Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 21, 2014

October 17, 2014

White House Touts Ebola Czar Ron Klain’s Ties to Congress (Updated)

Updated 12:23 p.m. | President Barack Obama has picked Ron Klain to be the Ebola czar, according to the White House, a move that appears aimed at quelling a firestorm from Congress and the public over the handling of the crisis.

Klain is a longtime Washingtonian and Harvard-educated lawyer who previously served as Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s chief of staff. He isn’t known for his work in health care, but the White House emphasized his management background and relationships with Congress.

But congressional criticism of the pick came almost immediately via Twitter.

“Worst ebola epidemic in world history and Pres. Obama puts a government bureaucrat with no healthcare experience in charge. Is he serious?” tweeted Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., an anesthesiologist.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., was the first out of the gate to laud the pick.

“I’ve known Ron Klain for over twenty years,” he said in a statement. “He is smart, aggressive, and levelheaded; exactly the qualities we need in a czar to steer our response to Ebola. He is an excellent choice.”

Klain also has a sense of public relations — something the White House could use given the harsh criticism of officials who have been the face of the Ebola response, including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas Frieden.trans White House Touts Ebola Czar Ron Klains Ties to Congress (Updated)

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., who has been calling for an Ebola coordinator since early September, said Klain “understands the importance of clear communications to the containment of a crisis like this.”

Klain’s congressional experience includes stints as staff director of the Senate Democratic Leadership Committee, and the chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but it’s not clear how strong his ties are to the House.

An aide to Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, was unaware of any Klain ties to the House, but said the White House did give Boehner’s office notice about the pick.

It’s also not entirely clear yet what the Obama administration will be seeking from Congress — although Press Secretary Josh Earnest noted yesterday that Congress controls the purse strings.

Democrats have been pushing for more funding for public health and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said the CDC should get the money it needs to battle the Ebola virus.

Unlike, say, a new surgeon general, Klain’s newly created position does not need Senate confirmation — a bonus given that the Senate is in the middle of a lengthy pre-election recess.

The news was first reported by CNN.

A White House official confirmed the pick in a memo:


The President has asked Ron Klain to take on the task of coordinating his administration’s whole of government Ebola response. He will report directly to the President’s Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco and the President National Security Advisor Susan Rice as he ensures that efforts to protect the American people by detecting, isolating and treating Ebola patients in this country are properly integrated but don’t distract from the aggressive commitment to stopping Ebola at the source in West Africa. Klain’s role is consistent with the view the President articulated in the Oval Office last night that Monaco, Rice and others have done outstanding work in confronting this challenge so far – but given their management of other national and homeland security priorities, additional bandwidth will further enhance the government’s Ebola response.

Klain, an attorney, comes to the job with strong management credentials, extensive federal government experience overseeing complex operations and good working relationships with leading members of Congress, as well as senior Obama administration officials, including the President.


Ron Klain is President of Case Holdings and General Counsel at Revolution LLC, a technology-oriented venture capital firm based in Washington, DC. Prior to joining Revolution, Ron was a Partner and National Practice Group Chair at O’Melveny & Myers LLP.

In addition to his career in law and business, Ron has extensive public service experience, most recently as a senior White House aide to President Obama and Chief of Staff to Vice President Biden. In that position, on behalf of Vice President Biden, he helped oversee implementation of the Recovery Act, a major interagency and intergovernmental project. Earlier, he served as Chief of Staff for Vice President Al Gore, and before that, as Chief of Staff for Attorney General Janet Reno. He has also served as the Staff Director of the Senate Democratic Leadership Committee, and the Chief Counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Ron is a summa cum laude graduate of Georgetown University and holds a JD, magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School, where he was an Editor of the Harvard Law Review and won the Sears Prize for the highest grade average in 1985. He served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Byron White.


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By Steven Dennis Posted at 10:44 a.m.

October 16, 2014

Obama Has Another Key DOJ Post to Fill

President Barack Obama’s plate is getting a little more full, with the announcement Thursday that Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole is exiting the administration.

With Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. already on his way out, Cole’s exit will leave the top two positions at the key Cabinet agency vacant.

“Over the past four years, Jim Cole has been my indispensable partner in leading the U.S. Department of Justice and extending the promise of equality under the law for everyone in this country,” Holder said in a statement, adding he will be “dearly missed.” Full story

Obama to Consult Congress on Ebola

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Hazmat workers prepare to enter the apartment in Dallas where a second health care worker who has tested positive for the Ebola virus resides. (Mike Stone/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama will call members of Congress today to discuss the Ebola virus crisis, and there are hints from the White House that he might be asking for more money.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Obama will be making a series of calls to lawmakers, and will discuss a role for Congress.

“Congress obviously controls the purse strings,” Earnest noted when asked about the role of the Hill. He also said the president wants to hear Congress’ thoughts on what to do. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 2:57 p.m.

Ebola Sparks Obama to Shake Up Leadership Style

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After criticism of the “business-as-usual” tone at the White House, Obama is trying a different tack on the Ebola crisis.

No drama Barack Obama has shaken up his daily routine to deal with the Ebola crisis — a marked shift in how the president has handled past crises on his watch.

Obama’s crisis-management style has been to go about his routine as much as possible — even golfing after making a statement about the beheading of an American by the Islamic State terror group — or continuing campaign swings amid crises at home and abroad. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 11:50 a.m.

October 15, 2014

Vanita Gupta, New DOJ Civil Rights Pick, Has Supported Marijuana Legalization (Updated)

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:31 p.m. | The new nominee to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division — American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Vanita Gupta — has backed legalizing and taxing marijuana.

Just last month in a CNN column, Gupta suggested states follow the lead of Colorado and Washington to legalize and tax marijuana, rather than imprisoning people for using it. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 2:39 p.m.

New Choice to Head DOJ Civil Rights Division Has Early Conservative Support

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Gupta, left, and Vernon Jordan chat during a news conference announcing the winners in Reebok’s 2004 Human Rights Awards in 2004. ( Andrew Kent/Getty Images File Photo)

Updated 4:38 p.m. | After the last administration pick to head the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division collapsed on the Senate floor, the Obama team has lined up some conservative backing for its new choice, American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Vanita Gupta.

As the news of her appointment broke in The Washington Post, DOJ spokesman Brian Fallon tweeted out favorable quotes about Gupta from Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, and David Keene, the former president of the National Rifle Association.

Those are the kind of endorsements that will be needed to get approval for the pick — either from moderate Democrats who helped sink the previous choice, former NAACP lawyer Debo Adegbile — or from the GOP, which may control the Senate in January. Full story

Obama Postpones Campaign Swing to Focus on Ebola Crisis

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The Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital is treating two health care workers for the Ebola virus. (Stewart F. House/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama is postponing a campaign swing to New Jersey and Connecticut Wednesday to focus on the Ebola virus crisis, convening Cabinet agencies coordinating the response after a second health worker in Texas came down with the deadly disease.

Obama was scheduled to appear at a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee event in New Jersey — another in a long series of appearances for the fundraiser in chief for his party — and later attend a rally with Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

Obama will meet with Cabinet agencies at the White House at 3:30 p.m., according to White House guidance. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 1:30 p.m.

October 14, 2014

White House Names Person Coordinating Ebola Response, Just Don’t Call Her a ‘Czar’

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Monaco is coordinating the government’s response to Ebola. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The person in charge of coordinating the government’s reaction to the Ebola virus is White House Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco, Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Tuesday.

The White House was pressed over the weekend by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to name an Ebola “czar” even though he had previously criticized a proliferation of “czars” in the administration. Earnest didn’t go so far as to call Monaco a czar, but said she’s in charge of coordinating reaction.

“Lisa Monaco is the president’s Homeland Security adviser, and she is the one that, from here at the White House, continues to play the role of coordinating the efforts of all of those agencies. But ultimately, each of those agencies understands exactly what they’re responsible for, and they have experts in this field that can ensure the American people remain safe,” Earnest said. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 5:07 p.m.

White House Defends ISIS War: ‘This Strategy Is Succeeding’

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Abandoned houses in the Syrian city of Kobani after fighting between Syrian Kurds and militants from Islamic State. (Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images)

Despite gains by ISIS in Syria and Iraq in the face of airstrikes, the White House insists President Barack Obama’s strategy to “destroy” the terrorist group remains on track.

“This strategy is succeeding,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters of the president’s fight against ISIS, also known as ISIL or the Islamic State. Earnest appeared to minimize the potential takeover of the Kurdish town of Kobani in Syria on the border with Turkey.

Earnest blamed the lack of ground forces in the fight for the possible plight of Kobani — even as he noted that Obama has ruled out putting American ground forces into the fight. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 1:30 p.m.
Iraq, ISIS, Syria

No Attorney General Pick Until After Elections, White House Says

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Eric H. Holder Jr. better not pack up his Justice Department office just yet.

President Barack Obama will not be nominating a successor to his long-serving attorney general until after the midterm elections, a White House official confirmed Tuesday. Holder has said he will remain at the Justice Department until a new attorney general is confirmed by the Senate.

Full story

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