Washington briefs

  • Updated: February 6, 2014 - 8:55 PM
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House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014. Boehner said Thursday it will be difficult to pass immigration legislation this year, dimming prospects for one of President Barack Obama's top domestic priorities. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Boehner: no move on Immigration

Just a week after House Republicans breathed new life into chances for an immigration overhaul this year, Speaker John Boehner all but abandoned the effort Thursday, saying it would be “difficult” to get any legislation approved.

Boehner’s principles for immigration reform, unveiled during last week’s private GOP retreat, found a welcome audience in President Obama, further boosting hopes that a bipartisan compromise was within reach. But Boehner received a tepid, sometimes hostile response from rank-and-file Republicans, who see little value in engaging in an issue that deeply divides them as they prepare for November midterm elections.

Realizing once again that he may be unable to move his majority, Boehner lowered expectations Thursday, backing away from an effort that had been central to his party’s broader strategy to win Latino and minority voters. “I never underestimated the difficulty that moving forward would be,” Boehner, of Ohio, said Thursday.

Landrieu to lead energy panel

Sen. Mary Landrieu is set to become chairwoman next week of the Senate Energy Committee, a powerful position that gives the Louisiana Democrat jurisdiction over the oil and gas industry that fuels her state’s economy — and which will be a major source of contributions to Landrieu’s tough re-election campaign this fall.

Senate Democratic leaders are behind the ascent of Landrieu, one of a handful of vulnerable incumbents whose elections could determine whether Democrats retain control of the Senate. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Senate majority leader, made sure that Landrieu — after an unexpected set of dominoes fell in the ranks of the Senate leadership — got the spot.

The Senate’s liberals, many of whom have clashed with Landrieu on environmental issues, chafe at her new role. But for now, they are staying quiet about a move that could give Democrats an edge in an important race. Unlike many Democrats, Landrieu typically votes with Republicans on energy policy. She supports more offshore drilling and the Keystone XL oil pipeline. She has voted at least 11 times against proposals to curb climate change by regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

Baucus approved as china envoy

The Senate voted 96-0 to confirm Sen. Max Baucus as the new ambassador to China. Baucus, a Democrat, has represented Montana in the Senate since 1978. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, he has been a major voice during many of the major policy debates of the past decade. He also was an architect of the Affordable Care Act.

McMorris Rodgers under inquiry

The House Ethics Committee said that it would conduct a preliminary investigation into the campaign finances of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the House’s highest-ranking Republican woman, who just last week delivered her party’s response to the State of the Union address.

McMorris Rodgers is chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, the fourth-highest Republican post in the House. The committee’s action was prompted by a recommendation for an inquiry from the nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics. Elliot Berke, McMorris Rodgers’ personal lawyer, pledged to cooperate. The case stems from accusations that McMorris Rodgers improperly mixed campaign funds and official funds to bankroll her effort to become conference chairwoman.

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