TIME Congress

House Democrats Save DHS From Shutdown, Republicans From Themselves

With just hours to go before a midnight deadline, Congress passed a one-week extension to fund the Department of Homeland Security and prevent sending 30,000 government employees home on furlough.

The vote ended a tumultuous day in the House as Republican Speaker John Boehner and his aides lost control of their right flank, failing to deliver a three-week funding measure for the department and relying instead on Democrats to pass the one-week measure to avoid a DHS shutdown.

Boehner had hoped the three-week extension would buy his conference time to figure out how to protest immigration measures put forward by President Obama last year, without shutting down DHS. But his fellow Republicans turned on the bill and it failed by a handful of votes late in the afternoon.

The Senate, led by newly elected Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, then calmly passed a one-week extension of funding for the department and sent that bill back across the Capitol to the House. After House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi spoke with Obama, House Democrats opted to vote with Boehner and the Republican leadership rather than allow funding for the department to fail.

The one-week extension in funding for DHS meant that McConnell could technically uphold his promise that there would be no government shutdowns under his leadership. But House conservatives effectively ended McConnell’s other major promise as leader: that the party would no longer be “scary.”

On the Senate side of the Capitol, the House disarray brought scorn from Democrats and Republicans alike. “Hopefully we’re gonna end the attaching of bullshit to essential items of the government,” Illinois GOP Sen. Mark Kirk, who’s up for reelection in 2016, told TPM. “In the long-run, if you are blessed with the majority, you’re blessed with the power to govern. If you’re gonna govern, you have to act responsibly.”

The DHS fight originated in November, when Obama announced he would unilaterally, temporarily defer deportations for up to five million immigrants who came to the country illegally. While Republicans in Congress were furious at what they called the “unconstitutional” action, they were faced with few good options to effectively negate Obama’s executive actions.

Their best option emerged last week, when a federal judge in Texas ordered Obama to stop his action through an injunction. Still, some of the top legal experts in the country say the president’s actions are lawful. Some Republicans applauded the three-week plan put forward by Boehner Thursday night, saying that it gave time to highlight the ruling.

“America should have an opportunity to understand why we object to the president’s action [and] why a federal judge found that the president didn’t have the authority,” said California GOP Rep. Darrell Issa. “So the Speaker has offered a very reasoned way to create space in which to have that debate with the Senate.”

Other Republicans believe that the party should have just passed what the Democrats wanted, a so-called “clean” bill that would not have added immigration riders. “We’ve got him into an arena that is honestly better than the Capitol,” says Oklahoma GOP Rep. Tom Cole. “We can’t achieve a complete victory in Congress. We don’t have the Senate. The President does have a veto. But in the courts we actually could achieve it. … I actually would argue this is actually a little bit of a sideshow,” he added. “I think the decisive arena is the court.”

The backlash among conservatives caught Boehner and his aides by surprise. Republican Rep. Walter Jones reached into his pocket for a copy of the Constitution when asked Thursday night why he wouldn’t support the plan. “How can I support money going to a president who violated the Constitution,” he said. “We cave in all the time up here,” he added, referring to previous spending fights. In a closed-door meeting, Jones noted “strong feelings” on both sides of the conference. On one side he said were “those of us who feel so passionately about the Constitution.” On the other, he said, were “those from other parts of the United States that are more concerned about the terrorist attacks.”

The passage of the one-week bill represented the second time since December that Congress has punted on DHS funding and left Republicans with the question of how they can viably protest the president’s immigration actions without shutting down the agency.

That’s a challenge Boehner will now face in just one week — two weeks earlier than he had hoped.

TIME Education

White House Takes The Gloves Off in Education Fight

President Barack Obama holds a bilateral meeting with the Amir of Qatar - DC
Olivier Douliery—Pool/Corbis President Barack Obama looks on during a meeting with the Amir of Qatar, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Feb. 24, 2015.

After years of bipartisan language urging Congress to seize on “common goals” and “shared interests” to revise a dysfunctional federal education law, the Obama administration appears to be taking the gloves off.

In a conference call with the press this week, the Department of Education slammed the House Republicans’ proposed bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind, which is scheduled for a House vote Friday.

The Department of Education called the bill regressive, “bad for children” and said it would amount to hundreds of millions of dollars of cuts to education spending. It then stopped short—but just barely—of calling the House bill outright racist.

Those fightin’ words come on the heels of yet another pugnacious White House report, released Feb. 13, which described the House Republicans’ proposal as a vehicle for shifting federal dollars “from high-poverty schools to more affluent districts.”

Rep. John Kline, the Chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, has parried the administration’s attacks, arguing that the bill does not cut funding at all and that it simply changes the way federal dollars are allocated to low-income districts, which serve mostly black and Latino kids.

But Cecilia Muñoz, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, told TIME that these issues are “very, very important” to the White House. “It’s very, very hard to reconcile the contents of this bill with the president’s long term goal of making sure every child is successful in school,” she said.

From the Obama Administration’s perspective, there are two primary issues at stake here. The first is how the new education law allocates federal dollars—known as Title I funding—to low-income school districts, which disproportionately serve black and Latino students.

Under the current version of ESEA, known as No Child Left Behind, Title I funding goes to districts with the highest percentages of low-income kids. The idea is that poor kids who attend schools full of mostly middle- and upper-middle-class kids are in a much better position—and therefore less in need of federal help—than poor kids who attend schools with lots of other poor kids. That analysis, a senior Department of Education official told TIME, is based on “decades of research” into how low-income students perform at different schools.

The House Republican proposal, which mirrors language in a recent draft of the Senate version of the bill, would fundamentally change that formula. Instead of funneling federal dollars to the schools with the highest percentages of low-income students, Title I funding would be allocated on a per-student basis. Kline has said that rejiggering that formula allows every low-income child who attends a public school to receive his or her “fair share” of federal assistance.

The Administration argues that would be a disaster. Allocating Title I funding on a per-student basis would lead to huge funding cuts in 100 of the largest school districts in the country, according to a White House report. Philadelphia City School District, which is 55% black, could lose $412 million, according to the DOE. Shelby County schools in Tennessee, which are 81% black, could lose $114 million.

Kline dismissed the White House’s claims, saying that they were “budget gimmicks” and “scare tactics” that entered “the realm of make-believe.”

The second issue at stake is the overall federal education budget. As it is, federal education spending is still at sequestration levels, roughly $800 million below where it was before. The House bill proposes to more or less leave that spending level in place, increasing it by only a smidgen—from $14 to 14.8 billion total—until 2021. It does not cut spending, staffers say, it simply retains a budget slightly higher than the current status quo.

A senior Department of Education official told TIME that while it’s technically true that the House bill does not cut spending, the point is that “it will feel like a cut,” especially in low-income school districts that, under the House bill, might see less Title I funding too. “The House bill cements sequestration level budget caps for an additional six years,” he said, and does not increase, even to keep up with inflation or rising enrollment. “The result is that by 2021, schools will have less money than they had before 2012.”

This week’s battle of words is mostly a dress rehearsal for a much larger fight over the final version of ESEA. Senate Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander expects to bring a Senate version the floor next month, with a vote on a final bill this summer.

The House bill, which is up for a vote on Friday, won’t have an easy path to victory. In addition to scathing criticism from the Obama administration, it is also up against a growing coalition of opponents on the right. This week, conservative mainstays like the Heritage Action and the Club For Growth have been pushing Republican lawmakers to vote against the bill on the grounds that it allows too much federal control over education.

In an effort to quell this conservative mutiny, Republicans adopted an amendment to the bill Thursday night that would allow school districts and states to come up with their own assessment systems—a move that further alienates the Obama Administration.

President Obama announced this week that if the final rewrite of the federal education bill ends up looking like the House version, he will veto it.

Muñoz, who spoke to TIME over the phone on Tuesday, said that the White House will fight hard for a bill that reflects “the president’s idea of what education should be.”

“It’s our job, the federal government, Congress’ job, to make sure every student is successful,” she said, adding that the House Republicans’ bill does not do that. “It’s just manifestly true that when you reduce resource to a place like Detroit and increase resources to a place like Grosse Pointe, you’re undercutting our primary goal of ensuring that every child is successful,” she said.

TIME Congress

Real Time: Ted Cruz Rallies the Right at CPAC

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) fired up the conservative base during his speech Thursday, the first day of CPAC 2015.

Watch #RealTime to see what you missed.

TIME Congress

Congress Scrambles As Time Runs Out on Homeland Security Funding

John Boehner Holds Weekly Press Briefing At Capitol
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images Speaker of the House John Boehner holds his weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 5, 2015 in Washington, DC.

At 12:01 a.m. on Saturday morning, the Department of Homeland Security will begin sending 30,000 of its employees home on furlough while the other 200,000 work without pay until and unless Congress passes a bill.

Despite dwindling time, it’s unclear what the House GOP leadership will do once it receives the Senate bill, which could pass as soon as Thursday. When a reporter asked House Speaker John Boehner what would happen, he simply blew kisses to the crowd.

“We have two different institutions that don’t have the same body temperature every day and so we tend to try and work to narrow the differences,” he said of himself and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “But sometimes there are differences. The House by nature and by design is a hell of a lot more rambunctious place than the Senate. Much more.”

The prospect of a partial government shutdown is not all that surprising. This particular bomb has had a long fuse.

On Dec. 16, President Obama signed a bill that funded all aspects of government through September, except the agency tasked to carry out his most recent executive actions granting temporary work permits to up to five million immigrants who came to the country illegally. Homeland Security was funded through Feb. 27 to appease Republicans, who believed their new Senate majority would give them greater leverage to protest in 2015.

 

But the agreement gave House conservatives more time and the confidence to sway Boehner and his lieutenants to pass their dream bill in mid-January, which would strip funding for other executive actions, including one that would defund Obama’s more popular 2012 program granting deportation relief to hundreds of thousands of young adults who came to the country illegally as children.

It was clear at least a month ago that the House bill was unacceptable in the face of a Senate Democratic filibuster. But without any acceptable compromise, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced two days ago that he would capitulate to the Democrats’ position, allowing a vote on a so-called “clean” bill that doesn’t include any immigration riders. He also will allow a vote on a separate bill so Republicans and potentially even a few Democrats can protest the recent and “most egregious” example of “executive overreach.”

House conservatives, some of whom wanted McConnell to change the filibuster rules to push through their bill, are furious.

“Harry is over there dictating terms to the Senate still,” says South Carolina Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney, who hates the idea of a short-term compromise that would punt the deadline an extra few months.

“How do I go home and tell people that elections have consequences and that all the work they did to help the Republicans take the Senate has paid off if all we end up with is a three-month clean [bill],” he says. “That’s the same outcome we would have had if Harry was in charge.”

Democratic leaders twisted the knife Thursday, noting that Republicans could let the courts take up their fight, now that a Texas federal judge has ordered Obama to halt his most recent executive actions. Boehner, who believes that Obama’s executive actions are “unconstitutional,” dismissed that idea Thursday, calling for the Senate to act on the bill the House passed six weeks ago. “I think there’s a role for Congress to play,” he added.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi shot back Thursday in a separate press conference that “the gamesmanship should end.”

“Shutting down the government is their motive,” she said of House Republicans. “The Texas case … gave them a face-saving way to just end this.”

“If they send over a bill with all the riders in it, they’ve shut down the government,” added Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. “We’re not going to play games.”

TIME Congress

Lawmakers Feel No Rush on War Powers Debate

Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images Senator Bob Corker questions Janet Yellen, chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, during a Senate Banking Committee hearing in Washington on Feb. 24, 2015

After over six months and over 2,300 airstrikes against Islamic militants in Syria and Iraq, Congress doesn’t feel that much pressure to authorize the President to do what he already is doing.

Though lawmakers are faced with a debate over whether to formally authorize President Obama to take action against the extremist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the fact that he’s essentially claimed that authority under old post-9/11 authorization has kept the issue on the back burner.

“This is unusual because typically you authorize before actions are taken,” says Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, who will helm a hearing on ISIS Wednesday. “In this case, people have been watching for six months and have a lot of questions as to whether they really are committed to dealing with ISIS. So that makes the dynamic here different than probably any authorization in modern history.”

“It’s not like anybody necessarily is going to feel a sense of urgency to act because they know it’s not going to alter the [current or immediate] operations in any way,” he told TIME.

The congressional war powers debate is one many members wished to avoid. Democrats, many of whom were elected on an anti-Iraq war platform, are especially wary of approving any resolution that would give the President the go-ahead to send troops into another Middle East quagmire. And if Republicans vote to approve what’s known as an authorization for use of military force—or an AUMF—they could open themselves up to criticism if the White House strategy fails.

But now, a few weeks after the White House sent over its war powers request, Congress will begin the politically divisive and solemn responsibility of debating the use of military action against a brutal enemy that split off from al-Qaeda a year ago. The first step will be to figure out what the role of U.S. troops should be.

Corker, who says he grabs breakfast with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger every two or three months and recently held a long phone call with another former Secretary of State to discuss the ISIS threat, is just as confused as a back-bench Congressmen with five words in the White House’s war powers request: “enduring offensive ground combat operations.” The White House’s proposed ban on such activities has led to head scratching across the aisle and will be the focus of intense hearings over the coming weeks.

“That’s part of what people are hoping to understand,” says Corker, who adds that the 700,000 U.S. troops involved in the Gulf War could not classify as an “enduring” operation. “Obviously they haven’t limited enduring defensive [operations and] they haven’t limited Special Ops … But what does that mean?”

“I think ‘enduring’ is defined however the White House intends it to be,” says Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr. “I don’t know whether that’s a week, three weeks, a month … I’d rather go into this with the President asking for more than he needs and not use it as much than not asking for enough and not following through with the mission.”

Some Republicans would like to see the Administration interpret those five words to allow the President to send in ground troops against ISIS. No Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted for a Democrat-led AUMF late last year that would have limited ground operations to intelligence collection, operational planning and the protection of U.S. troops from “imminent danger.” Over the past several months, Senate Republicans have met with top Administration officials, including White House counsel Neil Eggleston, and lobbied for expanded authority on the ground.

“It wasn’t just a message to us, it was input from our side too,” says Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake of the Administration meetings, where he says Republicans pushed back on any “strict prohibition” of ground troops.

“What the president put forward reflects a lot of what I think Republicans have wanted,” he adds. “Obviously we didn’t like the product that the Democrats pushed through the committee in December; we thought that that was too restrictive. This is better but we’ll see what works in the process.”

Burr, for example, thinks that the draft should be even broader to explicitly allow the President to send in troops. “I don’t think he does [have that authority] the way it’s written,” he says.

Much of the opposition to the AUMF will come from the President’s party on this issue. While some Democrats are trying to change the draft’s wording to include greater geographic or time constraints, many more will pressure Obama to ban in the AUMF what he said he would in an accompanying letter: “long-term, large-scale ground combat operations.”

“I think it’s quite open-ended,” says California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of the AUMF. “When they say no enduring offensive operations, that means there will be offensive operations. And when you ask, ‘What is the definition of enduring?’ No answer comes back. So that’s a big problem for me—huge.”

Asked if she supports the AUMF as written, Boxer added: “No, no, no, no, no.”

There are other concerns from liberal Democrats who believe that the Administration should be authorized to attack ISIS only in Syria and Iraq. But most Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have dismissed that idea and the White House’s draft doesn’t include such restrictions.

“I don’t think you do a geographic limitation,” says Boxer. “How can you? These guys sprout all over the world. You’ve got to take the fight to them. Not say we’re only going to go after them in these two places. Then they can go to other places and they know they’re free—that doesn’t make sense.”

Other progressives have expressed concern that the White House draft only repeals a 2002 Iraq AUMF and not another written in the aftermath of 9/11, which the White House has been using to go after ISIS. Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a member of the House Democratic leadership, has called the 2001 AUMF a “blank check” for indefinite war while hawks like Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who is exploring a White House bid, has called it the “the cornerstone of the war on terror.”

Most Democrats, however, are pleased that the AUMF proposes a rare self-imposed foreign policy constraint: a three-year “sunset” in which the next president would have to go back to Congress for reauthorization.

“If it’s open ended like that foolish thing the Senate voted for on Iraq—I was one of the 22 who voted against it—I’d vote no,” says Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy. “Let’s see what it says though.”

Complicating the political calculus are libertarian-minded Republicans like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who has written his own AUMF that is more restrictive than the White House’s war powers request, including how the roles of troops are defined. With Rubio and Paul, another Senator considering a White House run, on the same panel at the center of the debate—and a wide gulf between many Democrats and President Obama—the AUMF debate could become exactly what Corker fears most.

“What I hope doesn’t happen: that this in some way dissolves into some partisan exercise,” he says.

TIME White House

Obama Vetoes Keystone Pipeline, Only 3rd in Presidency

Keystone Pipeline
Andrew Cullen—Reuters A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp's planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, N.D. on Nov. 14, 2014.

President Obama issued his first veto since 2010, striking down a law that would authorize the Keystone XL pipeline, a major symbolic battle between environmental activists and the oil industry.

“Through this bill, the United States Congress attempts to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest,” Obama said in a statement.

The pipeline would help link up to 830,000 barrels a day from Alberta, Canada, to Gulf Coast oil refineries. Over the past six years, the project has become one of the highest-profile environmental debates in the country and could pose problems for some Democratic candidates in the 2016 presidential cycle.

But with low oil prices, the 1,179-mile pipeline will likely have less of an effect on both the environment and economy by lowering the chance that it will be completely utilized. The State Department reported last year that the pipeline would indirectly and directly support around 42,000 jobs over two years, but would only employ around 50 people once the pipeline was functional.

The new Republican-led Congress decried the veto before the ink was dry. In a USA Today op-ed, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote that the Administration had blocked a job-creating project to heed the voices of special interests.

“The allure of appeasing environmental extremists may be too powerful for the president to ignore,” they wrote. “But the president is sadly mistaken if he thinks vetoing this bill will end this fight. Far from it. We are just getting started.”

“This shouldn’t be a difficult decision,” they added. “It shouldn’t be about politics, that’s for sure.”

Of course, the Keystone debate has drawn lobbyists on both sides of the aisle and a reason why Senate Republicans brought the bill up first was because it would pass and draw a favorable political contrast. Polls show that around 60% of Americans agree with the GOP’s position.

The Keystone veto was only the third in the Obama presidency.

MONEY

What Today’s Fed Testimony Means for Your Money

Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen prepares to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, before the Senate Banking Committee.
Susan Walsh—AP

Fed chair Janet Yellen is signalling a gradual interest rate hike this year. Here's how to be ready.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s testimony before Congress today bore her usual cautious language. But she signaled that an interest rate hike may still be on the table for later this year.

“If economic conditions continue to improve, as the Committee anticipates, the Committee will at some point begin considering an increase in the target range for the federal funds rate on a meeting-by-meeting basis,” Yellen said.

Yellen worked hard to assure lawmakers that any rise in rates would be gradual, and wouldn’t begin before June. The reason Fed chiefs take such care when talking about interest rates is that rates—and expectations about where they are headed—affect all aspects of Americans’ financial lives, from student loans and mortgages to inflation and retirement portfolios. And right now the Fed has an especially delicate task, because it is trying decide how to transition from the near-zero short-term rates it has stuck to since the 2008 financial crisis.

Here’s what could happen to your money when the Fed finally decides it is time to for interest rates to “lift-off”:

1. Home loans could get pricier

Higher rates make borrowing more expensive for banks, and they in turn pass that expense on to their own borrowers. That generally tamps down inflation but also means it’s harder to get loans for education, cars, and homes.

As a result, it’s a good idea to refinance your mortgage now while rates are relatively cheap. Interest on 30-year fixed rate mortgage remains much lower than before the financial crisis, but rates have been inching up as of late and would grow further if the Fed becomes more hawkish.

2. The “safe” part of your retirement portfolio could take a hit (but that might hurt you less than you fear)

Investors traditionally hold bonds to hedge against stock market risk, but a rise in interest rates will cause the value of a bond portfolio to drop. For those who have time to keep their money invested, however, the higher yields you’ll earn in the future will help make up for a drop in bond prices.

Short-term bonds are less risky than longer-maturity ones, and generally less sensitive to interest rate changes. But how your bonds perform will depend on exactly which interest rates change. The Fed directly controls short-term interest rates, so when they start moving those up, you can expect short-term funds to lose some value.

What happens to longer-term bonds is more ambiguous. They can have significantly more loss potential than short-maturity bonds. But MONEY contributor Carla Fried points out that it’s possible that even as the Fed tries to raise short rates, bonds like the 10-year Treasury could remain in demand by global investors, who see the U.S. economy outperforming Europe and Japan and want to hold a safe-haven asset. That would keep long rates down—bond prices and rates move in opposite directions—and for a time deliver comparatively better returns to investors in longer-term bond funds.

So for many investors, an intermediate-term bond mutual fund is a good way to balance the general riskiness of long-term bonds against short-term bonds’ specific vulnerability to a Fed rate hike this year.

3. The economy could slow down

Again, if the U.S. keeps growing, rising interest rates might be appropriate, and helpful in holding inflation and financial speculation in check. But it’s important the Fed gets its timing right, or a rate hike could stall the recovery—or even put it in reverse.

That’s what happened in Sweden, where the nation’s central bank trashed what was a promising recovery by pulling the trigger too soon. Like the U.S. Federal Reserve, Sweden’s Riksbank lowered rates during the recession in order to spur economic growth. Once that growth arrived in 2011, bankers decided to begin raising rates in order to thwart a real estate bubble. Soon after, hiring began to fall, deflation hit, and Sweden’s magic recovery was over. The country has yet to return to its 2011 level of growth.

In deciding when to get rates back to normal, that’s the scenario Yellen is trying to avoid.

TIME Congress

Aaron Schock Said to Spend Campaign and Taxpayer Dollars on Concerts and Private Flights

The rising Republican star is already facing an ethics inquiry

(WASHINGTON) — Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock, a rising Republican star already facing an ethics inquiry, has spent taxpayer and campaign funds on flights aboard private planes owned by some of his key donors, The Associated Press has found. There also have been other expensive travel and entertainment charges, including for a massage company and music concerts.

The expenses highlight the relationships that lawmakers sometimes have with donors who fund their political ambitions, an unwelcome message for a congressman billed as a fresh face of the GOP. The AP identified at least one dozen flights worth more than $40,000 on donors’ planes since mid-2011.

The AP tracked Schock’s reliance on the aircraft partly through the congressman’s penchant for uploading pictures and videos of himself to his Instagram account. The AP extracted location data associated with each image then correlated it with flight records showing airport stopovers and expenses later billed for air travel against Schock’s office and campaign records.

Asked for comment, Schock responded in an email on Monday that he travels frequently throughout his Peoria-area district “to stay connected with my constituents” and also travels to raise money for his campaign committee and congressional colleagues.

He said he takes compliance with congressional funding rules seriously and has begun a review of his office’s procedures “concerning this issue and others to determine whether they can be improved.” The AP had been seeking comment from Schock’s office since mid-February to explain some of his expenses.

Donors who owned planes on which travel was paid for by Schock’s House and political accounts did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment Monday.

Schock’s high-flying lifestyle, combined with questions about expenses decorating his office after the TV show “Downton Abbey,” add to awkward perceptions on top of allegations he illegally solicited donations in 2012.

The Office of Congressional Ethics said in a 2013 report that there was reason to believe Schock violated House rules by soliciting campaign contributions for a committee that backed Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., in a 2012 primary. The House Ethics Committee has said that query remains open.

“Haters are gonna hate,” Schock, 33, told ABC News after the “Downton Abbey” story broke in The Washington Post, brushing off the controversy by invoking a line from one of pop singer Taylor Swift’s songs.

Lawmakers can use office funds for private flights as long as payments cover their share of the costs. But most of the flights Schock covered with office funds occurred before the House changed its rules in January 2013. The earlier rules prohibited lawmakers from using those accounts to pay for flights on private aircraft, allowing payments only for federally licensed charter and commercial flights.

Schock’s House account paid more than $24,000 directly to a Peoria aviation firm for eight flights provided by one of Schock’s donor’s planes in 2011 and 2012. While the aircraft flies as part of an Illinois charter service, the owner of the service told the AP on Monday that any payments made directly to the donor’s aviation company would not have been for charter flights.

Beyond air travel, Schock spent thousands more on tickets for concerts, car mileage reimbursements — among the highest in Congress — and took his interns to a sold-out Katy Perry concert in Washington last June.

The donor planes include an Italian-made Piaggio twin-engine turboprop owned by Todd Green of Springfield, Illinois, who runs car dealerships in Schock’s district with his brother, Jeff. Todd Green told a Springfield newspaper that Jeff — a pilot and campaign contributor — and Schock have been friends for a long time.

The AP found that Green’s plane traveled to at least eight cities last October in the Midwest and East Coast, cities where Schock met with political candidates ahead of the midterm elections. His Instagram account’s location data and information from the service FlightAware even pinpointed Schock’s location on a stretch of road near one airport before Green’s plane departed.

Campaign records show a $12,560 expense later that month to Jeff Green from a political action committee associated with Schock, called the “GOP Generation Y Fund.” That same month, the PAC paid $1,440 to a massage parlor for a fundraising event.

In November 2013, Schock cast votes in the Capitol just after Green’s plane landed at nearby Reagan National Airport. Shortly after Green’s return to Peoria, Schock posted a photo from his “Schocktoberfest” fundraising event at a brewery in his district. Schock billed his office account $11,433 for commercial transportation during that same, four-day period to a Peoria flight company, Byerly Aviation.

The AP’s review covered Schock’s travel and entertainment expenses in his taxpayer-funded House account, in his campaign committee and the GOP Generation Y Fund. Records show more than $1.5 million in contributions to the Generation Y Fund since he took office in 2009.

Schock used House office expenses to pay more than $24,000 for eight flights between May 2011 and December 2012 on a six-passenger Cessna Golden Eagle owned by D&B Jet Inc., run by Peoria agribusiness consultant and major Schock donor Darren Frye. While D&B is a private corporate aviation firm, it also flies with Jet Air Inc., an Illinois-based aviation firm licensed by the FAA for charter service.

Records show Schock used House funds to directly pay D&B instead of Jet Air for the eight flights. Under the old rules that previously allowed House funds to pay only for charter or commercial aircraft, Schock’s office would likely not have been authorized to pay for private flights unless the House Ethics Committee approved it.

Harrel W. Timmons, Jet Air’s owner, said in a telephone interview that any charter flights D&B flies through his firm are paid directly to Jet Air. “They’ve got their own corporate jet and pilot,” he said.

House records also show that, since 2013, Schock has flown four times on a Cessna owned by Peoria auto dealer Michael J. Miller and businessman Matthew Vonachen, who heads a janitorial firm, Vonachen Services Inc. Schock’s House office account paid nearly $6,000 total for the four flights, according to federal data published online by the nonprofit Sunlight Foundation.

Under current House rules, the payments for the private flights would be authorized if they paid for Schock’s portion of each flight. It is not clear from records how many other passengers flew on the same flights. USA Today on Friday first reported potential issues with House ethics rules in revealing some of the flights.

Vonachen and his family donated at least $27,000 to Schock’s campaigns, while Miller contributed $10,000 to the Automotive Free International Trade PAC. Schock has supported recent free trade agreements with South Korea and with several other countries, which the Automotive PAC — a Schock contributor — lauded.

Schock’s reliance on donor-owned planes and on his government allowance to pay for the flights mirrors the use by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., of a private jet owned by a wealthy eye doctor and major donor. Prompted by an ethics investigation, Menendez reimbursed donor Salomon Melgen $58,500 for two flights.

GOP Generation Y paid more than $24,000 for tickets and festivals, including $13,000 to country music events, $4,700 in expenses to Chicago ticket broker SitClose.com, and $3,000 for a “fundraising event” to an organization that runs the Global Citizen Festival in New York.

“You can’t say no when your boss invites you. Danced my butt off,” one former intern posted on his Instagram account with a picture of Perry at her June 2014 show. PAC records show a $1,928 expense for the ticket service StubHub.com two months later, listing it only as a “PAC fundraising event.”

Records show Schock also requested more than $18,000 in mileage reimbursements since 2013, among the highest in Congress. His office has previously said it was reviewing those expenses.

___

Associated Press writers Kerry Lester in Peoria, Illinois, and Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this report.

TIME Congress

Why Congress Is Feuding With Obama Over the Homeland Security Budget

Jeh Johnson Holds News Conference On DHS Appropriations Bill
Alex Wong—Getty Images U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson pauses during a news conference February 23, 2015 in Washington, DC.

President Barack Obama warned a gathering of state governors on Monday that the Department of Homeland Security would furlough tens of thousands of employees nationwide if Congress failed to replenish the agency’s funds by Friday.

“We can’t afford to play politics with our national security,” Obama said during a winter meeting of the National Governors Association.

But the political fight over Homeland Security funding shows no signs of letting up due to the hot-button politics of immigration. That was made clear Monday evening when a procedural vote that needs at least 60 senators to avoid the threat of a filibuster fell too short, with just 47 in support and 46 against. Here’s a refresher on how lawmakers got to this point:

Where’s the spending bill?

A bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security passed the House last month, with one essential caveat: None of the money could be used to implement Obama’s executive order to defer deportations of some 5 million undocumented immigrants. Imposed by House Republicans, that restriction is a non-starter for Senate Democrats, who have blocked the bill.

What happens if the agency doesn’t receive funding by Friday?

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the department would run out of funds by Friday, forcing it to furlough upwards of 30,000 DHS employees. Employees deemed essential to national security, who make up roughly 80 percent of the workforce, will continue to work without paychecks.

Are there any signs of compromise on the horizon?

Several prominent Republicans, including Sens. John McCain and Lindsay Graham, have broken rank in recent days, urging their counterparts to fund the agency without restraints and let the immigration fight play out in the courtroom. Last week, a Texas judge temporarily suspended Obama’s executive orders and ruled that states could challenge the administration’s immigration policy in court.

McCain hailed the decision as an “exit sign” for lawmakers, though lawmakers have yet to steer toward this off ramp in significant number. They may choose to punt on the issue instead, releasing a temporary spurt of funding for Homeland Security while girding for another round of debate.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 23

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. The propaganda war against ISIS doesn’t tell us anything about the real fight.

By Paul Waldman in the Week

2. Programs supporting women-owned small businesses will boost the economy.

By Claudia Viek at the American Sustainable Business Council

3. System-wide disruption — including a new medical school admissions test — is remaking medical education.

By Melinda Beck in Wall Street Journal

4. Prison reform could unleash resourcefulness and hustle currently behind bars. The tech sector should get on board.

By Baratunde Thurston in Fast Company

5. The first power plant powered by ocean waves is officially online.

By Kaleigh Rogers in Motherboard from Vice

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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