TIME

Dem Frenemies: Pelosi, Hoyer Again on Opposite Sides of a Leadership Debate

Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., followed by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Md., arrives for a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014, to introduce the Democratic leadership team for the 114th Congress. ) Susan Walsh—AP

Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer are backing rival candidates to be top Democrat on the powerful Energy and Commerce committee

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives re-elected Nancy Pelosi of California as Minority Leader and Steny Hoyer of Maryland as Minority Whip on Tuesday with little drama, according to House members who took part in the vote. But the apparent comity hides the re-emergence of a long-simmering competition between the top two Democrats over lower level spots in their Congressional roster.

With leadership votes expected for key committees as soon as Wednesday, the race to replace retiring powerhouse Rep. Henry Waxman as top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce committee has turned into a test of influence between Pelosi and Hoyer.

For months, California Rep. Anna Eshoo and New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone have been competing for votes to serve as the next ranking member of the powerful committee, which has authority over a large part of the U.S. economy and traditionally plays an outsized role in investigations and oversight.

Pelosi backs her longtime friend and ally, Eshoo, sending letters to colleagues urging them to support her fellow Californian since shortly after Eshoo’s announcement. Eshoo’s priorities, Pelosi says, align with the “future of America’s vibrant and competitive environment.”

Hoyer has been stumping for Pallone, though not nearly as openly as Pelosi. Aside from touting Pallone’s work on the committee, Hoyer embraces the system of seniority that traditionally, but not inevitably, gives preference to longer-serving members of Congress. Pallone is currently the number three Democrat on Energy and Commerce, while Eshoo is the fifth-most senior member on the panel.

“A major component [of the Eshoo-Pallone fight] is the proxy war between Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer,” says a House Democratic aide.

Pelosi and Hoyer have a long-running rivalry. Both interned for Sen. Daniel Brewster in the 1960s, and later joined each other in the House or Representatives. In 2001, they duked it out for a seat in the Democratic leadership and though both insisted they had they votes to become the Minority Whip, Pelosi won the job. In 2002, she became the Democratic leader and the first woman to serve as a party leader in Congress. In 2006, after Democrats took control of the House of Representatives and Pelosi was boosted to Speaker of the House, she backed Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania for the number two spot, despite Hoyer’s candidacy for the job. Hoyer beat Murtha 149 to 86.

Many thought Hoyer would take on Pelosi when Democrats faced their brutal loss in 2010, but he told Politico that year he never considered challenging her for the seat: “Obviously, [Pelosi] had to make a decision on whether she could be an effective leader. I think she can.”

Hoyer, a centrist, has found common cause with some liberals in the Eshoo-Pallone fight. Members of Congressional Black and Congressional Hispanic Caucuses support the elevation of Pallone because they think seniority should decide who takes on leadership roles in committee. “Those who through years of service have gained significant expertise and knowledge should be given priority to lead our committees and sub-committees,” wrote Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio in a recent letter to colleagues.

Some House Democratic aides, however, insist it isn’t a proxy fight; Hoyer supports Pallone because he respects the work he’s done. “This race ultimately comes down to personal relationships,” one senior aide says.

House Democrats are scheduled to vote on the committee position early Wednesday.

-With reporting by Alex Rogers

TIME Congress

Inside Landrieu’s Last Fight: Keystone or Bust

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) holds a news conference with fellow committee member Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) on the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington on Nov. 12, 2014.
Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, holds a news conference with fellow committee member Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, on the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington on Nov. 12, 2014 Gary Cameron—Reuters

The Search for 60

Before the doors to the Senators’ private elevator closed on embattled Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu in the basement of the Capitol building Monday afternoon, a reporter shouted to her from the hallway outside: “Who is the 60th?” She replied with a wink.

With just hours to go before a Tuesday night vote to authorize the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, Landrieu claims to have the 60 votes she needs for a filibuster-proof majority to ensure passage, but her supporters say they have just 59 votes. If she gets to 60 and the Senate passes the bill, despite opposition from Senate Democratic leaders and the White House, Landrieu hopes it will increase her diminishing chances at re-election in a run-off vote in Louisiana early next month.

“Landrieu is still pulling out every stop, calling, texting, pleading, begging,” says a Senate Democrat aide. “Leadership—they occasionally check in to make sure [my boss is] not flipping, but they’ve been keeping tabs on it…[My boss] had already told Landrieu ‘no’ about 15 times before he got his first Harry Reid call.”

Landrieu’s hunt for a 60th has become a bigger battle between powerful, well-funded environmentalists and energy interests. Passage of the bill would be the strongest signal to President Barack Obama, after six years of debate, that there is now robust political support in favor of building the pipeline.

The Chamber of Commerce has sent around letters supporting the pipeline, even putting the vote on its annual scorecard that helps determine which candidates the powerful business lobby will support in the future. A number of labor groups, including the Laborers’ International Union of North America, North America’s Building Trades Unions and the International Union of Operating Engineers have written letters urging Senators to vote yes.

American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard, who “fully expects” the bill to pass, touted its outreach Monday, telling TIME that Senators have heard from “multiple thousands” of constituents burning up the Hill’s phone lines. “I promise you they’ve heard from thousands of their constituents over the past week or two in the post-election cycle,” Gerard says. “These aren’t industry people, these are voters in their respective states.”

The anti-Keystone side has also increased the pressure. On Thursday, League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski hovered just off the Senate floor, giving a hug to Democrat Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware after their conversation, according to a Senate Democrat aide. Coons, a Landrieu target, will likely vote no on the bill.

“Our hope is that it won’t matter,” says David Goldston, the top lobbyist for the anti-Keystone National Resources Defense Council, of the bill, which faces a possible veto from Obama even if it passes. “It will either confirm Congress’ unwillingness to step in on an ongoing process or it will confirm the President’s unwillingness to allow Congress to step in on an ongoing matter.”

Outside groups have even already claimed some credit in influencing the outcome. Jason Kowalski, the policy director of anti-Keystone 350.org, said that his group decided to turn up the heat on Michigan Democrat Sen. Carl Levin after hearing that his front desk was telling callers the Senator was undecided.

“Within 10 minutes we had an email blast out the door to thousands of supporters across Michigan,” says Kowalski. “In a span of two hours his office received over 100 phone calls from Michigan climate activists. Reporters picked up the scent too, and after that two-hour call barrage the Senator told a reporter he would be voting ‘No.’”

Levin said Monday that he’s been “consistently opposed” to Keystone and would vote no Monday. “It would bypass an environmental impact statement on a new route which is a real possibility,” he added.

Landrieu is the driving force behind the fight, calling on years of Senate friendships in hopes of scraping by in the uphill runoff reelection race Dec. 6. The Keystone push is unlikely to be enough—she’s down five points according to Real Clear Politics. But on Monday, Landrieu fought on, conferring on the Senate floor with North Dakota Republican Sen. John Hoeven, West Virgina Democrat Joe Manchin and Virginia Democrat Mark Warner, among other supporters.

Manchin spoke to his fellow West Virginian Democrat Rockefeller while Landrieu spoke for several minutes with Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski, who appeared more enthused with what was inside her desk than the conversation. Both Rockefeller and Mikulski are expected to vote “nay” Tuesday. Landrieu says she has 60 votes, although she has yet to name the final one.

“She has a southern charm that is almost irresistible—almost,” joked New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, who said he would oppose the bill Monday.

The White House hasn’t been as aggressive as Landrieu; Maine Independent Sen. Angus King, who says he is likely to vote no, said Monday that Obama’s lobbyists haven’t reached out. But the bill’s supporters say that White House messaging of a likely veto has sidelined some Democrats.

“That frankly makes it tougher to get Democrats on board,” says Ryan Bernstein, chief of staff for Hoeven, a top pro-Keystone Republican.

“Senator Landrieu has a difficult task because it’s a question of will fellow Democrats get to vote their own conscience or are they trying to protect the president,” says the API’s Gerard. “And I think that’s the real challenge.”

TIME Congress

Nancy Pelosi Backs New Mexico Rep. For DCCC Chairman Role

Rep. Ben Ray Luján, 42, would be first Latino to head the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

Nancy Pelosi said Monday she wants Rep. Ben Ray Luján to be the next chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). The House Minority Leader called the New Mexico Democrat a “dynamic and forward-thinking leader” who would be ideal for the role of recruiting and supporting candidates going into the 2016 election.

If voted in on Tuesday, Luján will be the first Latino to serve as the head of the DCCC. He currently serves as the first vice-chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Appointing a Latino leader to the prominent role could be seen as a boon for Democrats hoping to attract more Hispanic voters to head to the polls in two years. Luján said Monday that Americans can set their expectations high going into the next election cycle.

“I think we’re going to see a lot more Democrats elected in 2016,” he said.

The news of Pelosi’s support for Lujan ahead of Tuesday’s vote the position comes in the wake of mounting pressure from progressives to reject Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut, who was also in the running for the top spot at the DCCC. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee blasted Himes as a “Wall Street Democrat” who would “hurt Democratic chances in 2016.”

Pelosi also threw her support Monday behind DCCC chairman Rep. Steve Israel, who has been eyed to head up policy and communications, and Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Donna Edwards (D-Md.), both tapped to co-chair the steering and policy committee.

Pelosi is expected to easily assume her role as House Minority Leader following tomorrow’s morning vote.

TIME Congress

Nancy Pelosi Tweets Birthday Zinger to John Boehner

In honor of his 65th

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wished Republican Speaker John Boehner a happy 65th birthday over Twitter on Monday, in a message that compresses an age-old debate on spending priorities into less than 140 characters.

TIME Congress

Louisiana Senator One Vote Short on Keystone Pipeline Bill

Landrieu Hunts for Filibuster-Proof Majority

Ten days ago, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said that a vote to authorize the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline would be a “slam dunk.” As of Monday morning, a day before an expected high-profile Senate vote, the ball appears to be hovering above the rim.

Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, the party’s Whip, said Sunday that the pipeline’s proponents have nabbed 59 votes as of Friday. All 45 Republicans are expected to vote for the bill, requiring 15 Democratic votes for passage. The two independents—Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Angus King of Maine—are no and “likely no,” respectively, according to a congressional aide.

“Well, we were one vote short as we left last week,” said Durbin on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday. “But I know they’re burning up the phone lines and e-mails trying to find that vote to support the procedural move. I don’t know how successful they have been.”

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is leading the effort to 60 in the midst of a heated runoff reelection race against Republican Louisiana Rep. Bill Cassidy, who sponsored identical Keystone legislation that passed the House Friday. Durbin acknowledged Sunday that the Keystone vote is political, as “every indication” predicts that President Obama will veto the three-page bill.

“Every indication is, the president will veto an attempt to preempt the regular process of reviewing the permit for this pipeline,” said Durbin on CNN. “I think that it should go through the orderly process. The Republicans believe that the president’s power should be taken away, it should be moved on a fast track. But, remember, the oil that is going to flow through that pipeline is not going to be used in the United States or reduce gas prices in the United States.”

TIME Congress

Nazis to Be Banned From Getting U.S. Social Security

Rep. Carolyn Maloney hopes the House will vote on the legislation this month

Lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday that seeks to bar Nazis from receiving benefits like Social Security.

An October AP report revealed that the U.S. government had given millions of dollars to former Nazis in Social Security payments, even after many had left the country. At least 38 out of 66 who fled or were deported since 1979 continued to receive payments. At least four suspects are still alive and in Europe, living on American funds. Four more suspected Nazis continue to live stateside.

The new legislation would put an end to all federal benefits, and would require the attorney general to communicate with the Social Security Administration about all those who lose their American citizenship as a result of Nazi investigations. The bill is sponsored by Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who said she hopes the House will vote on the measure this month.

[The Hill]

 

TIME Government

Report Details Secret Service Mishaps in White House Breach

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White House at midday Allan Baxter—Getty Images

One of several blunders, according to a Homeland Security report

An intruder was able to climb the White House fence and enter the premises in September because of a number of mishaps, like faulty alarm systems and officers not even spotting him, according to a summary of a Homeland Security report Thursday.

Members of Congress were briefed on the report Thursday, according to the New York Times, which obtained its executive summary. The report is said to detail the security lapses that allowed Omar Gonzalez, who is charged in the Sept. 19 breach, to enter the White House. Among them, an officer who was stationed with an attack dog on the North Lawn was busy talking on a personal cell phone in a van and had not seen the man climb the fence.

Julia Pierson, who was the Secret Service director at the time of the incident, later resigned.

Read more at the New York Times

TIME Congress

Boehner Reelected As House Speaker

After extending their party’s House majority to the largest margin in decades, the top Republican Congressmen will all return to leadership roles for another two years.

House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Whip Steve Scalise and Republican Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers all ran unopposed. National Republican Conference Chairman Greg Walden will continue to serve as the head of the effort to elect more House Republicans. The leadership election reaffirmed the election this summer following the primary loss of former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Despite her party’s losses, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is all but certain to win reelection to her post on November 18. She lived up to her reputation as a fundraising powerhouse, raising over $100 million for Democrats this cycle.

Across the Capitol, Senate Democrats and Republicans voted Thursday to keep Nevada Senator Harry Reid and Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell as their parties’ leaders.

 

 

 

TIME Immigration

Report: Obama Set to Go It Alone on Immigration

Sara Ramirez, of Gaithersberg, Md. rallies for comprehensive immigration reform outside the White House in Washington D.C. on Nov. 7, 2014.
Sara Ramirez, of Gaithersburg, Md., rallies for comprehensive immigration reform outside the White House in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 7, 2014 Jacquelyn Martin—AP

The White House could make the move as early as next week

President Barack Obama is poised to unilaterally overhaul American immigration policy, according to several reports Thursday, in a long-anticipated move that would ignore his Republican critics and could allow up to 5 million undocumented immigrants to stay in the country.

The New York Times, citing unnamed Administration officials, reports that Obama intends as early as next week to announce plans to substantially refocus immigration enforcement involving some 12,000 agents and reduce the risk of deportation for millions of immigrants.

As many as 3.3 million parents of children who are American citizens or legal residents would be able to obtain legal work documents under the plan, the Times adds. Many immigrants with high-tech skills or who came to the U.S. as children could also be affected by the plan.

Obama has infuriated Republicans by pledging executive action on immigration if Congress does not pass a comprehensive reform bill. TIME’s Alex Altman wrote this week on the widely expected move, as well as the likely pushback from the soon-to-be Republican-controlled Congress:

The pressure on Obama to delay executive action is likely to build. Republican leaders say that skirting Congress to go it alone would ignite a controversy that jeopardizes the chances for cooperation between the President and the new GOP Congressional majority on a host of issues. “It’s like waving a red flag in front of a bull,” Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said. Immigration will be a touchstone in confirmation hearings for Loretta Lynch, Obama’s pick for Attorney General. Tea Party conservatives in the Senate signaled they plan to use the hearings to press Lynch on her views of the President’s executive authority on immigration.

Enacting sweeping changes to immigration law just weeks after the party was rebuked by voters at the polls could spark a blowback from voters. In one recent survey, conducted by Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway, 74% of respondents said they preferred Obama to work with Congress to retool a broken immigration system rather than maneuvering around the legislative branch.

Even some seasoned Democrats seem a bit skittish about the idea. Over a sea-bass lunch Friday with congressional leaders in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, Obama told Boehner that his patience in waiting for the House to act on immigration had run out. At that point, according to a source familiar with the meeting, Vice President Joe Biden piped up to ask how long Republicans would need to craft immigration legislation — prompting the President to shoot Biden a look that closed the discussion.

Read more at the New York Times

Read next: How Ellis Island Changed Before It Closed

TIME 2014 Election

The Politics Behind Mary Landrieu’s Pipeline Power Play

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) holds a news conference with fellow committee member Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) on the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington on Nov. 12, 2014.
Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, holds a news conference with fellow committee member Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, on the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington on Nov. 12, 2014 Gary Cameron—Reuters

The Louisiana Democrat's move may be too little too late

Democrat Mary Landrieu’s attempt to force President Barack Obama to authorize construction of the Keystone XL pipeline is the latest in a political thrust-and-parry exchange between the three-term Senator and GOP Representative Bill Cassidy, her opponent in next month’s Senate runoff election in Louisiana. But Landrieu’s gambit may be too little too late, election watchers say.

The frantic maneuvering started Wednesday morning when Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell promised Cassidy a spot on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee if Cassidy beats Landrieu in the December runoff. Landrieu chairs the committee and has touted her tenure there as a symbol of her influence on Capitol Hill.

In response, Landrieu took to the floor of the Senate and gave a nearly three-hour speech calling for the body to take a vote on her bill, which would require Obama to clear the final bureaucratic and regulatory obstacles preventing construction of the pipeline.

The next move came from across the Capitol building, when House Speaker John Boehner and majority leader Kevin McCarthy fast-tracked Cassidy’s three-page bill to authorize the pipeline straight to the floor of the House, bypassing the committees that normally would have weighed the proposal. Cassidy’s bill (which matches the Senate language) will get a House vote on Friday.

When the Senate votes as early as Tuesday on Landrieu’s bill, it will be the first time in six years that both chambers of Congress will vote on the pipeline, according to the Washington Post.

“It’s been a dizzying 24 hours for a supposed lame-duck legislature as it relates to Louisiana,” says Joshua Stockley, an associate professor of political science at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

Landrieu’s gambit may help her re-election chances, but it comes at a cost. Forcing a Keystone vote in Congress will give McConnell and Boehner an unexpected win on the list of issues they want to tackle when the GOP takes control of both chambers of Congress early next year. White House press secretary Josh Earnest signaled Wednesday that the President would oppose the legislation, as he has in the past.

“We have indicated that the President’s senior advisors at the White House would recommend that he veto legislation like that,” said Earnest. “And that does continue to be our position.”

And it’s not even clear how much Landrieu’s push will help her chances. “Landrieu’s task is continuing to separate and distance herself from the President,” says Stockley. “Does Keystone help make that argument? Yes, but I would argue that’s been somewhat neutralized. Cassidy is going to be able to come back and say, ‘My language, my bill, I voted on it too.’”

“She’s going to have to do something more significant than the Keystone pipeline to beat Representative Cassidy,” he adds.

In last week’s race, Landrieu nabbed the top spot with 42% of the vote, compared with 41% for Cassidy and 14% for Tea Party candidate Rob Maness. She is facing an avalanche of ads and outside spending she can’t match (she lost the financial support of the group designed to get her elected, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee) and an opponent bolstered by Maness’s conservatives. As TIME’s Denver Nicks notes, Landrieu’s team believes she’s got a shot if she wins 30% of white voters, up from just 18% she received in the general elections last week. Of course, Landrieu has won runoffs before, in 1996 and 2002, and has expressed hope for pulling out another victory.

“Are you a lost cause?” NBC’s Kasie Hunt asked Landrieu on Wednesday. “I don’t believe I am,” she replied.

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