Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 26, 2014

July 22, 2014

Boehner on Obamacare: ‘It Cannot Be Fixed’

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Boehner and other Republicans said the court ruling is an indication Obamacare is broken. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

On the same day a federal appeals court upheld an IRS subsidy for Obamacare, GOP lawmakers seized on the opportunity of a conflicting ruling — Halbig v. Burwell — to make the point that the 2010 health care law is broken.

After a 2-1 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said the government could not subsidize insurance in the 36 states that defaulted to the federal health care exchanges, Speaker John A. Boehner offered one of his harshest rebukes of the Affordable Care Act yet, saying the ruling was further proof the law is “completely unworkable.”

“It cannot be fixed,” the Ohio Republican said in a statement.

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health Chairman Joe Pitts, R-Pa., sent out a joint press release that called the Halbig ruling “a clear rebuke of the administration’s effort to extend subsidies where the law did not provide them.”

“The ruling also dramatically limits the IRS’ legal authority to enforce the individual and employer mandates,” the missive said.

That is true — or, at least, it could be true, if the rest of the D.C. Circuit Court agrees. The administration has asked the rest of the court — all 11 judges — to review the decision “en banc,” and even if the liberal-leaning court agrees, there are other cases before other courts that could undermine the decision. Full story

The Border Supplemental and ‘the Height of Irresponsibility’

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Hoyer said there should be no debate over caring for the migrant children detained on the Texas border. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With the August recess fast approaching and emergency funding to deal with the border crisis seemingly no closer to passage than it was a week ago, Democrats and Republicans are firing up a new round of the blame game.

Shortly after Speaker John A. Boehner pointed the finger at the White House and congressional Democrats for the lack of action on a spending package to address the sharp rise of unaccompanied minors crossing the border, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer redirected the blame right back at Republicans.

“I think it would be the height of irresponsibility to leave without addressing this humanitarian issue,” Hoyer said Tuesday during his weekly pen-and-pad briefing with reporters. Full story

Boehner Puts Onus on Democrats for Tenuous Status of Border Funding Bill

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Boehner says Democrats’ rejection of changes to 2008 trafficking law could complicate passage of border funding bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House Republican Conference on Wednesday will hear task force recommendations on dealing with the surge of migrant children on the Texas border, Speaker John A. Boehner said Tuesday — but he cautioned that the president’s request for emergency funds will go nowhere if Democrats backpedal on support for expedited deportations.

“In order to resolve this crisis in a timely manner, however, the White House must engage both parties on constructive solutions,” the Ohio Republican said in a statement. “After first supporting common-sense changes to the 2008 law that is making it more difficult to resolve this crisis, the White House backpedaled and failed to include those changes in its formal request to Congress. Meanwhile, many Democrats in Congress have reversed themselves and now say no changes to the 2008 law are acceptable.

“As I said last week, I don’t believe the American people will support sending more money to the border unless both parties work together to address these policies and actually solve this problem,” he said.

“The lack of leadership from this White House, and President Obama’s refusal to stand up to critics in his own political party, are jeopardizing our ability to find common ground and help the kids who are caught in the middle of this crisis.” Full story

Chaffetz on Oversight: More Results, Less Confrontation

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Chaffetz, R-Utah, would be among only a handful of House members who have earned a full chairmanship in less than five terms. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In the past 89 years, there have been four members of Congress who became committee chairmen in their fourth term. Rep. Jason Chaffetz is trying to become the fifth.

Chaffetz hasn’t even banked six full years in the House yet. But with Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa term-limited after this session, the 47-year-old Utah Republican is making a bid to head the chamber’s most powerful investigatory panel.

Like his top rival for the gavel, Michael Turner of Ohio, Chaffetz says he wants to move Oversight in a new direction. But Chaffetz, like Issa, still wants to go “full throttle” on the executive branch.

“I’m very grateful to Darrell Issa,” Chaffetz told CQ Roll Call. “He’s been very good to me, he’s given me a great opportunity, but we’d all do things a little bit differently.” Full story

July 21, 2014

Oklahoma Republicans to Obama: No More Child Migrants at Fort Sill

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Seven Oklahoma Republicans, led by Sen. Inhofe, called for the administration to end its practice of detaining illegal immigrants at Fort Sill.  (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Oklahoma congressional delegation is proud of its Fort Sill Army Base, but that doesn’t mean it wants to play host to thousands more unaccompanied child migrants awaiting deportation proceedings.

On Monday, one of the state’s two GOP senators and all six Republican congressmen called on the Obama administration to reverse its decision to send up to 5,000 more “unaccompanied alien children,” or UAC, to the Lawton army base on top of the countless children already being held there. They also want the administration to rethink plans to keep Fort Sill an active detention center through January 2015. Full story

McCarthy Takes Over Visible Leader Duties as Staff Transitions

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Cantor, right, has essentially handed the majority leader baton off to McCarthy. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy does not officially step into his new job as majority leader until August, but for all intents and purposes, the California Republican has already assumed the visible duties of his next leadership role.

McCarthy laid out the week’s schedule during a weekly colloquy with Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer on the House floor on July 17, and earlier in the week, it was McCarthy, not Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who addressed the press. McCarthy also handled the colloquy the week before, and Cantor has not attended GOP leadership press conferences since the day after he lost a primary.

McCarthy has continued to manage the whip duties as well, while Majority Whip-elect Steve Scalise of Louisiana ramps up his operation.

Scalise was set to take on a more visible role in conference leadership with his delivery of the weekly Republican address this weekend.

As McCarthy and Scalise raise their profiles, Cantor has quietly stepped to the background, giving few interviews and avoiding the spotlight since his stunning June 10 primary loss to college professor Dave Brat.

Behind the scenes, however, the Virginia Republican’s staff is still handling many issues while McCarthy builds his operation. Legislative requests from members, for instance, are still being handled by Cantor’s member services shop and his staff is also overseeing committee work.

Some members of McCarthy’s team have begun handling floor scheduling, aides said. But Cantor’s floor team has irreplaceable institutional knowledge and contains some staffers who have worked there for years, since before Republicans gained the majority.

Cantor has continued to attend some daily leadership meetings, but for the most part McCarthy has taken over at regular meetings of committee chairmen.

McCarthy will retain the spacious first-floor office suite he currently enjoys as majority whip (although he will soon have a new plaque outside the door reflecting his changed title). That marks a return to the old office layouts — when Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio was majority leader, he occupied that office.

Over the August break, Scalise will move into Cantor’s second floor office, which is directly off of Statuary Hall. His chosen chief deputy, Rep. Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina, will occupy an office on the third floor above what will be Scalise’s office.

While the Cantor team — one of the most highly regarded on the Hill — helps with the transition, solicits contributions from fellow Republicans to help retire debt from the campaign and looks for jobs, the next move for their boss remains a mystery.

The Virginia lawmaker has said he will serve out the rest of his term and is still casting votes, but his Twitter accounts are quiet — his @GOPLeader account, which once buzzed with multiple tweets each day on House action, hasn’t been updated since June 30.

In one of the few interviews he’s given since his primary loss, Cantor told ABC’s Jonathan Karl just days after the defeat, “I don’t think that I want to be a lobbyist, but I do want to be — play a role in the public debate.”

Since then, Cantor — and his top staffers — have been the subjects of speculation from Wall Street to K Street and back.

Nels Olson, who runs the Washington office of recruiting firm Korn Ferry, told CQ Roll Call last month that Cantor and his his top staffers will be attractive prospects for Washington shops doing business on Capitol Hill.

“Those individuals will have an opportunity to make a transition,” Olson said.

Ivan Adler, a headhunter with the McCormick Group, said Cantor “may be the perfect candidate for K Street.”

Others have suggested that with his fundraising prowess — he raised more than $6 million and outspent his opponent dramatically in the June primary — Cantor would be an attractive choice as a successor to Reince Priebus at the Republican National Committee.

The New York Daily News reported recently that Cantor has been spotted in the Hamptons on New York’s Long Island twice since losing his race last month — once to attend a Father’s Day service at a synagogue in Westhampton Beach and again at a campaign event for Republican congressional candidate Lee Zeldin. Politico reported he is scheduled to return there in August.

Cantor’s congressional operation employs about 35 people — in his leadership, personal and district offices — with a combined 2013 payroll of $3 million, according to data compiled by LegiStorm.

July 18, 2014

Anger on Capitol Hill Grows as Details on Flight MH17 Emerge

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Thornberry said Obama needs to increase the defense budget. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:29 p.m. | Members of Congress from both parties and chambers took to the airwaves, to social media and the Internet Friday to express a growing anger over indications of Russian involvement in the missile attack that took down an airliner and all 298 aboard over Ukraine on Thursday.

In an appearance on Fox News, Rep. Mac Thornberry, expected to be the next chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said that President Barack Obama needs to move immediately to increase the U.S. defense budget. The Texas Republican also said Obama should look at how President Ronald Reagan handled a similar incident in the 1980s when Russia shot down a Korean airliner.

“I went back and looked at President Reagan’s statement after the Korean airline downer and I’m struck by the fact that he used very clear language, he called it a massacre, he called it an act of barbarism, he called the Soviets out for not telling the truth,” Thornberry said. “Even more important than what he said was what he did. He took several steps to isolate the Soviets … and he called on Congress to increase the defense budget. That’s what the president needs to do in a few minutes.” Full story

July 17, 2014

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

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(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

Boehner Losing Optimism on Addressing Border Crisis Before August Recess (Video)

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Boehner is less optimistic about passing a border bill before the August recess. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner seems to be losing confidence that Congress can pass legislation addressing the wave of children coming across the border before lawmakers head back to their districts for the August recess.

Asked on Thursday during his weekly news conference whether he thought Congress would address the crisis before the recess, Boehner said, “I would certainly hope so, but I don’t have as much optimism as I’d like to have.”

Boehner noted Republicans are working with a group of lawmakers tasked with providing recommendations to address the border crisis — the task force is expected to make recommendations soon, potentially as soon as Thursday — and he said Republicans were working with the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Harold Rogers of Kentucky, to come up with a supplemental bill to address the crisis. Full story

GOP Task Force Member Says Border Crisis Recommendations Will Be Released Thursday

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Rep. Salmon, R-Ariz. (By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 2:19 p.m. | The House GOP working group tasked with making policy recommendations on how to manage the influx of unaccompanied child migrants on the Southwest border will hand off its formal report to Republican leaders on Thursday, members confirmed.

The proposals contained in that report – which isn’t likely to be made public until next week, according to an aide familiar with the working group – will help the House Appropriations Committee finalize its bill to provide funding to stem the border crisis.

Outstanding disagreements about topline numbers, offsets and controversial policy riders, however, still leave the chances for House passage of an appropriations package before the August recess tenuous at best. Full story

July 16, 2014

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

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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

Lawmakers Battle Over Legal Arguments for Boehner Lawsuit (Video)

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House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions defended the lawsuit against Obama in Wednesday’s hearing. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

 

Is Boehner’s lawsuit against President Barack Obama a way to protect the Constitution’s balance of power or an ill-conceived waste of tax dollars lacking any legal merit?

Those were the conflicting assessments offered up in Wednesday’s House Rules Committee hearing on the proposed lawsuit by politicians and legal experts on opposite sides of the aisle.

The constitutional experts who testified before the panel split on whether the lawsuit, which Speaker John A. Boehner is expected to bring before the House for a vote next week, poses a real legal threat to the White House’s increasing reliance on executive actions. Full story

House Backs Financial Services Bill With Steep Cuts to IRS

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House on Wednesday passed its seventh fiscal 2015 appropriations measure, backing a Financial Services spending bill that would make steep cuts in funding for the Internal Revenue Service.

The $20.2 billion measure (HR 5016) was passed 228-195 in a largely party line vote. It marks the first time since 2007 the House has moved the bill as stand-alone legislation. The White House has threatened to veto the measure due in part to the IRS cuts, other reductions in financial regulatory oversight and policy riders aimed at the District of Columbia.

The IRS would receive $9.8 billion under the measure, a 13 percent cut to current spending levels. Lawmakers adopted amendments that would cut the tax collector’s enforcement budget by nearly 25 percent on voice votes, delivering a slap to an embattled agency that has weathered a series of budget cuts in recent years.

Democrats accused Republicans of tunnel vision when it comes to the IRS, a focus of GOP attacks since revelations surfaced in May 2013 of alleged political targeting at the agency. The bill includes several policy riders aimed at scaling back the reach of the agency. Full story

House Lawmakers Critical of Proposed Counterterrorism Fund

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Smith, left, has concerns about a lack of oversight. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Pentagon leaders faced heavy opposition from the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday to the Obama administration’s requested counterterrorism partnership fund, with members from both parties raising concerns that the proposed $5 billion account amounts to little more than a slush fund for the Defense Department.

The $5 billion for the broadly defined counterterrorism account is just a small part of the administration’s $60 billion request for overseas contingency operations. But lawmakers said they feared it would allow the military to avoid congressional oversight, spending the money on anything that is even tangentially related to combating terrorists around the world.

“If you wanted to take this money and use it to refuel an aircraft carrier, there is nothing in this language that stop you from doing that,” Washington Rep. Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said during the hearing. “We’ve got to fence it in somehow. And my understanding is it’s not terribly well fenced. That’s a structural problem, and it’s also a concern that it isn’t as well thought out as it should have been,” he added.

Under the administration’s proposal, the Defense Department would receive $4 billion from the counterterrorism fund, with the State Department getting $1 billion. Full story

CDC Chief Pledges to Improve Safety After Biohazard Lapses

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Frieden had to run the gauntlet of lawmakers Wednesday. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A recent incident during which staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was potentially exposed to anthrax is part of a larger pattern of “an insufficient culture of safety,” Director Thomas R. Frieden told a panel of House lawmakers Wednesday.

Frieden faced sharp questions from Republicans and Democrats about how the June incident and other episodes such as the shipment of influenza strains contaminated with a deadly flu virus to a Department of Agriculture laboratory were able to happen, as well as what steps are being taken to prevent future problems. Full story

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