midterms

GOP Rivals Bring Different Strategies to Leadership Races

Boehner, right, introduces House GOP leadership in November. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker John A. Boehner announced last week he would resign at the end of October, ostensibly hoping to free the House Republican Conference of crippling infighting and discord.  

It is in this tenuous environment that lawmakers who want seats at the post-Boehner leadership table are making the rounds to shore up support, employing different strategies to navigate the challenging political terrain. Some ambitious members are playing it straight, like the two representatives vying to be majority leader in the likely event the current officeholder, Kevin McCarthy of California, succeeds Boehner as speaker. Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington have yet to make official announcements of their candidacies, but they aren't hiding their ambitions. They used the weekend to make calls to colleagues to get commitments of support, and they solidified their whip teams to help make the rounds and nudge undecideds.  

Six Party Defections in Vote to Defund Planned Parenthood

King voted "present" on a bill to defund Planned Parenthood for one year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It was mostly a party line affair when the House voted Friday to defund Planned Parenthood for one year, 241-187.  

But, there were six exceptions: Three Republicans voted with the majority of Democrats against the bill, while two Democrats joined the majority of Republicans in favor. One Republican, Iowan Steve King, voted "present." With the exception of King's "present," none of the votes are terribly surprising for longtime observers of Congress who have watched how members of both parties come down on bills dealing with abortion.  

GOP Leader Cracks Door, Slightly, on Voting Rights Act

McCarthy, R-Calif., thinks it's time for an "overall review" of the VRA (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Last year, House Democrats saw ex-Majority Leader Eric Cantor as a possible (if ultimately disappointing ) ally in the fight to rewrite the Voting Rights Act for the 21st century.  

On Tuesday, Cantor's leadership successor, Kevin McCarthy, might have revealed himself as another important potential friend to the effort. The California Republican echoed at a pen-and-pad briefing what fellow GOP lawmakers have said before: Any revision of the landmark 1965 law has to start in the Judiciary Committee — a disappointing answer for advocates who know Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., is disinclined to tackle the matter.  

Planned Parenthood Video Refuels GOP's Abortion Agenda

Franks has consistently backed legislation to ban abortion practices. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

In undercover film footage of a Planned Parenthood official discussing in graphic detail how to preserve aborted fetal organs for medical research, anti-abortion Republicans hope they've finally found an opening to advance their agenda.  

So far, they have a few things working in their favor. For one thing, lawmakers know the video will evoke a strong emotional response. In it, anti-abortion activists posing as biomedical firm representatives wore hidden cameras to show Planned Parenthood's senior medical services director sipping wine while discussing the terms of fetal tissue shipments.  

Moderate Democrats Get Leadership's Ear on 2016 Messaging

Israel has a tough road ahead in crafting a party message everyone can get behind (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

There's some good news for the moderate House Democrats who believe they've been marginalized in discussions on party messaging: Leadership might be starting to listen.  

On Thursday morning, New Democrat Coalition Chairman Ron Kind of Wisconsin met privately with Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Chairman Steve Israel of New York, both lawmakers confirmed to CQ Roll Call. Israel, charged with developing a unified narrative to help the minority pick up House seats next year, wanted to talk to Kind about the substance of the New Democrats' "American Prosperity Agenda," 23 policy proposals  that centrist Democrats contend are keys to winning again in swing districts.  

Four Texas Republicans Endorse Cruz for President

Culberson, left, is endorsing Cruz for president. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

About a month ago, Sen. Ted Cruz's chief of staff made a request of some House-side colleagues: Would their bosses be willing to say nice things about the Texas Republican's 2016 presidential bid? Or, even better, would they be willing to endorse him?  

Paul Teller, that chief of staff who was once the executive director of the Republican Study Committee, must be feeling pretty good now. On Thursday, four House Republicans in the Texas delegation announced they would support the iconoclastic Cruz in the crowded GOP primary pool that includes other members of Congress.  

Hoyer Slams GOP for Lack of Highway Trust Fund Progress

Hoyer says Republicans have had enough time to craft a long-term highway bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The No. 2 House Democrat ripped Republicans Tuesday for looking for another patch job for the Highway Trust Fund before the current patch expires at the end of May.  

Another short-term patch would buy the GOP time to come up with a long-term solution to pay for transportation and infrastructure projects around the country, but House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer says the GOP has taken long enough with no results. “We’ve now had … months to do that,” the Maryland Democrat said at his pen and pad briefing with reporters Tuesday morning. “It is irresponsible that we have not come to an agreement.”  

McCarthy Uses Bully Pulpit to Spotlight California Drought

McCarthy has made the California drought a priority in Washington. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Legislation targeting arcane water rules is not typically the stuff of legacy building for high-profile political figures.  

But for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, shepherding through Congress a bill aimed at easing the water shortage in his home state — while taking down some federal regulations conservatives contend contributed to the crisis — would be a personal triumph years in the making. If he succeeds, it will be thanks in large part to the time, energy and political capital the Californian has expended on the issue, from measures that stalled in previous sessions to this current push to address the debilitating drought.  

Did Van Hollen Miss a Layup Opportunity With Progressives? (Updated)

Van Hollen surprised some progressives when he didn't vote for their budget this week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 2:42 p.m. |  Congressional Progressive Caucus members were emboldened this week.  

Their fiscal 2016 budget proposal won 96 votes on the floor, which translates into half of all House Democrats endorsing the policy platform of one third of the whole House Democratic Caucus — plus a higher threshold than for any CPC budget ever before.  

Van Hollen's Exit Changes House Democratic Leadership Landscape

Van Hollen's Senate bid will have serious ramifications for House Democrats. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 10:20 a.m. Monday | Ambitious House Democrats looking to position themselves as future caucus leaders thought they'd face stiff competition from Rep. Chris Van Hollen.  

But with the Maryland Democrat, Budget Committee ranking member and former two-term Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman now saying he'll run for Senate, the field has changed. Sources say Van Hollen wasn't the presumptive heir to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's mantle, even though the California Democrat has been grooming him over the years, giving him increasing responsibilities and ensuring he always had a seat at the table.