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December 20, 2014

Posts in "Congressional Relations"

December 3, 2014

‘Looser’ Obama Riffs on Taxes, Trade, Regulations, Immigration, GOP

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From left: Deutsche Bank Chief executive Jacques Brand, President and CEO of Convergys Andrea Ayers, President and CEO of Dell Michael Dell, listen to President Barack Obama at the quarterly meeting of the Business Roundtable. (Getty Images News)

President Barack Obama is starting to open up, six years into the job.

“You get a little looser in your last two years in office,” he told CEOs at a meeting with the Business Roundtable.

Indeed, the remark itself would never have been made public under the old White House policy of kicking out the press for the all-important Q&As the president regularly has with business leaders and donors. Full story

November 5, 2014

Obama Struggles to Read the Public, Congress

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Obama signaled little course correction Wednesday in response to Tuesday’s blowout losses for Democrats. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/File Photo)

For any politician, losing the public — and the message they are sending — is a dangerous thing. And in the wake of one of the worst drubbings for his party in memory, due in large part to his own persistent unpopularity, President Barack Obama didn’t seem to have any answers Wednesday.

At a lengthy news conference after another shellacking, the president avoided using any new word to describe his party’s epic defeat and offered up no plans for substantive change either in his policy approach or his personnel.

He offered no new legislative olive branch to Republicans other than his desire to listen to their ideas.

He doubled down on his plans to thumb his nose at Congress and act on immigration on his own.

He offered no mea culpa to angry Democrats on Capitol Hill, who have fumed ever more openly about a White House they see as overly insular, politically tone-deaf and prone to gaffes. Full story

October 14, 2014

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

September 30, 2014

Get Ready: Attorney General Confirmations Are Partisan Skirmishes

leahy holder 119 061212 445x298 Get Ready: Attorney General Confirmations Are Partisan Skirmishes

Holder had a tough time getting confirmed and the next nominee could face an even tougher process. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama hasn’t named a replacement for outgoing Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., but that future nominee can count on a contentious Senate confirmation process, whether it happens in the November lame-duck session or next year.

Attorney general nominations and confirmations — like everything in Washington — have become highly partisan clashes in recent years. Janet Reno, in 1993, was the last attorney general to be confirmed without any “no” votes. (Of course, her pathway to the job was anything but smooth. She was Bill Clinton’s third choice, after it was revealed that his top pick, corporate lawyer Zoe Baird, and his second, federal judge Kimba Wood, both had employed illegal immigrants as nannies.)

Among the most contentious nomination fights in recent years:

Full story

August 22, 2014

White House: Obama Had Constitutional Power for Bergdahl Swap (Video)

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The president’s responsibility to act trumps congressional oversight on spending, the White House said Friday.

The White House said Friday that constitutional authorities of the commander in chief trumped possible funding illegality in the transfer of five Taliban members in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

“The president has the constitutional responsibility to protect the lives of Americans abroad, and specifically to protect U.S. service members,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters in Edgartown, Mass., “It’s important for everyone here to understand that the GAO report expressly does not address the lawfulness of the administration’s actions as a matter of constitutional law.”

Full story

August 15, 2014

Energy Secretary Calls Industry Criticism of Natural Gas Export Overhaul ‘B.S.’

470474235 revised 445x298 Energy Secretary Calls Industry Criticism of Natural Gas Export Overhaul B.S.

Moniz dismissed industry complaints that DOE has moved too slowly on export applications as “B.S.” (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

Energy Secretary Ernest J. Moniz in a one-on-one interview Friday with CQ Roll Call signaled that any further changes to how his agency processes natural gas export applications will have to come from Congress, as the Energy Department tries to end a controversy over how the United States ships gas to nations that are not trading partners.

In addition, Moniz dismissed industry complaints that DOE has moved too slowly on export applications as “B.S.,” noting the department can’t take final action until a separate Federal Energy Regulatory Commission review is completed. Some U.S. energy companies eager to expand new overseas markets say the Obama administration is dragging its feet.

Moniz said that lawmakers will have to be the ones to make any more decisions about gas exports now that his agency has laid out its final rules on an overhaul. “Not from the administration, I don’t expect any changes to the process,” Moniz told CQ Roll Call. “Let’s see if Congress acts.” Full story

July 25, 2014

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

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 16, 2014

Issa: White House Declaring Simas Immune From Subpoena ‘Deeply Disturbing’

Updated 4:44 p.m. | House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa gaveled open Wednesday morning’s hearing on the White House’s new political office without what would have been his star witness — top Obama political adviser David Simas.

The California Republican called a letter from White House Counsel W. Neil Eggleston asserting Simas is immune to subpoenas as a top White House aide “deeply disturbing.” Full story

July 15, 2014

White House Cites Immunity, Rebuffs Issa Subpoena for Simas

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Issa, who has subpoenaed top White House political adviser David Simas to testify Wednesday, didn’t join in Tuesday’s briefing. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 8:49 p.m. | The White House is asserting immunity for top political adviser David Simas in defiance of a subpoena from House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa.

In a letter from White House Counsel W. Neil Eggleston, the White House asserted Congress does not have the power to compel Simas to testify, in a showdown between two of the three branches of government.

Eggleston cited a new legal opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice and past precedent of presidents asserting immunity for their top advisers from congressional subpoena.

“The Executive Branch’s longstanding position, reaffirmed by numerous Administrations of both political parties, is that the President’s immediate advisers are absolutely immune from the congressional testimonial process,” the OLC wrote. “This immunity is rooted in the constitutional separation of powers, and in the immunity of the President himself from congressional compulsion to testify.”

The OLC cited precedents going back to Presidents Harry Truman and Richard Nixon of asserting executive privilege against testimony. And bother the OLC and Eggleston said Issa had not shown why, exactly, he needed Simas to testify and what questions, exactly, he needed to answer.

The feud has been brewing for months over the new political strategy office headed by Simas, culminating in a lengthy staff briefing today that Issa said failed to answer all of his questions.

Simas is director of the remade Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, which the White House contends complies with the Hatch Act limiting the political activities of civil servants.

But Issa isn’t convinced.

“The Clinton White House, Bush White House, and other administrations before them have all faced congressional oversight of political activity supported by taxpayer funds,” Issa wrote in a letter to Eggleston earlier Tuesday. ”Under this Administration, like previous Administrations, members of President Obama’s cabinet have committed violations of the Hatch Act, which draws a line between campaign and official business.” Full story

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