News/Lawmaker News

King calls for Benghazi intelligence reports

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) urged President Obama to release the reporting from the intelligence community that led his administration to initially describe the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi "as a 'spontaneous reaction' to a film trailer posted on the Internet."

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Changes in Boehnerland

The Hill has learned that House Speaker John Boenher (R-Ohio) promoted policy director, Brett Loper, to deputy chief of staff this week.

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New hire may mean new legs for Waters’s case

The ethics case against Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) may see some action in the near future, following the hiring of a new staff director for the House Ethics Committee.

On Monday committee Chairman Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) and ranking Democrat Rep. Linda Sanchez (Calif.) announced that the panel had unanimously selected Daniel Schwager to fill the four-month vacancy. The committee heads said they were working to fill other vacancies on the panel as well.

The case against Waters stalled last year. Shortly afterward, two of the committee’s lawyers — Morgan Kim, a former deputy chief counsel and director of investigations and enforcement, and committee counsel Stacy Sovereign — were placed on administrative leave. Charges surfaced that they improperly handled the probe into Waters’s case.

“After a challenging end to the 111th Congress, the committee is anxious to move forward with the business of the 112th Congress and is confident that Dan will serve the committee with integrity and without bias,” Bonner said in a statement.

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Hoyer: Sides might be closer than it appears

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) said Friday that lead negotiators trying to avert a government shutdown might be closer to agreement than reports have indicated.

"I do know that, from what Sen. Reid tells me, what I believe is there is generally a number for cuts that would be part of an agreement were an agreement to be reached," Hoyer, the No. 2-ranking House Democrat, told reporters outside the House chamber.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who is among the chief Democratic negotiators, has said the sides have agreed on a number to cut from current spending levels.

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Gingrich urges Obama to fire AG Holder

President Obama should fire Attorney General Eric Holder for appointing a special prosecutor to investigate potential CIA abuses of terrorist detainees, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) wrote Friday.

Gingrich, in an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, said that the president should dismiss Holder unless the attorney general resigns.

"In the latest skirmish in the Democratic Party's war on the CIA, Attorney General Eric Holder has failed to uphold this fundamental public trust. And for that, there should be consequences," Gingrich wrote. "If Holder and his senior team won't do the right thing and resign their positions, Obama should do the right thing and fire them."

Holder had attracted Republican ire earlier this week for appointing a special prosecutor to investigate abuses that had taken place during the Bush administration.

The White House had emphasized that although the president believes that CIA officials shouldn't face prosecution for following the advice of the prior administration's lawyers, Holder would be able to decide on the special prosecutor independently.

"In the latest skirmish in the Democratic Party's war on the CIA, Attorney General Eric Holder has failed to uphold this fundamental public trust," Gingrich said. "And for that, there should be consequences."

(Hat tip: GOP12)
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Ross: tort reform should be on the table in health debate

Tort reform must be among the options lawmakers will consider in crafting final healthcare reform legislation, a key centrist Democrat said Thursday night.

Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), the health caucus chairman in the centrist Blue Dog Democrat coalition, said that reform of medical liability lawsuits should be on the table.

"I think tort reform has to be on the table here," Ross told constituents during a tele-town hall last night. "I don't believe there's any sacred cows here, I think we've got to look at everything that's contributing to healthcare costs growing at twice the rate of inflation, and address it."

Tort reform has long been a priority of Republicans in Congress, though one conservative lawmaker suggested that offering up tort reform is unlikely to win votes for the bill.

Ross has been under criticism in more liberal quarters of the Democratic Party for being too friendly to Republican arguments and having stalled the passage of the healthcare package in the House before the August congressional recess.

Ross rejected the notion that he should show complete party loyalty.

"If you want someone to just go up there and vote 100 percent of the time with the Democrat or Republican Party, it'd be pretty easy to find someone to do that," he said. "President Obama and Speaker Pelosi didn't send me to Congress, you did."
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Grassley: Bipartisan bill possible unless Reid or Obama 'overrule' or 'undercut'

The Senate FInance Committee should be able to craft a bipartisan healthcare bill, as long as they're not "overruled" or "undercut" by President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Thursday.

Grassley told Iowa reporters during a regular press call that he believes Senate Democrats could probably pass a bill using budget reconciliation rules requiring only a simple majority vote, but that bipartisanship could succeed if given time.

Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) will be able to eventually reach a bipartisan agreement on a healthcare bill "if he doesn't get overruled by the leader or the president," argued Grassley, the ranking member of that committee.

"Sen. Baucus has always been talking about 70 or 80 votes," Grassley later added. "We're still going down that direction, but we could be undercut by anybody."

Both Baucus and Grassley have worked throughout August with the so-called "group of six" centrist senators on healthcare reform, though Baucus -- backed up by Senate Democratic leaders -- has imposed a September 15th deadline by which a bipartisan bill must be reached.

After then, Democrats have left the door open to using the budget reconciliation process to pass a preliminary healthcare bill, which may be a version including a public (or "government-run") option as written by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee.

Grassley said he believed Democrats could be able to pass a bill in that circumstance, but not any one he or any other Republican would support.

"I think the Democrats could pass one under a process called reconciliation," he said. "If they do that, one would pass for sure without any Republican support whatsoever, and I couldn't vote for it."
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Steele challenges AARP to endorse his 'Seniors' Health Care Bill of Rights'

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele wrote the AARP on Friday, challenging the nation's largest group of retirees to endorse the principles of the RNC's "Seniors' Health Care Bill of Rights" released earlier this week.

AARP Executive Vice President John Rother said earlier this week the bill didn't contain concerns raised by the GOP's document, which would aim to "prohibit efforts to ration healthcare based on age" and "prevent government from interfering with end-of-life care decisions," among other things.

"AARP agrees with Chairman Michael Steele's goals for reforming our health care system, and we are pleased nothing in the bills that have been proposed would bring about the scenarios the RNC is concerned about," Rother wrote.

"I'm sure we would both agree that any attempt to reform our health care system should first do no harm, particularly to senior citizens," Steele responded Friday "That is why I was heartened to see that you agreed with the premise of the RNC's Seniors' Health Care Bill Of Rights, but I was disappointed by your claim that '...nothing in the [Democrats'] bills would bring about the type of scenarios the RNC is concerned about.'"

Steele defended the five planks of the RNC bill of rights, and pointed to the hit the AARP has taken as a result of its position on the healthcare reform bills before Congress.

"News reports indicated the AARP lost more than 60,000 members last month alone because your organization did not take a strong stand against the Democrats' government-run health care experiment and the consequences it would have on seniors," Steele wrote. "Given the facts I have detailed above, I invite AARP to endorse the RNC's recently released 'Seniors' Health Care Bill of Rights,' which I have attached to this letter, and join us in urging President Obama and the Democrat-led Congressional leadership to slow down and get health care reform right."
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