Tuesday, February 7

Guilty, Guilty, Guilty: Fortenberry’s three felonies- POLITICO


With an assist from Sarah Ferris, from Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

CONVICTED — While House Republicans preach unity and staying away from scandal down in Florida, one of their own was convicted last night on three felony counts.

A federal jury in Los Angeles found Nebraska Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry guilty of three felonies for lying to the FBI about his knowledge of an illegal $30,000 campaign contribution from a foreign national. The nine-term congressman faces a possible prison sentence of up to five years on each count, as well as fines. He’ll be sentenced on June 28.

Can you hear me now? Fortenberry’s defense argued that he might have had a poor phone connection or been distracted when he was told about the source of the funds in a 2018 phone call. He did not take the stand in his own defense. Josh Gerstein and Myah Ward have more: GOP Rep. Jeff Fortenberry convicted of lying to FBI

What to watch: The last few House members to be convicted on felony charges resigned their seats, not waiting for the House to move toward expulsion proceedings. Expulsion requires a two-thirds vote in the House and is exceedingly rare. (More on what happens with a vacancy below.)

Members convicted of felonies are instructed by House Rules not to vote on the House floor. Fortenberry had already given up his committee assignments, in adherence to a “step aside” rule in the House GOP Conference rules for members who face federal indictment. With the jury’s decision, he won’t be eligible for reinstatement.

After the verdict, Fortenberry promised to appeal and said he would be reviewing whether to continue his reelection bid, per Paul Hammel at the Nebraska Examiner“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”https://nebraskaexaminer.com/2022/03/24/u-s-rep-fortenberry-found-guilty-of-three-felonies-in-stunning-and-swift-jury-verdict/”,”_id”:”0000017f-c112-d6a8-adff-f7db46580002″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-c112-d6a8-adff-f7db46580003″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>per Paul Hammel at the Nebraska Examiner. Keep an eye on Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) who testified on Fortenberry’s behalf, telling jurors she considered him “honest” and “honorable.”

FROM VENERATED TO VACANT — Whether through death, resignation or expulsion, the fate of a House congressional office without its elected member is up to someone you might not expect: the House Clerk.

The clerk is taking control“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”https://clerk.house.gov/member_info/vacancies/vacant-office-press-release-AK00.pdf”,”_id”:”0000017f-c112-d6a8-adff-f7db46580004″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-c112-d6a8-adff-f7db46580005″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>is taking control of Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young’s office after his sudden death last week, leaving the Last Frontier without its sole House representative. And it’s just the most recent vacated seat that has handed significant representation power to the clerk.

“We are now left with a hole the size of Alaska in our congressional delegation,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said on the Senate floor this week.

Just the facts: Under House rules, the office of the clerk “shall supervise the staff and manage the office of a Member … in the event that a vacancy is declared by the House in any congressional district.” The clerk is authorized to terminate employees and, with the approval of the House Administration Committee, appoint staff as required to operate the office. (That has gotten messy in recent years“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”https://rollcall.com/2019/12/13/try-again-lofgren-rejects-house-clerks-eyebrow-raising-choice”,”_id”:”0000017f-c112-d6a8-adff-f7db46580006″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-c112-d6a8-adff-f7db46580007″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>gotten messy in recent years.)

Murkowski told Huddle that her team has already taken steps to get involved and take on some of the burden felt by Young’s team. Constituents are entitled to services from Congress even though their representation has lapsed.

“It’s hard. It’s very hard. And it’s not anything you would ever want to have to do but our team is stepping in helping all of their staff,” said Murkowski. “We’re working on all aspects of what they can’t do now. Which again is very hard because I think everyone wants to be there to help Alaskans. We’re all doubling down and just doing more, so we’re gonna have to work really hard.”

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Nonpartisan mode: Under this “interim vacant” status, there’s no voting authority. Alaskans won’t have a vote in the House until a successor is elected. Similarly, an office under the clerk’s supervision won’t pursue a legislative agenda and is supposed to operate on a nonpartisan basis. If constituents call with questions, they can’t speculate or offer views on legislation, just general info about a bill’s status.

Staff situation: It is enshrined in law that staff for a deceased member, including Young’s team, will be paid as usual until a successor is elected. Young’s staff can keep helping constituents with federal issues, including working with executive branch agencies to sort out common issues like Veterans’ benefits or Social Security. They aren’t allowed to participate in the campaign to replace their late boss.

Young’s nameplate remains outside his spacious Rayburn office, with a large black and white portrait of the late congressman, with the words “Congressman For All Alaska”. But in the coming days or weeks Young’s name will be replaced with a sign that just says “Office of the Alaska Congressional District.”

TGIF! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this Friday, March 25, where we want to know how your office is prepping for tours returning. Your Huddle host is all ears.

HOUSE GOP READY TO DITCH OBSTRUCTION YEARS? — Former GOP Speaker Newt Gingrich was one of the GOP’s few guest speakers in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. this week, where Sarah and Olivia have set up shop. But his message — and the GOP’s vision, generally — has changed a lot since the scorched-earth years of the 90s. Instead, House Republicans are spending their time doing a lot more brainstorming about what they should bring to the floor, rather than what they should block.

House Republicans have spent months drafting their policy wishlist, tackling issues like border security, energy production, inflation. Ultimately, though, the fate of their “grand plan” may be up to a small faction of their GOP conference, who are already eager to deprive Joe Biden of political wins at any turn. And it’s that same group that could determine whether the GOP can govern at all, on those more rudimentary chores like funding the government and raising the debt limit.

How he’s doing it: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has been strategically trying to involve members from across the GOP — conservatives and moderates, alike — to get them united behind an agenda that could actually come to the floor.

Why it’s different: It’s a pretty stark contrast from the last time the GOP took the majority under a Dem president, when obstruction was the biggest defining feature (think, the Obama-Boehner debt limit crisis and shutdown standoffs).

Of course, Rs will also have to do the dirty work, aka making sure the trains run on time. McCarthy and his leadership team have already been working to convince their most recalcitrant conservatives why they need to prove their governing powers. In private meetings, McCarthy and senior Republicans have stressed to newer members that they can’t tackle their agenda unless they can do the basics — including voting for a spending deal.

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In one sign of how closely Gingrich has worked with GOP leaders, McCarthy and his team have named their agenda the “Commitment to America,” in a nod to the conservative leaders’s “Contract with America.”

More from Florida: GOP sets aside obstruction mentality, pivoting to ‘save America’ agenda

‘SHOULD WE WALK OFF THE STAGE? DUCK?’ — That was last year in Florida when Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) was throwing a wrench in McCarthy’s plans for unity (and full-throated support for Trump.) This year, things are different.

House Republicans are jubilant and optimistic that they can come together and focus their attacks on President Joe Biden, instead of each other.

“The difference between now and a year ago is that Liz Cheney was a distraction from the concerted focus on winning back the majority,” said Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), who leads the Republican Study Committee. Olivia and Sarah have a full vibe check on the House GOP retreat: House GOP returns to the state where Cheney fell — in a brighter mood this time

RELATED: Republicans look to Hispanic voters as their majority-makers“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”https://www.nationaljournal.com/s/716959/dems-look-to-hispanic-voters-as-their-majority-makers/?unlock=U8HCJM67K9FNQJU4″,”_id”:”0000017f-c112-d6a8-adff-f7db46590004″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-c112-d6a8-adff-f7db46590005″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>Republicans look to Hispanic voters as their majority-makers, from Casey Wooten at National Journal

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JUDGE JACKSON — Senate Republicans are trying to decide just how hard to fight Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination, which they know can clear the Senate on Democratic votes alone. Burgess and Marianne break it down.

No boycott…Republican Senators say they won’t be boycotting the Judiciary Committee vote on the Jackson nom. The rules for this 50-50 Senate require a majority of committee members to attend a panel vote, which means a GOP boycott could hold up the nomination.

A deadlock, a discharge … If the Judiciary Committee is deadlocked on April 4 when Jackson’s nomination is set to come for a vote, Democrats will be forced to hold extra votes on the Senate floor to move the nomination. Democratic leaders would have to file a discharge petition. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) could then take procedural steps on April 5 that would set Jackson for a final confirmation vote by the end of that week.

Fun fact: The last SCOTUS discharge motion was in 1853 (!)

COMPETITION BILL MOVES MONDAY — The Senate has set up votes for Monday to pass the China competition bill on Monday, after Schumer struck a deal with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on changes to the bill.

What Bernie wants: To remove a provision providing $10 billion for a NASA project contracted to Jeff Bezos’s space company, Blue Origin. And the removal of another that would take out more than $50 billion for the microchip industry, which Sanders says is already “very profitable.”

The plan: Schumer assured Sanders that he would “do whatever I can” to get an agreement to have votes on his two motions — but not until after the House kicks the bill back to the Senate.

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FAREWELL, FILEMON — Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas) will resign from Congress in the coming weeks and head to Akin Gump, a major lobbying firm. The decision comes after he announced last year that he would retire from the House. Heather Caygle at Punchbowl News first reported Vela’s move.

Vela won’t be able to lobby immediately. All departing House members are subject to a one-year lobbying ban for Congress, but they can provide strategic assistance. Vela will be free to lobby the executive branch.

QUICK LINKS 

Rand Paul throws fresh wrench in Senate’s push for quick Russia trade sanctions, from Andrew

Virginia Thomas urged White House chief to pursue unrelenting efforts to overturn the 2020 election, texts show“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/03/24/virginia-thomas-mark-meadows-texts/”,”_id”:”0000017f-c112-d6a8-adff-f7db465c0002″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-c112-d6a8-adff-f7db465c0003″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>Virginia Thomas urged White House chief to pursue unrelenting efforts to overturn the 2020 election, texts show, from The Washington Post

Sen. Manchin launches new push for ‘all of the above’ energy bill“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2022/03/24/manchin-build-back-better-climate/”,”_id”:”0000017f-c112-d6a8-adff-f7db465c0004″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-c112-d6a8-adff-f7db465c0005″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>Sen. Manchin launches new push for ‘all of the above’ energy bill, from The Washington Post

Madison Cawthorn Committed the One Unforgivable Sin of Politics“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”https://www.thedailybeast.com/madison-cawthorn-committed-the-one-unforgivable-sin-of-politics”,”_id”:”0000017f-c112-d6a8-adff-f7db465c0006″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-c112-d6a8-adff-f7db465c0007″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>Madison Cawthorn Committed the One Unforgivable Sin of Politics, from Sam Brodey at The Daily Beast

TRANSITIONS 

Shawn Gaylord is joining the Raben Group as a principal. He currently is executive director of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus. Chris Krepich has joined Nahigian Strategies as director of communications for health care. He most recently worked as communications director for Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) and the GOP Doctors Caucus.

Knox McCutchen is now comms director for Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-Ore.). He previously was press secretary for Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.).

TODAY IN CONGRESS

The House is out

The Senate is out.

AROUND THE HILL

Looking like a quiet Friday.

THURSDAY’S WINNER:Harper White correctly answered that George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are the two American presidents who have traveled to Ukraine while in office.

TODAY’S QUESTION from Harper: Which United States President attended the Kentucky Derby a record 13 times?  Bonus points if you can name which two triple crown champions he witnessed win the Derby.

The first person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your answers to [email protected]“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”mailto:[email protected]”,”_id”:”0000017f-c112-d6a8-adff-f7db465f0000″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-c112-d6a8-adff-f7db465f0001″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>[email protected]

GET HUDDLE emailed to your phone“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”https://www.politico.com/newsletters”,”_id”:”0000017f-c112-d6a8-adff-f7db465f0002″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-c112-d6a8-adff-f7db465f0003″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>emailed to your phone each morning.

Follow Katherine on Twitter @ktullymcmanus“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”https://twitter.com/ktullymcmanus”,”_id”:”0000017f-c112-d6a8-adff-f7db465f0004″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-c112-d6a8-adff-f7db465f0005″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>@ktullymcmanus




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