Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 23, 2014

May 28, 2014

For Walorski, VA Scandal Is More Than Political: It’s Personal

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Walorski’s father, who died in 2007, was a veteran. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Jackie Walorski had waited patiently for her turn at the far end the dais, the part reserved for freshmen like herself. But when her time came to question the witness, she could think of only one thing to say: “I’m so sorry.”

“If I could change your circumstance, I would. I would do it in a heartbeat,” she said, sniffling.

“My dad,” she hesitated, her voice trembling, “was a veteran.” The Indiana Republican paused again, sputtering — “that died of colon cancer.” She collected herself, shaking her head.

Walorski was speaking to Barry Coates, an Army veteran who has become the face of the Department of Veterans Affairs scandal involving excessive health care wait times. A potentially life-saving colonoscopy for Coates was put off for more than a year before doctors finally discovered a cancerous tumor with a terminal diagnosis, he told lawmakers on April 9. Full story

May 27, 2014

Cummings Says Issa’s ‘Going Rogue’ on Benghazi (Video)

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Cummings says Issa is “going rogue.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Darrell Issa’s decision to press on with his House panel’s Benghazi investigation, despite the creation of a new select committee to look into the 2012 terror attack in Libya, is an indication the California Republican is “going rogue,” a leading Democrat said Tuesday.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings said that Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is undermining the new special select committee created by Speaker John A. Boehner and chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.

“I think he is going rogue,” Issa, the ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee, said in an appearance on MSNBC’s “Politics Nation” with Al Sharpton. “I actually believe that Chairman Issa is out of control, I really believe that.”

Full story

Isla Vista Shooting Prompts Consideration of Mental Health Bills

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Murphy is among the Republicans calling for action on mental health legislation after the shootings in California. (Bill Clark/Roll Call File Photo)

Mental health bills are getting a fresh look after the Isla Vista massacre, with lawmakers in both chambers and both parties pushing Congress to act.

In the aftermath of the killing spree blamed on Elliot Rodger, Democrats activated, issuing what seem like ritual news releases and tweets ripping Congress for failing to act on gun legislation, particularly in the wake of the 2012 massacre in Newtown, Conn.

But few expect Congress to resurrect a gun debate in the shadow of the midterm elections. Full story

By Steven Dennis and Emma Dumain Posted at 5:34 p.m.

Republicans Set Phoenix Hearing on EPA ‘Water Grab’

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Gosar is one of several congressmen calling new EPA rules a “water grab.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Obama administration’s move to expand regulatory control over the nation’s rivers and streams has some Republicans from the Southwest boiling mad, with a group of conservatives calling the EPA proposal a “water grab.”

Arizona Republicans David Schweikert, Paul Gosar and Matt Salmon, along with Texas Republican Lamar Smith, have set a hearing Monday in Phoenix to discuss the new rules, which critics contend would extend federal authority to small creeks, ditches and even dry washes on private land.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers have said the proposed changes to the Clean Water Act, announced March 25, are needed, in the wake of recent Supreme Court rulings, to clarify the definition of waterways that meet the standards for federal jurisdiction.

The new guidance would apply Clean Water Act laws to rain-dependent streams, wetlands near rivers and other areas with a “hydrologic” connection, and is designed to protect water quality and slow the destruction of the country’s wetlands.

Environmentalists have lauded the proposal, which is subject to public comment through mid-July, but Gosar and other Republicans have said the EPA is overreaching.

The EPA has no legal authority to expand the definition of navigable waters under the Clean Water Act, as the Supreme Court has repeatedly made clear,” Gosar said in a statement earlier this month. “Only Congress has such authority.” Full story

May 25, 2014

Elliot Rodger Sparks New Call for Mental Health Bill

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The case of Elliot Rodger sparked a renewed call for a mental health bill from Murphy. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Elliot Rodger — the man accused by police of committing a massacre Friday night in California — sparked a renewed call to pass a mental health bill in Congress.

“Our hearts break for the victims and families affected by the tragedy near Santa Barbara. We pray for their souls to find peace. But I am also angered because once again, our mental health system has failed and more families have been destroyed because Washington hasn’t had the courage to fix it,” said Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa.

“How many more people must lose their lives before we take action on addressing cases of serious mental illness?” Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 10:17 a.m.
Guns, Health Care

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

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