Members spent a short week in Congress learning about drones, women's health and the difference between one trillion and one thousand billion.
During Tuesday's State of the Union address, it often wasn't about how many times Speaker John A. Boehner clapped so much as how he did it. HOH is here to document the many styles of the Boehner clap.
Toward the end of his first media availability since his New Year's Day injury, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid weighed in on reports that 11 of the New England Patriots' 12 game balls were under-inflated, saying he didn't know why it was allowed to happen. "As far as how much weight's in a football, as far as I know, I can't believe the National Football League, with the billions of dollars they make, couldn't at least determine how much air should be in a football ... why it should be left up to the teams," Reid said.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid reflected on the life of the late former Sen. Wendell Ford, calling Ford a "fine man" during a news conference in Reid's Capitol office suite. "As a new senator I met with him,” Reid said. “He said ‘I am from Kentucky, I drink Kentucky bourbon, and I smoke Kentucky cigarettes all the time’ … He was a fine man, people in Kentucky love him, as they should.”
The venue was different, and his face was bruised and bandaged, but Harry Reid was still Harry Reid. With an American and Nevada flag in the background, along with a bald eagle and a box of "Search Light" matches on the wall over his shoulder, Reid held court with reporters in a meeting room in his Capitol office suite for a news conference that could've taken place any Tuesday afternoon near the Senate's iconic Ohio Clock. Of course, many of the questions were about the minority leader's medical prognosis and any effect it might have on his decision about making a run for another six years in the Senate in 2016. The Nevada Democrat expects to be back to full-time work soon, and intends to run for re-election.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi dinged Speaker John A. Boehner Thursday for not consulting with Democrats or the White House on the decision to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress. "It's out of order in terms of the protocol," Pelosi said of the invite. Boehner apparently did not consult with the White House on the joint session, nor did he make Democratic leadership aware of the Netanyahu invite. Pelosi said her understanding was that the joint session — which was originally slated for Feb. 11 but has since been moved to March 3 — would take place within two weeks of the Israeli elections on March 17. "I don't think that's appropriate for any country," the California Democrat said.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi found herself defending abortion rights at her weekly news conference Thursday, one day after House Republicans pulled a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks, saying it is not up to politicians in Washington to decide an issue the Supreme Court has ruled on. "The life and the health of the mother is what is preeminent in when a decision is made about women's reproductive health," Pelosi said. "It isn't an ideological fight, it's a personal health issue. And as a mother of five in six years, I have great standing on this issue, great understanding of it, more than my colleagues."
Deputy Senate SAA James W. Morhard had a harrowing near-death experience in 2010, as a passenger on then-Sen. Ted Stevens’ plane. He narrowly survived a crash in the mountains of Alaska that killed the Republican senator, his former boss, and four others. McConnell and his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, visited Morhard, a longtime Senate aide, in the hospital before when they arrived for Stevens’ funeral. “As much as you know the outer persona, there is a warmness to this man that people don’t see,” Morhard said, recalling how the couple sat with him and held his hand. “You never forget,” he said. “And, you know, I hope I can give back — as Frank does, too — to this place and also [to] the majority leader.”
On Sept. 11, 2001, Frank J. Larkin was a supervisor in the Secret Service’s New York Field Office, located in the World Trade Center. The Senate sergeant-at-arms was later awarded a Medal of Valor for his life-saving actions at Ground Zero. “When the first tower collapsed, I was actually moving to the center square between the towers,” Larkin told CQ Roll Call during a recent interview in his office on the first floor of the Capitol. “I was leading a group of folks with the intention of getting some folks that had been injured out of that center plaza area. At the same time, we were dodging, unfortunately, folks who were jumping to their deaths, you know, witnessing that, which is something you just never forget.” Larkin was initially reported missing, and suffered severe respiratory injuries, coughing up blood during the three months he spent leading recovery efforts before being transferred back to Washington.
Amid the myriad applause lines during Tuesday's State of the Union address, Republican lawmakers put two hands together to applaud President Barack Obama 31 times.
In a video posted and later removed from Sen. Ted Cruz’s YouTube channel, the Texas Republican slammed President Barack Obama’s sixth State of the Union address, but not before hitting the reset button. “The president tried to say his policies are lifting the middle class and yet today, median incomes have stagnated for over a decade,” Cruz said before cutting himself off: “Ah, let me start over.”
Senate Republicans pushed back on an Obama administration tax proposal while outlining areas ripe for bipartisanship at their weekly news conference Tuesday and ahead of President Barack Obama's sixth State of the Union address. "It's important to remember, it's not unusual to have divided government. We've had it a lot," Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. "What I hope to hear from the president tonight is an emphasis on things that we can agree on, things that give us a chance to actually advance the agenda of the American people."
CQ Roll Call went with Beverly Young to St. Petersburg College to see what remained of the late congressman's archival memorabilia. Video by Warren Rojas.
Even with party retreats last week, members still found time to recognize illegitimate children, debate NFL rules and bake cookies in the House chamber.
Join Roll Call at 8:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 20 for the 2015 State of the Union, streaming live at rollcall.com and featuring member interviews as well as analysis from Roll Call editors and reporters.
Co-sponsoring a bill in Congress doesn't really mean all that much. But — maybe — it ought to mean a member has agreed to sign on, and will actually sign. At least, that's the argument Washington Democrat Adam Smith made on the House floor Wednesday. Smith took to the House podium to lambaste co-sponsorship practices after he was accidentally listed as a co-signer of GOP legislation, authored by Tennessee Republican Diane Black, that would prohibit certain funds to abortion clinics. Smith says he never consented to being listed as a co-sponsor — and first found out about the mishap after a pro-life group started praising him. "I just rise about a particular issue that happened to me, and I'm sure has happened to other members that you might not be aware of," Smith said on the floor Wednesday. "Other members can sign you on to a piece of legislation without your consent."
In a last-minute effort urging lawmakers to support a Homeland Security spending bill blocking President Barack Obama's immigration orders, Speaker John A. Boehner, in a rare floor speech, quoted 22 examples of Obama saying he did not have the authority to take action to change immigration laws during a seven-minute speech. "Today I rise, and the House rises, to support and defend our constitution," Boehner said. "We do not take this action lightly, but simply, there is no alternative. ... This executive overreach is an affront to the rule of law and to the constitution itself." Lawmakers voted 236-191 to pass the spending measure.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opened his weekly news conference Tuesday touting agenda items ready for "bipartisan progress" following an earlier meeting with the White House, including Trade Promotion Authority, cybersecurity and an Authorization for Use of Military Force in the fight against the Islamic State.
Nearly two dozen protesters from "Witness Against Torture," a group dedicated to closing the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, were arrested in the Capitol Building Monday afternoon, after demonstrating in the Senate gallery and the Capitol Visitor Center. According to the U.S. Capitol Police, 21 protesters were arrested Monday: 11 in the Senate and 10 in the CVC. All of them were arrested for demonstrating in an area where it is unlawful to demonstrate. The protesters in the Senate gallery were arrested after causing a disturbance as Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., was speaking on the floor. The protesters began yelling, "U.S. torture, it's official! Prosecute now!" during his speech, halting action on the floor for about a minute and a half. Freshman Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., was presiding at the time.
Lawmakers kicked off 2015 lobbying for 7-Elevens, sparing grandmas from purgatory and taking their talents to South Beach.
A renewed push by some Democrats for an increase in the federal gas tax to replenish the Highway Trust Fund drew a frosty reception Thursday from Speaker John A. Boehner — though the Ohio Republican stopped short of ruling the idea out. Both Boehner and the top-ranking Democrat in the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, were asked Thursday about an increase in the 18.4 cent-per-gallon federal gas tax after the National Republican Campaign Committee sought to make a gas tax increase a political liability for Democrats. "I’ve never voted to raise the gas tax. Funding the highway bill is critically important, it is a priority for this year. How we will fund it — we’re going to have to work our way through it,” Boehner said at his weekly news conference.
Speaker John A. Boehner took to the press conference podium Thursday to set the record straight on a line of attack he seems to be hearing from conservatives: That he has no spine. "It does pain me to be described as 'spineless' or a 'squish,'" a somewhat-jocular Boehner said. "I tell you what pains me the most is when they describe me as 'the establishment,'" Boehner said. The Ohio Republican described himself as "the most anti-establishment speaker we've ever had," and he enumerated some of his credentials for the title.
Amid reports of Republicans being open to increasing the gas tax, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was cautiously supportive of raising the tax to pay for transportation spending while pushing back against a "show-biz" proposal of lowering income taxes in exchange. At her weekly news conference Thursday, Pelosi said the decrease in gasoline prices is already a tax break for consumers. "I do think that if there's ever going to be an opportunity to raise the gas tax the time when gas prices are so low, oil prices are so low, is the time to do it," Pelosi said. The tax, which has not been raised since 1993, provides most of the funding for the Highway Trust Fund.
Sen. Barbara Boxer's announcement Thursday that she will not run for re-election in 2016 took fellow California Democrat and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi by surprise. Upon learning the news at her weekly news conference, Pelosi stood in silence, collected herself and praised Boxer as “one of the most unselfish politicians I have ever known.” ”She called me and said she wanted to talk to me personally,” Pelosi said. “I just thought she wanted to have dinner tonight.”
California Sen. Barbara Boxer announced Thursday she will not run for re-election in 2016, opening up an attractive seat for ambitious fellow Democrats. Boxer made the announcement in a video posted to her campaign website, in which she conducted a mock interview with her grandson Zach. "I am never going to retire. The work is too important. But I will not be running for the Senate in 2016," she said.
While discussing how the Senate would combat President Barack Obama's immigration actions and the impact of Wednesday's terrorist attack in Paris, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said "at the end of the day" Congress would fund the Department of Homeland Security, which runs out of money on Feb. 28. The DHS, which was funded by a short-term continuing resolution in December, has become the focal point for congressional Republicans trying to halt Obama's executive orders on immigration issued in 2014.
Senate GOP leadership reaffirmed its commitment to voting on a bill to build the Keystone XL pipeline during a weekly news conference Wednesday, adding that President Barack Obama's veto threat on Keystone legislation could give someone "whiplash." "It seems with every new day, we have a new veto threat from the president," Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. "I think it's interesting to note, this is exactly the same bill that was before the Senate last month, when the then-majority was trying to save Sen. [Mary L.] Landrieu in a runoff, and I don't recall the president mentioning at that point he would veto the bill.”
In a dramatic vote in which Republican dissidents staged yet another unsuccessful coup attempt, John A. Boehner was elected to a third term as speaker of the House Tuesday. Boehner won re-election with 216 of the 408 votes cast, as 25 Republicans voted for someone else or voted present in an act of protest. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi received 164 Democratic votes, with four members of her party voting for someone other than the California Democrat. In his remarks to the full House after retaking the gavel, Boehner expressed hope for a new era of cooperation and productivity. “They say nothing is going to be accomplished here, divisions are greater than ever. … Skepticism of our government is healthy and in our time quite understandable. But one problem with saying, ‘it can’t be done,’ is that it already has been done, or at least started.”
Following a workout accident last week, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid addressed the 114th Congress from his Washington, D.C., home on Tuesday, joking about his injury while saying Senate Democrats would "fulfill expectations" of fighting for the middle class. "As most people know, I fought for a couple of years. After any one of those fights, I never looked like I do now," Reid said. "However, I didn't get this black eye by spurring with Manny [Pacquiao], by challenging Floyd Mayweather, I didn't go bull riding, I wasn't riding a motorcycle — I was exercising in my new home.”
From food to Janet Jackson and from mic drops to outer space, Heard on the Hill presents the best gaffes, insults and soundbites from Capitol Hill you just had to see one more time.
Thinking about hitting the road after knocking back a whole mess of eggnog? This Greek chorus of sitting politicos won’t hear of it. This cacophony of concern is brought to you by the nearly three dozen lawmakers who cut anti-drunk driving spots for the Beer Institute this holiday season.
The 113th Congress began with an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws seeming likely, if not inevitable. But despite an overwhelming bipartisan Senate vote to send a broad measure to the House, the issue died by the time Congress adjourned. Here’s how it happened.
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.