House races

House races

Rep. Bachmann: Healthcare bill will create largest bureaucracy in 'history'

Both parties are currently again fighting last year's healthcare debate on the House floor.

Members were engaged in sharp exchanges Friday morning over two amendments introduced by Iowa Rep. Steve King (R) that would defund the Democrats' law and strip funding made available in prior bills.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) previewed what will likely be a popular Republican line of attack if they fail to dismantle the legislation ahead of the 2012 elections.

"ObamaCare will likely create the largest government bureaucracy in the history of our country," she said.

"What we'll get with ObamaCare is increased costs in healthcare with a huge bureaucracy," said Bachmann in a short floor speech. "Pay more, get less."

Whether Bachmann's claim is accurate, Democrats weren't defending the regulatory aspects of the bill. They instead used emotional pitches, which is what they relied on in the past. 

Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson (D), who preceded Bachmann, made the argument that the Democrats' bill protects families from going broke from paying catastrophic medical bills.

But with polls showing the voters cool to the law, Wilson and her party will need to craft more persuasive arguments if they're to retake the majority and save the bill. 

Members voted on King's amendments in the early afternoon, passing both measures.

--Pete Kasperowicz contributed.

--Updated at 3:05 p.m.

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Freshman Republican: 'I've never worked harder'

A freshman House Republican said he "never worked harder" before he took his seat in the 112th Congress.

The House has remained in session until the early hours of the morning several days this week after Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) allowed for a modified open-rule procedure for ongoing debate over the continuing resolution (CR), a measure to fund the government for the rest of fiscal 2011.

An open rule allowed members to offer as many amendments as they wanted to the CR. But Virginia Rep. Scott Rigell (R) said the grueling schedule has given him hardly any time to reflect on the some 580 amendments that were submitted.

"This job, I've never worked harder," he told The Ballot Box. "I was literally here 'til 3:30 — not speaking, just waiting to see if I was going to speak — and got up at 5:30 a.m. Under this open-rules session, it's quite the process."

Before defeating Democrat Glenn Nye last November, Rigell ran Freedom Automotive, which operates three dealerships in the Hampton Roads, Va., area. "I'm an entrepreneur," he said. "I'm not a person prone to hyperbole."

The House is expected to remain in session until at least early Friday morning as it debates the amendments to the CR.

--Updated at 3:33 p.m. Feb. 18

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Ex-Rep. McMahon touts stimulus anniversary

Former Rep. Mike McMahon (D-N.Y.), who was defeated by Republican Michael Grimm this past November, is touting the second anniversary of President Obama's stimulus plan.

The Staten Island Democratic Association is highlighting McMahon's praise of the stimulus package ahead of an afternoon event to tout its impact. 

In a statement Thursday, McMahon extolled the regional benefits of the stimulus, claiming that, thanks to its enactment, "the people of Staten Island and Brooklyn are paying the lowest federal income taxes since the '50s." He also touted the investment in local infrastructure the stimulus money allowed for. 

The New York Democrat has been working to repair relations with his party's base as he appears to be paving the way for another run in 2012. The left was unhappy with McMahon's vote against the healthcare law — a vote McMahon has since said may have been a mistake. 

The Democrat has made a handful of appearances before local Democratic clubs in recent weeks, including the Staten Island Democratic Association, which is among the more liberal of the groups McMahon has faced. The group said McMahon was hoping to appear at an afternoon event to celebrate the two-year anniversary of the plan, but had a scheduling conflict. 

Republicans, meanwhile, are using the anniversary to slam House and Senate Democrats for supporting the package, with both the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee going on the offensive. 

The NRSC released a Web video Thursday targeting five Senate Dems up for re-election in 2012, and the NRCC hit McMahon and dozens of other former members who may be weighing bids to reclaim their House seats next year. 

Among the NRCC's targets Thursday are former Democratic Reps. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (S.D.), Tom Perriello (Va.), Carol Shea-Porter (N.H.) and Ann Kirkpatrick (Ariz.). 

On Wednesday, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) noted his frequent communications with former members who could run again in 2012, saying the committee holds conference calls with former members at least once a month and that he's exchanged e-mails recently with Herseth Sandlin.

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Vet group backs activist for ex-Rep. Lee seat

A conservative veterans group is backing activist David Bellavia to succeed former Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.).

Iraq Veterans for Congress PAC, which supports conservative candidates, is asking for contributions to help David Bellavia, a former Army staff sergeant and founder of Vets for Freedom.

"We have a rare and immediate opportunity to replace a disgraced politician with an authentic hero of the Iraq War," the group wrote in an e-mail soliciting contributions for Bellavia. "As a decorated veteran, David Bellavia has demonstrated selfless service to country. As a principled conservative he is right on the issues."

Lee abruptly resigned from Congress last week in the wake of an Internet scandal. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has 30 days to call a special election after a vacancy is declared, although it's unclear when that will happen.

Republicans leaders from the seven counties in the 26th district are interviewing as many as 10 prospective candidates to determine the party's special election nominee. The final round of interviews is expected to take place Sunday.

--Updated and corrected at 1:15 p.m.

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N.J. governor tells House GOP: 'Put up or shut up'

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) urged Congress to address the solvency of programs like Social Security and Medicare and warned Republicans they could face primaries for failing to cut government spending.

"We are teetering on the edge of disaster," Christie said during a speech on Wednesday at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. "Stop playing the political games."

The first-term governor, who has a growing national reputation in the GOP, said he wouldn’t hesitate to involve himself in the primaries of House Republicans who fail to address entitlement programs or push for deep spending cuts.

"I campaigned in a bunch of different spots in the country for a Republican candidate for the House," he said of last year's midterm election. "I said the same thing to them then that I will say to them now, 'it’s put up or shut up time.'

"And I'll be really clear, if people who I campaigned for don't stand up and do the right thing, the next time they’ll see me in their district is with my arm around a primary opponent. Because you asked me to put my reputation on the line for you based on a promise that you were going to deal with these hard issues," Christie said.

"So put up or shut up time, I'll wait and see what they really come forward with."

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House Dems tout record January fundraising as a sign party is back on track

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) raised $4.4 million during the month of January, a record haul for the committee in a non-election year, the group announced Wednesday.

Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) said the amount helps cut into the committee's sizable debt.

Israel touted the figure as a sign the party's base is energized and has shaken off its massive electoral defeat this past November.

"We went through the five stages of grief, and now we're over it," Israel said at a press conference.

Even with the strong fundraising month, which is just $300,000 short of what the committee raised in January of 2010, the DCCC is still nearly $20 million in debt.

"We've got a debt and I will not sugarcoat it," said Israel, adding that the January haul will help the committee accelerate its debt payments and manage its debt heading into 2012.

Israel defended the committee's borrowing at the end of the last cycle to pour cash into key races. He argued that without that money, another 15 to 20 Democrats wouldn't be in the House today, and the party would have a next to impossible task to get back its majority in 2012.

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Rep. Kildee on 2012: 'I definitely plan to run'

Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.) pushed aside retirement speculation Tuesday, saying he fully intends to seek a 19th term in 2012. 

"I definitely plan to run," Kildee told The Ballot Box, brushing off his slow fundraising start and low cash-on-hand number. 

The 81-year-old Democrat raised nothing between Nov. 23 and Dec. 31, according to his year-end fundraising report, and began the year with just $12,000 cash on hand. It led to some speculation that he might opt for retirement ahead of 2012.   

"I usually don't start raising money until March, so that doesn't mean anything," said Kildee, who added that he's in the process of ramping up his fundraising and campaign operation. 

Aside from Kildee's long tenure in the House, the possibility that his district could become more competitive thanks to redistricting added to the early speculation that could decide against another run next year. 

"No way," said Kildee when asked if redistricting or other factors might change his mind before 2012. "They'll have to carry me out of here."  



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Grijalva: 'Distinct possibility' Rep. Giffords runs for Senate

Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva (D) said he has no plans to run for Senate but there's the "distinct possibility" that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) will mount a bid.

Giffords has been recovering from a gunshot wound to the head since she was attacked on Jan. 8 at an event in Tucson. The third-term congresswoman told staff before the shooting that she planned to run for Senate if Sen. Jon Kyl retired.

The Republican announced last week he wouldn't seek reelection and Grijalva admitted that many Arizona Democrats pinned their hopes to Giffords winning the seat.

"That was a lot of our expectations," Grijalva told The Ballot Box on Tuesday. "Given her progress, I see that as still a distinct possibility. I think she would be formidable; she's a moderate to conservative person."

Grijalva said he planned to visit Giffords in two weeks when he flies through Texas on his way home to Arizona. The congresswoman is currently rehabilitating at a facility in Houston.

"I'm going to try to stop by," said Grijalva, but he doubted they'd talk politics.

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