Congress

House Speaker John Boehner Will Resign at End of October

john-boehner-genericWASHINGTON — In a stunning move, House Speaker John Boehner has told Republicans that he will step down at the end of October, giving up his leadership post and his seat in Congress in the face of hardline conservative opposition.

The 13-term Ohio Republican shocked his GOP caucus early this morning when he informed them of his decision in a closed-door session.

In a statement, Boehner said: “The first job of any Speaker is to protect this institution that we all love. It was my plan to only serve as Speaker until the end of last year, but I stayed on to provide continuity to the Republican Conference and the House. It is my view, however, that prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution.

Florida Rep. John Mica responded to Boehner’s resignation saying he “just does not want to become the issue.”

Conservatives have demanded that any legislation to keep the government operating past next Wednesday’s midnight deadline strip Planned Parenthood of his funds, a stance opposed by more pragmatic lawmakers. The dispute had threatened Boehner’s speakership and roiled the GOP caucus.

Boehner took over the speakership in January 2011.

– TWC News and The Associated Press

 

Former Congressman Howard Coble in the ICU

howard_coble_22_jpgGREENSBORO — Former U.S. representative Howard Coble is in the ICU at Moses Cone Memorial Hospital, according to his former Chief of Staff Ed McDonald.

Former Representative Coble had surgery on his skin cancer about two weeks ago and has been experiencing complications since then.

He isn’t able to talk right now due to swelling, but staffers say he looks the best he has in several weeks.

The 84 year old represented North Carolina’s 6th district for 30 years. He was succeeded by Mark Walker.

Time Warner Cable News will have more details as they become available.

Sen. Burr Discusses State of National Security

BURR HOMELAND SECURITY TOWN HALL PKGRALEIGH — U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, who is also chairs the Intelligence Committee, spoke to a National Public Affairs Forum in Raleigh Thursday.

Along with insight into terrorist targets, Sen. Burr spoke more about the current state of national security.

“Since the first of the year, the FBI has arrested over 67 individuals in the United States, most if not all have been charged material support to terrorism,” he said.

Tim Nichols, a Visiting Associate Professor of the Practice in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, said the number of arrests is not a spoke for the U.S., but it is a result of more laws put into place since 9/11.

“We’ve given law enforcement more tools to use, by giving them more laws that allow them to arrest, prosecute and convict people that are supporting terrorism,” he said.

Sen. Burr also shared his stance in the debate of how much power law enforcement should have to fight terrorism.

“I happen to be one who gives a little more leway towards more tools versus less,” he said.

Sen. Burr also said from an intelligence standpoint, ever-changing technology can pose a challenge.

“If we can see the communication between two people, we still can’t see what was being said,” he said.

Nichols said communications over an encrypted network is used by a variety of terrorist groups.

“They are taking advantage of stuff that hackers and other computer programmers have built to hide their existence and source information,” he said.

Even with the challenges, Sen. Burr said he is optimistic about the current state of national security.

“If there is any agency that deserves a tremendous amount of credit right now, it’s the transformation that the FBI has made at getting in front of these attacks,” he said.

Looking at the 2016 U.S. Senate race, Sen. Burr currently leads potential Democratic challengers in the latest left-leaning Public Policy Polling. A few Democratic candidates have expressed interest in running, but have not officially announced a run.

– Carly Swanson

NC NAACP Rally to Support Confirmation of Lynch for US Attorney General

Loretta_LynchRALEIGH — The state NAACP staged rallies in Wilmington, Raleigh and Charlotte in support of confirmation of Loretta Lynch as the next US attorney general.

“She has the temerity to stand up for voting rights in our state and I support her,” said Charlotte protester Margaret Peeples.

The groups demonstrated in front of Sen. Burr’s office in Wilmington as well as Sen. Tillis’ offices in Charlotte and Raleigh. Both senators have said they will not be voting in Lynch’s favor during her confirmation.

“Step up to the plate, do your duty and lead with a high moral conviction and sense of servitude to the people of North Carolina,” said Deborah Maxwell, New Hanover Co. NAACP.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Tillis released a statement saying in part, “Senator Tillis has immense personal and professional respect for Loretta Lynch. However, because Ms. Lynch has stated her clear support for the president’s unconstitutional executive amnesty plan and did not make a firm commitment to reverse the partisan politicization that presently exists at the Department of Justice, he will not be supporting her confirmation.”

Sen. Burr said he is also not going to confirm Lynch as attorney general.

“I gave her every opportunity to tell me exactly how she would be independent of what Eric Holder’s agenda was at the department, and she said it would be identical,” Sen. Burr said on Monday. “So she certainly didn’t express to me any independence.”

The confirmation vote for Lynch has not yet been scheduled.

– Amy Elliott

Republicans Waging War Against Obama’s Immigration Plan

WASHINGTON — In Washington, Republicans are waging a battle against President Obama’s immigration plan.

House lawmakers passed a Department of Homeland Security funding bill that blocks the president’s immigration initiatives.

House Republicans, strengthened by a bigger majority, leveled a major attack against President Obama’s immigration plan on Wednesday.

The House voted to fully fund the Department of Homeland Security while blocking the president’s recent executive action on immigration.

DHS is the agency responsible for immigration enforcement. Its funding expires at the end of February.

GOP lawmakers inserted amendments in the nearly $40 billion spending bill that roll back the president’s order to shield about five million undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Republicans, including Congressman Richard Hudson, say the president’s executive action is illegal.

“I’m committed to doing whatever it takes to rein in the president illegal activity when it comes to rewriting immigration law, and these amendments will do just that,” said Rep. Richard Hudson, 8th District.

Another amendment reverses President Obama’s 2012 initiative aimed at protecting immigrants brought into the United States illegally as children, so-called “dreamers.”

Meanwhile, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi accused Republicans of putting homeland security funding at risk at a time of high alert. That’s following the recent deadly terrorists attacks in Paris.

“You think it would’ve heightened the urgency to pass a homeland security bill. But the Republicans still say no, still say no to passing a clean bill, unless, unless they can be a menace, do menace to immigration,” said Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

But Hudson says the legislation is legitimate.

“We have the largest border security force we’ve ever had in our history. We fully fund FEMA. This is a good appropriations bill that funds our priorities,” said Hudson.

The White House says President Obama would veto any legislation that undermines his immigration plan. But the president may not get the chance. The legislation seems unlikely to get enough votes in the Senate to make it to the president’s desk.

– Geoff Bennett

U.S. House Overwhelmingly Approves Keystone XL Pipeline

WASHINGTON—The White House said Friday’s court decision in Nebraska doesn’t change President Barack Obama’s intention to veto a bill authorizing the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

It passed the House Friday, and the Senate takes it up next week.

The pipeline is the final link in the system to transport oil from Canada’s oil sands down to refineries in the Gulf Coast. Oil sands are a dirty, gooey mix of sand, clay and oil.

On Friday Nebraska’s highest court tossed out a lawsuit challenging the route of the pipeline through the state. According to House Speaker John Boehner, President Barack Obama is now “out of excuses” for blocking the pipeline.

Obama has said he needed the ruling from Nebraska before deciding whether the pipeline from Canada is in the national interest. After the ruling, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell renewed his call for Obama to drop his threat to veto the pipeline measure.

North Carolina Republicans Richard Burr and Thom Tillis support the Senate version of the bill.

“We stand ready to become an energy superpower. One of the ways you do that is to increase exploration and drilling but also to provide transportation options to lower the cost along with just providing greater access ,” said Tillis.

But environmentalists say with greater access comes a huge pollution problem. Still, Republicans say the investment is worth it.

“When you have the opportunity to create about 40,000 jobs – some of them direct construct ion jobs and indirect jobs – you need to do it,” said Tillis.

The pipeline’s opponents point out those jobs would be TEMPORARY. After construction, the pipeline would employ about 50 people.

The political wrangling over the issues is about much more than just a pipeline. The new Republican-controlled Congress is using it to divide Democrats and put pressure on the President Obama to veto a bill the public largely supports.

“I think we have the American people honest with this. We have 68, 70 percent of the American people who think this is a good idea,” said Tillis.

– Geoff Bennett and Associated Press

Health care, Keystone Pipeline Among Issues Awaiting Congress

WASHINGTON—With the pomp and circumstance complete, the 114th Congress is now ready to get down to work.

There are many big issues the lawmakers say need to be addressed, from immigration to infrastructure. Another year, another round of talks on the affordable care act.

“I think there are some things that can get done quickly, that has bi-partisan support, that can help healthcare in this country,” said Rep. Renee Ellmers.

With Republicans in full control of Congress, many members of the majority party say there need to be steps taken to change make some repeals to the Affordable Care Act.

However, Democrats remain skeptical.

“But Republicans merely want to repeal the medical device tax without replacing it with something to get it paid for. And that would be a non-starter. that is intended to just gut the effect of the Affordable Care Act and not really to improve it,” said Rep. GK Butterfield.

Financial issues could also be making moves this year with some lawmakers saying an overhaul is needed to the nation’s tax code.

“Everyone, both sides of the aisle, realize the tax code has gotten too onerous. and is actually stifling economic growth, ingenuity, innovation. So I think we are ready for that kind of big tax reform and I think you’ll see it,” said Rep. George Holding.

One of the first bills expected to make it to the president’s desk is on the Keystone Pipeline. The president has said he expects to veto the bill if it come in its current form. but some lawmakers say they believe this piece of legislation is necessary.

“Anytime you are expanding any type of pipeline, you want to make sure that the environment is protected. I think they have done more to make exploration safer than they have ever done. So I would support that bill,” said Rep. Walter Jones.

That keystone bill could begin debate before weeks end, showing Congress’ desire to get bills moving out the gridlock they sat in for the last several years.

President Barack Obama took executive action on immigration prior to the end of the last Congress, but members say a long term immigration solution is expected to be discussed by lawmakers in Washington soon.

– Loretta Boniti

New Congressional Members Celebrate Swearing In with Loved Ones

WASHINGTON — As members of Congress were sworn into office Tuesday, many had loved ones at their sides.

When members of Congress are sworn in, there is the first official swearing in on the floor, then a ceremonial private ceremony. It is there that you see time and again the beaming faces holding the Bibles, proud of their loved ones.

For first time Congressman Mark Walker, his father was close by his side. A fellow reverend, and clearly proud father, Jerry Walker Sr. had some advice for his son.

“Well as a dad, just be honest, be truthful, and that when he makes a decision that he knows from his heart that he made the right decision,” said Walker.

Third term Congresswoman Renee Ellmers was joined by her husband, Dr. Brent Ellmers. He looked back at when his wife was first asked to run for the position.

“Well I need to go home and talk it over with my son, and my husband, and go to church and pray about it… and that’s what we did. Of course her first question to me was, ‘If I do this, who’s going to feed the dog?’” said Dr. Brent Ellmers, Rep. Renee Ellmers’ husband.

But for some members of Congress, the luster of this first day of Congress has worn off a bit.

David Price is now the senior member of North Carolina’s delegation, beginning his 14th term in Congress.

For his wife Lisa, she is cheering him on from home in Chapel Hill.

“It’s like going to the White House Christmas party. The first time it was absolutely wonderful…and it’s always enjoyable to go there. And we’ve done this a number of times now, so it isn’t quite as exciting. You get used to everything,” said Lisa Price.

As far as having her husband so far away for so long, she says it is a lifestyle they have become accustomed to.

“We’re just so used to it. To have David not in office, to be retired, that will take some getting used to,” said Price.

– Loretta Boniti

Thom Tillis Sworn in to US Senate Joining Republican Majority

WASHINGTON — North Carolina has a new U.S. Senator.

Republican Thom Tillis was sworn into office on Tuesday in the nation’s capital, joining a new Republican majority in the Senate.

Tillis, 54, joins a freshman class of 13 new U.S. Senators, 12 of them are Republicans.

Tillis says he is excited to get to work in this new Republican controlled Congress. Tillis took his oath of office on Tuesday afternoon with his wife Susan by his side.

After his hard fought and record-breaking expensive campaign to oust Democrat Kay Hagan from the seat, he says he is excited to get to work in Washington.

“One of the overarching top priorities is to be part of a leadership that is going to get the Senate functioning again. Leader McConnell is committed to regular order. What that means to the average person is that we are going to start working again,” said Tillis.

Tillis says he is ready to tackle some of the so-called big issues Congress will be facing: immigration, energy and taxes. But he says he also has a sharp focus on the issues that will affect his constituency.

“From a North Carolina perspective, regulatory reform is still going to be important to me….I serve on the agriculture committee. Armed services is very important to me. I am looking forward to having the first committee and moving forward to armed services. But also veteran affairs is a very important local issue. Being on the committee that oversees the changes that need to be done to support our veterans is something I’m excited about,” said Sen. Tillis.

Meredith College political science Professor David McLennan says he expects that Tillis will quickly become a rising star in Washington, not only because of his leadership from his tenure as North Carolina Speaker of the House, but also because of his stance as a moderate Republican.

“And so I think will be Mitch McConnell’s new go-to guy. In terms of being able to get things done, in terms of being able to think about issues that are conservative issues….So I fully expect Thom Tillis to be perceived as one of the incoming first year, as one of the stars of the class,” said McLennan.

For Tillis, he says he has a steep learning curve to get into the way business is done in Washington but says he is learning as quickly as possible with few surprises along the way.

“I’m surprised I got here. I found the building twice today,” said Sen. Tillis.

Tillis joins many of his colleagues who are expressing optimism heading into this 114th Congress saying they are hopeful it they will be able to ease some of the gridlock they have been facing for many years now.

– Loretta Boniti

Rep. McHenry Gears Up For Leadership Role in 114th Congress

After five terms, Rep. Patrick McHenry, (R) 10th District, was forced to move offices, but this time for good reason: He moved into leadership — fourth in line in the House Republican leadership.

Chief Deputy Majority Whip — it’s not a title your average joe might know—but it’s a big deal. He’s in charge of making sure there are enough votes to pass republican legislation.

“It’s a position of trust, and you’re there to fulfill the goals and objections of the House Republicans, the conservatives here in Washington, and it’s a great honor.” he said.

He’s a rising leader at just 39 years old. Although ambition at a young age is nothing new for McHenry—he ran for the state legislature while still in college, and he was just 29 when first elected to Congress.

Michael Steel, a North Carolina native and spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner says McHenry has a knack for the position.

“He can talk to every member of the House Republican Conference,” Steel said. “That’s a tremendously important skill, and he’s just a very smart guy.”

“His intelligence is not just in the political areas, but in other areas, too,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx, (R) 5th District. “He’s a very smart young man. He’s very pleasant to be around, and so he gets along well with people.”

And McHenry believes his work as Chief Deputy Whip puts North Carolina in a prime position.

“You’re in the room when some decision are being made. That certainly gives your home state, and in my situation, Western North Carolina in particular, an additional voice,” McHenry said.

If he didn’t have enough going on, he has a 4 ½-month-old baby—quite a time for Patrick McHenry.

– Tim Boyum