Hawkings

Insider’s guide to Hill policy, people & politics

Political Gerrymandering: Is There a Math Test for That?
Supreme Court may consider whether practice is unconstitutional

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled in a North Carolina racial gerrymandering case and may take on a Wisconsin case this fall that involves partisan gerrymanders. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Racial gerrymanders have been undone many times, most recently when the Supreme Court ruled against a pair of North Carolina congressional districts this week. But another case from that same state, heading into federal court next month, has a shot at eventually persuading the justices to do what they’ve never done before: strike down an election map as an unconstitutionally partisan gerrymander.

The high court ruled three decades ago that it may be unconstitutional to draw political boundaries so that one party was sure to win a disproportionate number of elections, but it’s never come up with a means for deciding when such mapmaking has become too extreme.

Lessons from 44 Years of Special Investigations
 

Roll Call's David Hawkings decodes the history of independent investigations into Oval Office scandals.

Hill and Mueller Don’t Have to Clash, but It Will Not Be Easy
Congressional inquiries and prosecutors have different purposes, but the same witnesses

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller’s appointment as special counsel for the Russia investigation was greeted positively by lawmakers, but they disagreed on the effect his probe will have on their own investigations. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Congressional inquiries and special counsels can productively coexist, serving complementary purposes because of their reciprocal approaches, unless they’re unable to settle inevitable fights over the same documents and star witnesses.

That may be the best response to a question many on Capitol Hill started asking as soon as Robert S. Mueller III was appointed to run the government’s probe of Russian interference in last year’s election and whether Moscow collaborated with President Donald Trump’s campaign:

A Senator Out of His Shell, and Under Trump’s Skin
Connecticut’s Blumenthal at the center of opposition to president

Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal makes his way through the Senate subway in the Capitol after a meeting of Senate Democrats on May 10. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Of the 157 tweets President Donald Trump has sent in the last month alone, just six have singled out individuals for ridicule. And half of those have been directed at Richard Blumenthal.

The senior senator from Connecticut, who’s made reticence and prudence the guideposts of his first four decades in political life, is projecting a very different sort of persona these days. While presenting himself in public as quietly as ever, he’s become one of president’s most incisive Democratic antagonists on an array of topics.

Trump-Russia Probe — Congress Can Boost Stature or Squander Opportunity
Bipartisan effort could help restore credibility

Reporters question Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard M. Burr in the Senate subway as he makes his way to the Russell Senate Office Building on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

An important window of opportunity has been opened for Congress by the firing of James B. Comey as director of the FBI. 

House GOP at Home Defending Health Vote, Not Always Truthfully
The Big Story, Episode 53

The Republican effort to replace Obamacare has put some electorally vulnerable House Republicans on the defensive, CQ Roll Call political reporter Bridget Bowman says. And, health editor Rebecca Adams explains some members haven’t been accurate back home in explaining what would change. Meanwhile, the Senate debate looks to be long and complex, senior editor David Hawkings predicts.

Defeated Lawmakers Trek From the Hill to Middle Earth — And Beyond
Life after Congress has included ambassadorships for dozens

Former Sen. Scott Brown was nominated by President Donald Trump to be U.S. ambassador to New Zealand. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

If three makes a trend and four creates a pattern, then dispatching favored congressional losers to New Zealand has become not just a sliver but a pillar of the American diplomatic order. 

When Scott Brown takes over the embassy in Wellington by this summer — his confirmation virtually assured thanks to the endorsements of both Democratic senators who have defeated him — the onetime matinee idol for Republican centrists will become the fourth former member of Congress who’s assumed that particular ambassadorship after being rejected by the voters.

David Hawkings’ Whiteboard: What’s a Whip?

When getting legislation passed — from continuing resolutions on government spending to health care overhaul bills — congressional leaders keep track of who may vote each way by their helpful sidekicks known as the whips. Ever heard the phrase, “whipping votes?” Roll Call senior editor David Hawkings explains the official and de facto job of this indispensable role on Capitol Hill.

Halftime for Special Election Bragging Rights
As South Carolina votes Tuesday, neither side in Trump referendum fight has an edge

This year’s special elections could be a more reliable bellwether of President Donald Trump’s effect on the political landscape, Hawkings writes. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

One of the many ways sports and politics are alike is that the “expectations game” is central to both.

The incessant boasting and trash talk by the players makes great theater, but no difference in the outcome of any match or any election. Over time, however, critical masses of paying customers will start shifting their passions elsewhere if the advance histrionics and the eventual outcomes don’t occasionally match.

David Hawkings’ Whiteboard: Trump’s Next Budget Battle Begins Soon

The whiteboard is back! Roll Call senior editor David Hawkings looks past the current battle to fund the government to sketch out President Donald Trump’s next budget task – funding the government for fiscal 2018. His ambitions are big, find out how likely they are to get accomplished.

Podcast: Trump's About-Face in His First 100 Days
The Big Story, Episode 51

The first 100 days of an administration have been used as a benchmark to gauge the progress made by a sitting president. Donald Trump’s first 100 days are punctuated by successes such as confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee and self-inflicted wounds such as the travel ban, says CQ Roll Call’s White House correspondent John T. Bennett. But what is most striking about Trump thus far, adds Bennett, is the difference between candidate Trump and President Trump.

Podcast: Troubled Climate for Trump’s First Earth Day
The Big Story, Episode 50

President Donald Trump is moving on several fronts to deregulate environmental protection, prompting some states to intervene. But deep EPA budget cuts will get tamed by Congress, and the U.S. might stay with the Paris climate accord; even business leaders and conservative voters worry the anti-green push has gone too far, CQ Roll Call’s Mike Magner and Jeremy Dillon explain.

How Trump and Hill GOP Could Fill the Looming Legislative Void
Bipartisan deal to ease spending curbs would give Congress ways to seem productive

President Donald Trump and congressional Republican leaders may have to move relatively quickly to secure some serious help from the Democrats to avoid budgetary gridlock, Hawkings writes. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Forget the fake news folderol about another shutdown showdown at the end of next week, because just over the horizon looms the year’s really big fiscal morass. 

It’s highly likely that the first order of business when Congress comes back, keeping the bureaucracy humming for just five months, will prove to be the policymaking equivalent of an empty net goal.

Ep. 49: Trump’s Ethics Give Democrats a Midterm Weapon
The Big Story

President Donald Trump (C) walks along the West Wing colonnade with his daughter Ivanka Trump (L) and his son-in-law and Senior Advisor to the President for Strategic Planning Jared Kushner. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump has a blasé approach to the long list of complaints about his ethical conflicts and quandaries, and his GOP base hardly seems to mind, CQ Roll Call’s lobbying reporter Kate Ackley says. But all the questionable behavior by the president, his senior aides and his family are already giving Democrats on the Hill plenty of talking points for the midterm campaign.

Why McConnell Vowed to Preserve Minority’s Big Remaining Power
After going ‘nuclear’ for Gorsuch, legislative filibuster not endangered

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has accrued and sustained power in Washington for longer than three decades in part by being a man of his word, Hawkings writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Thursday’s showdown at the Capitol has been heralded by such melodramatic rhetoric — a miasma of transparent flip-flopping and brazen hypocrisy sullying virtually every senior senator, from both parties — that two genuinely meaningful consequences of the moment may be hard to appreciate.

The first is more obvious: The views of the political minority will never again matter when filling the confirmation-required government job with by far the biggest and longest-lasting impact on the lives of Americans.