On Tuesday, Boehner also waded, ever so briefly, into the culture wars when he directed the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to intervene in McLaughlin v. Panetta, a suit challenging the Defense of Marriage Act by eight current and former members of the armed forces. This is the second DOMA case that the advisory group has become involved in at the behest of Boehner.
Although Boehner’s timing of intervening in the case meant it came during a recess — and thus garnered little attention — it still drew a strong rebuke from Democrats.
“Without a vote or any specific authorization ... [BLAG] is intervening in yet another case,” said Drew Hammill, spokesman for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.).
Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck defended the Speaker’s decision.
“A majority of the BLAG believes the constitutionality of this statute ... should be determined by the judicial branch, not through a unilateral decision of the president,” Buck said.
Although House Democrats can’t control the floor agenda, that doesn’t mean they won’t be busy trying to make the next several weeks as politically painful for Republicans as possible.
According to several Democratic leadership aides, Democrats will continue to make student loans a top messaging priority.
“A number of Members did events over the recess, and we’re going to continue to keep pushing on that,” one leadership aide said.
Likewise, look for Democrats to return to their playbook on the transportation reauthorization bill regarding the Violence Against Women Act as they demand the House quickly pass the Senate’s bipartisan version.
According to one aide, Democrats’ strategy will be “similar to the highway bill. We’ll be pushing the storyline that it passed the Senate with a big bipartisan vote so we should be taking it up here and sending it to the president.”
Pelosi and her top lieutenants will also use the debate over the budget reconciliation process and appropriations bills to continue their attacks on the GOP’s economic policy and attempt to make the case that “they’re doing all this because they want to protect tax breaks for the rich,” a second Democratic leadership aide said last week.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.