Joe Williams

Members Caught Off Guard on News of DACA Fix On Omnibus

The White House has held some discussions with Congress about addressing immigration in the pending fiscal year 2018 spending bill, according to GOP senators and aides, but members are skeptical that such a provision will be included in the omnibus package.

Lawmakers in both parties have sought a solution to the situation surrounding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — which covers undocumented immigrants who come to the country as children. President Donald Trump targeted it for expiration on March 5, which has been halted by court actions. The chamber voted on a series of different DACA proposals in February, but none garnered the necessary 60 votes to advance.

Despite Rancor On Tariffs, Senate GOP Rejects Legislative Response
What started off as a war cry has been reduced to a whimper

Senate Republicans, after decrying President Donald Trump’s recently announced tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, have no plans to pursue legislation to block them from going into effect.

“The thought that the president would undo action he’s taken strikes me as remote at best and I’d like to use floor time in the Senate for things that actually have a chance to become law,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday. “I think it’s highly unlikely we’ll be dealing with that in a legislative way.”

Flake Files Bill to Stop the Trump Tariffs
Prospects uncertain despite GOP concerns about steel, aluminum policy

Sen. Jeff Flake on Monday introduced legislation that would nullify the tariffs President Donald Trump imposed last week on steel and aluminum imports.

Mexico and Canada, who along with the U.S. are in the midst of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, are initially exempt from the new tariffs, a carveout Flake said would lead to uncertainty among other countries.

Sergeant-At-Arms Prepares for New Role as Advocate for Veterans
Frank Larkin set to work with wounded warriors after he leaves current role

Members of Congress love to talk about how important it is to care for military veterans. But in the view of Frank Larkin, there has been a lot of talk but little action. And he wants to change that.

Larkin, who has been Senate sergeant-at-arms for the past three years, will depart his post at the end of March. His decision to leave stems from the death of his son, an emotionally taxing experience for him and his family and one that gave Larkin a new mission in life.

One Gun Control Bill Has 60 Votes in the Senate — Now What?
Current floor schedule may prevent timely consideration of legislation

Gun-related legislation backed by President Donald Trump now has enough support to clear the Senate, increasing pressure on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to schedule a vote on the measure.

The bill from Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas and Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., that would enforce existing law related to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System has 60 additional cosponsors as of Friday, an aide confirmed.

Former Ways and Means Aide Considered as Cohn Replacement
Source: Shahira Knight in running for chief economic adviser role

Shahira Knight, special assistant to President Donald Trump for tax and retirement policy, is under consideration to replace departing Gary Cohn as chief economic adviser, according to a senior White House official.

“She is very well respected here,” the senior official told Roll Call. “She has done a great job.”

Senate Floor Time Stymies Gun Control Efforts
No floor time scheduled for any of several measures introduced

Advocates and lawmakers who were hoping the recent mass shooting at a Florida high school would finally spur Congress to act have hit a familiar roadblock: the Senate floor.

While members on both sides of the aisle continue to introduce legislation on the issue and push for the chamber to consider measures that have broad bipartisan support, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has given no indication he intends to bring any bills up for a vote and instead has turned his attention to other policy areas, like federal oversight over financial institutions and online sex trafficking.

Shelby Expected to Assume Appropriations Panel at Prime Time
Budget deal in place as veteran lawmaker expected to slot into big roles

Sen. Richard C. Shelby, the expected next chairman of the Appropriations Committee, will slide into the role with much of the grunt work already done.

With a slimmed-down legislative agenda, no major policy initiatives on the horizon and spending levels for fiscal 2019 already agreed to, the timing is good to focus on the elusive goal of clearing the 12 yearly appropriations bills.

GOP Reaction to Trump Tariffs is Fast, Furious and Negative
Republicans fret about retaliatory action, effect on agricultural trade

Senate Republicans are calling for changes to the seldom-employed section of U.S. trade law that the Trump administration used to unilaterally impose steep new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

The conversations are in the preliminary stages, but build upon discussions GOP members have had for weeks regarding concerns over the White House’s trade policy.

When Allies Attack: Friction Between Democrats, Immigration Advocates
Hard feelings about groups pressuring minority party

Friction lingers between Senate Democrats and progressive advocacy groups after the chamber failed to advance a bipartisan bill in February to protect the young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers. 

Tensions came to a breaking point in the weeks before the Senate voted on several immigration-related proposals aimed at extending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, aides say. The rift was a long time in the making, as some Democratic lawmakers questioned the strategy that pro-immigration and progressive groups used to drive action over the past six months.

Top Republican Seeks Answer On White House Security Clearance Process
Charles Grassley, joined by Democrat Richard Blumenthal, press White House

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley is pressing the White House for answers on the Trump administration’s security clearance policy and who within the West Wing and Capitol Hill is allowed to view sensitive or classified information.

Key questions raised in the letter from the Iowa Republican appear to directly relate to President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top advisor Jared Kushner. Questions are also posed directly about former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who resigned earlier this month amid allegations of domestic abuse.

As Omnibus Looms, Lobbying Commences
Lawmakers are lining up to get their priority bills added to what is potentially the last major legislative vehicle of the year

It’s Christmas again in Congress.

Members in both chambers return to Capitol Hill on Monday from a ten-day recess with four weeks left to put together a massive fiscal 2018 spending bill. And the package, which Congress must pass by March 23 to avoid another government shutdown, may be the last major legislative vehicle to advance this year.

What Policy Measures Could Get Added to the Spending Bill?

Congress has the next few weeks to pass a spending bill to fund the government. Some members could try and attach "pet project" bills to the package....
Democratic Leaders Request FBI Funding to Stop Russian Influence in Midterms
Also call for release of public report

Key Democratic lawmakers urged Republican leadership Wednesday to include additional FBI funding in the fiscal 2018 spending bill to combat possible Russian interference in the upcoming midterm elections.

The request comes after the Justice Department charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies Friday over alleged attempts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

Bipartisan Praise, and Questions, About Thad Cochran
Omnibus spending measure, future awaits veteran Mississippi Republican

An omnibus bill wrapping up fiscal 2018 spending could serve as a victory lap for Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran, who continues to battle questions over his health and stamina in the role.

Rumors have swirled quietly for months about the 80-year-old Mississippi Republican’s future. Those whispers became louder last year after Cochran took a prolonged absence from the Senate due to health issues.

Senators Prepare for Messaging and Uncertainty From Immigration Debate
‘You know it’s an election year?’

Senators say they are ready for what Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to give them this week: a return to regular order.

But that does not mean it will be easy.

Senate Leaders Strike Budget Deal
Agreement between McConnell and Schumer may not yet have Pelosi support

Senate leaders announced Wednesday the contours of a bipartisan deal to raise defense and nondefense spending by nearly $300 billion over the next two years.

The agreement, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer announced on the chamber floor, would raise defense spending by $80 billion in the current fiscal year and more next year, and nondefense spending by $63 billion in fiscal 2018 and $68 billion in fiscal 2019.

Republican Retreat Heavy on Boasting, Short on Strategy
Divisions within ranks threaten progress on immigration, government spending

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Republicans leave the Greenbrier resort on Friday buoyed by their reflections of the accomplishments of the past year. But they also depart with little consensus on how to address the long to-do list awaiting them in Washington, D.C.

Much of the public portion of the GOP retreat was spent touting the recent tax overhaul, cuts to federal regulations, a record number of judicial appointments and an optimistic economic forecast. But the silence on contentious lingering issues such as health care, government spending and immigration was deafening.

House Budget Chairman Mulls Skipping Budget Resolution
Newly installed Steve Womack says budget process may need changes

Updated 8:13 p.m. | WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Rep. Steve Womack, Budget chairman for less than a month, is considering skipping a budget resolution  — thinking time would be better spent changing the budget process.  

“If I can read the tea leaves on what’s coming from the Senate, that doing a budget resolution that will be meaningful, that we can get House and Senate together on, is very problematic right now,” the Arkansas Republican said at a Thursday press conference here, where GOP lawmakers were having their annual retreat.  

Shuster Hopes to Move FAA Funding Before Infrastructure Bill
Says GOP votes could be sacrificed for bipartisan support

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster said he intends to try to pass a long-term reauthorization of funding for the Federal Aviation Administration before an infrastructure package advances.

Shuster, who will take a lead role in negotiations on the infrastructure bill, also said he expects to lose some Republican support in order to bring Democrats on board and advance a bipartisan bill.