Hawkings

Insider’s guide to Hill policy, people & politics

Sessions on the Cusp of Martyrdom or Oblivion
If he’s fired, will former Senate GOP colleagues draw a line against Trump?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been the target of almost daily taunting from President Donald Trump. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

When Jeff Sessions was preparing last fall to begin a third decade in the Senate, his future as a rock-ribbed conservative legislative force looked limitless, but just three seasons later, he’s been pushed to the precipice of his career.

The almost daily taunting he’s taking from President Donald Trump points toward one of two probably quick endings to his brief run as attorney general, quitting or getting canned.

How Bad Political Manners Fomented the Health Care Mess
Lawmakers feel free to misbehave when their leaders drop ‘regular order’

Republicans in Congress may be emulating President Donald Trump’s political manners. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A president whose brand is all about flouting basic political manners is getting matched in misbehavior more and more by fellow Republicans in Congress.

The first six months under President Donald Trump have been marked not only by a further coarsening of GOP rhetoric, stoked mainly by incessant infighting in backrooms, but also by increasing defiance of decades of behavioral norms — from Trump’s nominal friends and skeptics alike, when they’ve been trying to work with him and when they’ve been scrambling to maneuver despite him.

GOP Senators Take Sessions’ Side in Spat With Trump
Former colleagues provide cover to beleaguered attorney general

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is under fire from President Donald Trump, but his former colleagues in the Senate have nothing but nice things to say about him. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Confronted with the rare and awkward choice of siding with either a president of their party or a Cabinet member who’s a former colleague, Senate Republicans are sounding of single mind:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, until five months ago a senior GOP senator from Alabama, has done nothing to merit the upbraiding he’s been taking from President Donald Trump.

Podcast: Why Republicans Haven’t (Yet) Said Nyet to Trump on Russia
The Big Story, Episode 63

CQ Roll Call columnist Walter Shapiro and senior editor David Hawkings consider the Watergate scandal and what its rhythms reveal about why today’s GOP lawmakers are still taking a wait-and-see approach to the sprawling, sometimes confusing connections between the Russians and President Donald Trump.

Tiptoes on the Hill Back Into War Debate
A bipartisan push for Trump to seek fresh authority to combat terrorism

Soldiers with the New York Army National Guard patrol in New York City’s Penn Station in June following a terrorist attack in London. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Sixteen years on, Congress seems to be getting genuinely close to forcing itself into a fresh debate on how to prescribe the use of military force against terrorism.

Writing a new war authorization will not happen before the end of the year, meaning those deliberations would be influenced by the dynamics of the midterm election campaign. But proposals to force the issue onto the agenda have the potential to blossom into sleeper hits on this summer’s remarkably blockbuster-deprived roster of consequential legislation.

Congressional Pay and Benefits at a Standstill, With a Cost
Self-denial makes political sense, but doesn’t aide Capitol culture or productivity

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz has become the latest lawmaker to be candid about the high cost of being a member of Congress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Call it quitters’ candor.

Members of Congress sometimes say the darnedest things on their way out the door, especially when taking their leave on their own terms and not because voters insisted on it. Jason Chaffetz recently became the latest such lawmaker.

Podcast: GOP’s Health Care Puzzle Not Solved by Protests, Parades
The Big Story, Episode 61

Protesters march around the Capitol to voice their opposition to the GOP health care legislation on Wednesday, June 28, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell likened his search for 50 senators willing to vote for the same repeal-and-replace legislation to solving a Rubik’s Cube, a task not helped by many GOP skeptics getting besieged back home this July 4 recess. Roll Call reporters Bridget Bowman and Niels Lesniewski see no reason to predict the health care impasse is about to be broken.

 

Podcast: McConnell’s Health Care Seesaw
The Big Story, Episode 60

From left, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., after announcing there would be no vote on the health care bill this week. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate majority leader hasn’t abandoned hope of finding 50 votes for the year’s top GOP priority. But postponement over the July Fourth break won’t make it easier to bridge the gap between those focused on Obamacare’s repeal and those worried about too stingy a replacement, Roll Call’s Niels Lesniewski and David Hawkings explain.

Show Notes:

Six Who Could Succeed Pelosi — Someday
Ouster talk fades, but speculation continues about the next generation of House Democratic leaders

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says she’s “very confident” she retains the support of most members of her Democratic Caucus. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

One week after House Democrats finished 0-for-4 in this special election season, their burst of frustration and pique vented toward Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi appears to have fizzled.

The vexation is not going to fade away altogether, however, and neither will the lawmakers’ whispered talk in the cloakrooms or after their nightly fundraisers about which of them has a plausible shot at someday becoming Pelosi’s successor.

McHenry, Scalise’s Deputy, Steps Up to Run GOP Whip Operation
A temporary but open-ended promotion

Megan Bel Miller, chief of staff for the personal office of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., takes a selfie with Rep. Patrick T. McHenry, R-N.C., during a blood drive in the foyer of Rayburn Building on June 20, 2017. The drive was held to honor those injured in last week's shooting at the Republican team practice in Alexandria. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

As members flew back to town for the first time since the baseball practice shooting, the House’s No. 3 Republican remained absent indefinitely, and his leadership post was already being occupied temporarily.

The trauma to the Capitol from the grievous wounding of Steve Scalise, who’s set to remain hospitalized into the July Fourth recess and may not return to work before Labor Day, was not reaching in any visible way into the workings of his majority whip operation.

David Hawkings' Whiteboard: How Congress' Schedule Works
 

Analysis: No Signs Baseball Shooting Will Change Hill’s Ways
Partisanship will prove stronger than promises of unity after House’s No. 3 GOP leader gravely wounded

Reps. Steve King of Iowa and Val B. Demings of Florida leave a congressional meeting about Wednesday’s shooting at the Republicans’ baseball practice in Alexandria, Va. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Don’t expect the congressional baseball practice shooting to change anything. Not the venomous partisanship that defines life at the Capitol. Not the public’s dismal opinion of the people they’ve sent to Washington. And certainly not the polarized impasse on gun control.

The torrent of words presaging something different began minutes after the shooting stopped Wednesday morning at the Republicans’ suburban practice field, with the third ranking leader of the House majority and four others grievously wounded. Across town, the Democrats halted their own early morning workout to huddle in prayer for their GOP colleagues. Groups advocating for tighter federal restrictions on firearms asserted hopefully that this time, the debate would shift in their favor.

Podcast: Democrats’ Big Test in Georgia
The Big Story, Episode 58

Democrat John Ossoff, left, faces off June 20 against Republican competitor Karen Handel, right, for Georgia’s 6th District congressional seat.

Roll Call political correspondent Simone Pathè explains how the most expensive House race in history, next week's contest to fill an open seat in suburban Atlanta, has already revealed plenty about the new congressional electoral landscape in the age of Trump.

Show Notes:

Will GOP Settle for a Clean Debt Limit Win?
No other legislative victories in sight

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin arrives for a Senate Banking Committee hearing in Dirksen Building titled “Domestic and International Policy Update,” on May 18, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Both repelling and wallowing in a manufactured crisis are surefire ways for the Capitol to put itself in the headlines. That’s why some fresh drama fabrication is getting underway, even before the lawmakers have decided if their response will be crisply responsible or melodramatically craven.

This morality play will be about the federal debt, which is not going anywhere except up in the near term, no matter what anyone in Washington says or does to the contrary.

Here Are the 8 Republicans and 7 Democrats Questioning Comey
John McCain and other ex-officio members could make special appearance

Former FBI Director James B. Comey will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

James B. Comey is undeniably the star of the show Thursday, when he comes to the main hearing room in the Hart Senate Office Building for his first public testimony since President Donald Trump fired him as FBI director a month ago. But the eight Republican and seven Democratic senators on the Select Intelligence Committee have highly important roles.

That’s because their questioning will go a long way to shaping whether the national television audience views the congressional investigation of Russian meddling in last year’s election as thorough and serious — or just more partisan posturing.