Facing a bipartisan uprising from Northeast lawmakers, House Republican leaders scheduled a Friday vote on an initial installment of aid for states damaged by Superstorm Sandy.
In addition to this week’s action on $9.7 billion in additional borrowing authority for the National Flood Insurance Program, Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia announced that the House will vote on the $50 billion remainder of the Obama administration’s disaster relief request on Jan. 15.
House Republican leaders faced bipartisan criticism Sunday for proposing just 30 day patches to forestall the threatened spike in milk prices next month — with senior lawmakers mocking the approach as a “poor joke on farmers” and asking who plants a crop for just 30 days.
At a lively GOP whip meeting, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas pressed hard for his longer-term extension to provide more certainty and the time needed to write a new farm bill next year. But the Oklahoma Republican met stiff — and colorful — resistance from Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) who went so far as to liken new dairy provisions in the Lucas bill to “communism.”
The exchanges between the two men continued in a meeting of the full GOP conference Sunday night, where Boehner again laced into the dairy program. But Lucas — the traditional “good soldier” for his party — held his ground. And the back-and forth illustrates the problems still facing Boehner as he tries to untangle himself from the milk crisis brought on in large part because of his refusal to allow floor debate in this Congress on a full-scale, five-year farm bill.
In a way, the Republicans have done what the White House wanted: They have put out their own plan in response to President Obama’s proposal last week for deficit reduction.
But it didn’t take long for the White House to dismiss the GOP offer, released Monday afternoon by Speaker John Boehner and other House Republican leaders. Not only does the Republican plan call for only half the revenue the president wants - $800 billion over 10 years versus $1.6 trillion - it does so by limiting tax breaks, not by raising tax rates on the most wealthy.
The Boehner plan also includes a $1.4 trillion cut in spending, for a total of $2.2 trillion of deficit reduction over the next 10 years. The cuts include reductions in federal health-care spending on programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act. Savings are also derived by lowering cost-of-living increases in Social Security.
“The Republican letter released today does not meet the test of balance. In fact, it actually promises to lower rates for the wealthy and sticks the middle class with the bill,” White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement. “Their plan includes nothing new and provides no details on which deductions they would eliminate, which loopholes they will close, or which Medicare savings they would achieve.”
An effort to provide emergency aid for American ranchers and farmers reeling from a year of drought, frost and other calamities collapsed on Thursday as members of Congress departed for their five-week August recess, leaving behind a pile of unfinished legislation as they go home to campaign for re-election.
Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who as chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee helped pass a five-year farm bill in her chamber, refused to take up the new House measure.
After refusing to consider a sweeping five-year farm measure, House Republican leaders jammed through a short-term $383 million package of loans and grants for livestock producers and a limited number of farmers. The measure passed 223 to 197, a narrow margin for a bill that has an impact on so many states. But Democrats balked in protest over the way the farm legislation has been handled and some Republicans objected to the costs.
Democratic leaders in the Senate, which had already passed a bipartisan five-year bill, refused to take up the House measure, faulting House Republican leaders for failing to consider the broader legislation in time.
What “religious freedom” bill?
Republicans stung by the culture wars that dominated the nation’s political discourse this year are standing down on social issues, acutely aware that the presidential and congressional elections five months off are expected to turn on a thin margin of cash-strapped independent voters neither party can afford to alienate.
How about House Speaker John Boehner’s vow to reverse President Barack Obama’s birth control policy? There’s no sign of any such legislation. The Ohio Republican reminds people daily that he is focused on jobs now.
Obama’s revelation that he supports gay marriage? Told ya so, said social conservatives at the core of the GOP - before they turned back to assailing the president’s stewardship of the economy.
And what happened to the GOP’s efforts to curb abortion? House Republican leaders made it go away by offering a vote on a bill to ban gender-based abortions Thursday - under special rules that guaranteed it would fail.
House Republicans investigating the Fast and Furious scandal plan to pursue a contempt citation against Attorney General Eric Holder, senior congressional aides told CBS News.
The resolution will accuse Holder and his Justice Department of obstructing the congressional probe into the allegations that the government let thousands of weapons fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.
The citation would attempt to force Holder to turn over tens of thousands of pages of documents related to the probe, which has entered its second year.
For months, congressional Republicans probing ATF’s Fast and Furious “Gunwalker” scandal - led by California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, have been investigating a contempt citation. They’ve worked quietly behind the scenes to build support among fellow Republicans, since it could ultimately face a full House vote.
CBS News has confirmed that House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, was provided a 48-page long draft by Issa, who heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
“While there are very legitimate arguments to be made in favor of such an action, no decision has been made to move forward with one by the Speaker or by House Republican leaders,” a Republican leadership aide told CBS News.
President Barack Obama continues his push Tuesday to get Congress to extend a payroll tax cut, a day after House Republican leaders agreed to remove an obstacle in the passage of the tax cut extension.
Obama released Tuesday a video about what he called the need to extend the tax cut by the end of the month or a family making about $50,000 a year could lose $40 in every paycheck.
In the video, Obama urges people to go to social networking sites to speak about how this loss of income would affect them.
“We all need you to speak out,” Obama said. “Because if Congress does not act soon taxes on the middle class will go up.”
On Monday, House Republican leaders dropped a key demand that the cost of extending the payroll tax cut be offset by spending cuts elsewhere in the budget.
That decision, a sharp turnaround for House Republicans, removes a major obstacle to passage of the tax cut extension for the rest of the year — a move that has been in question.