218 (blog)

The Latest Congressional Accomplishment (Take Five)

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., pauses as he speaks about foreign policy during the John Hay Initiative, Monday, Sept. 28,2015, at a hotel in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Good news, everybody!

Or, well, you know. It’s Congress.

The House on Friday passed by voice vote a five-day continuing resolution to fund the government through Dec. 16, securing a little more time for congressional leaders and appropriators to finish negotiating an omnibus spending measure.

President Barack Obama is expected to sign the five-day CR, which the Senate passed on Thursday.

(McPherson and Hallerman)

There are a couple of things here. To the one, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA23) called off weekend work because of the new CR, which is intended to give the Appropriations Committee more time to finish an omnibus bill; Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY05) is aiming for 14 December, with the House returning to session the next day. What could possibly go wrong?

To the other, this is Congress.

And this is a five day continuing resolution.

Yes, really. Five days.

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Image note: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. (Detail of photo by Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

McPherson, Lindsey and Tamar Hallerman. “House Passes Five-Day Extension of Government Funding”. 218. Roll Call. 11 December 2015.

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The Fragile House

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, 3 March 2015. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

“I was just planning on serving out my tenure as Ways and Means chair and then going, finding out something else to do with my life. I really don’t know how long this is going to last. This wasn’t something I was planning on doing in the first place.”

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI01)

It has not exactly been the quietest of months in the House of Representatives, but as the new Speaker settles in, we find a teaser for the sequel. Kate Ackley of Roll Call explains:

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, after two weeks on the job, said he has “no idea” how long he may lead the House, committing only to the 14 months left in the current Congress during an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

Paul RyanNo matter the duration of his tenure, the Wisconsin Republican told Scott Pelley of CBS News he is willing to risk losing the job in pursuit of major policy initiatives including tax and entitlement overhauls. The speaker also said in the interview that aired Sunday he and President Barack Obama could find common ground on select issues.

As for his own future, Ryan portrayed an uncertainty that belies his otherwise smooth start in the House’s top job. Given the chaos following Speaker John A. Boehner’s resignation announcement, a short speakership for Ryan could once again embroil the Republican Party.

“I was just planning on serving out my tenure as Ways and Means chair and then going, finding out something else to do with my life,” he said during the interview taped last week in his hometown of Janesville, Wis. “I really don’t know how long this is going to last. This wasn’t something I was planning on doing in the first place.”

This is one of those things. If we don’t make a note of it, we feel stupid when it comes up later. At least now we can say we were warned.

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Ackley, Kate. “Ryan: ‘No Idea’ How Long I’ll Be Speaker”. 218. Roll Call. 15 November 2015.

Congressional Speculation

Congressman Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential candidate, does a sound check during the third day of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Ryan delivered his speech at the convention Wednesday night, 29 August 2012. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“One senior GOP aide familiar with discussions between leadership and the Freedom Caucus used Dante Alighieri’s description of hell in ‘The Divine Comedy’, with its varying concentric circles, to describe the HFC. No candidate will get to the innermost circle. But Ryan could pick off a lot of members on the outer rings.”

Matt Fuller

The upshot here is that the idea of static or patterned chaos, which really does sound somewhat counterintuitive until you do the thing with a triangle and dice, but in this case we mean something yet altogether different: Meet the new chaos; same as the old chaos. House Republicans seem caught up in some sort of loop, waiting for Ryan while trying to deliberately ignore the gigantic question mark they keep glancing aside in hopes of checking.

Matt Fuller of Roll Call explains:

If the HFC, after largely taking credit for pushing out Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and blocking the ascension of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is seen as having scuttled a Ryan speakership, the divide between the ultra-conservative group and the rest of the conference could become even more unmanageable.

Without Ryan, the speaker’s race threatens to turn into a free-for-all. On Tuesday, there were at least a half dozen new names of Republicans quietly testing the water for runs of their own, including a couple of Texans (Reps. Bill Flores and Michael McCaul), the wealthiest man in Congress (Rep. Darrell Issa) and a woman, Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn ....

.... Sources close to Ryan say the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee has no intention of putting up with an insurrection on his right flank. If Ryan agrees to take the speakership, he will tell colleagues he’ll only do it with all of their support. What’s more, he is making no promises about overhauling the process, shaking up the Steering Committee or any of the other concessions being floated by conservatives.

If that’s Ryan’s position, there will almost certainly be Republicans who will oppose him. And then conservatives will have a choice of their own. They can either hold fast to their procedural demands, or they can get on board with a Ryan speakership.

In truth, Mr. Fuller’s running commentary about sources is much more enlightening. After all, Congress is Congress, and reporters are merely human. Every little piece, you know? It’s not just the stories they tell, but also whether or not we are capable of understanding them. In communicative relationships, the burdens of transmission are much more apparent than the obligations of actually being able to receive.

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Image note: Detail of photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Fuller, Matt. “Oh, and another thing I noticed”. Twitter. 13 October 2015.

—————. “Ryan’s Choice and the House Freedom Caucus Fallout”. 218. Roll Call. 13 October 2015.

Accursed Extraneity

Rep Trey Gowdy (R-SC04), chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi Conspiracy Theories. (Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP).

There are, of course, partisan considerations, but still, this stands out:

Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, hit back Sunday at a former committee staffer who said he was fired for not cooperating with the panel’s focus on former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s actions in response to the 2012 terrorist attack.

“Until his Friday conversations with media, this staffer has never mentioned Secretary Clinton as a cause of his termination, and he did not cite Clinton’s name in a legally mandated mediation,” the South Carolina Republican said in a written statement. “He also has not produced documentary proof that in the time before his termination he was directed to focus on Clinton.”

(Roll Call)

Okay, look, there is obviously a lot going on with the House Benghazi farce, but Gowdy might have overplayed his hand.

(more…)

Required Reading: The Shadow over Columbia

Poor John

As the drama continues on Capitol Hill, there is this from David Hawkings of Roll Call:

Ryan has proven experience in drafting provocative budgetary blueprints, a zeal for shaping innovative tax simplification plans and a solid record as a party fundraiser to go along with all his perceived potential to heal the GOP’s profound internal injuries.

But that seemingly almost impossible task won’t be made an easier by the one gap in his resume that his allies are portraying among his virtues: He has no real experience running the House or attending to the day-to-day needs of his colleagues.

He’s never done the floor leader’s work of managing the legislative calendar or the whip’s job of counting and corralling votes. He’s never been charged with the overall messaging, policy development, campaign strategy and internal GOP organizational tasks that are the purview of the other leaders.

Maybe most notably of all, he’s never gotten his hands dirty in what’s euphemistically dubbed “member services” — the catchall work of mediating petty turf wars, granting oddball VIP favors, providing late-night sustenance, refereeing travel requests, finding extra office space, bird-dogging personal behavior and intervening to prevent ethical transgressions.

Most of those high-risk and concertedly below-the-radar thankless tasks get performed by the floor leaders and whips, which helps explain why all but one speaker since World War II was previously in one or both jobs for at least a combined five years. And the exception, Republican J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, was a serious practitioner of the member services dark arts as the appointed chief deputy whip for four years.

Now, go read the rest of it. And remember, if you read Roll Call and The Hill, you don’t need cable news.

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Fuller, Matt. “Speaker Election Delay Stirs Conservative Anger”. 218. Roll Call. 9 October 2015.

Hawkings, David. “Next Speaker Unlikely to Continue Long String of Leadership Insiders”. Hawkings Here. Roll Call. 10 October 2015.

Lillis, Mike. “Top GOP strategist: House leadership turmoil ‘a good thing'”. The Hill. 10 October 2015.

The House Freedom Caucus (Feature the Bug Bass Beat Mix)

U.S. Capitol building at dusk on a winter's eve. (Photo credit: Peterson)

Here is a strange proposition: The Trump effect, currently plaguing the 2016 GOP presidential nomination contest, is a feature, not a bug.

While the notion of sucking up all the oxygen is certainly evident as Republican candidates struggle for breath, consider for a moment that there is also a Democratic contest afoot. To the other, all we really hear about it is a string of scandal stories about Hillary Clinton, and how many people turn out for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

And, of course, any time we might lead with a joke like, What do Kim Davis and Donald Trump have in common? we might rest assured that our uneasiness is genuine because things really have gotten that far out of hand.

The question of the hour:

Barring a historic meltdown, Republicans will select Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to be their nominee for speaker Thursday. But does that mean McCarthy will get 218 votes in the House floor vote on Oct. 29?

(Fuller)

Meanwhile, House Democrats aren’t exactly sitting back and watching, but nobody should feel badly for thinking otherwise. There is plenty of intrigue to go around, but the drama in the House of Representatives is exclusively Republican.

(more…)

The Subcommittee (Lipstick and Laughs)

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Something about famous last words might go here, but that still doesn’t sound right. Infamous openings? Let us check in with Emma Dumain of Roll Call:

House Republicans insist their new committee to investigate Planned Parenthood won’t be political.

And if it sounds like a setup, well―

But lawmakers and aides on both sides of the aisle are raising eyebrows at the optics of GOP leaders soliciting buy-in from outside groups as they make decisions about which members will sit on the special committee.

The original plan was to convene a subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee to investigate the women’s health organization and abortion provider, which is under fire after secret film footage seemed to implicate Planned Parenthood officials with illegally selling fetal tissues, a charge the group denied.

Under that initial framework, the select committee would have drawn from in-house resources, including mostly staff. And while membership on both sides of the aisle would still be subject to appointment by their respective party leaders, the pool would be restricted to those members already sitting on Energy and Commerce.

Outside advocates and leaders in the anti-abortion community urged Republican leaders to expand the committee to lawmakers outside Energy and Commerce to include more stalwarts of their movement. GOP leadership agreed and has also listened to outside advice on exactly whom to appoint.

―yeah, this is the House of Representatives, and, yes, Speaker Boehner is, technically, still as in charge as he ever was.

(more…)

A Moment with House Democrats

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD05).  (Detail of photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)

This is interesting; well, at least the way Mike Lillis tells it for The Hill:

House Republicans seeking new leadership posts in the wake of Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) resignation should not expect help from Democrats, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) warned Tuesday.

“The Republicans are going to have to decide this on their own,” Hoyer told reporters in the Capitol. “I don’t think there’s a great role for us to play in this.”

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the favorite to replace Boehner when he steps down on Oct. 30, is thought to have the 124 GOP votes needed to win his party’s nomination ahead of the vote scheduled for Thursday.

But some conservatives are predicting McCarthy doesn’t have the 218 Republican supporters needed to finalize the process on the House floor.

And there really is a compelling question, there. Can Democrats use Republican fractures in order to wield some influence over, say, Speaker McCarthy? Ostensibly, they intend to support Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA12), and why not? Stranger things can happen, and in order to make that case we need only present the phrase Speaker of the House Ben Carson.

Mr. Hoyer, it would seem, prefers cautious wisdom; there really is no point in guessing until the House GOP makes up its own mind: “The Republicans are going to have to decide this on their own.”

Fun, fun.

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Image note: House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD05). (Detail of photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)

Cahn, Emily. “DeSantis: Forget President, How ‘Bout Ben Carson for Speaker?” Roll Call. 30 September 2015.

Lillis, Mike. “Hoyer: GOP ‘on their own’ picking leaders”. The Hill. 6 October 2015.

A Confession (Kevin’s Kinsley)

The U.S. Capitol is pictured at dawn in Washington D.C. on Oct. 15, 2013. (Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

CQ Roll Call“But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known that any of that had happened had we not fought to make that happen.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA23)

File under, “We already knew, but thanks for telling us”.

(more…)

A Congressional Fire Drill

Huang reflects on a mission barely accomplished. (Darker Than Black, ep. 14)

Bring your own analysis.

Roll Call has been busy trying to make heads and tails of House Republicans:

John T. Bennett: “Deputy Whip Tom Cole, R-Okla., and House Freedom Caucus founding member Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., did agree on two things. They both see Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as the leading candidate to take over as speaker. And they believe a government shutdown will be averted by a stopgap spending bill passed within the next few days.”

Emma Dumain: “Sources confirmed to CQ Roll Call Saturday afternoon that in the event Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., makes a play for majority leader, Conference Vice Chairwoman Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., would look to move up one slot.”

David Eldridge and Matt Fuller“House Speaker John A. Boehner has a word of warning, straight out of the Bible, for fellow Republicans: ‘Beware false prophets’.”

David Hawkings: “The trend of past three decades will surely make California’s Kevin McCarthy, or whoever ascends to the presiding officer’s chair, extremely wary about his career’s trajectory over the long term — even after this fall’s latest internal Republican revolution gets put to rest.”

Catching up with some of the details that might have slipped by unnoticed, we can turn to The Hill:

Jordain Carney: “Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Friday that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was ‘unable to control’ his party and that his resignation could leave Republicans increasingly ‘out of touch.'”

Cristina Marcos: “Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) announced late Friday he will run for House majority whip, just hours after Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced his resignation.”

Mark Meckler: “Ding, dong … John Boehner is gone. Long live the tea party movement.”

Bradford Richardson: “‘Taking care of this leadership issue was a pretty selfless act that Speaker Boehner decided to make a little bit easier for everyone,’ Priebus said told host John Catsimatidis on AM 970 New York on Sunday. ‘I might imagine he would have been able to hang on, but the truth is he’s just not the type of guy to put up with it, so he just said, ‘Forget it, I’ll move on’.'”

And a check of the chatter:

Zoë Carpenter (The Nation): “ Let’s get one thing clear about John Boehner: His problem was not that his position on abortion was too liberal.”

Heather Cox Richardson (Salon): “Movement Conservatives just claimed the head of House Speaker John Boehner. His political death was the price of preventing a catastrophic government shutdown after Movement Conservatives in Congress tied the very survival of the United States government to their determination to defund Planned Parenthood. Movement Conservatives are gunning for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell next. We should be very afraid. Boehner and McConnell are not wild-eyed lefties. They are on the very far right of the American political spectrum: fervently pro-business, antiabortion, opposed to social welfare legislation. But they are old-school politicians who still have faith in the idea of American democracy.”

David Lawder (Reuters): “Thus far, a serious challenger to McCarthy has not emerged, though some Republican aides said that House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling is weighing a run. A Hensarling spokesman could not be reached for comment.”

Michael McAuliff, Laura Barron-Lopez, and Sam Stein (Huffington Post): “House Speaker John Boehner may be able to leave office on a high note after meeting the pope and potentially averting another government shutdown. But his abrupt departure has many on Capitol Hill fearing it will leave Congress an even worse, more gridlocked institution.

So … right. Good luck with all that. What makes the challenge seem so daunting, of course, is that everything will be obsolete by the time you get through it all. And there is a pervading notion of futility much akin to John Boehner’s speakership; that we might know what has happened, as well as what is expected to happen, does not mean it will happen. This is your House GOP. Enjoy the show. You know. As much as you can.