Joe Williams

Nominations Fill Legislative Void in Senate
Work stalled in the chamber amid partisan health care and tax effort

Senate Republicans have repeatedly accused the Democratic minority of slow-rolling the process of confirming President Donald Trump’s nominees for hundreds of vacant federal and judicial positions. But after engaging in a partisan agenda for most of this year, the GOP may need those confirmation votes just to fill up floor time in the chamber.

The major tenets of the Republican agenda are largely stalled, with the legislative health care effort in tatters and an overhaul of the U.S. tax code still in development.

Who Benefits From the State and Local Tax Deduction?
Roll Call analysis finds higher-income earners reap substantial returns from the deduction

A fight within the Republican Party over a proposal to eliminate the state and local tax deduction threatens the future of the GOP effort to overhaul the U.S. tax code.

Battle lines have been drawn, as lawmakers from states that see substantial benefit from the deduction — such as New Jersey and New York — are already sounding alarms at the proposal to remove it. 

Republicans Struggle to Define Whom Their Tax Overhaul Will Help
Echoes of failed health care effort in senators’ lack of specificity on tax goals

Senate Republicans are still weighing who specifically will benefit from their pending overhaul of the U.S. tax code.

When asked, many were unable to communicate exactly which income brackets they would want to see reductions directed toward, instead opting to use catch-all phrases such as “hard-working Americans” or “ordinary people.”

Intelligence Committee Backs Spy Agencies on Russia Conclusions
Senate panel is keeping its own Russia inquiry open

Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday said a “general consensus among members and staff” is that an intelligence community conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election is accurate, but the panel will keep the investigation open.

President Donald Trump has yet to voice support for the intelligence assessment. He has sought to investigate potential voter fraud in the past election.

Republicans Face Messaging Battle on Tax Overhaul
Health care defeat spurs heightened awareness of the upcoming messaging battle on taxes

The messaging battle over a pending overhaul of the U.S. tax code has begun. And while Republicans say they feel confident they will overcome the opposition this time around, a lingering defeat on health care continues to concern proponents.

The administration and congressional GOP leaders last week unveiled a framework for the still unreleased tax legislation. It immediately set off a cascade of reaction — positive and negative — as Republicans labeled it a middle-class tax break and Democrats called it a giveaway for the rich.

Senate Considers Broadening Budget Resolution
Move would allow GOP to legislate on more topics without filibuster fear

The Senate is considering beefing up the fiscal 2018 budget resolution to address a broader swath of issues beyond a tax overhaul, including the rollback of regulations on the financial industry, lawmakers said.

The additions might not be included in the Senate’s version before a floor vote, lawmakers said, but could be added during an expected conference with the House. The Senate Budget Committee begins its markup of the budget resolution Wednesday.  

Senate Republican Class of 2014 Looking to Shake Things Up
The group has become more vocal in their desire to change business as usual

Sen. David Perdue keeps a calendar in his office to remind him how many working days the Senate has left this year.

But with just 43 legislative days remaining and a packed agenda ahead, it’s not a countdown he particularly enjoys. To make matters worse, that number counts most Fridays as in-session days, though the chamber almost always wraps up its weekly work Thursday.

CBO Still Expected To Analyze Graham-Cassidy Health Care Measure
Sponsors of the bill plan to continue work on the proposal to repeal the 2010 health law

The Congressional Budget Office will still release a full analysis of a proposal from four Republican senators that would overhaul the health care system, according to one of the bill’s main sponsors.

During an interview for Tuesday’s CQ Roll Call Big Story Podcast, Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said a full score from the nonpartisan budget office is still expected. He believes that report could help dispel some of the opposition to the legislation.

Senate Republicans Eye Ways to Hit 15 Percent Corporate Tax
Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch crafts plan that could meet Trump’s target

Updated 3:07 p.m. | Senate Republicans may have found a way to meet President Donald Trump’s goal of reducing the corporate tax rate to 15 percent. The chamber is said to be eyeing a proposal from Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch that would allow companies to deduct shareholder dividends from their profits.

Multiple aides and lawmakers, including Hatch himself, said the so-called corporate integration proposal is an option under consideration for the Senate’s version of the bill.

Senate Republicans Commence Health Care Blame Game
Unclear what is next step for outstanding health issues

Frustration overtook Senate Republicans on Tuesday as the reality sunk in that they had failed again in fulfilling a seven-year campaign promise to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law.

And senators were looking to cast blame wherever they could find it.

Amid Health Care Chaos, Graham and Cassidy Still Lacking Votes
Finance hearing rocked by protests, S&P prediction dire

The Senate on Monday was consumed by a now-familiar sense of chaos as Republicans continued their quest to pass in an accelerated fashion a major overhaul of the U.S. health care system, even as protests erupted in the hallways of the Capitol and independent forecasters predicted dire consequences in the form of lost jobs and diminished economic activity. 

Sponsors of the bill, which would essentially turn all federal funding included in the 2010 health law into massive block grants to states, tried mightily to gather support, but the effort continued to hit fierce head winds.

CHIP, FAA Face Deadlines This Week
Even with typical drama absent, funding cliffs still loom

Congress is spared the usual end-of-the-fiscal-year drama this month, with normal fights over government spending punted until December, but lawmakers still face several deadlines before the Sept. 30 cutoff for fiscal 2017.

With the Republicans’ last-gasp effort to undo the 2010 health care law fizzling, Congress may now try to pass short-term extensions to avoid running aground on the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Federal Aviation Administration and community health centers, authorizations for which expire at the end of the month. 

Healthcare.gov Could Be Crippled Under Latest GOP Obamacare Repeal Proposal
The federal exchange marketplace would remain under the proposal, but largely in name only

A federal health exchange the government spent over $1 billion to create would likely be made obsolete by the recent GOP proposal to gut the 2010 health law.

Policy experts say the Department of Health and Human Services would still be required to maintain healthcare.gov under the proposal from Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Dean Heller of Nevada. 

Republicans Cast Aside Previous Concerns in Latest Repeal Effort
Senators cite the flexibility included in the proposal as justification for the reversal

Republican senators face the prospect of retreating from their previous public stances in order to support fast-moving legislation that would significantly overhaul the U.S. health care system.

Concerns about the impact on people suffering from opioid addiction, drastic cuts to Medicaid and the lack of robust analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office appear to have vanished as the GOP hopes to advance a bill to repeal the 2010 health care law before the fast-track budget reconciliation mechanism they are using expires on Sept. 30.

Alexander Juggles Bipartisan Health Care Deal With GOP Repeal Effort
His decision could undermine a reputation the Tennessee Republican has spent years cultivating

For Sen. Lamar Alexander, two roads are diverging in a yellow wood.

The Tennessee Republican, who chairs the Senate, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is facing a difficult quandary on health care that Democrats say could undermine a bipartisan reputation he has spent years cultivating and simultaneously determine the fate of the nation’s insurance system.

McConnell In Difficult Spot With Latest Health Care Push
Senate majority leader tasked with shepherding bill he had no role in writing

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is counting on an 11th-hour attempt to repeal the 2010 health care law and change directions on a disappointing year for Republicans.

Having put health care on the back burner after lacking the votes this summer, McConnell has thrown his weight behind a proposal from GOP Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Dean Heller of Nevada.

Lawmakers Sing a Bipartisan Tune as a Bitter Fall Looms
Trump’s recent deal-making elicits confusion and hope

Bipartisanship is the song of September.

Bernie Sanders, the Man With Single-Payer Clout
Vermont independent continues to direct the future of national Democratic Party

The seismic shift in support for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ plan to transform the U.S. health care system into a single-payer program indicates the reach the Vermont independent has within the Democratic Party.

At the same time that his onetime presidential foe Hillary Clinton is reminding people of the party’s devastating loss last fall, Sanders is trying to define its future. His bill to enroll every American in Medicare drew 16 co-sponsors, 16 more than when he first introduced similar legislation in 2013.

A Blue Badger in Trump Country
Baldwin cites causes she’s championed well before the president

HAYWARD, Wis. — On the banks of Moose Lake, Sen. Tammy Baldwin served meals from a food truck purchased by the local senior resource center and expanded with a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Later, Baldwin heard from constituents concerned about President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to the very same USDA program. She vowed to fight those and other suggested funding reductions from her perch on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Opioid Epidemic Continues to Ravage the Midwest
Despite congressional action, counties find it hard to keep up

BLACK RIVER FALLS, Wis. — Despite action by Congress to address the opioid addiction epidemic, hard-hit areas of the country like this one in the Midwest are finding it difficult to keep up with the fallout from the unfolding situation.

In July, here in Wisconsin’s Jackson County, for instance, 34 children who were taken out of their homes, many a result of a parent’s opioid addiction, remained in foster care.