Hershey, PA -- At the Joint Republican House-Senate retreat today, NBC’s Luke Russert asked House Speaker Boehner about the attempt on his life by a bartender, the foiled plot on the Capitol, and how he felt about the security situation for himself and his colleagues.
The Speaker noted that it’s just a daily reminder of the dangerous world we live in, citing the horrific Paris Shootings as an example. He did not go into his own security detail. As for the bartender, the speaker hoped he gets the help needed to address his apparent mental health issues, after which he thanked the FBI, Capitol Police, and the West Chester police department for handling this issue.
As for the planned ISIS-inspired attack on the U.S. Capitol, Speaker Boehner said, “we would have never know about this if had it not been for the FISA program, and our ability to collect information on people who pose an imminent threat.”
Congress is set to debate reauthorizing the FISA program.
“Our government does not spy on Americans, unless there are Americans who are doing things that–frankly–tip off law enforcement officials to an imminent threat. And it was our law enforcement officials–and those programs–that helped us stop this person before he committed a heinous crime in our nation’s capitol,” he added.
Boehner said that Ohio plot to attack the Capitol would not have been picked up w/o FISA. But the plotter was talking on social media— Tim Mak (@timkmak) January 15, 2015
Yet, Christopher Lee Cornell, who was arrested by the FBI for planning this alleged attack, only used social media, prompting one reporter to interject by asking if the speaker knew something that we don’t.
Apparently, there is something more to this incident.
“I will just let the whole story roll out there, but it was far more than just that,” said the speaker.
Regarding the other issues asked throughout the day, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that divided government is the perfect time to work on tax reform, as then-Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil and President Reagan did it in the 1980s.
The president has said that he’s only looking into reforming the corporate tax code, which the Senate Majority Leader said was problematic since it leaves out most American businesses.
On immigration, ABC News’ Jeff Zeleny asked if the Senate has the 60 votes, and if not, what was the secondary protocol. McConnell simply said, “Well, we’re going to try and pass it,” though, Sen. Thune made it clear that the Senate will do what’s possible given the 60-vote threshold.
As for Plan B, McConnell added, “we’ll let you know what comes next.”
Legislative realism was on the docket for discussion at this retreat with regards to what bills are realistically possible to get through both chambers. An example that was used–as always–the DHS funding bill.
“I’ll just go first,” said the speaker:
“The House is going to work its will. The Senate is going to work its will, and then we’ll get in conference, or we’ll find some way to resolve the differences. That is what we call regular order. That’s the legislative process. There are 535 of us on Capitol Hill, and to try to get all of us to agree is not an easy job. The Founders never envisioned it to be easy, and it certainly isn’t–but I think each of the chambers has to do what they’re capable of doing and then we try to resolve the differences."
Mitch McConnell declined to jump into that one.
As for areas for potential agreement, given President Obama’s threat to veto much of the Republican agenda, like approval of the Keystone Pipeline, Sen. McConnell did say that cyber security, Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), tax reform, infrastructure. Yet, he said the last two were more potential areas of agreement, but certainly common ground can be found on cyber security and TPA.
As expected, members of Congress–and their staffs–were very tight-lipped and members of the press were politely ushered back into the media room if we got too close to the area where House Representatives and Senators were gathering for their retreat.
Sen. Mitch McConnell also said that newly elected Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa would deliver the Republican address.
Sen. Ernst, barely taller than the microphones on the podium, told reporters that she’s “humbled and honored” to deliver the Republican address, which was reported by my colleague Christine yesterday.
“We’re very anxious to get to work,” she said. “We want to ensure that the America we are building leaves a stronger economy and more opportunity for our children and our grandchildren,” she added.