Facing First Whip Test, Scalise Gets Good Marks So Far on Border Bill

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 19: U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) (L) speaks to members of the media as Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) (R) listens after a leadership election at a House Republican Conference meeting June 19, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. House GOPs have picked Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as the new House majority leader and Scalise as the new majority whip. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
National Journal
Billy House and Tim Alberta
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Billy House Tim Alberta
July 29, 2014, 6 p.m.

Steve Scal­ise doesn’t form­ally take over as ma­jor­ity whip un­til Thursday, but some House Re­pub­lic­ans say he’s already de­liv­er­ing on his twin cam­paign prom­ises of bring­ing con­ser­vat­ives in­to the fold and con­sult­ing mem­bers on the front end of the poli­cy­mak­ing pro­cess.

After win­ning last month’s spe­cial elec­tion, the Louisi­ana Re­pub­lic­an will of­fi­cially suc­ceed Kev­in Mc­Carthy as the House GOP’s No. 3 at week’s end — just in time for law­makers to head home for their five-week sum­mer re­cess. Thursday’s ex­pec­ted vote on emer­gency fund­ing to deal with the south­ern bor­der crisis rep­res­ents the first real test for Scal­ise and his vote-count­ing op­er­a­tion. Some on the party’s right flank re­main un­happy with the meas­ure, and suc­cess is not cer­tain un­til the votes are tal­lied. But so far, Scal­ise’s col­leagues say he is hit­ting the right notes.

The bor­der bill, which car­ries a $659 mil­lion price tag to fin­ance a num­ber of se­cur­ity and hu­man­it­ari­an mis­sions through the end of the fisc­al year, is ex­pec­ted to pass the House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives on Thursday. And, if some op­tim­ist­ic Re­pub­lic­ans are cor­rect, they may not even need Demo­crat­ic votes to push them over the fin­ish line. If that hap­pens, they say, much of the cred­it should go to Scal­ise, who last week met with scores of mem­bers and took their in­put back to his lead­er­ship team to help craft a pass­able bill.

“They seemed genu­inely in­ter­ested in find­ing a bill that 218 Re­pub­lic­ans could sup­port. And that just tickles me pink,” Rep. Cyn­thia Lum­mis of Wyom­ing said of Scal­ise and his new whip team. “I have felt that in the past, le­gis­la­tion was draf­ted in the bowels of lead­er­ship, brought to the floor, and they just said, ‘Hold your nose.’ … I felt this was one of the first really sin­cere ef­forts that I’ve seen from lead­er­ship, reach­ing out to try first to get Re­pub­lic­ans on board.”

Lum­mis, who said she spent nearly six hours last week in meet­ings with Scal­ise and his lieu­ten­ants, was thrilled when she saw her con­cerns ad­dressed dur­ing the un­veil­ing of the bill at Tues­day morn­ing’s con­fer­ence meet­ing. In fact, she took the mi­cro­phone in the meet­ing and thanked the lead­er­ship team — Scal­ise, in par­tic­u­lar — for en­cour­aging a bot­tom-up ap­proach in craft­ing the bor­der bill.

“That was the sense you heard from people: ‘I like this pro­cess,’ ” said Rep. Aaron Schock, a seni­or mem­ber of Scal­ise’s whip team. “It wasn’t lead­er­ship say­ing, ‘Here’s a bill; now fall in line.’ It was, ‘Hey, guys, what do you want to see?’ And then the bill was draf­ted.”

Schock ad­ded, “Steve prom­ised a change in pro­cess dur­ing the whip’s race. And that’s ex­actly what happened with this bill…. And at the end of the day, the pro­cess of listen­ing first and then draft­ing the le­gis­la­tion is one that we should look to on a con­tinu­al basis.”

But des­pite the early pos­it­ive re­views, it was un­clear on Tues­day af­ter­noon just how many Re­pub­lic­ans were on board — and how much work was left for Scal­ise to do.

Holed-up in a private room in the Cap­it­ol base­ment, clustered around a table as staffers looked on, Scal­ise and his whip team as­sessed their pro­gress in selling a bill that car­ries plenty of po­ten­tial land mines. But bey­ond its policy and polit­ic­al im­plic­a­tions, shep­herd­ing the meas­ure through to pas­sage also rep­res­ents a maid­en voy­age, of sorts, for Scal­ise, his chief deputy whip, Patrick McHenry, and their seni­or whip team.

That, even as there was some hes­it­a­tion to ac­know­ledge own­er­ship of the le­gis­la­tion’s fate.

“We don’t of­fi­cially be­come whip un­til Thursday,” Scal­ise said on his way in­to the meet­ing, re­fer­ring to the fact that, tech­nic­ally, Mc­Carthy and his old whip team are in place un­til mid­night Thursday. That’s when Mc­Carthy of­fi­cially moves up to the of­fice of ma­jor­ity lead­er, and Scal­ise takes over as whip.

“But we’ll be cer­tainly help with it,” Scal­ise said of the bor­der bill.

McHenry was more def­in­ite, though, when asked mo­ments later if this le­gis­la­tion rep­res­ents Team Scal­ise’s first real rodeo. “Yeah, I’d say it is,” said McHenry, as he opened the door to HC-8, and dis­ap­peared in­side to join the closed-door strategiz­ing.

The emer­gency pack­age is scaled down from the ver­sion dis­cussed at last week’s con­fer­ence meet­ing — the res­ult, Re­pub­lic­ans said, of Scal­ise’s meet­ings with mem­bers who were un­com­fort­able with the dol­lar amount and time­frame ini­tially pro­posed.

“Lead­er­ship has listened to us from last week, and I think the ma­jor­ity of my col­leagues sup­port it now,” said Rep. Tim Wal­berg of Michigan. Speak­ing of Scal­ise’s bap­tism by fire mov­ing in­to the whip’s job, Wal­berg ad­ded: “He’s got some people on his side, like Raul Lab­rador; that says something about the work he’s done.”

In­deed, lead­ing con­ser­vat­ives such as Lab­rador and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio are sup­port­ing Scal­ise’s ef­forts, re­mov­ing some of the re­li­able road­b­locks of op­pos­i­tion to lead­er­ship-sponsored ini­ti­at­ives.

Still, not every­one is sold. Some con­ser­vat­ives are un­happy that the pack­age does not in­clude lan­guage re­peal­ing Pres­id­ent Obama’s ex­ec­ut­ive or­der on De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals, or DACA. Without ad­dress­ing this, those law­makers warn, Re­pub­lic­ans will be ig­nor­ing the root of the cur­rent crisis at the bor­der.

“The thing that brought this calam­ity to­geth­er was the DACA memor­andum,” said Rep. John Flem­ing of Louisi­ana. “And that’s not even be­ing ad­dressed here.”

What would be ad­dressed are the Re­pub­lic­an pri­or­it­ies of bor­der se­cur­ity and hu­man­it­ari­an as­sist­ance. About two-thirds of the funds would be al­loc­ated for se­cur­ity pur­poses — de­ploy­ing the Na­tion­al Guard, in­creas­ing the num­ber of de­ten­tion beds, and adding more tem­por­ary judges to speed up chil­dren’s cases. About one-third of the money would go to the Health and Hu­man Ser­vices De­part­ment to provide hu­man­it­ari­an re­lief.

From a policy per­spect­ive, the pack­age is a trimmed-down ver­sion of the pro­pos­al offered last week by GOP Rep. Kay Granger of Texas and her work­ing group. This meas­ure will in­clude ex­ped­ited re­mov­al pro­ceed­ings with more judges, tweaks to a 2008 traf­fick­ing law so chil­dren from non-con­tigu­ous coun­tries are treated the same as those from Mex­ico and Canada, and re­pat­ri­ation ef­forts with Cent­ral Amer­ica’s North­ern Tri­angle, Granger told re­port­ers Tues­day.

These policy points read like a check­list of what many con­ser­vat­ives said they needed to see in or­der to ap­prove an emer­gency pack­age this week be­fore de­part­ing for the an­nu­al Au­gust re­cess. Be­cause of that, the bill ap­pears poised to clear the lower cham­ber without the as­sist­ance of any Demo­crat­ic votes. With 433 vot­ing mem­bers cur­rently in the House, 217 yeas are needed for pas­sage. Re­pub­lic­ans hold 234 seats, mean­ing that GOP lead­ers can lose up to 17 of their mem­bers and still ap­prove the meas­ure without aid from across the aisle.

But im­mig­ra­tion hard-liners in the con­fer­ence aren’t go­ing down quietly. Rep. Steve King of Iowa com­plained that Scal­ise’s team has made no ef­fort to lobby for his vote. “Of the things I’ve asked for, I don’t see any of them,” King said. “I want the money to go dir­ectly to the states. I read the bill; it doesn’t do that. I want to cut off the fund­ing to DACA. It doesn’t do that — it lets the pres­id­ent con­tin­ue.”

But Scal­ise’s de­cision to ig­nore King speaks to the shrewd­ness of his whip­ping op­er­a­tion: not wast­ing time on mem­bers who can’t be con­vinced. By fo­cus­ing on the per­suad­able mem­bers of his con­fer­ence — and em­phas­iz­ing that in­put will be wel­comed from the con­ser­vat­ive rank and file — the in­com­ing whip seems to have hit the ground run­ning and in­spired a here­to­fore un­seen op­tim­ism among his col­leagues.

“It was un­pre­ced­en­ted the way this was handled. And it just happened to co­in­cide with Mr. Scal­ise tak­ing the reins of the whip team,” Lum­mis said. Asked wheth­er that could be co­in­cid­ent­al, she replied: “Not at all.”

Rachel Roubein contributed to this article.
What We're Following See More »
BOON TO PROSECUTORS
SCOTUS Rules that Insider Trading Can’t Be “Gifted”
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

In a unanimous decision, "the Supreme Court on Tuesday said it violates insider-trading laws for a corporate officer to make a “gift” of insider information to a relative, a decision that makes it easier for those who police Wall Street to bring prosecutions."

Source:
EFFORT LIKELY TO DIE IN COMMITTEE
Jordan Can’t Force a Floor Vote on Impeaching Koskinen
9 hours ago
THE LATEST
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan attempted to force a floor vote on impeaching IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, but "the House voted overwhelmingly to refer it to the Judiciary Committee. ... The committee will not be required to take up the resolution." Earlier, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi "made a motion to table the resolution, which the House voted against by a 180-235 margin, mostly along party lines."
Source:
AFTER THE VOTE FOR SPEAKER
Ryan: No Committee Assignments Until New Year
14 hours ago
THE DETAILS

House Speaker Paul Ryan has decreed that House members "won’t receive their committee assignments until January — after they cast a public vote on the House floor for speaker. "The move has sparked behind-the-scenes grumbling from a handful of Ryan critics, who say the delay allows him and the Speaker-aligned Steering Committee to dole out committee assignments based on political loyalty rather than merit or expertise." The roll call to elect the speaker is set for Jan. 3, the first vote of the new Congress.

Source:
EXPECTED TO FUND THE GOVERNMENT THROUGH SPRING
Funding Bill To Be Released Tuesday
1 days ago
THE LATEST

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters on Monday that the government funding bill will be released on Tuesday. The bill is the last piece of legislation Congress needs to pass before leaving for the year and is expected to fund the government through the spring. The exact time date the bill would fund the government through is unclear, though it is expected to be in April or May.

Source:
IT’S OFFICIAL
Trump to Nominate Carson to Lead HUD
1 days ago
THE LATEST

As has been rumored for a week, Donald Trump will nominate Ben Carson, his former rival, to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In a statement, Trump said, "We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities. Ben shares my optimism about the future of our country and is part of ensuring that this is a Presidency representing all Americans. He is a tough competitor and never gives up."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login