Kellie Mejdrich

Group Strives to ‘Make Congress Great Again’
Legislative Branch Capacity Working Group has a bipartisan following

Its name is a mouthful, but the Legislative Branch Capacity Working Group has gained a following for its mission to strengthen a polarized and unpopular Congress.

The founders come from think tanks in different positions on the political spectrum. Kevin Kosar spent 11 years at the Congressional Research Service before leaving for the “free market” R Street Institute. Lee Drutman is a senior fellow at the more liberal New America.

Trump Defense Boost Would Mean Big Gains for Some States
Democrats likely to hold line for parity with nondefense programs

A request from the Trump administration for a double-digit increase in defense spending could be largely decided by lawmakers whose states are far from equal players when it comes to the benefits of a bigger military budget.

That’s long been the case, as geographic, historic and strategic differences across the country result in more of an economic boost in certain states. But the differences are even more starkly displayed in a new Pew Charitable Trusts analysis that shows the funding split across all 50 states and the District of Columbia on a per-capita basis.

GOP Leaps on Congressional Review Act to Kill Obama Rules
Little-used law now wielded to tremendous effect, but could see legal challenges

A law that’s been successfully used only once until now is the conduit for a whole lot of action on Capitol Hill.

Republicans in Congress are expected to send a stream of bills — most of which require a single sentence — to President Donald Trump’s desk, using a process known as the Congressional Review Act to repeal agency rules. The act was tucked into 1996 legislation tied to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s famous “Contract with America.”

The Quieter Assault Against Obamacare
Democrats fault GOP tactic for problems

The Republican drive to deliver a death blow to President Barack Obama’s health care law has overshadowed a quieter assault using annual government funding bills that’s gone on for years. 

It’s not as glamorous or high-decibel as the news conferences and floor debates surrounding the repeal of the law, but it certainly has proved controversial. What’s more, the law’s supporters see this GOP tactic as partly responsible for many of the failures in the law that Republicans now say they must fix.

Deadline for Presidential Budget Request Often Missed
Obama, Bush and Clinton submitted budgets late in their inaugural years

Recent history suggests President Donald Trump may miss a deadline set in law for submitting a budget request to Congress. This could in turn hold up work on spending bills and again send Congress into a spiral of delay when it comes to funding the government. 

Trump wouldn’t be alone. Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton all submitted budgets late during their first years as president. The deadline is the first Monday in February pursuant to a 1990 budget law, though there’s no penalty for missing it.

Obamacare Replacement Preoccupies GOP as Budget Votes Near
McHenry: House has enough GOP votes to adopt resolution triggering repeal

Congressional Republicans’ struggle to take the first step toward repealing and replacing the health care law using a fiscal 2017 budget resolution intensified Wednesday, as they debated how soon to roll out a replacement and defended their coordination with their incoming president.

President-elect Donald Trump suggested in a press conference Wednesday that the repeal and replacement of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law will occur simultaneously or nearly simultaneously. While that timetable appears to defy what Republicans in the House and Senate have set out to do, top Republicans and their aides insisted that the incoming president and Congress are not at odds and that repeal and replacement will succeed.

VA Health Chief Shulkin Picked by Trump for VA Secretary

President-elect Donald Trump said Wednesday he will tap David J. Shulkin, who is now head of the Veterans Health Administration, to be secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The president-elect said “at least” 100 interviews were conducted for the top job to lead the troubled agency that has struggled to deliver care to veterans at a time of increased demand and budgetary pressure.

Spending Bill Could Allow Trump to Fulfill Border Wall Promise
2006 law authorized, but didn’t fully fund, border infrastructure

President-elect Donald Trump might quickly make good on a campaign promise to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico if Republicans in Congress agree to include the money in a fiscal 2017 spending package, according to media reports.

Trump early Friday said that Congress would have to appropriate money so construction could get underway but it would be paid back, tweeting: “The dishonest media does not report that any money spent on building the Great Wall (for sake of speed), will be paid back by Mexico later!”

Sarah Palin Said to Be Mulled by Trump for VA Secretary
Would take helm of an agency marred by scandal and crisis

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, with a post on her public Facebook account, appeared Wednesday to confirm a report that she’s under consideration by President-elect Donald Trump to become secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The post included a highly stylized video produced by SarahPAC, her political action committee, about the former Republican vice presidential candidate’s ideas on how to fix the troubled agency, and a link to the ABC News report that first broke the news of her vetting by the Trump transition team. ABC News said that both a Palin aide and the Trump transition team confirmed she’s under consideration to run the VA.

Pence: Obamacare Repeal Comes First for Trump
Immigration, taxes, infrastructure to follow on envisioned agenda

Repeal of the 2010 health care law is a top priority as soon as Donald Trump takes office in January, Vice President-elect Mike Pence said in a Sunday television interview.

“Decisions have been made, that, by the president-elect, that he wants to focus out of the gate on repealing Obamacare and beginning the process of replacing Obamacare with the kind of free-market solutions that he campaigned on,” Pence said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Trump Economic Adviser Parts Ways With Candidate on NAFTA
'I don't fully agree with him on trade,' says Heritage scholar

One of Donald Trump’s top advisers split with the Republican presidential nominee on the North American Free Trade Agreement during a debate Thursday in Washington on economic policy.

Trump's adviser Stephen Moore and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s economic adviser Gene Sperling also presented drastically different visions of how to stimulate economic growth and tackle the deficit and debt, though the discussion was light on specifics. The debate between the advisers was sponsored by the nonpartisan National Association for Business Economics.

House Easily Passes 10-Week Stopgap Spending Bill
Measure extends government funding through Dec. 9

The House on a 342-85 vote easily passed a 10-week stopgap spending bill late Wednesday, clearing the measure for President Barack Obama’s signature with two days to spare before a government shutdown.

The Obama administration voiced support for passage of the continuing resolution in a statement of administration policy. The House was expected to adjourn later Wednesday and not return until after the November elections.

Louisiana Flood Relief May Not Require Extra Federal Spending
Calamity still tests capabilities of state, federal officials

President Barack Obama makes a highly anticipated visit to flood-ravaged Louisiana on Tuesday with the federal government already busy repairing damage to a large swath of the state and drawing down disaster relief funds.

It appears unlikely that the flood recovery will require additional emergency spending by Congress to address the needs of victims, federal officials said.

Obama Administration Announces Added $60 Million to Fight Zika
Money comes from funds reallocated in April largely from Ebola cash

Some $60 million will soon flow to states, cities and territories to fight the Zika virus, White House officials announced Thursday.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will begin awarding nearly $60 million to localities to "support efforts to protect Americans from the Zika virus," including protecting against the birth defect microcephaly, the agency said in a press release Thursday. CDC said new funding will be available to jurisdictions Aug. 1.  

Standoff Over Zika Spending Arrives at Convention
Virus response merits a rare mention about government spending

The blame game over stalled Zika funding made its way to the Republican National Convention on Tuesday night, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell faulted "Clinton Democrats" for blocking action.  

"As we sit here tonight, a terrifying mosquito-borne illness threatens expectant mothers and their babies along our Southern coast," the Kentucky Republican said in a speech at the Cleveland convention.  

Republicans Plan to Vote Over Democrats Protest
Speaker Ryan calls sit-in a 'publicity stunt'

Republicans plan to bring the House into session late Wednesday and hold votes despite Democrats' ongoing sit-in on the floor.   

Dozens of Democratic representatives staged the sit-in, demanding that GOP leaders allow votes on gun control measures. However, Republicans have no plans to comply.   

House Democrats Stage Chamber Floor Sit-In For Gun Vote
Pelosi says protest could last 'All day. We'll be here as long as it takes. Everyday.'

As many as 80 House Democrats staged a sit-in on the chamber floor Wednesday, demanding Republican leaders allow votes on legislation to combat gun violence before heading home for district work.  

The Democrats' move triggered Republicans to call the chamber into recess, but the protest continued into the late afternoon.  

VA Secretary Likens Veterans' Wait Times to Lines at Disney
Republicans bash McDonald on relevance of measure for health care

The secretary of Veterans Affairs at a media breakfast Monday compared veterans’ medical wait times to time spent in line at a Disney theme park, triggering rebukes from Republicans including House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump.  

VA Secretary Robert McDonald's comments came after he was asked by a reporter why the VA would not release a specific type of measure regarding wait times for medical treatment, known as the “create date.” McDonald prefaced his answer with an explanation that he doesn’t think the number of days until an appointment is a relevant measure and that the department was working on producing a different type of metric to assess its performance.  

House Zika Bill Proposed, Conservatives Gear Up for Fight
Appropriations package far smaller than what Senate, White House say is needed

House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers   unveiled a $661 million Zika aid package on Monday that falls far short of compromise Senate legislation and what the White House says is necessary to fight the mosquito-borne virus.  

“This legislation will make dollars available to fight the disease now, prioritizing critical activities that must begin immediately, such as vaccine development and mosquito control," Rogers said in a statement.  

Zika Funding Fight Reignites
Updated White House request seeks to boost vaccine research

The Obama administration has not given a breakdown of how much money it wants to spend to combat the Zika virus in fiscal 2016 and 2017, a major hurdle in constructing an emergency spending measure, the top House lawmaker on spending matters said. At the same time, the administration has prepared an updated Zika request for the Department of Health and Human Services and a copy given to CQ Roll Call by a Democratic source shows that it would boost funding for vaccine research and development.The document compares requests from Feb. 22 and April 18.  

The source said vaccine development has come more quickly than anticipated and the agency wants to test multiple candidates for a vaccine in an effort to increase viable options.