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June 22, 2017

This Week: Representative Greg Gianforte (R-MT, At Large) became the newest member of the 115th Congress
 
Representative Greg Gianforte (R-MT, At Large) became the newest member of the 115th Congress on Wednesday, just one week after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault against a reporter. Gianforte was sworn in on Wednesday and was greeted to a warm welcome from House Republicans. During his acceptance speech, Gianforte pledged he would work to “drain the swamp” and announced his support for three bills that would establish term limits, prevent members of Congress from becoming lobbyists, and suspend pay for lawmakers if Congress doesn’t pass a budget. He replaces former Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT, At Large) who resigned to become Interior Secretary.
 
In election news, Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff on Tuesday in a special election for Georgia’s 6th district in what was the most expensive House race in history. Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, fended off political newcomer Ossoff, who raised $25 million from Democrats across the country. The race quickly turned from an easy victory for Handel to a hotly contested battle with Republicans trying to avoid humiliation in a district that they’ve controlled for almost 40 years. While the campaign garnered national interest, it elevated from a simple House race to a referendum on President Donald Trump’s administration. However, Handel was able to overcome the deluge of money and handed Democrats a demoralizing loss. In her victory speech, Handel noted she had become the first Republican woman sent to Congress from Georgia, and pledged to represent all of her constituents. Handel replaces former Representative Tom Price (R-GA, 6th), who became the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
 
In the slightly forgotten election, Republican Ralph Norman won the special election for South Carolina’s 5th district. Norman defeated Democrat Archie Parnell on Tuesday by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent, in a result that was much closer than expected. The race was overshadowed by the special election in Georgia, and never garnered the same national attention as the other special elections this year. Norman, a former conservative state representative, said he wants to join the House Freedom Caucus and will embrace President Trump’s legislative agenda. Norman fills the vacancy left behind by former Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-SC, 5th), who became the director of the Office of Management and Budget in February. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 15, 2017

This Week: Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC, 4th) officially became Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
 
Representative Jared Polis (D-CO, 2nd) announced his candidacy for governor on Monday, joining a crowded field in the race to replace Governor John Hickenlooper (D). Polis stated that he intends to serve the remainder of his term to “help the resistance and fight Trump's radical agenda." His decision to run for governor opens up a seat in a district which backed Hillary Clinton by a margin of 56-35 in last year’s presidential election. Democrat Joe Neguse jumped into the race for Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District, citing his growing concern about climate change and the policies of President Donald Trump as the reasons that pushed him to throw his hat into the ring. Other Democrats have shown interest in the seat, including Ken Toltz and Shannon Watts, both prominent gun control activists. So far no Republicans have shown interest in running, and the seat is expected to remain in Democratic hands.
 
In other news, Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC, 4th) officially became Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Tuesday. Gowdy replaces previous Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT, 3rd), who announced he would resign from his seat on June 30th, after first deciding not to run for re-election. Gowdy is now tasked with investigating the executive branch and overseeing the District of Columbia, a position Chaffetz used to menace former President Barack Obama. While he is not one to shy from controversy, Gowdy is now in the difficult position of overseeing a presidential administration of his own party. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 1, 2017

This Week: Republican Greg Gianforte won the special election for Montana's lone congressional seat
 
Republican Greg Gianforte won the special election for Montana’s lone congressional seat, despite an alleged scuffle with a reporter the day before the election. On the day before the election, Gianforte allegedly physically attacked a reporter at a campaign event, after the reporter pressed the candidate over his stance on health care. While the alleged attack dominated the headlines throughout Election Day, Gianforte ultimately defeated Democrat Rob Quist to win the seat formerly held by Ryan Zinke. The special election could have been a chance for Democrats to pull off an upset and pick up a seat, but the race was always a long shot. The real test for Democrats comes in about a month in the closely watched Georgia 6th district special election, with Democrat Jon Ossoff facing off against Republican Karen Handel in what has already become the most expensive congressional contest in history.
 
In other news, Jim Bunning, former congressman and Major League Baseball player, passed away last week at the age of 85. Bunning, a Hall of Fame pitcher, served six terms as a member of the House of Representatives and later two-terms in the Senate representing Kentucky. He was a staunch conservative, and took his intimidating playing style from the MLB to Capitol Hill. During his tenure in the House, Bunning voted to reduce funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and to completely kill the Department of Education. After Bunning announced he would not seek reelection in 2010 to the Senate, he angered many when he blocked $10 billion in funding for unemployment benefits because of budget concerns. On Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), released a statement saying “Jim rarely shied away from a new adventure. This Hall of Famer will long be remembered for many things, including a perfect game, a larger-than-life personality, a passion for Kentucky, and a loving family.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 25, 2017

This Week: Representative Tom MacArthur (R-NJ, 3rd) resigned as co-chairman of the moderate GOP caucus known as the Tuesday Group
 
Retiring Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT, 3rd) announced last week that he will resign his House seat effective June 30. In a letter he sent to constituents, Chaffetz wrote that he viewed his congressional career as a temporary position, and not a lifetime career. The move didn’t come as a surprise, as Chaffetz hinted he would likely not finish his term in Congress when he announced his retirement. Chaffetz, who was first elected in 2008, is the chairman of the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. His early departure will not only set off a special election to fill his seat, but there is a scramble to replace him atop the chamber’s top investigative body. Currently, the Utah legislature and governor have not agreed on a date for the special election, but it is expected to be a crowded race to fill the state’s first vacancy since 1929.
 
In other news, Representative Tom MacArthur (R-NJ, 3rd) resigned as co-chairman of the moderate GOP caucus known as the Tuesday Group. MacArthur cited deep divisions among its members over the recent House Obamacare replacement bill, stating “clearly, our group is divided. Many in the Tuesday Group are eager to live up to our ideal of being problem-solvers, while others seem unwilling to compromise.” Many members of the moderate group expressed anger and frustration over MacArthur’s role in brokering a compromise that set up passage of the GOP healthcare bill. MacArthur negotiated directly with Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC, 1st), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, and crafted an amendment that would allow states to opt out of certain federal insurance mandates. Representative Charlie Dent (R-PA, 15th), the group’s co-chairman, voted against the health care bill, as did 11 other members of the 50 member group, representing more than half of the Republican no votes for the AHCA. Democrats are already planning on targeting MacArthur’s seat, who is facing backlash from his constituents over the revised health bill.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

May 18, 2017

This Week: Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL, 5th) announced his candidacy for the state's Senate seat
 
Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL, 5th) announced his candidacy for the state’s Senate seat, setting up a primary battle against Senator Luther Strange (R-AL). In a statement, Brooks said he is running for the Senate because “America’s status as the greatest nation in world history is at risk, because Congress is failing the American people by not rising to the challenges America faces.” Brooks has been active in state politics since the 1980s, and has been an outspoken member of Congress since he was elected to the House in 2010. His entrance into the race sets up a primary battle against Strange, who was appointed to fill the seat of Jeff Sessions after Sessions was appointed attorney general in President Donald Trump’s administration. The winner of the August Republican primary is expected to win come December 12th, the date of the special election, given the GOP’s dominance in the state. Whoever is elected will serve the remainder of Sessions’ term, which runs until 2020.
 
In other news, the Republican primary runoff election for South Carolina’s open 5th district is heading toward a recount. After Tuesday’s vote, former state Representative Ralph Norman led state House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope by margin of 200 votes, narrow enough to trigger an automatic recount. Norman, the more conservative of the pair, claimed victory despite the narrow margin. The winner will face Democrat Archie Parnell in a June special election to fill the seat vacated by former Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-SC, 5th), who appointed as the director of the Office of Management and Budget. While special elections across the country are expected to be more competitive than usual, the race for South Carolina’s 5th will be a tough district for Democrats to contest.

 

 

 

 

 

May 11, 2017

This Week: Representative Raul Labrador (R-ID, 1st) announced his bid for Idaho Governor
 
Two-term Representative Evan Jenkins (R-WV, 3rd) announced on Monday he’s running for Senate against Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) in 2018. In his announcement video, Jenkins attacked Manchin on his record on gun control and his support over the years for former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Jenkins, who switched parties in 2013, captured the district from long time Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV, 3rd) in 2014, in one of the most expensive House races that year. Jenkins defeated Rahall by ten points that year, and won reelection last fall by 44 points. While Jenkins has already raised about $1 million this cycle, he will almost certainly face a primary opponent as Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is expected to jump into the GOP field soon. Jenkins leaves behind behind a safe Republican seat in what will surely be a competitive Senate race in 2018.
 
In other news, Representative Raul Labrador (R-ID, 1st) announced his bid for Idaho Governor on Tuesday. In a statement, Labrador expressed the need for conservative leadership in the state, saying “Idaho needs a proven conservative leader who will stand against the special interests and politicians that have picked the winners and losers in our state capitol for too long.” Labrador, a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, once explored a gubernatorial bid in 2014, but ultimately decided against a run. His announcement comes less than a week after the House passed the American Health Care Act, a bill he initially opposed but threw his support behind after it was amended. In a town hall last week, Labrador stirred up controversy, stating “nobody dies because they don’t have access to healthcare.”

 

 

 

 

 

May 4, 2017

This Week: Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL, 27th) will retire from Congress after nearly three decades in office
 
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL, 27th) announced earlier this week she will retire from Congress after nearly three decades in office. In her announcement, Ros-Lehtinen said she enjoyed serving her community in Congress and stated she was not retiring due to disagreements with the Trump administration and the more conservative elements of her party. She maintained that she would have won reelection, but that “it's time to take a new step.” Ros-Lehtinen, the first Cuban-American elected to Congress, has represented Miami since 1989. She was seen as a centrist during her time in the House, and has been notable for her stances on LGBT issues. She was the first Republican in Congress to publicly support marriage equality and has been an outspoken activist for transgender rights. Ros-Lehtinen made a name for herself as a foreign policy hawk, and was the first woman to chair a standing congressional committee, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Ros-Lehtinen’s unexpected retirement is a welcome sign to Democrats hoping to flip the seat in 2018. Without a clear Republican heir, Democrats are expected to pour a lot of time and money into the race next fall.
 
In other news, South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District held a primary on Tuesday for the seat vacated by Mick Mulvaney, who is now the director of the Office of Management and Budget. Republicans Tommy Pope and Ralph Norman forced a two week runoff as neither won 50 percent of the vote. Archie Parnell, a former Goldman Sachs tax expert, cruised through the Democratic primary, securing about 70 percent of the vote. While Parnell has a two-week head start on the general election, the seat is assumed to remain safely in Republican hands after it was redrawn to heavily favor Republicans in 2010. The race has drawn relatively little national attention from either party, especially Democrats who have their hands full with the special election in Georgia. The general election is June 20 the same day as the closely watched race in Georgia.
 

 

 

 

 

 

April 27, 2017

This Week: Congress faces the difficult task of avoiding a government shutdown
 
Back from a two-week recess, Congress faces the difficult task of avoiding a government shutdown. With federal funding set to run out Friday, lawmakers are expected to pass a one-week funding extension in order to put the finishing touches on a $1.1 trillion spending bill. Alleviating fears of a government shutdown, the White House made several key concessions this week, potentially diffusing a major conflict between Democrats and the Trump administration. The White House announced it will continue paying Affordable Care Act cost-sharing subsidies, satisfying Democrats’ demand to protect a key piece of Obamacare. President Trump also backed off his demand that a border wall receive funding in this spending bill, and congressional leaders instead promised to increase funding for other White House priorities like the military and border security. For now, the battle of a government shutdown appears to be mostly over.
 
In other news, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI, 1st) and Republican leaders have finalized a new Obamacare repeal and replace plan. The new proposal still does not fully repeal Obamacare, but has garnered support from the hardline Freedom Caucus, a key endorsement in passing the bill. The new proposal contains language that allows states to opt out of central Obamacare protections for consumers as long as the states offer an alternative that lowers costs, increases insurance coverage, or creates greater competition among health insurance companies. The plan would retain the guarantee of access to coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, and allows states to waive the prohibition on charging sick people higher premiums. While plan has won over conservative lawmakers, many moderates remain skeptical of the new plan’s conservative tilt. It is unclear whether the bill will pass the House, and even if it does, the Senate remains an enormous hurdle.
 
On Tuesday, Ron Estes (R-KS, 4th) was sworn in as the newest member of the House. Estes won a closer than usual special election earlier this month to replace CIA Director Mike Pompeo. He won by a margin of 7 percent in the historically conservative district where Pompeo was re-elected to the seat by a margin of about 30 percent in November. Estes served as Kansas’ state treasurer since 2011, state he is interested in serving on the Education and Workforce Committee.

 

 

 

 

 

April 20, 2017

This Week: Chaffetz will not run for reelection
 
This week in congressional news, Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT, 3rd) announced on Wednesday he is not running for reelection in 2018. Chaffetz, the powerful House Republican, said he was ready to return to the private sector after more than 13 years in public service, calling his decision a personal one. He stated his decision was not based on political concerns, adding that he was confident he could win his reelection. Chaffetz had been floated as a potential candidate for Senate or Utah governor, but he denied any interest in running for office in 2018. However, even with his announcement, Chaffetz left open the possibility of his return, stating, “I may run again for public office…but not in 2018.” As head of the House Oversight Committee, Chaffetz was often a thorn in the side of Democrats, relishing his oversight role under former President Barack Obama’s administration. He played a pivotal role in investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as Secretary of State during the 2016 presidential campaign. Chaffetz’s 3rd district in Utah is one of the most conservative in the country, and is expected to stay in Republican hands this cycle.
 
In other news, Georgia held a special election on Tuesday to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in the 6th district. Democrat Jon Ossoff narrowly missed winning the conservative district, scaring Republicans as they escaped a potentially embarrassing loss. Ossoff, a documentary filmmaker and former congressional staffer, captured 48.1 percent of the vote, just short of the 50 percent threshold needed to win the seat. He will face off against Republican and former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel in a June runoff. The race garnered national attention as Democrats tried to turn it into a referendum on President Trump. Progressives from across the country came to Ossoff’s aid, helping him raise $8.3 million and building an army of volunteers in hopes of winning the long shot race. But despite his financial advantage and energized base, a majority vote was just out of reach. Republicans have a better chance to win now that the race has become a traditional two-party contest. The challenge for Ossoff will be keeping up the momentum he has built, but faces an uphill battle in what is sure to be a contentious race.
 
 
 
 
 
 

April 13, 2017

This Week: Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-CO, 7th) announced he is running for governor of Colorado in 2018
 
Kansas held a special election on Tuesday to fill the seat vacated by Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS, 4th). Ron Estes, the Republican candidate for the empty seat, defeated James Thompson in a surprisingly competitive race.  Estes, the state treasurer, overcame the challenge by Thompson, a civil rights lawyer, and won by a margin of 53 percent to 46 percent. Initially, Estes expected to cruise to victory in the heavily conservative district, one where President Donald Trump won by 27 points. However, polling last week revealed the race was much closer and Estes only had a single digit lead, and Republicans scrambled to rescue his campaign. While Thompson fell short, it’s clear that even Republicans in deeply red districts are not safe.
 
In other news, Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-CO, 7th) announced he is running for governor of Colorado in 2018. Perlmutter announced his candidacy at a rally on Sunday, citing his frustration with the Trump administration and gridlock in Washington as his reasons to run for governor. “The Trump administration, coupled with the gridlock that exists in Congress, really is causing things to go backward. I feel I can provide more service and leadership at home than I can in Washington,” stated Perlmutter. His candidacy creates an opportunity for Republicans to pick up a seat in Colorado, where they already hold a 4-3 in the House. Perlmutter was first elected to Congress in 2006, and is a member of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and the Committee on Financial Services.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

April 6, 2017

This Week: California held a special election primary for Representative Xavier Bacerra's (D-CA, 34th) vacant seat
 
California held a special election primary on Tuesday for Representative Xavier Becerra’s (D-CA, 34th) vacant seat. Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez and Los Angeles city planning commissioner Robert Lee Ahn, both Democrats, were the two top finishers in a crowded field that featured over 20 candidates. Gomez locked up dozens of endorsements leading up to the primary, including Becerra and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. It was a surprising victory for the relatively unknown Ahn, who raised the most money in the field and had strong support from LA’s Korean community. The two will face off in a special general election held on June 6th.
 
Representative Beto O’Rourke (D-TX, 16th) launched his Senate campaign this week in an underdog effort to unseat Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). The El Paso representative kicked off his campaign in his hometown last Friday, setting up what will be a long shot race in 2018. O’Rourke has a tough fight ahead, as Democrats in Texas have not won a statewide race since 1994, and previous efforts have fallen flat. O’Rourke, who was elected to the House in 2012, is giving up a safe seat that he won with 85% of the vote in 2016. Fellow Democratic Representative Joaquin Castro (D-TX, 20th) is also weighing a run against Cruz, and has said he will make a decision next month.
 
In other news, the Senate is preparing for a major showdown on Thursday over Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. Earlier this week, it became clear that Senate Democrats would filibuster President Donald Trump’s nominee when 44 Senators announced they would vote to block him. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) responded by saying he was confident Republicans have the votes to invoke the “nuclear option” to push Gorsuch’s nomination through even with Democratic opposition. McConnell predicted that not a single Republican Senator would defect on the nuclear option vote, which would eliminate the filibuster of Supreme Court nominees. The way things stand, the Senate will vote to cut off debate on Gorsuch’s nomination on Thursday, and then Senate Republicans will deploy the nuclear option to change the nomination rules. If that vote succeeds and Republicans can end the filibuster with a simple majority, there will be 30 hours of floor debate until a confirmation vote, which would come on Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

March 30, 2017

This Week: Congress overhauled the nation's internet privacy protections for individuals 
 
The Senate is gearing up for a major showdown over Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) predicted that the Senate would confirm Gorsuch on April 7th before a two week recess. But as Democratic opposition continues to grow, some Republicans are worried they may not have the 60 votes necessary to push the nomination through and will have to use the “nuclear option.” If Republicans can’t get the necessary support for Gorsuch’s nomination, they could go nuclear and get rid of the 60 vote filibuster on Supreme Court Nominees. No Republican has said they wouldn’t support a rule change, but they are urging their colleagues to come to an agreement to avoid that fight. As it stands, more than half of the Democratic conference has announced opposition to his nomination.
 
In other news, Congress overhauled the nation’s internet privacy protections for individuals on Tuesday. In a 215-205 vote largely along party lines, House Republicans overturned regulations created by the Federal Communications Commission in October. Those rules, which would have gone into effect later this year, required internet service providers to receive permission before collecting data on a user’s online activities. Now, internet providers can sell information about their customers, like their web browsing histories, to a third party like advertisers. “What we’ve created is confusion, and this is the way to rein in an agency that was overreaching,” said Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN, 7th), who introduced the House bill to overturn the privacy rules. Blackburn said that the FCC overstepped its bounds and the Federal Trade Commission was the best agency to oversee broadband privacy rules. Broadband companies immediately celebrated the House vote, arguing the incoming regulations would have put internet service providers at a disadvantage compared with “edge providers” like Google and Facebook.
 
Representative Tim Walz (DFL-MN, 1st) announced his decision to run for governor in 2018. The six-term congressman joins a crowded field that includes three other Democratic contenders, and opens up a House seat likely to be hotly contested next fall. Walz barely won re-election last cycle, defeating two time challenger Jim Hagedorn by less than a point. Hagedorn has already announced a third bid for the seat, and is likely to attract more candidates. On the Democratic side, former state Representative Terry Morrow has expressed interest in running, as well as state Representatives Tina Liebling and Gene Pelowski.

 

 

 

 

 

March 23, 2017

This Week: The Republican health care plan is expected to go to a vote on Thursday, March 24, 2017
 
The Republican health care plan is expected to go to a vote on Thursday, and many in Congress are uncertain it will pass. Despite aggressive efforts by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI, 1st) and President Donald Trump to persuade key GOP opponents of the bill to support the bill, holdouts from the moderate and conservative wings of the party threaten the bill’s passage. Both Vice President Mike Pence and Trump met with 18 House Republicans on Wednesday morning, but were reportedly only able to convince one member to switch their support for the bill, Representative Steve King (R-IA, 4th). House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC, 11th) doesn’t believe there are enough votes to pass the bill, and says the group has 27 members who are firmly against it or leaning towards voting no. Many moderate Republicans have also come out against the bill, and members like Representatives Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ, 2nd) and David Young (R-IA, 3rd) have announced their opposition. As it stands, Republican leaders can only afford 22 defections, given that Democrats are expected to vote against the bill as a whole.
 
The confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch began this week, which will span four days. Facing the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gorsuch began the hearings with his opening statement, portraying himself as a reasonable jurist who would do his best to uphold the rule of law. Gorsuch has faced pressure from Democratic attacks, but has been able to avoid harming his prospects of getting confirmed, and so far has distanced himself from President Trump. Democrats have struggled to find traction against Gorsuch over his judicial decisions, and the nominee has refused to give his views on many topics. With the hearings entering their fourth day, many Republicans feel confident Gorsuch will escape unscathed and will be confirmed.
 
In other news, Representative Jim Renacci (R-OH, 16th) announced he is running for Ohio governor. The four-term congressman is one of the wealthiest members of Congress and has painted himself as a conservative Washington outsider throughout his tenure. The announcement by Renacci could set up a scramble by Republicans to run to succeed him in 2018. State Representative Christina Hagan and State Senator Frank LaRose are said to be considering running from the open seat, with at least half a dozen more potential candidates. While the Republican field will surely be crowded, the seat is expected to remain safely in Republican hands.

 

 

 

 

 

March 16, 2017

This Week: The House Intelligence Committee have launched an investigation into intelligence community leaks involving aides to President Donald Trump
 
The Congressional Budget Office released its analysis of the House Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act. According to the CBO’s report on Monday, the replacement plan would increase the number of people without health insurance by 24 million by 2024, while reducing the federal deficit by $337 billion. The House bill, known as the American Health Care Act, was already facing widespread criticism from health care providers, conservatives, and the Democratic Party. The report did not back up President Trump’s promise of providing health care for everyone, and has made passage of the bill even more difficult. However, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI, 1st) said there was some work to be done, but the report was “encouraging.” Ryan has stated he wants the bill to go to a vote as early as next week to send it up to the Senate, but support for the legislation is peeling away quickly.
 
The House Intelligence Committee have launched an investigation into intelligence community leaks involving aides to President Donald Trump. The committee, led by Representatives Devin Nunes (R-CA, 22nd) and Adam Schiff (D-CA, 28th), is pressing the CIA, FBI, and National Security Agency to provide information on spying involving Trump’s 2016 campaign associates. The request stems from a promise Nunes made to investigate the media leaks of sensitive information about campaign aides who may have been spied on through a loophole in surveillance law and exposed to the media. In a letter to agency heads, the House Intelligence Committee demands the names of any Americans whose identities were disseminated and exposed in response to requests from intelligence agencies, law enforcement, or Executive Branch officials that relate to the presidential candidates. Nunes and Schiff set a Friday deadline for the agency heads to provide the information they request, and stated the committee would subpoena for the information if it does not receive a response by the deadline. This comes after Nunes gave a press briefing on Wednesday saying the House Intelligence Committee has not received any evidence that President Trump was wiretapped during the election.
 
In other news, the Senate confirmed former Senator Dan Coats (R-IN) to serve as President Trump’s director of national intelligence. The Senate voted 85-12 on Wednesday to approve Coats’ nomination, which has been largely drama free. Once sworn in, Coats will be in charge of overseeing the U.S. intelligence apparatus, composed of 16 federal agencies. Coats served in the Senate twice, from 1989 to 1999 and from 2011 until his retirement last year.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

March 9, 2017

This Week: House Republicans unveiled their long-awaited replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act
 
House Republicans unveiled their long-awaited replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act on Monday. The House plan, known as the American Health Care Act, would repeal the individual mandate in favor of a new system of tax credits to encourage people to purchase insurance on the open market, and eventually roll back the expansion of Medicaid. The bill sets the stage for bitter debate over the possible repeal of the most significant health care law in half a century. Republicans, with the support of the White House, want to push the legislation through at a record speed, and hope for a full House vote next week. However, the bill is facing harsh criticism from both sides. Many Conservatives hate the new health plan and have dubbed the bill “Obamacare-Lite.” Representatives Jim Jordan (R-OH, 4th) and Mark Meadows (R-NC, 11th), two leaders of the House Freedom Caucus, were furious over the bill and said they will block the bill from passing. Democrats have called the plan “a prescription for disaster,” and are preparing for a last stand defense to save Obamacare. Members from both sides are upset that Republican leaders insist on moving forward even though the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has not done its customary assessment of the cost of the new plan and how many people it would cover. Despite the criticism, the bill went to the House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means Committees for markup on Wednesday.
 
Last week, the Senate confirmed two more of President Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees. First, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson won approval to serve as secretary of housing and urban development. The Senate voted 58-41 Thursday morning to confirm Carson, who despite having no experience running a large federal bureaucracy, did not face much pushback from Democrats. Carson will now head an agency tasked with assisting millions of low-income renters and help struggling homeowners fight off foreclosures. On the same day, the Senate confirmed former Texas governor Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy. Perry, who once pledged to eliminate the department during a presidential debate, will be in charge of a major overhaul of the nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal. 

 

 

 

 

March 2, 2017

This Week: The Senate confirmed Wilbur Ross to lead the Commerce Department by a vote of 72-27
 
The Senate continued to approve President Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees. On Monday, the Senate confirmed Wilbur Ross, a billionaire investor, to lead the Commerce Department by a vote of 72-27. With the confirmation of Ross, the most important members of Trump’s economic team are in place. Ross will be a key leader in the Trump administration’s plan to renegotiate NAFTA. On Wednesday, the Senate approved the nomination of Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT, At Large) as the Secretary of the Interior. During his confirmation hearing, the former Navy SEAL won over both sides by endorsing Republican policies like allowing more oil and natural gas drilling, but came out in favor of conservation policies that Democrats hold dear. Zinke will have a wide range of responsibilities, namely the expansion of fossil fuel development on federal land and a rollback of many of former President Barack Obama’s climate change policies.
 
In other news, Representative Keith Ellison (DFL-MN, 5th) asked the Department of Justice to investigate recent vandalism at a Jewish cemetery in Missouri. In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Ellison called for the vandalism to be "swiftly and thoroughly investigated,” and cited “the recent surge in threats against the Jewish community, as well as the symbolic and violent history connected to the desecration of Jewish burial sites.” More than 150 headstones were vandalized last week in a cemetery outside of St. Louis, and a week earlier, over 100 headstones were toppled in at a cemetery in Philadelphia. The vandalism comes amid a wave of bomb threats across the country targeting Jewish community centers and schools.

 

 

 

 

February 23, 2017

This Week: The Senate confirmed two more of President Donald Trump's cabinet nominees
 
The Senate confirmed two more of President Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees. Senators confirmed Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-SC, 5th) last Thursday to head the Office of Management and Budget, giving the fiscal hawk a central role in the administration’s spending plans. Mulvaney was narrowly confirmed by a vote of 51-49, with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) joining Democrats in voting against the nominee. Mulvaney enters the job with a busy agenda as the administration must prepare a budget and plans on releasing a comprehensive tax plan. The following day, the Senate confirmed Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. The Senate voted 52-46 to confirm Pruitt, who has been a legal opponent of the agency for years, having sued the organization 14 times. Pruitt will lead President Trump’s efforts to cut back major regulations on climate change and clean water, and to diminish the authority of the environmental agency.
 
Now that Representative Mulvaney has resigned to take over the OMB, the race for South Carolina’s 5th district has begun. The early leaders are two Republicans: former state Representative Ralph Norman and South Carolina House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope. Both Norman and Pope have an early edge over the other candidates because of their name recognition and because the turnout is expected to be low in the special election. So far six Republicans have entered the race, but no Democrats have declared for the June special election. While Democratic Party leaders are weighing their options, the seat is expected to remain safely in Republican hands.

 

 

 

 

February 16, 2017

This Week: The Senate voted to block a rule that prevented certain mentally ill people from purchasing firearms
 
The Senate confirmed three more of President Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees. The Senate approved the nominations of Representative Tom Price (R-GA, 6th) to be secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary, and Linda McMahon as head of the Small Business Administration. The votes for both Price and Mnuchin both followed party lines, while the Senate approved McMahon’s nomination by a margin of 81-19. On Wednesday, Andrew Puzder withdrew his nomination to be Trump’s labor secretary amid growing resistance from Republicans and Democrats in the Senate. Leading up to Puzder’s withdrawal, at least 12 Republican senators were withholding support, and it became clear he lacked the votes needed to win confirmation. Puzder, the CEO of a fast-food company, came under fire after admitting he hired an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper and allegations that he abused his ex-wife.
 
On Wednesday, the Senate voted to block a rule that prevented certain mentally ill people from purchasing firearms. The rule required the Social Security Administration to report the records of some mentally ill beneficiaries to the FBI’s background check system. Those who were deemed incapable of managing their financial affairs would have been affected by the rule. It was implemented by former President Barack Obama after the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in an effort to strengthen the federal background check system. Republican lawmakers argued it stigmatized the disabled and infringes on their constitutional right to bear arms.
 
In election news, Kansas’ political parties met to select their candidates for the special election to replace Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS, 4th), the new head of the CIA. State Treasurer Ron Estes won the Republican nomination, beating out former Congressman Todd Tiahrt (R-KS, 4th) and talk show host Joseph Ashby. In a speech to delegates, Estes vowed to “shake up D.C.,” and fight a system that “rewards the insiders and the lobbyists.” Democrats selected civil-rights attorney James Thompson, who promised to fight for “sanity and justice” in Washington. While the special election is set for April 11, the district is expected to remain safely in Republican hands.

 

 

 

 

February 9, 2017

This Week: Senator Elizabeth Warren was banned from speaking on the Senate floor 
 
The Senate voted Wednesday night to confirm Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as attorney general, ending a bitter confirmation battle. Sessions was approved by a margin of 52-47, with Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) as the only Democrat flipping to back Sessions. The fight over Sessions escalated this week when Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) read a letter that Coretta Scott King had written in 1986 that accused Sessions, a U.S. attorney at the time, of using his power to prevent African Americans from voting. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) objected to Warren reading the letter, saying she had impugned another member of the Senate. Then, in a 49-43 vote, the Senate blocked Warren from speaking on the Senate floor on Wednesday. Democrats accused McConnell of silencing a woman on the floor and defended their criticism of Sessions’ record on race and immigration. Sessions will face a tough job as attorney general as he takes over the defense of President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order barring people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.
 
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley announced Thursday morning that he has selected state attorney general Luther Strange to replace Sessions in the Senate. Strange, who announced that he planned to run for the seat in 2018, was one of six finalists to fill the vacancy. The appointment comes after Strange asked the Alabama House Judiciary Committee to suspend an investigation into impeachment rules against Bentley because the state attorney general’s office was conducting a related investigation. The impeachment investigation was over allegations that Bentley had an affair with a former political advisor and whether state resources were improperly used. Strange never specified if his office was investigating the governor. Luther Strange will serve until an election is held to fill the seat for the remainder of Sessions’ term.
 
In other news, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) is calling for a series of hearings on President Trump’s recent immigration orders. Durbin sent a letter to Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) requesting a series of hearings on the president’s recent executive orders, stating, “these executive orders, which have dramatic implications for our immigration system, are inconsistent with America's heritage as a nation of immigrants and a safe haven for those fleeing persecution.” The request comes as federal judges harshly criticized the president’s immigration orders on Tuesday, and weighed if the order should be reinstated. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI, 1st) recently defended Trump’s travel ban in an interview, but stated Congress would block the president if he tried to implement a ban on Muslims entering the United States. “This isn’t a Muslim ban. If it were, I would be opposed to it,” stated Ryan, but said it was “totally reasonable and rational” to pause the country’s refugee program.

 

 

 

 

February 2, 2017

This Week: The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Senator Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General on Wednesday, February 1, 2017
 
The Senate continued to be busy with confirmation hearings for President Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to be Attorney General on Wednesday, by a margin of 11-9. His nomination now heads to the floor, where he is expected to be confirmed. Also on Wednesday, Senate Republicans pushed through a pair of Trump’s cabinet nominees, circumventing a Democratic boycott. The Senate Finance Committee advanced two of Trump’s nominees, Steve Mnuchin to head the Treasury Department, and Representative Tom Price (R-GA, 6th) as secretary of Health and Human Services. The committee advanced the nominees after Republicans met and agreed to change the committee’s standing rules, which require at least one member of each party to be in attendance for committee work to proceed. Republicans made the move after Democrats refused to attend a vote on the nominations, stating they had made false statements to lawmakers. The nominees will head to the Senate floor, where they are expected to be confirmed. Wrapping up a busy Wednesday, the Senate made Rex Tillerson the next secretary of state, confirming the former ExxonMobil CEO on a 56-43 vote. Four Democrats crossed party lines to join Republicans in approving Tillerson as the nation’s top diplomat, and he will take over his post as lawmakers remain skeptical over Trump’s foreign policy.
 
In other news, House Democrats are launching an investigation into whether Trump’s national security advisor violated the Constitution when he took a paid speaking gig in Russia after retiring from the military. Ranking Democrats from six committees are asking the Pentagon to determine if Mike Flynn violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause when he spoke at an event in Moscow after he retired. The emoluments clause bars government officials from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments. While Flynn retired from the Army in 2014 as a three-star general, Democrats are pointing to a Defense Department guidance that warns retired military officers that they are still subject to the emoluments clause. In a letter to the Pentagon, the Democrats stated, “it is extremely concerning that General Flynn chose to accept payment for appearing at a gala hosted by the propaganda arm of the Russian government, which attacked the United States in an effort to undermine our election, according to U.S. intelligence agencies.” The probe coincides with investigations by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees into Russia’s interference in November’s presidential election.

 

 

 

January 26, 2017

This Week: The House passed legislation on January 24th barring the use of any federal funds money for abortion services
 
With the inauguration ceremonies officially over, the Senate had another busy week confirming some of President Donald Trump’s cabinet appointees. On Friday, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly were confirmed by the Senate and sworn-in. Five of Trump’s nominees got approval votes on Tuesday: CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Housing and Urban Development head Ben Carson, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. The Senate continued to hold confirmation hearings for the other appointees, including Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. While many of Trump’s nominees have yet to be confirmed, most are expected to sail through with little resistance.
 
The House passed legislation on Tuesday barring the use of any federal funds money for abortion services. The bill passed along party lines by a measure of 238-183, with three Democrats joining Republicans. Passage comes just one day after Trump issued an executive order prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds for nongovernmental organizations that provide abortion services. It also falls three days before the annual March for Life to protest the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. Republicans have scheduled votes on legislation to restrict abortion services to coincide with the March for Life, but all have previously been shut down by a Democratic filibuster in the Senate.
 
In other news, Representative Lynn Jenkins (R-KS, 2nd) announced on Wednesday that she will not be running for reelection to the House. In a statement, Jenkins ruled out a run for any public office, including Governor of Kansas, saying she wants to return to the private sector at the end of her term. Jenkins was first elected to the House in 2008 and has had a conservative voting record in Congress. While she held a minor leadership position, she often faced challenges in the Republican primaries from the more conservative wing of the party. Jenkins departure means the 240 member House Republican Conference will lose one of its 21 women, as well as another vacant seat in Kansas with Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS, 4th) confirmed as Director of the CIA.

 

 

 

January 19, 2017

This Week: Senator Mike Rounds will chair a new cybersecurity subcommittee under the Senate Committee on Armed Services
 
Before President Donald Trump took office on Friday, the Senate was busy with confirmation hearings for his cabinet picks. Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for education secretary, was under attack on Tuesday from Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) about her support of public education funding, previous political donations to Republicans, and the cost of higher education. DeVos vowed to be an advocate for public education, but declined to rule out privatizing public education after further questioning from Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). Representative Tom Price (R-GA, 6th), Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, was grilled over ethical concerns about his investments in health care companies that could have benefited from legislation he wrote. Price acknowledged purchasing shares in an Australian firm that made experimental drugs, but stated his stock transactions he made as a member of Congress were “above board.” When he was a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, Price was involved in drafting the 21st Century Cures Act, which sped up the approval of drugs by the FDA. He faces another hearing next week before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
 
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley pledged before Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs on Wednesday that if confirmed as ambassador to the United Nations, she would stand up to Russian aggression, becoming the latest cabinet pick to criticize Russia. Haley stated, “Russia is trying to show its muscle…We cannot trust them and need to continue to be cautious,” and expressed commitment to exert pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Haley accused the United Nations of having a bias against Israel, and stated she “would have never have abstained” from last month’s vote on a resolution to condemn Israel for expanding its settlements in Palestinian territory. Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, went on the offensive in his Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday, criticizing federal regulations protecting air and water, and directly addressed climate change. Democrats attacked Pruitt on his record, noting he has sued the EPA as attorney general of Oklahoma 14 times in effort to block federal air and water pollution regulations. Pruitt responded, “We must reject as a nation the false paradigm that if you’re pro-energy you’re anti-environment, and if you’re pro-environment you’re anti-energy.” The busy week continues on Thursday, with hearings for former Governor Rick Perry, Trump’s pick for energy secretary, and former Goldman Sach’s partner Steve Mnuchin, the nominee to lead the Treasury Department.
 
In other news, Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) will chair a new cybersecurity subcommittee under the Senate Committee on Armed Services. As chairman of the new subpanel, Rounds will oversee policies and programs related to the Department of Defense’s cybersecurity capabilities. Rounds stressed the importance of responding to and deterring cyber-attacks, and noted, “As recent events have shown, the U.S. is not immune to a cyber-attack from hostile foreign actors…Even more alarming, our adversaries have determined that the reward outweighs the risk of launching a cyber-attack against our nation.”

 

 

 

January 12, 2017

This Week: Senate Democrats staged a sit-in on the chamber floor in protest of GOP efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act
 
The Senate held confirmation hearings for six of President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees in what was a busy week on Capitol Hill. Kicking things off on Tuesday, the Senate held its first confirmation hearing of attorney general nominee Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL). During the questioning, Sessions stated, if confirmed, he would recluse himself from any investigations over Hillary Clinton’s email server. On matters of national security, he said waterboarding was absolutely illegal, and he did not support any plan barring Muslims from entering the U.S. He also faced questioning over the loss of a federal judgeship in 1986 after accusations of racism, and stated that he would uphold the ruling in Roe v. Wade. Democrats avoided personal attacks and focused on policy record, and the long time Senator managed to escape relatively unscathed after the 10 hour hearing. Later in the day, the confirmation hearing for retired Marine General John Kelly, Trump’s nominee for Homeland Security secretary, went smoothly.
 
On Wednesday, the second round of Senator Sessions’ confirmation hearing was held. The highlight of the hearing was a speech given by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), who implored his colleagues to vote against Sessions as attorney general. Booker’s speech was backed up by testimonies from Representatives John Lewis (D-GA, 5th) and Cedric Richmond (D-LA, 2nd), who echoed Booker’s sentiment of blocking Trump’s attorney general nominee. Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil and Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, faced intense scrutiny over his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) interrogated Tillerson over Putin’s alleged interference with the presidential election, as well as Russian aggression in Syria and Ukraine. The hearing got especially tense after Senator Rubio asked Tillerson if Putin was a war criminal, with Tillerson replying “I would not use that term.” The final hearing of the day was for Trump’s secretary of transportation, Elaine Chao. Chao, a veteran cabinet secretary, faced a welcoming panel and spent most of the time promising to examine issues ranging from drones to air traffic control. The hectic week wrapped up on Thursday, with hearings for Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KY, 4th), Trump’s nominee for director of the CIA, and retired Marine General James Mattis, Trump’s nominee for secretary of defense.
 
Senate Democrats staged a sit-in on the chamber floor that lasted until early Tuesday morning in protest of GOP efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Democrats took over the floor at around 7 p.m. on Monday evening, with Senator Dick Durbun (D-IL) kicking things off by accusing Republicans of hating Obamacare “almost as much as the devil hates holy water.” Throughout the night, around half the Democratic conference had taken to the floor in protest, slamming Republicans for rushing to repeal Obamacare without having a plan to replace it. Republican lawmakers are in disagreement in how to proceed with repealing Obamacare. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI, 1st) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are advocating for passing a repeal bill this winter and figuring out how to replace it later. Other Republicans want a firm plan in place before they vote on repealing the sweeping health law. Five GOP Senators introduced an amendment on Monday to change the expected date of repeal from January 27th to March 3rd. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Rand Paul (R-KY) have all expressed uneasiness with moving ahead without a replacement. On Tuesday, President-elect Trump demanded that Congress immediately repeal Obamacare, and then pass another health law quickly thereafter. Trump stated “We have to get to business…Obamacare has been a catastrophic event.”
 
On the House side, Representative Tim Walz (DFL-MN, 1st) was elected to serve as the ranking minority member on the Committee on Veterans Affairs. Walz was unanimously chosen by the House Democratic Caucus to serve as the head Democrat after Representative Mark Takano (D-CA, 41st) withdrew his name from consideration. Takano was serving as the interim ranking member after former Representative Corrine Brown (D-FL, 5th) was indicted for fraud.
 

 

 

January 5, 2017

This Week: House Republicans voted on Monday without warning to significantly limit the power of an independent ethics office
 
With lawmakers back in Washington for the 115th Congress, House Republicans voted on Monday without warning to significantly limit the power of an independent ethics office. The 115th session wasn’t officially gaveled in when House GOP members, led by Representative Robert Goodlatte (R-VA, 6th), announced that the House Republican Conference had approved a change to effectively kill the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). In place of the office, Republicans would create a new office that would review ethics complaints and then would report to the House Ethics Committee, which had been accused of ignoring credible allegations of ethics violations by lawmakers. President-elect Donald Trump expressed his anger with the plan in a series of tweets, and called out his party’s proposal as their first move of the year. House GOP members held an emergency meeting on Tuesday morning before the start of the new Congress, and quickly voted to pull their plan to gut the ethics office. Some Republicans acknowledged that the effort to scrap the OCE on the first day of the new Congress backfired. Representative Dave Brat (R-VA, 7th) said “part of it is the headlines were we were backing off on ethics. So that’s not a good headline when it comes to messaging.”
 
House Republicans adopted new rules to fine lawmakers who take photos or videos on the chamber floor. The House voted along party lines, 234-193, to approve a rules package that enforces previously existing limitations on taking pictures or video on the House floor. The move is meant to deter Democrats from staging protests on the chamber floor, similar to last year’s anti-gun violence sit-in. The new rules also prohibit any “disorderly or disruptive conduct” that might impede the proceedings of the House. Members who violate those rules would be referred to the House Ethics Committee for review.
 
On Wednesday, the House passed legislation that allows Congress to repeal any rule finalized in the last 60 legislative days of the Obama administration, in a single vote. The Midnight Rule Relief Act passed by a margin of 238-184, despite Democratic opposition. If passed by the Senate and signed by President-elect Trump, the legislation would essentially allow lawmakers to bundle multiple rules and overturn them in a single vote of disapproval. Democrats criticized Republicans for bringing the bill to the floor too soon, and the White House has threatened to veto the bill if it reaches President Obama’s desk. Republicans argue the bill allows for Congress to overturn regulations in a quick and efficient fashion. Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA, 49th) argued “all this legislation does is allow for us to dispose of one or more regulations in an expedited fashion in this body and have it seen in the same form in the Senate.” Democrats believe the bill’s main purpose is to give lawmakers the ability to erase months of President Obama’s regulatory agenda.
 
Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI, 1st) was reelected as Speaker of the House in a nearly unanimous vote, with all but Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY, 4th) voting for Ryan. On the Democratic side, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, 12th) captured all but four votes to win reelection, despite Democrats’ disappointing Election Night. Senate Republicans released their committee assignments for the 115th Congress as well. In the announcement, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general, will no longer serve as the chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary. He will maintain his place on the Committee on Armed Services and Committee on the Budget, and will be a new member of the Committees on Energy and Natural Resources and Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) will take the helm of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, replacing Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), who is now the head of the Committee on Rules and Administration. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) is now in charge of the Committee on the Environment and Public Works, and Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) is taking over the Committee on Small Business. Other notable appointments include Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) on the Committee on Appropriations and Senators David Perdue (R-GA) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) on the Committee on Armed Services. On the House side, Representative Diane Black (R-TN) was named the interim House Budget Committee chair. Black will take over for Representative Tom Price (R-GA, 6th) whom President-elect Trump has nominated to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.

 

 

 

December 29, 2016

This Week: The office of House Speaker Paul Ryan announced a House rules package for the 115th Congress
 
While most lawmakers headed home for the holidays, the office of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI, 1st) caused a stir this week by announcing a House rules package for the 115th Congress that, among other things, includes a proposal to penalize members for live streaming video on the House floor. The measure is a response to this summer’s 25-hour sit-in on the House floor carried by Democrats demanding action on gun control. If passed, it will empower the House Sergeant-at-Arms to fine members up to $2,500 for recording video or taking photos on the House floor. The controversial proposal drew immediate backlash from Democratic lawmakers, with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, 12th) calling it an “inside power grab” designed to curb free speech on the Chamber floor. Several current and former House staffers also raised concerns over the constitutionality of the proposal. Traditionally, ethical and breach-of-protocol issues regarding Members are handled by the House Ethics Committee, which has the power to recommend sanctions against lawmakers. To delegate this authority to an unelected official, critics argue, could set a new precedent with unforeseen consequences.
 
In other news, outgoing Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Executive Director Kelly Ward has been tapped to lead the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC). The group, created by former Attorney General Eric Holder and supported by outgoing President Barack Obama, is aimed at helping Democrats regain an edge in the redistricting process that has helped Republicans gain a record amount of state legislatures and hold on to their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives for the better part of a decade.

 

 

 

December 22, 2016

This Week: President-Elect Donald Trump nominated Representative Mick Mulvaney to serve as the Head of the Office of Management and Budget
 
This week in congressional news, Senate Minority Leader-elect Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced the Senate Democratic committee assignments for the 115th Congress on Tuesday. The biggest news from the announcement was the appointments of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to serve on the Committee on Armed Services and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) to serve on the Foreign Relations committee. Both Senators are known for focusing on domestic issues, and the new posts will give the Democratic stars a greater role in global affairs’ policy making. The newly elected Democratic Senators also received their assignments for the upcoming Congress. Senator-elect Maggie Hassan (D-NH) was appointed to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC), as well as the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). Senator-elect Kamala Harris (D-CA) will join the committees on Environment and Public Works (EPW), Intelligence, Budget and HSGAC. Senator-elect Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) was appointed to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, as well as the Appropriations and Budget committees. Lastly, Senator-elect Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV) will serve on six committees: Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, Energy and Natural Resources, Rules and Administration, Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Indian Affairs, and the Special Committee on Aging.
 
On the GOP side, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) announced their committee assignments for the 115th Congress. Grassley is expected to continue to serve as chairman of the powerful Judiciary Committee, as well as keep his seats on the Finance, Budget, and Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry committees. In the next session, Grassley will oversee the hearing and confirmation process for Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who was nominated to be the attorney general in the Trump administration. Grassley will also be in charge of the confirmation process for a new member of the U.S. Supreme Court. Ernst will join the Environment and Public Works Committee, giving her oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and renewable energy. She will also continue to serve on the Armed Services, Agriculture, and Small business committees.
 
In other news, president-elect Donald Trump nominated Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-SC, 5th) to serve as the head of the Office of Management and Budget. Mulvaney, a staunch fiscal conservative, has pushed for cuts on both domestic and defense spending since he was first elected in 2010. He has stated his preference for the government to play a smaller role in health care, calling Obamacare a “government takeover” of health care. Mulvaney is also one of the founding members of the hardline House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative lawmakers who pushed for Speaker John Boehner (R-OH, 8th) to resign. If confirmed, he will help guide the president-elect’s promise to repeal the Affordable Care act and design a major tax overhaul.

 

 

December 15, 2016

This Week: An investigation is being called due to Russia's suspected interference in the 2016 election
 
As the 114th Congress comes to an end, many lawmakers are calling for an investigation into Russia’s suspected interference in the 2016 election. On Monday, Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) demanded a full congressional investigation into reports of Russian interference, stating “Senate Democrats will join with our Republican colleagues next year to demand a congressional investigation and hearings to get to the bottom of this.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) echoed Schumer’s sentiment, and called for a full congressional probe into allegations of any interference in the 2016 election. As the week went on, members of Congress from both sides came out in support of a full investigation, expressing the importance and severity of the situation. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI, 1st) called any Russian intervention “especially problematic,” and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, 12th) stated “there must be no equivocation or ignoring the seriousness of the intelligence community's conclusion about Russia's actions.” While congressional leaders are vowing to investigate allegations of Russian interference, they’re already arguing over how any probe should be conducted. Senior Republicans want to go through the House and Senate intelligence committees, but some Democrats want to set up an independent investigation similar to the 9/11 commission. Other Republicans are calling for forming completely new congressional committees and subcommittees to dig into the matter, while a different group of Democrats would like to see a rare bicameral probe into whether Russia allegedly hacked the Democratic National Committee emails.
 
In election news, three runoff elections took place on Saturday in Louisiana, bringing the 2016 election to a close. In the Senate runoff, Republican John Kennedy defeated Democrat Foster Campbell, giving Republicans a 52-48 majority come January. Kennedy, the state treasurer, succeeds retiring Senator David Vitter (R-LA), who lost a bid for governor last year. In Louisiana’s 3rd Congressional District, Republican Clay Higgins, a former sheriff’s captain who calls himself the “Cajun John Wayne”, trounced Democrat and longtime politician Scott Angelle by 12 points. Republican State Representative Mike Johnson easily defeated Democrat Marshall Jones to represent Louisiana’s 4th Congressional District, succeeding Representative John Fleming (R-LA, 4th) who ran an unsuccessful bid for Senate.
 
In other news, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has landed a spot on the Senate Committee on Armed Services for the 115th Congress. Warren released a statement on Wednesday announcing her appointment to the committee, saying “I will focus on making sure Congress provides effective support and oversight of the Armed Forces, monitors threats to national security, and ensures the responsible use of military force around the globe.” The Massachusetts Senator is best known for fighting Wall Street executives and pushing for ways to improve the middle class.
 
 
 

December 8, 2016

This Week: Respresentative Xavier Becerra was nominated to become California's attorney general
 
Democrats held another round of leadership elections to fill out the remaining leadership posts. Representative Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM, 3rd) was re-elected as chair of the DCCC. Despite disappointing results on Election Day, he ran unopposed and was elected unanimously. Representative Cedric Richmond (D-LA, 2nd) was tapped to chair the Congressional Black Caucus, and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM, 1st) was elected as chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Democrats took some of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA, 12th) recommendations in expanding some of the leadership posts. Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-IL, 17th), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY, 8th), and David Cicilline (D-RI, 1st) were elected co-chairs of the DPCC, which had previously been led by one chair, retiring Representative Steve Israel (D-NY, 3rd). The Democratic Steering and Policy Committee also had its leadership role expanded, and Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT, 3rd) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA, 15th) were named co-chairs. Democrats also expanded who would be able to sit in on regular leadership meetings to include a more diverse set of opinions. Representatives Tony Cardenas (D-CA, 29th), Filemon Vela (D-TX, 34th), and freshman member Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI, 1st) were chosen to attend the meetings on a regular basis.
 
On the other side of the aisle, Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC, 11th) was tapped to serve as the head of the House Freedom Caucus. Meadow’s was unanimously selected by his peers to serve as the new chairman of the controversial caucus after Representative James Jordan (R-OH, 4th) declined to run for a third term. The third term Republican, who has a reputation as one of the friendliest members of Congress, stated he wanted the caucus to take a more “policy driven” approach this year. Meadows is most known for introducing a motion to vacate the chair against former Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) in 2015. Boehner eventually left on his own, but Meadows’ motion helped created the drive to push the Speaker out the door.
 
In other news, Representative Xavier Becerra (D-CA, 34th) was nominated to become California’s attorney general. Governor Jerry Brown nominated Becerra, the highest-ranking Latino in Congress, last Thursday to fill the post that will be vacated by Kamala Harris after she is sworn in as U.S. Senator on January 3rd, 2017. Before Thursday’s announcement, Becerra was gearing up to seek a position as ranking Democrat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, facing a strong challenge from Representative Richard Neal (D-MA, 1st). However, with Becerra’s departure, Democrats were able to avoid any sort of divisive battle, and Neal was elected to serve as the ranking member. For Becerra, the move gives him a new statewide perch to continue his political career and a possible stepping stone to higher office.

 

 

December 1, 2016

This Week: Representative Darrell Issa won re-election after three weeks of the results being too close to call
 
House Democrats held leadership elections on Wednesday. Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, 12th) fended off a challenge from Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH, 13th), and was re-elected House Minority Leader. Pelosi defeated Ryan by a margin of 134-63 in a secret vote conducted in a closed session. After a disappointing election, some House Democrats called for a change in leadership, wanting fresh ideas. Many critics felt the party alienated middle-class workers, especially in the Rust Belt, who voted for Trump and other down-ballot candidates. While the vote clearly shows there’s an appetite for major reform in the party’s leadership structure and messaging tactics, it wasn’t strong enough to loosen Pelosi’s grip on power. Pelosi has led the House Democrats for 13 years, and was the first female Speaker of the House from 2007-2011.
 
House Democrats also chose to keep many of Pelosi’s top lieutenants in major leadership positions. Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD, 5th) ran unopposed as Democratic Whip, and James Clyburn (D-SC, 6th) was re-elected as Assistant Democratic Leader. Representative Joe Crowley (D-NY, 14th) was elected as chairman of the Democratic Caucus, with Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA, 38th) serving as his vice chair. Sanchez, who also chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, is the first minority woman elected to House leadership.
 
On Tuesday, Representative Sander Levin (D-MI, 9th) announced he will step down as the Ranking Democrat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee. In a letter to colleagues, Levin stated he was stepping down to make way for younger members of Congress, and will focus his efforts on trade and health care. Representatives Xavier Becerra (D-CA, 34th) and Richard Neal (D-MA, 1st) have both thrown their hats into the ring to replace Levin.
 
In election news, Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA, 49th) narrowly won re-election after three weeks of the results being too close to call. Issa defeated challenger Douglas Applegate, a retired Marine colonel, by a razor thin margin of around 2,000 votes. San Diego county officials said fewer than 1,000 votes remain to be counted, but Issa’s lead secured the victory. Issa, who was first elected to Congress in 2000, has served as the House Oversight Committee chairman since 2010 and is best known for pursuing high-profile investigations into the Obama administration. It was the final uncalled House race of 2016.
 
 
 

November 23, 2016

This Week: Representative Tim Ryan plans to challenge House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
 
Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH, 13th) announced last Thursday that he will challenge House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, 12th) for the top Democratic post. In a letter to the caucus, the Ohio Democrat said the disastrous election results show the party needs a new direction that can be accomplished only with new leaders. “Under our current leadership, Democrats have been reduced to our smallest congressional minority since 1929. This should indicate to all of us that keeping our leadership team completely unchanged will simply lead to more disappointment in future elections,” said Ryan. Pelosi has led the Democrats since 2003 and gone unchallenged in almost every cycle. In 2010, former-Representative Heath Shuler (D-NC, 11th) challenged Pelosi after Democrats lost 63 seats and control of the Speaker’s gavel. After a rebellion in a meeting with the caucus, Pelosi decided to postpone leadership elections until after Thanksgiving. There is significant discontent within the caucus after Democrats’ poor showing on Election Day, but it’s not clear if that will translate into support for Ryan’s leadership bid. Confidence in Pelosi’s leadership has clearly been shaken, she has a loyal following in her caucus, and many think it would take a miracle to unseat her.
 
In other news, Senator-elect Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) will chair the DSCC for the next election cycle. Van Hollen, who was elected to replace retiring Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), will lead the DSCC for the 2018 cycle, a period where Democrats will fight to keep hold of Senate seats in heavily Republican territory. Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced his decision to select Van Hollen on Friday, saying “Chris Van Hollen was our first choice for DSCC chairman because of his talents, his work ethic, and his experience.” Van Hollen faces an uphill battle in 2018. Republicans are only defending one Senate seat in a state Democrat Hillary Clinton won, while a majority of Democratic held seats are up for grabs in states where President-elect Donald Trump won by large margins. 

 

 

November 17, 2016

This Week: Senator Chuck Schumer was elected Senate Democratic Leader
 
Both parties in Congress held their leadership elections. Republicans rallied behind Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI, 1st), who ran unopposed for the top leadership post and was nominated in a unanimous vote during a behind closed-door meeting on Tuesday. Ryan will cruise to reelection as Speaker on January 3rd, 2017, when all members of the House of Representatives will cast their vote. The top brass in the GOP, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA, 23rd), Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA, 1st), GOP Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA, 5th), and Republican Policy Chairman Luke Messer (R-IN, 6th) were all unanimously reelected to their leadership posts. Representative Steve Stivers (R-OH, 15th) defeated Representative Roger Williams (R-TX, 25th) to become the next chairman of the NRCC, and Representative Doug Collins (R-GA, 9th) beat Representative Bill Flores (R-TX, 17th) in the race for GOP Conference Vice Chairman in the only upset of the day. Lastly, Representative Jason Smith (R-MO, 8th) ran uncontested for GOP Conference Secretary.
 
Mirroring their counterparts in the House, the Senate Republican leadership elections went off without a hitch on Wednesday. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was reelected as the chamber’s Republican leader, and most of leadership team will remain the same. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) was elected the new Chairman of the NRSC, replacing Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), who was term-limited.
 
It was a different story for House Democrats. Facing heavy pressure from the caucus, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, 12th) delayed the party’s leadership elections until the end of the month. Fresh off an embarrassing election, the delay is intended to give Democrats time to figure out why their party’s message failed to resonate with much of the country. Instead of picking up 10 to 20 seats as they had hoped, Democrats only gained six seats. The poor showing has led to some serious finger pointing among Democrats, and the party wants time to review the situation. While Pelosi’s tenure as Minority Leader doesn’t appear to be in jeopardy, the delay gives Democrats plenty of time to think about the California Democrat’s future.
 
On the Senate side, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was elected Senate Democratic leader, succeeding retiring Senator Harry Reid (D-NV). Schumer appointed Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) as the Assistant Democratic Leader, and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) was reelected as Senate Democratic Whip. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will be joining the Democratic leadership as Chairman of Outreach, a newly created position. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) was tapped to serve as Chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) as Chairwoman of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) will now take over for Stabenow as Vice Chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Center, and Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) will succeed Murray as the Senate Democratic Conference Secretary. Rounding out the leadership team, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) will now serve as Vice Chairs of the Conference.
 
However, that’s not all the drama for Senate Democrats. There was a reshuffling of some of the top committee ranking members. With the retirement of Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is leaving his post on the Senate Judiciary Committee to become the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. To replace Leahy, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) appointed Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) as the first female ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Filling the void left behind on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) will become the new ranking member on the powerful committee. With Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) retiring as the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) will step up into that role. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) will replace Carper as the ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) is now the top Democrat on the Veteran Affairs Committee, and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) will remain the ranking member for the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Rounding out the day, Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) will be the top Democrat on the Ethics Committee, widely known as the “worst job” in the Senate.
 
In election news, two races in California remain too close to call a week after the general election. Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA, 49th) leads Democrat Doug Applegate by under two percentage points. Last week, Issa claimed victory with a 4,000 vote lead and expressed confidence his lead would hold. Now he claims “liberals are trying to steal the election,” and says he will challenge the legality of some of the ballots still being counted. Election officials are still counting late returned and provisional ballots, but Issa expects his lead to continue to shrink to within one percent. Issa has hired an army of 20 observers and two law firms to oversee the process and make sure the ballots are counted correctly. Late returned and provisional ballots have favored Democrats in races across the country. California’s 7th is also too close to call, but Representative Ami Bera’s (D-CA, 7th) lead has increased over Republican challenger Scott Jones. On Monday, with around 96,000 votes left to be counted, Jones trailed Bera by 2,583 votes. However, as of Wednesday, Bera now holds a 4,802 vote lead over Jones.
 
Additionally, Representative Janice Hahn (D-CA, 44th) announced on Thursday her resignation from the House, effective December 4th. Hahn was elected to serve as Los Angeles County Supervisor on November 8th, following in her father’s footsteps. Lastly, Representative Kristi Noem (R-SD, At-Large) announced on Tuesday that she will not run for reelection in 2018 in order to run for governor of South Dakota.

 

 

November 10, 2016

This Week: Republicans maintain control of House and Senate

Like in the presidential race, Republicans won big in battleground states to keep control of the House and Senate, shattering the Democrats' hope for big gains in Congress. This election cycle was their best hope for taking back the Senate, and the electoral map presented a prime opportunity to do so, but Democrats were only able to pick up one seat. Republicans won some key battleground states, and held onto their majority with 51 seats. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) was able to bounce back from his failed presidential bid, and easily defeated Representative Patrick Murphy (D-FL, 18th) to win reelection. In Wisconsin, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) defeated Russ Feingold (D), who was looking to make a return to Congress. Evan Bayh (D-IN) was also looking to make a big return, but questions around his wealth after serving in the House caught up to him, and Representative Todd Young (R-IN, 9th) won the open seat. In Missouri, rising star Jason Kander (D) ran a good campaign against Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), but could not overcome the Senator’s engrained popularity. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) was able to hold on and defeat challenger Katie McGinty (D), serving a major blow to Democrat’s chances to retake the Senate.

However, there were some bright spots for Democrats, no matter how few. In New Hampshire, former Governor Maggie Hassan (D) defeated Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). The race was one of the closest and most bitter this cycle, and Democrats pounced on the chance to pick up a prized seat. In Nevada, Catherine Cortez Masto (D) defeated Representative Joe Heck (R-NV, 3rd) to replace outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) was able to beat back challenger Darryl Glenn (R), who emerged as a surprise candidate for the GOP in the key battleground state. Perhaps the brightest spot for Democrats on Tuesday was Representative Tammy Duckworth (D-IL, 8th) easily defeating Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), putting both of the state’s Senate seats in control of Democrats.

On the House side, Republicans easily held onto their majority, but there were plenty of key victories for both sides. In Florida, Representative John Mica (R-FL, 7th) lost reelection to challenger Stephanie Murphy (D), a rising star in the Democratic Party and the first Vietnamese-American woman elected to Congress. Also in firsts, Pramila Jayapal (D-WA, 7th) defeated Brady Walkinshaw (D), becoming the first Indian-American woman in Congress. Ro Khanna (D) ousted Representative Mike Honda (D-CA, 17th) in a marquee matchup in California’s Bay Area.

There were several candidates looking to mount political comebacks in Congress as well. Former Governor Charlie Crist (D) defeated Representative David Jolly (R-FL, 13th), and Colleen Hanabusa (D) reclaimed her old seat in Hawaii’s 1st. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH, 1st) narrowly defeated Representative Frank Guinta (R-NH, 1st) in her return to Congress, capping off New Hampshire’s all-female Democratic Washington delegation, a national first.

Two familiar names are also headed to Washington, winning seats their parents once held. In Wyoming, Liz Cheney (R), daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, won her father’s old House seat. Jimmy Panetta (D) also won election in California representing the same region once served by his father, Leon Panetta.

In New Jersey, Joshua Gottheimer (D) was able to knock off Representative Scott Garrett (R-NJ, 5th), who was a vocal member of the House Freedom Caucus. Representative Will Hurd (R-TX, 23rd) defeated challenger Pete Gallego (D) in the only battleground race in Texas, preventing Gallego from taking his former seat. In Virginia, Representative Barbara Comstock (R-VA, 10th) and challenger LuAnn Bennett (D) waged a contentious battle, but the freshman Republican was able to hold on and win reelection. Don Bacon (R), a retired Air Force general, knocked off Representative Brad Ashford (D-NE, 2nd), ending his one term in Congress. In Kentucky, James Comer (R) won a special election to fill the unexpired term of former Republican Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY, 1st). Dwight Evans (D) also won a special election in Pennsylvania, filling the vacant seat left by disgraced former Representative Chaka Fattah (D-PA, 2nd).

 

 

November 3, 2016

This Week: Last week's announcement from FBI Director James Comey has given Republicans a last second boost in the race for the House and Senate
 
With less than a week until Election Day, some Republican candidates are looking to capitalize on the FBI’s surprise decision to review emails related to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server. Last week’s announcement from FBI Director James Comey has given Republicans a last-second boost in the race for the House and Senate, and they are hoping it will drum up enthusiasm from their voters. The FBI’s decision followed weeks of panic among Republicans that Donald Trump’s brash and vulgar behavior would doom the party. Now, vulnerable Republican candidates are using Comey’s surprise decision to tie their opponents to the embattled Democratic nominee, who some view as untrustworthy. In New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) released an ad saying her opponent, Governor Maggie Hassan (D-NH), is “not honest about Hillary Clinton’s dishonesty,” and accused Hassan of trying to dodge the Clinton issue. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) called into question challenger Katie McGinty’s (D-NH) ethics and her close relationship with Hillary Clinton.Republicans are hoping the latest revelation will drive home their message that Hillary and her allies are tainted by years of scandal and are untrustworthy to run the government.
 
However, candidates in both parties are uncertain the latest surprise will have much of an impact for down-ballot races. Democrats say the damage from Trump has already been done, and the Republican candidates who hitched their wagon to him are still paying the prices for his many controversies. In the House, Republicans are still looking at steeper losses than were predicted earlier this year, and a number of open tossup seats in New York, Nevada, Arizona, and Michigan could still go either way. Some House Republicans are hesitant to seize on the FBI’s recent revelations, and question how much the recent news will affect congressional races. While recent polls show the latest surprise as having a marginal effect on down-ballot races so far, many are prepared for a chaotic finish.

 

October 27, 2016

This Week: Senior House Republicans are worried Democrats could win as many as 20 seats in Congress
 
With two weeks left until the general election, Republicans are making a last ditch effort to save their majority in Congress. House Republicans are worried that Donald Trump’s presidential collapse has hurt the GOP’s hopes of keeping its losses in the single digits. Some senior House Republicans are worried Democrats could win as many as 20 seats, which would cut deep into their 30 seat majority. Races that seemed safe back in early July are vulnerable, and Democrats are pouring money into races against Republicans like Representatives Cresent Hardy (R-NV, 4th)Bob Dold (R-IL, 10th), and even Darrell Issa (R-CA, 49th).However, while Republicans acknowledge they’re entering the final stretch of the election in worse shape than they can imagine, they believe Trump has hit rock bottom and cannot do any more damage to down-ballot races.
 
On the Senate side, Republicans are tossing one last Hail Mary to stop Trump from dragging the GOP down with him. The Senate Leadership Fund is throwing $25 million into six races during the final weeks of the election in a last ditch effort to narrow the deficit heading into November. Steven Law, president of the Senate Leadership Fund, acknowledged Republicans face an uphill battle to preserve their majority, and noted that Democrats are outspending their counterparts by millions of dollars. Most of the money will be spent on purchasing ads for Senate campaigns in Nevada, Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Carolina, Missouri, and New Hampshire. While the Democrats have a clear path to gain majority control of the Senate, Steven Law stated “we’re going to take casualties but that we’re going to go out guns blazing.”
 
 

October 20, 2016

This Week: Democrats predict huge gains in the House and Senate 
 
With just three weeks until the general election, Democratic leaders are predicting huge gains in both chambers of Congress, and are growing more confident they can gain control of the Senate. On Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, 12th) told reporters in the Capitol that she predicts House Democrats will pick up at least 25 seats. In the Senate, many Democrats are predicting they can pick up seven or even up to nine seats on November 8, far exceeding the five seats necessary to gain control of the Senate. Some Democratic strategists say that the infighting unfolding in the GOP has put seats that they had given up on in Florida, Ohio, Iowa, and Arizona back on the table, and may be within reach after all. The bold predictions are an indication that both sides feel confident Donald Trump’s campaign will harm Republicans down the ballot. Pelosi later wrapped up her comments, saying “we’re in a good place.”
 
In other news, a group of Democratic senators sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Thursday asking him to halt work on the Dakota Access oil pipeline, and conduct a more thorough review of the project. The group, led by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), called the project “a violation of tribal treaty rights,” and said federal regulators did not do a thorough assessment of the environmental and cultural consequences of the pipeline before approving it. The letter comes days after a federal appeals court gave the approval to start construction on the 1,170 mile pipeline, ruling against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request to halt the project. The Army Corps and pipeline developers said they took the necessary precautions to avoid any heritage sites in North Dakota, and in light of the court’s recent decision, the developers stated they will undertake a “prompt resumption” of work. The White House has sidestepped any questions about the pipeline, and the Obama administration is currently conducting an internal review of its permitting decisions for the project.

 

October 13, 2016

This Week: Republicans worry about losing House and Senate majorities 
 
With less than a month until the general election, Republican congressional leaders have gone into crisis mode, distancing themselves from their presidential nominee, Donald Trump. With new polls showing Trump trailing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton badly, many Republicans fear that their majorities in Congress are in jeopardy. On Monday, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI, 1st) held a conference call and told Republican lawmakers he’s done campaigning for Trump, and will instead focus on preserving the House majority. He told his members “you all need to do what’s best for you in your district.” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA, 23rdechoed Ryan’s sentiment, and urged lawmakers to focus on their own races. Other members of the leadership team, including Representatives Steve Scalise (R-LA, 1st)Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA, 5th), and Greg Walden (R-OR, 2nd) all supported Ryan’s plan. The call comes as GOP congressional leaders have grown increasingly tired of Trump’s rhetoric, offensive language, and consistent controversy. Many Republicans worry that a complete Trump meltdown could doom their majorities in Congress. Yet, some lawmakers refuse to concede their support for Trump, and feel Ryan has abandoned their nominee. The drama and infighting has put the party in an impossible spot, with one GOP lawmaker saying “we're in a terrible place…We're damned if we do stick with Trump and damned if we don't.”
 
In other news, a recent personal financial disclosure form showed Indiana Democratic Senate candidate Evan Bayh’s wealth increased dramatically between his 2010 retirement and his 2016 comeback attempt. According to the 19-page form filed on Sunday, Bayh’s net worth soared after he left office, with a reported assets between $13.9 million and $48 million. He has spent most of his post-Congress time working at powerful K Street firms and serving on corporate boards. The report also shows Bayh earned nearly $6.3 million in salary, compensation on corporate boards, and speaking fees since January 2015. Bayh’s time advising corporate clients after leaving office has become a major attack point for Republican groups and his GOP opponent in the Indiana Senate race, Representative Todd Young (R-IN, 9th).

 

October 6, 2016

This Week: Sen. Ayotte suffers blowback from role model comment 
 
Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) is suffering major blowback from a comment she made Monday evening calling Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump a role model for children. Ayotte’s comment came during a televised Senate debate against Governor Maggie Hassan, who is mounting a competitive bid to unseat her. During the debate, Ayotte was asked if she would describe the Republican nominee as a role model and whether she would tell children to be like Donald Trump. Ayotte stumbled at first, but eventually answered “I think that certainly there are many role models that we have and I believe he can serve as president, and so absolutely I would do that.” Immediately after the debate, Ayotte sought to walk back on her comments saying she “misspoke tonight.” “While I would hope all of our children would aspire to be president, neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton have set a good example, and I wouldn’t hold up either of them as role models for my kids,” Ayotte wrote in a statement. Democrats are seizing on Ayotte’s comments, many of whom see her comments as a turning point in not only in New Hampshire, but in Senate races across the country. The DSCC released an ad on Tuesday that simply contained unedited footage of the moment, with others taking to social media to spread the message. Democrats believe the Ayotte story has legs across the country and can be used in conjunction with Trump’s comments about women against other Republican candidates as Democrats seek to retake the Senate.
 
In other news, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is seeking more documents from the drug company Mylan about how much money it makes on its EpiPen product. The committee sent a letter to Mylan CEO Heather Bresch on Monday asking for a wide range of documents related to the profitability of the EpiPens. The latest inquiry comes amid questions about how much taxes Mylan actually pays on sales of the anti-allergy devices. The letter lists 18 different sets of information requested by the committee, and they want all of it by Friday. This is just the latest trouble for Mylan, which has faced major criticism from the public and Congress since August, when EpiPen prices increased more than 500 percent. In the letter, Representatives Jason Chaffetz (R-UT, 3rd) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD, 7th) expressed frustration over Bresch’s latest testimony, and suggested Mylan isn’t telling the whole truth about the EpiPen’s profitability. In response, a Mylan spokeswoman stated “We remain committed to productive and continued cooperation with the committee, and we intend to respond to their request for additional information.”

 

September 29, 2016

This Week: Congress overturned a veto 

This week in congressional news, Congress voted Wednesday to overturn a veto from President Barack Obama of a bill that would allow the families of terrorist victims to sue governments suspected of sponsoring terrorism. The Senatevoted 97-1 in favor of the override, and several hours later the House followed suit voting 348-77 in favor of overturning the veto, the first time in President Obama’s tenure. The override was widely expected, with lawmakers characterizing it as an act of justice for victims of the 9/11 attacks. After the vote, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA, 6th) stated, “we can no longer allow those who injure and kill Americans to hide behind legal loopholes denying justice to the victims of terror.” The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) would allow victims of terrorist attacks in the U.S. to sue countries that are not formally designated as sponsors of terrorism, like Saudi Arabia. Critics of JASTA argue it will undermine our relationship with Saudi Arabia, and could open up the possibility of other countries from enacting similar policies. Many lawmakers echoed the White House’s concerns, with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX, 13thlobbying members of Congress to oppose the override vote. Ultimately, those concerns did not gain enough traction to stop Wednesday’s vote.

In other news, Congress passed a short-term spending bill to fund the government, just days ahead of the October 1 deadline to avoid a shutdown. The Senate approved the measure 72-26 on Wednesday, and the lower chamber approved the stopgap measure later that night by a margin of 342-85. The deal will keep the government operating through December 9, and provide $1.1 billion in funding to combat the Zika virus. Wednesday’s vote came after a last minute deal was struck to attach a separate aid package to the stopgap measure for the Flint, Mich. drinking water crisis. The bipartisan deal broke the stalemate that had plagued negotiations for weeks, and avoids a messy government shutdown that neither side wanted. The spending bill was the last major item on Congress’s pre-election agenda, as Congress heads home for recess ahead of November’s vote. 

 

September 22, 2016

This Week: Shell bill for government funding and Zika virus advances 

The Senate voted Tuesday evening to advance a “shell bill” that eventually will be used to fund the government through December 9 and combat the Zika virus. The bill contains no details of an agreement, but senators are hoping it will serve as a vehicle for negotiation and will speed up the process for a final deal. Leaders on both sides want to pass a clean bill to avoid a government shutdown on October 1, and that means saving the debate on “riders” for the lame-duck session. The biggest hurdle on passing an agreement was providing funding to combat Zika, which has been resolved without including any language that would block a Planned Parenthood clinic in Puerto Rico from accessing the federal grants. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters on Tuesday that both parties were close to finalizing a deal, and that the Senate would stay in session next week to go through slog of must-pass spending bills. 

On Wednesday, the Senate rejected a push to block an arms sale worth $1.15 billion to Saudi Arabia. Senators voted 71-27 on a procedural move by Majority Leader McConnell to table the resolution of disapproval, and essentially killed the bill. Supporters of the resolutions, led by Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY)Chris Murphy (D-CT)Mike Lee (R-UT), and Al Franken (D-MN), all voiced concerns that the military equipment would be used to harm civilians and worsen the country’s humanitarian crisis. Last month, the State Department approved the sale of tanks and other military equipment as Saudi has been fighting the Houthis, rebels backed by Iran, in Yemen. The vote comes as Congress is preparing to fight an expected Presidential veto of a different bill allowing 9/11 victims’ families to sue the Saudi government.

 

September 15, 2016

This Week: Carla Hayden sworn in as Librarian of Congress 
 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) submitted a spending proposal to Democrats on Tuesday to keep the government open past elections. The proposal came just hours after Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)complained that he had not received anything from his Republican counterpart. On Wednesday, Reid expressed his disappointment with the proposal stating “there are lots of problems” with the spending measure, leaving little hope a deal might be reached by the end of the week. Leaders on both sides are at an impasse over tens of millions of dollars in funding to fight the Zika virus. The biggest hold up is $80 million in funding that Democrats want to fight the Zika virus in Puerto Rico, some of which would end up going to a Planned Parenthood clinic in the territory. Republicans object and refuse to allow any federal funds slated for Zika response to end up going to the clinic. The Senate was supposed to begin floor debate on the stopgap measure on Wednesday, but that will now take place later in the week.
 
In other news, Carla Hayden was sworn in as the first woman and African-American Librarian of Congress on Wednesday. Hayden takes charge at a time when the library is transitioning into the digital age, and emphasized the need to move the institution forward and make its 162 million items more accessible in her remarks during the swearing-in ceremony. The library has come under fire in recent yearsfor its technology and modernization efforts, and has struggled with diversity and discrimination issues within its workforce. Hayden succeeds acting Librarian David Mao, and will be the first Librarian of Congress to have a term limited to 10 years.
 
The 2016 congressional primary season came to a close this week as Delaware, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island held their primaries on Tuesday. The main attraction of the night was the primary showdown between embattled Representative Frank Guinta (R-NH, 1st) and challenger Rich Ashooh. Coming into Wednesday morning, Guinta had a narrow lead over Ashooh by a margin of just 661 votes with 97 percent of precincts reporting. Despite the close margin, Ashooh conceded before the AP called the race. Last year, Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and other New Hampshire Republicans called on Guinta to resign after he was caught in a campaign finance scandal, but decided to run for reelection anyway. He now faces a tough matchup against former Democratic Representative Carol Shea-Porter in November, whom he’s faced off with three times before. The other big news of the day comes out of Delawarewhere Lisa Blunt Rochester won the Democratic primary for Representative John Carney’s At Large seat, who is running for governor. She won a six-way primary with 44 percent of the vote, with State Senator Bryan Townsend coming in second. Townsend had the backing of many of the state’s largest labor groups, but did not spend any money on TV ads. Since Delaware’s House seat is considered safely Democratic, Lisa Blunt Rochester will likely become the state’s first woman and African-American member of Congress.
 
 

September 8, 2016

This Week: Congress returns from recess to a full slate of priorities 
 
As Congress returned from its summer recess, Senate Democrats blocked a bill aimed at combating the Zika virus over divisive language targeting Planned Parenthood. Democrats, who blocked similar legislation back in June, voted nearly unanimously on Tuesday to prevent the bill from moving forward. The bill would have provided $1.1 billion in funding to combat the virus, including $350 million in new money with the rest coming from existing health programs. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) accused Democrats of “filibustering” the funding for Zika, especially as public health officials warn of a major outbreak along the Gulf Coast. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) shot back from the floor, “Republicans were more interested in attacking Planned Parenthood and flying the confederate flag. Can’t make that stuff up — that’s really the truth.” Dr. Thomas Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said his agency has used up almost all of the funds it was allocated to fight the virus and warned that many states are running out of money to fight the virus. Some Republicans, especially those in Florida, are facing intense pressure on Zika funding, and are advocating to drop the Planned Parenthood language in order to pass a bill. Despite the standoff, lawmakers expect to unveil another plan next month as part of a must pass, stopgap spending measure to keep the government funded.
 
In other news, the House is expected to vote this Friday on a bill allowing the families of 9/11 victims to sueSaudi Arabia in U.S. Courts. The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), already approved unanimously by the Senate back in May, is expected to pass the House just days ahead of the 15thanniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Currently, victims are allowed to sue countries designated as sponsors of terrorism, such as Iran, but not countries without the designation. JASTA will change U.S. law allowing victims of terror attacks to sue countries suspected of sponsoring terrorism. President Barack Obama is expected to veto the bill, which is under intense opposition from the administration and national security officials. Critics argue the bill would undermine the already shaky relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, and would open the door for other nations to pass similar policies. In July, Congress released 28 previously secret pages outlining suspicious Saudi ties to the hijackers, but there was no definitive evidence linking the country to the terror attacks. 
 

September 1, 2016

This Week: Arizona and Florida hold primaries
 
Arizona and Florida held their primaries on Tuesday, containing many high-profile races. In Arizona, SenatorJohn McCain (R-AZ) scored a decisive victory over challenger Kelli Ward in the Republican Senate primary, winning by double digits. Ward, a former state Senator and staunch Donald Trump supporter, attacked McCain for his lukewarm support of Trump, seeking to expose the rifts between McCain and the party’s base. While this tactic temporarily put McCain on defense, his campaign had considerably more resources and a formidable field operation which allowed them to finish strong in the final weeks before the primary. The campaign now shifts to the general election, where McCain will face a major test from Representative Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ, 1st). Kirkpatrick did not face a primary opponent, which left her free to stockpile cash and build a coherent campaign strategy. Kirkpatrick has criticized McCain’s support of Trump, especially his comments on Mexican immigrants, which could hurt the Senator in the increasingly diverse state.
 
In Florida, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Patrick Murphy (D-FL, 18thwill face each other in November in a long awaited showdown. Since Rubio abandoned his bid for the White House, he and Murphy have largely been focused on each other. Rubio’s main challenger was Carlos Beruff, a wealthy real estate developer who spent $7 million of his own money but was never able to gain any traction in his campaign. Murphy easily defeated the controversial Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL, 9th), who’s campaign was marred by reports stating that he physically abused his wife. The matchup between Rubio and Murphy is poised to be one of the most contentious of the battleground Senate races, as both have deep campaign funds and have attracted outside involvement form national political groups.
 
Elsewhere in Florida, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL, 23rd) survived her primary, defeating law professor Tim Canova. Canova raised a large amount of money from Bernie Sanders’ supporters looking to defeat the former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman, but was unable to overcome Wasserman Schultz’s standing back home. Representative Corrine Brown (D-FL, 5th) lost her primary after running her campaign in the shadow of a 24-count indictment. Former state Senator Al Lawsonwon by a margin of 47-39%, ending Brown’s nearly 25 years in Congress. Brown’s calling card was being able to return millions of dollars of taxpayer’s money to the district, and became a political icon in Florida. However, once allegations of fraud came out, her campaign funds and political standing shriveled up.
 
In other news, Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY, 1st) announced he will resign next week amid an ethics investigation. Last July, Whitfield announced his retirement after the House Ethics Committee found that Whitfield failed to “prohibit lobbying contacts between his staff and his wife,” stemming from allegations that he allowed his wife to contact his staff about a federal investigation her lobbying firm was interested in. His resignation is effective September 6th after the House returns from its summer recess. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin will call a special election that is to be held at the same time as the general election, allowing Whitfield’s successor to serve during the “lame duck” session. 
 
 

August 25, 2016

This Week: Lawmakers call for investigation of EpiPen price spike
 
Lawmakers are clashing with the pharmaceutical company Mylan over the price hike of their flagship product, the EpiPen. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) sent a letter to Mylan’s CEO this week seeking information on the company’s pricing practices, and any analysis related to pricing or market share of the EpiPen. The price of the EpiPen, which is used to counteract deadly allergic reactions, has risen more than 400% since 2008 to $600 per dose. Mylan’s EpiPen has a lock on the U.S. market with about 90% share of the space, and more the 3.6 million prescriptions were written last year. On Monday, Senator Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) called for an official investigation by the Senate Judiciary Committee into the price hike, with Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA)Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) all echoing Klobuchar’s sentiment.
 
In other news, the House Oversight Committee is calling for the FBI to hand over any additional details related to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State. Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT, 3rd) sent a letter to the FBI on Monday asking for additional information about classified information on the server, and pushed for the FBI to release an unclassified version of the investigation it sent to Congress last week. “What we’re asking the FBI in a letter today to do is create an unclassified version and then release that to the public,” stated Chaffetz in an interview. He later went on to state he doesn’t have “the high level of clearance” to see the materials, and that “the documents are overly classified." While Clinton’s presidential campaign team has similarly suggested releasing the investigation files, it is unclear whether the FBI will agree to release an unclassified version.

 

August 11, 2016

This Week: CT, MN, VT, and WI hold congressional primaries
 
Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wisconsin held congressional primaries on Tuesday, with the biggest news coming of Wisconsin’s 1stSpeaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI, 1st) crushed his primary opponent, Paul Nehlen, capturing 85% of the vote. Nehlen rose from obscurity when Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump praised his campaign and later said he was running a good campaign. Nehlen campaigned as a “mini-Trump,” spouting the same anti-trade, anti-immigration ideals that won Trump the nomination. Just last week, Nehlen proposed the idea of deporting all Muslims from the country, and suggested law enforcement agencies should monitor every mosque. However, with the 2014 primary defeat of former House majority leader Eric Cantor still fresh in his mind, Ryan campaigned effectively and drew on nearly $10 million in campaign funds to ensure his victory. On election night, Ryan criticized Nehlen’s strategy stating “desperate candidates do desperate things for attention, and I think that’s what you saw here.”
 
In Wisconsin’s 8thRepublican Mike Gallagher easily won the GOP primary capturing 72% of the vote, while state Senator Frank Lasee only garnered 20 percent. Gallagher, a former marine and adviser to Governor Scott Walker, will face off against Democrat Tom Nelson for an open battleground House seat in November. In another battleground district, Jason Lewis won the Republican nomination to replace retiring Representative John Kline (R-MN, 2nd), setting up a showdown with Democrat Angie Craig this fall. Lewis has high name recognition after years as a conservative radio host in Minneapolis, but faced skepticism from some Republicans who believe that his history of controversial statements make him a weak general election candidate. Primary season is winding down and only a handful of states remain with Hawaii up next on Saturday, and Alaska, South Dakota, and Wyoming on August 16th

 

August 5, 2016

This Week: Former Ohio Representative Steven LaTourette passes away
 
Former Ohio Representative Steven LaTourette passed away on Wednesday at the age of 62 due to complications related to pancreatic cancer. LaTourette was first elected to the House in 1994 during the Republican sweep of the chamber, and represented a swath of northeastern Ohio that included industrial regions and the Cleveland suburbs. While he was a member of the Republican Party, he was generally regarded as a moderate within the party and was known for his bipartisanship. He opposed gay marriage and abortion rights, but broke with his party on key issues such as budgetary matters and minimum wage. LaTourette announced his retirement in 2012, stating he grew frustrated with the partisanship that had taken over Congress. In 2014, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and later filed a claim against the government in 2015 alleging a Capitol physician had failed to inform him three years earlier of an issue related to his pancreas.
 
Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) called on Republican leadership to reconvene Congress to pass new Zika legislation. In a visit to Florida, Kaine urged congressional leaders to call an emergency session and pass a bill providing $1.1 billion in health funding to combat Zika. Senator Kaine’s call comes as the Zika virus begins to spread across South Florida, with the Center for Disease Control this week warning pregnant women in Miami to avoid certain neighborhoods with high levels of infection. House Republicans passed Zika measure earlier this year, but it included provisions that restricted funds for women’s health care and diverted money away from Obamacare to pay for the new funding. Senate Democrats refused to take up the bill because of the “poison pill” provisions, and no legislation was passed before Congress went on its seven-week recess. With the Zika threat growing, President Barack Obama has requested $1.9 billion in funding for vaccine research and mosquito control. However, Congress is highly unlikely to return before September 5th, and will remain a major issue in the fall.
 
In other news, four states held primaries on Tuesday, with another incumbent losing the battle for re-election. In Kansas, Representative Tim Huelskamp (R-KS, 1st), a three-term incumbent and House Freedom Caucus member,lost to challenger Roger Marshall, a physician who had the backing of major agricultural groups. The primary battle in Kansas’ first became a war between hardline conservatives and traditional GOP groups, with Marshall campaigning as the more traditional and pragmatic candidate. In Michigan, Jack Bergman, a retired Marine general, won the Republican primary to replace outgoing Representative Dan Benishek (R-MI, 1st). Bergman will face Democrat Lon Johnson, a former state party chairman. Paul Mitchell won a five-way primary to replace retiring Representative Candice Miller (R-MI, 10thafter spending $2.5 million of his own money. Frank Accavitti ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, but the 10th district is expected to remain in Republican hands. Democrat Pramila Jayapal advanced to the general election in Washington’s 7th district to replace Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA, 7th). Jayapal was one of a handful of congressional candidates whom former Presidential candidate Bernie Sandersendorsed, and she’ll face another Democrat due to the state’s “top two” primary system. Rounding out the day, Missouri’s primary elections went off without any surprises, with most people looking forward to the general election showdown between Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Democratic challenger Jason Kander, the state’s Secretary of State. 

 

July 28, 2016

This Week: Reps. Brooks and Rokita passed over for governor, will restart their congressional campaigns
 
It has been a quiet week in Congress, with both the House and Senate on recess until September 5th and the Republican National Convention and Democratic National Convention absorbing most of the attention. On Tuesday, the Indiana Republican Party elected not to nominate either Representative Susan Brooks (R-IN, 5thor Representative Todd Rokita (R-IN, 4th) to replace Mike Pence as the party’s gubernatorial candidate in November. The party instead nominated Lt. Governor Eric Holcomb to succeed Pence. Both Rep. Brooks and Rep. Rokita announced that they will be restarting their respective Congressional reelection campaigns following the Indiana state GOP’s vote. They both quickly endorsed Holcomb, with Rokita saying in a statement: "I know Eric only has the best interests of Indiana at heart, which is why we will campaign and serve the state well together." Although Brooks and Rokita face democratic challengers in their home districts, both IN-4 and IN-5 are rated as solid Republican districts.
 
Farther South, Republican voters in Georgia’s 3rd District settled which candidate will be running to replace retiring Representative Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA, 3rd). Former West Point Mayor Drew Ferguson and Georgia State Senator Mike Crane had been locked in a runoff battle since March to determine who will face Democratic candidate Angela Pendley in November. Georgia voters on Wednesday selected Ferguson, who earned 54 percent of the runoff vote to Crane’s 46 percent. Ferguson received not only Westmoreland’s endorsement, but plenty of outside support as well, including money-raising support from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA, 23rd) and outside group backing from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and ESAFund, a GOP super PAC. Georgia’s 3rd is a very safe Republican district, meaning that this runoff vote likely determined the next Representative out of GA-3rd.
 
On the Democratic side, there has been a lot of chatter this week regarding potential plans to replace Senator and Vice Presidential Nominee Tim Kaine (D-VA) were Hillary Clinton to become President Elect in November. Most of the talk has surrounded the potential plans of Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D),asthere is substantial speculation that McAuliffe may appoint himself to the Senate. McAuliffe would be fully within his rights to do so and, while he has been coy about his plans, saying on Wednesday that he “will not even have a discussion until we win this election”, he has also failed to rule himself out. Other potential choices include the state’s three Democratic Congressmen – Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA, 3rd), Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA, 11thand Representative Don Beyer (D-VA, 8th). All three publicly demurred when asked about their plans, saying that delivering the state for Clinton is priority number one. Observers have also pointed to McAuliffe confidante Levar Stoney as a possible alternative.
 

 

July 22, 2016

This Week: Rep. Mark Takai passes away
 
Representative Mark Takai (D-HI, 1st) passed away on Wednesday due to complications from pancreatic cancer. Takai, 49, was elected to Congress in 2014 after serving for more than 20 years in the state legislature. He was also a member of the Hawaii National Guard for more than a decade, and served in Iraq. Takai’s passing was mourned among his colleagues, with Hawaii leaders remembering Takai as a hard-working and passionate public servant. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) stated “with a heart of aloha, he dedicated his life to serving Hawaii and our country,” and Governor David Ige echoed that sentiment, saying Takai was a “shining example of what it means to be a public servant." Takai was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015, and announced in March that he wouldn’t run for reelection because the disease had spread.
 
In other news, two Indiana members of Congress dropped their reelection bids after Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump tapped Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his Vice-Presidential running mate last Friday. After Pence withdrew his bid for governor just 72 hours before the deadline, Representatives Susan Brooks (R-IN, 5th) and Todd Rokita (R-IN, 4th) announced their intentions to run for the party’s open nomination for governor. Their open House seats will surely remain safely in Republican hands, but so far, no big names have emerged as front runners for either seat. Brooks easily defeated two challengers in the May primary, with each of them only securing about 15 percent of the vote. Rokita had one challenger in the May primary, easily defeating Army veteran Kevin Grant who did not spend any money on his campaign. State House Speaker Brian Bosma was widely expected to run for Brooks’ open seat, but has opted to keep his current job. The Indiana Republican Party’s country chairmen and precinct chairs pick the candidates for the seats. 
 

 

July 14, 2016

This Week: Senate Democrats passes opioid bill, confirms Carla Hayden as Librarian of Congress
 
On Wednesday, the Senate passed legislation aimed at combating and treating opioid addiction in the U.S. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) passed by a vote of 90-2 after it was approved in the House on Friday by a margin of 407-5. The bill represents a shift from previous drug control policy, which has focused on law enforcement rather than treatment. Among its measures, the bill allows the federal government to award grants to states to treat people addicted to opioids, allows physicians to prescribe medications to curb addiction cravings, and creates a task force to study how to best treat pain. However, the bill does not come with any funding attached to it, even though President Barack Obama had requested $1.1 billion to help pay for more addiction treatment programs and other initiatives. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and other Republicans have said they will authorize funding when Congress returns in September for recess, though they plan to provide only a fraction of what President Obama has requested.
 
On Friday, Representative Corrine Brown (D-FL, 5th) and her chief of staff, Elias “Ronnie” Simmons, were indicted on federal fraud charges related to an education charity tied to the congresswoman. According to a federal indictment, Brown and Simmons mislead donors while soliciting donations for One Door for Education, under the guise of funding scholarships for minority students. Despite having raised more than $800,000, only $1,200 was spent on scholarships, spending the rest on themselves. Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell with the Justice Department stated that Brown and her chief of staff used the charity as their own “personal slush fund,” spending money on luxury boxes at concerts and football games, and underwriting lavish events for Brown. Both Brown and Simmons pleaded not guilty to multiple charges and offenses in a grand jury indictment on Friday. Afterwards, Brown predicted she would be clear of the charges at trial, stating "my heart is just really heavy. But I'm looking forward to a speedy day in court to vindicate myself…We will present the other side." The 24-count indictment includes mail and wire fraud, conspiracy, obstruction, and filing of false tax returns.
 
In other news, the Senate on Wednesday confirmed Carla Hayden as the next librarian of Congress, making her the first black woman to hold the job. Hayden, a veteran of the American Library Association and CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, was approved by a vote of 74-18. Despite some Republican objections, Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO) said Hayden was thoroughly vetted, and noted the committee spent more time reviewing her nomination than any of the past 13 librarians. Hayden was nominated to replace James Billington, whose final years were marked by criticism that the library’s IT infrastructure was not up to par. During her confirmation hearing, Hayden stressed the importance of modernization and described it as one of the library’s biggest challenges.
 

 

July 1, 2016

This Week: Senate Democrats block Zika aid bill
 
Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked a spending bill that would have provided $1.1 billion in aid to fight the Zika virus. Democrats argued that Republicans sabotaged the legislation by using must-pass legislation to jam through unpopular policy changes and cut money from other programs, including provisions that would block access to contraception for women and reduce environmental restrictions on pesticide use. Republicans accused Democrats of making up excuses for blocking the bill, but did not deny that some of the provisions favored Republican policy positions. The stalemate comes as Congress departs for a seven week vacation, and the possibility that no new money would be available to fight the virus. Public health officials have repeatedly warned lawmakers about an impending outbreak, especially in the Southern states. Experts said money is needed to develop a vaccine and educate the public about the virus. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stated “If we don’t get new money, we won’t be able to do things at a pace that is necessary and appropriate to the urgency of this threat.”
 
In other news, the Senate passed a bill on Wednesday to rescue Puerto Rico from its fiscal crisis, just two days before the U.S. territory is set to default on $2 billion in debt payments. The bill, passed by a vote of 68 to 30, creates a path to restructure $72 billion of the island’s debts and creates a financial oversight board. However, passage of the bill was in doubt earlier this week, because the House passed the bill earlier this month, and then left for recess. If the Senate made any changes to the legislation, the bill would be forced to return to the House, extending the process and delaying any action until House members return next week. While the bill has critics on both sides of the aisle, President Barack Obama has said he will sign it.
 
In elections news, ColoradoNew YorkOklahoma, and Utah held their primaries on Tuesday. Incumbents in Oklahoma and Utah cruised to victory, but Colorado and New York both had their fair share of interesting results. In Colorado, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn handedly won Colorado’s crowded Republican Senate primary and will face Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) in November. Glenn, a conservative who won the backing of Tea Party stars Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sarah Palin, gives the Republicans a chance to flip a Senate seat in the fall. However, Bennet has already out-raised and out-advertised Glenn, giving him a significant head start against his challenger. In New York, Democrat Zephyr Teachout will face Republican John Faso in the race for retiring Representative Chris Gibson’s (R-NY, 19th) seat. The race could potentially be the most expensive House battlegrounds in the country this year. Teachout is a prolific online fundraiser with a large progressive following, and Faso has already benefited from a super PAC funded by two of the top Republican donors in the country. Democrat Colleen Deacon will faceRepresentative John Katko (R-NY, 24thfor his swing district this fall, after winning a three-way Democratic primary. Deacon, a former state staffer for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), benefitted from the backing of Gillibrand and EMILY’s List. The race to replace Representative Charlie Rangel (D-NY, 13th) was remains too close to call, with State Senator Adriano Espaillat leading Asemblyman Keith Wright 37 percent to 34 percent, with seven other Democrats splitting the rest of the vote. Wright came from the same part of Harlem as Rangel and was his chose successor, but Espaillat had strong support in the neighborhood of Washington Heights. If Espaillat wins, it will be the first time since 1944 that Harlem has not been represented by an African-American member of Congress. 
 
June 23, 2016

This Week: House Democrats hold sit-in on House floor over gun control 
 
This week in congressional news, House Democrats staged a sit-in on the floor Wednesday morning to push for action on gun control legislation. Over 40 Democrats, led by Representatives John Lewis (D-GA, 5th)and John Larson (D-CT, 1st),walked into the lower chamber and pledged to occupy the floor until GOP leaders allow a vote on gun control legislation.  Representative Lewis began the sit-in by giving a passionate speech, stating “we have turned deaf ears to the blood of the innocent and the deaths in our nation…Mr. Speaker, where is the heart of this body. Where is our soul?” Shortly after Lewis spoke, his Democratic colleagues sat down on the floor, and the House was gaveled into recess. Over the course of the day, more Democrats joined the sit-in taking turns speaking about gun violence, with their numbers tripling over the course of the day. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI, 1st) eventually took to the floor at 2:30 A.M. and called for a vote on several bills, passing a bill to combat the Zika virus. After voting, Republican leaders adjourned the chamber until after July 4th. A total of 168 House Democrats, out of 188 total, joined at least part of the sit-in with a number of Senators participating as well. Last week, Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT)staged a 15 hour filibuster to call attention to gun control, forcing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to hold a series of votes on gun measures, all of which ultimately failed to pass the Senate earlier this week.
 
In other news, Representative Chaka Fattah (D-PA, 2nd) resigned from the House Thursday afternoon, effective immediately. On Tuesday, a federal judge found Fattah guilty on multiple counts of racketeering, fraud, and money laundering in a case involving his 2007 run to become mayor of Philadelphia. Initially, Fattah gave no indication he would resign, later stating he would resign in early October when he is scheduled to be sentenced. Fattah changed his mind Thursday afternoon, and announced he would resign immediately. In a statement regarding his change of mind, Fattah said “however, out of respect for the entire House leadership, and so as not to cause a distraction from the House’s work for the people, I have changed my effective date.” His seat will now remain vacant until either a special election, or early next year when a new member of Congress is sworn-in. Fattah, who was indicted last year, was defeated in the April Democratic primary by state Representative Dwight Evans.
 
In elections news, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has changed his mind and will run for re-election for his Senate seat. Rubio, who ended his Presidential campaign earlier this year, had long insisted there was no “plan B” if his bid for the White House failed. But he came under pressure to seek re-election from party leaders amid concerns that Republicans could lose their majority in the Senate. In a statement on Wednesday, Rubio said he felt a sense of duty to run for re-election, but admitted that the “Senate can be a frustrating place.” The August GOP primary to replace Rubio was very competitive, but some candidates are already stepping aside. Representatives David Jolly (R-FL, 13th) and Ron Desantis (R-FL, 6th) announced they would seek re-election in the House, and Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera stepped aside shortly after Rubio’s announcement. A recent poll showed Rubio leading his possible Democratic challengers, while other Republicans trailed. 
 
 
June 16, 2016

This Week: Senate Democrats launch a filibuster to force votes on gun control
 
A group of Senate Democrats launched a filibuster demanding tougher gun control laws in the wake of the deadly attack in Orlando. The group, led by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), took over the Senate floor specifically calling for legislation barring people on terrorist watch lists from buying firearms. Murphy began speaking on Wednesday morning, and held the floor for nearly 15 hours before he finally relinquished the floor early Thursday morning. While he wasn’t able to strike a deal on gun control, Republican Senators agreed to hold a vote on two Democratic backed gun control measures. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced a proposal on Wednesday that would give the attorney general the power to prevent suspected terrorist from buying firearms regardless whether their names appear on an official watch list. Republicans argue that Feinstein’s proposal could deny constitutional rights to Americans who aren’t connected to any terrorist activities. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) criticized Feinstein’s plan calling it “deeply flawed,” and supports a proposal by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) that allows the attorney general to delay suspected terrorists from getting a gun for up to 72 hours. The other proposal, introduced by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) calls for expanding background checks for sales at gun shows and over the internet. While it’s not clear when a vote will occur on the proposals, Republicans are also expected to put forward two of their own proposals.
In elections news, D.C., Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, and Virginia all held their congressional primaries on Tuesday, with the biggest news coming out of Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. Representative Randy Forbes (R-VA, 4th) became the third incumbent to lose in a primary this year, falling victim to congressional redistricting. The eight-term Representative lost to state Delegate and former Navy SEAL Scott Taylor, who won with 52.5% of the vote. Forbes outspent Taylor 10-to-1, and the two regularly exchanged personal attacks against each other’s character and ability to support national security. Forbes was set for an easy reelection bid in his home district, the 4th Congressional District, until federal judges ordered the state’s congressional boundaries redrawn that made the district more favorable to Democrats. Forbes opted to run in the 2ndCongressional District after incumbent Scott Rigell (R-VA, 2nd) announced his retirement. Taylor will face Democrat Shaun Brown in the general election, who said she’s hoping to become the first female African-American from Virginia to serve in the House.
 
June 9, 2016

This Week: Speaker Ryan announces anti-poverty plan 
 
This week in congressional news, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI, 1st) announced on Tuesday the Republican’s “anti-poverty” plan, which is a part of Ryan’s election-year policy agenda. Ryan’s plan is to focus more on work rather than welfare, and proposes to overhaul federal food, housing, and unemployment programs by imposing stricter work requirements. “The problem we have had in government is that for too long we think the way to fight poverty is to treat its symptoms. And when we treat the symptoms of poverty, we perpetuate poverty,” stated Ryan during a speech at an apartment complex run by a charity. The anti-poverty plan is party of Ryan’s “A Better Way” agenda, which the Speaker says will show what Republicans stand for rather than against. It is the first of six policy plans, with others focusing on national security, tax reform, and health care, and will be unveiled over the next three weeks
 
In election news, seven states held their primary races on Tuesday, along with a special election. The big news of the day comes out of California and North Carolina, with no surprises in Iowa, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota. In Ohio’s 8th Congressional District, Warren Davidson won the special election to replace former Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH, 8th). Davidson received around 75% of the vote to Democrat Corey Foister’s 21%, and outcome that didn’t surprise anyone. Davidson, an army veteran and businessman, won key support from Republican Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH, 4th)and conservative groups such as Club for Growth and Freedomworks. While Davidson will serve the remainder of Boehner’s term, but he still has win the general election in November for a full term in the next Congress.
 
Democrats Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA, 46th) will both advance to the general election in the race for California’s open Senate seat, shutting Republicans out for the first time in state history. Harris, the state attorney general, won 40% of the vote to Sanchez’s 18%, while Republican Duf Sundheim took third with 9%. California’s open primary sends the top two vote-getters to the November ballot regardless of party affiliation. It is the first open California Senate seat in nearly 25 years, with Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)stepping down after 24 years in office. During that time, Democrats’ dominance in the state has grown dramatically as they hold every state constitutional office and have not lost an election for statewide office since 2006. The race is also noticeable for another reason as well: it ensures a women of color will be elected to the Senate for only the third time in U.S. history.
 
Representative George Holding (R-NC, 13th) won the Republican primary in North Carolina’s redrawn 2nddistrict, beating Representative Renee Ellmers (R-NC, 2nd), who becomes the first Republican incumbent to lose in a primary this year. Holding, who was first elected in 2012, won 52% of the vote, easily defeating three-term incumbent Ellmers, who barely garnered 24% of the vote and was only 200 votes ahead of challenger Greg BrannonRepublican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump endorsed Ellmers on Saturday, and recorded a last minute robocall which her campaign released over the weekend. However, Trump’s endorsement failed to make a difference for Ellmers, who faced over $1 million in outside spending from groups like Americans for Prosperity and Club for Growth.
 
 
June 2, 2016

This Week: House Republicans block energy and water appropriations bill 
 
House Republicans blocked a spending bill last Thursday over the inclusion of an amendment related to discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The House voted 305-112 to defeat the energy and water spending measure, with a majority of Republicans opposed because of an amendment that would bar federal contractors from discriminating against people based on gender identity and sexual identity. The rejection of an appropriations bill is rare, and underscores the challenges ahead for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI, 1st) on his commitment to “regular order,” a process under which lawmakers have more say in what’s voted on. While Ryan blamed Democrats for the bill’s failure, he stated that his team will have to reexamine how to best move forward with the appropriations process once Congress returns from recess.
 
In other news, Congress has left for its two-week Memorial Day recess with major unfinished business. First, Congress failed to address how to combat Zika, even as public health officials issue dire warnings about the spread of the virus with summer approaching. Republicans insist a deal can be struck, but have also stated that the federal funding already exists for the initial steps of developing a vaccine. Lawmakers in warmer climates have expressed increasing anxiety about the slow developing response to the virus, and would like additional funding to expedite the process for developing a vaccine. Last week, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) stated “'The CDC is saying we're less than a month away from a mosquito [epidemic] in the U.S. I mean, I take that seriously.” The other issue on hand is Puerto Rico’s debt situation. While a bill to help Puerto Rico handle its $70 billion debt crisis has been proposed in the House, the measure is facing an uncertain future in the upper chamber. No Senate Democrats have endorsed the bill, with some even actively fighting it. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has said the bill treats Puerto Rico like a colony, and Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ)called a key provision of the bill “neo-colonialism”. Republicans expect the House to pass the bill, but have express doubts if they can support the current legislation. Puerto Rico faces a $2 billion debt payment in July, and lawmakers would like to get a bill to President Barack Obama’s desk before it’s due.
 
 
May 26, 2016

This Week: House Natural Resources passes legislation to help Puerto Rican debt crisis 
 
This week in congressional news, the House Natural Resources Committee struck a bipartisan deal to helpPuerto Rico handle its debt crisis. The Republican led House Committee approved legislation on Wednesday in a 29-10 vote, sending the bill to the House floor. The bill, which is hailed as the last hope for dealing with the island’s debt woes, will create a financial control board and restructure some of its $70 billion in debt. The current Puerto Rico bill has support from both leaders in both parties, and comes after months of difficult negotiations. It is expected to pass the House in early June, and lawmakers would like to get the bill toPresident Barack Obama’s desk before Puerto Rico has to make a $2 billion debt payment in early July.
 
In other news, the Senate Intelligence Committee approved the Intelligence Authorization Act on Tuesday, the same day that the House version of the legislation passed. The Committee authorized the annual intelligence policy bill by a vote of 14-1, with Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) as the only member who opposed the bill. If the measure passes the Senate, Intel Committee members from both chambers will meet to iron out the differences. The policy bill outlines the priorities for each of the nation’s 16 federal intelligence agencies, including the FBI and CIA.
 
Representatives Mark Takai (D-HI, 1st) and Curt Clawson (R-FL, 19th) announced last week they will not be seeking re-election in November. Takai, who was first elected in 2014, cited health reasons for retiring at the end of his term. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last October and, in a statement, said he recently learned the cancer had spread. Clawson, meanwhile, stated he wanted to be closer to his ailing father, especially in light of his mother passing. Clawson was first elected in 2014 in a special election after former Representative Trey Radel (R-FL, 19th) resigned in the midst of a cocaine scandal. Both members are going to serve the remainder of their terms, and both seats are expected to remain with their respective parties in November.
 
In election news, Georgia held its primary on Tuesday, along with a Texas primary runoff election. In Georgia, every Republican member of Congress easily won their primary, including Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA),who defeated two challengers. Representatives Doug Collins (R-GA, 9thand Barry Loudermilk (R-GA, 11th) each faced tough competition for weeks leading up to Tuesday’s primary. Both easily defeated their opponents, with Collins facing four primary challengers including former Representative Paul Broun. In Georgia’s 3rd Congressional District, the primary to replace retiring Representative Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA, 3rdwill head to a runoff between state Senator Michael Crane and West Point Mayor Drew Ferguson. In Texas, Republican Jodey Arrington defeated Lubbock Mayor Glen Robertson to replace Representative Randy Neugebauer (R-TX, 19th) in West Texas’ conservative 19th Congressional District. Two runoff elections took place in the 15th Congressional District of Texas, where Democrat Vicente Gonzalez will face Republican Pastor Tim Westley in the general election to replace retiring Representative Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX, 15th). Next up, half a dozen states will hold their primary elections on June 7th, including California, Iowa, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota.
 
 
May 19, 2016

This Week: Senate passes bill to fight Zika outbreak
 
This week in congressional news, the Senate voted on Tuesday to approve $1.1 billion in emergency funding to combat Zika virus. The measure passed by a vote of 68-29, but falls short of the $1.8 billion President Barack Obama asked for three months ago. While the funding is greatly needed, the agreement is still too large for many conservatives in the House. Republicans are advocating for $622 million in funding, and unlike its counterpart in the Senate, will be offset with spending cuts elsewhere. The White House said the House’s proposal is “woefully inadequate” and could face a veto from the President. The Obama administration has already moved $600 million in unspent Ebola funds to fight Zika, but Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell recently stated more is needed to help control the mosquito population and test vaccines.
 
In other news, the Senate unanimously approved legislation allowing victims of the 9/11 terror attacks to sue Saudi Arabia. The bill, known as the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, allows 9/11 victims and their families to sue Saudi Arabia over any involvement it may have had in the attacks. The Senate approved the bill after Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) lifted a hold on the legislation over concerns of potential blowback against the United States. While the measure still needs to pass the House, the President has threatened to veto the bill if it does. After the Senate vote on Tuesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest stated “the administration strongly continues to oppose this legislation.” Last month, Saudi officials threatened to sell $750 billion of treasuries if Congress passed the bill, something Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) called “a hollow threat.”
 
In election news, IdahoKentucky, and Oregon held their congressional primaries on Tuesday. The results were less than shocking, with the incumbents sweeping their races and leaving Representative Chaka Fattah (D-PA, 2nd) as the only incumbent to lose a primary race so far. However, in Kentucky, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray won the Democratic nomination to take on Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), and former gubernatorial candidate James Comer won the Republican nomination to replace Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY, 1st). Next up, Georgia holds its primary on May 24th, with California, Iowa, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota all holding their primaries on June 7th
 
May 12, 2016

This Week: House takes up opioid abuse bills 
 

This week in congressional news, the House is set to pass legislation to combat the nation’s opioid abuse epidemic. House Republicans have scheduled votes on 18 opioid related bills ranging from reducing opioid prescriptions, increasing treatment for veterans, providing more tools to combat drug trafficking, and strengthening protection for those intervening to prevent drug overdoses. While the bills enjoy bipartisan support, Democrats have criticized Republicans for not attaching sufficient money to finance many of the programs outlined in the legislation. Democrats have called for $600 million in emergency financing to support anti-opioid programs, but that plan was rejected after Republicans argued more than enough money was laid out in the 2016 omnibus. However, the House bills are expected to pass, and will be packaged and amended into the Senate passed Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA).

 

In election news, Nebraska and West Virginia held their congressional primaries on Tuesday without any surprises. In Nebraska, retired Air Force Brigadier General Don Bacon handily won the Republican nomination for the second district defeating former State Senator Chip Maxwell. Bacon will face incumbent Brad Ashford (D-NE, 2nd), who surprised many in 2014 after defeating former Representative Lee Terry (R-NE, 2nd). In West Virginia, Mark Huntemerged from a crowded democratic field to win the party’s nomination for the state’s second district. Hunt, an attorney from Charleston, defeated four other candidates and will face Representative Alex Mooney (R-WV, 2nd) in the general election. Next up, Idaho, Kentucky, and Oregon all hold their primaries on May 17th

 

 

May 5, 2016


This Week: Puerto Rico's debt crisis worsens 

 

This week in congressional news, with Congress out for a week long recess, Puerto Rico’s debt crisis worsened on Monday when it began defaulting on a portion of its debt. After lawmakers in the House failed to pass legislation to help Puerto Rico avoid a potentially catastrophic financial crisis, the Island began defaulting on most of a $422 million debt payment on Monday. While it has been clear for a while that Puerto Rico would not make the payment on Monday, its government and utilities owe about $72 billion to creditors and billions more to its public pensions systems. When Congress returns from recess, they’ll only have a few weeks to pass legislation to help save the island from financial ruin ahead of a $2 billion debt payment due in early July. If Puerto Rico defaults on another payment, it could ruin the commonwealth’s economy, and make it even harder to deal with the $40 billion in unfunded pensions. After Monday’s default, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew placed the blame solely on Congress and expressed the urgency of the situation by stating “unless Congress passes legislation that includes appropriate restructuring and oversight tools, a taxpayer-funded bailout may become the only legislative course available to address an escalating crisis.”

 

In election news, Indiana held its congressional primary on Tuesday. The biggest news of the evening came as Representative Todd Young (R-IN, 9theasilydefeated Representative Marlin Stutzman (R-IN, 3rdin the Senate GOP primary to replace retiring Senator Daniel Coats (R-IN). Young’s victory was a huge win for party leaders, as Stutzman ran as an outsider looking to shake up the establishment. Young had help from many of the party leaders, including allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who dumped cash into backing Young. While Young will face former congressman Baron Hill (D) in November, it is widely expected Young will cruise to victory.

 

 

April 28, 2016


This Week: Maryland and Pennsylvania hold primaries

 

This week in congressional news, Senate Democrats on Wednesday blocked a spending bill over an amendment that would prevent the United States from purchasing nuclear materials from Iran. The amendment, proposed by Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), would prevent the U.S. from purchasing “heavy water” produced by Iranian nuclear facilities. Democrats argue the amendment would renew tensions over U.S. policy toward Iran, and that Cotton’s proposed amendment should not be considered as a part of an appropriations bill. Cotton was inspired to introduce the amendment after the U.S. announced last Friday that it would purchase 32 metric tons of heavy water from Iran. Officials see the deal as key to helping Iran live up to the nuclear deal it signed last year, and Senate Democrats argue it is better to purchase the material for research purposes than let it go to the open market. After ending debate on the appropriations bill by a vote of 50-46, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) stated “we know it’s politically charged, we also know it’s not in the best national security interests of the United States for us to let this heavy water go into the global market.”

In election news, Representative Chaka Fattah (D-PA, 2nd) became the first House incumbent to lose a primary this election cycle, amid a federal indictment over ethics violations. Fattah lost by ten points to Democratic state Representative Dwight Evans on Tuesday in Pennsylvania’s congressional primary, ending his 11-term career in the House. Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, Representative Bill Shuster (R-PA, 9th)defeated challenger Art Halvorson in a close race that had Republicans on high alert. Katie McGinty won the Democratic Senate primary over former Representative Joe Sestak by a narrow margin. McGinty, who won huge endorsements from President Barack ObamaVice President Joe Biden, and Governor Tom Wolfleading up to the primary, will face off against incumbent Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) in November.

Maryland also held its primary on Tuesday, but with results much less exciting than Pennsylvania. Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD, 8th) won the Democratic Senate primary to replace retiring Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). Van Hollen defeated Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD, 4th) in a competitive race, and will unlikely face a serious challenge in the general election. State Representative Jamie Raskin defeated David Trone in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District Democratic primary. Trone spent nearly $12 million of his own money in the race, outspending Raskin by a margin of 6-to-1. Raskin will face Republican attorney Dan Cox in the general election to replace the seat vacated by Representative Chris Van Hollen.

 

 

April 21, 2016


This Week: Senate passes energy and FAA reauthorization bills

 

This week in congressional news, the Senate passed a comprehensive energy bill on Wednesday, the first of its kind in nearly a decade. The measure touches on virtually every aspect of the nation’s energy sector, and is centered around the theme of modernization. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) co-authored the bill, and is the culmination of nearly a year and a half of work and months of negotiations. While the bill, known as the Energy Policy Modernization Act, has garnered high praise from many in the energy industry, some environmental groups are skeptical of the bill. The legislation avoided addressing controversial issues such as climate change and oil exploration, which environmentalists say is not in tune with the scientific realities of 2016. House and Senatenegotiators will now try to forge a compromise between the Senate bill and a similar measure that passed the Houselast year. Shortly after the bill passed the Senate, Senator Murkowski (R-AK) stated in an interview “most people thought we couldn’t achieve anything, but we have demonstrated that we can legislate — and we can even legislate, oh my gosh, in an election year.”

 

The Senate also passed a long-term reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Tuesday, sending the measure over to the House. The bill, passed by a measure of 95-3, approves funding and sets policy for the agency through September 2017. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) described the bill as “one of the most passenger-friendly FAA reauthorization bills we’ve seen, literally, in a generation.” While the bill passed by an overwhelming majority, similar efforts have stalled in the House. A recent attempt to pass a six-year reauthorization of the FAAfailed due to a provision to separate the nation’s air traffic control system from the FAASenator Bill Nelson (D-FL) was slightly optimistic over the bill’s fate in the House, stating “We’ve given them a good bipartisan blueprint to follow and one that they ought to pass easily.”

 

Also this week, freshman Representative Gwen Graham (D-FL, 2nd) announced on Thursday that she will not run for re-election this year. Graham, viewed by many as a rising star in the Democratic Party, said she is instead “seriously considering” a bid for governor of Florida in 2018. “Our state government is just dysfunctional, and this causes me to rethink how I can best serve the people of North Florida and our state,” Graham stated in a video announcement. She would have faced a tough re-election bid after redistricting made her North Florida district more favorable for Republicans, a key factor in Graham’s decision to run for governor. While Republican candidates for Florida governor are still emerging, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam seems to be the party’s favorite to enter the race so far.

 

In other news, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) dropped his bid to run for leadership on Monday after facing strong opposition from his Republican colleagues. Last week, he announced he would challenge Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) to become the fourth-ranking member of leadership. Senator Lee never directly challenged Barrasso for his seat, but thought that he was term-limited and the chairmanship was open. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) quickly corrected Lee’s claim, stating Barrasso had two more years left to serve. Lee’s announcement was not well received by Republican leadership, and he quickly dropped bid for a spot in party leadership. 


 

April 14, 2016


This Week: Congress expected to miss budget deadline

 

This week in congressional news, Congress is expected to miss the April 15th deadline to pass a budget, with little hope to do so in the future. Republican leaders are in a standoff with the party’s more conservative members over the proposed $1.07 trillion spending level, exposing deep divisions within the party. While the House Budget Committee passed a resolution last month, GOP leaders have been unable to find Republican support to pass the bill. Members of the House Freedom Caucus want at least another $30 billion trimmed from the spending limit, and the group has the numbers to block any bill that lacks Democratic support. While Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) was optimistic about passing a budget later in the year, many members don’t see the House and the Senate coming close to passing a budget before the election. The standoff is particularly embarrassing for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI, 1st), a former Budget Committee chairman who built his reputation as a policy wonk. Speaking to reporters, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, 12th) summed up her party’s feelings by stating "when you talk about them not meeting the budget deadline, well, nothing is surprising here. Is anybody surprised by anything here? Does the word 'surprise' still exist in the lexicon of Capitol Hill?"

 

In other news, Representative Ander Crenshaw (R-FL, 4th) announced Wednesday he will not seek re-election. In a statement, Crenshaw said “it is time to turn the page on this chapter of my life and see what’s next.” The Florida Republican was first elected to the House in 2000, and previously served in the Florida House and Senate. While his announcement came as a shock to some, his retirement opens up a safe Republican seat. Some Republicans rumored to run for the fourth district include Florida State Senator Aaron Bean, State Representative Jane Adkins, Jacksonville city councilman Richard Clark, and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.

 


 

April 7, 2016


This Week: Senators continue to meet with Judge Merrick Garland

 

This week in congressional news, as the Senate returned from recess, lawmakers continued to meet with Supreme Court Nominee Merrick Garland. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME)John Boozman (R-AR)Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) all met with the nominee this week, something the White House sees as a positive sign. However, Republican Party leaders have shown no signs of backing down on their pledge to not hold hearings or votes on Garland’s nomination, despite outside pressure on Republicans over the recess. Many Republicans have said they will use the meetings with Garland to reiterate the seat should remain vacant. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) announced he will meet with the nominee next Tuesday, in what will be one of the judge’s most anticipated sit-downs. While Senate Republicans stay strong on their pledge, Senate Democrats said they may try and force a vote on President Barack Obama’s nominee. Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) brought up the possibility of using procedural tricks to force a vote such as a discharge resolution to bypass Republicans. Reid emphasized that Democrats are in no rush to file a motion, but stated “that’s one thing we can do. Certainly we’ve got that in our arrow quiver, to do that and other things.”

In other news, a new report released on Tuesday by the Office of the Congressional Ethics (OCE) listed a half-dozen possible violations of House rules by Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL, 9th). The 986-page report concluded that the Florida Democrat may have improperly used his congressional office and staff to handle personal financial matters and failed to disclose millions of dollars in assets and income, among other violations. Grayson, who is running for the open Senate seat in Florida, denied any wrongdoing, and accused the OCE of conspiring with his Democratic opponent. The report came on the same day that the House Ethics Committee announced that it was still studying the case, but it would not create an investigative panel to examine the possible violations. Grayson’s campaign called the House Ethics Committee’s decision a victory, and bashed the OCE for trying to make an example out of him.

 


 

March 31, 2016


This Week: Congress works on Puerto Rico legislation

 

This week in congressional news, Republican lawmakers unveiled legislation intended to save Puerto Ricofrom its impending debt crisis. The House Natural Resources Committee released its first draft on Tuesday that would give Puerto Rico the ability to restructure some of its $70 billion debt, and create an outside fiscal oversight board. However, Democrats and Republicans disagree on just how much power the oversight board should hold. Republicans insist the board should impose strict controls in order to correct Puerto Rico’s finances, while Democrats warn that if the board goes too far, it would harm the authority of the Puerto Rican government. Many involved in the process say the bill is very much a work in process, and will likely undergo significant changes between now and when the bill is introduced on April 11th.

 

In other news, as the battle over Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland wages, Senate Democrats proposed a timeline for his confirmation in a letter sent to Republican leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee. If Democrats have their way, Garland would sit for confirmation hearings in late April, and the Senate would vote on his nomination a month later, just before Memorial Day. However, this is timeline is highly unlikely, as Republican leaders have consistently pledged to block any Supreme Court nomination made by President Barack Obama. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA)Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, responded to the letter by stating “we know that his hearing is going to be strictly political. Why spend time on theater that won’t produce anything?” Meanwhile, Garland continues to meet with individual senators this week during congressional recess. 

 


 

March 24, 2016


This Week: Congress reacts to terrorist bombings in Brussels

 

This week in congressional news, the House Homeland Security Committee approved a bill Wednesday aimed at restricting recruitment efforts by terrorist organizations. The bill, introduced in the wake of the terrorist bombings in Brussels, would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to collect and use the testimony of former terrorists, and potentially their friends and families, in order to hurt the recruitment efforts of terrorist organizations. Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul (R-TX, 10th) emphasized the urgency for this type of legislation, stated “we can’t afford to wait and do nothing in this Congress.” Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX, 18thcriticized the bill for targeting Islamic terrorists, but blatantly ignoring homegrown terrorism, such as last year’s attack on a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Democrats also asked McCaul several times to delay a vote on the bill until members come back from a two-week recess. However, when their requests were ignored, the committee’s top Democrat, Representative Bennie Thompson (D-MS, 2nd), introduced an array of amendments McCaul had never seen. The two-page bill ultimately passed after four hours of intense deliberation and accusations of “partisan hijacking” of Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels.

 

In other news, the House Ethics Committee formally launched an investigation into allegations thatRepresentative Corrine Brown (D-FL, 5thwas involved with “improper conduct” with an outside organization. The panel created an investigative subcommittee to look into a range of allegations from improper use of campaign funds and official resources to failure to comply with tax laws, and if she violated any ethics rules. However, the committee voted to table the probe until the Department of Justice (DOJ)finishes its investigation of Brown, as is standard practice. Brown was subpoenaed by the DOJ earlier this year after the head of a charity organization was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, to which he later pleaded guilty. Representative Patrick Meehan (R-PA, 7th) will be the chairman of the panel, andRepresentative John Larson (D-CT, 1st) will be the panel’s top Democrat. 

 


 

 

March 17, 2016


This Week:  Senate responds to nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court

 

This week in congressional news, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) once again vowed to block President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nomination, insisting that the vacancy should be filled by the next president. Just minutes after President Obama nominated U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Merrick Garland as the next Supreme Court justice, McConnell declared the President’s nomination “dead on arrival” during a press conference on Wednesday. The Senate Majority leader stated that the Senate will consider the next president’s nominee as “the Senate will continue to observe the 'Biden Rule' so the American people have a voice in this momentous decision.” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI, 1st) echoed McConnell’s sentiment by stating “this has never been about who the nominee is. It is about a basic principle.” While many Republicans agree with McConnell and Ryan, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) praised President Obama and Judge Merrick Garland, and called on her fellow Senators to respect the process by considering the nomination. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was at least open to the idea of holding post-election hearings on Merrick Garland in the lame-duck session due to the “toxic environment of today.”

In other news, Representative Jeff Miller (R-FL, 1stannounced last week that he will not seek re-election. Miller, currently the chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, will retire at the end of the year after serving eight terms in the House. In a statement, Miller said that after fifteen years in Congress, he and his wife feel it is “time to pass the torch.” He also noted that he was the first Republican member of Congress to be sworn in after the September 11th attacks, after former Representative Joe Scarborough (R-FL, 1st)resigned five months into his fourth term. The seat is expected to remain in Republican hands, with Floridaholding its congressional primary on August 30th.

 

In elections news, three states held their congressional primaries on Tuesday, with little surprise. In Ohio, businessman Warren Davidson beat out 15 other Republicans in the primary to fill the vacancy left by formerSpeaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH, 8th). Davidson won the primary with 32% of the vote after landing endorsements by House Freedom Caucus member Jim Jordan (R-OH, 4th) and the conservativeClub for Growth. On the Senate side, Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland defeated P.G. Sittenfeld in the Democratic primary with 65% of the vote, and will face Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) in the general election. In IllinoisRepresentative Tammy Duckworth (D-IL, 8thwon the Democratic Senate primary with 64% of the vote, defeating Andrea Zopp, a former prosecutor and businesswoman. Duckworth will face current Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), who easily won his primary. Raja Krisnamoorthi cruised to victory in the Democratic Primary in Illinois’ 8th district, and will likely succeed Duckworth. Elsewhere in Illinois, former Representative Brad Schneider defeated Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering in the Democratic primary for the 10th district, setting him up for a rematch with Representative Bob Dold (R-IL, 10thin what will be a close race. Finally, in North Carolinaformer state Representative Deborah Ross won the Democratic Senate primary, easily beating three opponents to face Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) in November. 

 

 

 March 10, 2016


This Week:  Senate close to deal on Flint aid

 

This week in congressional news, the Senate is on the cusp of an aid deal for Flint, Michigan and other cities with water contamination problems. Key Senators are in the final stages of negotiating an aid package after being bogged down by partisan and procedural obstacles. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) is the sole Republican with a hold on the legislation over his concern with the budgeting of $250 million for infrastructure and health programs for cities with contamination issues. On Wednesday, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL)announced a hold due to a provision related to the associated energy bill. Nelson opposes an amendment put forth by Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) that would increase revenue sharing for states from off-shore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, something Nelson said could lead to drilling off the coast of Florida. Despite the obstacles, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Gary Peters (D-MI) are working with the Senators to come to an agreement to pass the aid package, with Peters stating “We’re really close…I’ve had some conversations with Sen. Lee, and we’re working on some language right now that we hope will allow us to move forward.” Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) echoed Peters’ sentiment and felt optimistic a deal would emerge soon.

 

In elections news, Mississippi held its congressional primary on Tuesday, with all the incumbents winning easily. Representatives Gregg Harper (R-MS, 3rdand Trent Kelly (R-MS, 1st) both cruised to victory last night, as both Representatives Bennie Thompson (D-MS, 2nd) and Steven Palazzo (R-MS, 4th) were unopposed. Next up, Ohio and North Carolina Senate hold their primaries next Tuesday on March 15th.

 

In other news, former Democratic Representative Joe Baca is running for a seat in the House, but has decided to switch parties. Baca filed his papers to run against Representative Pete Aguilar (D-CA, 31st) as a Republican, saying the switch reflected his Christian values. Baca previously served in Congress from 1999-2013 as a Democrat, before losing to fellow Democrat Gloria Negrete McLeod. Baca ran as a Democrat in 2014 for California’s 31st district, but failed to make it out of the primary and finished fifth out of seven candidates.

 

 

 

March 3, 2016


This Week:  Senate moves bill combating opioid abuse, and Arkansas, Alaska, and Texas hold primaries

 

This week in congressional news, a bipartisan bill aimed at combating opioid drug abuse passed its first procedural hurdle on Monday. The Senate voted 89-0 to move forward toward considering the bill, known as the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), introduced by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rob Portman (R-OH). However, on Wednesday, the Senate blocked an amendment from Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) that pushed to add $600 million in emergency funding; money Democratsargue is needed to quickly help communities devastated by opioid abuse. While Shaheen argued the extra funding is necessary for CARA to be effective, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) argued that there are potentially hundreds of millions available for CARA as part of the omnibus spending bill passed last year. Many Democrats are skeptical of Senator McConnell’s claim, stating the omnibus money was meant for other programs and not CARASenator John Cornyn (R-TX) said he expects a vote on the bill this week or next week at the latest, and expects the bill to pass without much fight.

In elections news, while all eyes were focused on the Presidential primaries of “Super Tuesday,” ArkansasAlaska, and Texas kicked off the Congressional primary season this week. Incumbents in all three states were seemingly under fire heading into the vote on Tuesday, with many challengers threatening to rip apart the Republican Party. However, both House and Senate incumbents largely won easily, with Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL) and John Boozman (R-AR) both cruising to victory. In TexasLouie Gohmert (R-TX, 1st), Sam Johnson (R-TX, 3rd), Joe Barton (R-TX, 6th), Kevin Brady (R-TX, 8th), and Pete Sessions (R-TX, 32nd) all won their primaries with ease despite facing tough challengers. Up next, Mississippi holds its primary on March 8th, and the OhioIllinois, and North Carolina primaries all on March 15th

 

 

 


February 25, 2016


This Week:  Senate reaches deal on Flint water crisis

 

This week in congressional news, the Senate reached an agreement on an aid package for Flint, Michigan to address the city’s ongoing water crisis. The $250 million deal will provide funds and loans to improve water infrastructure, clean contaminated water sources, and expand local health programs for treating illnesses stemming from contaminated water. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) filed the bill on Wednesday after weeks of negotiations, and the Senate is expected to vote on the measure as soon as next week. The deal has support from both sides of the aisle, with seven Democrats and four Republicans backing the deal, and it seems likely to pass the Senate. The House approved a bipartisan bill earlier this month that would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to inform residents within 24 hours when tests show that drinking water is contaminated with lead.


In election news, Representative Dan Webster (R-FL, 10thannounced his intention to run in Florida’s 11thCongressional District, setting up a tough primary battle between current GOP frontrunner Justin Grabelle. Through redistricting, Webster’s Orlando area district became more Democratic-leaning, and retiring Representative Richard Nugent’s (R-FL, 11thdistrict is much more appealing for RepublicansJustin Grabelle, Nugent’s longtime chief of staff, has his former boss’s support and is financially prepared for a primary contest against Webster.

 

On Thursday, Representative Matt Salmon (R-AZ, 5thannounced that he will not seek reelection this fall, becoming the 23rd House member to announce his retirement at the end of this Congress. Salmon, a founding member of theHouse Freedom Caucus, said in a statement he wants to spend more time with his family after serving two terms in Congress. He previously served in the House from 1995-2001, fulfilling his pledge to serve only three terms, and later returned in 2013. Salmon also announced his support for Arizona State Senate President Andy Biggs to replace him, stating “I couldn’t be more pleased that Andy has decided to run for my seat and continue the fight to return our nation to the values that made it great.” Salmon’s retirement announcement should draw a crowded Republican primary, and is expected to remain safely in Republican hands.

 

In other news, President Barack Obama has nominated Carla D. Hayden as the next Librarian of Congress. Hayden, the longtime head of Baltimore’s library system, would be the first woman and first African-American to hold the position in the institution’s 214 year history. Obama announced her appointment on Wednesday, and if confirmed by the Senate, would serve a term of 10 years with an option for reappointment. The previous librarian, James Billington, was criticized during his 28 year tenure for not keeping up with advances in technology.

 

 

 

February 18, 2016


This Week:  Battle lines drawn over Supreme Court nomination

 

This week in congressional news, after the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated the vacancy should not be filled until after the presidential election, setting up a clash of powers during President Barack Obama’s remaining days in office. McConnell’s statement over the weekend was seen by many as a signal of the GOP’s intent to block any nomination effort by Obama, with many Republican Senators stating they’ll block any nomination hearing. Their reasoning is that the American people should have a voice in the process, and that the Senate should follow what Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) called “common practice,” to stop acting on lifetime appointments during the last year of a presidential term. While many Senate Republicans backed the Majority Leader’s statement, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) noted that it would be unprecedented to wait until next year to confirm a new justice, and that the Senate must oblige by its constitutional responsibilities. On Tuesday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) appeared to state that there is a possibility a hearing could be held on an Obama nominee, stating “I would wait until the nominee is made before I would make any decisions. ... In other words, take it a step at a time.”

 

In campaign news, open races across the country became a bit more crowded as primary season is just around the corner. In New York, businessman Steve Wells (R-NY, 22nd) entered the race to fill outgoing Representative Richard Hanna’s (R-NY, 22ndseat, growing the total number of Republicans running to three. In Florida, attorney Paul DeCailly (R-FL, 13thannounced his campaign to replace Representative David Jolly (R-FL, 13th), who is running in Florida’s crowded open Senate race. The Senate race in Pennsylvania gained a Democratic challenger to Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), with Joe Vodvarka (D-PA) announcing his intention to run. Vodvarka, a retired small business owner, garnered 20 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary in 2012.February 11, 2016

 

 

 

February 11, 2016

 

This Week: EPA steps into the water crises in Flint, Michigan

 

This week in congressional news, Congress continued to focus on the contaminated water crisis in Flint, Michigan, by passing legislation aimed at better protecting Flint’s residents. The House voted 416-2 Wednesday to approve a bill requiring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to alert residents if their drinking water contains lead, and calls on the EPA to develop a plan for increased coordination between water utilities, government agencies, and residents. The bill, sponsored by Representatives Dan Kildee (D-MI, 5th) and Fred Upton (R-MI, 6th), is the first step in addressing the crisis in Flint, with Kildee stating “This bill simply states that when there are unacceptable levels of lead in people’s drinking water, the public should be immediately told about it.” This vote came as House Democratshosted a hearing with Flint Mayor Karen Weaver and public health experts, with Republican Michigan Governor Rick Snyder declining to attend. Michigan Democrats in the Senate are working on an aid package that would help fund replacing the corroded pipes and support families exposed to contaminated drinking water.

 

In other news, the Senate passed legislation aimed at hurting North Korea’s nuclear program after the nation’s recent satellite launch. The Senate approved the sanctions bill 96-0, which targets North Korea’s ability to finance the development of nuclear warheads and the long-range missiles to deliver them, as well as $50 million over the next five years to support humanitarian assistance programs. The vote comes after Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper noted that North Korea has taken steps to expand their nuclear weapons program, and could start recovering nuclear material for a weapon in weeks to months.

 

In elections, Representative Todd Young (R-IN, 9th) may not have submitted enough valid signatures to qualify for the May 3rd Senate primary ballot. The Indiana Democratic Party plans to challenge whether Young’s candidacy after the organization found just 498 valid signatures from Indiana’s 1st district. In order to qualify for the primary ballot in Indiana, Senate candidates must get at least 500 registered voters in each congressional district to sign a nomination petition. The Indiana Democratic Party also plans on challenging 88 petitions from the same district because of a lack of voter information and petitions signed by unregistered voters. If Young fails to qualify for the ballot, fellow Representative Marlin Stutzman (R-IN, 3rd) would win the primary by default. Compared to Young’s campaign, Stutzman has raised significantly less money and has suffered from a high turnover rate of its senior campaign staff. 

 

 

 

 

 

February 4, 2016

 

This Week: Water Crisis in Flint, Michigan Gains Congressional Attention

 

This week in congressional news, House Democrats called for an investigation into Flint, Michigan’s ongoing drinking water crisis. Democrats have hounded Republicans this week to open a federal probe into the man-made crisis, including an effort to bring in Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to testify in front of Congress. On Tuesday, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD, 5th) described the crisis as a result of negligence and a “broader failure to invest in people's health, in people's safety, in consumer's protection.” Representative Joe Crowley (D-NY, 14th)attacked Republicans on the issue by commenting on their efforts to investigate Planned Parenthood, but a lack of urgency in Washington to look into the disaster in Flint. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are seeking $600 million in federal aid to help Michigan clean up the contaminated water in Flint, with as much as $400 million designated for drinking water infrastructure improvements. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) hopes to attach the legislation to an energy bill currently on the floor in the Senate while stating “I hope Republicans who have requested federal aid in the past won't turn their backs on the people of Flint.”

In other news, two more Republicans announced they are not running for re-election in 2016. Representative Reid Ribble (R-WI, 8th) announced his retirement over the weekend, stating that he wants to spend more time with his family and return to the private sector. Ribble is leaving Congress six years after he vowed not to serve more than four terms when he was first elected in 2010. While he generally voted in line with other conservative lawmakers, Ribble separated himself from the pack when he resigned from the House Freedom Caucus last October over their hardline tactics of the speakership race. He leaves behind an open seat that is favored to remain in Republican hands, as Ribble won the district in 2014 with 65 percent of the vote.

On Monday, Representative Stephen Fincher (R-TN, 8thalso announced his retirement, choosing not to seek a fourth term in the House. Fincher expressed his desire to spend more time with his family, as well as working on his business based out of Frog Jump, Tennessee. Last year, Fincher teamed up with Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD, 5thto reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, which was successfully passed along with a five-year transportation infrastructure bill. With Fincher’s and Ribble’s announcements, a total of 22 House members will be retiring at the end of this year.

 

 

 

 

January 28, 2016

 

This Week: Will financial catastrophe bankrupt Puerto Rico?

 

This week in congressional news, Senate Democrats released a letter Wednesday pushing for Puerto Rico to get bankruptcy protections in order to help the country tackle its massive debt problem. Every Senate Democrat signed on to the letter urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to move forward on legislation allowing the island to declare bankruptcy. In the letter, the Democrats stated “this is the only way Puerto Rico can respond effectively and responsibly to this growing financial and social catastrophe,” with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) echoing that sentiment on the floor. After years of economic decline and a shrinking population, Puerto Rican officials have recently called on Congress to allow it to declare bankruptcy, with officials saying it’s impossible for them to pay back billions of dollars in debt. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, on a visit to San Juan on Wednesday, stated “in order to assist the 3.5 million Americans who call this island home, Congress must pass legislation for the president to sign into law without delay…Without congressional action, Puerto Rico will face a long and difficult recovery that could have harmful consequences.”

In other news, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the heroin and prescription drug abuse epidemic in the United States. Witnesses Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin and Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Rob Portman (R-OH) stressed the importance of tackling the deadly, growing problem of opioid abuse. Shumlin stated “Listen, we need financial help. The states cannot do this alone. We’re scraping together pennies to try and make our treatment centers stand on their own.” In addition to asking for financial help, the panel urged their colleagues to take action on a piece of legislation, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which would help with state and local education, prevention, and treatment efforts. The hearing comes as U.S. drug overdose deaths have more than doubled since 2000, with a record 47,000 cases in 2014. Ohio and New Hampshire were among the five states with the most drug overdose deaths per capita in 2014, with New Hampshire experiencing a 73% increase in overdose deaths from 2013-2014. After the hearing, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) indicated Congress would act on a comprehensive bill aimed at tackling the heroin and opioid epidemic this year.

 

 

January 21, 2016 

This Week:  Senate Democrats ease the way for Iraqi and Syrian refugess

 

This week in congressional news, Senate Democrats blocked legislation that would impose stricter screening requirements for refugees from Iraq and Syria. While the bill passed overwhelmingly in the House last year, the procedural vote failed by a margin of 55-43 after Republicans and Democrats failed to come to an agreement over contentious amendments. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said Democrats would support bringing the bill to the floor if Republicans would agree to guarantee votes on four amendments. One measure would have officially denounced Donald Trump’s proposal to bar Muslims from entering the country. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) balked at Reid’s attempt and called the effort “ridiculous…I hate to see the Democratic leader try to trivialize this very important national security debate and discussion by injecting presidential election politics right in the middle of this.” The other amendments included denying people on the no-fly list from purchasing firearms, increasing funds for police anti-terror efforts, and a broader proposal laying out their strategy to defeat the Islamic State. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he couldn’t agree to Reid’s demand, and that the only way forward on the measure would involve an open amendment process where both sides alternate introducing amendments. Just before the vote, Reid stated it was a waste of time and “we need to talk about efforts to defeat ISIS, not creating more paperwork for cabinet officers.”

In other news, Representative Scott Rigell (R-VA, 2ndannounced he will retire at the end of this term after six years in office. When first elected to office in 2010, Rigell pledged he would not serve more than six terms. He is leaving after three, and in a letter to his constituents, he explained because he had accomplished what he set out to do in Congress. While Rigell’s 2nd district is expected to be competitive this year, the district is set to become more Republican under a new congressional map imposed by federal judges this month.

 

 

January 14, 2016

This Week:  House sanctions North Korea for testing hydrogen bomb

This week in congressional news, House members approved new economic sanctions against North Korea on Tuesday, after the isolated nation claimed to successfully test its first ever hydrogen bomb last week. The measure, passed 418-2, would block the country’s access to hard currency, and sanction any institution or individual that aids the country’s missile program as well as any other illegal activity such as money laundering, counterfeiting, and human rights abuses. Under the bill, President Barack Obama is authorized to prevent any sanctioned individual from entering the U.S. or entering into any contracts with the U.S. government. The Senate is expected to vote on a similar package of sanctions as Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) are working on competing proposals.

In other news, another Representative has announced his retirement, as Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA, 3rd) announced last week he is not running for re-election. The six-term Republican and respected conservative in the House stated “it is time to pass the torch to our next conservative voice.” Westmoreland served in leadership on the whip team, and often served as a bridge between former Speaker John Boehner (R-OH, 8th) and hardnosed conservatives. Westmoreland’s retirement leads many to believe he will run for state office as he has openly talked about running for governor in the past. 

 

 

January 7, 2016

This Week: Liberal Representative Jim McDermott to retire

This week in congressional news, Representative Steve Israel (D-NY, 3rd) surprisingly announced he will not run for reelection in 2016. Israel, who was first elected in 2000, stated his desire to work on his second novel and the relentless grind of fundraising as the main reasons behind his decision to retire. The New York Democrat held many leadership positions within the party, including chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the newly created Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC). House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, 12thstated “Under Chairman Israel’s leadership, the DPCC has helped strengthen and hone our message, enabling us to win key legislative victories for the American people.”

Earlier this week, one of the most liberal members of the HouseRepresentative Jim McDermott (D-WA, 7th), announced on Monday that he will retire at the end of his term. During McDermott’s 14-term congressional career, he was known for his work on issues affecting the poor and his criticism of the Iraq war, with President Barack Obama calling McDermott "a much-needed voice for his most vulnerable constituents." However, he is mostly notably known for being sued by Representative John Boehner (R-OH, 8th) over an illegally recorded phone call in 1996 that Mr. McDermott leaked to the media, and was ultimately ordered to pay Boehner $1 million in damages. While the seat is expected to remain in Democratic control in the upcoming 2016 elections, his departure will open up a coveted spot on the House Ways and Means Committee, where he serves as the ranking Democrat on the Health Subcommittee.