Who is to blame when a free-for-all amendment process causes a $37.4 billion spending bill to collapse on the House floor?
[ House Rejects Spending Bill After Gay Rights Measure Added ]
The inclination may be to point the finger at Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who assumed the House's top job in October promising to open up more bills to amendments from both sides of the aisle.
Ryan, R-Wis., blamed Democrats for circumstances around the second tumultuous vote in as many weeks on the House floor — this time the rare failure of an appropriations measure.
He said they "sabotaged" the process by pushing for adoption of an LGBT anti-discrimination amendment and then voted against the larger energy and water bill, which went down 112-305 with 175 Democrats and 130 Republicans voting no.
Senate Republicans are desperately trying to persuade Sen. Marco Rubio torun for re-election, convinced he's likely the only candidate capable of holding a battleground seat.To which Senate Democrats are now responding: Don't be so sure.The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee issued a memo Friday making the case that Rubio would make a weak candidate in the general election. The political committee cited his weak showing in Florida's GOP presidential primary, in which he lost badly to Donald Trump, a poor attendance record in the Senate, and his position on abortion rights."After suffering a crushing defeat in his home state that forced him to drop out of the GOP presidential primary, Rubio has returned to the U.S. Senate —the job he admitted disliking —a deeply damaged and unpopular figure in his home state," the memo said.Speculation that Rubio might run again reached a frenzy this week after Republicans, including nearly all of the former presidential candidate's colleagues in the Senate, urged him to run for re-election. Rubio has said repeatedly that he won't seek another term in the Senate, but the filing deadline to become a candidate in Florida is June 24.
On November 9, 2017, well into the Clinton or Trump Administration, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen’s term will expire. Koskinen, like FBI Director James Comey, is a Senate-confirmed executive who has a term of office making him independent of the president’s term. Koskinen will be lauded at that time as a man of integrity who not only kept the IRS on life support while under constant attack but who provided the necessary leadership and integrity to drive the agency forward to better serve taxpayers.
[ Issa Subpoenas Lois Lerner's Hard Drive for 'Lost' IRS Emails ] Impeachment of federal office holders is reserved for those who commit high crimes or misdemeanors. Unfortunately, the House of Representatives seems determined to have a go at Koskinen for reasons that are political and unworthy of impeachment. Chairman Jason Chaffetz of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform introduced an impeachment resolution against Koskinen. The House Judiciary Committee held hearings. This is an uncharacteristic misstep by the Paul Ryan House of Representatives. Koskinen is an exemplary public official. He should be getting an award for his service, not this type of attention. He has not done anything wrong personally. Impeachment in the absence of crimes or unethical behavior, none of which has occurred here, is a dangerous precedent that has not been part of the U.S. experience and could dissuade experienced, competent executives like Koskinen from accepting appointment to senior management positions within government. I recently defended a case in Austin, Texas, where a similar mean-spirited legislative impeachment proceeding rightly failed. Why is Koskinen singled out for this ‘honor?’ In essence, the claim is he failed to respond to lawfully issued congressional subpoenas and engaged in “a pattern of deception” in statements pertaining to the IRS production of emails, and failed to act with competence in overseeing the investigation into IRS’s treatment of conservative groups. The proponents’ case that Koskinen committed high crimes and misdemeanors depends upon issues he did not control. But Koskinen wasn’t even at the IRS when the scandal occurred, and he certainly was not leading the search for documents to respond to congressional requests. Republican members of Congress are rightfully upset that IRS employees in West Virginia magnetically erased hundreds of backup tapes in March 2014, destroying some of former IRS official Lois Lerner’s emails. While IRS recycling the backup tapes was dumb as a bag of hammers, Koskinen did not engage in that activity.
Can these alleged transgressions by the IRS be attributed to the new commissioner or rise to the level of an impeachable offense by him or contempt of Congress? Clearly, the answer is no. This is not a case where a senior government official directly or indirectly ordered that subordinates destroy evidence being sought through a Congressional subpoena. See the Nixon case. Nor is there any suggestion that Koskinen or any other senior IRS official was complicit in a scheme or plot to destroy evidence sought by the Oversight Committee. In the absence of such evidence, impeachment is not an appropriate remedy. The IRS reportedly has spent $20 million and 160,000 employee hours responding to investigations related to its ill-advised treatment of conservative groups. The agency has also provided Congress with millions of pages of documents. But spoliation of electronic files at the IRS through ineptitude is hardly a surprise — it happens every day at major corporations as well. The inherently personal attack on Koskinen is wholly unfounded. It simply does not square with Koskinen’s well-deserved reputation for candor, competence, and achievement over five decades in government and the private sector.
Let’s get a grip: Commissioner Koskinen has previously served as Deputy Mayor of the District of Columbia; Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management and Budget; Chairman of the President’s Council on Y2K; and interim CEO and later Chairman of Freddie Mac. He also worked on the turnaround of large, struggling enterprises, including Penn Central Transportation Company and the Teamsters Pension Fund.
[ IRS Commissioner Won't Testify at Impeachment Hearing ] Koskinen is what he appears to be — an exemplary public servant who heads an agency in disarray; while his 76-year-old peers are fishing or golfing. People with Koskinen’s skill-set are incredibly hard to find in public service. One can only hope that this impeachment resolution — and the personal nature of its assertions — won’t cause others to turn away from public service, depriving the government of the seasoned, competent executives that it desperately needs. Stephan M. Ryan has served as general counsel of the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee and is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and Deputy Counsel of the President’s Commission on Organized Crime. He has worked with IRS Commissioner Koskinen on cybersecurity issues. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.
HIROSHIMA, Japan — President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima on Friday where he invoked the memory of “a flash of light and wall of fire” that destroyed the city during World War II.
At a moving ceremony at the city’s Peace Memorial Park, Obama told an audience that included survivors of the 1945 atomic bombing that the tragic events of that fateful day should never be forgotten.
“That memory allows us to fight complacency,” he said. “It fuels our moral imagination. It allows us to change.”
Obama’s landmark visit has inspired hope among many that it will lead to a more holistic teaching of World War II history and the decision to use atomic weapons against Japan.
[ Obama Deserves Credit for Visiting Hiroshima ]
House Republicans at a conference meeting heard a Bible verse that calls for death for homosexuals shortly before the chamber voted Thursday morning to reject a spending bill that included an amendment barring LGBT discrimination.
Whether the freshman member who gave the prayer intended to condemn members of the LGBT community has left Republicans and Democrats deeply divided. What's certain is that the Energy-Water appropriations bill ( HR 5055 ) that came to the floor later in the morning was defeated on a resounding 112-305 vote, with a majority of the GOP caucus in opposition.
Georgia Rep. Rick W. Allen led the opening prayer by reading from Romans 1:18-32, and Revelations 22:18-19. An aide to Allen told CQ that Allen did not mention the upcoming vote on the Energy-Water spending bill or an amendment it included from Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York that would prevent federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Passages in the verses refer to homosexuality and the penalty for homosexual behavior. “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet,” reads Romans 1:27, which Allen read, according to his office.
“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them,” read lines 28-32, which Allen also read, according to his office.
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An LGBT amendment that threw the House floor into a frenzy last weekwon approval late Wednesday night, meaning that some Republicans switched positions on the discrimination issue yet again. The amendment, offered byRep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., had failed by a single vote(212-213) last week after a handful of Republicans changedtheir vote from yes to no at the last minute. Democrats erupted into rage, repeatedly shouting "shame," as the vote was held open after time expired and the number of yes votes slowly dropped. [ Moral Victory on Confederate Flag, Painful Defeat on LGBT Protection ] The scene on Wednesday night as the House adopted the amendment, 223-195 , was significantly more subdued. As the vote was called shortly after time expired,Democrats applauded their victory but the volume of cheers was much lighter than the jeers the week prior. Maloney'samendment would uphold President Barack Obama’s 2014 executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity. He first offered itlast Thursday on a military construction and veterans spending measure. A total of 43 Republicans voted for the amendment Wednesday after only 29 Republicans supported it last week. A similaramendment offered last year byRep. Scott Peters, D-Cali., won the support of 60 Republicans. [ Really, 30 Republicans Switched Sides on LGBT Discrimination ] The seven Republicans who Democrats claim switched their votes from yes to no on the Maloney amendment last week all voted for it on Wednesday.The sevenareCalifornia Reps. Darrell Issa, Jeff Denham, David Valadao, and Mimi Walters; Oregon Rep. Greg Walden; Iowa Rep. David Young; and Maine Rep. Bruce Poliquin. [ 7 Republicans Flipped Their Vote on LGBT Amendment, Setting Them Up for Attack ] Other Republicans that flip flopped, voting yes on the second Maloney amendment after voting no on the first were: Reps.Susan W. Brooks of Indiana,Rodney Davis of Illinois,Adam Kinzinger of Illinois,Luke Messer of Indiana,James B. Renacci of Ohio,Tom Rooney of Florida andTodd Young of Indiana. They all voted for the similar amendment last year. “A bunch of members were misled as to what [last week's] amendment was or was not, what it was about," Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., said Wednesday. "A lot of people thought it was about bathrooms and guidance letters. And then the bill managers and the floor managers very legitimately thought it was going to take down the bill funding veterans in the military.” Ryan attributed part of the confusion to the "unpredictable and sloppy" open amendment process. "When you do two-minute votes, with very little notice, stacking them together, it produces a little bit of confusion," he said. [ House GOP Mulls Changing Amendment Process for Spending Bills ] When Maloney resubmitted the amendment on Wednesday -- this time onan energy and water spending bill --Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., offered an amendment to Maloney’s measureto ensure the discrimination ban would not run afoul of the Constitution. Pitts' amendment seemingly was designed to make a point thatObama does not have the power to write laws, only Congress does. But it failed to detract from theunderlying issue, as Maloney did not object to it. “We don’t fear the Constitution," Maloney said. "We welcome it. We embrace it.” Pitt’s amendment to Maloney's amendment was passed via voice vote, and then Maloney requested a roll call vote on his amendment, which was heldlater Wednesday night. The House on Wednesday night also adopted, 233-186,an amendment from Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., that would ensure the provisions in the spending measure do not contradict existing religious protections. Byrne said Obama's executive order did not provide protections for religious-based organizations who engage in government contracting. He said his amendment would ensure religious protections applied if Maloney's amendment were to be included in the bill. Young was seemingly using the Byrne amendment as rationale for switching his vote on the Maloney amendment again. [ Ask a Wonk: Time's Expired, So How Can Members Change Their Votes? ] "Thelanguage offered this evening offers vital workplace protections from discrimination of both personal religious beliefs and sexual orientation," he said in a statement claiming he's always been consistent in his position. "It is a common sense solution which furthers policies that adhere to our nation’s principles and religious beliefs." An amendmentRep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., offered to prohibit the Obama administration from blocking North Carolina from receiving federal funds in retaliation to its transgender bathroom law was adopted227-192. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Democrats were happy to see Maloney’s amendment pass Wednesday after Republicans worked so hard to defeat it a week ago. But undermining that success, she said, were the Pittenger and Byrne amendments. “Republicans overwhelmingly voted to support HB 2, the hateful and discriminatory state law in North Carolina, and to enable anti-LGBT bigotry across our country,” Pelosi said. “House Republicans should be ashamed of themselves. History will not look kindly on the votes Republicans proudly took to target Americans because of whom they are or whom they love.” Contact McPherson at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @lindsemcpherson. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.
Democrats are wasting no opportunity to lash any Republican to Donald Trump, whose turbulent run to the brink of the GOP presidential nomination has upended the party. But contrary to conventional wisdom, a sampling of polling suggests that he actually may not hurt Senate candidates this fall. A recent WBUR poll showed Trump running just two points behind likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire — that’s head-to-head when the margin of error is considered. [ How Senate Republican Campaigns Will Handle Trump ] Also in the Granite State, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., trails Democratic challenger, Gov. Maggie Hassan in her re-election bid by a similarly narrow margin. A Quinnipiac University poll released this month found the expected general election presidential race basically even in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida—all swing states. Another Qunnipiac survey found Senate races in those states similarly tight. "It’s certainly encouraging that Trump appears to be polling well in some key swing states," said Mark McKinnon, a Republican adviser and global vice president of Hill & Knowlton Strategies. "But let’s see what it looks like after the conventions.” The tough-talking businessman claims to have attracted to the political process millions of new voters feeling unrepresented by their elected leaders and falling behind economically. His most fervent supporters are predominantly white males in mainly rural communities. He also benefits from a Republican base energized to take on Clinton and the fact that the public dislikes them both about about the same, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News survey of registered voters. [ How Much of a Weight Is Trump on Portman? ] Indeed, Trump has garnered a record-breaking 11.5 million votes in primary balloting so far — about 45 percent of the total on the Republican side, according to Real Clear Politics. "I don't know what's going to happen in the end, but I think he'll be helpful because he's bringing new people to the party,” said Republican Sen. Rob Portman who's in a tight re-election fight in Ohio. The stakes are particularly high for Trump in Ohio, if history is any indicator. No Republican has lost Ohio and won the White House. But it’s unclear how many actual new voters he’s attracted and what impact, if any, that total is having on polling and down-ballot races. Also, Trump has a frosty relationship with establishment political figures, who continue to keep him at arm’s length and still worry about their majorities in Congress, especially the Senate. His endorsement tally from Capitol Hill and from state officials remains light. Moreover, just over half of 100 GOP aides who responded to the latest CQ Roll Call Capitol Insiders Survey now expect Democrats to pick up the four or five seats they will need to control the Senate next year. With polling showing tight races in general in a narrowly divided electorate, Senate incumbents, especially, continue to try to keep Trump out of their picture. They want to make it harder for Democrats to tar them with Trump's controversial positions on foreign policy, immigration and topics important to women. [ Senate Republicans Try to Escape Trump Vortex ] In Pennsylvania, Sen. Patrick J. Toomey holds press conferences to condemn his opponent’s support of “sanctuary cities.” Ayotte’s campaign has attacked Hassan forholding another Washington fundraiser. And Sen. John McCain’s campaign in Arizona has targeted his likely Democraticfoe, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, in a hard-hitting ad that focuses on President Barack Obama's health care law. [ What's a Vulnerable Republican To Do? ] Bob Kish, an Ohio-based Republican consultant who is critical of the presumptive GOP standard-bearer, said that it would be hard for Democrats to link Trump to Portman, who’s up against former Gov. Ted Strickland. "Rob Portman has made it clear he's running his own race," he said. "He's just a different kind of person.” Democrats aren't backing off. In Ohio, Strickland juxtaposes Portman with Trump in a new ad. "Donald Trump at the top of the Republican ticket is shining a bright spotlight on Senator Rob Portman’s status as the ultimate Washington insider and his decades long, unabashed support for unfair trade deals,” said Strickland spokesman David Bergstein in a press release. And a recent effort by state Democratic leaders in New Hampshire sought to make the Trump-Ayotte link stick. But former State Sen. Burt Cohen, a Democrat who is backing Bernie Sanders, said he did not think it would work because Trump racked up 50,000 more votes than Clinton totaled in the Democratic primary, he said. Alex Roarty contributed to this report. Contact Garcia at EricGarcia@cqrollcall.com and follow him on Twitter @EricMGarcia . Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.
Former House Speaker John Boehner doesn’t seem angry with the Republican conference that sent him packing in 2015. But you couldn’t blame Boehner if he felt just a little annoyed with the bunch, especially the loudest among them, whom he called “knuckleheads.” Despite the moans and groans about Boehner’s leadership from his own caucus, his strongest legacy for the Republicans in the 114th Congress will likely be their own glide paths to reelection. So far in 2016, not one incumbent Republican has lost a primary in a year that will be remembered for millions of angry voters going to the polls demanding change. This week’s Georgia primaries were only the latest to see incumbents cruise past challengers in conservative districts to what should be easy November wins. [ How House Republicans Can Survive Trump ] If they’re all looking for someone to thank, they should thank Boehner for generous donations to their campaigns, short Washington work weeks and his almost maniacal effort to keep controversial votes off the floor and his own members out of the headlines. Many of them didn’t like the way he did it, but all of them are reaping the rewards. The first thing any incumbent will tell you they need in order to fend off challengers is money to scare off upstarts, and Boehner gave his people a lot of it. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Boehnerraised nearly $100 million over the course of his career and gave most of it away to other Republicans. In 2014,he wasthe single largest donor to the National Republican Congressional Committee that got the 114th class elected. [ Boehner Elected Speaker Despite 25 Republican Dissidents ] Even themembers who gave Boehner the biggest headaches in 2015 took his money for their re-elections the year before. Of the 25 lawmakers who voted against the Ohio Republicanfor speaker in 2015, the CRPfound that 19 of them took money from his Freedom Project leadership PAC, including Florida Rep. Daniel Webster, whora n againstBoehner for speaker. For the 2016 cycle, Boehner's PAC has already given to 81 House incumbents, the Republican National Committee, the NRCC and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, according to Federal Election Commission filings, and will likely give away more. With money in the bank, the next thing incumbents want is time to campaign. The Boehner era gave them a steady stream of three-day work weeks that allowed for more time at home with constituents. In 2014, the House had 113 works days scheduled for the year even before Boehner canceled the last week of session to let members get home to campaign. Democrats howled about the vacation time, but Republicans reapedthe benefit. The 2014 midtermelections gave Republicans their largest majority since the Great Depression. The incoming freshmen had a light workload in 2015, with 132 days in session and no five-day work weeks. [ Taxpayers Foot Bill for Boehner's Post-Speaker Office ] When Congress was in session, Boehner typically gave his members the path of least resistance, with as few controversial votes as possible. If it looked like a bill wouldn’t pass, heoften pulled it off the floor. Even getting a vote usually required a majority of the majority, a strategy designed to keep legislation in line with what conservatives would support and that had the added benefit of saving incumbents the effort of explaining a vote that could be unpopular back home. A rare exception to following the so called Hastert rule —which somebody should probably rename —was the 2015 debt ceiling deal that Boehner negotiated with the White House in one of his last acts as speaker. With Paul Ryan already selected as his successor, Boehner pushed for a two-year deal to keep the issue and, worse, a possible government shutdown from coming up again before the 2016 elections. Ironically, the most explaining that many incumbents have had to do in their 2016 primaries has been why they voted for John Boehner for speaker. But by leaving before the next Congress, he’s taken even that issue off the table for incumbents, too. [T rump, Women and World War III ] Boehner’s approach didn’t always yield great legislative achievements — the 113th Congress bottled up all kinds of bills and produced the fewest pieces of enacted legislation of any Congress in 60 years. But it did help Boehner's members keep their seats to live to fight another day. In the next few months, some Republicans will lose their primaries when redistricting in states like Florida puts two House Republicans in a race against each other. And more House Republicans in swing districts are in danger of losing with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket. But Boehner did his part to get House Republicans this far, and there’s only so much a man can do from the 19th hole of his time as speaker. Roll Call columnist Patricia Murphy covers national politics for The Daily Beast. Previously, she was the Capitol Hill bureau chief for Politics Daily and founder and editor of Citizen Jane Politics. Follow her on Twitter @1PatriciaMurphy.
House Republicans passed a bill Wednesday that strips the District of Columbia of any autonomy over how it spends its own money.
The measure, which passed 240-179, seeks to overturn a local law passed by D.C. officials and affirmed by voters in a referendum allowing the city to control how it spends money it raises through its taxes. The House measure also spelled out that all city funding is subject to Congress’s annual appropriations process.
[ DC Budget Autonomy Ban Clears House Committee ] But the debate over the D.C. Budget Autonomy Act isn’t expected to clear a more closely divided Senate, and it faces the threat of a veto by President Barack Obama.
Still, Republicans in the GOP-led House chamber are so determined to keep their grip on the city’s finances that they slipped similar language into the draft of an appropriations bill marked up Wednesday.
[ Bowser, Council Score D.C. Budget Autonomy Victory ] At the same time, the North Carolina Republican leading the charge suggested the language can be inserted into a “must pass” resolution to keep the government funded even if Congress doesn’t pass a budget.