House Speaker John Boehner couldn’t hold back when he spotted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the White House lobby last Friday.
It was only a few days before the nation would go over the fiscal cliff, no bipartisan agreement was in sight, and Reid had just publicly accused Boehner of running a “dictatorship” in the House and caring more about holding onto his gavel than striking a deal.
“Go f— yourself,” Boehner sniped as he pointed his finger at Reid, according to multiple sources present.
Sagging approval ratings brought Democrats and Republicans together Thursday, as the Senate passed a bill to explicitly prevent members of Congress, their top aides and administration officials from using non-public information for insider trading. New disclosure requirements will require public reports online within 30 days of buying and selling stock.
The 96-3 vote sent the bill to the House, where Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the legislation would be considered next week.
Senators in both parties acknowledged the purpose of the legislation was to help dig members of Congress out from poll approval ratings that have fallen to the teens after a year of excessive partisanship pervading almost every issue before Congress.
“When polls show low public confidence in Congress, there is a strong desire to address the concerns that underpin the public’s skepticism,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, one of the bill’s managers.
President Barack Obama praised the Senate and said he’s ready to sign a bill known as the STOCK Act, which stands for Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge.
“No one should be able to trade stocks based on nonpublic information gleaned on Capitol Hill,” the president said. “So I’m pleased the Senate took bipartisan action to pass the STOCK Act. I urge the House of Representatives to pass this bill, and I will sign it right away.”
Obama said still more ethics restrictions were needed, “like prohibiting elected officials from owning stocks in industries they impact.”
Several amendments were added to the bill before final passage.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., won an amendment to include the 28,000 government workers in the executive branch in the bill, saying it would create a level playing field with the requirements for Congress. But the same amendment included conflicting language by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., that would apply to only 2,000 top policymakers – including the president, vice president and members of the Federal Reserve Board.
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During a House GOP retreat in Baltimore on Friday, press secretaries for Speaker of the House John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor balked when asked if their bosses believe Attorney General Eric Holder should resign over Operation Fast and Furious.
Sixty-three congressmen, two senators, two sitting governors and every major Republican presidential candidate have demanded Holder’s ouster over the resulting scandal. And 89 congressmen have signed a House resolution of “no confidence” in Holder as the nation’s top law enforcement officer. Between the two lists, which don’t perfectly overlap, 101 members of the House have “no confidence” in Holder, believe he should resign or both.
Though that number — 101 Congressmen — is nearly half of the 242-member Republican caucus in the House, and the surge continues to grow, the press secretaries for Boehner and Cantor refused to answer the question.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel has ignored emails on the subject for months, but when TheDC caught up with him at the retreat and again asked if his boss thinks Holder should resign for the gunrunning operation that killed U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and at least 300 Mexican civilians, Steel replied, “I don’t think he has said anything on that.”
TheDC followed up with Steel in the lobby of the Waterfront Marriott and asked him if he’d just ask Boehner the question. “Yeah, maybe,” Steel replied.
As of 5 p.m. on Sunday, Steel still hasn’t answered whether Boehner agrees with the 101 members in the House GOP caucus about Holder. Instead, Steel said, “The speaker appreciates the hard work that Chairman Issa and many others have done to expose this scandal. President Obama’s Department of Justice needs to be accountable.”
Cantor’s press secretary, Laena Fallon, deflected questions in a similar way, telling TheDC that Cantor “doesn’t sign onto legislation, as a rule, as majority leader”
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Republicans have decided they’re not going to give a rebuttal to President Obama’s jobs speech later this week, a decision House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi took as a high affront to the White House.
At least three GOP lawmakers also have announced they’re not going to show up for the presidential address. House Speaker John Boehner’s office then confirmed Tuesday evening that nobody from the party would deliver an official televised response.
Pelosi said the party’s “silence” would “speak volumes about their lack of commitment to creating jobs.”
“The Republicans’ refusal to respond to the president’s proposal on jobs is not only disrespectful to him, but to the American people,” Pelosi said.
But Boehner spokesman Mike Steel said Obama’s proposals on Thursday “will rise or fall on their own merits,” suggesting a GOP response was not needed.
“Republicans are, and have been, entirely focused on job creation. Every member of Congress, and — more importantly — the American people, will provide a reaction to the president’s address,” Steel said.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said there will be “plenty” of response to the president’s speech on Friday, but told Fox News he suspects the reason there’s no formal response is “the speaker doesn’t expect to hear much to respond to.”
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House Speaker John A. Boehner abandoned efforts Saturday night to cut a far-reaching debt-reduction deal, telling President Obama that a more modest package offers the only politically realistic path to avoiding a default on the mounting national debt.
On the eve of a critical White House meeting on the debt issue, Boehner (R-Ohio) told Obama that their plan to “go big,” in the speaker’s words, and forge a compromise that would save more than $4 trillion over the next decade had fallen victim to the toughest ideological issues: how to raise taxes and cut spending on popular health and retirement programs.
That leaves negotiators reexamining a less-ambitious framework — aimed at saving roughly $2.4 trillion over the next decade — that had been under discussion between Vice President Biden and a bipartisan group of lawmakers. But that group’s talks broke down more than two weeks ago over the tax issue as well.
“Despite good-faith efforts to find common ground, the White House will not pursue a bigger debt reduction agreement without tax hikes. I believe the best approach may be to focus on producing a smaller measure, based on the cuts identified in the Biden-led negotiations, that still meets our call for spending reforms and cuts greater than the amount of any debt limit increase,” Boehner said in a statement released less than 24 hours before the White House meeting was to take place.
The sweeping deal Obama and Boehner were discussing would have required both parties to take a bold leap into the political abyss. Democrats were demanding more than $800 billion in new tax revenue, causing heartburn among the hard-line fiscal conservatives who dominate the House Republican caucus. Republicans, meanwhile, were demanding sharp cuts to Medicare and Social Security, popular safety net programs that congressional Democrats have vowed to protect.
Obama, at least, was willing to make that leap and had put significant reductions to entitlement programs on the table. But on Saturday, Boehner blinked: Republican aides said he could not, in the end, reach agreement with the White House on a strategy to permit the Bush-era tax cuts for the nation’s wealthiest households to expire next year, as lawmakers undertook a thorough rewrite of the tax code.
Democrats quickly accused Boehner of placing tax breaks for the rich above the nation’s financial salvation.
“We cannot ask the middle-class and seniors to bear all the burden of higher costs and budget cuts. We need a balanced approach that asks the very wealthiest and special interests to pay their fair share as well,” White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said in a written statement.
“Both parties have made real progress thus far, and to back off now will not only fail to solve our fiscal challenge, it will confirm the cynicism people have about politics in Washington.”
The Sunday meeting at the White House will go on as scheduled, and Pfeiffer said Obama will continue to press for a broad deal aimed at stabilizing the soaring national debt. Without such a plan, lawmakers in both parties have said they will not vote to grant the Treasury additional borrowing authority. Unless Congress acts to raise the $14.3 trillion legal limit on the debt, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said that the government will begin to default on its obligations after Aug. 2.
The Biden framework, which he crafted with key Republicans, including House Majority Leader Eric I. Cantor (R-Va.), includes cuts to federal agency budgets and more modest reforms to entitlement programs. That package would allow Congress to approve an extension of the federal debt ceiling into spring 2013.
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The budget deal reached Friday would affect two initiatives contained in last year’s health-care law that were bitterly opposed by businesses, killing one outright and slashing funding for the other.
The agreement would eliminate a provision of the health-care law enabling low-income workers to opt out of employer-offered health insurance and shop for more affordable coverage on insurance exchanges to be created in 2014, according to congressional aides and business groups.
Under the provision, employers would have had to help pay for the insurance purchased on the exchange. Ending the program would save the government $4 billion over 10 years, but it wouldn’t result in any immediate spending cuts because it isn’t set to begin for three years.
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Jenny Beth Martin looked out on the rain-dampened crowd along Constitution Avenue and pointed over her shoulder at the Capitol.
“They heard us, but they’re not listening!” Martin, a tea party leader, told members of the movement that helped put Republicans in charge of the House last November.
The crowd booed.
Four months after the historic election, the populist force that helped drive Republicans to power is finding that its clout on Capitol Hill isn’t automatic.
What brings you out today, one tea party member was asked. “Saving our country, obviously.”
Sensitive talks over how many billions of dollars to cut from this year‘s federal budget have strayed far below the Republicans’ campaign promise to slash $100 billion. Rather than standing firm and allowing parts of the government to shut down until enough lawmakers came around, House Speaker John Boehner was doing exactly what the tea partiers thought they had elected Republicans to avoid: negotiating with President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats over spending cuts.
“Cut it or shut it!” chanted the crowd outside the Capitol on Thursday.
“I’m not talking about $5 billion or $6 billion or $10 billion. I’m talking about $100 billion,” said one tea party activist (seen in the picture above), speaking of the budget cuts. According to the AP, $10 billion has been cut so far.
Among those not balking were some of the 87 freshmen Republicans, who more than anyone in the House owe their seats to the tea party juggernaut.
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