP Plan to Save Highway Trust Fund May Win By Default

ways hearing005 031214 445x296 GOP Plan to Save Highway Trust Fund May Win By Default

Camp, R-Mich., and Levin, D-Mich., preside over a Ways and Means Committee meeting (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House Republican plan to prevent, through the middle of next year, the looming insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund is drawing grumbles from both the left and the right, but there is increasing recognition that Congress has little choice but to enact it, or something like it.

Resignation that passing a short-term extension is likely the only way to avoid an August shutdown of transportation projects across the country was on full display Wednesday, the eve of a markup of the new proposal in the House Ways and Means Committee.

“It’s the only proposal out there,” Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., told reporters Wednesday afternoon in defense of his bill.

Full story

July 2, 2014

33 House Republicans to Obama: End Deportation Stays for ‘Dreamers’

issa092813 330x216 33 House Republicans to Obama: End Deportation Stays for Dreamers

Issa spearheaded a letter to Obama calling for the end of DACA. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who at one point was said to be writing his own immigration overhaul legislation and this week is at the Texas border visiting detention centers, has sent President Barack Obama a letter calling for an end to the 2012 executive order granting stays of deportation to children brought into the country illegally by their parents.

Reversing the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals order, known as DACA, would “send a clear signal to all individuals that our immigration laws will be enforced,” the California Republican and thirty-two House GOP cosigners wrote.

DACA doesn’t apply to the thousands of children who have crossed the border illegally in recent months, but critics of the Obama policy say it has contributed to a general misunderstanding in some Central American countries that young people will be allowed to stay in the U.S.

Issa and his backers also say Obama should “make an explicit public comment that you will not support legislation that extends legal status to newly arriving illegal aliens no matter the age.”

Full story

July 1, 2014

House GOP’s Secret Vote, Deconstructed

leadership010 061914 445x294 House GOPs Secret Vote, Deconstructed

Scalise leaves the hearing room after the June 19 secret vote electing him majority whip. Only three people know the leadership vote totals. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

It’s been 12 days since House Republicans elected a new majority leader and majority whip behind the closed doors of the House Ways and Means Committee room. And though the ballots and vote totals were a secret, plenty of members and staff think they have an idea. The problem is, they’re probably wrong.

With the exception of the three members who counted the ballots — Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Bill Flores of Texas, and Virginia Foxx of North Carolina — no one definitively knows the vote totals.

Unless, of course, they cracked the safe in conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers’s Cannon office, where the ballots are kept. Those ballots — numbered sheets of paper with candidate names scrawled on each — have not yet been destroyed, contrary to earlier practices, an aide confirmed.

Full story

June 30, 2014

Diaz-Balart: ‘Boehner’s Never Told Me’ Immigration Overhaul Is ‘Dead’

diaz balart 197 062414 330x223 Diaz Balart: Boehners Never Told Me Immigration Overhaul Is Dead

Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., will still seek a vote on immigration this year (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Did Speaker John A. Boehner really tell President Barack Obama that the House wouldn’t vote on an immigration overhaul bill this year?

Florida Republican Mario Diaz-Balart intimated on Monday afternoon that he doubts Boehner would have, with such finality, closed the door to moving forward on such legislation, as Obama suggested in a national address.

“Boehner’s never told me that it’s dead,” Diaz-Balart said in a phone interview with CQ Roll Call. “What Boehner’s been telling me is what he’s always been telling me, that clearly the American people don’t trust Obama to enforce the law.” Full story

June 23, 2014

Jockeying Begins for Republican Study Committee (Updated)

mulvaney 065 120612 445x328 Jockeying Begins for Republican Study Committee (Updated)

Mulvaney is among the lawmakers mounting a bid for the Republican Study Committee chairmanship. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:58 p.m. | Two high-profile GOP leadership races have just ended, but a new one’s just getting started.

Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana was elected on June 19 to ascend to the majority whip’s office on Aug. 1, which means the Republican Study Committee will have an opening for a new chairman — and ambitious candidates hoping to emerge as the House’s next conservative leader are ready to start campaigning. 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

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