By a straight party-line vote of 54-42, the U.S. Senate defeated a constitutional amendment today that would have overruled the awful Citizens United decision.
All five Senate Democrats whose support was unknown ended up voting “yes,” whereas even Republican Susan Collins voted “no.”
This was one of the last votes the Senate will take, before they adjourn for the election season—where the Koch brothers will pour millions of dollars into attack ads to fool voters.
In other words, the fact that every Democrat sided with the people—and every Republican sided with the rich and powerful—will make this a potent campaign issue in November.
Senators Mary Landrieu, Kay Hagan, Mark Pryor and Mark Begich all voted to take back our democracy: now they will be on the receiving end of attack ads made possible by Citizens United.
Mitch McConnell led the fight to defeat this amendment, and now he’ll have to answer the Kentucky voters. While he gets a little help from his billionaire friends.
In the past few months, over 500,000 Daily Kos members signed a petition to repeal Citizens United—which has been one of our most successful issues to mobilize our readers. As part of a wider coalition that includes other organizations, over 3 million people have taken action.
Our community is engaged and energized on this issue, and I could not be more proud of all the great work you have done. Now, we must channel our efforts into making sure Senate Republicans pay the price in November.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had a hard time listening to Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) blast her party’s handling of the border crisis on Friday night. So hard, in fact, that she couldn’t stay in her seat — let alone on her side of the aisle. Instead, Pelosi got up midway through Marino’s comments, passing in front of the House floor cameras, to apparently challenge the Republican’s statements up close, ABC News reports. Marino turned his comments directly toward her, saying, “Yes it is true. I did the research on it. You might want to try it. You might want to try it, Madam Leader.” Later, off-camera, Pelosi reportedly followed Marino up the Republican aisle, pointing her finger at him and arguing further. Pelosi’s staff later released a statement saying she merely “wanted to remind the Congressman that the House Democrats had the courage to pass the DREAM Act,” and that “Pelosi accepted the Congressman’s apology.” Marino’s chief of staff countered with a statement of his own, saying the congressman had neither apologized to Pelosi nor intended to. Watch Marino’s comments in the video, below, and keep your eyes peeled for Pelosi’s passing across the cameras around the 50-second mark. —Sarah Eberspacher
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had a hard time listening to Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) blast her party’s handling of the border crisis on Friday night. So hard, in fact, that she couldn’t stay in her seat — let alone on her side of the aisle.
Instead, Pelosi got up midway through Marino’s comments, passing in front of the House floor cameras, to apparently challenge the Republican’s statements up close, ABC Newsreports. Marino turned his comments directly toward her, saying, “Yes it is true. I did the research on it. You might want to try it. You might want to try it, Madam Leader.”
Later, off-camera, Pelosi reportedly followed Marino up the Republican aisle, pointing her finger at him and arguing further. Pelosi’s staff later released a statement saying she merely “wanted to remind the Congressman that the House Democrats had the courage to pass the DREAM Act,” and that “Pelosi accepted the Congressman’s apology.”
Marino’s chief of staff countered with a statement of his own, saying the congressman had neither apologized to Pelosi nor intended to.
Watch Marino’s comments in the video, below, and keep your eyes peeled for Pelosi’s passing across the cameras around the 50-second mark. —Sarah Eberspacher
Today Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen went to the House floor to get clarification about a dead-of-night rule change that ensured only one Member – the Majority Leader or his designee – could bring up any version of transportation trust fund bill for a vote. The same tactic was used by House Republicans last October to shut down the government and keep it closed. The Speaker’s designee repeatedly refused to answer his simple question, and Congressman Van Hollen then spoke about how democracy has once again been suspended in the House of Representatives. Below is a transcript of his remarks, and the full video of the exchange is above.
“Yesterday we were on the floor of the House, Mr. Speaker, and our Republican colleagues passed a measure to sue the President of the United States – waste millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to sue the President of the United States – and the claim was the President has exceeded his authority. That’s a specious claim, but what’s incredible is the very next day our Republican colleagues are here suspending democracy in the House, changing the standing rules of the House to take away from any Member of the House the opportunity to offer a motion with respect to the transportation bill, which is what the standing rules of the House provide. And they want to say, no, we’re going to take that right away from a Member and we’re going to give it exclusively to the Republican Leader or the Republican Leader’s designee.
“You know, Mr. Speaker, the last time we saw this happen? On the government shutdown. Our Republican colleagues used the same measure to refuse to take up the Senate bill which would have ended the government shutdown. They didn’t want to end it, so they kept it going. That cost the American taxpayer $24 billion – $24 billion in damage to the economy. Let’s not play games with the rule. This rule allows every Member their rights. The Speaker is not the king, and we should make sure every Member has an opportunity. Thank you Mr. Speaker.”
BREAKING: House passes GOP's $694 million border supplemental funding bill, 223-189. The bill faces a veto threat and will not see a vote in the Senate - @frankthorpNBC
- Texas Gov. Rick Perry taps $38 million in emergency funds to pay for National Guard border deployment - @davidSrauf
BREAKING: The Frivolous Lawsuit Against President Obama has passed the US House 225-201-7. #P2 #UniteBlue #GOPLawsuit
The GOP putting politics over the American People as usual, edition 4,500.
— Justin Gibson (@JGibsonDem)July 30, 2014
— The Democrats (@TheDemocrats)July 30, 2014
— Justin Gibson (@JGibsonDem)July 30, 2014
Rather than acting to improve America, House Republicans are pursuing a meritless lawsuit at a cost of millions of dollars to taxpayers.— Senator Harry Reid (@SenatorReid) July 30, 2014
Today’s vote in the House to sue the President was a shameful display of political pandering & misplaced priorities. http://t.co/elGGg4k0mn— D Wasserman Schultz (@DWStweets) July 30, 2014
— Breaking News (@BreakingNews)July 30, 2014
House resolution to sue Obama passes 225-201. Five Republicans join all Democrats in voting against it. http://t.co/Tm0lTmx2tN— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur)July 30, 2014
Five GOPers voted against, most likely because it didn’t go far enough:
Five Republicans voted AGAINST the resolution authorizing a lawsuit against Pres Obama: Massie Jones Broun (GA) Stockman Garrett— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorpNBC)July 30, 2014
BREAKING: Confirmed: Congress reaches deal to reform VA health-care system, but the details of a plan aren't known yet
Despite hurdles, both sides promise deal that addresses short-term and long-term problems at VA.
After the massive scandal at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, Congress reportedly reached an agreement on how to the fix the nation’s publicly run health-care system for veterans — despite at times appearing like both sides of the debate would fail to set a deal.
Negotiations between Senate Democrats and House Republicans seemingly broke down on Thursday, July 24, as both sides held dueling press conferences accusing each other of bad faith.
The negotiations appeared to be on much better ground as of the weekend, with staffers from both sides resuming discussions. House VA Chair Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Senate VA Chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT) also agreed to fly back to Washington, DC, if it would push the negotiations forward.
THE NEGOTIATIONS APPEARED TO BE ON MUCH BETTER GROUND AS OF THE WEEKEND
On Sunday, congressional staffers confirmed they had reached a deal. Neither side disclosed details on what, exactly, the final compromise will look like. A joint press conference scheduled for Monday will presumably lay out the details of the plan.
"I can say that an agreement has been reached to deal with both the short-term and long-term needs of the VA," said Michael Briggs, a spokesperson for Sanders.
The debate centered around how Congress should fix a VA health-care system that simply doesn’t have enough doctors and staff for the number of patients it sees every year. The lack of capacity is one of the reasons schedulers and administrators in Phoenix and at other VA hospitals around the country manipulated records. The falsified reports made it look like VA hospitals were still hitting goals, which were linked to bonus payments, for seeing patients in a timely manner.
Before Congress reached a deal, they had to work through one remaining hurdle: funding.
The debate focused on money
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill passed by the Senate would cost $35 billion. The final cost will likely change in the final bill, but the high CBO estimate gives a rough idea of just how much money was being debated — and why a highly budget-conscious Congress had so much trouble reaching an agreement.
On Thursday, Miller released what he framed as a compromise between the original House and Senate proposals. The bill would, among other changes, fund a $10 billion, two-year pilot program that would let veterans get private care outside the VA system, allow the VA to hire more doctors, and establish more accountability measures.
But the bill didn’t include the full $17.6 billion in funding requested by the VA. The VA said the funds would help expand its infrastructure and hire new staff, including doctors, to get ahead of a surge of veterans coming home from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"IF THERE’S ONE THING WE’VE LEARNED OVER THE LAST FEW MONTHS, IT’S THAT WE CAN’T TRUST VA’S NUMBERS"
Sanders spokesperson Briggs said the senator doesn’t necessarily want the final compromise to include all of the VA’s requested funding, but he would like to see at least some of it in a compromise.
House Republicans, a staffer said, would prefer to see the additional funding requested by the VA dealt with in separate discussions about broader budget bills. Republicans haven’t decided whether the request is too much, but they would like more time to work through the issue in separate budget negotiations to see what justifies such a big increase in funds and how the money should be appropriated.
Miller put it more candidly in a recent statement: “I am committed to giving VA the resources it needs to provide our veterans with the care and benefits they have earned. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last few months, it’s that we can’t trust VA’s numbers. That includes the $17.6 billion in additional funding Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson asked for today.”
No one expected to be completely happy with the final bill
Prior to reaching a deal, both sides said they would each need to ultimately give something up if they were to reach a deal in time for the August recess.
"We’re trying to reach a middle-ground that probably nobody will be completely happy with," Briggs said, "but it will do a lot of good for the VA and for veterans."
Some veterans advocates, meanwhile, don’t like the idea of putting veterans into private care. As they see it, veterans are multifaceted patients with all sorts of injuries, both mental and physical, that need a comprehensive, specialized approach that the VA is built to take on. The private system, on the other hand, is structured more for an everyday patient that might deal with fewer physical and mental health problems.
"I’m not sure that our members would benefit greatly from this legislation," Carl Blake of Paralyzed Veterans of America said. From Blake’s perspective, veterans with major disabilities, like those his organization represents, are never going to find the kind of care they need at a private hospital.
"I’M NOT SURE THAT OUR MEMBERS WOULD BENEFIT GREATLY FROM THIS LEGISLATION"
A major concern for veterans groups is that Congress will enact the two-year pilot program for private care, assume the VA’s problems have been fixed, and leave the system to deteriorate after the pilot program ends. That, veterans advocates argued, would leave the VA worse off than it is today, because the pilot program would expire at a time more veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan will be entering the system.
Joe Violante, national legislative director for Disabled American Veterans, said adding more funding to the system, as veterans advocates have recommended for years in independent budget proposals, is key to a successful bill that will leave the VA in better shape. He argued, “If they’re not going to ensure that there’s funding available for the VA to expand during these two years, … I’d rather see them do nothing at this point.”
Congressional staffers confirmed on Sunday that Congress will do something, although the details of the deal weren’t disclosed. As they see it, the final compromise might not satisfy everyone, but it could help alleviate a system that’s been clearly strained by too many patients, too few doctors, and misguided regulations for years.
Update: This article was updated to reflect the announcement of a deal on Sunday.
Source: German Lopez for Vox
Could the federal government shut down again this fall? Th idea sounds absurd on its face, especially one month before an election, and one year after Republicans took a drubbing in the polls for forcing a shutdown over Obamacare. But it could happen. Congress is currently on course for a battle to keep the federal government funded when the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. Even though the two parties agreed to a discretionary spending level of $1.014 trillion for fiscal year 2015, the appropriations process has screeched to a halt over extraneous policy issues and procedural disputes. And so a stopgap measure appears inevitable.
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said Thursday the House will consider a continuing resolution to avert a government shutdown once Congress returns from summer recess on September 8. The funding measure will probably expire in mid-November, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a deputy majority whip, told TPM.
Once Congress returns from the August recess, it’ll have a mere 10 working days to agree to a bill before the government partially shuts down. And there are two contentious issues in particular that are roped in with the CR debate.
The first is reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, which supports billions of dollars in U.S. exports and thousands of American jobs through loan guarantees and other products. Its charter expires on Oct. 1, and many House conservatives, including incoming Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), are enthusiastic about shutting the bank down, bashing it as an emblem of corporate welfare and crony capitalism. Senate Democratic leaders recognize that and may force the issue by attaching renewal of the bank to their CR.
"Well, the thing we’d like to do is pass a long-term approval of the Export-Import Bank but we certainly don’t want to let it expire. We’re weighing all options," New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the No. 3 Senate Democrat, told TPM when asked if leadership will attach Ex-Im to the CR.
Passing such a bill through the Senate shouldn’t be a problem. Democrats broadly support Ex-Im renewal and a significant number of Senate Republicans do, too. “I think we do need to have an Export-Import Bank because we do need to be global competitively,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said. “We don’t want to shoot ourselves in the foot.”
The question, in that case, becomes whether House Republican leaders back down and accept such a bill. That would anger conservatives who are campaigning to shut the bank down and cost Republicans some support within their own ranks.
"I think it should be a clean CR," Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) told TPM. "I may end up opposing a CR if it has [Ex-Im] attached to it. Because I oppose the reauthorization."
The second issue is the battle over President Barack Obama’s recently proposed rules on coal-fired power plants to combat climate change. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who faces a tough reelection fight in his coal-heavy state, has aggressively fought to attach his amendment blocking the rule to appropriations legislation — an idea Senate Republicansstrongly support — and has vowed to continue offering it on all government funding measures.
The problem is Senate Republicans would arguably feel most of the pain of a government shutdown in the Nov. 4 elections, jeopardizing their chance to win the majority. So it’s unclear they’ll push the issue. With Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) promising that the amendment won’t fly in the Senate, McConnell faces a choice: filibuster government funding legislation or surrender his best opportunity to reverse the climate change rules.
McConnell will want to avoid doing anything that damages his odds of becoming majority leader in January. But his fighting words make it hard to back off.
"Everyone knows the administration’s war on coal jobs is little more than an elitist crusade that threatens to undermine Kentucky’s traditionally low utility rates, splinter our manufacturing base, and ship well-paying jobs overseas," McConnell said Thursday on the Senate floor, promising he’ll "keep fighting" for his amendment.
Portman said he’s hopeful that because both sides have agreed on how much the government should spend, “I think we can avoid a government shutdown.”
Cole, a Boehner ally, also expressed hope Congress can avert a shutdown.
"I think so," the congressman told TPM, although he added that it’s not a certainty. "Could you stumble into a bad situation? It’s always possible. But I think people are working hard to avoid that sort of thing."
The number of unaccompanied children apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border has spiked 90 percent since last year. Republicans are responding to the humanitarian situation by making it the latest excuse to halt efforts on immigration reform. While some Republicans are lining their campaign wallets using the crisis, others are trying to blame the President Obama for not enforcing current immigration laws.
House Republicans will hold a House Judiciary Committee hearing next week titled, “An Administration Made Disaster: The South Texas Border Surge of Unaccompanied Alien Minors” to drive home that point. In an op-ed published Thursday, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said that Obama’s “broader refusal to uphold our immigration laws [has] created a powerful incentive for children to cross into the United States illegally.”
In early June, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) also argued in a press release that the President was “personally responsible” for “incentivizing” unaccompanied children with the promise of “citizenship for anyone in the world who arrives illegally in the country by a certain age.” As a result, Sessions said, “President Obama is responsible for this calamity.”
Most children are fleeing extreme violence and a fear of individual safety in Mexico and Central America’s northern triangle of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. And there has been an uptick of these child refugees since 2009, long before either the Senate comprehensive immigration bill or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program (a presidential initiative which grants temporary legal presence to some undocumented immigrants) came into public existence.
After the Obama administration announced a cross-governmental agencies plan to deal with the situation, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) released a press release stating that the surge was “an administration-made crisis” due to Obama’s supposed lax border enforcement policies. Goodlatte said in early June, “Many of the Obama Administration’s policies… have led to a surge of minors arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.”
Even House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) criticized the President’s “lax enforcement at Mexico’s borders,” in a strongly worded letter to Obama Friday, claiming Obama was giving a “free pass” to immigrants heading into the United States. He requested for the President to send the National Guard and asked the State Department to begin repatriation talks. But Boehner also insisted that, “once [unaccompanied children] reach U.S. soil, they will be able to stay here indefinitely.”
In fact, the current process of dealing with unaccompanied children from countries other than Mexico was set by the Bush administration, according to Dara Lind at Vox. Under the law, the Border Patrol agency is required to take in these children, screen and vaccinate them, then turn them over to the Department of Health of Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). The ORR assigns children to shelters until the agency can identify sponsors and once children are placed with sponsors, their cases work their way through the immigration court. Earlier this month, Jonathan Ryan, an attorney with the immigration advocacy group RAICES, told ThinkProgress that the Bush administration “changed the treatment of how kids go through immigration court.” Ryan added that the law was a “recognition of the need to protect these kids and at the time, the need was the war that’s pushing kids out of Central America.”
These lawmakers may be drawing from a Border Patrol “survey” leaked to conservative media outlets and congressional members, which found that about 230 children and women from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador came to the United States for immigration reform. Yet the survey findings, which ThinkProgress also obtained, has massive gaps in its methodology and data results. The memo acknowledged that Border Patrol agents threw out any responses that did not fit with their “general consensus” for the main reasons to leave their countries. In many cases, children and women gave multiple reasons for entering the U.S., including an increase in gang-related violence in Central America. Other missing gaps include: Border Patrol agents are not trained to conduct surveys of people that they have just apprehended; the data set includes only answers given on one day, May 28th; and it’s unclear how many children were interviewed.
Other researchers have determined that immigration reform, or any U.S. legislation, is not behind the emigration. In a survey conducted by the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees, only one out of 104 El Salvadoran children mentioned immigration reform as a primary motivator for leaving. Another survey by Elizabeth Kennedy, a doctoral candidate at San Diego State University found that “in only one of 400-plus interviews did a child migrant ask about the DREAM Act and immigration reform. …Fifteen had heard that the U.S. system treated children differently than adults and wanted to know how. In all 15 cases, the child had received a threat to join the gang or be killed, and some had then been beat or raped when they refused to join.”
After children are placed with the ORR, they are put into immigration proceedings as the White House and DHS Sec. Johnson have long emphasized. The New York Times reported that the Obama administration has been responding to the crisis by accelerating the immigration adjudication process and deporting children as quickly as possible. The New York Times also found that the DHS has “expand[ed] the use of monitoring devices, such as electronic ankle bracelets, to keep track of migrants after they are released.” Even Hillary Clinton recently said to CNN that the children “should be sent back” to their home countries. Clinton added, “Just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay. … We don’t want to send a message that is contrary to our laws, or we’ll encourage more children to make that dangerous journey.”
Although the data is not limited to only children, the Department of Justice found that only 18 percent of non-detained immigrants fail to appear for their removal hearings.
Meanwhile, on Friday, the White House announced steps “to improve enforcement and partnering with our Central American counterparts in three key areas: combating gang violence and strengthening citizen security, spurring economic development, and improving capacity to receive and reintegrate returned families and children.” It will also provide $9.6 million for Central American governments to help repatriated citizens, establish a $40-million U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) program over 5 years to improve citizen security in Guatemala, launch a $25-million Crime and Violence Prevention USAID program in El Salvador, and provide $18.5 million to support community policing and law enforcement efforts in Honduras. The White House press release also stated that it will collaborate on “campaigns to help potential migrants understand the significant danger of relying on human smuggling networks and to reinforce that recently arriving children and individuals are not eligible for programs like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly called DACA, and earned citizenship provisions in comprehensive immigration reform currently under consideration in the Congress.”
Republicans has long justified inaction on immigration reform based on a revolving list of excuses, including citing the President ignoring the law in order to secure the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, because HealthCare.gov was broken, that the Boston Marathon bomber was an immigrant, and Obama’s refusal to negotiate during the shutdown made it unrealistic to pass immigration reform.
GOP Majority Leader/Whip Update: Kevin McCarthy named Majority Leader, Steve Scalise named Majority Whip
BREAKING: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) elected House majority whip.— HuffPost Politics (@HuffPostPol) June 19, 2014
Washington Post reporting US Rep. Scalise edges Rep. Peter Roskam and Rep Stutzman for House majority whip, wins on first ballot.— Dave McKinney (@davemckinney123) June 19, 2014
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s stunning loss to his tea party challenger on Tuesday will create the biggest disruption for GOP lawmakers since the departure of Tom DeLay eight years ago, and throws open the question of who will be the next speaker after John Boehner leaves.
It’s unclear how long Boehner plans to stay on, or whether Cantor’s defeat will alter the Ohio Republican’s thinking on his own future. There has been speculation for months that Boehner could step down after Election Day, or before the end of the next Congress, with Cantor in place as his certain successor.
Now, with Cantor’s shocking defeat, the GOP succession question for the “after Boehner” period is wide open, and Republicans will spend at least the next five months jockeying for a newly open spot at the leadership table.
Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, the current No. 3 in the House, is all but certain to run for the majority leader post, GOP sources said. McCarthy’s office declined to comment on Cantor’s loss or McCarthy’s plans.
But the California Republican likely will be challenged by a member of the conservative wing of the House GOP Conference, potentially including Reps. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, Jim Jordan of Ohio or Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington.
And a full-scale war will break out for majority whip, with Scalise, McMorris Rodgers and Reps. Pete Roskam (R-Ill.) and Pete Sessions (R-Texas) all possibilities for that post.
Roskam had already started unofficially running for whip, if the job came open. A GOP aide said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) decided to officially seek the whip job after receiving a number of calls Tuesday night from conservatives in the party urging him to run after Cantor lost.
GOP Rep. Paul Ryan is next in line for the Ways and Means Committee gavel and has said he wasn’t running for leadership, a stance he may now have to rethink.
Other leadership hopefuls could also emerge, especially among freshmen or sophomore members, although some of the most visible members those classes are running for Senate, leaving Congress or have other roles at this time. This group includes Reps. Jim Lankford (R-Okla.), who is running for Senate; Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), another Senate hopeful; Tim Griffin (R-Ark.); and Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who is chairing the Benghazi select committee.
Yet Cantor’s pending disappearance from the top Republican ranks, coupled with questions over Boehner’s future, mean this leadership scramble could decide who runs the GOP Conference for the next decade, similar to how the Boehner-Roy Blunt battle to replace Tom DeLay played out in 2006.
Boehner, of course, won that fight and eventually became speaker when Republicans took back the House in 2010. For those Republicans eyeing leadership runs, the lessons from that fight could tempt them to go for the brass ring now, or risk losing out to a more ambitious rival and facing long-term fallout.
“You’ve seen the shadow campaigns … that get talked about all the time but then [members] deny it,” said a former Republican leadership staffer. “Tomorrow, you’re going to start hearing that people are seriously considering a run. It will be blown up. By the end of the week, we’re going to see who is interested and who is not.”
“This flushes out the Hensarlings and the Jordans. If they say they are not interested, then they are not interested and the conference has to move on. It’s important to make sure the conference has time to move on and vet a leader,” the former staffer added.
Republicans were stunned by Cantor’s defeat, as was all of Capitol Hill. Cantor had spent part of the day in House leadership meetings and on the floor dealing with a 2015 spending bill, and his staff and allies expressed total confidence that he would win. Cantor’s office had already released a memo outlining the June voting schedule, and his aides were trying to assemble an even longer-range floor schedule.
“Eric Cantor and I have been through a lot together. He’s a good friend and a great leader, and someone I’ve come to rely upon on a daily basis as we make the tough choices that come with governing,” Boehner said in a statement late Tuesday night. “My thoughts are with him and Diana and their kids tonight.”
McMorris Rodgers also praised Cantor, saying it was an “honor” to work with him.
“I’ve known Eric since I first came to Congress, and he’s been a great friend and colleague. It is a true honor serving with him — as a leader for both the people of Virginia and America. My thoughts are with Eric, Diana, and their family,” she said.
When the news broke on Tuesday evening, House members were still in the Capitol for a series of evening votes. The results began trickling in showing Cantor losing, which led to the unthinkable question, “What if Cantor loses?
Cantor’s loss could also dramatically alter the Republican legislative agenda for the next five months. Cantor had been scrambling to craft GOP health care bill to replace Obamacare — trying to piece together plans from wide corners of the party that could win support from a majority of Republicans. GOP leadership aides were tentatively planning for a series of health care related votes following the July 4th recess.
If a number of Republican Study Committee members hop into the race, it could raise the prominence of their health care alternative. Scalise launched a push just last month to pressure Cantor to schedule a vote on that bill.
Immigration reform will be another victim of the loss. Cantor was a moderate supporter of Republican plans to overhaul the current system — a point Brat used against him in the race. With such a high-profile sacrifice, it’s likely that even moderate Republicans will back away from reform or risk being labeled amnesty backers.
Dark Horse candidates that I’d also wager: Tim Huelskamp, Marsha Blackburn, Todd Rokita, and/or Jim Bridenstine could be considered for leadership roles.
h/t: Lauren French and John Bresnahan at Politico
RARE POLITICAL SURPRISE: "No sitting majority leader has lost a primary since the position was invented in 1899."
For the first time in history, the House majority leader has lost in a primary. Nobody saw it coming.
No one thought Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, could actually lose. His primary challenge in his suburban Richmond district, from a local economics professor named David Brat, was thought to be nominal. No sitting majority leader has lost a primary since the position was invented in 1899. Cantor, though unloved by many in his party and in Congress, was seen as the speaker-in-waiting whenever John Boehner decided, or was forced, to hang it up.
But all those assumptions went out the window Tuesday night, when Cantor shockingly lost—and by a wide margin. With 97 percent of the vote counted, Brat had 56 percent of the vote to Cantor’s 44 percent.
In retrospect, there were signs Cantor felt endangered. As the Washington Postreported, in a dispatch that seemed far-fetched at the time but now appears prescient, Cantor was booed at a local Republican gathering last month, and his handpicked candidate for district GOP chair was defeated. His campaign aired TV ads and sent mailers crediting him for blocking immigration reform—signs he had begun to sense a threat. Meanwhile, Brat, a Tea Party activist, was championed by national conservatives like Ann Coulter and Mark Levin. (According to Virginia’s “sore-loser” law, Cantor can’t run against Brat as an independent in the general election, though he might be allowed to mount a write-in bid.)
One immigration-reform-supporting conservative operative emailed me mournfully: “I can’t vote for Democrats because I am pro-life, but my party seems beyond repair.”
Cantor’s loss will prompt the reexamination of some other pieces of conventional wisdom: One, that the Tea Party is dead—clearly, at least in one restive precinct, anti-Washington anger is alive and well. And two, that supporting immigration reform doesn’t necessarily hurt Republicans in primaries—Cantor’s supposed support for “amnesty” was Brat’s chief line of attack. Supporters of immigration reform now fear that Republican members of Congress, leery of touching the issue before, now will never be persuaded that it is not politically toxic. As one immigration-reform-supporting conservative operative emailed me mournfully: “I can’t vote for Democrats because I am pro-life, but my party seems beyond repair.”
In truth, it’s not quite so simple. The Tea Party has come up short in most of the big races where it played this year, and other, unapologetic Republican supporters of immigration reform, like North Carolina Representative Renee Ellmers and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, have held on in the face of primary challenges. Cantor may have suffered more for his role as part of the unpopular House leadership than for any particular issue. After Republicans took the House in 2010, Cantor positioned himself as conservatives’ voice in leadership, a role in which he was blamed for scuttling the 2011 debt-limit deal that led to the nation’s credit being downgraded. But he had since patched things up with Boehner, a turnaround that led many House Republicans in both camps—the hard right and the establishment—to be unsure they could trust him. Cantor was ambitious, perpetually billed as a “rising star” despite his seven terms in Congress, but his ideas, like his “Making Life Work” reform agenda, never seemed to gain traction within his party.
There are few real surprises in politics. Tuesday’s result in Richmond was a rare exception. The political world now must get to know an obscure Randolph-Macon professor named Dave Brat; his Democratic opponent, an even more obscure professor at the same college named Jack Trammell; and a new world order in the House of Representatives.
One plan: Force the speaker to step aside before the new year.
Several dozen frustrated House conservatives are scheming to infiltrate the GOP leadership next year—possibly by forcing Speaker John Boehner to step aside immediately after November’s midterm elections.
The conservatives’ exasperation with leadership is well known. And now, in discreet dinners at the Capitol Hill Club and in winding, hypothetical-laced email chains, they’re trying to figure out what to do about it. Some say it’s enough to coalesce behind—and start whipping votes for—a single conservative leadership candidate. Others want to cut a deal with Majority Leader Eric Cantor: We’ll back you for speaker if you promise to bring aboard a conservative lieutenant.
But there’s a more audacious option on the table, according to conservatives involved in the deliberations. They say between 40 and 50 members have already committed verbally to electing a new speaker. If those numbers hold, organizers say, they could force Boehner to step aside as speaker in late November, when the incoming GOP conference meets for the first time, by showing him that he won’t have the votes to be reelected in January.
The masterminds of this mutiny are trying to stay in the shadows for as long as possible to avoid putting a target on their backs. But one Republican said the “nucleus”of the rebellion can be found inside the House Liberty Caucus, of which he and his comrades are members. This is not surprising, considering that some of the key players in that group—Justin Amash of Michigan, Raúl Labrador of Idaho, and Thomas Massie of Kentucky—were among the 12 Republicans who refused to back Boehner’s reelection in January 2013.
Amash, chairman of the Liberty Caucus, warned at the time that there would be a “larger rebellion” down the road if Boehner’s leadership team did not bring conservatives into the fold. Such an insurrection never materialized, however, as Boehner deftly navigated a series of challenges last year and wound up winning over some of the malcontents.
But conservatives, increasingly irritated with what they see as a cautious approach taken by their leadership, are now adamant that Boehner’s tenure should expire with this Congress.
"There are no big ideas coming out of the conference. Our leadership expects to coast through this election by banking on everyone’s hatred for Obamacare," said one Republican lawmaker who is organizing the rebellion. "There’s nothing big being done. We’re reshuffling chairs on the Titanic."
Boehner isn’t the only target. The conservatives find fault with the entire leadership team. Privately, they define success as vaulting one of their own into any one of the top three leadership spots. But they think they’re less likely to accomplish even that limited goal with a narrow effort focused on knocking out one person or winning a single slot. That’s why this time around, unlike the ham-fisted mutiny of 2013, rebels are broadening their offensive beyond Boehner’s gavel.
Cantor, next in line for speaker and once considered a shoo-in to succeed Boehner, has found himself in conservatives’ crosshairs in recent weeks.
With Boehner out of town in late March, Cantor was charged with pushing a “doc fix” bill across the finish line. When it became apparent the measure might not clear the House floor, Cantor authorized a voice vote, allowing the bill to pass without registered resistance. This maneuver infuriated conservatives, who felt that leadership—Cantor in particular—had cheated them. Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Caroline yelled “Bullshit!” outside the House chamber.
Some conservatives are still seething.
"I’m getting used to being deceived by the Obama administration, but when my own leadership does it, it’s just not acceptable," Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona said last week, after Cantor met with a group of angry Republican Study Committee members.
Cantor told conservatives that a voice vote was “the least-bad option,” given the circumstances. But many Republicans aren’t buying it. Moreover, they said that with Boehner out of town, Cantor had an opportunity to impress them with his management of the conference—and didn’t.
"It’s an issue of trust. If you want to have a majority that is governing, and a majority that is following the leader, the rest of us need to be in a position where we trust our leadership," Labrador said this week, adding, "When you have politicians actually playing tricks on their own party, and their own members of Congress, I think that erodes the trust the American people have in the rest of us."
"I can’t think of a time where I felt my trust had been more violated since I’ve been here—and that’s pretty stiff competition," Mulvaney added.
Cantor’s allies say the whole episode has been overblown. But there’s no question that it has stirred fresh disillusionment within the rank and file. And it’s not just the tea-party members up in arms. One House Republican who is friendly with Cantor, and hardly viewed as a troublemaker, predicted, “If there’s another vote like [that], Eric won’t be speaker. Ever.”
This backlash has emboldened some of leadership’s conservative critics. Now, they say, they might try to force Boehner out and also demand that Cantor bring on a conservative deputy before agreeing to vote for him as speaker.
"Eric would make that deal in a heartbeat," said a Republican lawmaker who supports Cantor but opposes Boehner.
Neither Cantor nor his office would comment on leadership races.
Even if Cantor does ascend to speaker, there could be fireworks further down the leadership ladder. Doubts persist about whether Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, Cantor’s closest friend in Congress, should earn a promotion to majority leader. The Californian is universally well liked, but some colleagues aren’t sold on his performance as whip. And if McCarthy does earn the No. 2 spot, there will almost certainly be a free-for-all to succeed him as whip, imperiling the expected advance of Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam.
Amid all the bold talk about Boehner and Cantor and the other leaders, some conservatives are thinking smaller. There is talk of meeting with leadership officials this fall and making demands about steering committee appointments and chairmanships. The idea would be to redistribute the decision-making and shake up what Rep. Louie Gohmert calls the “centralized, stovepipe dictatorship” that runs the congressional wing of the GOP.
Some members are convinced that Boehner will spare everyone the drama and decide to leave on his own. Sources close to the speaker have begun leaving the exit door ever so slightly open, and rumors of his retirement are now running rampant throughout the conference.
"All of this hinges on whether John is running for reelection," Mulvaney, who refused to vote for Boehner’s reelection in 2013, said of the potential leadership shuffling.
"I’d say about 80 percent of us expect him to step down after the elections," added one House Republican who has known Boehner for many years.
Boehner insists that he’ll seek another term as speaker.
"Speaker Boehner is focused on the American people’s top priority: helping our economy create more private sector jobs," said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel. "He has also said—publicly and privately—that he plans to be speaker again in the next Congress."
But conservative plotters promise that, unlike 15 months ago, they’ve got the numbers to prevent that from happening. Even if they can’t recruit an alternative to pit against him, they’ll tell Boehner in the November conference meeting that they plan to vote against him on the House floor in January “until kingdom come,” one GOP lawmaker said.
It’s similar to the strategy conservatives used in 1998 to depose Speaker Newt Gingrich, who gave up his gavel in November once it became apparent that conservatives had the numbers to block his reelection on the floor in January. In this case, Boehner won’t be able to win a majority vote of the House if a large bloc of conservatives sticks together and votes against him. Sooner rather than later, the conservatives predict, the speaker would spare himself that humiliation and step aside.
But as of yet, there is no sign of a serious conservative challenger willing to run for a top leadership job, let alone for Boehner’s.
Organizers are actively recruiting two highly respected conservatives—Jeb Hensarling of Texas and Jim Jordan of Ohio—hoping that one will agree to lead their opposition movement. But both have told colleagues they aren’t interested. And the other frequently discussed scenarios, such as RSC Chairman Steve Scalise running for whip, would hardly qualify as the splash conservatives are determined to make.
The attempted overthrow in 2013 failed in part because conservatives didn’t have an alternative candidate for on-the-fence Republicans to rally around. Now, with each passing day, organizers fear history could repeat itself.
"Somebody has to step forward," said Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, one of 12 Republicans who refused to back Boehner’s reelection in 2013. "This is not something where after the election you can step forward. There’s going to be months and months of [planning] needed."
Allies of the current leadership team dismiss the legitimacy of any challenge to the ruling order, and they predict that any conservative coup—especially one aimed at winning the speakership—will fail. One senior Republican said that there are only “three Republicans capable of winning majority support to become speaker of the House: John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan.”
On Wednesday morning, Senate Republicans blocked Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s Paycheck Fairness Act, which aims to reduce workplace discrimination against women.
On Wednesday morning, Senate Republicans blocked Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s Paycheck Fairness Act, which aims to reduce workplace discrimination against women. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell argued that the bill has nothing to do with women, and that Democrats are simply making show votes for their "powerful pals on the Left."
Leading up to the Senate debate, both Democrats and Republicans trotted out women to talk about how their political parties help them. The White House is currently under scrutiny for paying female staffers 88 cents on the dollar compared to their male co-workers. (The most widely cited statistic on the matter say that women earn 77 cents for every dollar men make, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.) So the GOP has tried to paint the Paycheck Fairness Act as hypocritical. Democrats responded by claiming Republicans don’t care about women at all. We will keep hearing this rhetoric all the way to the midterms.
As Alan Fram at the Associated Press notes, this is the third consecutive election year where Democrats have brought up a paycheck fairness bill. And Democrats have certainly made the issue about women this time, claiming that Republicans who oppose the bill oppose equal pay for equal work. In practice, the bill would make it harder for employers to pay women less than men (more regulation) and easier for aggrieved workers to sue.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised to bring the bill up for another vote before the midterms. He repeated the party line today, sighing, "For reasons known only to them, Senate Republicans don’t seem to be interested in closing wage gaps for working women."
Source: Allie Jones for The Wire
WASHINGTON, DC — Two top Democrats slammed their Republican colleagues on Wednesday for the “insulting way” they have carried out a year and a half worth of investigations into the supposed Benghazi scandal, urging them to relent and focus on preventing another such tragedy from occurring.
Reps. Adam Smith (D-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) are the ranking members on the House committees on Armed Services and Oversight respectively, two of the four that have devoted considerable time and effort to getting to the bottom of just what happened the night of the Benghazi attack in 2012. Together they have sat through dozens of hours of hearings and depositions related to the Obama administration’s response to the assault that left four Americans, including the ambassador to Libya, dead at its end. “When something happens like happens in Benghazi,” Smith said, “we absolutely have to investigate, we have to exercise [our] oversight function in a responsible manner to figure out what happened and most importantly how to prevent it from happening again.”
But enough is enough according, they said. “That’s the great tragedy of this investigation that the Republicans have led,” Smith said, calling it “relentlessly partisan” and focused on finding something that can be used to embarrass the administration. Smith pointed to the fact that a week after the attack a Republican member of Congress first mentioned possible impeachment as evidence of the blatantly partisan tenor the investigations have taken on from the start.
“As a member of the Armed Services Committee, my biggest objection is that it makes Congress look bad and it undermines the legitimate reason that we should be exercising oversight,” Smith said. “When you do that, when you [launch investigations] in a partisan manner as the Republicans have done … we are not performing the function we are supposed to be performing, which is smart, valid oversight,” he continued.
“Frankly, it is an embarrassment for our committees,” Cummings agreed. “It undermines our credibility, and nobody will take us seriously.” Cummings also hit out at Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), noting the numerous times he has massaged facts or outright fabricated them in order to move the Benghazi scandal forward. “Take a minute and think about what he suggested: that Hillary Clinton told the Secretary of Defense of the United States to withhold military assistance when her friend, Ambassador Chris Stevens, and three other Americans were dying,” Cummings said, referring to the conspiracy theory that the Obama adminsitration had ordered the military to “stand down” the night of the attack. Despite a Republican-written report debunking the existence of such an order, Issa went on to repeat the claim only days later. “That is a horrendous and baseless accusation,” Cummings chided.
The latest push from the GOP to rekindle Benghazi involved calling Gen. Carter Ham (Ret.), the former commander of U.S. Africa Command, before a closed session of the Armed Services Committee on Wednesday morning. This, Cummings pointed out, marked the sixth time that Ham had been compelled to appear before Congress since the attack nearly nineteen months ago. “This is the insulting way Republicans have conducted this investigation,” Cummings lamented. “Instead of honoring his service and looking for ways to save future lives, Republicans are playing a game of political ‘gotcha’ with our military.”
Smith described the process that Republicans have taken in the Benghazi instance as “throwing something against the wall and hoping something sticks” without any basis in fact. “There’s too many hypothetical, too many suppositions,” he said, in response to a question from the crowd about allegations that former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell’s helping clear the pathway for Hillary Clinton’s possible presidential run. The question, Smith added, mirrored the Republican model of “make it up first, then try to figure it out later.” Cummings jumped in, adding: “Try to find facts that don’t exist to support the allegation.”
Democrats have spent the last few weeks urging their friends across the aisle to end their Benghazi witchhunt, citing a recent letter from the Department of Defense saying that millions of dollars have been spent in pursuit of facts that don’t exist. And while Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) seems content to let these investigations run indefinitely, he’s resisting calls from even more conservative wings of his party to appoint a special committee in the House to seek out White House malfeasance.
As if to punctuate how the supposed scandal isn’t going away anytime soon, however, on Wednesday afternoon on the other side of the Capitol, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Kelly Ayotte (R-AZ) will be holding a press conference. The subject? Why the media refuses to cover the Benghazi cover-up and demanding a joint committee investigate the Obama administration. If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s at least the fifth such call for a committee.
BREAKING: President Obama will sign an executive order addressing the #GenderPayGap
"I’m going to sign an executive order to create more pay transparency." —President Obama #FairFutureNow— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) April 8, 2014
President Obama to sign executive order addressing gender wage gap http://t.co/aiBbDrBRhT— Al Jazeera America (@ajam) April 8, 2014