Congress

Trump proposal would roll back transgender, abortion protections
HHS says new regulation would save $3.6 billion in the first five years

Abortion opponents demonstrate outside the Supreme Court in June 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Department of Health and Human Services on Friday proposed to roll back protections under the 2010 health care law related to sex discrimination, which some advocates worry could affect health care access for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

The proposal would reverse an Obama-era policy that protected gender identity and termination of pregnancy under non-discrimination protections.

‘Reluctant impeachment’: Will Pelosi ever be swayed to go there?
Democrats understand the speaker’s cautious approach to impeachment but believe she can be convinced

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., leaves a House Democratic Caucus meeting Wednesday, May 22, 2019 in which her members debated whether it’s time to open an impeachment inquiry. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Will Speaker Nancy Pelosi ever come to a point where she is ready to lead her caucus in opening an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump?

The California Democrat hasn’t ruled it out, despite strong signals she wants to avoid the divisive move and let the voters decide in 2020 whether to punish Trump for his alleged misdeeds. 

Rep. Nadler appears to ‘almost pass out,’ gets medical help at event
The New York Rep. was at a press conference with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio

Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., talks to the media after the last vote before the Memorial Day recess at the Capitol in Washington on Thursday May 23, 2019. On Friday at a New York event with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio he appeared to almost pass out. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler came close to collapse in his home state of New York while attending an event with Mayor Bill de Blasio.

At a Friday press conference in New York City, de Blasio came to Nadler’s aid, offering water and making sure the fellow Democrat was feeling alright. The press conference was held at P.S. 199 in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. 

Worries persist despite additional billions for census
Concerns about potential undercounting remain among lawmakers from both parties, even with increased funding

Ranking member Rep. Robert Aderholt, D-Ala., conducts a House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on April 4, 2019. Aderhold said that while a new Census funding bill would put the bureau in “good shape,” he’s concerned the country may be facing a “trial run” for the new system that relies for the first time on online responses. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House appropriators this week included a hefty boost for the 2020 census above the proposal from the Trump administration, but concerns about potential undercounting remain among lawmakers from both parties.

They fear that despite the additional money, the Commerce Department hasn’t adequately geared up for decennial population count. Democrats continue to oppose a controversial citizenship question they say will depress immigrant response, while some Republicans worry that the use of online questionnaires will lead to shortfalls in rural areas.

GOP Rep. causes $19.1 billion disaster aid bill to stall in House
The package had been passed in the Senate after border-related funding, sought by the White House, was removed

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, left, and Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., listen during the House Oversight and Reform Committee markup on April 2, 2019. He said Friday that he would block a unanimous consent request to block a $19.1 billion supplemental appropriations bill for victims of recent natural disasters. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House was unable to clear a $19.1 billion disaster aid bill Friday, after a freshman GOP lawmaker objected to a unanimous consent request.

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, blocked the measure during the chamber's pro forma session, after telling reporters he had concerns about the process as well as the substance of the legislation.

Why does Alexa save transcripts of user conversations? This senator asked Amazon
Sen. Chris Coons wants to know why Amazon Echo users’ conversations are being saved to company servers

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, center, is pictured in the Capitol in June 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A Democratic senator sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Thursday requesting information about why the company retains transcripts of conversations recorded by Amazon Echo devices, even after users have pressed “delete.”

Amazon’s voice-controlled operating system Alexa transcribes the conversations it picks up after users say a “wake word” — “Alexa,” “Echo,” “Amazon” or “computer” — or press a button to enable the Echo, according to a report by CNET. And the company saves those text files on its servers even after users opt to “delete” the audio files from the cloud, a CNET investigation revealed.

Pressure mounts on expiring Medicaid programs for U.S. territories, safety net hospitals
Advocates worry the two programs will need more funding by the end of the fiscal year

Participants hold signs during the Senate Democrats’ rally against Medicaid cuts in front of the U.S. Capitol on June 6, 2017. Advocated are worried about two Medicaid programs that need additional funding before the end of the fiscal year — U.S. territories’ programs and funding for safety net hospitals. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Advocates are worried about two Medicaid programs that need additional funding before the end of the fiscal year — U.S. territories’ programs and funding for safety net hospitals.

The end of September marks a number of government deadlines, but advocates and government officials worry that a lack of funding for these two Medicaid programs would be worrisome and could be overlooked.

Senate mourns deaths of two beloved staffers
Barber David Knight and document room employee Bud Johnson both died recently

David Knight, here with, from left, barber Kim Coleman and manager Cindi Brown, cut hair in the Senate barbershop for 36 years. (Courtesy Senate Hair Care Services)

David Miles Knight spent 36 years as one of the Senate barbers, and he was a familiar face to everyone in the basement of the Russell Building, which has long played host to the barber shop.

Over the weekend, he lost his long fight with cancer, just a day before another longtime Senate employee, Berner Richard Johnson III, succumbed to his injuries from a violent attack, leaving the Senate family in mourning. 

What’s the state of play on intern pay on Capitol Hill?
Intern compensation funding is up for discussion again

Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., says he expects intern compensation funding to continue in the Senate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Securing intern compensation funding last year was a huge victory for lawmakers and advocates. Now they just have to figure out how to get the word out and expand the pie. 

As interns descend on Capitol Hill for a summer of public service, more will be paid for their work than ever before. But widespread paid internships are still in their infancy in Congress. This is the first summer that House and Senate offices have dedicated funding available to cut checks.

Judge questions whether House can sue over border wall funding
The judge was skeptical whether federal courts should jump into the ‘ugly dispute between the political branches’

The border barrier between the U.S. (L) and Mexico runs down a hillside on May 20, 2019, as taken from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. A federal judge heard arguments Thursday over whether to block the Trump administration from transferring Defense Department funds to pay for border wall projects. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

A federal judge in Washington expressed skepticism Thursday about whether the federal courts should jump into the middle of an “ugly dispute between the political branches” over the Trump administration plan to move around federal funds to build a border wall.

U.S. District Judge Trevor N. McFadden said that a House lawsuit to block the Trump administration’s spending was in “unusual territory,” since higher courts have never ruled on whether the legislative branch could sue the executive branch.

Senate passes long-stalled disaster aid bill with Trump support
Negotiators agreed to revisit stripped border-related funding after the Memorial Day recess

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and chef Jose Andres talk after running into each other in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Thursday, May 23, 2019. Andres was on Capitol Hill for a briefing held by the Power 4 Puerto Rico Coalition, calling on Congress to help Puerto Rico achieve future growth and prosperity after the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. On Thursday the Senate approved a $19.1 billion disaster aid deal which included $600 million in nutrition assistance to Puerto Rico to help restore funding that ran dry in March. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

After months of negotiations, Congress and the White House on Thursday reached agreement on a $19.1 billion disaster aid bill that will help communities recover from a series of deadly storms and wildfires. 

The draft bill does not include the border-related funding for migrants at the southern border sought by the Trump administration, the last hurdle that had been preventing a deal on the package.

Alexander, Murray outline plan to lower health costs
Alexander he hopes it will get a committee mark up next month and the Senate will debate a bill in July

Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and ranking member Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., conduct a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing in Dirksen Building titled "Vaccines Save Lives: What Is Driving Preventable Disease Outbreaks?" on March 5, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Two influential senators released draft health care legislation Thursday, a package of narrowly tailored proposals that will likely be part of a measure to lower health care costs that lawmakers hope to pass this year.

The draft bill, from Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and ranking member Patty Murray, D-Wash., targets five areas: banning surprise medical bills; speeding low-cost generic drugs to market; increasing transparency; improving public health; and enhancing health information technology, according to a summary.

Senate backs bill to stem flood of robocalls plaguing cell phones
Bipartisan effort would increase civil penalties to $10,000 per call

Senate Majority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., sponsored the bill to tackle illegal robocalls. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Lawmakers are fed up with the barrage of scam and nuisance calls plaguing them and their constituents and on Thursday, the Senate passed a bipartisan measure to combat robocalls.

Senators voted, 97-1, to pass a bill (S 151) designed to authenticate and block robocalls and enforce penalties on scammers who use automated equipment to pump phones full of bogus calls.

‘For the good of the country’: Pelosi hopes Trump family or staff stage an intervention
Speaker says president deployed ‘bag of tricks’ to avoid infrastructure meeting he was unprepared for

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., conducts her weekly news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center on Thursday, May 23, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump’s family or staff should stage an intervention, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday, noting she’s concerned for his well-being and that of the country.

“I pray for the president of the United States,” the California Democrat said. “I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country.”

Democratic campaign chief cancels event for this anti-abortion Democrat
Rep. Cheri Bustos signaled she will continue to defend Rep. Dan Lipinski

Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., is a first-term DCCC chairwoman. She withdrew from an event for Rep. Dan Lipinski, who is an anti-abortion Democrat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The congresswoman who leads House Democrats’ campaign arm announced Wednesday she would no longer headline a fundraiser for an anti-abortion incumbent congressman.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Cheri Bustos agreed months ago to host a $1,000-per-plate breakfast fundraiser for Rep. Dan Lipinski because of their friendship, a spokesman for Lipinski said. But criticism of her support for Lipinski grew louder this month amid the passage of laws severely restricting abortion in six states.