Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 22, 2014

May 23, 2014

Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Proposes Private Option for Veterans Stuck on VA Wait Lists

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller wants veterans stuck on VA waiting lists to get health care for more than 30 days to have the option of getting private health care.

In a letter to Eric Shinseki, the Florida Republican urged the Veterans Affairs secretary to offer private care to any veteran waiting more than 30 days, and plans to offer legislation codifying the practice.

“Mr. Secretary, the accusations currently facing the Department — which increase in volume and gravity by the hour — have understandably led to a crisis of confidence on the part of many of our veterans who no longer feel that VA is willing and able to provide them with the timely care they have earned and deserved,” Miller wrote in a one-page letter to Shinseki on Thursday.

The Florida Republican said while he hopes Shinseki acts accordingly, “I cannot be satisfied with a short-term fix.” Full story

Kerry to Testify June 12 Before Oversight Committee — but Not Benghazi Panel (Updated)

Updated 3:58 p.m. | Secretary of State John Kerry will testify June 12 before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee — but, the State Department says he won’t be going before the new special select committee on Benghazi.

In a letter to Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, the State Department said Kerry is open to testifying about Benghazi in June.

Earlier this month, the Oversight Committee subpoenaed Kerry to testify on May 29. Due to diplomatic responsibilities, the State Department said Kerry was unavailable for that date, but said he could testify on June 12 or June 20.

Issa agreed to June 12 Friday, spokesman Frederick Hill said in a statement.

Because Kerry has agreed to testify before the Oversight panel, the State Department said there is no need for him to testify before the Benghazi committee. Full story

By Matt Fuller Posted at 2:03 p.m.

Ethics Committee Decides to Investigate Grimm, Then Waits

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The Ethics committee opted to wait until Grimm’s indictment is resolved. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House Ethics Committee announced it established a special subcommittee to investigate Rep. Michael G. Grimm, already under federal indictment for allegations of misconduct, but the subcommittee members unanimously voted to wait as the Feds pursue the case against the New York Republican.

Ethics Chairman Rep. K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, was named chairman of the subcommittee and ranking Democratic Rep. Linda T. Sánchez of California will hold the same role. Also serving on the panel are Ethics members Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., and Ted Deutch, D-Fla.

The committee issued a brief statement Friday suggesting they will hold off in deference to the Justice Department:

Full story

May 22, 2014

McCarthy Is First House Leader to Call for Shinseki’s Head

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McCarthy wants Shinseki ousted at the VA. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California on Thursday became the first House Republican leader to call for embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign amid a scandal over poor veterans’ health care services.

McCarthy is the third-ranking Republican in the House, and joins a growing chorus of Republicans calling for Shinseki’s ouster.

“General Shinseki, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, has served his country with honor and integrity. No one doubts his dedication to our nation’s veterans,” McCarthy said in a statement. “However, the current state of the VA is wholly unacceptable and has become a national embarrassment – it requires immediate action. I believe new leadership at the Department of Veterans Affairs is imperative to fixing the wrong that this massive bureaucracy has done to the men and women we owe so much to. Therefore, today, I call on General Shinseki to do what is right and step aside as Secretary effective immediately.”

Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio has refrained from calling for Shinseki to resign, but said Thursday that he is  “getting a little closer.”



Boehner ‘Getting a Little Closer’ to Calling for Shinseki’s Resignation

Reid Signals Quick Action as Appropriators Back VA Firing Authority

McCain Proposes Private Health Option for Veterans

Obama Demands Improvements at VA, Won’t Fire Shinseki

Steve King Challenges Senators to ‘Duel’ for Trash Talk (Video)

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Cantaloupes delivered to lawmakers on Capitol Hill last year to protest Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King’s comments on undocumented immigrants (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, has challenged three top Senate Democrats to a duel — but “not like Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton,” the lawmaker was quick to clarify.

Unlike the famous confrontation in 1804 wherein Burr, the sitting vice president, shot and killed the ex-Treasury secretary, King would prefer to sort out philosophical differences with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin and Charles E. Schumer “like many men do it today: Not duel with 50 paces and pistols, but … with microphones within arm’s reach.

“If we’re going to have some kind of rhetoric bouncing back between the House and Senate, let’s do it face to face,” King said. “Let’s do it eye to eye.”

Full story

Pelosi Calls for Congressional Action in Veterans Affairs Scandal (Video)

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Pelosi says Congress should take action to address the problems at the VA. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday suggested that Congress ought to take legislative action to address the scandal-plagued Department of Veterans Affairs.

The California Democrat called the “allegations of misconduct” at the VA — charges that the department manipulated wait times for veterans seeking medical attention — “completely and utterly unacceptable.”

But she defended President Barack Obama and declined to specifically implicate VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, calling instead for a comprehensive investigation into the allegations and for the Veterans’ Affairs committees in the House and Senate to explore broad overhauls of the agency’s operational structure.

Full story

Boehner ‘Getting a Little Closer’ to Calling for Shinseki’s Resignation (Video)

As more members piled on Thursday calling for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign, Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller of Florida continued to hold back, although Boehner noted he is beginning to lose patience.

“Listen, I have not called for General Shinseki to resign, although I have to admit I’m getting a little closer,” he told reporters. When asked why, he continued, “We’ve not just let them down, we’ve let them die. It’s awful stuff and somebody ought to be held accountable for it.”

Full story

House Passes Defense Authorization, Despite Veto Threat

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Denham wants to attach an immigration vote to a defense authorization bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A broad and familiar coalition of Republicans and Democrats came together Thursday to pass an annual Pentagon policy bill, with House GOP leadership largely ducking some of the more contentious debates and amendments related to the National Defense Authorization Act.

As a veto threat loomed over the bill — the White House has threatened a veto on the defense authorization act for years and has yet to interrupt the 52-year streak of the president signing the measure into law — House lawmakers voted 325-98 to pass a bill authorizing more than $590 billion for defense activities in fiscal 2015.

While the House went late into the night Wednesday disposing of 169 amendments made in order for floor consideration, much of the debate on the bill focused on what the House wouldn’t be debating.

The most notable amendment excluded was a proposal from Rep. Jeff Denham to give certain undocumented immigrants legal status in exchange for enlisting in the military.

During last year’s defense authorization, the Rules Committee made in order that proposal from the California Republican, but GOP leadership convinced Denham to withdraw his amendment on the floor.

This year, with immigration one of the touchiest issues in the House, leaders decided not to give Denham the choice; they killed the amendment in the Rules Committee before it could ever get a vote. Full story

House Approves Curbs on NSA Snooping (Updated) (Video)

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Rogers backed the new NSA rules. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated May 22, 1:38 p.m. | After a year of global criticism of the reach of American phone and data surveillance programs, the House approved new restrictions Thursday that critics dismissed as watered down.

The USA Freedom Act — backed by Republicans and Democrats and supported by President Barack Obama — would shift the collection and storage of phone metadata from the National Security Agency to private phone companies.

The measure passed 303-121, with critics on both sides of the aisle saying the bill would not do enough to curb potential abuse and provide legislative oversight of intelligence agencies.

Some privacy advocates pulled support for the measure this week, calling it hollow and riddled with loopholes.

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., who led the battle to end the NSA’s bulk metadata collection last summer and was a co-sponsor of the Freedom Act, posted a lengthy explanation why he was voting against the bill. Full story

Foreign Affairs Chairman Urges White House to Increase Aid to Combat Boko Haram (Video)

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Despite ongoing concerns about the Nigerian military’s shaky record on human rights, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce said Wednesday the U.S. needs to step up aid to the central African country’s armed forces — even if it means waiving the “Leahy Law,” a 1998 act designed to prevent American assistance being given to human rights abusers.

The California Republican said President Barack Obama has the power to waive the Leahy Law, an amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act, in “extraordinary circumstances.”

“U.S. forces are well positioned to advise and assist,” Royce said Wednesday. “If some U.S. laws would hinder such assistance, the administration should use its waiver authority under these extraordinary circumstances.”

Full story

May 21, 2014

Boehner: Obama’s New Mexico Monument Hurts Border Security

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A new national monument in New Mexico won’t help border security, Boehner said. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated, 6:40 p.m., May 21 | Republicans have warned President Barack Obama that executive orders on immigration won’t get the House to act any faster — if at all — on overhaul legislation this year. Speaker John A. Boehner reminded the administration of that fact again on Wednesday afternoon.

The Ohio Republican released a statement slamming Obama for designating a national monument in New Mexico without also putting mechanisms in place to secure the southwest border, a popular crossing for illegal immigrants seeking entry into the United States.

“For many months I have warned that the president’s fondness for unilateral action has created widespread doubt among the American people that he and his administration can be counted on to enforce any laws he signs, particularly when it comes to securing our nation’s borders and reforming our immigration system,” said Boehner. “The president’s announcement today intensifies those concerns, demonstrating a level of audacity that is remarkable even for this administration.” Full story

By Emma Dumain Posted at 5:12 p.m.

Broun, Gingrey Leaving Conservative Hole in House

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Broun, above, and Gingrey didn’t make the Georgia Senate runoff, so they’ll be going home at the end of this session. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The defeat of tea-party-aligned candidates in primaries across the country was a disappointment to conservatives, but perhaps nowhere will the hard-right suffer more from the establishment “Super Tuesday” sweep than in Georgia.

Two conservative House members now know for sure their Capitol Hill careers will expire at the end of this year.

Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey are perhaps two of the most committed conservatives in the House, and — both doctors by trade — two of the staunchest critics of President Barack Obama’s health care law.

“It’s going to be a big void to fill. You couldn’t have asked for more from Congressman Broun. He’s been there with conservatives on every single issue,” said Dan Holler, spokesman for Heritage Action for America. “Gingrey’s been right there too. We’re losing two very, very good members of the House.”

Full story

Former Congresswoman Selected as Cuomo Running Mate

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Former Rep. Hochul is on the Cuomo ticket. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll CallFile Photo)

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has chosen former Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Hochul to be his 2014 running mate Wednesday afternoon.

Cuomo announced Hochul as his choice for lieutenant governor in a video message at the Democratic convention on Long Island, according to multiple New York media reports.

Hochul was elected to Congress in a 2011 special election to fill the seat vacated by GOP Rep. Chris Lee, who resigned amid a shirtless scandal.  Hochul’s election in the Republican western New York district was one of the first races for the House Majority PAC, which works to elect Democratic House members.  However, Hochul lost her seat the following year to GOP Rep. Chris Collins.

By Bridget Bowman Posted at 4:45 p.m.

Pelosi Names Benghazi Committee Democrats

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Pelosi named five Democrats to the new Benghazi committee. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated, 5:33 p.m., May 21 | The House Democrats appointed to the special committee on Benghazi said Tuesday that they consider the panel unnecessary, but will participate if only to ensure Republicans do not politicize the deaths of four Americans.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said that after weeks of negotiations with Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, Republicans made no hard commitments that Democrats would be given power in procedural decisions made on the committee.

Yet Pelosi said she decided to name five Democrats to serve on the special committee looking into the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, because she believes the investigation into the attack carried out by Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., had been run unfairly. Full story

Pelosi Leaning Toward Appointing Members to Benghazi Committee

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After dithering on the issue for several weeks, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is leaning toward appointing members to the special committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, according to a senior Democratic aide.

The California Democrat met with Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio on Tuesday, seeking assurances that the committee would be procedurally fair and that Democrats would be considered in decisions about issuing subpoenas and calling witnesses. Immediately after meeting with the speaker, Pelosi met with her leadership and followed that up with a 10 a.m. meeting with the team again on Wednesday.

“No decision has been made, but Pelosi is now leaning toward appointing a full complement of members to the Select Committee on Benghazi,” the aide said. “Talks between Pelosi and Boehner staff continue this morning on remaining items Democrats are asking for to ensure fairness, transparency and balance with respect to the committee’s proceedings and operations.”

Pelosi will meet with her team again later this afternoon.

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