Paul Ryan’s First Shutdown Fight – By Jim Newell NOV. 3 2015 4:03 PM

Newly elected Speaker of the House Paul Ryan holds his first news conference at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington on Nov. 3, 2015. Photo by Gary Cameron/Reuters

Newly elected Speaker of the House Paul Ryan holds his first news conference at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington on Nov. 3, 2015.
Photo by Gary Cameron/Reuters

Funny thing about that budget and debt ceiling agreement that supposedly removed the threat of a government shutdown for two years: It did no such thing. It didn’t even remove it for two months.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 “should finally free us from the cycle of shutdown threats and last-minute fixes,” President Obama said while signing the agreement Monday. All the weight of the world rests on that “should.” A lot of things shouldhappen. Donald Trump and Ben Carson should drop in presidential polls. Twitter should maintain stars and not replace them with dumb little twee hearts. Tom Brady should be exiled to outer space.

The 114th Congress, similarly, should have a smooth appropriations ride now that the budget agreement has resolved the thorniest aspect of the spending process: setting top-line funding numbers. House Republicans, with their flashy new hot-shot speaker, should offer their input and then do whatever the new boss says to avoid embarrassing him this early in his tenure over some ideological fantasy.

But things are going to get a little bumpier than they should.

Now that the framework for funding the rest of the fiscal year is agreed upon, Congress must pass the actual appropriations by Dec. 11 as agreed to under the short-term continuing resolution passed at the end of September. You’ll recall back then that Congress was barreling toward a shutdown over certain demands from the House Freedom Caucus. They wouldn’t vote for any funding measure that gave Planned Parenthood access to federal dollars, and they would attempt to oust Speaker John Boehner if he called up and passed with Democratic votes a bill that funded Planned Parenthood. So Boehner offered to topple himself instead and passed the two-and-a-half-month extension as a lame duck.

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The Senate just passed a bill that could help the NSA spy on you – Updated by Timothy B. Lee on October 27, 2015, 6:00 p.m. ET

With a string of high-profile hacks affecting everyone from Sony Picturesto the insurance company Anthem, there’s broad agreement that more needs to be done to secure the internet. On Tuesday, the Senate passed legislation that supporters say will boost internet security by encouraging companies to share information about online threats with one another and with the government. The vote was 74 to 21.

The legislation, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), is backed by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). The House of Representatives has already passed companion legislation, and the bill has support from the Obama administration. The only remaining steps are for the House and Senate to reconcile the differences between their bills — and for President Obama to sign the compromise.

But there’s something strange about this supposed cybersecurity legislation. It doesn’t have much support among security experts in the private sector. And two leading technology industry trade groups — representing giants like Google, Apple, and Microsoft that are targeted by hackers more than anyone else on the internet — oppose it.

Indeed, support for the legislation seems to have come mostly from US intelligence agencies, which would gain access to even more information about Americans’ online activities. It’s not clear how much CISA would expand government surveillance of Americans’ online activities, but critics say the broad information-sharing language in the legislation creates a privacy menace that far outweighs any benefits from increased online security.

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Obama to push for prison reform, gun control in Chicago – By Jordan Fabian – 10/27/15 12:01 AM EDT

Seeking to build support for a bipartisan criminal justice overhaul, President Obama will speak to a group of police chiefs on Tuesday in his hometown of Chicago.

But Obama also plans to wade into the politically divisive issue of gun control during his speech to the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

“He will continue to push for criminal justice reforms that will make the system smarter, more effective, and more fair, while addressing the need for commonsense gun safety reforms,” a White House official said in a statement.

Obama is seeking to capitalize on bipartisan momentum behind reducing the nation’s large prison population, which could hand him a major legislative victory during his final 15 months in office.

The president and Democrats argue mass incarceration has ripped apart families across the country, especially in communities of color. Republicans have emphasized the high cost of imprisoning nonviolent drug offenders.

Obama asked Congress this summer to send him a criminal justice reform bill by year’s end. That effort took a step forward last week, when the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a proposal that would reduce certain mandatory minimum sentences.

The legislation still faces a long road to passage — the House and Senate must vote on it. But if it reaches Obama’s desk, it would be a significant achievement given partisan divisions in Congress that have been deepened by election-year politics.

At the same time, Obama has vented his frustration at lawmakers for failing to pass new restrictions on gun sales following a series of mass shootings that have cast a cloud over his presidency.

The White House is aware of the symbolism of speaking out on the issue in Chicago, where gun violence has reached record levels. The city had experienced 2,300 shootings this year as of the end of September, up by 400 at the same point in 2014. Homicides have jumped by 21 percent.

“The problem of gun violence is all too familiar to our nation’s police officers and is a critical threat to public safety and their safety,” the White House official said.

Obama said he would not be afraid to “politicize” the issue of mass shootings earlier this month after a gunman killed ten people at an Oregon community college.


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Ryan tells GOP he’ll run for Speaker — with conditions – By Scott Wong – 10/20/15 07:53 PM EDT

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told the House GOP conference Tuesday night that he will run for Speaker if every caucus endorses him, according to lawmakers in the room.

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at Oct 21, 2015 1.43

Ryan made the pledge during a presentation behind closed doors in which he outlined how he could be convinced to run for the lower chamber’s top job.

He also gave House Republicans until Friday to rally around him.

According to a source in the room, Ryan told his colleagues, “I know this sounds conditional, because it is.”

After the meeting Ryan told reporters the while the Speakership has never been a job he wanted, he wouldn’t turn his back on his party’s leadership.

“It’s not a job I’ve ever wanted [or] I’ve ever sought,” Ryan said. “I’m in the job I’ve always wanted here in the Congress. I came to the conclusion that this is a very dire moment, not just for Congress, not just for the Republican Party, but for our country. And I think our country is in desperate need of leadership.”

A spokesman for Ryan immediately after the meeting said Ryan will only run if his colleagues accept him as a “unity candidate” who is backed by centrists and conservatives in the House.

“Unless the Speaker is a unifying figure across the conference, he or she will face the same challenges that have beset our current leadership,” Brendan Buck said.

He said Ryan “encouraged the members to discuss and consider his requests, and he asked that they make clear whether they support them by this Friday.”

“If the members agree with his requests and share his vision, and if he is a unity candidate — with the endorsement of all the conference’s major caucuses — then he will serve as Speaker. He will be all in,” Buck said. “But if he is not a unifying figure for the conference, then he will not run and will be happy to continue serving as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.”

Buck insisted Ryan’s comments did not amount to a final decision on a run for the Speakership but rather the Wisconsin lawmaker’s views on what it would take for the next Speaker to be successful.

Ryan has been under pressure to run for Speaker for more than a week after the surprise decision by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to bow out of the race to succeed Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who plans to retire at the end of the month.


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Who Will Replace John Boehner, Now? – By Jim Newell OCT. 9 2015 4:14 PM

Assessing the GOP’s sad-sack crop of potential candidates.

Do any of you want the job? Former House Speaker Newt Gingrinch, House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan, and Rep. Darrell Issa. Photo illustration by Juliana Jiménez. Photos by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images.

Now that Kevin McCarthy has abandoned his bid, the state of the race for speaker of the House is … not really a race, yet. Everyone is waiting for Rep. Paul Ryan to stop whining about wanting to spend time with his family and just take the gig already.

If the full apparatus of the Grand Old Party continues to be unable to persuade Ryan, though, other members—and nonmembers—have shown interest in America’s Worst Job. Let’s run through some of the potential candidates, their qualifications, and what might keep them from getting the position second nearest to the presidency.

The showy former chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has acknowledged that he’s considering a run, assuming Ryan stays out. (Issa told reporters that he “did everything but carry [Paul Ryan’s] gym bag this morning” in an effort to persuade him.) Issa, a member since 2001, has had an interesting life. A Lebanese-American, Issa was the proprietor (and voice!) of that annoying car alarm that every jerk in the ’90s had instructing would-be thieves to “STEP BACK FROM THE CAR.” As a result, he is the wealthiest member of Congress. How did he come up with the idea? Well, he is alleged to know a little bit about stealing cars. (In his youth, Issa was accused of stealing cars not once, not twice, but thrice. He denies all three accusations.)

The problem with Issa’s candidacy is that few seem to be rallying around him, and there are a few dozen conservatives who won’t accept anyone as speaker who doesn’t agree to their unrealistic demands.

Chaffetz is the similarly showy successor to Issa atop the oversight committee. Notice something in common about the figures that rise to head that committee? A penchant for self-promoting theatrics is favored, which can get you attention but also annoy your colleagues. Issa trashed Chaffetz just Friday morning for not publishing any staff reports since becoming chairman, as if his own tenure was anything more than a four-year show trial. Chaffetz had intended to compete against McCarthy as a figure who could “bridge the divide” between warring Republican sects. No one seemed much interested in the premise of his candidacy at first, but now Chaffetz feels like it’s his time to strike.

The problem with Chaffetz’s effort is that few seem to be rallying around him, and there are a few dozen conservatives who won’t accept anyone as speaker who doesn’t agree to their unrealistic demands.

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GOP pressures reluctant Ryan – By Peter Schroeder and Bernie Becker – 10/08/15 06:57 PM EDT

Getty Images

House Republicans are heaping pressure on Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to become their next Speaker after the strong favorite for the position stunned Washington by exiting the race.

Now that Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has bowed out, a growing number of House Republicans are arguing that the Ways and Means chairman is the only person capable of uniting a GOP conference that has been badly fractured for years.

“Paul Ryan is the only eligible candidate,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), a frequent critic of the House’s conservative wing who had backed McCarthy for Speaker.

The push to draft Ryan is coming from the top. McCarthy told National Review that he wanted Ryan to run the House, and the Washington Post has reported that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has called on the Wisconsin Republican to be his replacement.

Additional GOP heavyweights, such as Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who some wanted to see make a run for the Speakership, are also backing a Ryan bid. Thursday afternoon, Ryan was seen on the House floor chatting with Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), a vocal conservative, and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), a conservative favorite who himself has declined leadership runs in the past.

Other leadership allies, as well as Nunes, were among the first to single out Ryan as the best candidate in the wake of McCarthy’s announcement.

“He’s just the first obvious name and it would be terrific,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.). “He has national stature having been a vice presidential nominee, and he’s a conservative icon.”

There’s only a couple of problems with that idea.

First, Ryan has steadfastly insisted he has no interest in the Speaker’s job. He made that clear within minutes of Boehner announcing his resignation last month, and he has not shifted from that position since.

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