Opinion: Strange Times for Mitch McConnell in the Alabama Senate Race
A Moore victory could be a big headache for the Senate majority leader

When President Donald Trump tapped Sen. Jeff Sessions to be his attorney general last year, the last thing on anyone’s mind was what would happen to the Alabama Senate seat that Sessions would leave behind. With a Republican governor in a reliably Republican state, the assumption was that the governor would appoint a safe placeholder for the seat, who would then easily get elected to finish out Sessions’ term in the next election.

But fast forward nine months, and the Alabama governor who appointed that placeholder has resigned in disgrace. The placeholder, Sen. “Big” Luther Strange, finished second in the GOP primary to former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who has been removed from the bench twice.

Opinion: How Donald Trump Made Congress Great Again
It may help the country — if not the president

If you were a member of Congress, especially a Republican member of Congress, you could be forgiven for having at least some contempt for President Donald Trump.

He’s used the GOP-led Congress as a punching bag and a scapegoat. He demands absolute loyalty from Republican members, but abandoned them last week the moment he saw an opening to strike a deal to raise the debt ceiling with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Opinion: Trump Giving Ryan and McConnell the Power on DACA
Why Congress needs to act on immigration

If President Donald Trump and the Republican leadership were a married couple, we would refer to August as “The Estrangement.”

After months of bashing House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and “the Republicans” on Twitter, things got so bad between Trump and McConnell last month that they went for weeks without talking. On a phone call just before things got really bad, Trump was reportedly yammering to McConnell when the majority leader fell so silent, the president had to ask, “Are you there, Mitch?”

Opinion: Texas Is Doing Its Part — Now It’s Congress’ Turn
Politics should be put aside after Hurricane Harvey

The month of August 2017 will not be remembered in many people’s minds as a great one for the United States. We edged too close to conflict with a madman in North Korea. Marches over monuments in Virginia devolved into murder. Ugly debates about what America used to be made too many people ask themselves what this country has become.

It’s hard to believe, then, that a devastating hurricane at the end of the month, a once-in-a-generation catastrophe in Texas, could be a catalyst to remind us who we are and what America remains today, but it has. The images coming out of Hurricane Harvey’s path have been heartbreaking and inspiring — every day Americans have transformed themselves into helpers and heroes, rescuing strangers stranded in the rushing, suffocating floods.

Opinion: Don’t Worry Jeff Flake — Trump Won’t Hurt Your Chances
GOP voters don’t seem to care whom president thinks they should vote for

It can’t feel good for Arizona Republican Jeff Flake to be attacked and maligned, especially when the senator is up for re-election and when the attacker is Donald Trump, the president from his own party who has gone out of his way to tell his 36 million Twitter followers that he thinks Flake is a “flake.”

At his rally in Phoenix on Tuesday night, Trump, without referring to Flake by name, said the senator was “weak on borders, weak on crime,” adding that “nobody knows who the hell he is.”

Opinion: ‘Medicare for All’ Is the New ‘Repeal and Replace’
Why Democrats may be in danger of repeating the GOP’s mistake

Even before the horrible events in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, President Donald Trump was having a bad August.

He had already single-handedly escalated tensions with North Korea to the point that a nuclear strike suddenly seemed like a possibility for the first time in many Americans’ lifetimes.

Opinion: Why HELP Could Be on the Way for Obamacare Recipients
Hopeful signs of bipartisan consensus on fixing health care markets

Sen. Lamar Alexander had barely announced his plans to hold hearings next month on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on stabilizing the insurance markets for Obamacare when the idea started getting panned.

Keep in mind there are no specific hearings scheduled yet, no witnesses, no bill written, and few parameters of what is on or off the table. Alexander, the committee chairman, has only said that he wants a final product to be “small, bipartisan, and balanced,” but he hasn’t said what that means, other than flexibility for states and short-term triage for the exchanges.

Opinion: Forget the Moderates, Only the Die-Hards Can Get Health Care Back on Track
Kennedy and Hatch a great example of working across the aisle

If the failure of health care reform taught us anything last week, it’s that somebody somewhere in Washington is going to have to start compromising if anything is ever going to get done.

But if you’re thinking a successful compromise is going to come from moderates like Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, or Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., think again. Although those senators’ roles will be important, all of the moderates from both parties together still don’t have enough votes to pass legislation.

Opinion: Lessons in Loyalty From John McCain and That Other Guy
For Trump, loyalty is a one-way street

Washington has always been driven by loyalties. Staffers are expected to be loyal to their bosses. Their bosses are expected to be loyal to their districts and states. And the president, as the chief executive, is expected to be loyal to the country above all else.

But expectations in D.C. are rarely realities and in Donald Trump’s worldview, loyalty is a special brand of currency.

Opinion: Meet the New President — All 50 of Them
Governors filling void created by a distracted Trump

There was a time very recently when governors ran the states and the president ran the country. For every ribbon-cutting and fish fry a governor attended in his home state, the president was doing the big stuff — signing on to international accords, negotiating with world leaders, and leaning on Congress, especially the senators of his own party, to push through his policy agenda on Capitol Hill.

But those days are over, at least for now. While President Donald Trump has become engulfed in questions about his campaign’s associations with Russia and more focused on his Twitter feed and widescreen TV than the mundane, sustained work required to move an agenda, the governors of America have stepped into the void.

Opinion: Don’t Skip the Recess, Skip the Games
It’s time to change the dynamic in Washington, not the calendar

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced to his members Tuesday that he’s canceling the first two weeks of the August recess to plow through a pile of undone business, including passing health care reform, a debt-ceiling increase, the Department of Defense authorization bill, and a Food and Drug Administration user authorization bill.

It’s easy to see why McConnell decided to push back the recess. For one thing, the rowdy town hall meetings in some senators’ home states last week were probably unpleasant enough to convince anyone that August in Washington is totally underrated. Two more weeks in the swamp? Great!

Opinion: Why We Can’t Stop Talking About Chris Christie’s Saltwater-Gate
We’re the problem, America — but also the solution

My first reaction to Chris Christie’s infamous beach pictures was probably the same as everyone else’s — Chris Christie gets a beach house as governor of New Jersey? No wonder they can’t pass a budget.

But my second reaction was surprise that people, including me, by the way, could not stop talking about this man’s hypocrisy, after he closed the state’s beaches on one day and then hosted a family and friends holiday on those exact same beaches the next. Was he naive, brazen, or just totally beyond caring what anyone thinks about him anymore?

Opinion: Let the Senate Be the Senate Again
The alternative: Taking the road to irrelevance

I have a question for the senators trying to decide whether to vote for the Obamacare repeal bill when it comes up in the Senate:

Did you really fly 1,000 miles in coach for this?

Opinion: Jon Ossoff and the New Breed of Yellow Dog Democrats
How politics in a onetime Southern GOP stronghold have changed

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — It’s Election Day in Georgia, so this column goes to print before we know the outcome of the 6th District special election to replace Dr. Tom Price in Congress. But whether Karen Handel, the Republican, pulls off a win or Jon Ossoff, the Democrat, manages an upset, it is well-understood here that the politics of this once solidly Republican district have changed, almost overnight.

The fact that Ossoff became so competitive, so quickly in this race was almost entirely because of Donald Trump. Trump was certainly the reason Democratic activists across the country pumped $20 million into a district where the biggest tourist attraction is a giant red chicken in front of a vintage KFC. Trump was also the reason countless Ossoff volunteers told me they were working for him “because at least it is something I could do” after Trump won in November.

Opinion: Republicans’ Biggest Problem in Georgia Isn’t the Special Election
Health care looms large in the 6th District

ATLANTA — Of all of the numbers that should give Republican leaders heartburn in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, where a special election runoff is scheduled for next Tuesday, the most worrisome number might be in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll from last week.

That survey of likely and early voters showed Democrat Jon Ossoff leading Republican Karen Handel by 7 points. That’s not great news in the district where its former congressman, HHS Secretary Tom Price, won 62 percent of the vote just six months ago. But special elections being what they are, no one can confidently predict the result of this contest until it happens next week.

Opinion: If Trump Wanted ‘Fast and Easy,’ He’s in the Wrong Job
Democracy is hard, Mr. President

In all of the hundreds, if not thousands, of volumes written about the United States Senate, I’d be willing to bet that “fast and easy” has never been used to describe the chamber or what it should be — until Tuesday, when President Donald Trump tweeted that the Senate should “switch to 51 votes immediately, and get Healthcare and TAX CUTS approved, fast and easy....”

Putting aside the fact that Democrats never did abandon the legislative filibuster, it’s hard to think of a term that applies less to the Senate and the role it is designed to play than “fast and easy,” especially because the Founding Fathers created the Senate for the sole purpose of making sure that writing the laws for a large, diverse country would be the exact opposite of “fast and easy.”

Opinion: Mick Mulvaney’s Compassion — Not for the Needy
Republican budget funds big programs, pulls back safety net

When George W. Bush ran for president in the late 1990s, he did it on a platform of “compassionate conservatism,” a smooth-edged rebranding of the conservatism that had become synonymous with callousness in the age of Newt Gingrich. Bush’s compassionate conservatism assured voters that he wasn’t going to waste their money the way he said Democrats would, but that he also wasn’t going to hurt people in the process, especially the least among us.

Bush won, but the concept of conservatism took a beating under his administration, as federal budgets ballooned and his vision of the role of government expanded at home and abroad.

Opinion: Where Will GOP Be When the Crazy Train Comes Off the Rails?
Republicans blaming Nancy Pelosi and Democrats will only get them so far

If you want to know how Republicans will campaign in the 2018 midterm elections, you don’t have to wait. House Speaker Paul Ryan gave an early preview Monday night at a rally for Karen Handel, the Republican candidate in the runoff for Georgia’s 6th District seat. 

If you’re just tuning in to the race, Handel is a former Georgia secretary of state and would be the first Republican woman elected to Congress from the Peach State. She is running against Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old Democrat and former Hill staffer who nearly won the seat outright last month, when he received 48 percent of the vote. The suburban district is wealthy, highly educated, and newly politically turbulent. The longtime GOP stronghold went for President Donald Trump by just 1 percent in November.

Opinion: The (White) Boys’ Club That’s Taking on Health Care
Senate health care working group is all men, all white

Is there an Obamacare provision for self-inflicted wounds? If so, Senate Republicans should file a claim pronto before they repeal and replace the offending legislation. 

It’s hard to understand how the GOP leadership could run head-first into such an avoidable misstep. They appointed 13 members to the Senate health care working group last week, either not noticing or not caring that all 13 of those senators are white men.

Opinion: The Biggest Mess in Washington? Not on Capitol Hill
Early legislative losses a bad omen for Trump administration

 

It’s early May in the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency and the White House is already out of juice on Capitol Hill. Mark May 2, 2017 as the day the cup ran dry.