TIME Congress

Boehner Re-Elected House Speaker

The 114th Congress voted to reelect Speaker John Boehner to a third term at the House’s top post after a small group of conservatives brought a minor scare to elect a backbencher.

The vote to elect the Speaker of the “New American Congress,” as Republicans are calling it, had the atmosphere of kids at the first day of school, with members laughing at those who caused a scene—like Massachusetts Rep. Michael Capuano, who voted for “Nancy D’ALESSANDRO Pelosi” in a shout, and Florida Rep. Ted Yoho—”YOHO!”—who voted for himself. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Georgia Rep. John Lewis, who were sitting an aisle apart, shared a bewildered glance and a smile when Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema cast a vote for Lewis. Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert gave off an excellent “why not” shrug when he voted for himself for Speaker.

There were several unexpected votes, including ones for former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions. First-year members who campaigned against the Washington establishment like Virginia Republican Rep. Dave Brat, who beat former Majority Leader Eric Cantor in his primary, and Florida Democrat Gwen Graham voted against their party leaders and for South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan and Tennessee Rep. Jim Cooper, respectively. The majority of the anti-Boehner conservatives votes went to Republican Rep. Dan Webster, a little-known member outside of Florida where he has served as the state’s House speaker and Senate Majority Leader, who garnered 12 votes. The opposition to Boehner proved to be loud enough to hear but not strong enough to really matter.

Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a frequent critic of Boehner, voted for Webster but said he didn’t ask anyone to oppose the Speaker.

“There is a lot of power in that office; I know some folks feel a lot of pressure and feel like they are being intimidated,” said Huelskamp, who criticized the way the congressional leadership brought to the floor the end of the year government spending bill. “And that is part of the problem. Speaker Boehner promised an open process and that hasn’t happened. As we saw in the CROmnibus—a 1,600 page bill thrown down and we had less than two days to read it and no chance to allow amendments—that is exactly what he told us he would change about the previous Speaker.”

The vast majority of Republicans and Democrats voted for their party’s leader; 216 cast votes for Boehner and 164 for Pelosi out of 408 total votes. Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, who supported Boehner and chairs the Rules Committee, said that he was excited for the new session but recognized the concerns of vocal conservatives who voted against Boehner.

“It’s a wake up call for everybody,” said Sessions. “We need to be aware that we got to do a better job to effectively communicate what we stand for and why we’re here. When you take $200 million away from the IRS because you’ve been trying to do that for four years, and people don’t respect that even though they had asked for it, then there’s a problem.”

“Go and set some new expectations of what to call a victory,” he added.

In his speech after the vote, Boehner asked the House to “stand tall and prove the skeptics wrong.”

TIME Congress

See John Boehner’s Giant Gavel

John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi
Pablo Martinez Monsivais—AP House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, kisses House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. after being re-elected to a third term during the opening session of the 114th Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 6, 2015.

John Boehner took control of the House of Representatives for his third term as Speaker on Tuesday, and as before, he went for an attention-grabbing gavel.

The gavel, which seems to be the legislative equivalent of Thor’s hammer Mjölnir, was made by hand by one of Boehner’s Ohio constituents just after the November 2010 elections that first propelled Republicans into the majority, according to the New York Times.

As part of a longstanding tradition, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi presented Boehner with the gavel and the two shared an awkward hug.

As TIME previously noted, the gavel is not the one he uses every day. Those smaller gavels come from the House Carpentry Shop, which makes them on site from maple wood.

TIME Congress

Meet the Longshot Candidates Who Lost to John Boehner

Some of them aren't even House members

House Republicans unhappy with Speaker John Boehner had no lack of options for a protest vote. Officially, there were three conservatives running longshot campaigns against the Ohio Republican. But thanks to a constitutional quirk that the Speaker doesn’t even have to be a House member, they could pretty much vote for whomever they wanted.

And they did. Here’s a quick look at some of the names that got at least one vote for Speaker of the House before Boehner ultimately prevailed Tuesday:

Rep. Ted Yoho: Only in his second term, the Florida Republican was the first conservative to offer himself up as an alternative to Boehner. He got two votes, including one from himself.

Rep. Louie Gohmert: The Texas Republican led the most visible campaign for speaker, but his penchant for putting conservative ideas into easily ridiculed soundbites cost him some support. Including himself, he got three votes.

Rep. Daniel Webster: The low-profile Florida Republican was a late-breaking addition to the race and seemed to function as a placeholder for Boehner critics. He did the best, getting 12 votes, including himself.

Rep. Jim Jordan: The Ohio Republican got two votes from other lawmakers. But while he voted against Boehner in 2013, he came around this time and backed the incumbent.

Sen. Rand Paul: The Kentucky Republican isn’t even a member of the House, but he’s got at least one fan. Paul was the only potential 2016 contender to get a token vote for Speaker.

Also receiving votes: Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who each got one. Among Democrats, Reps. John Lewis of Georgia, Peter DeFazio of Oregon, Jim Cooper of Tennessee and former Secretary of State Colin Powell each got one protest vote.

TIME The Brief

#TheBrief: Meet the Freshman Class in Congress

The House will welcome 58 mostly Republican freshmen

Congress will swear in its most diverse group of lawmakers in U.S. history this week.

The newly formed group’s demographic breakdown is as follows: 104 women; 100 black, Asian, Native American, or Hispanic members; and Congress’ first black female Republican.

Age is also a diversifying factor. The youngest women elected to congress will be joining at 30-years-old, and several other young lawmakers will be joining her.

To find out more about the newest lawmakers in D.C. watch #TheBrief.

TIME Congress

10 Members of Congress to Watch in 2015

Though much of the attention in Congress focuses on the leaders, there are times when rank-and-file members can stand out. For some, that may be because they are readying a run for the White House. For others, it’s because a pet topic is taking center stage. And for others, it’s because they’ve built up power in other ways.

As the 114th Congress is sworn in, here are 10 members to watch.

Sen. John Hoeven

The first Senate bill out of the gate will concern the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, according to McConnell. In November, toward the end of her failed reelection bid, Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu failed to get a bill passed by one vote. North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven and the GOP leadership will now lead the effort to pass his bill across the finish line as Democrats attempt to add “poison pill” amendments. The final hurdle will be President Obama, who recently warned in an interview with NPR that he will use his veto pen to defend his environmental legacy. On Dec. 19 during his end of the year press conference, Obama added to speculation that he would veto the legislation, saying that Keystone wouldn’t give an even “nominal benefit” to American consumers.

Sen. Rand Paul

Paul has earned the epithet of the Most Interesting Man in Politics—including from TIME—for attempting to mesh his libertarian beliefs with his White House dreams. He has earned the accolades of Republican establishment types like McConnell while taking numerous positions they oppose in speeches to constituencies they never captured. Paul, who has dropped heavy-handed hints he will run for President in 2016, will remain in the mix next year on a number of topics, whether that’s police demilitarization, oversight of the National Security Agency, criminal justice reform, or congressional authorization for the use of military force in Syria. While little headway is expected on most of those fronts, Paul will keep those issues—and himself—in the limelight.

Sen. Marco Rubio

Rubio will be the go-to anti-Obama point man on all things Cuba this year. McConnell deferred to his judgment after Obama’s major announcement that the U.S. will begin to normalize diplomatic relations with the communist country for the first time in more than five decades. Paul, who agrees with the Administration on Cuba, and Rubio, a Cuban-American, will have a platform on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to air out their differences in a potential preview of the 2016 Republican presidential debates. Cuba is the latest of many topics Rubio has tackled; he has led efforts on immigration reform (and subsequently backed away), anti-poverty and tax reform, among others.

Rep. Michael McCaul

After they rejected the Senate’s comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform bill in 2013, Boehner and his top lieutenants failed to present a broad alternative fix to a deeply flawed immigration system. In November, Boehner warned that Obama would get burned if he addressed immigration in a broad executive order. Obama did it anyway—delaying deportation for up to five million undocumented immigrants—leaving Boehner with few good options to respond outside of passing reform legislation.

Enter McCaul, the House Homeland Security Committee Chairman. In the first few months of 2015, he is expected to introduce a border security bill that he says could ease the passage of other immigration bills in the step-by-step process the House GOP has deemed acceptable. McCaul could add his legislation to the upcoming bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security past its current Feb. 27 deadline.

It’s unclear, however, if the Republican-dominated Congress will follow-up and pass subsequent immigration bills. The Wall Street Journal reports that other lawmakers, including Rubio, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador, are preparing bills to reform the visa programs for high-tech, agricultural and low-skilled workers, among other things.

Sen. Orrin Hatch

From Obamacare to trade to taxes, incoming Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch will have his hands in the pot of many hot topics this year. Obama will look to Republicans for support of a major 12-country trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an elusive, potential legacy-defining achievement for the president in his final two years. Hatch and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman—a former U.S. trade representative—along with House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan and his Democratic counterpart, Rep. Sandy Levin, will be among the crucial figures on whether or not Congress grants Obama trade promotion authority.

Hatch—the most senior Republican in the Senate—will also play a role in reforming the president’s signature health care reform law. Last year, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor promised to pass an Obamacare alternative. Republicans didn’t, haven’t coalesced around another and this year will take a pickaxe to the president’s signature law, like Hatch’s amendment to repeal a medical device tax that helps fund it. That proposal even has the support of liberal Democrats, including Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren and Al Franken. Republicans will still have a show vote to repeal the health care law, but they will also find ways to get smaller fixes on the president’s desk this year.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz

As evidenced by a recent article in the Washington Post, the Secret Service’s troubles didn’t end when Director Julia Pierson resigned after an intruder jumped the White House fence and ran inside. The agency suffers from a “combination of tight budgets, bureaucratic battles and rapidly growing demands” since 9/11, according to the Post, and Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the incoming House Oversight Chairman, will use his new perch to investigate and offer reforms.

Sen. Sherrod Brown

The gruff and ruffled Senator from Ohio, Sherrod Brown, is the incoming top Democrat on the Banking committee. He’s a top defender of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill designed to rein in Wall Street banks and will be tasked to defend the law from a Congress that managed to claw back some provisions in the end of the year spending bill. While Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren will nab more headlines—versions of the 2016 question “What Will Warren Want?” have already begun—Brown has been effective for liberal Democrats, helping drive pressure for Larry Summers to withdraw his candidacy for Federal Reserve chairman in 2013. Brown has already begun his effort to slow down Obama’s TPP deal, according to the Post, leading a strategy meeting with House Democrats.

Sen. Joe Manchin

One of the most conservative Democrats, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin will be crucial for the GOP to pass anything with 60 votes next year. He already supports authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline and raising the Affordable Care Act’s workweek from 30 hours to 40 hours and could be pleased to see Congress work towards those goals. But Manchin, who was critical of Reid’s leadership, (in a June TIME profile, Manchin said he’s “never been in a less productive time in my life”) may still be so disgusted with how Washington works that he leaves to run for his former job as governor. In November, Manchin told TIME he would give the new McConnell-led Senate about three months to make his decision. If he chooses to leave, Manchin could imperil the Democrats’ chances of retaking the Senate in 2016.

Sen. Bob Corker

Corker was Washington Post columnist George Will‘s pick as the senator to watch in 2015, and for good reason. From his top spot on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Corker will be in the middle of every foreign policy debate, including how to deter Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons, “degrade and destroy” Islamic militants in Syria and Iraq and punish Russian aggression.

Sen. Ted Cruz

Cruz’s presidential ambitions and ability to coral the most conservative elements of Congress makes him always one to watch. Keep an eye out for Cruz as Congress decides how to extend the debt limit in the middle of the year and fund the Department of Homeland Security at the end of February. McConnell told the Post that he doesn’t want the public to think adding a Republican president to a Republican Congress will be “a scary outcome.” But Cruz’s power lies outside the establishment and creating outcomes that are indeed scary to it. Those two pinch points could draw the nation’s attention back to Cruz as he debates his future in Washington.

TIME Congress

Feinstein to Introduce Anti-Torture Legislation

Dianne Feinstein
Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call,Inc. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, talks with reporters after sharing a report on the CIA and it's torture methods, December 9, 2014.

Outgoing Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein will propose new legislation next Congress to prevent future Administrations from approving torture.

Outlined in a letter to President Obama on Dec. 30, the measures would prohibit the intelligence community from using enhanced interrogation techniques like water-boarding that aren’t listed in the Army Field Manual or allow the CIA to hold detainees on anything other than a short-term basis. The moves would give legislative backing to previous executive orders signed into law by Obama in 2009 and “close all torture loopholes,” according to the letter.

Last month, Feinstein and other Democrats on the Intelligence Committee released its five-year report describing the George W. Bush Administration’s EITs as ineffective.

“These recommendations are intended to make sure that the United States never again engages in actions that you have acknowledged were torture,” she wrote, according to a statement released Monday.

Republicans, which will formally take over the Senate today, rebutted Feinstein’s torture report as a partisan affair and are unlikely to move on her proposals, which include other recommendations to increase executive and congressional oversight over the intelligence community. Republicans have also pointed to a December Washington Post-ABC poll which showed that a majority of Americans think that the CIA treatment of suspected terrorists was justified and that it would be in the future.

Without legislation, the anti-torture actions approved by President Obama could be overturned by a future president with the stroke of a pen.

TIME Congress

Congress Now Has More Black Lawmakers than Ever Before

Overall, however, it's still largely white and male

With the swearing in of the 114th Congress on Tuesday, there will be more African Americans in the legislature than in any other period in history.

The Congressional Black Caucus is set to have its largest caucus in history with 46 total members including Rep. Mia Love of Utah, the first African American female Republican elected to Congress, and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ).

Though the first black Congressional members were elected in the late 1800s, there were fewer than ten in every session until the 1970s. In the 91st Congress (1969-71), the number of African Americans serving finally topped 20. Over the past two decades, the number of black members has remained between 39 and 44, according to the Congressional Research Service.

In 2015, however, Congress will be home to 44 black representatives, plus two Senators and two non-voting delegates to the House, bringing the total number of black legislators to 48.

Congress remains unrepresentative of the nation as a whole, however, where only 63% of the population is white and a little more than half of all citizens are women. Now, some 18% of the nation’s federal lawmakers now are racial minorities and 20% are women. Congress is also majority Christian, with only one member serving who is religiously unaffiliated–in the U.S., about 1 in 5 adults identifies as such.

TIME National Security

CIA Inspector General David Buckley to Resign

Senate Holds Hearing On Lessons Learned From Boston Marathon Bombings
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images Central Intelligence Agency Inspector General David Buckley testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee about the lessons learned about intelligence and information sharing after the Boston Marathon bombings April 30, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Buckley has served as the intelligence agency's internal watchdog for more than four years

CIA inspector general David Buckley, who served as the agency’s watchdog for over four years, will resign at the end of this month.

According to a CIA statement released Monday, Buckley is leaving to “pursue an opportunity in the private sector,” Reuters reports.

Buckley had most recently investigated a dispute between the CIA and Congress over records of the agency’s detention and interrogation program, but officials on both sides said his resignation had no connection to politics or his work as inspector general.

CIA director John Brennan said that during his tenure, Buckley had “demonstrated independence, integrity, and sound judgment in promoting efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability.”


TIME Congress

Republicans: ‘Where Are the Jobs?’ Democrats: ‘Where Are the Wages?’

Speaker Boehner And Pelosi Sign Workforce Innovation And Opportunity Act
Mark Wilson—Getty Images House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Speaker John Boehner await to sign bipartisan legislation Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act at the U.S. Capitol, July 11, 2014 in Washington, DC.

The economic debate between Democrats and Republicans in Congress will be much like last year’s choice: “Where are the jobs?” vs. “Where are the wages?”

In an open letter to her colleagues, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi wrote that Democrats will provide a “sharp contrast” to Republicans this cycle, while House Speaker John Boehner’s office pledged “three bipartisan jobs bills” for the first week of the “new American Congress.”

The GOP—which will have its largest House majority in decades and control of the Senate for the first time in Obama’s presidency—will focus on two Affordable Care Act changes and approval of the Keystone XL pipeline as its top early priorities. The changes to the president’s signature health care law include one that would exempt military veterans who are already enrolled in Pentagon or Veteran Affairs Department from being counted under the law, allowing some employers with around 50 employees to avoid the mandate. The other would allow employers to avoid providing health coverage to workers who clock in less than 40 hours a week, up from the law’s current 30-hour threshold, without penalty. Critics claim that that latter legislation would actually be counterproductive, making part-time work more likely.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee said Monday that the House will vote this Friday on legislation to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline for the tenth time. The pipeline’s creation is likely to be neither the doom considered by some green activists nor the job creator that Republicans have touted and the White House has yet to issue a veto threat.

“Enacting such measures early in the new session will signal that the logjam in Washington has been broken, and help to establish a foundation of certainty and stability that both parties can build upon,” wrote Boehner and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in a Wall Street Journal op-ed after the November elections.

In her letter Monday, Pelosi wrote that the “election demonstrated that the American people are hopeful that this new Congress can work together to grow our economy and in turn grow the paychecks of American workers.”

Pelosi outlined two bills in particular that Democrats would put forward on Tuesday. One recycled bill would discourage corporations from exporting their headquarters to avoid U.S. taxes and use the revenue to pay for the crippled highway trust fund, which keeps a host of major infrastructure projects afloat. Democrats will also reintroduce another bill that would limit tax deductions for millionaire executives at publicly held companies unless they gave some rank-and-file employees raises to match certain cost of living standards too.

Pelosi’s message—one Democrats have been pounding for ages—is geared directly at her party’s populist base. On Wednesday, the AFL-CIO will hold its first National Summit on Raising Wages, which will include a keynote speech from liberal firebrand Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

TIME Congress

Speaker Boehner Faces Protest Votes, But No Real Threat

John Boehner
J. Scott Applewhite—AP House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio in Congress on Nov. 21, 2014 in Washington.

Ohio Rep. John Boehner has little to be worried about in his reelection bid for House Speaker, but as in past leadership elections, some Republicans will make some splashes of protest to show that the conservative flank still holds some sway.

Two months ago, no conservative candidate came forward to run against Boehner after the House GOP took its largest majority in decades. Establishment Republican candidates cruised past primary contests to flip the Senate. But a day before the Tuesday vote, two Republican members—Reps. Louie Gohmert and Ted Yoho—have announced that they will run to end a third Boehner term and several others have said that they will vote to oust their leader.

Yoho, who has voted against Boehner in previous leadership elections, says that he decided to jump in the race on Friday night after a colleague conservatives had been clamoring for would not. He cites a number of reasons why he protests another two years of Speaker Boehner, including to change the way Washington governs by crisis, to repeal and replace Obamacare, and to beat back a host of executive actions. Yoho says that he will achieve his goal to push Boehner to a second ballot, which would increase momentum against him.

“It’s also responding to our base,” says Yoho. “Everyone—whether it’s a town hall, a tele-town hall, live meetings, whatever—they say, ‘when are you getting a new Speaker of the House? Mr. Boehner has got to go; he’s a weak leader.’”

“This is not symbolic,” he adds. “We’re here to win.”

The anti-Boehner crowd is aided by outside conservative groups such as FreedomWorks and conservative commentators such as Erick Erickson and Fox News host Sean Hannity, who prefers South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy for Speaker. But so far these Republicans still have to convert several of their colleagues to reach the 29 necessary to push the vote to a second ballot.

The Congressmen who won’t vote for Boehner include Iowa Rep. Steve King, the immigration hardliner, and Rep. Dave Brat, the freshman who defeated former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary last year. Overall, 10 Republican Congressmen have announced they wouldn’t vote for Boehner, according to the Washington Post.

Boehner allies claim that conservatives within the GOP ranks have helped create crises like the 16-day partial government shutdown in 2013. And despite conservatives’ wishes, Boehner has few methods available to oppose like executive actions like the recent one that delays deportations for up to five million undocumented immigrants. Leadership allies like Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole believe that Boehner will easily brush back the conservatives’ attempts to push the vote to a second ballot, according to his spokesman.

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