Entries in House (84)


House Votes To Avoid Shutdown With A One-Year Delay In Obamacare

iStockPhoto/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The House of Representatives has voted 231-192 to avoid a government shutdown with a one-year delay of key parts in Obamacare. The temporary budget resolution is unlikely to pass in the Senate.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


House Likely to Pass Continuing Resolution on Thursday

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- House Republicans unveiled a stopgap measure Monday to fund the federal government through the rest of the fiscal year, a move intended to mollify a deeply divided Congress that has fought through three years of bruising budget battles.

The continuing resolution, known around Washington as a CR, is subject to sequestration levels in its entirety, setting the top-line overall rate of spending at $982 billion, down from $1.047 trillion the previous fiscal year.

The CR keeps the FY2012 spending level as a base for 10 out of 12 appropriations bills, but notably, the legislation includes a full-year Defense appropriations bill, as well as a full-year Military Construction/Veterans Affairs appropriations bill.  These two measures, which are still subject to sequestration, were negotiated with broad bipartisan support even though they did not become law during the last session of Congress.

Aides on both sides of the aisle say the funding tactic enables lawmakers to respond to changing circumstances or address the funding priorities of an agency rather than rely on existing spending plans that may have become outdated or impractical.

“The legislation will avoid a government shutdown on March 27, prioritize DoD and Veterans programs, and allow the Pentagon some leeway to do its best with the funding it has,” Rep. Hal Rogers, the chairman of the appropriations committee, wrote in a statement Monday. “This CR package is the right thing to do, and it’s the right time to do it.”

For example, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Congress the Pentagon has an $11 billion shortfall below the administration’s request this year for the Operations and Maintenance section of the defense budget. To close that deficit, the Defense appropriations bill included in the CR takes about $7 billion from Research and Development and Procurement and increases the authority for Operations and Maintenance by about $10.4 billion.

While in practice the rebalanced money for Operations and Maintenance cushions the effect of the arbitrary sequestration cuts, aides say legislators drafting the bill did not write the bill with the intent to offset sequestration.

“It’s just the right thing to focus on the core function of government: national security,” one House Republican aide said. “An $11 billion shortfall [in Operations and Maintenance] affects readiness.”

Democrats, however, contend that the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs are “not unique” to the funding challenges facing Washington. Rep. Nita Lowey, the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, said it is “extremely disappointing” that the CR locks most of the federal government into “outdated plans and spending levels.”

“Governing by continuing resolution limits the ability of federal departments and agencies to respond to changing circumstances, implement laws enacted by Congress, eliminate unnecessary spending, and budget responsibly,” said Lowey, D-N.Y.  “It has an adverse effect on federal efforts to improve schools, health care, and homeland security; protect the environment; and create jobs and grow the economy.”

The legislation also addresses an apparent need for increased security, identified after the Benghazi attack in Libya, by including a provision to increase the current level for embassy security by about $2 billion. The CR also provides additional funding for federal prisons and includes a provision requiring Immigration and Customs Enforcement “to sustain the mandated capacity of 34,000 detention beds.”

It also extends the current pay freeze for federal employees, which includes members of Congress and Senators, even though President Obama has issued an executive order implementing a 0.5 percent pay increase.

Despite an impasse over sequestration last week, House Speaker John Boehner emerged from a meeting with President Obama and other congressional leaders Friday, assuring reporters that a government shutdown is not in the cards.

“The House is going to move a continuing resolution next week to fund the government past March 27, and I’m hopeful that we won’t have to deal with the threat of a government shutdown while we’re dealing with the sequester at the same time,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said.

The bill is expected to be on the floor for debate on Wednesday and voted on Thursday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


House Dems Rip GOP Redo of Violence Against Women Law

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- House Democrats say they are not satisfied with the Republican-crafted version of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, pledging to oppose it if it comes up for a vote later this week in the House.

Speaking at the Capitol Tuesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the Republican measure a step down from the Senate bill that passed with bipartisan support earlier this month, saying that “this bill is weaker than the Senate bill, weaker than the current law.”

House Democrats said that the Republican-proposed version up for consideration this week does not provide adequate protection for the sexual crime victims associated with human trafficking or members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and Native American communities.

Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., who has previously detailed her experience as a sexual assault victim on the House floor, asked her GOP colleagues Tuesday afternoon to “stand up for what is right and righteous, and reconsider this ill-conceived legislation, and work together with us to pass the bipartisan Senate bill.”

A House GOP leadership aide defended the latest Republican proposal, contending that House Democrats are using the politically contentious issue as a way to divide the Republican Party. Some members of the Republican conference have pressured leadership to allow a vote on the Senate bill rather than delay passage with another political fight.

The House GOP aide said the Republican leadership believes its bill makes significant improvements to the Senate bill, claiming that every woman is protected from discrimination.

The House could vote to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act as soon as Thursday. However, considering the divisions in the lower chamber, it is unclear which version – the Senate bill or House bill – would come up for consideration.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Virginia Lawmaker Brandishes AK-47 on House Floor

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A Virginia state lawmaker brandished an AK-47 on the floor of the state House of Delegates on Thursday.

Virginia Del. Joe Morrissey, a Democrat hailing from the Richmond area, showed off the weapon while pushing for tighter gun-control laws, The Washington Examiner reported.

“A lot of people don’t know that in many locations in the commonwealth, you can take this gun, you can walk in the middle of Main Street loaded and not be in violation of the law,” Morrissey said on the floor, according to the Examiner, assuring other lawmakers that the gun was not loaded.

A subcommittee voted Thursday night to kill a bill Morrissey introduced that would have tightened gun controls in the state, The Roanoke Times reported.  That bill would have banned the sale of so-called assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Tentative Deal Reached on 'Fiscal Cliff,' But No House Vote Before Deadline

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The so-called "fiscal cliff" came Monday night -- but now there is a specific deal on the table to try to soften it after the fact, according to congressional sources.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the deal -- brokered by Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- would get a vote in the Senate sometime after midnight. The House would not vote before Tuesday, having adjourned for the evening before word of the agreement spread.

"I feel really very, very good about this vote," Biden told reporters leaving the meeting with Senate Democrats, "but having been in the Senate for as long as I have there's two things you shouldn't do: You shouldn't predict how the Senate is going to vote before they vote....[and] you surely shouldn't predict about how the House is going to vote."

The proposal would extend Bush-era tax cuts permanently for people making less than $400,000 per year and households making less than $450,000, the sources said.

The steep "sequester" budget cuts scheduled to go into effect with the New Year would be postponed two months, said sources. They said half the money would come from cuts elsewhere, and the other half from new revenue.

The deal also would affect taxes on investment income and estates, and extend unemployment benefits for a year, the congressional sources added.

"The end is in sight," said a Democratic aide with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office. "If everyone cooperates, it's possible things can move pretty quickly."

After the Biden meeting, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said there was "strong" support for the plan among Senate Democrats.

"There is a feeling that it's not that this proposal is regarded as great or as loved in any way, but it's a lot better than going off the cliff," he said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called the compromise the "best" that could be done.

Even with progress in the Senate Monday night, the "cliff" deadline has passed without action by the House, where Republican leaders said they would "consider" the deal starting Tuesday.

"Decisions about whether the House will seek to accept or promptly amend the measure will not be made until House members -- and the American people -- have been able to review the legislation," said House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, and Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers in a statement.

The failure of a deal to pass Congress by Jan. 1 technically triggers an income tax hike on all Americans and automatic spending cuts, though lawmakers could still prevent a tax hike by making retroactive any legislation that passes in the weeks ahead, experts said.

The deal at hand will not entirely solve the problem of the "fiscal cliff," however. In fact, it could set up a new showdown over the same spending cuts in just two months that would be amplified by a brewing fight over how to raise the debt ceiling beyond $16.4 trillion. That new fiscal battle has the potential to eclipse the "fiscal cliff" in short order.

Earlier, during a midday news conference, Obama said he was optimistic about compromise in the short-term.

"It appears that an agreement to prevent this New Year's tax hike is within sight, but it's not done," he said. "There are still issues left to resolve, but we're hopeful that Congress can get it done."

In addition to extending current tax rates for households making $450,000 or less, the latest plan would raise the estate tax from 35 to 40 percent for estates larger than $5 million; and prevent the alternative minimum tax from hammering millions of middle-class workers, according to sources familiar with the talks.

Capital gains taxes would rise to 20 percent from 15, according to a senior White House official.

The deal would also extend for one year unemployment insurance benefits set to expire Tuesday, and avert a steep cut to Medicare payments for doctors, congressional sources said.

"I can report that we've reached an agreement on the all the tax issues," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in an afternoon speech on the Senate floor.

At the time, McConnell said that federal spending cuts remained a sticking point. That hurdle later appeared to be cleared by postponing the debate two more months, though it is unclear whether House Republicans will go along.

"In order to get the sequester moved, you're going to have to have real, concrete spending cuts," said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich. Without that, he said, "I don't know how it passes the House."

Some Republicans also said Obama unduly complicated progress toward an agreement by seeming to take a victory lap on taxes at his campaign-style event at the White House.

"Keep in mind that just last month Republicans in Congress said they would never agree to raise tax rates on the wealthiest Americans," Obama said, raising the ire of several Republicans. "Obviously, the agreement that's currently discussed would raise those rates, and raise them permanently."

Those words drew a sharp retort from Republican Sen. John McCain.

Rather than staging a "cheerleading rally," McCain said, the president should have been negotiating the finishing touches of the deal.

"He comes out and calls people together and has a group standing behind him, laughs and jokes and ridicules Republicans. Why?" said McCain.

Several Democrats also voiced disappointment with the president and the emerging deal.

 "This is one Democrat that doesn't agree with that at all," Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin said of the tentative deal. "No deal is better than a bad deal, and this looks like a very bad deal, the way this is shaping up."

Failure of Congress to act on a tax measure would trigger income tax hikes on all Americans. The average family would pay an extra $3,446 in 2013 under the higher rates, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Regardless of the "cliff," virtually all workers were due to see less in their paychecks starting in January when a temporary 2 percent payroll tax cut will expire.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


House Democrats Urge Congress To Toughen Gun Laws

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- As the country mourns victims of last week’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and the debate over gun control takes on new urgency in Washington, House Democrats Wednesday called on Congress immediately to enact tougher gun legislation, particularly a ban on so-called “assault weapons” and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

“No words are adequate to console the families of these children and others who were taken from us in an act of senseless, unspeakable violence,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “Here in Congress, what we need now are not more words. What we need is action.”

Pelosi called on Congress to restore an expired ban on assault weapons, outlaw high-capacity magazines, strengthen the federal background check system and address the issue of mental health in order “to keep weapons out of the hands of those in greatest danger of doing harm to themselves and to others.”

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York, arguably the Democrats’ fiercest advocate for tougher gun laws, called on Republicans, “to join us in supporting our efforts to reduce gun violence in America.”

“All too often, we see these mass killings and we mourn for those that have died in the past. And yet, all our lives go on. But this time, it is different, and we all know it,” said McCarthy, whose husband was murdered and son wounded in a 1993 shooting aboard a commuter train in Long Island.

“It shouldn’t be a Democrat or a Republican issue,” she said. “It’s all of us as Americans who are mourning the death in Newtown, and we don’t want to see any more of these shootings again.”

No Republican lawmakers attended the news conference.

Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., who was wounded in a Tucson, Ariz., shooting as a staffer working alongside former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords two years ago, noted a perceived lack of willpower among congressional Republicans for tougher legislation.

“I’m a newcomer. I’ve only been here about five months,” Barber said. “I know what’s going on in terms of the political gamesmanship, but this is an issue on which political games have to stop. We should have members of the Republican caucus standing with us today and I hope, in time, we will. This has to be a bipartisan issue in the end.”

Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., blasted Texas Gov. Rick Perry for suggesting that teachers should have “access to weapons in their school.”

“The notion that more Americans, quote/unquote, in the words of Gov. Perry, ‘packing heat will make us safer’ is not founded in reality, in facts or in history,” Himes said. “It is founded in the fantasy of testosterone-laden individuals who have blood on their hands for articulating that idea.”

Pelosi announced that Rep. Mike Thompson, a seven-term Democrat from California, will head a newly created task force focused on reducing and preventing gun violence.

Thompson, a Vietnam veteran, said it’s time for Congress to enact a, “comprehensive package that addresses the gun violence [and] puts in place appropriate restrictions on inappropriate types of firearms and accessories.”

One bill Democrats hope to pass would limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds, prohibiting high-capacity magazines like the ones used in mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown.

“It’s time. We need to do everything we possibly can to minimize gun violence,” Thompson said. “I’ve been a hunter all my life and there’s no reason to have a magazine that holds 30 shells.”

McCarthy admitted that strengthening the country’s gun laws is “like a puzzle,” and, “no single piece of legislation is going to solve everything.”

“You’ve got to put everything together to have it work,” she said. “There are some who say that any gun restriction is an imposition on their liberty, but they must understand that the level of gun violence in America today is an imposition on the liberty of all Americans.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Paul Ryan’s House Opponent Will Be in Kentucky Outside Debate

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Paul Ryan’s House challenger will be in Danville, Ky., the site of the vice presidential debate on Thursday, asking for a debate of his own.

Rob Zerban, the Democrat challenging Rep. Ryan, R-Wis., will be doing national interviews in Kentucky, telling reporters that Ryan has neglected his home-district House campaign.  Ryan, who presumably has his hands full running for vice president and debating Joe Biden, has refused to debate Zerban, so far.

Zerban has circulated a petition among his supporters demanding a debate.

“The reason that Rob is going down [to Kentucky] is that Ryan basically has refused to campaign in the district or debate him or anything like that, despite spending money on TV in the district, so we’re trying to call attention to that,” Zerban spokesman TJ Helmstetter told ABC News.

Zerban has not yet secured a spot inside the building where the debate will be held, but he’ll be available outside.  He’ll appear Thursday morning on MSNBC’s The Rundown and later on Hardball, his spokesman said.

Zerban’s campaign outraised Ryan’s House campaign by more than $200,000 in the third quarter of 2012.

Ryan won reelection with 64 percent of the vote in 2008.  His race against Zerban is not thought to be competitive.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Maxine Waters Continues to Question Misconduct by Ethics Committee

Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Within 24 hours of the House Ethics Committee’s dismissal of her assertions that her constitutional rights were violated, Rep. Maxine Waters began to fight back.

Waters is accused of steering $12 million in TARP funds to a minority-owned bank with ties to her husband in 2008. The ethics committee’s trial was to begin in November 2010 but was delayed after the California Democrat claimed her rights -- racial insensitivity, leaked documents, too much time until trial -- had been violated.

On Thursday, Waters demanded that the committee release a report issued by Billy Martin, the special counsel hired to investigate allegations of staff misconduct at the committee.

“The Committee must immediately release Mr. Martin’s report, which forms the basis of their determination to dismiss Representative Waters’ due process concerns,” Waters, D-Calif., writes in a letter signed by 68 of her Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives. “Without the public, the Congress and Representative Waters being able to review the findings included in this report, the integrity of the Committee’s process will further be called into question.”

The committee ultimately hired Martin, an attorney with Dorsey & Whitney, as an outside counsel to investigate Waters’ allegations regarding the deprivation of her due process rights. His past clients include the parents of Chandra Levy, Monica Lewinsky’s mother, former Sen. Larry Craig and NFL quarterback Michael Vick.

Waters also notes that releasing the report is necessary to restore public confidence in the ethics committee and to afford Waters the opportunity to respond. She complains that despite the committee’s concession that a former staff member invoked the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and that staff made “inappropriate and/or racially insensitive remarks” about the congresswoman, the committee still dismissed her allegations that her constitutional rights had been violated.

“Considering that it was the conduct of the Committee that necessitated Mr. Martin’s investigation in the first place, which came at the cost of up to $800,000 to the U.S. taxpayer, we feel that it is absolutely essential that the Committee move forward with absolute transparency and release Mr. Martin’s report,” she writes.

A senior aide to Waters revealed that the California Democrat personally collected each signature over the past 24 hours. So far the ethics committee has not commented on her letter.

Wednesday the panel released its letter to Waters, paving the way for the full ethics investigation to continue. Waters, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, still stands accused of improperly using her influence in 2008 to help secure the TARP funds for the struggling bank. She has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


House Rejects Ban on Sex-Selection Abortions

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The House voted Thursday to reject a measure that would have banned sex-selection abortions in the United States, pitting Republicans and Democrats in a showdown over a woman’s right to choose, which opponents contended was “intended to chip away at woman’s right to obtain safe, legal medical care.”

The measure, known as the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), was defeated 246-178. Under suspension of the House rules to permit consideration of the bill more quickly, approval of the measure was subject to a two-thirds majority, and with 414 members voting Republicans fell 30 votes short of passage.

The bill was perceived by Democrats as a political maneuver to coax liberal lawmakers into supporting the bill or face the prospect of an onslaught of campaign advertisements this fall highlighting a lawmaker’s vote to support sex-selection abortions.

Still, only 20 Democrats took the bait and broke from their party to vote with the majority of Republicans. Seven GOPers opposed the measure.

The House debated the bill Wednesday, but a vote was postponed until Thursday afternoon.

After the plight of blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng captured international headlines this month, Republicans had hoped to capitalize on the momentum of that awareness to ensure that sex-selection abortions are not legal in the United States.

Many nations with staunchly pro-choice/pro-abortion rights laws and protections nevertheless ban sex-selection abortions. Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland and the Netherlands all have laws banning sex-selection abortions.

Earlier this week, a pro-life group released an undercover video purportedly showing a Planned Parenthood counselor in Texas assisting a woman seeking a sex-selection abortion. Gendercide, the practice of killing baby girls or terminating pregnancies solely because the fetus is female, is estimated to have produced a “gender imbalance” of more than 100 million girls around the world.

“For most of us, Mr. Speaker, ‘it’s a girl’ is cause for enormous joy, happiness and celebration,” Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said on the House floor Wednesday. ”But in many countries including our own, it could be a death sentence. Today the three most dangerous words in China and India are, ‘It’s a girl.’ We can’t let that happen here.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


House to Vote on Banning Sex-Selection Abortions

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The House will vote late Wednesday on a bill that would ban doctors from performing abortions based on the sex of the unborn child.

Opponents say so-called "sex-selection” abortions are sought mainly to terminate a pregnancy because the fetus is female.

“You know, if that doesn't insult our conscience collectively as Americans, I don't know what will,” said Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), the bill’s lead sponsor.

The practice is said to occur frequently in China, where families are permitted to have just one child, and boys have greater value in the culture.

“A lot of the Asian immigrant communities here is where it's most prevalent in America,” Franks charged.

Abortion rights supporters say the law is unnecessary and they worry it could lead to racial profiling by doctors.  Under the new law, physicians could face up to five years in prison if they knowingly perform an abortion based on the unborn baby’s sex.

Franks noted other developed nations, including Australia and the United Kingdom, ban sex-selection.

“At least we have got to be able to agree that it's wrong to kill a little unborn baby girl, simply because she's a little girl instead of a little boy,” he said.

Because of the procedure chosen by House leadership, Franks’ bill will require a two-thirds majority.

“That may make it very difficult to pass,” he said.  “But at least we will know, clearly, who is with us and who is against us.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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