State of Play on Vote for Speaker in the House

Per Pergram-Capitol Hill

Perhaps the most-important event in the race to succeed House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) comes tonight at the Capitol Hill Club, just down the block from the U.S. capitol.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL) and House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) will make their respective appeals to some of the most-conservative blocs of Republicans in the House. The Tea Party Caucus, The House Freedom Caucus, the Conservative Opportunity Society, and the House Liberty Caucus will all meet tonight at 7:30 pm et (or a little later, depending on floor votes) to listen to each candidate.

McCarthy clearly has the lion's share of support in the now-247 member House Republican Conference. But House Rules require an absolute majority of the entire House voting on the floor to become Speaker. So, if McCarthy or any other member say secures a simple majority in the Republicans' closed door conclave to tap a Speaker candidate on the floor (124 backers and higher), that person is presumably who the GOP will run on the floor. McCarthy is believed to have anywhere from 170-200 backers. But that is FAR from an absolute majority of the entire House. Generally, 218 is considered the magic number to win on the floor…although that figure could be slightly lower on October 29, the day of a Speaker election.

McCarthy and all candidates face a major, uphill battle getting to 218. There is a bloc of rebellious GOP’ers who simply won't vote for any conventional figure for Speaker because that's what their districts dictate. There could be votes for members besides those candidates officially in the race. That could suppress the vote total.

However, McCarthy is well thought of among rank-and-file GOP’ers and this window of time, starting with tonight's meeting, gives him a chance to close the deal.

That said, if McCarthy or anyone else comes out of Thursday's nominating conclave with fewer than 218 votes, but is the "GOP nominee" for Speaker on the floor, that result gives us a yardstick to see how far they have to go to get to 218.

This debate is further complicated by the need to raise the debt ceiling by November 5. Conservatives are already agitated for McCarthy voting for the stopgap spending bill last week to avoid a government shutdown. That measure funded Planned Parenthood.  Chaffetz and Webster voted no.

Various GOP’ers say it's one thing to SAY they're conservative. It's another to actually vote a given way. Conservatives may try to extract a promise from McCarthy and others to either NOT raise the debt limit (which is a big problem) or get some sort of a deal to make MAJOR spending cuts. Another possibility could be a promise not to bust the mandatory set of budget cuts imposed under sequestration. Boehner has already said they would must the caps. The deadline on that issue may be a little later, perhaps tied to the December 11th shutdown date. But either way, this puts all of these issues on the table and could further complicate the chances getting an agreement if the successful candidate cuts a deal with conservatives (which may resonate with them) but does little to get an operational deal with the Senate/Democrats/White House on the debt ceiling/funding government/broader budget deal.

Keep in mind Boehner is technically expected to step down on October 30th. The House CANNOT conduct any business without a Speaker. There is a slight precedent here for a resigning Speaker to actually stick around for a bit. In 1989, House Speaker Jim Wright (D-TX) announced his resignation amid ethics allegations in late May. The House took a few days to promote then-House Majority Leader Tom Foley (D-WA) to Speaker. There was little question that Foley would assume the gavel from Wright and Foley won the vote on the floor. However, to make sure there was an orderly transition, Wright remained the Speaker for a few days into early June before making his resignation effective. Only then was Foley sworn-in as Speaker.

Based on this precedent, it's possible that Boehner COULD actually linger for a bit, especially if there is a deadlock on the floor for Speaker. And ironically, that MIGHT make it easier for the House to deal with the debt ceiling hitting November 5th. Boehner could then cut a deal and pass a bill to raise the debt ceiling with lots of Democrats and some Republicans (ala last week's vote to sidestep a government shutdown). Then, whatever agreement Boehner arranged doesn't wash up on the leg of any of the Speaker candidates. Again, that scenario only comes to pass if the vote for Speaker remains at an impasse.

House GOP Wants to Split the Trade Bills..but can’t just yet

House Republicans are working to effort to start again on the trade bills and send the Senate a different package then was sent to the House a few weeks ago.

They are efforting splitting up the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and underlying Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bills into two separate parts…unlike the way it was packaged when the measures came from the Senate.

Remember, they were contingent upon one another when the Senate sent them over.

So, House Republicans are banking on the fact they can pass the TPA bill…by itself…with lots of Republicans, but 28 important Demorats. Those are the same 28 Democrats who voted yes on Friday when the House approved TPA. And Republicans need them because they can’t pass the bill by themselves and only scored 193 Republican yeas on Friday.

“Once they made the commitment, they’re in,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).

The GOP effort touched off some wild scrambling on Capitol Hill Tuesday as there was chatter about potentially trying to put the new split-bill effort on the House floor as early as Wednesday. That would have involved a late-night meeting of the House Rules Committee to set up the debate for Wednesday.

In fact, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), an opponent of TPA, quickly scheduled an emergency Democratic Caucus meeting for early Wednesday morning to remind her members what they were voting for and perhaps bring down the boom on the 28 Democratic yeas.

But Pelosi cancelled the caucus meeting as quickly as it was scheduled as word came that the House would not try to move in the next 24 hours.

Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), the biggest advocate for TPA in the House, huddled with House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) to urge the GOP to hold off on scheduling a vote until they could see what the Senate could accommodate. Kind then headed off to the Senate, to try to talk with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, to see if a split-bill approach would work in the Senate.

It’s believed that the only reason the Senate was able to approve TPA is because it was glommed together with TAA. And if the House then sends the Senate a package it can’t handle the effort is moot.

So for now, the House GOP brass is trying to move something, but it’s unclear when. And unclear what it will look like. 

We will bring you the latest on this issue as we learn more. 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Factoids about State of the Union

· There are 449 permanent seats on the floor of the House of Representatives, not nearly enough to seat all members from both bodies, the diplomatic corps, the cabinet, Joint Chiefs, the Supreme Court, et al. They had a sprinkling of those seats on the floor. Some lawmakers wind up standing toward the back. And not all lawmakers go or stay the entire time. We always see a few stragglers skipping out early through Statuary Hall.

·  Technically, lawmakers are not supposed to “save” seats along the aisle so they can greet the president and get to shake his hand on national television when enters the chamber. But a visit to the chamber a few moments ago reveals that several members have left bags, purses, hats and scarves on prized aisle seats to try to get a shot with Mr. Obama. Already lingering in the chamber are Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX).

·  The House will again welcome the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps to the speech. That’s the longest-tenured diplomat in Washington. This is Roble Olhaye, who is the Ambassador to Washington fro Djibouti . Olhaye has served as Djibouti’s Ambassador to the US since 1988. He was away and missed last year’s State of the Union message.

·  Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution requires that the president brief Congress “from time to time” on the “state of the Union.” President George Washington did it in person for a while. Thomas Jefferson disbanded the practice, arguing it seemed too much like a “speech from the throne.” A written report served as the official briefing to Congress until President Woodrow Wilson delivered a formal address to Congress in 1913. President Jimmy Carter did not give a State of the Union speech to Congress in January, 1981 during his last days in office. But he did submit a written report. Carter is the last to do so.

And be sure to join me tonight at 11pmET for a Facebook Q&A following the State of the Union coverage on Fox!


Republicans clear first hurdle in stopping President Obama's executive move on immigration

Republicans cleared the first and easiest hurdle in stopping President Obama's executive move on immigration.
Lawmakers are heavily divided on whether or not President Obama should veto the bill if it reaches his desk, but everyone seems to think their opponent's position would jeopardize American safety.
This as brand new Fox polls show how voters see it all playing out.
Chief Congressional Correspondent Mike Emanuel with the story from Capitol Hill.

House R’s three-part plan to block Obama on executive orders and keep government open facing opposition

By Chad Pergram-Capitol Hill

The House Republican leadership is running into resistance from conservatives to its three-part plan to fund the government but also blast the Obama Administration for the immigration executive orders. Conservatives don’t like the new path, saying it doesn’t do enough to rebuke the president. It’s not known yet if the problems are deep enough to blow up the entire strategy. But here’s how it works:

Congress must approve a new spending bill by the end of the day on December 11th or the entire government shutters. Again. Many conservatives are hounding Republican leaders to use the spending package to harness money the Department of Homeland Security would use to carry out President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Such a maneuver by the Republican-controlled House would die in the Democratic Senate. It would also face a likely veto threat by the president. So the GOP leadership is offering a bill written by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) which would hamper the president from unilaterally exempting many illegal immigrants from deportation. Some may view that legislation as a fig leaf since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) already said he had no intention to consider the measure if it got through the House. But the Republican braintrust believes the bill would placate conservatives by allowing them to vent their grievances over immigration on a piece of legislation other than the spending bill. The Yoho bill goes before the House Rules Committee at 3 pm et today and would prospectively be on the floor tomorrow.

Come next week, the House would tentatively vote on a measure to fund nearly the entire government through next fall, but only pay for the Department of Homeland Security through late winter. That would allow the new Republican majorities in both bodies of Congress to tackle immigration head-on next year. Plus, it avoids an immediate government shutdown fight before Republicans can even start next year with a clean slate.

Most Democrats abhorred the idea. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, warned Republicans of deviating from a comprehensive spending bill which appropriators have toiled on for months.

“It is dangerous and irresponsible to engage in stunts and gimmicks affecting funding for the agencies under the Department of Homeland Security,” said Lowey. “This is no way to run a government. We should proceed with negotiations and develop a full omnibus.”

As much as Democrats don’t like the plan, it’s certainly not perfect for Republicans. Boehner conceded as much when asked about GOP efforts to counter the president yesterday.

Regardless, resistance is simmering in the Republican ranks. Since seizing the House majority in 2011, GOP leaders have had little margin for error when it comes to passing major pieces of legislation. They’ve had to turn to Democrats to lug significant pieces of legislation to passage. The most-notable case came this past February. The Republican leadership put a bill on the floor to suspend the debt ceiling. The measure passed, but with a scant 27 yeas from Republicans. 199 Democrats hauled the rest of the freight to passage, averting yet another debt limit crisis.

As it stands now, Republicans can only lose 18 of their own before having to turn to Democrats to keep the government open. Reid called the Republican effort to only fund DHS through March “a shame.” But the Nevada Democrat didn’t completely torch the House Republican maneuver. He hinted he might accept something less than a so-called “omnibus” bill which would fund all quarters of government through September 30, 2015.

“That would be a big accomplishment if we could get a bill over here that would fund all of the appropriations subcommittees except one,” said Reid.

But it could be a different tale for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Pelosi has long-backed the “year-long” omnibus plan. And last week, perhaps anticipating the fix in which House GOPers might find themselves, Pelosi tipped her hand.

“We will not be enablers to a Republican shutdown, partial or otherwise,” said Pelosi, well-aware of previous scenarios where the GOP implored Democrats for assistance on the floor.

Republican sources indicated there may be some “softness” in GOP ranks for the trifecta plan. But GOP aides noted that over the past four years, the Republican Conference has traditionally lost 30-50 members on its side when it comes to voting on big legislative initiatives.

“This is just what we always go through,” lamented one senior aide familiar with previous vote-counting efforts.

The main goal for House Republicans is to extinguish all fires for this Congress and live to fight again – and actually do so with authority – next year. But Republicans may have to just fund all of government for a few weeks and again dive into another spending scuffle early next year.

This is a BIG test of the new GOP leadership team..and particularly the whipping skills of new House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA). The stakes are also high for Boehner. He could face an uprising from conservative members during the vote for Speaker next year if they don’t feel he has fought hard enough to counter the president. This is why the right-wing of the party is insisting on a limited funding plan for DHS for the time being.

It will be interesting if Boehner has to just cut his losses and pass a bill to keep the government open next week..with LOTS of help from Democrats. And that will ignite an internal firestorm in GOP ranks. 

Lawmakers push for package to renew tax breaks just through the end of the year

By Chad Pergram-Capitol Hill

Fox News is told a coaliation of lawmakers is trying to convince House leaders to vote later this week on a plan to re-up a number of tax breaks which lapsed and extend them. Remarkably, the renewal of the breaks would only run through the end of this year.

Republicans were floored last week when President Obama issued a veto threat on a $400 billion potential package which had been worked out between Democrats and Republicans on both sides of the Capitol.

We are being told by two sources that it's not a done deal that the House would move the plan, but supporters are trying to gin up interest in an effort to force a vote later this week and that the Rules Committee could meet to prep the plan for floor action as early as Tuesday

The original tax plan idea would have included breaks for major businesses, research and development and write-offs for capital, but the new idea to create a patch which would run only through the end of the year would be an effort to blunt disruption for the new tax season, simultaneously giving people the chance to make the claim for those breaks over the next few weeks.

Most major breaks expired at the end of last year and haven't been renewed.

President Obama threatened a veto last wek because he viewed the plan as favoring corporations. The president wanted extensions of the child tax creidt and earned-income tax credit (EITC) beyond the end of 2017.

Immigration Reform: Action by Years End

Special Report Guest: Karwan Zebari

Tonight on Special Report Bret Baier sits down with Karwan Zebari, the acting director of Congressional and Academic Affairs of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), to discuss the latest coming out of Iraq. 
Zebari is the highest KRG official in Washington, DC and supervises all relations between the KRG and U.S. Congress. Zebari also develops academic initiatives and programs with universities and academic institutions nationwide on matters related to Kurdistan. He can provide insight on the situation on the ground--
If you have a question for Karwan Zebari please tweet us @BretBaier or post via Facebook at using #AskBret . Your question might just end up on our air! 


Lack of planning leads to another CDC hiccup

By: Bridget Creel, Special Report Summer Associate

Over the past ten years, four instances have occurred where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have sent active bacteria samples to outside labs. An anthrax scare took place last month, marking the fifth mishap for the CDC. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) insisted on further investigation and recently exposed new details of the incident.

Backtracking to June 19, the CDC announced that scientists working at the lab in Atlanta had been unintentionally exposed to anthrax. The CDC quickly took action and provided antibiotics for those who were affected. Following the scare, there was no indication that any of the scientists were infected.

It is expected that in every instance, the CDC takes cautionary measures and assesses all risks before encountering dangerous bacteria. With that being said, how could a slip up like this happen for the fifth time?

On Friday, the CDC published a detailed report of the event, with everything from findings to action plans.

According to the CDC’s report, “The overriding factor contributing to this incident was the lack of an approved, written study plan reviewed by senior staff or scientific leadership to ensure that the research design was appropriate and met all laboratory safety requirements.”

Additional aspects that contributed to the occurrence included the use of unwarranted sterilization methods, no confirmation for inactive materials and insufficient knowledge of the procedures.

As officials further investigated the catastrophe, additional information was uncovered. A report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said that the CDC should have sterilized anthrax samples before the samples were sent to the other CDC labs. The report also found that there were several different factors that went against safety guidelines including use of expired disinfectants, use of defective security measures, lack of examination of exposed scientists and the transfer of the bacteria through Ziploc bags.

A House hearing was held today that discussed recent reports of the problems caused by the CDC. The hearing addressed issues such as ways to improve biosafety, the broader implications of the event and whether or not Congressional action should take place.

The CDC labs have been closed and will not reopen until safety guidelines are put in place, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said. 

Immigrant Children: Where do we go from here?

The Obama Administration continues to deal with the influx of thousands of Central American children who have recently entered the U.S. illegally. 

Under political pressure from both sides of the aisle on their handling of the issue, Valerie Jarrett sent a letter last night to Texas Governor Rick Perry inviting him to a previously unannounced meeting with faith leaders on immigration while the President is in Dallas on Wednesday. Jarrett also said President Obama would welcome a meeting with Perry during his trip to Texas this week. 

In addition, the White House announced today that they are asking Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency supplemental aid to deal with border crisis.

Meanwhile, the administration has decided to house over 3,000 unaccompanied immigrant children at U.S. military bases, and the Pentagon is saying it is nearly maxed out.  On Monday, it agreed to house an additional 600 children at Joint-Base Lewis McChord.

Ventura Naval Station in California can hold 575 children and is currently caring for 450. Fort Sill Army Post in Oklahoma can hold as many as 1,200 children--and they have almost reached the limit.

Some members of Congress have be granted access to Lackland Air Force Base, which is also capable of housing up to 1,200 children. 

HHS is providing the children staying at the barracks with medical care and on-site supervision.  But, it's not a role the Pentagon wants to keep.  The DOD says it will cap the number of days it can hold the children at 120.

What do you think we should do with these immigrant children? Let us know here on the blog or via Twitter @bretbaier or and we will have more on this tonight with Shannon Bream and Ed Henry on Special Report.




Coming Up

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres discusses the state of global politics. Plus, the Friday Lightning Round.

Tonight's All-Star Panel

  • Mollie Hemingway @MZHemingway
  • Charles Lane @chucklane1
  • Byron York @ByronYork

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