Republicans wrangle over DACA in tense private meeting

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy warned centrist Republicans that their effort to force a vote to protect Dreamers could cost the party its House majority and empower Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

In a closed-door meeting Tuesday morning, the California Republican told rank-and-file members to “put your phones down” and listen, according to a GOP source in the room. The prospects of Republicans keeping the House are improving, he said, and “if the election was today, we win.”

But McCarthy cautioned that “we cannot disrupt ourselves,” saying in no uncertain terms that a “discharge petition” to force votes on such a controversial issue six months out from an election would do just that. Passing a bipartisan immigration bill that the base hates, McCarthy argued, would depress Republican turnout, and possibly cost the party the House.

GOP “intensity levels are still not there, and discharge petitions release the power of the Continue reading “Republicans wrangle over DACA in tense private meeting”

Harry Reid receiving treatment for pancreatic cancer

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is receiving treatment for pancreatic cancer, a person close to Reid said.

Reid underwent surgery on Monday at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, the person said.

“His doctors caught the problem early during a routine screening, and his surgeons are confident that the surgery was a success and that the prognosis for his recovery is good," Reid’s family said in a statement Monday. "He will undergo chemotherapy as the next step in his treatment. He is now out of surgery, in good spirits and resting with his family.”

Reid, 78, is currently co-chair of the MGM Resorts International Public Policy Institute, along with former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). He’s also still in frequent contact with some Democratic senators and involved in day-to-day Nevada politics.

The Nevada Democrat left the Senate at the end of 2016 after serving for 30 years in the Continue reading “Harry Reid receiving treatment for pancreatic cancer”

Mulvaney rankles Congress with call to curb its expenses

Mick Mulvaney must like messing with his former colleagues, especially on the House Appropriations Committee.

The White House budget director and former South Carolina congressman has renewed a past practice of offering guidance on annual spending bills as they make it through the appropriations panel.

But one letter in particular dealing with funding Congress’ own operations has rubbed members the wrong way. In a letter sent Monday to Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) and ranking member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), Mulvaney said Congress should cut $327 million from its $3.8 billion Legislative Branch funding bill.

“The Administration appreciates the opportunity to highlight several accounts in the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill that are not in line with” its “view that spending for the Legislative Branch should be restrained,” Mulvaney wrote.

The letter, which POLITICO obtained, singles out a proposed $32 million increase in House salaries and expenses, a Continue reading “Mulvaney rankles Congress with call to curb its expenses”

Dems, GOP jockey over cutting funds for ex-speakers

Congress looks like it’s finally getting rid of one perk for former speakers, but not before a little partisan gamesmanship between Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan.

Under current law, former speakers of the House get funding for office space, equipment, franked mail and “staff support” for a five-year period. Only former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is eligible for this benefit currently, but Ryan – who is retiring after the November elections – would be expected to get it as well. Pelosi would be as well when she leaves.

But in marking up the 2019 legislative branch funding bill, which covers congressional operations, the five-year period for funding was reduced to one year.

However, Pelosi told Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.), top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, and Ryan in an April 26 letter she wants to cut out these funds entirely. “It is my opinion that funding for Continue reading “Dems, GOP jockey over cutting funds for ex-speakers”

Flake blames Trump for rise of Blankenship in West VIrginia

Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake, a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, blamed Trump on Monday for the rise of controversial Republican Senate candidate Don Blankenship in West Virginia.

Blankenship is using racist attacks about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — McConnell’s wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, is Chinese-American — as a centerpiece of his campaign. His efforts threaten to turn West Virginia into another Alabama-like debacle for the GOP, where a Democrat wins a Senate race in a heavily red state because Republicans nominate a candidate too toxic to win a general election.

Even Trump is aware of the danger of Blankenship’s candidacy, warning West Virginia Republican voters Sunday to “Remember Alabama.” Trump carried West Virginia by 42 points in November 2016, and Republicans had set their sights on defeating incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin this November.

Yet according to Flake, Trump’s use of racially charged Continue reading “Flake blames Trump for rise of Blankenship in West VIrginia”

Nunes sticks to contempt threat against Sessions

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), said on Monday that he planned to press ahead with holding Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt of Congress unless the Justice Department relented on a decision to deny sharing certain classified documents with lawmakers.

“It wasn’t a threat. It’s what’s going to happen,” Nunes declared on Monday night.

He first raised the issue of a potential contempt charge during a weekend appearance on Fox News.

Nunes said that a deal was still possible with Sessions for the material in question but that he’d been consulting with the House general counsel and was prepared to initiate contempt proceedings should the Justice Department continue to refuse. He added that he believed that Sessions was unaware of his demands, in part because the attorney general has recused himself from matters connected to the 2016 presidential election. So his contempt threat, Continue reading “Nunes sticks to contempt threat against Sessions”

Trump set to scale back spending cut plan to $11B

The White House will formally ask Congress on Monday to slash $11 billion from old spending accounts, according to two Republican aides on Capitol Hill familiar with the plan.

That would mean the Trump administration would again downsize ambitions for a presidential rescissions package. Some in the administration were initially eyeing a package of cuts up to $60 billion. A top appropriator later said that figure had shrunk to $25 billion.

The proposal expected to land on Capitol Hill on Monday will not target funds from the recently passed $1.3 trillion spending bill, the individuals familiar with the plan said. It will instead focus on years-old spending that has been approved but hasn’t yet been spent.

This is likely the first round of rescissions, with more to come later this year.

The presidential rescissions process — which hasn’t been used since 2000 — has been heralded by Trump’s belt-tightening Continue reading “Trump set to scale back spending cut plan to $11B”

Speakership drama pits McCarthy vs. Ryan

Tensions over who will succeed Speaker Paul Ryan are starting to torment House Republicans as they enter one of the most difficult midterm election cycles in years.

Allies of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the current favorite for the job, are upset that Ryan insists on staying through the election. They think the delay can only hurt McCarthy’s chances and might mean a months-long power struggle in the House Republican Conference in the thick of election season.

The relationship between McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) remains frosty. Scalise endorsed his more senior colleague on Friday after his hand was forced by Ryan, but the Louisiana lawmaker remains interested in the speakership if McCarthy can’t round up the votes.

And then there’s the House Freedom Caucus. The group on Friday sent the majority leader a blunt warning that he doesn’t have the votes when one of the group’s ringleaders, Continue reading “Speakership drama pits McCarthy vs. Ryan”

Some Republicans want Ryan out sooner than later

Paul Ryan wants to serve the rest of his term as speaker. But some senior Republicans are suggesting that Ryan relinquish his gavel now and allow a successor to take over.

Several allies to Majority Leader and speaker hopeful Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) say House Republicans need to be united heading into the midterms, and that a leadership race could split the conference. Other Republicans are questioning whether having a lame duck speaker at the helm of the Republican Conference will hurt their fundraising.

“We would have more success if there’s no ambiguity as to what the leadership structure might look like,” said Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.), one of McCarthy’s closest allies, who is pushing for a vote to replace Ryan sooner rather than later. “Certainty is important… From the conversations I’ve had, everybody wants our ‘A team’ in place, our strongest team in place so we have the Continue reading “Some Republicans want Ryan out sooner than later”

Trump to host GOP leaders for dinner after Mueller attacks

President Donald Trump will host Republican leaders for dinner at the White House on Wednesday night, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

The dinner has been in the works for several days and was being planned before Trump attacked special counsel Robert Mueller on Monday and his press secretary said the president has the power to fire the special counsel on Tuesday. The gathering will offer top Republicans a chance to hear from Trump personally about whether he intends to fire Mueller.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn are all expected to attend, the sources said.

McConnell said on Tuesday that he was almost certain Mueller wouldn’t be fired and that the special counsel did need any special protections from Congress, though the Kentucky Republican wouldn’t say how he could be so sure.

"He Continue reading “Trump to host GOP leaders for dinner after Mueller attacks”

The race to replace Paul Ryan is on

Two top members of Paul Ryan’s leadership team, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, have begun angling for his job in the event the speaker calls it quits after the election.

They’re closely monitoring the moves of the other and quietly courting Republicans who could help either of them clinch the top post, according to 20 GOP lawmakers and aides interviewed for this report.

Neither is actively rounding up votes at this point, and both downplayed the possibility of a looming clash. Scalise said in an interview that he would not challenge McCarthy for speaker — “I’m not running against Kevin for anything,” he told POLITICO — while McCarthy said he’s focused solely on keeping the House in November and pursuing President Donald Trump’s agenda.

But Scalise also expressed interest in leading the conference someday — remarks that only intensified simmering speculation in GOP circles about his Continue reading “The race to replace Paul Ryan is on”

Watchdog: Duncan may have used $100K in donations on family

An Office of Congressional Ethics investigation has found that Rep. Jimmy Duncan may have improperly used more than $100,000 in campaign donations for personal use. The money included tens of thousands of dollars that went to his son, a felon who is also the Tennessee Republican’s campaign manager.

OCE said the funds came from his campaign committee and leadership PAC. It scrutinized “credit card, travel, and other purchase records and found multiple instances in which the campaign committee expended funds for the personal benefit of Rep. Duncan’s family and friends.”

OCE determined “there is substantial reason to believe that Rep. Duncan’s campaign committee and leadership PAC expended funds that were not attributable to bona fide campaign or political purposes.”

The independent ethics watchdog raised questions about more than $15,000 spent on a late 2014 trip to the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, an excursion that included Duncan’s four Continue reading “Watchdog: Duncan may have used $100K in donations on family”

Donovan blames Grimm for heroin arrest flap

The 2015 arrest of the son of Rep. Dan Donovan’s (R-N.Y.) domestic partner on charges of heroin possession has become the latest chapter in a bitter political fight in Staten Island.

Donovan says former GOP Rep. Michael Grimm — who is challenging Donovan in the Republican primary in June — is behind an ethics complaint claiming that Donovan intervened in the arrest of Timothy O’Connell, the son of Donovan’s domestic partner, Serena Stonick.

Donovan flatly denied any effort to help O’Connell, and he said Grimm is somehow linked to the complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics, although he never mentioned Grimm by name, only calling him “my opponent.”

“I was a prosecutor for 20 years,” Donovan said in an interview. “But you don’t have to be a prosecutor to figure out that weeks before my primary against my opponent, something that allegedly — falsely, but allegedly Continue reading “Donovan blames Grimm for heroin arrest flap”

Farenthold weighs resigning from Congress

Texas GOP Rep. Blake Farenthold is considering stepping down from Congress before the end of his term, according to multiple Republican sources with direct knowledge of private party conversations.

Farenthold already announced he would not seek re-election in his southeastern Texas district, after POLITICO reported he settled a sexual harassment lawsuit with $84,000 in taxpayer funds. But he now is on the brink of leaving Congress well before the end of his term, which would allow him to dodge an Ethics Committee investigation into allegations of inappropriate office behavior.

Farenthold has not made a final decision, but has spoken informally with several top Republicans about the possibility of stepping down. If he does resign, it could trigger a special election in his conservative Texas district, which runs from the coastal city of Corpus Christi to the outskirts of Austin.

Stacey Daniels, Farenthold’s spokesman, said Tuesday afternoon, "The Congressman has no Continue reading “Farenthold weighs resigning from Congress”

Hultgren fires aide after sexual encounter with teenage boy

Illinois GOP Rep. Randy Hultgren has fired a top aide after the staffer was found in a car last fall with a 17-year-old boy and no shirt on, according to multiple sources and a police report.

Nick Provenzano, 56, was dismissed by Hultgren over the weekend, the sources said.

Hultgren’s office declined to comment on the details of Provenzano’s firing. “Nick Provenzano is no longer with the office," said a Hultgren spokesperson. No further information was provided.

But through a Freedom of Information Act request, POLITCO obtained an Oct. 21, 2017 incident report from the city of McHenry Police Department in Illinois. That report shows police investigated Provenzano for public indecency and other potential criminal acts following the incident, but no charges were ever filed.

The name of the teenager is redacted in the report.

The report states that a homeowner became suspicious when she saw two men sitting in Continue reading “Hultgren fires aide after sexual encounter with teenage boy”

‘The place bills go to die’

In late February, Speaker Paul Ryan and his leadership team went to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte with a request.

With a White House deadline fast approaching to address the fate of Dreamers facing possible deportation, the leaders wanted to put Goodlatte’s conservative immigration plan on the House floor, but needed him to make changes to win more votes. Goodlatte, an immigration hard-liner, assured Ryan he would be flexible.

But weeks later, Goodlatte’s legislation is still languishing. No substantive changes have been made to the measure, according to multiple senior House GOP sources. And House Republicans have done nothing to deliver on President Donald Trump’s promise to do right by young immigrants brought to the United States as children.

“The chairman’s efforts undermined all of the work that the White House has done and that many of us have done here to try to build a bipartisan coalition,” said Continue reading “‘The place bills go to die’”

‘The place bills go to die’

In late February, Speaker Paul Ryan and his leadership team went to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte with a request.

With a White House deadline fast approaching to address the fate of Dreamers facing possible deportation, the leaders wanted to put Goodlatte’s conservative immigration plan on the House floor, but needed him to make changes to win more votes. Goodlatte, an immigration hard-liner, assured Ryan he would be flexible.

But weeks later, Goodlatte’s legislation is still languishing. No substantive changes have been made to the measure, according to multiple senior House GOP sources. And House Republicans have done nothing to deliver on President Donald Trump’s promise to do right by young immigrants brought to the United States as children.

“The chairman’s efforts undermined all of the work that the White House has done and that many of us have done here to try to build a bipartisan coalition,” said Continue reading “‘The place bills go to die’”

Ryan struggles on Dreamers as GOP fractures

Speaker Paul Ryan is struggling to come up with a game plan on immigration — and staring down a conservative backlash if he makes the wrong step.

The Wisconsin Republican is under increasing pressure from hard-liners in the House Freedom Caucus to put a conservative Dreamer solution on the House floor. Chairman Mark Meadows said Wednesday that while he didn’t think there was talk about replacing Ryan at the moment, “there are certainly new conversations that would involve new leadership.”

“I can say that it is a defining moment for this speaker: If he gets it wrong, it will have consequences for him, but it will also have consequences for the rest of the Republican Party,” Meadows told reporters.

But many moderate Republicans are not on board with the conservative proposal, offered by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). It does not provide a pathway to citizenship Continue reading “Ryan struggles on Dreamers as GOP fractures”

From Fallujah to FBI investigation: The undoing of Duncan Hunter

The criminal investigation into Rep. Duncan Hunter is intensifying as a grand jury in San Diego questions multiple former aides about whether the California Republican improperly diverted political funds for personal use.

Federal prosecutors have subpoenaed Hunter’s parents, as well as a female lobbyist with whom many people close to the congressman believe he had a romantic relationship, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the investigation.

The Justice Department is trying to determine whether hundreds of thousands of dollars from Hunter’s campaign account were spent improperly on his family and friends. Hunter already sold his home to pay back what even he now acknowledges were improper charges, moving his wife and kids in with his parents while he mostly lives in his Capitol Hill office.

It’s a stark reversal of fortune for Hunter, 41, whose friends once considered him a hero. The ex-Marine served three tours as an artillery Continue reading “From Fallujah to FBI investigation: The undoing of Duncan Hunter”

Senate leaders scrambling to finalize budget deal as shutdown looms

Senate leaders are racing to clinch a massive, two-year budget deal even as the government is set to shut down in fewer than 48 hours.

With funding running out at midnight Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are furiously negotiating a package that would boost defense and domestic spending by approximately $300 billion over the next two years, according to people familiar with the talks. In addition, they are discussing whether they can lift the debt ceiling and include an $81 billion disaster aid package.

No final decision has been made, but the agreement could be announced as early as midday Wednesday, aides said. The negotiations were still not completed as of Wednesday morning as the debt ceiling and disaster aid package were still under consideration.

Both McConnell and Schumer are bullish of success. The two leaders, along with House Continue reading “Senate leaders scrambling to finalize budget deal as shutdown looms”