House Republicans Vote to Make Abortion Unaffordable for Millions of Women – Ed Kilgore January 24, 2017 6:02 p.m.


Don’t get too comfortable with your insurance! Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

It was no big surprise, since it passed the House twice before and is a long-standing priority of Republicans aligned with the anti-abortion movement, but the timing, just three days after the largest protest marches in U.S. history conveyed a message that women’s rights should not be trifled with, was interesting. The House today passed legislation banning the use of federal funds to pay for, or to subsidize via private insurance (as in Obamacare), abortions.

This would represent making into permanent law the so-called Hyde Amendment (named after the late Illinois GOP House Member Henry Hyde), an appropriations rider that has been annually extended since 1976. So it would change nothing immediately, but it would make it a lot harder to repeal the underlying policy, and would also head off accidental repeals of Hyde via some failure in the always iffy appropriations process.

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Inside the House GOP ethics debacle – By Rachael Bade, John Bresnahan and Kyle Cheney

A surprise move by a group of House Republicans to gut an independent ethics office caught leaders flatfooted — and sparked a national backlash.

Just hours after Republicans voted to gut the House’s independent ethics office, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s phone started lighting up with calls and texts.

The California Republican had tried to warn his colleagues about the political risks of defanging the Office of Congressional Ethics during a closed-door, secret ballot roll call Monday night. And after that vote, a number of lawmakers who agreed with McCarthy raised serious concerns about approving the controversial pitch in a public vote the next day.

By early Tuesday morning, McCarthy, Speaker Paul Ryan and the rest of GOP leadership realized the proposal was about to tank the entire House rules package — and implode the first day of the GOP-led Congress. They convened an emergency closed-door conference meeting around noon to discuss removing the ethics provision — but it was too late. Donald Trump had tweeted his disapproval, and the public outcry had risen to such a crescendo that all anyone wanted to talk about was an obscure House office few people had ever heard of just 24 hours before.

“We shot ourselves in the foot,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who added that the ethics snafu was an unforced error. “Sometimes people have to learn the hard way.”

House Republican’s push to neuter the OCE on the first day of a new Congress turned into a major public relations fiasco after the press, the public and president-elect himself came out against the move Tuesday. Trump, after all, ran on a platform of “draining the swamp” of an all-too-cozy Washington — a pitch that didn’t mesh well with the proposal to rein in oversight of lawmakers’ ethical issues.

So the opening of the 115th Congress, which was supposed to center on Obamacare repeal and GOP unity, ended up being being overwhelmed by another issue. That Ryan was re-elected speaker on the same day with only one Republican defection — a positive sign for a GOP leader who’s faced restive conservatives in the past — became a mere afterthought, for example.

Republican leaders vowed to revisit the issue over the summer, although Tuesday’s problems could provide a lesson. Given that they control all of the levers of power in D.C., Democratic resistance won’t provide the political cover it used to over the last eight years. Washington belongs to Republicans — the good, the bad, and the ugly.

“I think a move in that direction would be bad policy and bad politics,” said Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), who blasted the refoms. “It’s probably not the way you want to start out [the new Congress].”

A number of Hill Republicans have been seeking to curb the powers of the ethics watchdog for years. Privately, they say the office is too aggressive, pursues baseless anonymous tips and has become an unfair burden, both financially and politically, on lawmakers. Each time members approached ex-Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) about the matter, he deferred, saying this is something that should be done a bipartisan basis. But bipartisan reforms never materialized.

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House Republicans gut their own oversight – By RACHAEL BADE and JOHN BRESNAHAN 01/02/17 07:56 PM EST Updated 01/02/17 10:50 PM EST

“Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress,” Nancy Pelosi says afterward.

House Republicans adopted a proposal by Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte to put the Office of Congressional Ethics under the jurisdiction of the House Ethics Committee. | AP Photo

In one of their first moves of the new Congress, House Republicans have voted to gut their own independent ethics watchdog — a huge blow to cheerleaders of congressional oversight and one that dismantles major reforms adopted after the Jack Abramoff scandal.

Monday’s effort was led, in part, by lawmakers who have come under investigation in recent years.

Despite a warning from Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Republicans adopted a proposal by Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to put the Office of Congressional Ethics under the jurisdiction of the House Ethics Committee.

The office currently has free rein, enabling investigators to pursue allegations and then recommend further action to the House Ethics Committee as they see fit.

Now, the office would be under the thumb of lawmakers themselves. The proposal also appears to limit the scope of the office’s work by barring them from considering anonymous tips against lawmakers. And it would stop the office from disclosing the findings of some of their investigations, as they currently do after the recommendations go to House Ethics.

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House GOP faces shutdown crisis – By Scott Wong, Rebecca Shabad and Sarah Ferris – 09/08/15 05:41 PM EDT

House Republicans will huddle in a pivotal closed-door meeting Wednesday morning as they face mounting pressure to defund Planned Parenthood — including threats to shut down the government.

Getty Images

Getty Images

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who’s seeking the GOP presidential nomination, will headline a rally with several pro-life groups outside the Capitol on Thursday, calling on Congress to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood in the spending bill that must be passed by Oct. 1 to avert a shutdown.

Conservative outside group Heritage Action for America says at least 28 House Republicans have signed or plan to sign a letter demanding that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his leadership team block Planned Parenthood funding. The group is urging leaders to hold a special conference meeting to discuss “atrocities” carried out by the nonprofit healthcare group.

If that many House Republicans stick to those demands, Boehner would have no wiggle room to pass a stopgap government spending bill. House Democrats would be expected to vote against legislation blocking funding for the group, which is under fire after the release of a series of undercover videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the donation of tissue from aborted fetuses.

Conservatives want to redirect money to federally approved community health centers that don’t perform abortions or donate fetal tissue for research, said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

“It is the most logical position you could have,” Jordan, who signed the Heritage Action letter, argued in a phone interview on Tuesday.

Asked if he was willing to shut down the government to block Planned Parenthood’s funding, Jordan sought to deflect blame to Democrats. He suggested President Obama and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) believe that Planned Parenthood should receive tax dollars instead of U.S. troops, veterans and women’s health programs.

“This idea that somehow Republicans are responsible is just ridiculous,” Jordan said.


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Republicans’ fear: 2 more years of gridlock – By Manu Raju 3/4/15 5:39 AM EST Updated 3/4/15 6:30 AM EST

The Homeland Security standoff that ended Tuesday has GOP lawmakers worried they’ve ‘hit a wall.

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 03:  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (L) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) sit across the asile from each other in the House chamber ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to a joint meeting of the United States Congress at the U.S. Capitol March 3, 2015 in Washington, DC. At the risk of further straining the relationship between Israel and the Obama Administration, Netanyahu warned members of Congress against what he considers an ill-advised nuclear deal with Iran.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Indiana Sen. Dan Coats isn’t sure whether to run for reelection — but if he does, it’ll be because he has some degree of confidence the new GOP Congress can get something done.

The Department of Homeland Security debacle, he says, has been discouraging in that regard.

“I thought we were off to a good start with Keystone, but now we’ve hit a wall, so I’m trying to weigh where we are going for the next 18 months or so,” Coats said. He added: “We have been at this for two months now, and we are already hung up in terms of not being able to govern.”

Coats isn’t alone.

Republicans on both sides of the Capitol were shaken at the party’s handling of the DHS funding dispute that led to a monthlong standoff, paralyzed the GOP agenda and prompted serious questions internally about whether their newfound majority can deliver anything significant over the next two years. The fear among House Republicans is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will be too quick to heed Democratic demands and push through watered-down bills on education, trade, health care and the budget. And the worry among Senate Republicans is that their House counterparts will scuttle hard-fought compromises that offer the only way to overcome filibusters and get bills to President Barack Obama’s desk.

Sen. Richard Burr, the North Carolina Republican who faces reelection next year and is close friends with John Boehner, voiced confidence that the House speaker can push through bills. But he asserted that Boehner “just might not be able to do it with all Republicans.”

“And that’s something that Republicans need to decide: whether they want to marginalize themselves in that fashion,” Burr said. “The reality is we have to govern. And we have to get legislation to the president’s desk — if, in fact, that we want to prove we can govern. Just to kill things in Congress, we’re pretty good at that.”

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Immigration fight will test Republican unity on Capitol Hill – By Alexander Bolton – 01/13/15 06:00 AM EST`

A push by House Republicans to reverse President Obama’s executive action on immigration has put their vulnerable Senate counterparts in a tough electoral spot.

The GOP faces a much tougher 2016 map, and Hispanic groups are warning of political fallout over the issue of deportations at a time when the party is trying to win the White House and defend its new Senate majority.

Worried about their party’s political fate, centrist Senate Republicans are balking at the prospect of a messy fight with the president.

“I would be concerned if the funding restrictions affected the ability of the Department of Homeland Security to carry out its vital functions,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). “Another way to challenge the president might be in court.”

She cited the successful challenge against President Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board.

Two other centrists, Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.), expressed reservations with the House effort last week.

“In general I want to make sure we run the government and a key part of government is homeland security, especially what happened in France,” Kirk said. “In the end, cooler heads should prevail and we shouldn’t defend critical security infrastructure.”

Kirk faces a tough reelection next year, as do Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

But conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) are warning leaders not to shy away from a showdown.

Cruz has pressed GOP colleagues to keep their promises during the 2014 midterm campaign and not fund what he calls a “lawless and illegal amnesty.”

“[Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell [R-Ky.] is caught between Collins and Cruz,” said a senior Senate Democratic aide who predicts this would be the first of many instances of House conservatives forcing Senate Republicans into an awkward position.

House Republicans are expected to add language to a $40 billion bill funding the Department of Homeland Security that would reverse Obama’s 2012 executive order stopping deportations of immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children and stayed out of trouble with the law.

They also plan to add an amendment halting Obama’s November 2014 order, which expanded protection from deportation to as many as 5 million people.

The Democratic aide said repealing the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program would be an uncomfortable vote for several Republicans.

“Dreamers are the dividing line in the GOP,” the aide said, referring to the immigrants who were addressed in the 2012 order.



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House Republicans say yes to Obama – By JAKE SHERMAN and JOHN BRESNAHAN | 9/15/14 8:01 PM EDT Updated: 9/15/14 8:26 PM EDT

House Speaker John Boehner is pictured. | AP Photo

The forthcoming deals represent a big swing on Capitol Hill. | AP Photo


The party that’s acted as a bulwark against President Barack Obama’s agenda suddenly looks like it will quickly agree to some of his biggest demands.

House Republicans are poised to extend the Export-Import Bank’s charter well into next year, despite decrying the agency as an antiquated vestige of crony capitalism. They will fund the federal government until mid-December without much of a fight. And, most notably, they are rapidly moving toward giving the White House authority to arm and train Syrian rebels, despite deep misgivings about their ability to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and even deeper distrust of Obama’s foreign policy.

And this is all playing out in the final three days of session before Election Day — in a historically unproductive Congress.

(Also on POLITICO: Would a GOP Senate be king of the world?)

The forthcoming deals represent a big swing on Capitol Hill. Just a year ago, House Republicans were locked in a bitter battle with Obama over repealing his signature health care law, leading to a 16-day government shutdown that left both sides bruised.

Now — with less than 50 days until the midterms — Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise want nothing to do with Washington and its potential drag on Republicans’ sunny electoral fortunes.

The calculation, though, shows Boehner is an institutionalist, willing to support the president on the international stage when it comes to matters of war but careful to preserve his party’s political standing. And it shows that Boehner — and his new leadership structure — have found a way to navigate a tumultuous House Republican Conference with relative ease. That’s why, despite doubts, Republican leadership has snapped into action and is giving Obama the ability to go after ISIL in the Middle East.

But the legislation Boehner will try to pass Wednesday comes with serious strings for Obama. Republicans — chiefly Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon of California — added language to the proposal that specifically states they will not allow Obama to engage in full-scale combat operations using American troops. To do that, Obama will have to return to Congress for a separate authorization resolution.

(Also on POLITICO: House passes child care bill)

The way in which the GOP leadership team privately handled Obama’s request shows a new level of political maneuvering, balancing Obama’s wants with the constrictions of the House Republican Conference. The leaders held firm against White House demands that the Syria language be inserted directly into a continuing resolution to fund the government. It will instead be voted on as an amendment to the spending package. Boehner’s leadership team tamped down anger from chairmen, who thought the Obama administration’s closed-door classified briefings were disappointing. They inserted language into the bill to tighten the scope of the operations, force the Obama administration to report to Congress every three months about the progress of the operation.

And Boehner has held firm against conservative hard-liners inside and outside the Capitol who have tried to derail his nonconfrontational approach with the White House. For example, outside groups like Heritage Action have tried to force Boehner to remove the Export-Import Bank extension from the CR — advice he summarily has ignored.

Boehner’s approach has defused what had the chance of being a massively complex and messy September for Republicans, and his senior GOP colleagues in the House and Senate appreciate the speaker’s maneuvering.

“I think it’s a good idea for the House to pass the CR and whatever they need to do to get that done, I’m for,” Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn said in an interview Monday.

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