Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 25, 2014

December 3, 2013

Budget Deal Optimism Emanates From Top House Appropriator

rogers 018 070913 445x296 Budget Deal Optimism Emanates From Top House Appropriator

Rogers is not preparing a fallback plan in case budget conferees fail to reach a deal. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers said Tuesday that he is “somewhat optimistic” that the members of a bipartisan, bicameral budget conference committee will deliver on a broad spending agreement by their Dec. 13 deadline.

Fearing a broad budget deal might ultimately elude conferees, House GOP leaders are reportedly mulling a short-term continuing resolution to fund the government through Jan. 15, when the current CR expires — but the Kentucky Republican doesn’t think that will be necessary.

A House-Senate budget agreement would provide higher spending caps at which to write the twelve appropriations bills, which have been stymied by political fighting over the austere sequestration levels.

Those caps, Rogers said, would allow appropriators to come up with an omnibus spending bill for the remainder of fiscal 2014, negating the need for any stopgap spending measure to float government operations in the interim. Full story

Boehner’s New Immigration Policy Director Has Deep Experience on Overhaul Efforts

Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, is taking on a new and formidable immigration policy director, a sign that he could be more serious about passing immigration legislation than his critics suggest.

Rebecca Tallent, who currently serves as director of immigration policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, will join Boehner’s staff on Wednesday. Before joining the BPC, Tallent held several senior staff positions with Sen. John McCain, including chief of staff.

During her time with McCain, she helped the Arizona Republican draft a handful of immigration overhaul measures, including the last big push McCain made with the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., in 2007. In 2008, she was a policy adviser on McCain’s presidential campaign. Before working for McCain, she worked for former Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., a longtime advocate of overhauling the immigration system who was involved in immigration efforts before he retired in 2006. Full story

Is a Budget Deal Close? Depends on Whom You Ask

murray ryan 323 103013 445x315 Is a Budget Deal Close? Depends on Whom You Ask

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Republican leadership’s decision to call the chamber back into session next Monday for legislative business — a change to the set 2013 congressional calendar — is sparking all kinds of speculation about what it might mean for fiscal 2014 budget prospects.

Namely, is the budget conference committee nearing a deal to replace the sequester and provide higher spending levels for appropriations bills? Or will the committee’s Dec. 13 deadline come and go with an agreement still elusive?

While some speculation has centered on a possible plan to move a continuing resolution to fund the government, one GOP leadership aide told CQ Roll Call that the chamber was likely set to be in session on Dec. 9, so that the Rules Committee could pave the way for a House vote on a deal secured by House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Full story

Defense Authorization Conferees Meet in Secret

The Senate has not passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act — yet — but the main players in an NDAA conference aren’t waiting.

The chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House Armed Services committees — House Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., House ranking member Adam Smith, D-Wash., Senate Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Senate ranking member James M. Inhofe, R-Okla. — met Monday to discuss how they could conference the defense authorization act in a nearly impossible timeline. Full story

Boehner Tells Senate to ‘Get Serious’ About Farm Bill, Budget Talks

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Boehner expressed frustration Tuesday about progress on both a farm bill and a budget conference. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

If Speaker John A. Boehner’s comments are any signal, talks between the House and Senate to craft a farm bill and budget are in trouble with less than two weeks left in the legislative session.

“We can’t defend the Democrats to the point of saying ‘yes,’” Boehner said Tuesday morning.

“It is time for the other chamber to get serious about getting this work done,” the Ohio Republican added.

Boehner argued that House Agriculture Chairman Frank D. Lucas, R-Okla., had made “nothing but a good-faith effort” to reach consensus with Senate Democrats in a farm bill conference. And yet, with less than two legislative weeks left in this year’s session, a farm bill agreement doesn’t appear near. Full story

December 2, 2013

Could the Sympathy Card Help Trey Radel Keep His Job?

radel 098 112013 445x296 Could the Sympathy Card Help Trey Radel Keep His Job?

Radel, center, leaves court last month after pleading guilty to cocaine possession. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Weeks after news of his cocaine bust broke, Rep. Trey Radel continues to cling to his seat in Congress in what could ultimately become a testament to the changing mores on Capitol Hill.

The Florida Republican, who checked himself into rehab last month, has faced his fair share of calls to resign — notably from home-state Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, and state GOP Chairman Lenny Curry.

Some of his congressional colleagues from Florida also wonder why he is sticking around.

“I don’t know the depth of his problem or his situation that well. If it were me, I would probably realize there’s a lot more to life than being a member of Congress and getting my life in order is the priority,” said Florida Republican Rep. Dennis A. Ross. “But I don’t think that anybody can put themselves in his shoes.”

“When you have a member of Congress who might go to rehab because they’re an alcoholic, that’s one thing,” said GOP Rep. Tom Rooney, whose district neighbors Radel’s. “I think that’s admirable. Coming from a family that has alcoholism in it, I’ve seen my share of people that I love go through addiction and rehabilitation. But when you do it as a result of a crime, how is that different?”

Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., appear content to let the voters decide whether Radel’s punishment will extend beyond probation and a $250 fine. Neither is calling for his resignation or for any significant punishment, such as removal from committee assignments, nor have they issued general statements of condemnation. Full story

November 26, 2013

Proposed IRS Rules on Political Nonprofits Divides Parties

camp 292 102913 445x293 Proposed IRS Rules on Political Nonprofits Divides Parties

Camp criticized the Obama administration for a proposed IRS crackdown on “social welfare” groups. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The top Republican and Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., and ranking member Sander M. Levin, D-Mich., don’t see eye to eye on a proposed IRS crackdown on political activity by 501(c)(4) “social welfare” groups.

While Levin called the new guidance a “good first step,” Camp had a simple message for the Obama administration: Don’t do it.

“This smacks of the Administration trying to shutdown potential critics,” Camp wrote in a release Tuesday. Camp was referring to critics of a political targeting scandal where the IRS was said to be giving additional scrutiny to applications from tea party groups for 501(c)(4) status — a reference to the section of the tax code that outlines which groups constitute this sort of tax-exempt status.

“There continues to be an ongoing investigation, with many documents yet to be uncovered, into how the IRS systematically targeted and abused conservative leaning groups,” Camp said. “Before rushing forward with new rules, especially ones that appear to make it harder to engage in public debate, I would hope Treasury would let all the facts come out first — something they could achieve by fully cooperating with Congress in the investigation.”

While Camp stops short of explicitly denouncing the proposed rules, which Roll Call wrote about in detail here, the guidance is likely to be another ongoing difference between Republicans and Democrats on the committee. Full story

By Matt Fuller Posted at 5:41 p.m.
Taxes

Stockman Mum on Holes in His Financial Disclosure

Rep. Steve Stockman’s office has yet to comment on the Houston Chronicle’s 1,897-word piece accusing the Texas Republican of filing insufficient financial disclosure forms and stating income from a company, “Presidential Trust,” with unclear revenue streams.

While Stockman’s Twitter feed has been active, the lawmaker and his spokesmen have yet to return calls for comment from CQ Roll Call.

Stockman claims to work in “nonprofit organization management” on his LinkedIn page, but according to the Houston Chronicle, there is no record of Presidential Trust or Presidential Trust Marketing registered as a nonprofit entity.

Stockman claimed income of $200,000 in 2012 from Presidential Trust Marketing. Stockman’s wife, Patti, is a records officer at NASA who made $115,000 in 2012.

Roll Call’s Political MoneyLine blog has some more information on Stockman’s financial records.

By Matt Fuller Posted at 2:48 p.m.
Ethics

Ethics Committee Again Defers Investigation Into Grimm

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

At the behest of the Justice Department, the House Ethics Committee will continue to put off launching a formal ethics probe into alleged misconduct by sophomore Rep. Michael G. Grimm. Full story

By Emma Dumain Posted at 1:25 p.m.
Ethics

O’Rourke Profited From IPOs

Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, has told his broker to stop buying into initial public offerings, after he was asked about numerous IPO purchases, including the Twitter IPO.

By Steven Dennis Posted at 12:24 p.m.
Ethics

November 22, 2013

Darrell Issa Letterhead Flub Wasn’t First Hill Stationery Snafu — Not by a Long Shot

Rep. Darrell Issa’s name got inadvertently hijacked on Thursday by an outside group wanting to use the California Republican’s cache to boost fundraising numbers.

issa 10 051011 445x295 Darrell Issa Letterhead Flub Wasnt First Hill Stationery Snafu — Not by a Long Shot

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Had Issa, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sanctioned the email from the Armed Forces Foundation, it could have run afoul of House ethics rules, in part because it appeared to have been written on official congressional letterhead. The Ethics Committee doesn’t allow members to solicit funds for private organizations using congressional resources lest it suggest a conflict of interest.

Such concerns predate this week’s flub, though, by at least 50 years. That was when then-Rep. Bob Taft Jr., R-Ohio, introduced legislation to bar “improper” use of congressional stationery. Full story

By Emma Dumain Posted at 3:17 p.m.
Darrell issa, Ethics

November 21, 2013

Group Retracts ‘Issa’ Fundraising Letter

Did a well-intentioned email seeking donations for a private veterans organization violate House rules?

The nonprofit Armed Forces Foundation sent out a letter purported to be from Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and is taking responsibility for sending it without Issa’s consent.

“This was a draft letter intended for review and feedback from Congressman Issa that was inadvertently sent to our house file instead,” AFF spokesman Matthew Ballard in an email to CQ Roll Call. “There was no discussion, written or verbal, with the Congressman or any of this staff about this letter.”

The email, which bore the subject line, “It’s Sickening,” asks recipients to contribute to the AFF. The letter was sent on Thursday from what appeared to be the inbox of the powerful California Republican. It was obtained by CQ Roll Call via the chief of staff of a House lawmaker who received it.

“We apologize for any inconvenience or misunderstanding in this matter and have sent a retraction to our house file explaining the situation,” Ballard said. “It was an error on our part and we have apologized to Congressman Issa.”

Full story

Trey Radel Enters Rehab

Rep. Trey Radel is getting help for his addiction, as promised.

“Today, I checked myself into a facility to seek treatment and counseling,” the Florida Republican said in a statement shared with CQ Roll Call. “It is my hope, through this process, I will come out a better man. I will work hard to gain back the trust and support of my constituents, friends and most importantly, my family.”

The news comes one day after his conviction on a misdemeanor charge for possession of cocaine and a press conference in Cape Coral, Fla., during which he announced he was taking a leave of absence from Congress and promised to seek “intensive” inpatient treatment.

While Radel is back in southwest Florida, his Washington, D.C. office remains open for business. The door to his first-floor Longworth office was unlocked, lights were on, and staffers were present.

By Hannah Hess Posted at 5:04 p.m.
Breaking News, Ethics

Congressional Black Caucus Cheers Senate Rules Change

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was the man who made the call to “go nuclear” and change the chamber’s filibuster rules, but the Congressional Black Caucus gave the chamber a push with a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign.

“We’ve been active in terms of calling our senators,” said Chairwoman Marcia L. Fudge, D-Ohio, in a phone interview with CQ Roll Call on Thursday afternoon. “We have probably spoken with just about every senator in the past few weeks and months about how this needed to change.”

“I was on the phone with senators yesterday,” piped in Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., who was also on the call, adding that the lobbying was done quietly and was under the radar.

Norton heads up the CBC’s Judicial Nominations Working Group, and on Wednesday she helped lead a strategy session with members to put pressure on the Senate to free nominations that have been languishing for months.

At that point, they didn’t know how close they were to a resolution.

“We really did not know,” Fudge said. “We got some word yesterday that something was going to happen, but we didn’t get anything definitive.

“There was so much joy in the room,” she added, speaking about a meeting that Reid held with filibuster overhaul activists on Thursday afternoon that included Fudge, Norton and more than a dozen other CBC members.

Senate Republicans, who all opposed the rules change, have said they were voting down nominees that would fill seats that are unnecessary.

Democrats have called the tactic a bald attempt to undermine President Barack Obama’s authority.

The CBC has argued that there has been an underlying issue of race, with two high-profile African-American nominees among those blocked: D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Robert L. Wilkins and Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

“Frankly, it was an insult to a colleague not to allow a vote on a sitting member of Congress,” Norton said of Watt, “and it turned out to be an African-American sitting member of Congress, so it really got our attention.”

Fudge said she hadn’t gotten any intelligence from Reid or other members of Senate Democratic leadership as to when votes on Watt, Wilkins and others would come to the floor, but that the hope is for them to advance swiftly, starting when Congress returns from the Thanksgiving break.

CREW Asks if Radel Shared Cocaine Around the Hill

Has Rep. Trey Radel been snorting cocaine with other members of Congress or congressional staff?

The watchdogs at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington are calling on the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate that, and many other questions surrounding the Florida Republican’s conduct during his first 10 months on Capitol Hill.

radel 098 112013 445x296 CREW Asks if Radel Shared Cocaine Around the Hill

Radel, center, leaving court on Wednesday after pleading guilty to cocaine possession. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

“As a member of Congress who has lived in the District of Columbia for less than a year, how did he become acquainted with a cocaine dealer?” writes CREW in a four-page letter to the independent, nonpartisan entity charged with reviewing allegations of misconduct against members, officers and staff of the House. Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 2:14 p.m.
Ethics

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