Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 25, 2014

July 24, 2014

Issa Offers White House a Deal on Simas

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa is offering to allow top White House political adviser David Simas to testify via deposition instead of in a congressional hearing.

With Issa planning a vote Friday to reject the administration’s claim of absolute immunity from congressional subpoena for Simas if he again fails to show up to honor the subpoena, Issa’s latest offer loosely tracks previous subpoena fights between House Democrats and the George W. Bush administration.

“The Committee would be willing to postpone tomorrow’s proceeding if the White House makes the same commitments to cooperate as the Bush Administration did previously,” Issa said in a letter  Thursday to White House Counsel W. Neil Eggleston.

In addition to the deposition, the White House must also commit to releasing internal documents Issa has sought about the creation of the political strategy office Simas has headed since January, and to answering subsequent questions in writing, Issa wrote. Issa said his offer must be accepted Thursday.

Issa’s letter came after Eggleston wrote him earlier Thursday, complaining that Issa had failed to make any specific allegation of wrongdoing, reasserting the White House’s claim of immunity and offering to cooperate further on providing information about the office — but not Simas.

Eggleston also noted that previous investigative efforts did not require enforcement of subpoenas of the president’s top advisers to testify at a public hearing.

That triggered Issa’s latest offer.

July 22, 2014

Obamacare Ruling a Balm to Boehner, Headache for Obama

Just when the president and his allies on Capitol Hill were starting to feel like the Obamacare troubles were mostly behind them, an appeals court decision brought another political and legal headache and new uncertainty about the law’s future Tuesday.

While White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest expressed confidence that the 2-1 D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Halbig v. Burwell voiding tax subsidies for people in states using Healthcare.gov would be reversed, the outcome of the case at least has the potential to gut subsidies at the core of the law for millions.

The ruling came gift-wrapped for Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, who plans a parallel lawsuit by the House seeking to undo Obama’s delays of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate — even though the House has voted to delay that mandate.

“For the second time in a month, the courts have ruled against the president’s unilateral actions regarding ObamaCare,” Boehner said in a statement. “The president has demonstrated he believes he has the power to make his own laws. That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work.”

It had Democrats on Capitol Hill fuming, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., calling it “absurd” and a case of “activist Republican judges.”

And Democrats and Republicans alike pointed to Reid’s decision last year to employ the “nuclear option” to end a GOP blockade of Obama nominees for the D.C. Circuit — as well as other posts — as potentially key to overturning the ruling. Full story

White House ‘Confident’ in Case to Overturn Obamacare Ruling (Video)

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest expressed confidence that the courts would ultimately uphold Obamacare’s subsidies, despite an appeals court ruling Tuesday.

“This ruling does not have any practical impact” for now, Earnest said.

The 2-1 D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Halbig vs. Burwell adhered to the text of the law — that subsidies are allowed on state-based exchanges — potentially causing costs to skyrocket for millions in the 34 states that have relied on the federal exchange, Healthcare.gov. Full story

Bill Clinton Had Secret Meeting With Obama in Oval Office May 1

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Obama and Clinton (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama met secretly with former President Bill Clinton in the Oval Office May 1 — a meeting revealed to the public months later by a photo released by Pete Souza, the official White House photographer.

The meeting wasn’t put on the president’s public schedule, and the White House hasn’t issued a readout.

It was actually the second secret meeting Obama had with a Clinton in May. Later that month, Obama had a secret lunch with Hillary Clinton, as revealed by a Tweet from People magazine.

At the time, then-White House Press Secretary Jay Carney defended Obama’s ability to keep the public in the dark about his meetings with prominent people.

This reporter had been the pool reporter on duty and lodged a protest with Carney about the lack of transparency.

I’ve asked the White House to comment on why the public was not told of this meeting prior to the release of Souza’s picture, which appears to have been on July 11. That’s when Souza tweeted out photos for May and reporters noticed the picture.

I’ve also asked what Clinton and Obama discussed.

July 21, 2014

Obama Convenes Meeting on Border Crisis as Flood of Migrants Slows

The flood of unaccompanied child migrants crossing the Southwest border has slowed this month to about 150 a day, but a $3.7 billion border supplemental remains “critical,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday.

President Barack Obama will meet Monday with his homeland security council — Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel — to discuss the border crisis, Earnest said.

Earnest suggested White House efforts are starting to result in fewer child migrants — although at 150 a day, that’s still nearly 55,000 per year.

Earnest said the supplemental spending request pending in Congress remains “critical” to addressing the crisis and preventing it from happening in the future.

Obama is scheduled to meet Central American presidents on Friday in hopes of stemming the crisis.

Last week, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, indicated he was losing confidence that a supplemental spending bill would pass before the August recess.

By Steven Dennis Posted at 1:52 p.m.
Immigration

Obama Wants ‘Immediate’ Cease-Fire in Gaza

President Barack Obama called for an “immediate” cease-fire in Gaza Monday, after an invasion and air assault by Israel in response to rocked attacks by Hamas left hundreds dead.

The president noted that Secretary of State John Kerry is headed to the region.

“I’ve instructed him to push for an immediate cessation of hostilities,” he said. “We don’t want to see any more civilians getting killed.”

He reaffirmed that Israel has a right to defend itself against rocket attacks, and said Israel’s attacks have already damaged “Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in Gaza,” but said the United States is concerned about civilian deaths in Gaza, as well as Israeli casualties.

Previous efforts at a cease-fire failed after Hamas continued to fire rockets at Israel — nearly 2,000 since the recent hostilities began, according to Israel.

LGBT Executive Order Signed by Obama

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 12:00 p.m. | President Barack Obama signed an executive order Monday banning discrimination by federal contractors against LGBT people — without a broad religious exemption included in the Senate-passed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

“Our government, the government of the people, by the people and for the people, will become just a little bit fairer,” Obama told a cheering audience in the East Room.

Obama said that while there is still a long way to go to ensure that everyone has the same opportunities regardless of who they love, they’ve come a long way in the past five years.trans LGBT Executive Order Signed by Obama

“We’re on the right side of history,” Obama said before signing the order. Full story

July 18, 2014

Central American Presidents to Meet Obama on Immigration Crisis

Hoping to stem the child migrant criss, President Barack Obama will meet next Friday with President Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala, President Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras, and President Salvador Sánchez Cerén of El Salvador, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement. Full story

Issa Gives Obama Another Chance to Honor Simas Subpoena

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa is giving the White House one more chance to comply with the subpoena of Obama’s top political adviser, David Simas.

The California Republican said the White House is trying to create a new precedent of immunity for presidential advisers already rejected by the courts — although not yet ruled on by the Supreme Court.

“He is not immune,” Issa said in his letter to White House Counsel W. Neil Eggleston.

Issa is proposing Simas testify at 9 a.m. on July 25. Full story

Obama Goes From Tragedy to Guacamole

Updated 2:17 p.m. | Minutes after giving a somber statement in the briefing room on the Malaysia Airlines disaster and the war in Gaza, Obama was cracking jokes about guacamole and ice cream.

At the Kids’ State Dinner hosted by first lady Michelle Obama, the president talked up daughter Malia’s attempt to control her love for ice cream and his own love for chips and guacamole. Full story

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