Pelosi says there is ‘interest’ in House in acting against Rep. Steve King

Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday left open the possibility of House action to punish Rep. Steve King over his history of inflammatory remarks as the Iowa Republican’s recent defense of white nationalism created a firestorm.

King, who won a ninth term in Congress in November, lamented in an interview with the New York Times that the term had become a pejorative one.

White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King said in the interview, which was published Thursday.

King later issued a statement and addressed the issue in a speech on the House floor Friday in which he sought to walk back his remarks. He said he rejects “those labels and the evil ideology that they define” and proclaimed himself “simply a Nationalist.”

A number of Democrats are calling on House leaders to consider a resolution to censure King, a vote that would put Republicans on record.

.. King’s interview prompted a rebuke from Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 Republican in the House, who said in a tweet Thursday morning, “These comments are abhorrent and racist and should have no place in our national discourse.”

She was soon followed by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who told reporters in a pen-and-pad that it was “offensive to try to legitimize those terms.” But Scalise also praised King’s later statement.

“I think it was important that he rejected that kind of evil, because that’s what it is. It’s evil ideology,” Scalise said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also issued a statement Thursday evening in which he sharply criticized King’s comments to the Times.

“Everything about white supremacy and white nationalism goes against who we are as a nation,” McCarthy said. “Steve’s language is reckless, wrong, and has no place in our society. The Declaration of Independence states that ‘all men are created equal.’ That is a fact. It is self-evident.”

Both McCarthy and Scalise were silent in October when asked for comment on incendiary remarks King had made then. At the time, Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), then the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, was the only member of House GOP leadership to rebuke King. (Cheney had not yet been elected to her position as conference chair.)

The Minority Leader’s Only Job

House Republicans are about to discover the pain of irrelevance.

Mr. McCarthy is no policy wonk, preferring to focus on the electoral details of winning seats. That’s more important than policy when you’re in the minority since the media won’t report what the GOP proposes in any case. House Republicans can play important roles in defending Trump Administration officials, when warranted, against Democratic excess.

But the first—the only—job of a House minority is to become a majority. Their best chance will be 2020 when freshman Democrats are most vulnerable as they run for re-election the first time. Defeat enough of them and Mr. McCarthy could be Mr. Speaker.

The Paul Ryan Difference

The Speaker’s career shows the power of ideas in politics.

His policy chops and listening skills helped rally the fractious GOP House into a governing majority rather than merely an opposition to Barack Obama. They developed the “Better Way” reform platform in 2016, and in this Congress they’ve passed most of it through the House and much into law.

.. The irony is that Mr. Ryan has become a target of the populist and Trump right though few in Congress have fought harder or longer for conservative reform.

.. The reason the New York Times and Washington Post loathe him is precisely because he takes ideas seriously and can persuade his colleagues. That makes him far more of a threat to the left than is any talk-radio host.

.. But entitlement reform is inevitable given the fiscal realities, and Mr. Ryan’s ideas are still a roadmap for the future.

.. They have railed against Mr. Ryan as a totem of “the establishment,” which was always more epithet than argument. Mr. Ryan knows that the point of politics is to win power to pass your agenda, not remain in feckless opposition to the supposedly unreformable entitlement state.

.. Mr. Ryan has already raised $54 million in campaign cash for his fellow Members this Congress, and their fate is tied far more to Donald Trump’s approval rating than to Mr. Ryan’s candidacy.

.. Win or lose in November, Republicans will have to find a leader who can lead their conference. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and whip Steve Scalise are the main early contenders. Both are known more for their electoral skills than policy knowledge.

.. Now is also the moment for the Freedom Caucus to step up. North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows is never short of suggestions for the leadership. How about trying to actually lead? Run for Majority Leader and show if you have the votes for a way forward that is more productive than being a critic on cable.

.. Paul Ryan developed his views about an optimistic, governing conservatism in the Jack Kemp-Ronald Reagan era, and he worked in the vineyards to find his moment.

Mueller Owes It to Prosecutors Nationwide, and to His Own Cases, to Uphold Justice Department Standards

Mueller’s tactic of charging sensational offenses and pleading them down to comparatively trivial crimes flouts guidelines that are prescribed in the U.S. Attorney’s Manual and that are followed by responsible U.S. attorneys’ offices.

.. the plea deal of Richard Gates, who faced two indictments alleging financial-fraud felonies involving over $100 million in the aggregate, but was permitted to plead guilty to minor charges

.. Kerr’s description of my claim that Mueller is “breaking the rules” suggests that I’ve accused the special counsel of violating the law. No, I’ve accused him of abusing his discretion.

That this is not actionable does not make it right.

.. A defendant should be required to plead guilty to “the most serious readily provable” offense charged

.. The “most serious readily provable” standard applies to plea agreements regardless of whether cooperation is in the mix.

.. Requiring such a guilty plea not only ensures that the defendant is held appropriately accountable and is not given favorable treatment in comparison to others similarly situated; a plea to “the most serious readily provable charge” also makes the defendant a more compelling cooperating witness. By contrast, failing to require a plea to the most serious offense degrades the defendant’s testimony, which is usually offered to prove against other defendants the same serious offense on which the cooperating defendant has been given a pass.

Trump Stuns GOP by Dealing With Democrats on Debt, Harvey Aid

However, Mr. Trump’s decision to align with Democrats over the objections of GOP leaders and a member of his cabinet is likely to inflame tensions between the president and his fellow Republicans. Just hours earlier, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) had called Democrats’ proposal to combine Harvey aid and a three-month debt limit increase “ridiculous” and “unworkable.”

Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said it was “terrible” for Mr. Trump to undercut his fellow Republicans, particularly when their partisan adversaries were witnesses to it. “The president should not do that,” Mr. Lott, a Republican, said. “It is embarrassing to Republican leadership and it shows a split.”

.. During the Oval Office meeting,

  • Mr. Ryan,
  • Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.),
  • House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) and
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

all pushed for a longer suspension of the debt limit increase, according to people briefed on the meeting, with Mr. Trump cutting off Mr. Mnuchin at one point.

Rep. Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.), a longtime Trump ally on Capitol Hill, told reporters on Air Force One Wednesday evening that he “gasped” when he heard about the deal. “In fact, I sought clarification when the president told us before the flight,” Mr. Cramer said. “When we received that confirmation, I said, ‘wow.’ I was at a dinner last night where that was not in anybody’s dream.”
.. Republicans initially advocated for an 18-month extension, pushing the next vote on the debt limit until after next year’s midterm elections. When Democratic leaders, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, rejected that, the GOP leaders suggested a six-month extension.

With congressional leaders at a standstill, they planned to agree to disagree, according to a person briefed on the meeting. Instead, the president accepted the deal from Democrats and later singled out only those two leaders in announcing the deal. “We had a very good meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer,” he said.

.. But privately, Senate Republican aides said the deal registered as a rebuke, following a stormy summer

.. Mr. Trump picked a sensitive subject on which to take his stand Wednesday. Republicans have made addressing debt and deficits a cornerstone of their governing philosophy.

Former House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) was vilified by conservatives for his budget and debt limit deals with President Barack Obama, a Democrat, which helped build pressure leading to Mr. Boehner’s resignation in September 2015.

The prospect of having to vote again in three months to raise the borrowing limit—and to do so less than a year before the 2018 elections, and at a time when Democrats will seek to extract concessions on must-pass items like a new spending bill—represented a major concession, some GOP lawmakers said. “The Pelosi-Schumer-Trump deal is bad,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) said in a statement.

..  “We very, very poorly deal with our finances and we’re heading ourselves into a fiscal crisis,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) told reporters Wednesday.

.. Mr. Sessions said he strongly preferred a longer time line for the debt limit and said the next vote in December would be harder. “He is new to the negotiation,” Mr. Sessions said of the president. “Experience teaches you that it’s not this vote that’s the hardest. The next one is.”

.. Democrats had said Wednesday that their offer was designed in part to maintain their leverage in other negotiations over issues including health care and Mr. Trump’s decision Tuesday to end after six months an Obama-era program that shields undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as children.

y House majority leader to colleagues in 2016: ‘I think Putin pays’ Trump

A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016, exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.

.. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.

Before the conversation, McCarthy and Ryan had emerged from separate talks at the Capitol with Ukrainian Prime Minister Vladi­mir Groysman, who had described a Kremlin tactic of financing populist politicians to undercut Eastern European democratic institutions.

.. Some of the lawmakers laughed at McCarthy’s comment. Then McCarthy quickly added: “Swear to God.”

Ryan instructed his Republican lieutenants to keep the conversation private, saying: “No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here.”

.. Evan McMullin, who in his role as policy director to the House Republican Conference participated in the June 15 conversation, said: “It’s true that Majority Leader McCarthy said that he thought candidate Trump was on the Kremlin’s payroll. Speaker Ryan was concerned about that leaking.”

.. After being told that The Post would cite a recording of the exchange, Buck, speaking for the GOP House leadership, said: “This entire year-old exchange was clearly an attempt at humor.

.. Among GOP leaders in the House, McCarthy stood out as a Putin critic who in 2015 called for the imposition of “more severe” sanctions for its actions in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea.