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Posts tagged ‘Elijah Cummings’

‘Growing Crescendo’ in GOP to Hold Lerner in Contempt


There’s a “growing crescendo” to hold retired IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for her repeated refusal to testify about the tax agency’s targeted scrutiny of tea party groups, one House Oversight Committee member said Wednesday.

In the wake of a contentious less-than-10-minute hearing where Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination — triggering an angry exchange between committee chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa and ranking Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings — North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows said “The American people … want to hold those people accountable.. and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

“There is a growing crescendo that they should hold her in contempt of Congress and the American people get what they deserve,” Meadows told Fox News.

Among the GOP chorus calling for a contempt charge is House Speaker John Boehner.

“She has to testify or she should be held in contempt,” the Ohio Republican said after the hearing, saying he’d wait for a report from Issa.

A contempt vote could lead to a criminal prosecution — and fan the controversy that erupted last year when the agency’s extra scrutiny of tea party-backed nonprofits came to light.

Issa’s committee since then has held five hearings, issued three subpoenas for documents and interviewed IRS officials.

Democrats howled after the hearing, where Cummings had demanded he be given a right to speak before adjournment — but instead had his microphone turned off.

“I am a member of the Congress of the United States of America,” Cummings yelled as Issa dismissed the meeting and cut of microphones. “I am tired of this.

“We have members over here, each who represent 700,000 people. You cannot just have a one-sided investigation. There is absolutely something wrong with that. And, it’s absolutely un-American,” Cummings yelled.

“We had a hearing. We are adjourned. I gave you an opportunity to ask a question. You had no questions,” Issa, a Republican from California, responded.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, slammed Issa for conducting a “witch hunt.”

“What we’re seeing in the House today is a sign of larger dysfunction and partisanship on behalf of Republicans,” Van Hollen told MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown,” according to Politico.

“Darrell Issa has been conducting this political witch hunt for a long time now. He’s frustrated because he hasn’t been able to come up with any evidence of intentional political wrongdoing on the part of the Obama administration, and so he’s getting frustrated and making stuff up.”

Democratic National Committee chair, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, called Issa’s conduct at the Wednesday hearing comparable to oppression in Ukraine and Venezuela, according to Politico, saying she was “stunned” that Issa would try to silence Cummings by cutting off his mic.

Cummings continued speaking for about 10 minutes; Lerner remained seated.

Issa said he’ll decide by next week whether his committee will seek to hold Lerner in contempt.

Lerner first appeared before the committee last May, when she also invoked the Fifth Amendment after maintaining that she was innocent of wrongdoing. The committee determined the following month that Lerner waived her right against self-incrimination by making that statement.

A Treasury inspector general’s report has since determined the IRS had used inappropriate criteria to scrutinize groups, though it found no evidence of a political motivation.

The Justice Department is involved in a criminal probe of the matter.

The IRS has since proposed new rules for handling social welfare groups engaged in political activity, though conservative groups have called them too restrictive.

Bloomberg news contributed to this report

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Wanda Carruthers and Cathy Burke

Rep. Cummings: ‘No Doubt’ Ted Cruz Intends to Run for President.


Republican Sen. Ted Cruz says he’ll likely visit key presidential primary states and be “doing the things a presidential candidate would normally be doing,” says Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings.

Cummings said he has no doubt the fiery Texas lawmaker intends to take a 2016 White House run, though he didn’t explicitly say so, CNN reported Thursday.

Cummings’ talk with the conservative lawmaker came during their flight to Mandela’s Tuesday memorial in South Africa, and was first reported in The Baltimore Sun.

“I asked him, was he going to New Hampshire, was he going to South Carolina, Iowa, and he said he’d probably be going to all of those places and he would be doing the things a presidential candidate would normally be doing,” Cummings said. “He wouldn’t say yes or no, but it was quite clear to me. I have no doubt about it.”

Earlier Thursday, Cummings likened the political fight to implement Obamacare to Mandela’s fight against apartheid, The Hill reported.

“It was an inspirational trip because I had the opportunity to reflect on the amazing changes that one individual, working with determination over a lifetime, can bring to millions of others,” Cummings said in prepared remarks ahead of a House Oversight Committee hearing, The Hill reported.

“There will always be forces aligned against progress, against equality, and against basic human dignity,” he said. “But Nelson Mandela’s life reminds us that our mission on earth is to transcend these destructive forces and always pursue the betterment of our fellow man.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Cathy Burke

AP-GfK Poll: Obama Disapproval Hits 58 Percent.


Heading into a congressional election year, Americans hold Congress in strikingly low regard, and nearly two-thirds say they would like to see their House member replaced, a new poll finds.

Even though Americans are feeling somewhat better about the economy — and their personal finances — elected officials in Washington aren’t benefiting from the improved mood, the Associated PressGfK poll found.

President Barack Obama’s approval rating was negative: 58 percent disapprove of the job he’s doing as president, while 42 percent approve.

Obama isn’t running for office again, however, whereas all 435 House seats and one-third of the Senate’s seats are on the ballot next November. And nearly 9 in 10 adults disapprove of the way lawmakers are handling their jobs.

The low opinions of Congress don’t necessarily signal major power shifts next year in the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate. House Democrats need to gain at least 17 net seats to claim the majority. But many House districts are so solidly liberal or conservative that incumbents can withstand notable drops in popularity and keep their seats.

Republicans hope to gain six Senate seats overall to retake control of that chamber for the last two years of Obama’s presidency.

On one major issue, most Americans continue to favor providing a path to legal status for millions of immigrants living here illegally. Fifty-five percent support it, and 43 percent oppose. The Senate passed a major immigration bill that would provide a legalization path. But the House has sidelined the issue so far.

Despite the relatively low opinions of Congress and Obama, the national mood is not quite as bleak as it was in October, when partisan stalemate led to a 16-day partial government shutdown and fears of a possible default.

More Americans now say things are heading in the right direction and the economy is improving, the AP-GfK poll found. But those figures are still fairly anemic, below 40 percent.

Congressional approval stands at 13 percent, with 86 percent of adults disapproving. That sentiment holds across party lines: 86 percent of Democrats, 88 percent of Republicans and 84 percent of independents disapprove.

Democrats have a slim edge as the party Americans would prefer to control Congress, 39 percent to 33 percent. But a sizable 27 percent say it doesn’t matter who’s in charge.

In a sign of public discontent, 62 percent of registered voters say they’d like someone new to win their congressional district next year, while 37 percent support their incumbent’s re-election.

That’s a worrisome trend for incumbents’ campaigns. Four years ago, polls by NBC News/Wall Street Journal and Marist found fewer than half of Americans wanting their own representative ousted.

When elected officials are dropped from the equation, the public mood brightens a bit, the new poll found. The share of adults saying things in this country are heading in the right direction has climbed 12 percentage points since the government shutdown, to 34 percent. Still, almost twice as many, 66 percent, say things are heading the wrong way.

Independents, who can be crucial in general elections when persuaded to vote, share the modestly growing optimism. Whereas 82 percent of independents said the country was headed in the wrong direction in October, the number now is 69 percent.

Ratings of the economy have also improved since October. Still, 68 percent of adults say the U.S. economy is in bad shape, down slightly from 73 percent in October.

More adults now say they expect improvement in their household’s financial standing in the coming year: 30 percent, compared with 24 percent in October. More also say it’s a good time to make major purchases, although the number is an unimpressive 19 percent.

Megan Barnes of Columbia, Md., is among those who see an uptick in their own finances but give scant credit to politicians.

“I think the economy seems to be fairly stable, and for my family in the future, it’s going to be OK,” said Barnes, 32, a stay-at-home mom married to a software engineer.

She said she strongly disapproves of Congress and leans toward disapproval of Obama.

In Congress, Barnes said, “I’d like to see people put their jobs on the line to get things done, and not worry about the next election.” A moderate Republican, Barnes said she would like to see someone replace her congressman, Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings.

As for Obama, she said it’s troubling that he seemed to know little about the National Security Agency’s spying on international allies or the serious problems in the rollout of his sweeping health care law. “He also doesn’t seem to really work with the Congress a lot, even with his own party, to build consensus and get things done,” Barnes said.

Americans have grown skeptical of some of the personal attributes the president relied on to win re-election in 2012. The new poll finds just 41 percent think he’s decisive, 44 percent see him as strong and 45 percent call him inspiring. On honesty, he’s lost ground since October. Now, 56 percent say the word “honest” does not describe Obama well.

Nearly half of American adults have an unfavorable impression of Obama, and 46 percent have a favorable impression.

The AP-GfK Poll was conducted Dec. 5-9 using KnowledgePanel, GfK’s probability-based online panel. It involved online interviews with 1,367 adults. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for all respondents.

Using probability sampling methods, KnowledgePanel is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Respondents to the survey were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods and were later interviewed for this survey online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided with the ability to access the Internet at no cost to them.

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Online: AP-GfK Poll: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com .

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Associated Press News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Democrats, Obama Head into 2014 in Disarray.


A month after emerging from a government shutdown at the top of their game, many Democrats in Congress newly worried about the party’s re-election prospects are for the first time distancing themselves from President Barack Obama after the disastrous rollout of his health care overhaul.

At issue, said several Obama allies, is a loss of trust in the president after only 106,000 people — instead of an anticipated half million — were able to buy insurance coverage the first month of the new “Obamacare” web sites. In addition, some 4.2 million Americans received notices from insurers that policies Obama had promised they could keep were being canceled.

“Folks are now, I think in talking to members, more cautious with regard to dealing with the president,” said Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the senior Democrat on the House Oversight Committee and one of the first leaders in his state to endorse Obama’s presidential candidacy six year ago.

Cummings, the White House’s biggest defender in a Republican-controlled committee whose agenda is waging war against the administration over Benghazi, the IRS scandal, a gun-tracking operation and now health care, said he still thinks Obama is operating with integrity. But he noted that not all his Democratic colleagues agree.

“They want to make sure that everything possible is being done to, number one, be transparent, (two) fix this website situation and, three, to restore trust,” Cummings said.

Rep. William Lacey Clay, D-Mo., like Cummings, a prominent member of the Congressional Black Caucus who personally likes Obama, struggled to describe the state of play between congressional Democrats and the president.

“I am trying to think if you can call it a relationship at this point,” he said.

Clay said the administration is now obligated to “fix it, fix all of it” after Obama apologized this month for both the insurance website problems and his earlier promises that people could keep their old polices. Otherwise, he said, “a wide brush will be used to paint us all as incompetent and ineffective.”

Obama is now allowing insurance companies to reissue their canceled policies for another year. But “Obamacare’s” problems have left Democrats vulnerable to an orchestrated assault by Republicans who six weeks ago were on the losing end of the government shutdown.

The political body language tells the story of the strain. Thirty-nine House Democrats in Obama’s party defied the president’s veto threat and voted for a GOP-sponsored bill to permit the sale of individual health coverage that falls short of requirements in the law.

“I think people want to have a little more transparency going forward with whoever is implementing the website and other elements,” said Jeff Link, senior adviser to Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley, who is running for Senate and voted for both the original health care law and the GOP-sponsored House bill this month. “If demanding that kind of transparency means lack of trust,” he added delicately, “then I think people probably would like to have had more transparency.”

Across the Capitol, several swing-state Senate Democrats have signed onto legislation to further weaken the health care law. Sponsored by Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, who’s facing a tough re-election challenge, the bill would require insurance companies to permanently continue selling policies that the law deems substandard. Landrieu herself skipped an event with Obama earlier this month when he appeared at the Port of New Orleans. She said she had a long-standing engagement elsewhere in the state, which Obama lost last year by 17 points.

Repairing the relationship between Obama and his allies may be as complex as fixing the website and health care law. Much rests on rebuilding trust with the public, a solid majority of which now opposes “Obamacare,” according to multiple polls. Both parties will be watching on Saturday to see whether the vast majority of those who try to sign up for policies on the website will succeed, as Obama has promised. Democrats have urged the administration to quit setting “red lines” like the Nov. 30 deadline, that carry the risk of being broken.

Nearly a year from the midterm election, Republicans in both chambers are launching a drive to link virtually every congressional Democrat to Obamacare. In the House, the effort, based around dozens of votes to repeal the law, is about denying Democrats the 17-seat gain they would need to win back the majority. In the Senate, it’s about gaining the six seats Republicans need to take control of that chamber.

“So you’re running on Obamacare,” read a faux tip sheet from House Republicans to House Democrats that went out over the holiday week. “The best thing to do,” it advises Democratic lawmakers in 28 districts, “is step in front of the cameras and explain to voters why government should run their health care.”

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, showed notable discipline last week when they complained loudly about the Democrats’ new limits on filibusters — then pivoted in as little as one sentence back to “Obamacare.”

The filibuster limits, said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, can be chalked up to “broken promises, double standards and raw power — the same playbook that got us Obamacare.”

Democratic leaders scoff at the notion that missed deadlines and other problems could threaten the party’s prospects 11 months down the road. A similar budget-and-debt fight that sparked the shutdown and smacked Republicans last month looms early next year, they point out. There is time, they insist, for the law to begin working as intended and to help elevate the Democrats’ political prospects.

“Yesterday’s battles and today’s battles and tomorrow’s battles create different environments,” said House Democratic campaign chief Steve Israel, D-N.Y. Independent voters, the keys to elections in the most competitive districts in the country, are pragmatic, he added. “They want the Affordable Care Act not to be repealed, but to be fixed. They don’t want to go back, they want to go forward.”
© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Rep. Issa: Democrats Leave Benghazi Hearing Before Testimonies From Family.


House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa tweeted a photo of empty seats in his committee’s meeting room on Thursday after a number of Democrats apparently decided to skip the testimony of families of victims killed in the 2012 assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.

The California Republican tweeted:

According to the website Townhall, ranking member Elijah Cummings and Rep. Jackie Speier were the only Democrats who stayed for the testimony.

Editor’s Note: Should ObamaCare Be Defunded? Vote in Urgent National Poll 

Republicans and Democrats have been waging a political battle over Benghazi since militants linked to al-Qaida affiliates attacked U.S. diplomatic outposts and killed Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans just over a year ago.

Republicans say the attacks exposed security lapses that must be addressed. Some also accuse Democrats of a cover-up to protect President Barack Obama as he ran for re-election, and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, considered a leading 2016 Democratic presidential candidate.

Democrats contend the incident was the type of tragedy that happens in a dangerous world. They say House Republicans are spending time and energy on Benghazi while ignoring issues like legislation to prevent a pending government shutdown.

Issa said on Fox News on Wednesday that he may call Clinton back to Washington to testify on Benghazi.

Issa’s committee and a House Armed Services held separate Benghazi-related hearings on Thursday.

Reuters contributed to this report.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Paul Scicchitano

House Report: Hillary’s Benghazi Probe Let Top Officials Off Hook.


The State Department probe into the attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, was not independent and failed to hold top officials accountable, according to the House Oversight Committee‘s report scheduled for release on Monday.

Various media outlets obtained embargoed copies of the 100-page report on Sunday, including The Daily Beast.

The Administrative Review Board appointed by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blamed four mid-level State Department officials while ignoring the roles of officials at the highest level of the department.

The four mid-level employees were placed on paid leave, never told why, and later given new job assignments within the department.

But “the ARB blamed systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies within two bureaus, but downplayed the importance of decisions made at senior levels of the Department. Witnesses questioned how much these decisions influenced the weaknesses that led to the inadequate security posture in Benghazi,” the House committee‘s report said.

“The ARB’s decision to cite certain officials as accountable for what happened in Benghazi appears to have been based on factors that had little or no connection to the security posture at U.S. diplomatic facilities in Libya.”

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., heads up the committee releasing the report.

The report questions why Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy was never blamed or disciplined even though he admitted to having a role in denying repeated requests for added security at the post before it was attacked on Sept. 11, 2012.

“The haphazard decision to place the four officials cited by the ARB on paid administrative leave created the appearance that former Secretary Hillary Clinton’s decision to announce action against the individuals named in the ARB report was more of a public relations strategy than a measured response to a tragedy,” the report said.

“Therefore, one year after the Benghazi attacks, no one at the State Department has been fired for their role leading up to the Benghazi attacks. It appears increasingly likely the Department’s primary objective was to create the public appearance of accountability,” the report continued.

The report questions Clinton’s own awareness of possible role in the department’s missteps that contributed to attack. The committee said the probe was rushed, taking only 10 weeks.

Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Douglas Franz told The Daily Beast on Sunday that Issa’s committee was playing politics with Benghazi, and that the ARB had cooperated fully with Issa’s investigation.

“In fact, it set a new standard for transparency measured by tens of thousands of pages of documents turned over to Congress, testimony in public and closed hearings and a declassified report for the public,” Franz told Fox News. “To suggest anything has been hidden or that accountability has been averted requires willful ignorance of these facts.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the lead Democrat on the committee, also defended the ARB report, telling CBS News the ARB conducted “one of the most comprehensive reviews in history.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Greg Richter

Amash: Obama ‘Embellishing’ His Case Against Syria.


The Obama administration is embellishing its case to take action in Syria, Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash claimed Sunday, saying there is “overwhelming disapproval” among his constituents and most other Americans against the president’s call for military strikes.

“I think that there are some things being embellished in public statements,” Amash said on CBS’Face the Nation” Sunday. “The evidence is not as strong as the public statements that the president and his administration have been making.”

Story continues below.

And while White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said earlier in the program that “nobody” is disputing the evidence that Assad’s regime was responsible for chemical attacks that killed more than 1,400 civilians in Damascus, Amash said he takes issue with the public statements from the Obama administration.

“The briefings haven’t given me comfort,” Amash said. “[They] make me more skeptical about the situation.”

Further, the Michigan lawmaker said, his constituents overwhelmingly disapprove of taking action in Syria.

Amash said that after the president made his announcement to seek Congressional approval of strategic strikes against the Syrian government, his office sponsored a series of town hall meetings.

“Eleven meetings in two days, and what I saw was astonishing,” he said. “What I saw was not just disapproval of war, it was overwhelming…you really have to take that very seriously.”

Amash said that lawmakers need to keep their constituents’ wishes in mind, which will make a statement about democracy overseas as well.

Meanwhile, Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings said that while 77 percent of his district voted for President Barack Obama, that support doesn’t extend to military action in Syria, and the president has a long way to go to convince people.

“He has to come in front of Congress and the nation,” said Cummings, who remains undecided over whether he backs the president’s call for action. “When you ask Congress to be involved, you’re also asking our constituents.”

He noted that Obama “is being held to a higher standard, the reason being Iraq,” and war-weary constituents don’t want the country to become involved in a similar situation.

Meanwhile, Cummings said he plans to look at more limited plans for involvement that may come through the House before he decides how he’ll vote.

“If we go in and find ourselves mired in a civil war, what do we do?” he said.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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