House of Representatives

Trey Gowdy to lead House’s search for truth on Benghazi

Trey Gowdy

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced this afternoon that Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) will lead the select committee to investigate the deadly 2012 attack on the American outpost in Benghazi, Libya.

“With four of our countrymen killed at the hands of terrorists, the American people want answers, accountability, and justice,” Boehner said in a statement. “Trey Gowdy is as dogged, focused, and serious-minded as they come. His background as a federal prosecutor and his zeal for the truth make him the ideal person to lead this panel.”

Boehner announced plans to hold a vote, which could come as early as this week, to establish a select committee on the Benghazi attack, a decision was spurred by the disclosure of previously unreleased emails between White House and Obama administration officials.

“I know [Gowdy] shares my commitment to get to the bottom of this tragedy and will not tolerate any stonewalling from the Obama administration. I plan to ensure he and his committee have the strongest authority possible to root out all the facts. This is a big job, but Rep. Gowdy has the confidence of this conference, and I know his professionalism and grit will earn him the respect of the American people,” Boehner added.

Boehner announces vote to establish select committee on Benghazi

Following disclosures of previously unreleased emails between White House and Obama administration officials, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced early this afternoon that he will establish a select committee to investigate the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack.

The Weekly Standard reported this morning that Boehner was “seriously considering” a select committee due to a previously unreleased email showing that a White House official urged then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice “[t]o underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy” when she appeared on Sunday talk shows following the attack.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that the email hadn’t not been released prior to this week because it was “not about Benghazi.” Promos from those Sunday talk shows show that Rice’s appearances on revolved around the attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in the Libyan city.

“Americans learned this week that the Obama Administration is so intent on obstructing the truth about Benghazi that it is even willing to defy subpoenas issued by the standing committees of the People’s House,” Boehner said in a statement. “These revelations compel the House to take every possible action to ensure the American people have the truth about the terrorist attack on our consulate that killed four of our countrymen.

House conservatives looking to oust Boehner

Rumors of a conservative rebellion in the House of Representatives are beginning to get more attention. The Atlantic reports that 40 to 50 Republican members are ready to oust Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and replace him with someone willing to work with conservatives in the ranks:

The conservatives’ exasperation with leadership is well known. And now, in discreet dinners at the Capitol Hill Club and in winding, hypothetical-laced email chains, they’re trying to figure out what to do about it. Some say it’s enough to coalesce behind—and start whipping votes for—a single conservative leadership candidate. Others want to cut a deal with Majority Leader Eric Cantor: We’ll back you for speaker if you promise to bring aboard a conservative lieutenant.

But there’s a more audacious option on the table, according to conservatives involved in the deliberations. They say between 40 and 50 members have already committed verbally to electing a new speaker. If those numbers hold, organizers say, they could force Boehner to step aside as speaker in late November, when the incoming GOP conference meets for the first time, by showing him that he won’t have the votes to be reelected in January.

Audit the Fed bill nearing majority support in the House

The Federal Reserve Transparency Act (H.R. 24) is just a handful of cosponsors away from a majority of the House of Representatives, though the measure remains stalled in the committee with jurisdiction.

The Audit the Fed cause was picked up by Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) after Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) retired. The Georgia Republican introduced the measure on the first day of the 113th Congress with just five cosponsors. By the end of January 2013, another 97 members had added their names to the bill.

Since that time, however, the total number of cosponsors has more than doubled. The Audit the Fed bill now has 204 cosponsors* (186 Republicans and 18 Democrats), just 14 away from a majority of the chamber.

The Federal Reserve Transparency Act would require the central bank to open certain information to the Government Accountability Office currently excluded from audits in subsection (b) of 31 USC 714. This would include the Federal Reserve’s agreements and transactions with foreign central banks and discussions between the Treasury Department.

Hurdles obviously remain. The measure has not yet been reported out of the House Financial Services Committee, though its chairman, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), expressed support for the measure in the past. He isn’t a cosponsor.

Email privacy measure gaining support in the House

Though the ongoing controversy and revelations about the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs have slowed any legislative action to reform loopholes in outdated electronic communications laws, The Hill reports that the Email Privacy Act is picking up steam in the House of Representatives:

The Email Privacy Act from Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-Kans.), Tom Graves (R-Ga.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) has 181 co-sponsors in the House, and the authors are “still pushing to get more,” according to a Yoder spokesman.

“There’s a lot of growing support for that bill,” said Mark Stanley of the Center for Democracy and Technology. “A lot of members of Congress see this as a common sense thing.”

More than 40 lawmakers have signed onto the bill since November, pushing the total close to the magic number of 218, which would represent a majority of the House.
[…]
Passage of legislation to limit warrantless email searches appeared to be a done deal last year until revelations about National Security Agency surveillance rocked the debate.

The focus on the activities of the NSA shifted Congress’s focus from law enforcement access to national security, shunting the email issue aside.

House goes after anti-speech IRS rules

House Republicans are planning an onslaught of legislation aimed at the Internal Revenue Service, a powerful agency that is currently considering regulations that would ostensibly legitimatize and institutionalize its targeting of conservative groups, and to promote transparency in how taxpayer dollars are spent:

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) is the author of two of the bills to be considered next week, both of which respond to the targeting scandal.
[…]
One of his bills is the Taxpayer Transparency and Efficient Audit Act, H.R. 2530. This bill would require the IRS to tell taxpayers when it shares their tax information with another government agency, and limits the time people can be subjected to an IRS audit to one year.

Republicans are wary that the IRS will improperly share personal tax information with other agencies as it tries to implement ObamaCare and make determinations about who may qualify for tax credits when buying health insurance.

Another bill from Roskam up next week is the Protecting Taxpayers from Intrusive IRS Requests Act, H.R. 2531. This bill would prevent the IRS from asking about people’s religious or political beliefs.
[…]
The House will also look at two other suspension bills mean to ensure taxpayers know how their money, once collected by the IRS, is being spent.

Poll: Americans reject Obama’s end-run around Congress

President Barack Obama has said that he will continue to take action into own hands when he can — what has been referred to as the “pen and phone” strategy — if Congress doesn’t act on contentious policy issues.

The White House and the administration has already defied the constitutionally-defined separation of powers, using executive orders and administration actions already on several different occasions. The most recent examples of his the illegal delay of Obamacare’s employer mandate and the minimum wage increase on federal contractors.

Interestingly, this legally questionable approach to policy-making is something that then-candidate Obama decried in 2008. “I taught constitutional law for ten years. I take the Constitution very seriously,” he said on the campaign trail. “The biggest problems that we’re facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all and that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m President of the United States of America.”

It seems that Americans agree more with candidate Obama on separation of powers than President Obama, who has continued the trend of concentrating power in the executive branch.

Democratic donors turn eyes to the Senate

Just hours after DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) conceded that Democrats aren’t likely to win control of the House of Representatives this fall, Politico ran a story noting that many high-dollar donors are shifting their focus to the Senate races in which vulnerable Democrats are running:

With Democrats’ grasp on the Senate increasingly tenuous — and the House all but beyond reach — some top party donors and strategists are moving to do something in the midterm election as painful as it is coldblooded: Admit the House can’t be won and go all in to save the Senate.

Their calculation is uncomplicated. With only so much money to go around in an election year that is tilting the GOP’s way, Democrats need to concentrate resources on preserving the chamber they have now. Losing the Senate, they know, could doom whatever hopes Barack Obama has of salvaging the final years of his presidency. 
[…]
Some Democratic operatives think a big chunk of that money should be going to Senate contests instead — and they’re beginning to make that case to wealthy contributors. One senior Democratic strategist who is involved in a number of Senate races said conversations with many of the party’s biggest donors about shifting their giving away from the House and toward the Senate had begun and that, “it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing the results.”

“After the health care rollout and with the start of the new year, Democratic donors are starting to focus on a critical choice they have to make: Donate money to pick up a small handful of House races or defend the Senate majority at all costs so that the president can get something — anything — done,” the strategist said.

Two more House Democrats announce retirements

Two more House Democrats — Reps. Mike McIntyre (D-NC) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) — announced their retirements yesterday, giving Republicans an opportunity to pick-up the two seats later this year:

North Carolina Rep. Mike McIntyre and New York Rep. Carolyn McCarthy will not seek reelection this year, according to multiple Democratic sources familiar with their plans – marking a blow to Democratic efforts to win control of the House.

The 57-year-old McIntyre, who was elected in 1996 to the Wilmington-area congressional seat, narrowly defeated Republican state Sen. David Rouzer in 2012 and was poised to face him in a 2014 rematch. His retirement from the heavily Republican district will further thin the ranks of Blue Dog Democrats. It comes less than a month after another Blue Dog, Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, said his current term would be his last.
[…]
The 70-year-old McCarthy, who also was elected in 1996, announced in June that she was undergoing treatment for lung cancer. She arrived in Congress after her husband and son were both shot in a December 1993 incident on the Long Island Rail Road. McCarthy’s husband, Dennis, was killed, while her son survived. She has been a key proponent of gun control during her time in office.

As noted above, McIntyre’s district, NC-07, has a strong Republican tilt, according to The Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voter Index (PVI). Roll Call has already moved the race from “Pure Tossup” to “Currently Safe for Republicans.” So, put yet another seat in the GOP column for 2014.

Paul Ryan could chair tax-writing committee in next Congress

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) wants to serve as the next chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the powerful tax-writing committee, when the next Congress is seated in 2015, according to Politico:

Paul Ryan will seek to become the next chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, a move that would bring instant star power to the cause of tax reform while complicating his presidential ambitions.

The House Budget Committee chairman intends to replace Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) when term-limit restrictions force Camp to step down in 2015, Ryan told The Wall Street Journal.

“That is my plan,” he said in an interview with the newspaper.
[…]
The move would give Ryan, his party’s 2012 vice presidential candidate and perhaps the most popular Republican in Congress, a prime perch to pursue his long-standing interest in tax and entitlement reform. That could bring a jolt of energy to the push to overhaul the tax code for the first time in a generation, an effort led by Camp that has foundered amid widespread ambivalence among rank-and-file lawmakers.

If Ryan takes on tax reform in earnest, the move may also signal Ryan is not planning on running for president in 2016.

Ryan was term-limited from serving as chairman of the Budget Committee after the last Congress, but he was given a waiver that allowed him to stick around for one more term.


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