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Posts by Matt Fuller
April 7, 2014
Should members of Congress have to vote every time they want a raise?
The question’s been out there since 1989, coming and going every few years with a limited number of vocal advocates. Current law provides for often-blocked automatic salary increases.
The idea of flipping the equation might gain traction again after retiring Rep. James P. Moran told CQ Roll Call last week that he and his fellow members are “underpaid.” The Virginia Democrat floated the idea of more money to assist with the expenses associated with keeping a second residence in Washington, D.C.
It has been five years since the Senate passed a measure that would have ended the practice. The legislative branch appropriations bill, to be marked up this week, will include a provision that would “turn off” member pay raises for the next fiscal year.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner, told CQ Roll Call that the pay raise issue is “not something we’ve really addressed.”
March 14, 2014
Updated 7:22 p.m. | Sen. Ted Cruz no longer has a 100 percent rating on Heritage Action for America’s scorecard — he just may not know it yet.
While Heritage Action didn’t send out a press release like it normally does warning members and the press that it was key voting the flood insurance bill in the Senate, the group told CQ Roll Call it is including the vote on its official scorecard.
Heritage Action Communications Director Dan Holler told CQ Roll Call that the reason the key vote hadn’t showed up online, and the reason Cruz still has a 100 percent score, is that the “hamsters” hadn’t updated the site yet.
“We’ll get the scores up and running sooner than Healthcare.gov is running,” Holler said. Full story
January 29, 2014
Sen. Ted Cruz said after the State of the Union address that President Barack Obama’s Iran policy could lead to a nuclear weapon being detonated over a major U.S. city.
“I thought that was one of the most dangerous things in the entire speech,” Cruz said of Obama’s commitment to veto new Iran sanctions as talks continue with the international community. “What I fear is that we’re making the mistakes of the past — the same mistakes the Clinton administration made with North Korea. With North Korea, we relaxed the sanctions in exchange for amorphous promises, and the billions that North Korea received in relaxed sanctions, they used to develop nuclear weapons.
“The risk is unacceptable. When you have the leaders of a nation who have said, among other things, they intend to drive Israel into the sea and wipe them off the face of the map — if Iran acquires a nuclear weapon, the risk is unacceptable that that weapon will be detonated over the skies of Tel Aviv or New York or Los Angeles,” Cruz said. “The results could be hundreds of thousands of innocent lives lost.”
That kind of rhetoric will get attention, with Cruz explaining his case about how the North Korean regime controlling nuclear weapons is less of a threat than Iran.
“What makes this much, much more dangerous than North Korea is, at the end of the day, Kim Jong Un wants to stay in power more than anything else, and for someone that wants to stay in power, deterrence is possible,” Cruz argued, saying the same may not be true of the Iranian leadership.
Cruz did find some areas of agreements with the president; he agreed with Obama on “streamlining red tape and reducing regulations.” But he did go on to mention that the president had “used that rhetoric before.” Cruz also mentioned a program Obama discussed: myRA, which, the president said, was “a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings.”
Obama described the program as a new savings bond that would encourage Americans to build a nest egg.
“I am a passionate supporter of anything that enables people to save on their own, to have assets that they own, that they control, that they can bequest to their kids,” Cruz said. “And so, depending on the details, that could be something that he could find a lot of support.”
Cruz was holding court with a collection of reporters in Statuary Hall long after most of his Senate colleagues had departed. Cruz also spoke with a large number of national and regional TV crews.
Asked what one word he would use to describe the speech, Cruz said: “disappointing.” Not surprisingly, he criticized the way the president spoke about health care and economic policy.
“Throughout the entire of the hour-plus-long speech there was no acknowledgment that the Obama economic policies are not working, that they have produced the lowest labor force participation since 1978, that millions of Americans have lost their jobs, have been forced into part-time work, have lost their health insurance,” Cruz said.
January 13, 2014
In the latest move showing he doesn’t particularly care what top House Republicans think, Sen. Ted Cruz has hired a new deputy chief of staff: Paul Teller.
Teller was the Republican Study Committee executive director who was fired in December for leaking member-level conversations on the budget deal to outside conservative groups.
“Paul’s many years of experience working in Congress and his tireless work to advance conservative principles make him a tremendous addition to our team,” Cruz said in a statement. “I look forward to working with him to keep making Texans’ voices heard in Washington and to promote a positive policy agenda that will restore economic growth, rein in government overreach, and protect Americans’ personal liberties.” Full story
November 6, 2013
The Twitter IPO set for Thursday has Congress all wound up — this time, about tax policy.
On Tuesday, the House Ethics Committee took the Twitter initial public offering as an opportunity to remind members they can’t participate in IPOs in a manner “other than is available to members of the public generally.”
On Wednesday, it was the Senate’s turn.
Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz., the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Investigations, reminded the public of one of a number of “inequitable special-interest tax loopholes.”
“When Twitter goes public later this week, the company may avail itself of this existing tax loophole,” a joint press release from Levin and McCain said. “Under this loophole, the company will be able to take an estimated $154 million tax deduction for a stock option compensation expense which its own books show cost Twitter only $7 million.”
The release said the loophole allows a company to report stock option compensation expenses one way on its financial statements, and report it a different way to the IRS for tax purposes.
“Nowhere else in the tax code can compensation costs produce a tax deduction several times larger than that same expense shown on its corporate books,” the release said. Full story
July 23, 2013
Visions of the Republican Party literally crossed paths in the Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday evening.
On one side, current and former lawmakers gathered in Statuary Hall to fete former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole. On the other, members and senators gathered with the party’s conservative base to discuss the legislative agenda for the future.
The irony wasn’t lost on the tea party organizers, including Scottie Hughes of TPNN.com.
“Within a few feet of each other, under the same roof of the U.S. Capitol, there were two differing visions for Republicans, one for the future and the other rooted in the past. The fact that we had an overflowing room with dozens of Senators and members says a lot about the future of the tea party and conservatism,” Hughes said. “Bob Dole may not like the fact we’re around and vibrant, but we are here and here to stay.”
July 3, 2013
Congress and the White House face a dilemma in deciding whether — and how — to support the military coup of the democratically elected government in Egypt. Under existing law, the $1.5 billion a year in U.S. aid to Egypt is at risk unless Congress acts.
The fiscal 2012 omnibus spending law prohibits foreign aid to governments of any country “whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup,” at least until a new democratically elected government has taken office.
“Our law is clear: U.S. aid is cut off when a democratically elected government is deposed by military coup or decree,” said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., the chairman of the appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over foreign aid, in a statement late Wednesday. “As we work on the new budget, my committee also will review future aid to the Egyptian government as we wait for a clearer picture. As the world’s oldest democracy, this is a time to reaffirm our commitment to the principle that transfers of power should be by the ballot, not by force of arms.”
The prohibition on aid could complicate the picture in Egypt and the options for the White House as President Barack Obama considers his reaction to the military takeover of power in Egypt from President Mohammed Morsi.
Obama issued a lengthy statement late Wednesday expressing concern about the situation.
“The United States is monitoring the very fluid situation in Egypt, and we believe that ultimately the future of Egypt can only be determined by the Egyptian people,” he said. “Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsy and suspend the Egyptian constitution. I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsy and his supporters. Given today’s developments, I have also directed the relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under U.S. law for our assistance to the Government of Egypt.” Full story