Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 3, 2014

August 6, 2014

Democrats Commemorate Voting Rights Act Anniversary as Legislative Fix Remains Elusive

voting001 062414 445x301 Democrats Commemorate Voting Rights Act Anniversary as Legislative Fix Remains Elusive

Lewis, right, is greeted by David Goodman, brother of the civil rights worker Andrew Goodman, who was killed in Mississippi in 1964, before a news conference and vigil at the House Triangle to support of the Voting Rights Amendment Act on June 24. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Democrats commemorated the 48th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act last year with hopes that by today a fix for the landmark law would have reached President Barack Obama’s desk.

But on Wednesday, its 49th birthday came and went with no clear endgame for advancing legislation, and lawmakers took to email inboxes and social media to articulate their continued determination to get something done.

“Until House Republican leadership works with Democrats to protect this fundamental right, [voting rights] will continue to be at risk,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel of New York. Full story

By Emma Dumain Posted at 3:52 p.m.
Uncategorized

August 5, 2014

Boehner: Time for Obama to Reassess Afghanistan Withdrawal Strategy

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Boehner wants Obama to reassess his Afghanistan withdrawal strategy. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker John A. Boehner says it’s time for President Barack Obama to reassess his strategy for withdrawing from Afghanistan after an attack left a general dead.

“What happened today is not only a personal tragedy, but a setback that demands leaders in Washington and Kabul take time to assess the state of our shared campaign and the necessary steps forward,” the Ohio Republican said. “The Taliban’s recent campaign of high-profile attacks is calculated to accompany a global PR strategy highlighting the fact that U.S. and coalition forces will soon be leaving Afghanistan and abandoning its weak and ineffective government. The Taliban wants everyone to know it will soon dominate all aspects of life in Afghanistan once again.

“I have told the President privately and publicly that my biggest concern is that America will end its mission in Afghanistan just short of the goal line. After my visit there in May, I warned that if we did not demonstrate a determination to finish the job, we would be looking at a reversal of progress similar to what we have seen in Iraq. The national security interests of our country are too high, and too much sacrifice has been made to watch that happen. So let me reiterate: if the President decides to re-think his strategy, including withdrawals, deadlines, and policy restraints, particularly on certain associated terrorist networks, he will have my support.” Full story

Freshman Democrat Invites Speaker to Southwest Border

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Gallego has invited Boehner to the border. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama isn’t the only high-profile politician who hasn’t felt a need to visit the U.S.-Mexico border yet.

On Tuesday, Speaker John A. Boehner’s spokesman suggested that his boss, too, was for the time being plenty well-versed on the issues that culminated in last Friday’s party-line vote on $694 million legislation to address the crisis caused by the child migrant surge.

“The Speaker has heard from many, including our Border Working Group led by Texas Rep. Kay Granger, about the humanitarian crisis on our southern border. That’s why the House acted last week on legislation to provide needed relief and begin to fix the problems,” said the Ohio Republican’s spokesman, Michael Steel. “At this point, President Obama should call Senate Democrats back to Washington to act, too.”

Steel’s statement came swiftly in response to a CQ Roll Call inquiry about a press release from the office of freshman Democrat Pete Gallego of Texas, who has sent Boehner a written invitation to come down and see the crisis first-hand. Full story

By Emma Dumain Posted at 3:11 p.m.
Immigration

After Border Drama, Republicans Assess Steve Scalise

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Scalise, left, faced an important test during the border funding fight. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Newly installed House Majority Whip Steve Scalise helped resurrect the GOP’s border legislation last week, but his strategy for shoring up the votes has left some members and aides wondering whether he will be able to keep an unruly flock in line.

Worrying about making the rank and file happy, he assisted in salvaging a $694 million appropriations measure to bolster resources at the U.S.-Mexico border largely by giving in to the demands of the far-right contingent of the GOP conference — including Reps. Steve King of Iowa and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota — rather than bringing down the proverbial hammer.

There’s anxiety among more moderate parts of the party over how Scalise will help hold the conference together to avoid another government shutdown when the chamber reconvenes next month, and how his own desires to win re-election to the whip position in November could factor into how he does his job.

Full story

August 4, 2014

Marlin Stutzman’s Long Game

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Stutzman first arrived in 2010, and has bigger-picture goals that are years in the making. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Marlin Stutzman knows how to plant seeds.

When the Indiana Republican mounted his campaign for majority whip, it was such a long shot he didn’t expect to win — at least not this time.

No one else really expected Stutzman to prevail in the three-way leadership contest, either. But he’s looking years down the road, and is glad he took the gamble.

“Some people are afraid to lose. … Sometimes you have to lose in order to build something for the future,” Stutzman told CQ Roll Call during an hourlong interview in his 7th floor Longworth office.

It’s a lesson he knows well, as a member who entered the House in November 2010 after losing the Indiana Republican Senate primary to Dan Coats in May of that year.

Stutzman, who calls himself “an overachieving farmer,” didn’t see much downside to running and losing. This race was more about getting his name out there to let his colleagues know he’s interested in leadership.

His goal was to build relationships within the GOP conference. Stutzman said a lesson he learned from his scramble into leadership elections was that the conference is not as divided as many think, that the differences are more over strategy than policy.

So what does Stutzman want? The fourth-generation soybean, green bean and seed corn farmer doesn’t exactly seem to know.

Full story

August 2, 2014

Michele Bachmann: ‘Handcuff’ the ‘Lawless President’s Hands’ (Video)

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Bachmann speaks with the media Friday about border and immigration legislation. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Tea party firebrand Michele Bachmann suggested late Friday on the House floor that Congress should put handcuffs on the “lawless president’s hands” — a remark that brought a rebuke from the chair and appears to violate House rules.

The Minnesota Republican made the figurative remark while speaking on the floor during debate on legislation ending the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program granting deportation relief and work permits to some children brought to the United States illegally by their parents. The legislation also would prohibit President Barack Obama from expanding the program to other illegal immigrants as the president reportedly is considering whether to expand the program to as many as 5 million people.

Bachmann said House passage of the bill would “put a handcuff on one of the president’s hands” and said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., should bring the Senate back and pass the bill.

“He needs to put the other handcuff on this lawless president’s hands,” she said as she grabbed one of her wrists.

The chair admonished Bachmann immediately after she was finished speaking: “The chair wishes to remind members to refrain from engaging in personalities toward the president.” Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 1:20 p.m.
Immigration

August 1, 2014

Eric Cantor Skips Final Immigration Votes

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Cantor walking through the halls of the Capitol for what could quite likely be the last time. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When Eric Cantor bid the House farewell in a floor speech Thursday, he apparently meant it.

At the time, Cantor had not yet disclosed his intent to resign his seat as of Aug. 18. He was merely ending his tenure as majority leader a little less than two months after his sudden primary defeat in June, handing the gavel off to his successor, Kevin McCarthy of California.

But when it came time for a major test for Cantor’s House Republicans, the ousted Virginian was already long gone.

Cantor was among the 20 lawmakers who did not vote Friday night, on what was meant to be the first official date of the five-week August recess. The House, like the Senate, was scheduled to go home the day before, but lawmakers were forced to stay an extra day to get consensus on legislation to address the child migrant border surge at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Full story

Republicans Vote to End DACA After Tense Floor Debate (Updated) (Video)

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Scalise and McCarthy saw Republicans rally to pass border and immigration bills on their first day in their new jobs. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 11:51 p.m. | House Republicans voted to prohibit President Barack Obama from granting what they consider to be an unconstitutional amnesty to illegal immigrants Friday.

The bill would effectively end Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA — a program that has allowed hundreds of thousands of “Dreamers” brought to the United States illegally by their parents to get work permits and avoid deportation. And it would prohibit the president from expanding the program, as he has been reportedly considering doing for as many as five million additional immigrants.

The 216-192 vote included four Democrats voting “yes” — Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota, Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, John Barrow of Georgia, and Nick J. Rahall II of West Virginia.

Eleven Republicans broke ranks to oppose it — Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, Jeff Denham of California, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Mike Coffman of Colorado, David Valadao of California, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, David Reichert of Washington, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Joe Heck of Nevada, Mark Amodei of Nevada, and Fred Upton of Michigan.

The bill won’t get taken up any time soon by the Democrat-controlled Senate, which already left for August recess. And it’s unlikely to be signed into law by Obama, who started DACA through an executive action in 2012 and vowed to veto the bill earlier Friday. Full story

By Emma Dumain Posted at 9:58 p.m.
Immigration

House Republicans Rally to Pass Border Funding Bill

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King praised changes made to the border package. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 11:04 p.m. | House Republicans found the votes late Friday night to pass a $694 million appropriations bill aimed at stemming the tide of the child migrant surge at the U.S-Mexico border.

It passed almost entirely along party lines, 223-189, freeing Republicans to go home for the August recess able to tell constituents they took action to address the crisis — unlike the Senate, which was unable to pass its own border funding bill Thursday but left town anyway. Only a single Democrat, Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, voted for the package.

Four Republicans voted no: Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, Walter B. Jones of North Carolina and Paul Broun of Georgia.

The House’s bill, however, isn’t expected to go anywhere, with Democrats and President Barack Obama torching it Friday. Full story

GOP Leaders Pitch Revised Border Package, Hope to Vote Today (Updated)

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King is now leaning towards backing the bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 12:44 p.m. | House Republicans emerged from a closed-door meeting Friday morning with a revised plan to address the child migrant border crisis — one leaders hope to pass later today.

The latest plan will still require the House to vote on the border funding bill before being allowed to vote on language to stop the expansion of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, according to members exiting the conference meeting.

Both components, however, will look slightly different.

The appropriations bill, which was $659 million on Thursday night, will now include an additional $35 million to bolster National Guard resources at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The bill, which also contains numerous related policy riders, will also expand on language tweaking a 2008 trafficking law in order to expedite deportations of the migrants.

The measure originally called for treating all unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border the same in terms of whether they could volunteer for deportation back to their home countries. Now, the legislation will incorporate the stronger language of legislation recently introduced by Republican Reps. John Carter of Texas, Robert Aderholt of Alabama and Jack Kingston of Georgia.

Full story

Cantor to Resign From Congress (Updated)

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Cantor makes his way to the House floor in the Capitol on his last day as leader. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 8:54 a.m. | Rep. Eric Cantor will resign from Congress effective Aug. 18, he said in an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch posted at midnight.

The Virginia Republican, newly deposed as House majority leader after losing his primary to Dave Brat, said he has asked Gov. Terry McAuliffe to call a special election on Nov. 4, ensuring that the district will be represented in the lame duck.

“I want to make sure that the constituents in the 7th District will have a voice in what will be a very consequential lame-duck session,” Cantor told his hometown newspaper. Cantor said that will also give his replacement additional seniority in the next Congress.

News of Cantor’s quick exit came hours after he delivered a farewell speech as leader, and caps a stunning fall for the man who had been preparing to succeed John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, as speaker. He had previously said he planned to serve out the remainder of his term.

Leaving allows him to avoid awkward months serving as a back-bencher in a House he had once helped rule. It also gives him a chance to quickly move on to what will likely be a lucrative career in the private sector.

Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 12:19 a.m.
Eric Cantor

July 31, 2014

Republicans Regroup on Border Funding Bill

The House will hold off on leaving town for its five-week August recess until Republicans find the votes to pass legislation addressing the border crisis.

It could happen as early as Friday morning — the GOP will gather at 9 a.m. to discuss new policy proposals to accompany a $659 million appropriations bill they abruptly yanked from consideration Thursday. Republicans departing from an emergency conference meeting Thursday afternoon told reporters they felt confident that, through a process of educating colleagues and agreeing to make some changes to existing legislative language, they could muster enough votes to pass the new measure.

If a deal isn’t reached by then, said Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., “I think we’ll be back here the next day.”

“If we have to work longer or through the weekend, I think there’s a genuine desire to do that,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said.

Rep. Raúl R. Labrador told reporters he was prepared to stay in town to hash out an agreement, even if it meant missing a religious ritual on Saturday back home in Idaho in anticipation of his son’s upcoming nuptials.

It remains to be seen how party leaders expect to come up with any new proposal that sufficiently addresses the demands of some of the conference’s most conservative hold-outs.

Full story

House Sends Highway Bill Back to Senate

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Blumenauer expressed his dissatisfaction with the House’s move. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In the frenetic legislative run-up to the August recess, House lawmakers sent their version of a highway bill back to the Senate after voting to disagree with that chamber’s amendment to the legislation.

The House voted 272-150 to send the original $10.8 billion House bill back to the Senate, with 227 Republicans and 45 Democrats once again supporting the measure. Democrats had been considering voting down the highway bill in a gambit meant to force Republicans to accept the Senate changes, but that plan never quite materialized.

Still, significantly more Democrats voted against the House bill this time. On July 15, the House passed the bill 367-55, with 45 Republicans and 10 Democrats voting against it. This time, both Republicans and Democrats cracked down on their members to vote with their party.

On Tuesday, the Senate voted 79-18 to change some of the offsets in the bill and the length of the measure from May to December. The idea with changing the term of the bill is to force Congress to find a more permanent solution in the lame-duck session.

House Democrats came to the House floor Thursday to express their dissatisfaction with the patch.

Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., said that by insisting on the House bill, Congress would be denying certainty to the highway and construction industry.

“They are going to slide into the next Congress,” Blumenauer said. “We are going to duck all the tough issues. We haven’t heard anything that deals with how we are going to move forward.”

Fellow Oregon Democrat Peter A. DeFazio noted that the United States was now 26th in infrastructure in the world, and he said as former bicycle mechanic, he knew how to patch a tube. “But if you get to the point where you can’t see the tube anymore for the patches, then it’s time for a new tube.”

The bill now goes back to the Senate.

House Leaders Postpone Border Supplemental, Delay Recess, Blame Obama (Updated) (Video)

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 4:52 p.m. | House GOP leaders ditched their plans to vote on a border supplemental Thursday after failing to secure the votes to pass it — but plan to try again Friday before jetting out of town for the August recess.

“We will stay until we vote,” Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., told reporters after an emergency meeting held at 3 p.m. Another GOP conference meeting was called for 9 a.m Friday, a GOP leadership aide said.

Asked if talks would continue Thursday night, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters “Oh, yeah.”

Earlier, chaos reigned in the House as GOP leaders’ carefully crafted gambit to win conservative votes fell apart.

“We don’t think we have the votes,” said Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, one of the architects of the bill. But she said the whip count was “very close” with about 214 supporters, including Democrats.

“There are people who just don’t want to do anything,” she said. “They don’t want to spend the money.”

While GOP leaders initially indicated they would not vote on the border supplemental, a number of lawmakers pushed them to reconsider.

“I’m going to talk to the whip and the leaders to try and talk them into doing something else,” said Rep. John Carter, R-Texas on his way to the whip’s office.

Carter said he’s been telling his GOP colleagues, “60 percent of something is better than 100 percent of nothing.”

The $659 million bill intended to deal with the crisis of child migrants coming across the border would have been followed by a vote on separate legislation prohibiting President Barack Obama from granting deportation relief and work permits to any more illegal immigrants.

GOP leaders, led by Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, issued a joint statement pinning the blame for pulling the bill on Obama. Full story

Cantor Delivers Final Speech as Majority Leader (Video)

Eric Cantor delivered a somber farewell as majority leader Thursday, telling his House colleagues that he has “truly lived the American Dream.”

In a “one-minute” speech that lasted nearly 10 minutes — the standing ovation alone stretched to 60 seconds — Cantor delivered a doleful goodbye from his leadership post.

In his farewell as majority leader, Cantor touched on his background and his legislative accomplishments, noting one of his “proudest moments” was watching the president sign the “Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act.” He outlined the direction he thought the country needed to go, and he thanked some of his colleagues and staff.

Presiding over the chamber, Speaker John A. Boehner dabbed at tears with a handkerchief as Cantor recognized him for showing “us all your kind heart and soft spot from time to time.” Cantor said that he and Boehner met at least once a day every day the House had been in session for the past five years — a testament to a relationship that saw its share of tumultuous moments but had been greatly repaired in recent years.

Already Cantor has slowly faded to the exit, stepping aside for new leaders after his surprise primary defeat in June to Republican challenger Dave Brat.

Full story

By Matt Fuller Posted at 12:45 p.m.
Eric Cantor

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