Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 2, 2015

January 20, 2015

Hoyer Mum on Whether He’ll Help Obama, GOP on Trade Deal

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., speaks as House Democrats hold a news conference to call for presidential action on immigration on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Hoyer hasn’t committed his support for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Barack Obama likely will reiterate his call for Congress to pave the way for new trade negotiations — but House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer is still demurring on how far he’ll go to help the administration achieve that goal.

The Maryland Democrat said Tuesday at his weekly pen-and-pad briefing with reporters that he was, and would continue, discussing the matter with the White House, Trade Representative Michael Froman and fellow members of House Democratic leadership. Full story

Boehner Invites Anti-Castro Cubans to Obama Speech

President Barack Obama greets Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on the House floor after the State of the Union address to Congress. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

President Barack Obama greets Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on the House floor last year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner’s list of invitees to Tuesday night’s State of the Union address includes two prominent Cuban dissidents, Jorge Luis García Pérez (known as Antúnez) and Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera.

Pérez is a leader of the Cuban resistance movement who was jailed for 17 years for publicly denouncing the Castro regime. He was released in 2007. Full story

January 19, 2015

Obama, GOP Clash Ahead of SOTU

President Barack Obama and Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, attend the annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon the Capitol's Rayburn Room. Enda Kenny, Prime Minister (Taoiseach) of Ireland, was in attendance. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama and Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, attend the annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon the Capitol’s Rayburn Room on March 14, 2014. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A revitalized President Barack Obama and newly empowered Republican leaders are heading into Tuesday’s State of the Union address on a collision course.

At their joint retreat in Hershey, Pa., Republicans fresh off triumphant midterm elections said they are looking for the president to become a legislating partner — even as they promise bold, or even quixotic, clashes with Obama. Full story

Former Rep. Frank Wolf Will Lead Baylor University’s Efforts on Capitol Hill

Wolf will be working on religious freedom issues on Capitol Hill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Wolf will be focused on religious freedom on Capitol Hill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After nearly 35 years representing Northern Virginia in Congress, former Republican Rep. Frank R. Wolf plans to lead Baylor University’s efforts on Capitol Hill.

Wolf, who was an outspoken defender of religious minorities during his congressional career, particularly Christians in Iraq and Egypt, has been appointed the first Jerry and Susie Wilson Chair in Religious Freedom. The Texas-based university announced the move Monday, following the 75-year-old’s announcement in December 2013 that he planned to retire and pursue humanitarian work. Full story

January 16, 2015

Congressional Black Caucus Sees Leverage in Steve Scalise Protests

Protesters outside rallied outside the Capitol Hill Club on Jan. 13. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

Protesters outside rallied outside the Capitol Hill Club on Jan. 13. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus see opportunity in the scandal that inspired a heart-shaped “KKK + GOP” sign outside a recent Capitol Hill Club fundraiser for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.

Revelations that the Louisiana Republican rejected a 1996 resolution in apologizing for slavery — six years before his 2002 address at a meeting of white supremacists — “disgusted” CBC Chairman G.K. Butterfield, but the North Carolina Democrat says he doesn’t want to dwell on it. Full story

January 15, 2015

Boehner, McConnell Attempt to Define the Relationship

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio; and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speak to the press in the Capitol after meeting with the President. (Photo By Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

Boehner and McConnell. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

HERSHEY, Pa. — In their first joint public appearance since Mitch McConnell became Senate majority leader, Speaker John A. Boehner and the Senate’s top Republican came before a Washington press corps — assembled at Lebbie Lebkicher’s Restaurant in the Hershey Lodge Hotel — and described the new relationship between the House and Senate: separate, but together.

Boehner and McConnell were asked how the two chambers would work out the differences on a Department of Homeland Security funding bill, which is the first big test facing Congress. Full story

Van Hollen’s New Pitch for Democrats: Middle-Class Tax Cuts

Van Hollen, D-Md., delivers a speech at the Center For American Progress on middle-class wages, January 12, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Van Hollen’s proposal calls for middle-class tax cuts and new fees on Wall Street. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

As House and Senate Republicans were plotting their legislative agenda in Hershey, Pa., Democrat Chris Van Hollen touted his own populist economic plan Thursday morning at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Van Hollen’s proposal — new fees on Wall Street to pay for middle-class tax relief — isn’t likely to go anywhere on Capitol Hill, at least not in the GOP-controlled 114th Congress. Full story

Lobbyists to Meet With Members at GOP Retreat (Updated)

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 13: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., participates in the press conference announcing House GOP leadership for upcoming session of Congress  on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

McCarthy made a pitch for Republican unity, but some are questioning why some lobbyists are on hand at the Hershey retreat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 2:44 p.m. | HERSHEY, Pa. — Republican lawmakers from the House and Senate came to Hershey for a joint retreat, to get on the same page and get away from Washington for a few days. But they won’t be getting away from lobbyists.

Quite the contrary, actually. According to a GOP lawmaker who requested anonymity to speak more candidly about the retreat, lobbyists — “for those who paid enough, I guess,” the lawmaker said — will be meeting with House Republicans later Thursday, once GOP senators have left after 5:30 p.m.

According to the member, plenty of House Republicans are scratching their heads at that decision. “What are lobbyists going to be doing up here?” the member said.

The president of the Congressional Institute, Mark Strand, who is part of the planning for the GOP retreat, told CQ Roll Call it was “not true” that House Republicans would be meeting with lobbyists at 5:30 p.m. Apparently, there are breakout sessions at that time. But Strand did confirm that “private sector supporters of the institute, some of whom are lobbyists, will attend a reception and dinner later tonight.”

In effect, yes, lobbyists will be meeting lawmakers in Hershey.

That’s nothing new, according to a senior GOP aide.

“While Democrats use taxpayer funds to sponsor their retreats, Republicans have had a long partnership with the bipartisan Congressional Institute to use private funds to organize our issues conferences,” said Nate Hodson, who is the deputy chief of staff for Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chairwoman of the House Republican Conference.

A Democratic leadership aide, asked for a response to the news that Republicans would meet with lobbyists, said the purpose of House Democrats’ Caucus-wide conference was to formulate policy and legislative goals for the year. “Unlike our Republican counterparts, we don’t solicit or accept lobbyist and special interest money to host these working sessions, nor do we invite lobbyists or special interests to attend our conference.”

Overall, the lawmaker who spoke on background said the GOP retreat, which was supposed to put the House and Senate on the same page, had been somewhat disappointing. “It’s all branding, supposedly bigger picture stuff,” the lawmaker said.

“I’ve never been to marriage counseling, but I’m guessing you go there and everyone talks about all these grand things, and then you go back home and do the same old stuff you’ve been doing,” the member said.

The GOP lawmaker told CQ Roll Call that Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy had given a “pretty good speech” — saying, “he’s a pretty good speaker compared to Boehner” — that was mostly about what Republicans need to get out of Hershey, how they need to work together and with the states.

But the lawmaker questioned the wisdom of always consulting with the states. “Now wait a minute, you came from California: Everything fails there for Republicans,” the member said of McCarthy.

Still, the lawmaker said Republicans were discussing their 100-day strategy, how they have to get the Department of Homeland Security funding bill through, how they’ll start appropriations in February and how Republicans plan to get a budget done.

But the lawmaker was disappointed that Republicans seemed to want to only “nibble around on Obamacare” — and there didn’t seem to be any intention of using the budget reconciliation process to tackle the health care law.

“That to me is going to be the big one,” the lawmaker said. “You know, what’s going to happen with the reconciliation, if we’re going to use it for [Obamacare]. And McCarthy made no indication they’d use reconciliation for taking on Obamacare. They’re setting the basis for tax reform.”

Florida Republican Daniel Webster, fresh off his unsuccessful bid for the speaker, told CQ Roll Call Thursday afternoon that Republicans were getting ready to go into a session entirely on budget reconciliation. Earlier Thursday morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., gave a speech about managing expectations. According to Webster, McConnell told Republicans, “Look: Here’s how our process works. It’s pretty rough. We don’t have 60 votes. There are a lot of things that we’re going to have to work on with coalitions.”

Webster said the reaction to the speech was warm. “People get it,” he said. A former speaker of the Florida statehouse and state Senate majority leader, Webster said Congress works the same way that state legislatures work: “House proposes, Senate disposes.”

On the whole, lawmakers said the retreat had a definite ’90s theme, with speakers such as comedian Jay Leno, pollster Frank Luntz, columnist Peggy Noonan, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Arizona Republican Matt Salmon — who was in Congress in the ’90s, left in 2001, and came back in 2012 — compared the retreat to the movie “Hot Tub Time Machine.”

On the topic of jokes, Leno spoke to members Thursday night for about an hour, and according to the member who spoke on background, the joke that got the biggest laugh was that President “Barack Obama had so messed up this country, that Republicans aren’t even safe in their own country clubs.”

“That’s a joke, it means so much, because so many people still think that we go to exclusive resorts and don’t let people in to see what — oh, that’s kind of what we’re doing,” the lawmaker said ironically, aware that reporters would get limited access to lawmakers while Republicans met behind-closed-doors at a resort spa with a nine-hole golf course.

The lawmaker also said Republicans had a “big long spiel” on how the welfare overhaul happened in the ’90s.

“Find out what was the most popular song in 1995, and that’s the one they’re playing in there,” the lawmaker said.

For the record, Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” was No. 1 that year.

Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report.

Related:

GOP Heads to Joint Retreat With Coordination, Realism on Agenda

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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January 14, 2015

Abortion Bill Co-Sponsoring Debacle ‘Vexing’ for Democrat

Smith, D-Wash., speaks during the Democratic members of the House Select Committee on Benghazi news conference on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Adam Smith. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Co-sponsoring a bill in Congress doesn’t really mean all that much. But — maybe — it ought to at least mean a member has agreed to sign on, and will actually sign.

At least, that’s the argument Washington Democrat Adam Smith made on the House floor Wednesday. Full story

26 House Republicans Stand Up to Anti-DACA Contingent (Video) (Updated)

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., leaves the House Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Blackburn’s anti-DACA amendment was one of the five GOP riders attached to the Homeland Security funding bill that passed the House Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 2:24 p.m. | When House Republicans went to vote on their Department of Homeland Security funding bill Wednesday, they encountered an unusual dynamic.

Instead of the most conservative faction threatening to derail an amendment for not meeting certain ideological purity standards, it was the more moderate contingent rising up against a provision it argued went too far. Full story

Diaz-Balart Describes an Immigration Deal Undone

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Diaz-Balart remains a key figure in the ongoing Republican debate over immigration. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Through most of last year, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart asked dozens of members, aides, advocates and reporters to trust him: He had a comprehensive immigration overhaul bill that could actually pass the House.

The proposed legislation that drove the Florida Republican for months ultimately came up short. But one week into the 114th Congress, with tensions around the immigration debate as high as ever, Diaz-Balart said there are rumblings about reviving the bill — the details of which were never shared publicly — that imploded last summer. Full story

January 13, 2015

Pelosi: GOP Effort to Defund Obama Immigration Moves ‘Frivolous’

 Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks at a news conference at the House Triangle to call on House Republicans to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill, December 4, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Pelosi called the attempts to defund the president’s immigration initiatives “frivolous.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Democrats gathered on the steps of the Capitol Tuesday morning with a group of immigration activists to voice their opposition to a Republican tactic to defund the president’s executive actions on immigration.

Republicans plan to attach five amendments to a bill funding the Department of Homeland Security to target the president’s executive actions, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and other practices that loosen enforcement of some immigration laws. The House is expected to vote on the funding bill Wednesday. Full story

Demonstrators Plan to Disrupt Scalise Fundraiser

Progressive groups say they will continue to press the House GOP to remove Scalise from leadership. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Progressive groups say they will continue to press the House GOP to remove Scalise from leadership. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Activists plan to protest a private fundraising event for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise Tuesday afternoon, trying to keep pressure on the Louisiana Republican weeks after the revelation that he addressed a meeting of white supremacists in 2002.

“We’re trying to protest racism in the system,” said Pete Haviland-Eduah of Million Hoodies, one of the groups that will organize outside the Capitol Hill Club. “This is a congressman that has known ties to a racist [organization]. We want to make it well known to leaders in both parties that the people are not supporting of this.” Full story

Boehner Refuses to Rule Out ‘Clean’ DHS Funding Bill

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 7: Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., arrive to speak to the media following the House Republican Conference meeting in the basement of the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Boehner wouldn’t rule out a “clean” Homeland Security funding bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner wouldn’t rule out Tuesday the possibility the House may have to pass a Department of Homeland Security funding bill that does not block President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration.

That could dampen the enthusiasm of some hard-line conservatives in the House, who were practically ecstatic on Jan. 9 with an emerging GOP strategy to hold votes to defund the president’s executive action and a number of other immigration provisions. But on Tuesday, the speaker was noncommittal. Full story

January 12, 2015

New Republicans Take Aim at Familiar Target: Establishment GOP

Ratcliffe, Republican candidate from Texas' 4th Congressional District, is interviewed by Roll Call. (Photo By Meredith Dake/CQ Rol

Ratcliffe said constituents in Texas’ 4th District are frustrated with both parties. (Meredith Dake/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In a clear indication of the divisions facing Republicans in the new Congress, four House GOP freshmen made the pilgrimage to the Massachusetts Avenue headquarters of The Heritage Foundation Monday and offered sharp criticism of a party they don’t seem quite comfortable belonging to.

“I do not blame liberals for the condition of the country,” said newly elected Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Ala., repeating one of his stump speech lines. “I blame us.” Full story

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