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May 30, 2015

Posts in "Immigration"

March 12, 2015

The Two Sides of Ron Johnson’s Agenda

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Ron Johnson said Thursday he doesn’t plan on holding “show trials” in his role as chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

But speaking about his agenda at a breakfast hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Wisconsin Republican said business interests needed to be vocal about defending themselves from the effects of “the radical left” taking more and more control during his lifetime.

“When you control our university system, when you control our education system, our news media, our entertainment media, unfortunately more and more of the courts, you really control our culture,” Johnson said. “So, for the last 40 to 50 years, you know, business has gotten demonized, and it’s wrong.”

Full story

February 27, 2015

Senate Votes on Full DHS Funding, With House Set to Punt (Updated)

Pelosi and Reid conduct a news conference Thursday in the Capitol’s Senate studio to criticize Republican leaders on the hold up of the Department of Homeland Security funding bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 12:39 p.m. | The Senate did its best to wrap up the current year’s funding debate, even as the House is opting for another punt.

Senate Democrats said they wouldn’t try to block the House’s punt, meaning a likely Groundhog Day version of the debate three weeks from now.

After weeks at loggerheads, the Senate moved quickly Friday morning to pass a bill funding the Department of Homeland Security for the balance of the fiscal year. The key vote was on invoking cloture to bat back any potential filibuster of the underlying bill — a 68-31 outcome well north of the 60 needed to clear the procedural hurdle. Democrats were united in seeking the “clean” funding bill but Republicans fractured, with most voting to filibuster the plan put forward by their Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to break the impasse.

Senate Republicans who face the voters next year in states won by President Barack Obama split on funding for the Department of Homeland Security.

Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mark S. Kirk of Illinois and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania voted to advance the bill.

Rob Portman of Ohio, Marco Rubio of Florida and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa voted no.

The final vote on passage was also 68-31.

Full story

February 26, 2015

3 Republicans Defy Ted Cruz, Back Loretta Lynch (Updated)

Ted Cruz

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 1:36 p.m. | It’s starting to look like yet another loss under the Dome for Ted Cruz.

The Texas firebrand’s fellow Republicans aren’t on board with his plan to block Loretta Lynch’s nomination to be attorney general.

The Senate Judiciary Committee backed the Lynch nomination, 12-8, Thursday with the help of three Republicans — Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona. Full story

McConnell’s Move to Avert Shutdown Cheers Vulnerable Senators Up in 2016

McConnell wants to end the DHS funding fight ASAP. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

McConnell wants to end the DHS funding fight ASAP. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is always looking ahead to the next election.

And as much as the Kentucky Republican’s move to go ahead with a clean bill funding the Department of Homeland Security drew the ire of the conservative base, others including those on the ballot and vulnerable in 2016 said it was important to resolve the issue and get on with the GOP agenda.

Republican Sen. Mark S. Kirk, who is running for re-election in the generally blue state of Illinois, said Tuesday that GOP senators should tell the House Republicans who are against advancing the appropriations bill without riders in opposition to President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration that “this is the way the Senate demands this go.”

Full story

February 25, 2015

Harry Reid Decides to Take Yes for an Answer

Harry Reid decided he could take Mitch McConnell’s offer to give him exactly what he wanted after all.

Reid’s decision comes a day after an odd sequence where Majority Leader McConnell of Kentucky offered up a “clean” Homeland Security funding bill shorn of immigration provisions, only to have Minority Leader Reid of Nevada spurn the offer in lieu of a capitulation by Speaker John A. Boehner.

Boehner, R-Ohio, hasn’t yet said he’ll swallow a clean bill, but with House Republicans insisting the Senate act first, it appears the path for averting a shutdown is now crystal clear: McConnell and Reid will try and pass a clean bill as soon as they can muster it — probably Thursday — and then the House will have the hot potato with effectively a take-it-or-own-the-shutdown proposition. Full story

February 24, 2015

McConnell Throws in Towel on DHS Fight, but Reid Is Waiting for Boehner to Cave (Updated)

Updated 5:20 p.m. | In an extraordinary sequence of events, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offered Democrats exactly what they have been asking for Tuesday — “clean” full-year funding for the Department of Homeland Security. And Minority Leader Harry Reid said “no” — or at least, “not yet.”

McConnell’s offer of such a bill shorn of provisions blocking President Barack Obama’s recent immigration executive orders — which he said could happen quickly with Democratic cooperation — was put on hold by Reid, who said he was waiting to hear Speaker John A. Boehner agree to pass it through the House first. Full story

February 23, 2015

McConnell Offers Plan to Break DHS Logjam

Updated 7 p.m. | Just days from a shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has begun to pivot toward a new strategy to separate funding for the Department of Homeland Security from the GOP’s plan to roll back President Barack Obama’s immigration actions.

The Kentucky Republican offered a standalone bill focused on the 2014 immigration actions alone after Democrats for the fourth time filibustered the House-passed DHS bill, this time on a 47-46 vote, 13 shy of the 60 needed to advance.

“It isn’t tied to DHS funding. It removes their excuse,” the Kentucky Republican said on the Senate floor. Full story

February 20, 2015

Rand Paul’s Twitter Needs a Legal Lesson

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Rand Paul’s Twitter feed has gotten ahead of itself.

A tweet from the Kentucky Republican’s account with more than 543,000 followers Friday morning declared that the “5th Circuit of Appeals confirmed what you and I knew, Pres. Obama’s #ExecutiveAmnesty is illegal.” It then asked opponents of President Barack Obama’s immigration actions to add their names.

Full story

February 13, 2015

GOP Senators Also Pushing to Nuke Filibusters, Says House Lawmaker

Mo Brooks, R-Ala., speaks during a news conference with House and Senate members on immigration on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Brooks said GOP senators are also asking McConnell to change the filibuster rules. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House conservatives are increasingly pushing the Senate to “go nuclear” and change filibuster rules so that a Department of Homeland Security funding bill blocking the president’s executive action on immigration can move forward. But according to one GOP lawmaker member, it’s not just the House pushing for that change.

Alabama Republican Mo Brooks told CQ Roll Call Friday that he had spoken to senators supportive of changing the filibuster rules. Full story

February 12, 2015

Senate GOP Pamphlet Touts Continued Fight on DHS Spending

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Republicans are being sent home for recess with a message touting their persistence on funding homeland security while blocking President Barack Obama’s executive actions.

“Dems voted three times to filibuster House-passed DHS funding bill,” says a tri-fold card of talking points distributed to GOP senators. “Blocking debate on a bill like this is exactly the kind of gridlock voters rejected in the election.”

The pamphlet, shared with CQ Roll Call by a GOP source, suggests Republicans have yet to give up on winning the public relations argument over funding the Department of Homeland Security, with less than a week left to act when the Senate returns from the Presidents Day recess.

Full story

February 11, 2015

GOP Senator Wants to Wave the White Flag on DHS Funding

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Facing a potentially tough re-election battle, Illinois Republican Mark S. Kirk has had enough of the standoff over funding the Department of Homeland Security and wants the Senate to pass a clean bill.

“Yeah, I think in the end,” Kirk said when asked if Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should have the Senate pass a DHS spending bill without language designed to block President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Full story

February 3, 2015

Democrats Unified, in Campaign Mode on Immigration Orders

Reid and Schumer talk to reporters Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Reid and Schumer talk to reporters Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The gavel had barely dropped on Senate Republicans’ failed first attempt to block President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration when the Democratic campaign arm started blasting GOP senators for their votes.

Democrats defied Republicans in hopes the GOP would splinter on the House Homeland Security funding bill, with every single Democrat voting to filibuster debating the House’s Homeland Security bill over its attempt to roll back executive actions for millions of immigrants.

“Senate Republicans should stop the political theater and listen to the national security experts in their party who have urged passage of a clean bill that would prevent a DHS shutdown,” DSCC spokeswoman Sadie Weiner said in a statement.

But just weeks from the deadline to keep the Department of Homeland Security from facing a funding lapse, the theatrics from the two parties showed no signs of waning.

Full story

February 2, 2015

Senate Turns to Immigration Amid Return of Shutdown Rhetoric

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As Senate Democrats praised the GOP majority for a new era of openness, they were already preparing for an abrupt turn when the chamber’s attention focuses on immigration.

“What we have seen over the last several weeks is the Senate I remember, the Senate I was elected to, the Senate where there was active debate, deliberation, amendments,” Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin said on the Senate floor. “For some members, it is a new experience. I hope in our role as the minority we can work with the senators with a feeling of mutual respect to achieve at least debate on the floor, if not some significant legislation.”

The Illinois Democrat, who has played the role of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s foil on the floor in the absence of Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., expanded on that point in a conversation with reporters. He said that other than one “Thursday night massacre” — an evening session that had Democrats crying foul about debate time — the process had worked well.

Full story

January 28, 2015

Cruz Says Fate of ‘Dangerous’ Lynch Up to McConnell

Cruz called Lynch's views "dangerous." (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Cruz called Lynch’s views “dangerous.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Ted Cruz called attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch’s immigration views “dangerous” Wednesday and questioned whether Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., should even have the chamber consider her nomination.

“That is the decision the majority leader is going to have to make. I believe we should use every constitutional tool available to stop the president’s unconstitutional executive action. That’s what Republicans, Republican candidates all over the country said over and over again last year,” the Texas Republican said in a brief interview with CQ Roll Call as the daylong Judiciary Committee hearing on Lynch’s nomination neared conclusion.

Full story

January 26, 2015

Grassley to Ramp Up Oversight at Judiciary

Grassley in his office. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Grassley in his office. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

When Loretta Lynch paid Sen. Charles E. Grassley a visit last month, the new Judiciary Committee chairman handed her a book — of all the unanswered letters he’s sent to the administration.

“I want to know if she is going to cooperate with our oversight,” the six-term Iowa Republican told CQ Roll Call in an interview in his office. “I am very interested in oversight … and we can’t carry it out if we can’t get the cooperation from them.”

Lynch, who was selected by President Barack Obama late last year to be attorney general, will have a chance to answer Grassley’s and the rest of the GOP’s questions on immigration and other issues all day Wednesday.

Known for his heartland candor, Grassley, unlike some other Republicans who have vowed to oppose Lynch’s nomination over Obama’s executive actions, hasn’t yet made up his mind how he will vote on her nomination to replace Eric H. Holder Jr.

“I want to get a feeling if she is going to be, hopefully, a lot less political, or not political at all, compared to Holder,” Grassley said.

Grassley’s push for strong oversight isn’t new — he handed Holder a book of letters too and he gained a reputation as a dogged investigator as the chairman of the Finance Committee the last time he held a gavel, more than eight years ago.

Aside from being a constitutional responsibility, Grassley’s philosophy has been that oversight can achieve results more quickly than legislation.

“I’m not talking just about hearings,” Grassley said. “What can we get by letter, what can we get by telephone conversations, what can we get by working through [the press]? … You use all those tools before you have a hearing.”

Grassley told Lynch he has seen myriad nominees — from both Democratic and Republican administrations — promise to cooperate and then ultimately disappoint him.

“It would really be better if, instead of saying, ‘yes,’ say, ‘maybe;’ then you’re being honest,” he said he told Lynch.

Grassley hopes the administration will be more responsive, including giving him the Office of Legal Counsel’s “legal opinions on the president’s executive edicts and things of that nature.”

On legislation, Grassley told CQ Roll Call about the possibility of moving bipartisan measures of interest to the committee last Congress.

He said moving on changing the sentencing system could be easier than the others.

“I’ve had some different views than some of my Republican colleagues have had; it’s going to be difficult to work things out, but I wouldn’t say they couldn’t be worked out,” Grassley said. “Compared to patent trolling, juvenile justice reauthorization, [the Freedom of Information Act], I think those things are a little harder, but not impossible.”

But he said he remains skeptical of a sentencing system overhaul. The committee cleared a bill last year sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., which would restore judicial discretion by making reductions to mandatory minimums for some drug crimes.

“Mandatory minimums are about the only thing that makes sure there is some consistency from one judge to another,” Grassley said.

He’s also monitoring what’s going on in the states and the administration on marijuana.

“I see it divided into three different areas,” he said. “Commercial production of hemp, which is pretty much up to the states under the farm bill. Recreational marijuana: I want to make sure it’s not a gateway to higher drugs before I would vote for legalization. And medical marijuana: You ought to have the same standard as you have for other drug approval by [the Food and Drug Administration] from the standpoint of efficacy and safety.”

And he riffed on prosecutorial discretion.

“This is probably something that is going to come up with Lynch, whether I would ask it or not doesn’t matter,” he said. “But for an attorney general, not just on marijuana, but on anything, to signal to the whole world that you are going to prosecute some and not prosecute others. … I understand that you don’t have the resources to prosecute everybody, but you don’t send a signal to the rest of the world, ‘[It] doesn’t matter,’ or, ‘It matters in some instances and not others,’ because you’re going to encourage disrespect for the law.”

Grassley also isn’t done with the Operation Fast and Furious and IRS scandals.

Republicans have been pursuing answers on Fast and Furious for years; the refusal by Holder to turn over related documents resulted in a House vote to hold him in contempt in 2012.

Last October, Grassley, along with then-House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., wrote to the Department of Justice about a gun found at the scene of a shooting in Arizona connected to the botched gun sting operation.

The letter was the fourth time Grassley requested information on a Fast and Furious gun.

On the IRS, Grassley said he and his staff would work closely on the ongoing investigation with Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah.

Republicans have been frustrated at the pace of the Justice Department’s own investigation.

Meanwhile, Grassley has been gearing up for re-election next year.

“The days of cheap campaigns are over,” he said, though he conceded one advantage — the anticipated large field of 2016 presidential contenders who will be eager to lend their support to the popular senior statesman from Iowa, home of the first round of caucuses.

“When I have what you might call house parties or, or fundraising parties in homes in Iowa, I think I can call on a lot of presidential candidates that’ll help me get out a big crowd,” he said.

He also touts his personal ground game.

“My philosophy for running a campaign is doing the best possible job you can with your official duties, and then that includes Washington, D.C., but it also includes the 99-county tours that I’ve done for 34 years in a row,” Grassley said. “I’ve had seven town meetings so far this year.”

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

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