Entries in Congress (324)


Congress to Hold IRS Hearings this Week

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- On Monday, a House Appropriations subcommittee will hear from Internal Revenue Service Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel about what steps the agency is taking to address the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups and to hold those responsible accountable.

Also at the witness table will be J. Russell George, the Treasury Department’s Inspector General.

The House Ways and Means committee will hold their own hearing on Tuesday featuring representatives from conservative organizations that were targeted by the IRS after some of those groups filed a joint lawsuit against the agency last week.

On Thursday, George will return to Capitol Hill to appear before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform “about a newly-released audit uncovering information about excessive spending at IRS conferences.”

The hearing comes roughly a week after the release of a video showing IRS officials line dancing to the “Cupid Shuffle” at a 2010 agency conference in California.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Rep. Dingell: 'Refusal to Compromise' One of Biggest Changes in 57 Years

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Speaking this morning on This Week, Democratic Rep. John Dingell of Michigan — who is poised to become the longest serving member of Congress on June 7 — bemoaned Washington partisanship, saying a “refusal to compromise” is one of the biggest changes he has seen over his more than 57-year career in Congress when asked about the issue by ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.

“Lack of collegiality. Refusal to compromise. An absolute reluctance to work together. And I think a total loss of the understanding of the traditions,” Dingell said.

“Today, members are so busy getting re-elected, spend so little time there, there’s so much pressure on them from outside to be partisan and to fight, not to do the things that we’re supposed to, such as compromising and working together,” Dingell said. “And compromise has gotten, George, to be a dirty word. And this is a great shame. The founding fathers intended something quite different.”

Dingell, who has cast over 25,000 votes over the course of his career in Congress, said his most important vote was for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was a vote that almost cost him his job, he said.

“The one of which …I’m most proud and which I think was the most important was the vote I cast on the ’64 civil rights bill that allowed citizens to vote. You remember the country was being torn apart by the denial to our people the right to vote and happily that began a process that cured it so that a black American citizen is now sitting in the White House,” Dingell said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Rep. John Dingell Set to Break Record for Longest Congressional Tenure

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. John Dingell, who is serving his 30th term in the House of Representatives, is poised to break the record next week as the longest-serving member in the history of the U.S. Congress.

Next Friday, June 7, Dingell will eclipse the late Sen. Robert Byrd, having served 57 years, 177 days.

That's 20,996 days, to be exact.

Throughout his career, Dingell has served with 22 percent of all members who have ever served in the lower chamber -- 2,419 of 10,989 lawmakers -- casting more than 25,000 votes through 11 presidential administrations while attending 50 State of the Union addresses.

Dingell, 86, first took office on Dec. 13, 1955 at the age of 29 after winning a special election to replace his late father, John Dingell Sr., as the representative for Michigan's 15th Congressional District.

Dwight Eisenhower was serving his first term as president and had not yet signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. John F. Kennedy was still a U.S. senator and had not yet published his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "Profiles in Courage." Barack Obama would not be born in Hawaii for almost six more years.

Dingell, who can be seen leisurely walking throughout the Capitol with the help of a wooden cane, often drives a motorized scooter with a vanity license plate that reads, "The Dean" to commute between the Capitol and his congressional office across the street.

Dingell has owned the title of Dean of the House of Representatives since 1995, given for the longest continuous service of a current member.

The Michigan Democrat, born July 8, 1926, is not the oldest member of Congress. That honor goes to Rep. Ralph Hall, who is about three years older than Dingell.

Rep. John Conyers, a fellow Michigan Democrat who has served alongside Dingell since his own election to the House in 1965, previously worked for Dingell as a legislative aide, crediting him as his mentor.

"It has been a privilege to serve alongside Congressman Dingell in representing Michigan, and I congratulate him on this momentous milestone," said Conyers, the second-longest current serving member of Congress. "Congressman Dingell's dedication to public service is unmatched, and he has had a distinguished career leading the fight to advance health care reforms and increase environmental protections. Both my father and Congressman Dingell's father were friends many years ago, and it has been an honor to call Congressman Dingell my friend over our time in Congress together."

Since the House is not in session next Friday, lawmakers will regroup June 13 for a bicameral, bipartisan celebration of Dingell in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Rep. Speier Calls Congress 'Enablers of Sexual Assault'

Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- On Wednesday, Lawmakers came down hard on military leaders, the morning after allegations emerged of another head of a military sexual assault prevention program engaging in the very behavior he was charged with stopping.

Late Tuesday, the Army announced that the coordinator of a sexual assault prevention program at Fort Hood, Texas, is under investigation “for pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates.” He has been suspended from all duties while his case is investigated by the Army’s Criminal Investigative Command.

Rep. Jackie Speier reacted with strong words to reports of these new accusations, the week after the lieutenant colonel in charge of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office was arrested for the alleged sexual battery of a woman in a parking lot near the Pentagon.

“Another sex scandal rocks the military,” she said Wednesday. “Is Congress really going to stand by and let the military handle this?”

“Congress has been an enabler of sexual assault by not demanding that these cases be taken out of the chain of command,” she added.

Rep. Speier has a bill pending in Congress that would do precisely that, called the STOP Act. Staff for Speier said the U.S. Capitol Police are investigating threats against the congresswoman.

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin said these reports were evidence of “a disgraceful culture of abuse” within the armed services.

“Reports of a soldier at Fort Hood, Texas, assigned to prevent and report sexual assaults, being accused of serious sexual misconduct, abuse, and maltreatment of soldiers is reprehensible,” Sen. Durbin, D-Ill., said in a statement released Wednesday. “Next week, the Army will be before my subcommittee and they will face tough questions about these accusations.”

Other lawmakers on Twitter called the Fort Hood scandal “unacceptable,” “horrific” and “v[ery] disturbing.”

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered that all of the military’s sexual assault prevention coordinators and military recruiters to be re-trained, re-credentialed and re-screened.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Going Beyond Cat Videos: YouTube Brings Congress to the People

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Move over C-SPAN, YouTube is now bringing Congress to the people. All members of the U.S. Congress were invited earlier this week to start live-streaming video from their YouTube channels.

“Whether it’s to share a look into your daily work, broadcast speeches and meetings, or showcase events in your district, we can’t wait to see how you connect with your constituents,” a news release from YouTube says.

Congress can hardly wait, either. The House and Senate both issued “Dear Colleague” letters to congressional members urging them to use the technology offered by YouTube.

“This technology allows Members to communicate with constituents in real time at no cost,” Reps. Candice Miller, R-Mich., and Robert Brady, D -Pa., wrote in the House “Dear Colleague" letter.

Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Lamar Alexander, R- Tenn., echoed the message in a letter addressing the upper chamber. The letter made sure to specify that “this free service complies fully with Senate Internet Regulations,” to which YouTube also adheres.

Although a congressional address has yet to go viral, YouTube’s relationship to politics is anything but random.

Chelsea Maughan, a YouTube spokeswoman, says the 2012 U.S. presidential and vice presidential debates were watched live in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. Combined, the four videos garnered more than 27 million views, which is more than double the views of the original version of the Internet hit “Charlie Bit Me.”

YouTube believes such viewership is what drives video content, and will ultimately bridge communication between politicians and constituents. Time will tell how this partnership plays out, but both parties are optimistic about the prospects.

“Video plays a powerful role in bringing us closer together, especially when it connects people in real time,” a YouTube statement read.

“By transcending borders, empowering citizens and increasing transparency, it’s one of the many ways technology allows democracy to thrive.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obama, Lawmakers Vow to Ease Suffering from Texas Blast

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama and lawmakers in Washington, D.C., expressed their condolences Thursday after the devastating explosion in West, Texas, pledging federal resources to help.

"Today our prayers go out to the people of West, Texas, in the aftermath of last night's deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant," Obama said in a written statement released to reporters. "A tight-knit community has been shaken, and good, hard-working people have lost their lives."

"I want to thank the first responders who worked tirelessly through the night to contain the situation and treat the wounded. My administration, through FEMA and other agencies, is in close contact with our state and local partners on the ground to make sure there are no unmet needs as search and rescue and response operations continue," Obama added.

Obama called Texas Gov. Rick Perry to offer any federal resources needed to aide in response-and-recovery efforts, a White House official told ABC.

Texas' two Republican senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, released a joint statement thanking first responders and pledging any support they can offer.

"We are deeply saddened to learn of the horrific explosion in West, Texas," they said. "We grieve for those who are injured and have lost loved ones, and are grateful to the firefighters and first responders who risked their own lives to keep others safe."

On the Senate floor, Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered sympathy for Texas victims and called it a "difficult week," after the attacks in Boston.

"I offer my condolences to those who lost loved ones and who have people who are wounded and injure," Reid, D-Nev., said. "I'm going to do everything I can with my colleagues to ensure that this terrible tragedy has the resources of the federal government available to help the people of that city as they recover from this tragedy."

McConnell, R-Ky., said, "From the media reports we've seen, there have clearly been a great many injuries, and a terrible loss of life. We're all thinking of and praying for the victims and their families. Given the horrendous event at the Boston marathon on Monday, followed by the event near Waco last night. It's been a difficult week for all of us. Our hearts are a little bit heavier."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


President Obama's Weekly Address: Reducing Gun Violence 

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- In his weekly address, President Obama calls on Congress to pass "commonsense measures" to protect the nation's children by reducing gun violence.

The president says in the three months since 20 innocent children and six dedicated adults were lost in the Newtown, Conn. tragedy, Americans "began asking ourselves if we’re really doing enough to protect our communities and keep our children safe."

Those three months, he says, have forced the nation to answer difficult questions about what can be done to prevent the kinds of massacres that occurred in Newtown, Aurora and Oak Creek, and everyday tragedies that take place in cities and towns across America.

"Today there is still genuine disagreement among well-meaning people about what steps we should take to reduce the epidemic of gun violence in this country," Obama says. "But you – the American people – have spoken.  You’ve made it clear that it’s time to do something.  And over the last few weeks, Senators here in Washington have listened and taken some big steps forward."

Obama mentions actions the Senate has taken in an effort to make changes to reduce gun violence: advancing a bill to make it harder for criminals and people with severe mental illness to obtain guns; making progress on another bill to crack down on any gun buyer who intends to funnel it to criminals; and reinstating and strengthening a military-style assault weapons ban as well as setting a 10-round limit for magazines.

"These ideas shouldn’t be controversial – they’re common sense. They’re supported by a majority of the American people.  And I urge the Senate and the House to give each of them a vote," he says.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Poll: Large Racial Gap Marks Trust on Immigration

John Gurzinski/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Slightly more Americans trust Barack Obama than congressional Republicans to handle immigration, but neither side garnered a majority between whites and nonwhites in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Americans overall divide by 45-39 percent between Obama and the Republicans in Congress in trust to handle the issue; the rest are undecided or trust neither side.  Whites favor the GOP over Obama on immigration by 47-36 percent, while nonwhites (blacks, Hispanics and others) prefer Obama by a broad 71-16 percent.

See a PDF with full results here.

There also are sharp partisan and ideological differences in trust on immigration in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates.  Democrats and Republicans each prefer their side’s approach by an identical 66 percentage points; independents divide closely between Obama and the GOP, 41-36 percent.

Very conservative Americans favor the Republicans on immigration by 65 points and those who say they’re somewhat conservative do so by 33 points.  Moderates take Obama’s side by a 21-point margin, liberals by 61 points.

Obama has made immigration reform a second-term priority, having beaten Mitt Romney in last year’s election by 61 percentage points among the growing proportion of nonwhites overall and by 44 points among Hispanics, while losing whites by 20 points.

In step with the president’s policy direction, majorities in recent ABC/Post polls have supported a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.  His approval rating on the issue in February, while just 49 percent, was the highest of his presidency and up 11 points since the summer.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Boehner Not Blinking in Budget Deadlock

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With sequestration set to strike on Friday, House Speaker John Boehner returned to the Capitol after a nine-day recess with no apparent change in his political posture: If the $85 billion cuts are going to be averted, Boehner insists, it’s up to the Senate to act.

Some lawmakers had returned to Washington Monday hoping for a “Hail Mary” attempt to avert the looming sequestration cuts.

“Time is running out,” Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., said on the House floor shortly after legislative business resumed. “The president should be working with House Republicans by engaging in the legislative process.”

“We only have four days left to go and our country’s overall well-being depends on it,” House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., warned.

But considering Boehner’s firm resistance to a Democratic proposal to offset half of the cuts with new taxes, the sequester seems certain to take effect untouched.

“The president says we have to have another tax increase in order to avoid the sequester,” Boehner R-Ohio, told reporters outside his office suite Monday. “Mr. President, you got your tax increase. It’s time to cut spending here in Washington.”

Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, called on both parties “to work together” to find a balanced solution. But he, like most Democrats, remains adamant that a deal must include new taxes in addition to targeted savings.

“Budget discipline is absolutely necessary, but damaging job growth and our economy to do so is self-defeating,” Hoyer said on the House floor Monday. “While many Republicans have been praising the sequester as a viable path forward, Democrats recognize this mindless policy for the danger it is.”

Boehner expressed hope that an eleventh-hour deal to offset the $85 billion across-the-board cuts could still be reached, but he continued to pressure Senate Democrats to vote on their proposal before any other options are considered in the House.

“Hope springs eternal,” Boehner said. “It’s time for [Senate Democrats] to act. I’ve made this clear for months now and yet we’ve seen nothing.”

When asked about the prospect for a solution last Friday, President Obama responded identically that “hope springs eternal.”

House Republicans voted twice during the 112th Congress to narrowly pass legislation to offset the sequester with alternative savings, but those measures languished in the Senate and expired with the end of the session. After House Republicans lost eight seats in the last election, a senior Democratic leadership aide doubted that Republicans have enough support within their conference to repeat the feat for a third time. A senior GOP leadership aide, however, said Boehner has the Republican votes to pass the replacement again.

“The House has acted twice,” Boehner said. “We shouldn’t have to act a third time before the Senate begins to do their work.”

Boehner also criticized President Obama for planning a trip to Newport News, Va., Tuesday where the president hopes to draw attention to some of the potential impacts of the arbitrary cuts.

“The president proposed the sequester yet he’s far more interested in holding campaign rallies than he is in urging his Senate Democrats to actually pass a plan,” he said. “Instead of using our military men and women as campaign props, if the president was serious, he’d sit down with Harry Reid and begin to address our problems.”

The speaker said he did not know how many jobs would be lost if the cuts take hold on Friday, but he warned that by continuing to ignore the country’s ballooning debt, potential job creation is threatened.

“If we don’t solve the spending problem here in Washington, there will be tens of millions of jobs in the future that won’t happen because of the debt load that’s being laid on the backs of our kids and our grandkids,” he said. “I came here to save the American dream for my kids and yours. This debt problem and the president’s addiction to spending is threatening their future.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obama Enlists Governors to Help Get Sequester Deal

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- With less than five days to prevent $85 billion in sweeping, automatic budget cuts, President Obama Monday asked the nation’s governors to help pressure Congress to compromise on a deal to avert the sequester.

“There are always going to be areas where we have some genuine disagreement,” the president told a meeting of the National Governors Association at the White House. “But there are more areas where we can do a lot more cooperating than I think we've seen over the last several years.”

“To do that, though, this town has to get past its obsession with focusing on the next election instead of the next generation. All of us are elected officials. All of us are concerned about our politics, both in our own party's as well as the other party's. But at some point we've got to do some governing,” he said.

The president appealed to governors for help convincing lawmakers to act. “I hope that you speak with your congressional delegation and remind them in no uncertain terms exactly what is at stake and exactly who is at risk, because here's the thing: These cuts do not have to happen. Congress can turn them off any time with just a little bit of compromise,” he said.

Obama said he’s willing to meet Republicans halfway and underscored that he stands by his commitment to cut spending. “Democrats, like me, need to acknowledge that we're going to have to make modest reforms in Medicare if we want the program there for future generations and if we hope to maintain our ability to invest in critical things like education, research and infrastructure. I've made that commitment,” he said.

But Republicans will need to give as well, he said. “We also need Republicans to adopt the same approach to tax reform that Speaker Boehner championed just two months ago. Under our concept of tax reform, nobody's rates would go up but we'd be able to reduce the deficit by making some tough, smart spending cuts and getting rid of wasteful tax loopholes that benefit the well-off and the well-connected,” he added.

“I know that sometimes folks in Congress think that compromise is a bad word, and they figure they'll pay a higher price at the polls for working with the other side than they will for standing pat or engaging in obstructionism. But as governors, some of you with legislatures controlled by the other party, you know that compromise is essential to getting things done, and so is prioritizing, making smart choices,” he said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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