Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 17, 2014

April 10, 2014

House Approves Ryan Budget

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(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House narrowly approved Rep. Paul D. Ryan’s spending blueprint Thursday, 219-205. It’s an important symbolic victory for the Wisconsin Republican and potential GOP presidential contender.

No Democrats voted for the 10-year-spending plan and the bill won’t go anywhere in the Senate, but the document has come to represent a marker for where the Republican Party, its leaders and rank-and-file House members stand on fiscal policy.

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

By David Eldridge Posted at 7:26 p.m.
Uncategorized

GOP Post: Unemployment Extension Won’t Create Jobs

A Wednesday afternoon blog post by Ways and Means Republicans suggests that blocking an unemployment benefits extension may have boosted the economy.

“What Happened Since Extended Unemployment Benefits Ended?” the post asks. “More Jobs and Less Long-Term Unemployment, for Starters.”

The post said the emergency unemployment compensation program assisted 24 million people over 5.5 years at a cost of more than $260 billion.

“Despite Democrat claims that spending on unemployment benefits ‘creates jobs faster than almost any initiative you can name,’ all this record-setting benefit spending has bought in recent years is the slowest jobs recovery on record,” the post said. Full story

House Republicans Ask Holder to Pursue Criminal Charges for Ex-IRS Official (Updated)

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Lerner (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 4:30 p.m. | The House Ways and Means Committee voted Wednesday in support of launching a criminal investigation into the woman at the center of the IRS scandal — just one day before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is set to vote on holding Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress.

In a 23-14 party line vote, the Ways and Means panel approved submission of a formal letter to Eric H. Holder Jr., asking that the attorney general pursue charges against the former IRS official using evidence uncovered during the committee’s year-long investigation.

Wednesday’s action — coming after a rare closed-to-the-press meeting — is the latest salvo in what has rapidly escalated into a fiercely partisan battle over the extent to which lawmakers should probe Lerner’s actions. Full story

Holder Testifies Before House Judiciary: What You Missed (Video) (Updated)

Marijuana, accusations of perjury, election integrity and asparagus were the range of topics covered in Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing.  Attorney General Eric Holder testified before the committee in a hearing designed for oversight on the Department of Justice. Holder and members of the committee had some tense exchanges as congressmen tried to nail down the attorney general on specific enforcement of laws. Check out Roll Call’s top moments below:

As Hannah Hess reported, Holder was asked by members from both sides of the aisle about the current marijuana laws and if the Obama administration has any plans to change how they classify drug offenses:

Holder also said the DOJ won’t scale back marijuana punishments by rescheduling the drug, as House Democrats have been pushing President Barack Obama to do, saying he was “satisfied” with what the department is doing.

“The notion that somehow we have retreated from our enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act with regard to marijuana is not accurate,” Holder told the House Judiciary Committee. He reiterated a DOJ memo laying out eight areas of priority for pot prosecutions, including marketing to minors, driving under the influence and criminal cartels.

“That’s not inconsistent with, I think, the way in which the Justice Department was acting before,” Holder continued in response to a question from Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C. “We remain committed to enforcement of marijuana laws that would involve those eight factors,” he added.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., asked Holder if he was planning to investigate Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper for alleged perjury. As Roll Call previously reported, Holder declined to confirm or deny that the director was under investigation:

“Director Clapper’s perjury in my opinion has been covered extensively,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “In light of this, are you willing to discuss whether or not the Justice Department is investigating Director Clapper for his statements before the Senate?

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. refused to say whether the DOJ was conducting an investigation.

“I’m really not in a position to confirm whether the department is investigating any particular matter, but we are reviewing the material that you and other members of the committee have provided to us, and I can assure you that we will take any action that is appropriate,” Holder said.

Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-VA., started off the hearing saying he was “concerned” about directives issued by the Department of Justice about the President’s ability to determine which laws to prosecute. “I am concerned about some of the decisions and some of the directives that have been issued by you and others in the Department of Justice,” Goodlatte said. “Is it your view that there is any limit to the president’s prosecutorial discretion?”

Holder said that the discretion must be done in a “constitutional way” and added that there is a “vast amount of discretion.”

“…[D]iscretion has to be used in an appropriate way so that you’re acting consistent with the aims of the statute,” Holder said. “But at the same time, making sure that you are acting in a way that’s consistent with our values, consistent with the Constitution and protecting the American people.”

Representative Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and the Attorney General had a very tense exchange during the hearing. The two have a long history of tense committee banter and Holder took the chance to remind the Texas Republican of their previous history when he ended their Tuesday exchange with, “good luck with your asparagus.”

Watch the full hearing below and visit Roll Call’s YouTube page for previous hearings and full weekly leadership pressers.

By Meredith Dake and JM Rieger Posted at 12:11 p.m.
Oversight

Update: McAllister’s Request for FBI Probe One Option

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McAllister, as his family looks on, at his mock swearing-in last November. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated, 10:18 a.m. | Rep. Vance McAllister’s Washington staff said Wednesday that asking the FBI to investigate the leak of a video that has landed the freshman congressman in an infidelity scandal is one of several options the Louisiana Republican is weighing.

The News Star, the congressman’s home-town newspaper in Monroe, La., reported that McAllister planned to send a letter Wednesday morning to Speaker John A. Boehner,  R-Ohio, asking that the FBI open an investigation into who leaked the surveillance camera video.

But the congressman’s communications director, Jennifer Dunagin, said the decision to appeal to the speaker has not yet been made.

“At this point, there has not been a letter sent to Speaker Boehner,” she told CQ Roll Call. “Right now, the congressman is exploring the option. This security breach is something that warrants an investigation, but how we go about doing that is yet to be determined.”

Read The News Star story here.

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

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

Holder to Gohmert: ‘You Don’t Want To Go There, Buddy’ (Video)

Things got heated Tuesday between Rep. Louie Gohmert and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. Tuesday at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on oversight of the Justice Department.

Gohmert, who was questioning the attorney general about releasing documents relating to the Holy Land Foundation’s 2008 conviction of providing financial assistance to Hamas, then suggested contempt was “not a big deal” to Holder.

“You don’t want to go there, buddy,” Holder quickly shot back. “You should not assume that that is not a big deal to me. … Don’t ever think that.”

The Texas Republican was quick to respond.

“So we’ve been trying to get to the bottom of [Operation] Fast and Furious where people died … and we can’t get the information to get to the bottom of that, so I don’t need lectures from you about contempt,” he said.

Gohmert, who last May told Holder not to cast “aspersions on [his] asparagus,”  was at the butt end of the joke Tuesday, when Holder got the last word.

“Good luck with your asparagus,” Holder said.

Hoyer Clarifies: No, I Have Not Smoked Pot

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer said Tuesday that he has not smoked marijuana, clarifying his remarks from earlier in the day when he indicated he had.

“At today’s press conference, I was unclear when discussing the Maryland General Assembly’s actions on marijuana. To be clear, I have not used marijuana. The point I tried to make was that I wasn’t going to ask for a show of hands of people who haven’t tried marijuana — because if I did, I would probably be one of very few who could raise my hand,” the second highest-ranking House Democrat said in a statement emailed to CQ Roll Call.

“This issue affects many people in my home state and throughout the country, including those who are non-violent offenders suffering in prison from a criminal conviction over possession. While I indicated early on that I was not in support of legalization of marijuana, I do believe Governor O’Malley and the Maryland General Assembly are taking the right step to decriminalize the possession of small amounts.”

Sensenbrenner: Intelligence Director Committed Perjury (Video)

During a Justice Department oversight hearing Tuesday, the former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee accused Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. of committing perjury during his Jan. 29 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said he believed Clapper’s refusal to acknowledge whether warrantless searches of Americans’ communications had been conducted was perjurious after Clapper appeared to concede the point in a letter last week to Sen. Ron Wyden.

“Director Clapper’s perjury in my opinion has been covered extensively,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “In light of this, are you willing to discuss whether or not the Justice Department is investigating Director Clapper for his statements before the Senate?

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. refused to say whether the DOJ was conducting an investigation.

“I’m really not in a position to confirm whether the department is investigating any particular matter, but we are reviewing the material that you and other members of the committee have provided to us, and I can assure you that we will take any action that is appropriate,” Holder said. Full story

Hoyer Suggests He’s Smoked Pot, Backs Maryland Decriminalization Effort

maryland gala029 091213 445x298 Hoyer Suggests Hes Smoked Pot, Backs Maryland Decriminalization Effort

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated, 2:30 p.m. | Two high-ranking Maryland Democrats said they support Gov. Martin O’Malley’s decision to sign a bill decriminalizing recreational marijuana in the state.

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer said there are too many people in prison or with a criminal record for using marijuana, something many people have done. And he suggested he’s among them.

“I’m not going to ask for a show of hands. If I did, I could raise my hand,” Hoyer told a roomful of reporters in the Capitol, raising his hand. “The use thereof, or the trying thereof. Inhaling or not. Experimentation.”

Soon after the session with reporters, Hoyer spokeswoman Stephanie Young told CQ Roll Call her boss was not saying what it sounded like. “Mr. Hoyer has not used marijuana. His point was that this issue affects many people and he believes the Maryland General Assembly took the right step to decriminalize marijuana.”

Three hours after the pen-and-pad briefing, Hoyer’s office issued a statement in his name clarifying what the lawmaker said.

“At today’s press conference, I was unclear when discussing the Maryland General Assembly’s actions on marijuana. To be clear, I have not used marijuana. The point I tried to make was that I wasn’t going to ask for a show of hands of people who haven’t tried marijuana — because if I did, I would probably be one of very few who could raise my hand.

“This issue affects many people in my home state and throughout the country, including those who are non-violent offenders suffering in prison from a criminal conviction over possession. While I indicated early on that I was not in support of legalization of marijuana, I do believe Governor O’Malley and the Maryland General Assembly are taking the right step to decriminalize the possession of small amounts.”

Hoyer said he has in the past objected to decriminalizing marijuana because drug rehab experts have told him it is a gateway drug, but he will not criticize the governor for signing the bill.

Full story

By Daniel Newhauser Posted at 12:17 p.m.
Democrats

Republicans: Democrats Using Women as Pawns in Pay Debate

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With the Senate poised to act this week on the gender pay gap, Republicans pushed back again Tuesday against the notion the GOP is waging a “war on women,” with GOP leaders accusing Democrats of using women as “pawns” to score political points.

Republican leaders wouldn’t say at their Tuesday morning news conference whether they’d bring their own legislative solution to the floor, focusing instead on rebutting Democrats’ “Equal Pay Day” criticisms that the GOP is anti-woman. 

“Women understand the direct impact of the policies and the impact that they have on them, so on this Equal Pay Day, I would urge us to stop politicizing women and let’s start focusing on those policies that are actually going to help women and everyone else in this country have a better life,” said House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. “Let’s focus on those policies that are actually going to move forward on a jobs plan that will create a higher paycheck, [and] more opportunities … for a better life we all want.” Full story

McAllister Admits Infidelity, Tells Louisiana Paper He Won’t Resign

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McAllister, as his family looks on, at his mock swearing-in last November. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Vance McAllister, embroiled in an infidelity scandal, told The News Star, a Monroe, La., newspaper, that he has no plans to step down from the seat he won in a special election last fall.

According to the paper’s exclusive report, the 40-year-old Louisiana Republican said he plans to run for re-election next fall “unless there is an outcry for me not to serve, and so far there has been an outpouring of support, not for my actions, but for me to continue to represent the people.”

He said the improper relationship that became public after footage from a surveillance camera in his district office was posted online Monday was the first infidelity in his marriage.

He told the paper he confessed to his wife earlier this year, “before the video came out.”

Related stories:

8 Things to Know About Rep.-Elect Vance McAllister

Vance McAllister Kissing Video Could Prompt Flood of GOP Challengers

Cantor: McAllister Right to Apologize After Kissing Video

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(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia said Tuesday that embattled Rep. Vance McAllister was right to apologize to his constituents, but did not say whether the freshman Louisiana lawmaker would face repercussions within the Republican Conference.

“I think that his constituents deserve an apology. [That’s] why he gave an apology,” Cantor said. “I’ve not had a chance to speak to the congressman, so I’m going to reserve further judgment on the question. I will say the American people deserve all the representatives here in Washington to hold to a very high standard of behavior.”

A video posted online Monday allegedly shows the congressman kissing a staffer in his Louisiana district office. McAllister issued an apology after the video appeared, but a wide field of would-be successors are already jockeying for consideration for the seat, should the 40-year-old lawmaker choose to step down.

Full story

McAllister Skips Votes After Kissing Video Blows Up

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McAllister, left, invited Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty to join him at the State of the Union address earlier this year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Vance McAllister, embroiled in a scandal over a video allegedly showing the married Republican kissing an employee, did not vote when the House reconvened Monday night.

The Louisiana Republican was among 36 lawmakers who did not cast votes on the Budget and Accounting Transparency Act, which had two roll calls Monday night around 7 p.m. when the House returned from the weekend.

McAllister earlier in the day had issued a short statement apologizing and asking for privacy for his family, but didn’t show up for votes and his office door in the Cannon Building was locked. Phone calls to the office went straight to voicemail.

The lights inside were on, but no one so much as opened the door for hours, despite reporters camping out there for a stakeout.

Full story

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