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April 20, 2014

November 21, 2013

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.

Boehner Offers Obama Some Advice

Speaker John A. Boehner had a bit of advice for President Barack Obama on Thursday morning as the president tries to change the conversation from the problems with Obamacare to just about anything else: Do something to create private sector jobs.

“Listen: I don’t usually ever do this, but I think I ought to give the president a little advice. You know, if he wants to start building back the American people’s trust, he needs to stop expanding the role of our government and do something — how ’bout anything? — to help create American private sector create jobs,” the Ohio Republican said during his weekly news conference.

Boehner urged Obama to support energy legislation that has passed in the House but has not seen action in the Senate.

“Or he could rein in the regulations that are strangling our economy. Or he could delay this health care law,” Boehner said.

Boehner’s advice comes after a long string of bad news for and Obama’s oft-repeated promise that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”

“I think it’s now obvious that the reality of the president’s health care law simply doesn’t match the promises the president made to the American people himself,” Boehner said.

“Every day, we hear heart-wrenching stories from Americans who are getting letters about their health care plans being canceled, or the cost of their new plans is skyrocketing, or they can’t keep their doctors,” he said. “As a result, I think, the American people are losing confidence in this administration.”

Boehner’s pivot back to jobs and what the president and the Senate aren’t doing is, in many ways, a convenient pivot for him and Republicans, too.

With only nine legislative days left in the year, Democrats lambasted House Republicans on Thursday morning for not having finished a host of issues, including the budget conference, the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, the farm bill conference, tax extender legislation, “and yes,” as Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., put it, “we ought to deal with comprehensive immigration reform.”

Boehner is also dealing with a House GOP public relations issue after freshman Republican Trey Radel of Florida was charged with possession of cocaine.

Boehner told reporters Thursday that the Radel incident was “between he, his family and his constituents.”

Pressed specifically if he would remove Radel from any committees or issue any sort of penalty, Boehner repeated the line.

“This is between he, his family and his constituents,” Boehner said.

CBC Amps Up Pressure on Reid to ‘Go Nuclear’

Senate Democrats are on the brink of going “nuclear” to block GOP filibusters of judicial nominees, and the Congressional Black Caucus stands ready to help.

The CBC, made up entirely of House Democrats, will have that chance on Thursday afternoon, when Chairwoman Marcia L. Fudge of Ohio is expected to join with other supporters of changing filibuster rules to hear from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., “his thinking” on lowering the threshold for confirming judicial nominations — according to a memo obtained by CQ Roll Call.

That meeting comes on the heels of a CBC meeting on Wednesday, where members began to plot out how to confirm a whole roster of nominations to high-level executive and judicial branch posts — especially those who are African-American.

The Senate GOP has been voting down advancing those nominations, arguing that the candidates are ill-qualified or that the positions themselves are not necessary. Democrats counter that the “no” votes are aimed at hampering President Barack Obama’s authority; CBC members say there’s an underlying issue of race.

“There are more than 50 judicial nominations that are being held up by the Senate and certainly a large portion of them are minority people,” said Fudge in a brief interview with CQ Roll Call on Wednesday afternoon. “They’re women, they’re African-Americans, they’re Hispanic, they’re gay, so it kind of runs the gamut. And so we believe that it’s time for us to express our views publicly as to what is going on in the Senate and encourage Senator Reid to take whatever steps are necessary to get these people confirmed.”

The CBC is, in particular, still reeling from the blocked confirmation vote of African-American Judge Robert L. Wilkins to sit on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and the filibuster of Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., also a member of the CBC, to serve as head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Although Fudge did not get into specifics of the strategy, she suggested that approach will be two-pronged, with the CBC making “public statements” along with exerting pressure on the Senate.

“We want to make sure this stays on the front of everyone’s minds, make sure that until they do something to confirm these people that nobody forgets that these people have been languishing out here, some of them for almost a year or better,” Fudge said. “We’re gonna do everything in our power to let people know how obstructionist [Senate Republicans] are, how much they disrespect the president of the United States and how they don’t even want to comply with the constitution they say they support.”

Fudge also suggested that there would be efforts to get other congressional caucuses involved, such as the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Asian Pacific American Caucus.

November 20, 2013

Radel to Take Leave of Absence for Drug Treatment (Updated)

Updated 11:29 p.m. | Rep. Trey Radel won’t resign, but he will take a leave of absence.

The Florida Republican faced the media late Wednesday night after pleading guilty earlier in the day to a misdemeanor charge of possession of cocaine. Radel apologized and said he would take a leave of absence while he seeks “intensive” inpatient treatment, but he also said he wasn’t stepping down.

“I will be taking a leave of absence,” Radel told reporters against the backdrop of a white wall, flanked by an American flag to his right and a Florida state flag to his left. “During that time, I’m going to donate my salary to a charity.”

He did not say he would be donating his salary for the time that he was serving in Congress and using cocaine.

What Radel did say was that he was sorry, that there was no excuse for his actions, that he needed to regain the trust of his constituents and take responsibility for his behavior.

“I’m not going to sit here and try and make any excuses for what I’ve done. I’ve let down our country, I’ve let down our constituents, I’ve let down my family, including my wife, and even though he doesn’t know it, I’ve let down my 2-year-old son,” he said.

“I have been getting the help that I need, and I will continue to get the help that I need, and the support system that I need for years to come,” he said.

While Radel said that he has already started an intensive inpatient treatment, adding that he has struggled with his addiction problems for “years,” he did not specify how long he would be in treatment, or what that treatment would entail.

Radel seemed to indicate during his press conference that this was not a new issue, nor an infrequent one — meaning his personal, and, indeed, political problems might be deeper than previously suspected.

However, during the roughly 10-minute news conference, which was held in Cape Coral, Fla., at 10:30 p.m. EST, Radel never uttered the word cocaine.

One item repeatedly brought up was Radel’s wife, whom he called “his rock.” And Radel referenced his mother, who struggled with her own addiction issues and died on Radel’s wedding day, choking on a piece of steak during the reception.

“I want to be a better man for my family,” he said.

As Radel exited the press conference, he was asked a question — which he did not answer — about his vote to drug test food stamp recipients. Radel can expect that line of questioning to be a common refrain.

Radel pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to the possession charge in D.C. Superior Court after he was arrested on Oct. 29 for possession cocaine. Radel bought 3.5 grams of cocaine — commonly known as an eight ball — from an undercover officer outside a Dupont Circle restaurant.

GOP leadership has stood by Radel to this point, with a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner issuing a statement Tuesday evening that said, “this is between Rep. Radel, his family, and his constituents.”

While leadership and Radel seem to believe he can politically survive the cocaine arrest incident, some Republicans have already signaled they believe he should step down.

“It seems like it’d be awfully difficult to continue,” Rep. Michael C. Burgess, R-Texas, said. “Seems like it would be hard.”

Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., said, “The safe answer, of course, is that it’s up to his district.”

“But that said, I do believe there is a higher responsibility, particularly for federal office,” Rigell said. “It seems to me he must put first what’s best for his district, and I would think that would mean someone who could devote full time to this without the burden of what he’s going through.”

The Ethics Committee is bound by House rules to empanel an investigation within 30 days of the charge and will likely do so at its December meeting.

But an Ethics panel member told CQ Roll Call Wednesday the most likely outcome would be for the committee to concur with the court actions taken against Radel and offer no further repercussions.

On Wednesday, Judge Robert S. Tignor sentenced Radel to one year of probation, with some supervision, and a $250 fine for the misdemeanor possession charge.

Hannah Hess contributed to this report.

By Matt Fuller Posted at 10:51 p.m.

Radel’s Cocaine Bust Is a Headache for Leadership

radel112013 445x296 Radels Cocaine Bust Is a Headache for Leadership

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A freshman lawmaker being busted for cocaine possession wasn’t exactly what Speaker John A. Boehner was hoping to deal with this week.

The challenge for the Ohio Republican — who has shown leniency to Florida Republican Rep. Trey Radel so far — is to contain the damage amid the unseemly details of Radel’s Oct. 29 arrest and to square his light touch in this case with his past pronouncements of having little tolerance for ethical lapses.

Radel pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of cocaine Wednesday in D.C. Superior Court, promising to seek treatment for his addiction so he can “continue serving this country.”  Full story

Don’t Expect Tom Cole — or Anyone Else — to Tip the Budget Conference

cole 050 100413 445x302 Dont Expect Tom Cole — or Anyone Else — to Tip the Budget Conference

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Democrats have floated the idea that the House-Senate Budget conference could reach an agreement if just one House Republican switched sides and signed off on a conference report, but don’t expect that to happen — the likeliest candidate, Oklahoma Republican Rep. Tom Cole, has no plans to do so.

Cole, the newly anointed chairman of the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, would be the obvious choice as a member of the Appropriations Committee who wants to get to work on the nuts-and-bolts of a fiscal 2014 spending package.

He joined the other House cardinals in a Monday letter to the bipartisan leadership of the conference committee seeking two years of top-line spending levels to allow the appropriators and their staffs to get to work on a funding package for the rest of the fiscal year. The appropriators want their numbers by no later than the beginning of December.

The self-imposed “deadline” for the conference is not until Dec. 13. Because there are only seven House conferees, a single member could tip the scale in either direction.

Full story

November 19, 2013

9 Takeaways From Nancy Pelosi at ‘BuzzFeed Brews’

At a trendy bar in Northwest D.C., packed with thirsty interns looking for a free drink, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi submitted for nearly an hour of questioning from the Washington, D.C., bureau chief of BuzzFeed Politics, Roll Call alumnus John Stanton.

The California Democrat’s “BuzzFeed Brews” interview ran the gamut from her upbringing in Baltimore to a possible change to the controversial name of the local football team; from the government shutdown to the rollout of Obamacare.

218 was in attendance at Jack Rose on Tuesday night, and below are the highlights from the free-wheeling conversation between Pelosi and BuzzFeed.

1. On recent revelations that Freshman GOP Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., was recently arrested for possession of cocaine:

“I feel very sad for his family, and bad,” Pelosi said.

As for what his next steps should be given his misconduct, “his leadership will have to deal with him,” she said.

Pelosi also pointed out the timing in relation to the recent GOP-passed farm bill. His allegations of drug possession, she said, came “right soon on the heels of the Republicans voting to make sure that everybody who had access to food stamps was drug tested. It’s like, ‘what?’ And so I would hope it would humanize, shall I say, their thinking.”

2. On growing up in a political family in Baltimore and to a father who was at one time the mayor of the city:

“What I learned in Baltimore that has served me so well is how to count. How to count votes, how to count on people and the rest. And what you also learn is tomorrow is another day,” said Pelosi. “Today is one vote, you may not be happy on how someone voted on a particular issue, but there’s another vote coming up, and every day is a fresh one.”

“We actually build consensus in our caucus,” she continued, “and that’s how we determine our position, and actually more the peer pressure of people saying, ‘this is what we decided, this is how we go forward,’ and that’s part of what I learned in Baltimore.”

3. Pelosi’s ability to count votes, and build consensus, was on display during the government shutdown, and she has consistently drawn distinctions between her caucus’s party unity and the Republican’s frequent lack of cohesion:

“I promised the speaker, ‘you keep government open, we will give you 100 percent of the Democrats to vote for that number, which we don’t like, but which is your House Republican budget number,’” she pointed out. “The only people who did not support the House Republican budget number were the House Republican members.”

4. On GOP criticisms of the implementation of the 2010 health care law, which she helped pass during her tenure as House speaker — specifically, the broken promise of “if you like it, you can keep it”:

“Yes, the messaging could have been better,” Pelosi said. “No, it won’t hurt us in 2014.”

5. On the rollout of, which has been riddled with glitches:

“You can imagine, coming from California, what I think of that!” she said.

6. On calling it Obamacare versus the Affordable Care Act:

“Not everybody loves Obama, but everybody loves ‘affordable,’” she said. “I love them both!”

7. Would she work well with a President Chris Christie in 2016, referring to the Republican governor from New Jersey?

“I am suspecting that we’ll probably be working with President [Hillary Rodham] Clinton,” Pelosi shot back.

8. What role did redistricting and gerrymandering play in the last election cycle, when Democrats failed to take back the House from GOP control?

“I think the press has placed too much emphasis on that,” she said. “We lost that election hundreds of millions of special interest money poured in the last week of the election. Yeah, redistricting wasn’t helpful, but what I think we have to do, and I promise you this, I promise you this: You want more women in politics, more minorities, more young people? You reduce the role of money in politics and increase the level of civility.”

9. Pelosi has gone on record as favoring a name change to the Washington Redskins football team, as more and more critics call attention to the moniker. But what would Pelosi suggest as an alternative name?

Pelosi said “Hail to the Redskins” was the first song she learned how to sing outside of church, and she sang the opening line. She then suggested a contest be held for a new name. “I don’t know if there’s any will to change the name,” she conceded, “but maybe a good enough name? You never know.”

Matt Fuller contributed to this report.

By Emma Dumain Posted at 9:31 p.m.
Nancy Pelosi

Botched Obamacare Rollout Is ‘Opportunity of a Lifetime,’ Bachmann Says

teaparty009 061913 445x297 Botched Obamacare Rollout Is Opportunity of a Lifetime, Bachmann Says

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R- Minn., is absolutely delighted by the troubled rollout of and President Barack Obama’s recent mea culpas.

Bachmann told reporters Tuesday that the rollout presented conservatives with the “opportunity of a lifetime” because “liberalism is crumbling in front of our eyes.”

The Minnesota Republican explained that as Americans are confronted with Obamacare’s failings, they’re going to naturally look to conservative, free market solutions.

“What we have is the fantasy thinking of what Obamacare was going to be versus reality,” she said at the monthly Conversations with Conservatives event at the Heritage Foundation.

Bachmann said that on Tuesday morning, when she was getting ready to come to the Capitol, she was listening to the online music service Pandora when an ad came on — “’cause I’m too cheap to pay the Pandora monthly fee” — for a Minnesota company selling a Skype doctor service.

Full story

McConnell Stands By Sequester Level in House GOP Meeting

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell paid a visit to the House Republican Conference’s weekly meeting Tuesday morning to reiterate his support for hanging tough on the $967 billion sequester spending level in negotiations with the Democrats.

The Kentucky Republican has long held the view that the $967 billion discretionary figure is the right position for the GOP, and he’s fought against deals that would increase revenue for additional spending.

Some GOP lawmakers, particularly defense hawks and appropriators, are eager for a deal that would allow more spending this year.

If Republicans and Democrats can’t reach an agreement, that could lead to a yearlong CR that under the sequester law would cut spending to $967 billion — even less than the $986 billion in the CR that ended the government shutdown — with defense absorbing the extra cuts.

A House GOP leadership aide said that while McConnell did not specifically say he supported a yearlong CR, he implied that he would.

A spokesman for McConnell did not address whether he said he supported a CR specifically.

“Sen. McConnell appreciates the efforts of Speaker Boehner and Rep. McMorris Rodgers, Chair of the House Republican Conference, to make time for his remarks today to the Conference,” a McConnell spokesman said in an emailed statement to CQ Roll Call. “He provided an update on the Senate and had a chance to hear directly from his House colleagues.”

At a news conference immediately following the closed-door meeting, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said he hopes that budget conferees can agree to a common topline number for appropriations bills well in advance of the conference’s Dec. 13 deadline to strike a deal — and avoid a CR.

“It’s important that we do appropriations bills here to fund the government,” Boehner told reporters. “The idea that we should operate under what are called continuing resolutions is a poor way to do business.

“So I understand the frustration of appropriators. They want regular order,” Boehner continued. “Until there’s an agreement out of the budget conference on a discretionary spending number for the year, they are unable to do their work. And frankly, that’s not fair. So I’m hopeful.”

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

November 18, 2013

CBC Chairwoman: Race a Factor in Filibusters

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Fudge says she thinks race is a factor in Senate filibusters. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Minutes after Senate Republicans blocked confirmation of an African-American judge to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Marcia L. Fudge, D-Ohio, suggested that one of the motivators for the filibuster was his race.

“I certainly think it had some impact,” said Fudge at a press conference flanked by fellow CBC members and Democratic Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island after Republicans blocked Judge Robert L. Wilkins. “It is clear who they are keeping out of judicial nominations and other positions that we know have to be filled for the government to run effectively.

“You have to ask them what their motives are,” Fudge continued. “All I know is what I see.”

Fudge’s remarks at the press briefing, convened to coincide with the expected doomed Senate vote to invoke cloture on Wilkins’ nomination, 53-38, also came weeks after the Senate filibustered the nomination of Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., to head up the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

“Senate Republicans are playing games with the nomination of my colleague, Mel Watt … likely the only sitting member of Congress in decades to have their confirmation blocked,” Fudge said. “The filibustering of Watt must be addressed.”

Watt, an eleven-term veteran of Congress, is a member of the CBC, and his colleagues were enthusiastically pushing for his appointment due both to his credentials and to the diversity he would bring to the Obama administration.

President Barack Obama has, in recent months, been been criticized on and off Capitol Hill for not adequately filling high-level offices with candidates who are not white men.

“What is the price we pay for prejudice?” Fudge asked. “All or most of the candidates that are being filibustered are women and minorities.”

Not everyone at the press conference touched on the racial or gender dynamics of the stalled Obama nominations, however, and Fudge herself acknowledged that this was only one part of the equation.

The major criticism of Senate Republicans came from Cardin and Whitehouse, who suggested that the blocked motions to invoke cloture were politically motivated: The GOP simply do not want to advance the nominations of a Democratic president.

Cardin, however, did make reference to Wilkins’ successful lawsuit against the Maryland State Police after his family fell victim to officers’ racial profiling. That suit, Cardin said, became the basis for President Bill Clinton’s related executive orders.

“And I’m hopeful that we’ll pass a national law against racial profiling,” Cardin said.

Wilkins’ blocked nomination has also reignited discussions over whether there needs to be a Senate rules changed to remove the 60-vote hurdle for presidential nominees, the so-called “nuclear option.”


Appropriators Chafe at Budget Stalemate

rogers091013 445x317 Appropriators Chafe at Budget Stalemate

Rogers is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Appropriators are growing ever more frustrated by the apparent stalemate in the bipartisan budget talks.

Seventeen days ago, House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers — along with his Senate counterpart, Barbara A. Mikluski, D-Md. — asked the budget conference committee to swiftly agree upon topline numbers at which to write fiscal 2014 and 2015 spending bills. On Monday, with no agreement in sight and the clock ticking down to the Dec. 13 deadline to reach a budget deal, the Kentucky Republican tried again. Full story

Murky End to Ethics Cases Lauded by Roskam, Owens

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Owens is a Democrat from New York. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If the evidence in an ethics investigation regarding a Taiwanese trip is not submitted, then you must be acquitted.

The Ethics Committee closed its cases on Reps. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., and Bill Owens, D-N.Y., on Nov. 15 under less than definitive terms (both cases were closed because the “presently available” evidence was “inconclusive”).  But the two lawmakers reacted to the report as if it were a total absolution of guilt.

“I am pleased this matter has been closed unanimously,”  Owens said in a statement. “As I’ve said all along, I believe my office supplied the committee with all necessary information prior to taking the trip.”

But the House Ethics Committee report actually did rule that the payment for Owens’ trip to Taiwan by a private university, the Chinese Culture University, was “improper,” and that the involvement of private lobbying firm Park Strategies ran contrary to ethics regulations.
Full story

By Matt Fuller Posted at 3:48 p.m.

November 17, 2013

Pelosi Dismisses Obamacare Defections, Defends Statements

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi defended her rhetoric leading up to passage of the 2010 health care law Sunday while seeking to minimize the reports of unrest in her caucus and the potential for political fallout in the wake of the law’s rocky rollout.

“I stand by what I said,” the California Democrat told anchor David Gregory on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” responding to two old interviews — one from 2009 and one from 2010 — in which she said that if individuals liked their existing health insurance policies, they could keep them, and that the Affordable Care Act needs to pass in order for the public to see what’s in the bill.

Pelosi’s appearance on the widely watched Sunday talk show comes at a critical time for Democrats, who are being accused of breaking promises to constituents as millions have received notices that their old insurance plans have been canceled because they don’t comport to the new standards of Obamacare, and the enrollment website has been riddled with glitches that have prevented those with canceled policies from easily shopping for new ones.

It also comes on the heels of a vote in the House on Friday on legislation, sponsored by Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., that would grandfather in those canceled existing health insurance policies. Pelosi and other leading Democrats have called the bill a blatant attempt to undermine the Affordable Care Act because it would allow insurers to sell those old policies to new customers, but 39 Democrats defected on Friday to vote “yes.”

Those “yes” votes defied a veto threat from President Barack Obama, who last week apologized for fumbling the rollout of his signature law and offered an administrative fix of his own.

On Sunday, Pelosi was unfazed by the defections and dismissed whether it signaled deep frustration within the rank and file.

“This is political, they respond politically,” Pelosi said of the 39 lawmakers who felt compelled to vote with Republicans on Friday. Many of those members face tough re-election bids in the midterm elections next year.

Pelosi said “the number is practically the same as two, three months ago” on votes to codify the administration’s one-year delay of enforcing the business mandate and to also delay by one year implementation of the individual mandate.

Thirty-five Democrats voted on the business mandate delay codification back in July, while 22 voted for the individual mandate delay.

Asked whether she was at all concerned that the health care law’s implementation woes would cost Democrats seats in 2014 — as they did in 2010 — Pelosi said she was not.

“I don’t think you can tell what will happen next year, but I will tell you this: Democrats stand tall in support of the Affordable Care Act.”

November 15, 2013

Ethics Closes Cases on Roskam, Owens

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Roskam’s ethics case was closed Friday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Ethics Committee has closed its investigation into Reps. Bill Owens and Peter Roskam for their allegedly improper trips to Taiwan — but not because either lawmaker was necessarily blameless.

The Ethics Committee said the review of both cases was “incomplete” because the information necessary to conduct the review was unobtainable due to uncooperative foreign officials. But, because Owens had “voluntarily remedied the impermissible gift” of a trip to Taiwan and because there was “insufficient evidence to show that Rep. Roskam’s travel was improper,” the panel unanimously voted to close the investigation.

The investigation stemmed from individual trips provided to Owens, Roskam and both of their wives to Taiwan, and at issue was who was bankrolling and planning the trips.

Foreign governments can only organize and pay for trips for U.S. lawmakers in certain special cases — cases that would exclude the travel of their wives. To accommodate their wives, the lawmakers would need their trips privately sponsored, and according to the ethics report, both Owens, D-N.Y., and Roskam, R-Ill., had been in contact with the Taiwanese government about the trip before finding a private sponsor.

Both lawmakers sought the approval of the Ethics Committee before their travel, and the panel authorized both trips under the assumption that they were funded by the Chinese Culture University. It was only after the lawmakers returned from Taiwan that the Ethics Committee learned the trip was initially planned by an office of the Taiwanese government — the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office — as part of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act. Before the trip ever happened, “it was decided,” the Ethics report said, “that the trips should be conducted under the House’s privately-sponsored travel rules and not MECEA.” Full story

By Matt Fuller Posted at 5:35 p.m.

Obamacare Website Was ‘in Jeopardy’ in July, Emails Reveal

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Upton released internal Obama administration emails Friday showing officials were concerned about’s functionality. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Friday released a string of administration emails regarding the construction of that provide insight as to why the health care website is so troubled.

In the internal email chains with officials from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, administration officials express serious concerns regarding having an insufficient number of web developers and insufficient money and time to complete the project.

“Administration officials looked us in the eye and told us everything was ‘on track’ but when we pull back the curtain now, the mess is disturbing,” Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton said in a statement. “What reason do the American people have to believe that the administration is capable of meeting its November 30 goal for fixing or its January 1 promise to deliver health care to Americans across the country?”

The Michigan Republican said the “botched rollout has created a serious question of competence and trust in the administration.”

Those questions might not be helped by the emails turned over to the committee.

Full story

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