Before leaving for the holidays, lawmakers paid tribute to one another recalling "spawned" marriages while thanking their "awful" staff.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell discussed the remaining Senate schedule for the 113th Congress and the Keystone XL Pipeline at his weekly news conference Dec. 16.
The incoming Senate majority leader is putting approval of the Keystone XL pipeline project first on his 2015 agenda, telling reporters Tuesday a bill sponsored by Republican John Hoeven of North Dakota would lead off the floor schedule. "We'll be starting next year with a job-creating bill that enjoys significant bipartisan support," McConnell said of the pipeline legislation. "It will be open for amendment. We'll hope that senators on both sides will offer energy-related amendments, but there will be no effort to try to ... micromanage the amendment process."
Rep. Michele Bachmann gave her farewell speech on the House floor on Dec. 9, repeatedly talking about the “privilege” of serving as the first female Republican elected from Minnesota, while thanking her supporters, staff and congressional employees for their service.
With holiday jet fumes in the air, Congress spent its final full week of 2014 on "The Colbert Report," strategizing for bar fights and telling their favorite Dick Cheney quail hunting stories.
The pro-pot group protesting Congress' intervention into local marijuana policy did not cause an uproar on Capitol grounds Wednesday night, but they did clash with a congressman. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, riding with his chief of staff in a black sedan, encountered a few of the most antagonistic individuals on Maryland Avenue Northeast. About two dozen demonstrators, mostly associated with the DC Cannabis Campaign, were blocking traffic following a brief protest at The Heritage Foundation's nearby headquarters. When the Missouri Democrat's car pulled up to the intersection with D Street Northeast, a few protesters refused to let him pass. Cleaver leaned out the passenger side window and yelled that he had "somewhere" to be, but one man waving a 'Legalize' flag stood in front of the car.
CIA Director John O. Brennan maintained his objections about a Senate Intelligence Committee report on the agency's post-9/11 interrogation program during a rare news conference Thursday, saying the use of enhanced techniques produced useful intelligence while adding it is impossible to know if that was because of those techniques. "The cause and effect relationship between the use of EITs and useful information subsequently provided by the detainees is in my view unknowable," Brennan said. Brennan also said he was troubled by the study's findings that the CIA for years misled the Congress, the White House and the public about the brutality of interrogation techniques, their effectiveness and how often they were used. "The study's contention that we repeatedly and intentionally misled the public and the rest of the U.S. government rests on the committee's view that detainees subjected to EITs did not produce useful intelligence, a point on which we still fundamentally disagree."
In a scathing floor speech on the House floor, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., defied the White House's call to pass the "cromnibus," saying she was "enormously disappointed" with the administration's call to vote for the bill. "I was so really heartbroken ... to see the taint that was placed on this valuable appropriations bill from on high," Pelosi said about the spending bill riders related to Wall Street regulation and political donation limits. "So here we are in the House, being blackmailed to vote for an appropriations bill ... this is a ransom, this is blackmail. You don't get a bill unless Wall Street gets its taxpayer coverage."
The product of hours and hours of hard-fought negotiations could be lost Thursday if House Democrats decide, just hours before the government is to due to shut down, to band together and rebuff a trillion-dollar federal spending bill over two so-called "poison pill" policy riders. Every Democrat voted with 16 Republicans against the rule to advance the "cromnibus," with the GOP lawmakers voicing discontent over the lack of explicit language in the legislation to prohibit President Barack Obama from carrying out his executive orders on immigration. At a certain point, the votes were tied. At the very end, Republican leaders pressured two members to vote "yes," bringing the final tally to 214-212.
The "cromnibus" came together with a last-minute backroom deal between Republicans and Democrats and plenty of lawmakers are upset — including Speaker John A. Boehner. "This is exactly the way I don't want to do business," Boehner said Thursday, just hours before the House was slated to vote on the funding package. "Ideally, we would have been able to do this work one bill at a time." Boehner later gave members the hard sell on why they should vote for the cromnibus Thursday. "If we don't get finished today, we're going to be here until Christmas."
One day after the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report detailing the use of torture by the CIA during the George W. Bush administration, a chief critic of the CIA's tactics said the agency "lied" about the program's effectiveness, while calling on current CIA Director John O. Brennan to resign. During a nearly 50-minute floor speech Wednesday, Sen. Mark Udall, citing a 2009 review conducted by then-CIA Director Leon Panetta, said the committee's findings aligned with the Panetta review and charged that Brennan and the CIA "misrepresented" findings to the public from the Senate and CIA reports. "I've reviewed this document, and it is as significant and relevant as it gets," Udall said. "Director Brennan and the CIA today are continuing to willfully provide inaccurate information and misrepresent the efficacy of torture. In other words, the CIA is lying.”
Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday the Obama administration wants Congress to approve an Authorization for Use Military Force that would specifically target Islamic State extremists — but without geographic limitations or restrictions on how the military might use ground forces. In an appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry emphasized that President Barack Obama still has no intention of deploying ground combat troops but doesn't think the Senate should “preemptively bind the hands of our commander in chief” in responding to unexpected contingencies in combating the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Kerry's testimony suggests Obama will be seeking broader authority than congressional Democrats — and some Republicans — will be willing to approve.
Jonathan Gruber, the Obamacare consultant who has become a lightning rod for critics of the health care law for his comments about “the stupidity of the American voter,” apologized again on Capitol Hill Tuesday. Republican Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., in opening remarks, called the comments “deceitful,” before asking the Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist who helped write the Affordable Care Act if he was stupid. "Does MIT employ stupid people?" Issa said. "Not to my knowledge," Gruber replied.
Senate Republican leadership slammed a report released Tuesday detailing torture techniques used by the CIA during the George W. Bush administration, saying the program saved American lives and the report would endanger Americans abroad.
As final preparations seemed to be underway to pass the “cromnibus” funding most of the government for the rest of the fiscal year — and avoiding a shutdown — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made one more warning about the session extending past Thursday. “The federal government’s going to run out of money in two days. There’s no reason the government should shut down, and we’re ready to pass a yearlong spending bill to take care of this,” the Nevada Democrat said. “There’s still factions within the Republican party who want extreme measures. You’ve all heard them, just like I have.” “For the extremists within the Republican Party … there’s always a reason to take a poke at the president. If it’s not one thing, it’s some other thing. The American people certainly shouldn’t be facing another government shutdown, but I guess that’s what we’re facing,” Reid said, noting that almost 100 riders had been at play in the process of crafting the catch-all spending bill. Reid said he would back a very short-term continuing resolution, should it become necessary to get through procedural maneuvering and finish final details.
As the Senate Intelligence Committee’s CIA torture report roiled Capitol Hill Tuesday, Sen. John McCain framed the argument as one of moral clarity, all the while bumping up against his party leaders. “I rise in support of the release, the long-delayed release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s summarized, unclassified review of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques that were employed by the previous administration to extract information from captured terrorists,” the Arizona Republican said on the Senate floor. “I believe the American people have a right, indeed responsibility, to know what was done in their name, how these practices did or did not serve our interests, and how they comported with our most important values.” McCain, who spent five-and-a-half years in a North Vietnamese prison during the Vietnam War and endured unspeakable torture, is virtually unassailable on the issue. His comments put him back in the maverick role, at least in relation to the chamber’s internal politics, that has long defined his congressional career.
Senate Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein faced criticism Tuesday from CIA Director John O. Brennan for not interviewing CIA officers before the release of the committee's CIA torture report, which Brennan said "would have provided members with valuable context." Feinstein pushed back on this assertion during an hour-long floor speech, saying she was "confident" in the accuracy of the committee report while citing a 2009 Justice Department review of the interrogation techniques used during the George W. Bush administration, which Feinstein said deterred CIA employees from speaking with the committee.
Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein unveiled the executive summary of her committee's much-anticipated report on acts of torture used by the CIA Tuesday. "This document examines the CIA's secret overseas detention of at least 119 individuals and the use of coercive interrogation techniques — in some cases amounting to torture," the California Democrat said in a statement announcing the release. Feinstein said on the Senate floor there might never be a good time to release the report, but it is important to do so. The release of the report, Feinstein said, must change how the CIA works and prevent any future use of torture. The release of the report, Feinstein said, must change how the CIA works and prevent any future use of torture. "Never again," she said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid discussed the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on torture used by the CIA on the floor Tuesday, saying torture had no benefits and likening the report to the release of the Pentagon Papers and reports on Abu Ghraib and the Iran-Contra affair. "It got us nothing but a bad name," Reid said. "What took place, the torture program, was not in keeping with our country.”
Congress kicked off the final month of the year brining turkeys, plugging favorite movies and crying on the House floor.
With Senate Republicans meeting Tuesday to debate how to handle the filibuster in the 114th Congress following last year's "nuclear option," Roll Call looks at a June 2013 speech from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell threatening to maintain a reduced threshold for advancing legislation if Democrats changed Senate rules. “There’s not a doubt in my mind that if the majority breaks the rules of the Senate to change the rules of the Senate with regard to nominations, the next majority will do it for everything,” McConnell said on the floor on June 18, 2013. “I wouldn’t be able to argue, a year and a half from now if I were the majority leader, to my colleagues that we shouldn’t enact our legislative agenda with a simple 51 votes, having seen what the previous majority just did. I mean there would be no rational basis for that.”
In an exclusive interview with CQ Roll Call on Dec. 5, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had high praise for the incoming class of majority-makers. "I always think there is sort of two kinds of people in politics: those that want to make a point and those that want to make a difference," McConnell said. "And I think we've just added 12 new members to the 'make a difference' caucus. And I think we, you know, have some occasional differences over tactics, but I think we are gonna have a broad support within our conference for right-of-center progress."
In an exclusive interview with CQ Roll Call on Dec. 5, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said while Republicans would work to roll back President Barack Obama’s health care law, opponents of the law should be realistic about a full repeal. "Number one: We certainly will have a vote on proceeding to a bill to repeal Obamacare. … It is a statement to the obvious, however, that Obama — of Obamacare — is the president of the United States," he said of the job with the veto power.
In an exclusive interview with CQ Roll Call on Dec. 5, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he intended to keep his seat on the Appropriations Committee in the 114th Congress. “I have not been active in committee work since I became leader. But I think it is to the advantage of my state to have the opportunity to come to meetings occasionally and to vote in person, rather than just by proxy,” McConnell said.
In an exclusive interview with CQ Roll Call on Dec. 5, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was optimistic about the 2016 presidential election, saying by then the country could see its first female president. "Let me say this about Hillary [Rodham] Clinton: When she runs, she will win. And when she wins, she'll go to the White House as one of the most prepared people in modern history to go there," Pelosi said, stopping just short of an endorsement.
In an exclusive interview with CQ Roll Call on Dec. 5, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi insisted she doesn't gloat when House Republicans can't shore up the votes among their own members to pass any number of critical bills, and it's Democrats who get to swoop in and call themselves the heroes. "I would rather they did the responsible thing so we wouldn’t have to bail them out every time," the California Democrat quipped of her GOP counterparts. "I don’t think anyone is irrelevant. We have leverage if they don’t have the votes," she said. "They have leverage because they know we will be responsible. And that allows them to be irresponsible to a certain extent."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi opened Friday's news conference with a statement about recent grand jury decisions in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, expressing her support for peaceful protests and for President Barack Obama's response to both cases. "Our thoughts, our prayers, our hopes are with the families," Pelosi said. "I support President Obama's recent call for measures to increase trust between law enforcement and communities and Attorney General [Eric H.] Holder's call for federal investigations. It's very sad. All lives matter.”
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is still keeping her powder dry when it comes to staking out a position on the House GOP's fiscal 2015 spending bill, due to be revealed on Monday. The California Democrat said no policy riders currently on the negotiating table were "deal breakers" on their own. "Let’s look at the full package," she said. But the riders currently being discussed, she said, were cause for concern among members of her caucus.
President Barack Obama announced his nomination of Ashton Carter to be the next Secretary of Defense at a Friday morning news conference from the White House Roosevelt Room.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., criticized the White House for its use of prosecutorial discretion during a House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday on President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration. In a heated exchange with Marielena Hincapié, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, Gowdy challenged Hincapié on the limits of Obama's prosecutorial discretion under the law while also warning Hincapié to not link Republican concerns over immigration to race.
Jay Rockefeller, the five-term Democratic senator from West Virginia, gave his farewell address on the Senate floor Thursday where he expressed his love for the Senate, warned about the "cruelty of perpetual campaigns" and thanked his family, staff and colleagues.
While not committing to congressional hearings on recent grand jury decisions in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, Speaker John A. Boehner on Thursday echoed concerns of other lawmakers following both rulings, saying Americans "deserve more answers about what really happened." "Clearly both of these are serious tragedies that we've seen in our society and I think the American people want to understand more of what the facts were," Boehner said at his weekly news conference. "There are a lot of unanswered questions that Americans have and frankly, I have."
Speaker John A. Boehner reiterated his call for the White House to submit a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force in the war against the Islamic State at his weekly news conference Thursday. "In the new Congress, I would urge the president to submit a new authorization for the use of military force regarding our efforts to defeat and to destroy ISIL," Boehner said, referring to the group also known as ISIS. "I reminded the president last month that historically the commander-in-chief has identified the need for the use of military force, written a new AUMF, sent it to Capitol Hill and worked to build bipartisan support for that measure." Boehner also said the administration needed to show "urgency" to "accomplish the goal of defeating and destroying ISIL."
As conservatives push back against a bill to fund the government past Dec. 11, Speaker John A. Boehner signaled Thursday that he didn’t expect to make any sizable changes to the “cromnibus” in order to placate voices to the right. “I expect that we’ll have bipartisan support to pass the omnibus,” Boehner told reporters in response to a question on whether the Ohio Republican anticipated needing some Democratic votes to pass the bill, and whether that would give Democrats leverage on negotiating riders in the appropriations bill. Conservatives are bashing the cromnibus — which would fund all elements of government until October except the Department of Homeland Security, which would be funded until March or February — because it does not block President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration.
"Hands Up, Don't Shoot" as a symbol of protest against injustice is here to stay, Rep. Al Green said Wednesday on the floor of the House. "This is not going to go away," the Texas Democrat said during a short response to critics — chiefly MSNBC's Joe Scarborough — who have taken issue with Green's and other black lawmakers' use, during congressional proceedings two days earlier, of a gesture that has come to symbolize frustration over the police shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Green said the "Hands Up" movement that has germinated in the wake of last summer's shooting is the latest in a long line of historic protests, including the Boston Tea Party, Martin Luther King Jr.'s Selma march and Rosa Parks' refusal to sit at the back of the bus in Montgomery.
As the House finalizes funding for anti-Islamic State operations, Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Angus King, I-Maine, hammered the administration on the Senate floor Wednesday for failing to seek a new war authorization, while calling on Congress to debate an authorization before recessing for the holidays. Kaine, who has previously criticized President Barack Obama's unilateral action against the group also known as ISIS or ISIL, said failing to debate a measure would be "disrespectful of the troops," while King said it would be "one more giving away — of our constitutional authority to the executive." "Giving this president — giving any president — a green light to wage unilateral war for five or six months without any meaningful debate or authorization would be deeply destructive of the legitimacy of the legislative branch of our government, it would be deeply disrespectful of our citizens and it would be especially disrespectful of the troops," Kaine said.
In the mad rush to complete work before Christmas, there are three big-ticket items on which Democrats and Republicans seem to agree. "Obviously the Senate is waiting on the House with respect to the tax extender package, the way forward on funding the government and the National Defense Authorization Act," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday. "Once those measures are received, we'll decide how to go forward." "I think everybody agrees, on a bipartisan basis, those are three things we simply must do here at the end of the session," the Kentucky Republican continued. "Fund the government, make sure we don't have any retroactive tax increases, and follow the tradition of many years, which is to pass a National Defense Authorization Act. I'm confident the Senate will do that before we depart for the holidays."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid struck an optimistic tone Tuesday discussing a reported House spending proposal to bundle 11 of the 12 regular spending bills for fiscal 2015 together with a shorter-term continuing resolution to fund the Department of Homeland Security. At his weekly news conference, the Nevada Democrat said while such a bill would be a "big accomplishment," it would be "unfortunate" to not include funding for the DHS. "I'm doing everything I can to help the Republican leaders accomplish what I believe they say publicly and privately what they want, and I hope they'll say yes for an answer," Reid said, while warning against listening to "extremists" on the GOP side. He did note that Democrats need to see what policy riders appear before giving the spending package his blessing.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson defended President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration before skeptical Republicans on Capitol Hill Tuesday. Johnson, who has become the administration's point person on immigration, told the House Homeland Security Committee that the president's order to stay the deportations of millions of illegal immigrants is "simple common sense." "The reality is that, given our limited resources, these people are not priorities for removal. It’s time we acknowledge that and encourage them to be held accountable," Johnson said.
The Congressional Black Caucus lamented a grand jury’s decision to not indict officer Darren Wilson on the House floor Monday, calling it “a slap in our face” while repeating the refrain that has become a rallying cry for protestors: “Hands up, don’t shoot.” “We are running out of patience,” Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, D-Ohio, said. “We waited to hear our country say loud and clear, there are consequences for taking the lives of others. We waited to hear some reassurance that black and brown boys’ lives do matter. But again, we were terribly disappointed and discouraged.” More than 10 Democrats used Monday’s Special Order Hour to discuss “Black in America” and what some said was another example of racism in the United States. “Though we’ve elected President Barack Obama here in the United States, I heard some say that we were in a post-racial America,” Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, D-N.Y., said. “No, we are not. For racism is still alive and well in the United States.”
As the Senate returned from the Thanksgiving break, Majority Leader Harry Reid was already encouraging colleagues to work quickly to complete work for the year. While both the House and the Senate would like to complete activity for the lame-duck session by the end of next week, the Nevada Democrat who will cede the majority leader's post when the Congress ends was already warning that work could approach Christmas. "We need to work on reauthorizing defense authorization legislation. We have a lot to do, and there isn't much time to accomplish it. So, I encourage all senators to work hard to complete our work in a timely and efficient fashion. We may have to be here the week before Christmas, and hopefully ... not into the Christmas holiday," Reid said. "But, there are things we have to get done."
With Thanksgiving around the corner, Heard on the Hill takes a look at the times lawmakers simply could not get food off their minds.
President Barack Obama announced the resignation of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel from the East Room of the White House Monday morning. Obama thanked Hagel, the first former enlisted man and the first Vietnam veteran to serve as Defense secretary, whom Obama called an "exemplary defense secretary." "When I nominated you for this position, you said that you'd always give me your honest advice and informed counsel; you have," Obama said, directing his comments at Hagel. "When it's mattered most, behind closed doors in the Oval Office, you've always given it to me straight, and for that I will always be grateful." The event, which included Obama, Hagel and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., lasted nearly 15 minutes. Obama said Hagel would stay on the job until a new defense secretary was confirmed by the Senate.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, members spent the week discussing dirty oil, political ads and "dumb-ass liberals."
Speaker John A. Boehner discussed President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration at his weekly news conference on Nov. 21.
Speaker John A. Boehner said Friday morning that "the House will, in fact, act" to respond to President Barack Obama's sweeping immigration executive orders — but the Ohio Republican offered no details on the type, scale and scope of such action. In a four-minute press conference outside his office, Boehner said the nation's immigration system is "broken," and that "the American people expect us to work together to fix it. "And we ought to do it in a Democratic process," he continued, "moving bills through the People's House, through the Senate and to the president's desk." But Boehner also said Obama was trying to "deliberately sabotage" the prospects for congressional action on the issue by moving forward with changing immigration law unilaterally, that he "created an environment where members will not trust him" and "making it impossible for me to do what he wanted me to do."
President Barack Obama outlined executive actions to fix existing immigration laws Thursday night during a nearly 15-minute speech from the East Room of the White House. The executive actions themselves are numerous and sweeping, and in many ways go far beyond the more than 4 million people who officially will be eligible for work permits and protected from deportation. Obama’s administration will order immigration agents to prioritize deportations of criminals and recent arrivals — and let people who are not on that priority list go free. Officials acknowledged though that Illegal immigrants without records would be less likely to encounter immigration enforcement.
At a Thursday news conference ahead of President Barack Obama's prime-time address outlining his immigration executive action, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid argued that in the past 60 years, every president has taken immigration-related executive action. "This isn't anything new and unique, it's been done many times," Reid said. "As indicated in the meeting last night at the White House, we told the president and we're telling him before all these TV cameras, we've got his back." Obama is scheduled to announce his proposal at 8 p.m.
House Democrats pushed back Thursday against the notion President Barack Obama should wait to act on immigration, given the results of the 2014 midterms, while also suggesting the criticism of his expected executive action on immigration is overblown. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Obama acted with Congress when the Senate passed an immigration overhaul bill in 2013 and Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-N.Y., later slammed criticism of Obama’s expected action. "It’s perfectly legitimate, and I don’t know why in the world you all are so obsessed with that notion, because I bet you that you know yourselves that it’s perfectly legitimate for him to do it, and you made no outcry of any sort when anybody else did it,” Slaughter said. "It’s because it’s Obama.”
In presenting her defense of President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi laid out the historical argument Thursday, praising a number of actions Republican presidents had taken on immigration and drawing parallels from Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation to Obama's immigration order. "Does the public know that the Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order?" Pelosi asked during a news conference Thursday. "People have to understand how presidents have made change in our country." The California Democrat was trying to establish a history of presidents making significant changes without going through Congress, and she brought up the pattern of Republican presidents in the past 50 years exerting their executive authority to act on immigration. Asked whether Republicans had a case proving what the president was proposing was unconstitutional, Pelosi said Obama's action was "absolutely, positively" not outside his constitutional bounds.