Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 30, 2014

July 29, 2014

Obama to Make Statement on Ukraine; New Sanctions Planned for Russia

President Barack Obama will make a statement on Tuesday at 2:50 p.m. on Ukraine, the White House said, as the administration said earlier to expect new sanctions against Russia.

Press Secretary Josh Earnest said earlier this afternoon to expect an announcement on sanctions as soon as today. The announcement will come as European nations are stepping up their own sanctions and as the administration has accused the Russian government of stepping up its support for Ukrainian separatists and with violating a treaty against medium-range cruise missiles. The administration has also said Russia has culpability for creating an environment that led to the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

To date, while sanctions have stung, the administration has avoided broader economic sanctions that could impact the global and the U.S. economy — a concern Obama has repeatedly raised.

Earnest Slams House Border Bill as Insufficient, Unworkable

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest slammed the House GOP’s $659 million border crisis package Tuesday as too skimpy to address the crisis and containing partisan provisions that could prove unworkable, although he stopped short of a veto threat.

Earnest said House Republicans haven’t treated the border crisis with the same level of “urgency” as President Barack Obama, who requested $3.7 billion for the border crisis. And he ripped the GOP for not adding funding for wildfires or for Israel’s Iron Dome. Full story

Boehner: Impeachment Talk a White House ‘Scam’ (Updated)

Updated 1:56 p.m. | An agitated Speaker John A. Boehner charged the White House with concocting impeachment talk for political gain Tuesday.

“We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans. It’s all a scam started by Democrats in the White House,” the Ohio Republican insisted after a GOP conference meeting. Full story

July 25, 2014

White House Has Doubts House Will Act on Border Crisis

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest pronounced himself a cynic when it comes to chances the House will act to pass an emergency border supplemental before going home for the August recess.

Earnest said Friday that his “cynicism” is due to Speaker John A. Boehner’s comments Thursday that he was still talking about it with his members, suggesting the GOP is still arguing amongst itself about what to do.

“If there are additional proposals that Congress will actually act on, we’re certainly willing to have conversations with them about what they’re willing to do,” Earnest said. “But again, all we’re hearing from the speaker of the House is talk that’s not backed up by any action.” Full story

Boehner Aide on Pfeiffer Impeachment Talk: ‘Political Games’ (Updated)

Updated 3:53 p.m. | A spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner is dismissing Friday comments from senior White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer about the White House taking the threat of impeachment “very seriously.”

“We have a humanitarian crisis at our border, and the White House is making matters worse with inattention and mixed signals,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in an email when asked about Pfeiffer’s comments. “It is telling, and sad, that a senior White House official is focused on political games, rather than helping these kids and securing the border.”

Boehner, R-Ohio, has repeatedly dismissed the idea of impeaching the president when pressed by reporters.

When asked about that, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest also noted that Boehner had previously said Republicans wouldn’t “shut down the government over health care” either. “We did see that that happened,” Earnest noted.

Pfeiffer, at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast with reporters, was quoted by Time reacting to questions about impeachment.

“I think a lot of people in this town laugh that off. … I would not discount that possibility. I think Speaker Boehner, by going down the path of this lawsuit, has opened the door to Republicans possibly considering impeachment at some in the future. …

“I think that impeachment is a very serious thing that has been banded about by the recent Republican vice-presidential nominee and others in a very non-serious way, and no one has even made any allegation of anything that would be within six universes of what is generally considered in that space. But no, we take it very seriously and I don’t think it would be a good thing.”

While Sarah Palin has urged impeachment of the president — a fact also noted by Earnest — so far, no one in the House has pressed articles of impeachment. Any member can takes such articles straight to the House floor.

Many on both sides of the aisle believe impeaching the president would only help Democrats. Jim Acosta of CNN pushed Earnest on whether the administration talking up the prospects of impeachment was simply a fundraising ploy. (Earnest didn’t take the bait).

While Republicans have the votes to impeach the president in the House, a trial in the Senate would be certain to fail to remove the president from office.

The impeachment chatter also comes as a poll showing about one third of the country supporting impeachment — but a majority of Republicans.

Related:

Why House Conservatives Don’t Support Impeachment

Simas Ignores Subpoena Again as White House Defies Issa (Updated) (Video)

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 12:27 p.m. | Top White House political adviser David Simas refused again Friday to honor a congressional subpoena, prompting Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to vote to rebuke the administration.

The Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted 19-14 to reject the White House’s claim that Simas has absolute immunity from a subpoena from Congress.

Republicans said they were standing up for the principle that no one is above the law, and Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa quoted a long list of Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who have backed Congress’ right to subpoena top administration officials.

Democrats, led by ranking member Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, said they strongly disagree with the White House’s claim of absolute immunity but also strongly disagree with Issa’s push to press the issue, warning it could hurt the institution if they take a case to court.

The White House informed Issa at 7:30 a.m. Friday that Simas would not appear, Issa said. The absence was “not excused,” the California Republican added.

White House Counsel W. Neil Eggleston asked Issa to withdraw the subpoena to discuss his late Thursday offer for Simas to give a deposition instead of subpoenaed testimony.

Issa refused to do so.

“We have an absolute right and obligation” to investigate the new White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, he said. Full story

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.

By Steven Dennis Posted at 12:41 p.m.
Transparency

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