Mark Walker

All of a Sudden, a Busy House Floor Schedule
Legislative to-do list grows ahead of 2018 midterms

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., left, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., have a lot of bills they’re planning to bring to the floor in the coming weeks. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House’s legislative wheels are kicking into high gear this week.

After four months of mostly sleepy floor activity — not counting the protracted fiscal 2018 spending fight that led to two partial government shutdowns and a few other bills, like a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration — the House has enough major legislation coming out of its committees to fill the floor schedule for the next two to three months.

Partisan Fight Over $15 Billion Rescissions Package Developing
Democrats not ready to play ball, Pelosi suggests

President Donald Trump begrudgingly signed the omnibus spending bill in March. Now his administration is making a $15 billion rescissions request. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

The Trump administration on Monday outlined a roughly $15 billion “rescissions” request it plans to send to Congress on Tuesday, targeting unspent health care and green energy funds for the largest share of the cuts.

The bulk of that request proposes eliminating $7 billion in budget authority from the Children’s Health Insurance Program — $5 billion from fiscal 2017, for which there is no authority to spend the money, and $2 billion from a contingency fund for states that the White House doesn’t expect any states to draw from, a senior administration official said.

Opinion: We Just Can’t Shake That Old-Time Religion
Nation’s anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic fervor not that far in the past

Recently ousted House Chaplain Patrick J. Conroy speaks during a memorial service in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall on Sept. 27, 2017. His removal by Speaker Paul D. Ryan set off a small furor. (Alex Wong/Getty Images file photo)

“Bless your heart” is a phrase I got to know well when I moved from the Northeast to the South several years ago. Though often spoken in soft, sympathetic tones, there was nothing blessed about the sentiment. And when those three syllables were delivered in an email, usually after I wrote a column a reader did not like, they landed like a punch to the gut.

Oddly enough, it was commentary on faith and values that elicited quite a bit of high dudgeon, topped only by the historically reliable topic of race, which, like religion, carries the taint of a North versus South, “them” against “us” spiritual split.

Opinion: A New Religious Schism — What’s the Chaplain’s Job?
Lawmakers need to leave politics out of the job

The Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, blesses the walnut tree during a tree planting ceremony in memory of Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., on April 18. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

When Rev. Patrick J. Conroy was preparing to take over as House Chaplain in 2011 after being appointed by Speaker John Boehner, the Jesuit priest told The New York Times that he readied himself, in part, by reading “American Lion,” Jon Meacham’s biography of President Andrew Jackson. Conroy told the Times that reading about the vicious rivalry between Jackson and Henry Clay in Congress showed him that “it’s not an unprecedented thing in American politics for there to be recriminations and a lack of civility.”

That much has always been true. But what is unprecedented, seven years after Conroy accepted the job, is that the House chaplain himself is now at the center of the recriminations and lack of civility in Congress that he once sought to counsel members beyond. For the first time in history, the House chaplain has been asked to resign and nobody seems to know why.

Walker Removes Himself From Chaplain Search
Comes after he made comments considered anti-Catholic

Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., removed himself from the committee to find a new chaplain for the House of Representatives. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Mark Walker has removed himself from the committee to find a new chaplain for the House of Representatives after some of his comments were criticized as anti-Catholic.

Walker’s spokesman confirmed his removal in an email to USA Today.

Lawmakers Worried About Religious Freedom After Chaplain Ouster
Democrats raise questions about anti-Catholic sentiments from Republicans

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., said there’s only division coming out of Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s decision to fire House Chaplain Patrick J. Conroy. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Update 8:45 a.m. | A spokesman for Rep. Mark Walkertold USA Today that the congressman was stepping down from the group searching for a new House chaplain.

Emotions are running high in the House as members grapple with Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s decision to fire House Chaplain Patrick J. Conroy. And religious tensions started to spill into public view last week before lawmakers departed Washington for a one-week recess.

What is a House Chaplain and What do They Do?
Background of the job and what’s up with Rev. Patrick Conroy, explained

Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, blesses the walnut tree during the tree planting ceremony in memory of Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., on Wednesday, April 18, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Speaker Paul Ryan’s move against Rev. Patrick Conroy caused political ripples as many speculated he requested the Reverend’s retirement because of a prayer he gave before the tax code.

Conroy, Congress’s Jesuit Priest, is the first Chaplain to leave his 2-year elected position mid-term in decades.

Kaptur Exploring Legislative Reprieve for Ousted House Chaplain
Ohio Democrat said any legislation she proposes would be bipartisan

House Chaplain Patrick J. Conroy performs a marriage ceremony in 2015 for Alaska Rep. Don Young and Anne Garland Walton in the chapel of the U.S. Capitol. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Marcy Kaptur does not believe Speaker Paul D. Ryan has authority to remove House Chaplain Patrick J. Conroy without a vote of the House. And she’s exploring legislation to prevent his ouster. 

Conroy submitted a letter of resignation April 15 at the speaker’s request that was read on the House floor the following day. Ryan’s spokeswoman AshLee Strong confirmed that Ryan sought the Jesuit priest’s resignation but did not provide a reason why. 

Why the Speaker Race Won’t Fade Away Until November
Potential candidates lack a path to 218 votes and need time to build coalitions

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is the front-runner to succeed retiring Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., but there is a long way to go until the November elections. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Republicans don’t know if they will be holding a speaker’s race or a contest for minority leader come November, but that isn’t stopping them from preparing for the former. 

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the leading candidate to replace retiring Speaker Paul D. Ryan, needs more time to build sufficient support to win a still-hypothetical speaker’s race. The same goes for other members eyeing the position.

Republicans Discount Paul Ryan Endorsement for Replacement
The speaker says he has a preference, but it might not matter

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., has said he has a preference for who will succeed him in the GOP pecking order. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Retiring Speaker Paul D. Ryan has a preference on which member of his leadership team should succeed him, but if he decides to endorse, its effect is debatable. 

Several House Republicans interviewed Wednesday in the hours following Ryan’s announcement that he would retire at the end of his term in January said his endorsement would not mean much.