Ryan urges Republicans to tout economic gains

With the Republican majority hanging in the balance, and a Democratic wave building before their eyes, Speaker Paul Ryan encouraged House Republicans Thursday to hyper-focus on selling the party’s one major bright-spot: a booming economy.

In a closed door meeting Thursday morning — House Republicans’ last political conference before Election Day — the retiring speaker told members to spend the final sprint of the midterm elections tuning out the drama of Washington and preaching economic gains.

"The unemployment rate is under 4 percent; jobless claims are lowest in 50 years; wages are up 3 percent; GDP is growing," Ryan told the conference, according to his prepared remarks. "Selling what we’ve done to voters over the next eight weeks is my top priority. I know everyone in this room will help amplify that message and carry us to victory," he added later.

Ryan vowed to help them, promising that “I am Continue reading “Ryan urges Republicans to tout economic gains”

Right mounts campaign to make Jim Jordan the GOP leader

A collection of powerful conservative groups is mounting an aggressive campaign to install Freedom Caucus co-founder Jim Jordan as House speaker or minority leader in the next Congress, according to a half-dozen sources with direct knowledge of the effort.

The bid to empower a rabble-rouser despised by much of the House Republican Conference will almost surely fall short. But success for the groups doesn’t necessarily require Jordan to end up in the top leadership spot.

Their effort could deny California Rep. Kevin McCarthy the 218 votes needed to secure the speakership if Republicans retain the House majority — an outcome conservatives would cheer just as much. And if Republicans lose the majority, the groups intend to demand new leadership, which could wound McCarthy’s bid for minority leader.

The effort marks a rare instance of coordination among at least four prominent outside groups as well as a handful of smaller conservative Continue reading “Right mounts campaign to make Jim Jordan the GOP leader”

Scalise vs. McCarthy: Leadership jockeying hits full bore

CORNING, N.Y. — To hear them tell it, Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise are buddy-buddy again. Forget about a potential showdown to lead the House Republican Conference: The only thing the No. 2 and 3 House Republicans care about is retaining the majority, they insist.

But behind the scenes, the rivalry between the two men is as intense as ever, as the moment of reckoning to determine who will replace Paul Ryan draws closer — and the prospect of losing the House in the midterms grows.

Scalise has been busy raising his national profile in ways that some McCarthy allies feel threatens the California Republican’s bid to lead the conference. In recent months, Scalise, the majority whip, has staked out several hard-line positions favored by conservatives. His moves have put McCarthy in the awkward position of having to follow Scalise or anger the far-right, whose support McCarthy needs to Continue reading “Scalise vs. McCarthy: Leadership jockeying hits full bore”

Freedom Caucus split on shutdown clash

It’s been a recurring scene in Congress for years: House Freedom Caucus members pushing the government to the brink of a shutdown until their policy demand of the moment is met.

This time, though, some caucus members are actually pleading for cooler heads.

The rare division among the conservative hardliners — coming, ironically, with fellow rebel Donald Trump in the White House — could help prevent what most of the Republican Party views as a true nightmare scenario weeks before the November election.

Chairman Mark Meadows of North Carolina has argued that entering into a spending battle that could shutter the government in October would be unwise without a cohesive plan, appearing to side with GOP leaders who fear a shutdown before midterms would upend their House majority.

But Freedom Caucus founder and ex-leader Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the more confrontational of the pair, is itching for the battle now before Continue reading “Freedom Caucus split on shutdown clash”

GOP leaders no on shutdown, but conservatives divided

President Donald Trump and key House Republicans insisted on Wednesday that they don’t want a government shutdown before Election Day, although some conservative hardliners want a fight over border wall funding now.

Trump, though, wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a shutdown after the midterm elections, and he continues to demand billions of dollars in additional funding for the controversial border wall project between the United States and Mexico, far beyond what Congress has approved.

Trump is set to meet with House and Senate GOP leaders this afternoon, including Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Both Ryan and McConnell have urged Trump — in public and private — to forgo a shutdown, arguing it would harm Republican prospects during the midterms.

“That’s not in anyone’s interest, and he knows that,” Ryan said of Trump during a Wednesday press conference.

Trump, for his part, Continue reading “GOP leaders no on shutdown, but conservatives divided”

House Republicans stalling appropriations ‘minibus’ package

Policy fights between House Republicans and nearly everyone else on Capitol Hill are slowing down final action on the first “minibus” package of annual spending bills, throwing in doubt a GOP plan to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

One of the policy disputes is over a provision being pushed by Republicans in the Washington state delegation, including Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dan Newhouse. McMorris Rodgers — the No. 4 House Republicans and the top GOP female lawmaker in Congress — faces a tough reelection fight this year.

The quarrel between House Republicans on the Appropriations Committee and the other “three corners” of the 2019 spending negotiations – House Democrats, plus Senate Republicans and Democrats – comes as GOP congressional leaders will tramp down to the White House on Wednesday to implore President Donald Trump not to provoke a government shutdown over border wall funding. Trump is seeking Continue reading “House Republicans stalling appropriations ‘minibus’ package”

Once-loyal Alabama delegation gives Sessions the cold shoulder

When President Donald Trump attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year, Alabama Republicans jumped to his defense, beating back the presidential incursion and sending Trump a clear signal: back off our guy.

Now, as Trump reprises his public assault on the man he blames for his mounting legal woes, Sessions is getting the silent treatment from his hometown allies.

Alabama, the beating heart of conservative Southern politics where Sessions made his name as a prosecutor and a senator for 35 years, has long been a reliable base of support. But as Trump escalated his attacks on Sessions in recent days — and signaled his desire for a new attorney general — Alabama’s leading Republican lawmakers have gone dark.

In recent days, Trump has called his attorney general “missing in action” and “scared stiff” for his stewardship of the Justice Department. He said in a Fox News interview that Sessions Continue reading “Once-loyal Alabama delegation gives Sessions the cold shoulder”

‘How do you stay married to a guy who does that?’

House Republicans are whispering one word over and over again to describe embattled Rep. Duncan Hunter: Shameless.

The California Republican, indicted this week for using $250,000 in campaign funds to enrich himself and his family, is blaming everyone but himself for his current legal predicament: Prosecutors are “biased” against him because he was an original supporter of then-candidate Donald Trump. The media is just trying to make him look a fool.

And his wife? Well, this whole thing is really her fault.

“She handled my finances throughout my entire military career, and that continued on when I got to Congress,” Hunter told Fox News host Martha MacCallum late Thursday, referring to his spouse Margaret, who was also indicted by the FBI Wednesday: "She was also the campaign manager so whatever she did, that’ll be looked at too, I’m sure, but I didn’t do it.”

Hunter’s brazen attempt to throw Continue reading “‘How do you stay married to a guy who does that?’”

Hunter steps down from House committee assignments

Indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter told Speaker Paul Ryan Thursday that he will step down from his committee assignments after initially declining to do so, according to a letter intercepted by POLITICO.

Ryan (R-Wis.) called on the California Republican, who has been indicted with his wife for allegedly using more than $250,000 in campaign funds to enrich their family, to relinquish his committee posts, including his spot on the House Armed Services Committee. A defiant Hunter, who on Thursday pleaded not guilty to all charges and is also accusing the Justice Department of conducting a “witch hunt” against President Donald Trump supporters like himself, initially refused.

Ryan’s office was readying a plan to strip him of those positions anyway by calling up a House panel that decides committee posts and holding a vote to remove him forcefully. The vote would have easily passed, according to multiple House Republican sources who Continue reading “Hunter steps down from House committee assignments”

‘He’s way too conservative’: Freedom Caucus members on the hot seat

SPOTSYLVANIA, Va. — Democrat Abigail Spanberger stood on a wooden bench at a vineyard in central Virginia and railed against “the prioritization of ideology over informed decision-making” — a pointed jab at her opponent, House Freedom Caucus member Dave Brat.

Spanberger, a 38-year-old former CIA operative, has barnstormed this traditionally Republican stronghold accusing Brat of putting the Freedom Caucus’ intransigent conservative politics over the needs of constituents, and pitching herself as a pragmatist who could represent them better.

“We need people in Washington who are committed to creating legislation that’s actually impacting communities rather than guided by Republican ideology,” Spanberger said in an interview.

Brat is one of two high-profile Freedom Caucus members at risk of losing their seats this fall to a potential Democratic wave. It’s an unfamiliar feeling for members of the hard-line group, whose typically comfortable electoral positions have emboldened them to push a far-right platform.

Brat Continue reading “‘He’s way too conservative’: Freedom Caucus members on the hot seat”

Jordan launches long-shot bid for speaker

Ohio GOP Rep. Jim Jordan — the most influential member of the hardline House Freedom Caucus — launched a long-shot bid for speaker on Thursday, throwing down a challenge to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

In a letter to his Republican colleagues, Jordan criticized the current House GOP leadership, although he didn’t single out McCarthy or Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) by name, and said Americans “believe that our congressional majorities have let them down.”

“They want us to stop caving so quickly to the likes of Pelosi and Schumer doing what we said we would do,” the Ohio Republican declared.

Jordan then proposed a conservative legislative agenda for the fall that he said would guarantee Republicans keep their majority in November, including repealing Obamacare; more tax cuts; adding work requirements to federal welfare programs; revising immigration laws and funding President Donald Trump’s border wall; cutting off Continue reading “Jordan launches long-shot bid for speaker”

Ryan rejects conservative push to impeach Rosenstein

Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday firmly rejected an effort by House conservatives to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, putting him at odds with hard-liners in his party and even some in his own leadership team.

The Wisconsin Republican told reporters the Department of Justice was largely complying with a GOP demand for documents surrounding the FBI’s Russia investigation.

“I don’t think we should be cavalier with this process or this term,” he said of impeachment. “I don’t think this rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.”

That puts him in conflict with the no. 3 Republican, Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who expressed support for the idea in a Fox News interview earlier in the day. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy repeatedly refused to support or oppose impeachment when asked by reporters at the Capitol.

Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), top House Continue reading “Ryan rejects conservative push to impeach Rosenstein”

Ryan: Putin not invited to Capitol Hill

President Donald Trump might be planning to welcome Vladimir Putin to the White House this fall. But the Russian president won’t receive the red-carpet rollout on Capitol Hill.

Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Tuesday that Putin will not be invited to give a joint-session of Congress, echoing comments Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office made Monday.

“We would certainly not be giving him an invitation to do a joint-session,” Ryan said, referring to foreign leaders’ ceremonial speech to Congress when they visit the nation’s capital. “That’s something we reserve for allies.”

McConnell’s top spokesman made a similar snub to the Russian leader Monday, telling POLITICO "there is no invitation from Congress" to Putin. Meanwhile, the White House is moving forward with its plans to hold a second summit between Trump and Putin.

Both men have long been considered Russia hawks and have struggled with Trump’s eagerness to strengthen ties Continue reading “Ryan: Putin not invited to Capitol Hill”

‘That was not the deal’: McCarthy, Ryan renege on immigration vow

House GOP leaders are reneging on a vow to hold an immigration vote before the August recess, a move that puts House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in a particularly awkward spot as he seeks to become the next speaker.

In June, McCarthy (R-Calif.) personally promised several rank-and-file members a vote on a new guest-worker program for farmers, an offer backed by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). The assurance was critical at the time: It persuaded Reps. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) and Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) not to sign on to an effort — which Republican leaders were desperately trying to stop — to force a vote on legislation creating a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, the immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. The so-called discharge petition ultimately fell two signatures short.

But now, Republican leaders have no plans to take up the guest-worker program before the summer Continue reading “‘That was not the deal’: McCarthy, Ryan renege on immigration vow”

‘A difficult situation’: Republican women run in the Trump era

For the past 20 months, four-term Republican Rep. Martha Roby has had to grovel to President Donald Trump to regain her political standing and beat back a primary challenge in her staunchly conservative Alabama district.

Her crime? Standing up for women.

“I cannot look my children in the eye … and justify a vote for a man who promotes and boasts about sexually assaulting women,” the mother of two said in the fall of 2016.

Needless to say, her constituents — many of them Trump-loving Southern men — didn’t like that much. Roby quickly changed her tune after Trump won the presidency, unfailingly praising him and his policies as she went on to survive a primary runoff Tuesday that almost ended her career.

Roby’s plight highlights the unique challenge Republican women face campaigning for office with Trump in the White House. While their female Democratic counterparts have benefited politically from Continue reading “‘A difficult situation’: Republican women run in the Trump era”

Republicans look to squeeze Dems with vote to abolish ICE

House Republican leaders plan to hold a vote on a liberal bill to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency — forcing Democrats to weigh in on a controversial issue that has divided the party just months before the midterms.

“We can have a debate,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters Thursday, adding that the vote would occur before the August recess.

GOP leaders are also considering holding a vote on a "Medicare for All" proposal supported by progressives. That vote could take place in several weeks, said GOP sources.

The proposals, which have become a rallying cry on the left, aren’t supported by party leaders or moderates, who warn it threatens to alienate independent voters in critical districts they need to win back the House.

Multiple GOP sources said House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) pushed for the “Abolish ICE“ bill to get a vote during a Continue reading “Republicans look to squeeze Dems with vote to abolish ICE”

Trump sparks Republican rift on Russia

Republicans are having a Russian identity crisis.

The congressional GOP is openly struggling with the United States’ relationship with Russia during President Donald Trump’s overseas trip this week — with some worried about fraying U.S. alliances and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s growing influence and others pleased to see improved relations and fearful of getting on the wrong side of the leader of their own party.

The divisions come as Trump lashed out at other NATO member nations in Brussels on Wednesday for taking “unfair” advantage of U.S. military might and several days after a delegation of GOP senators visited Russia and were promptly used by Moscow’s messaging apparatus, which painted them as weak.

The party’s stance will come to a head on Monday when Trump meets with Putin one-on-one in Helsinki. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) expressed frustration with the propaganda that followed his recent visit and Continue reading “Trump sparks Republican rift on Russia”

‘I thought you were my friend’: Immigration meltdown exposes GOP hostilities

Moderate House Republicans suspected they were being played.

For weeks they’d been negotiating with Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows in a quest to clinch an immigration deal that could pass the House. But whenever the two sides got close, they said, immigration hard-liners would ask for more. Then, on the morning of a scheduled June 21 vote, moderates got their hands on an explosive missive from the Freedom Caucus’ top staffer: an email warning group members that voters would punish them for backing any bill with a whiff of “amnesty.”

“This is bull—-,” Rep. Tom MacArthur scolded Meadows at a meeting in Speaker Paul Ryan’s office that day. The New Jersey Republican, who had worked closely with Meadows in the past and wanted a deal, demanded to know why Meadows appeared to be backing away from a bill he helped craft.

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), a leader of Continue reading “‘I thought you were my friend’: Immigration meltdown exposes GOP hostilities”

Republicans brace for immigration failure

House GOP leaders — eager to move on from an immigration fight that has divided and distracted their members — could vote as soon as Tuesday on legislation that‘s expected to fail by a wide margin.

Top negotiators and aides worked through the weekend on new language adding a provision championed by conservatives they hope will garner more support from the far-right for the GOP’s “compromise” bill. The E-Verify proposal, which requires all companies to certify the legal status of their workers, is controversial for moderate Republicans and members with agriculture-centered economies.

But top moderate negotiator Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) told Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) late last week that centrists would consider the matter if it would win their support.

It’s unclear that it will make much of a difference, however.

GOP sources on both sides of the intra-party debate told POLITICO Monday that even if Continue reading “Republicans brace for immigration failure”

Trump treks to Capitol Hill as immigration firestorm rages

President Donald Trump heads to Capitol Hill Tuesday evening to rally House Republicans behind an immigration bill he panned just five days ago.

Now Republicans have to decide: Which Trump do they believe?

Speaker Paul Ryan and his top lieutenants are well aware that only the president can give conservatives cover to votes for a bill that includes a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers — a huge leap for those who once dismissed that idea as “amnesty.” It’s why leadership invited Trump for a rare meeting with the entire Republican conference, just days after he indicated he might veto the legislation.

Even if Trump vows to sign the bill, some House Republicans worry the damage has already been done. Trump’s suggestion on Fox News Friday that he would not sign a “moderate” immigration bill is already making some lawmakers fret that he might change his mind at any moment, Continue reading “Trump treks to Capitol Hill as immigration firestorm rages”