Hawkings

Insider’s guide to Hill policy, people & politics

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.

David Hawkings’ Whiteboard: How Appropriations Is Supposed to Work

No Summer Job? Hill Turns to Make-Work Budgeting
Broken appropriations system is no friend to unified GOP government

President Donald Trump and his nominal congressional allies have fallen far behind the budgetary schedule, creating a policymaking void, Hawkings writes. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images File Photo)

Approaching a half year back in control over Washington, Republicans still lack decent prospects for securing their first meaningful legislative accomplishment — and so they’re anxiously casting about for something productive to do with their summer.

But their most readily available option, trying to create at least the appearance of restoring some regular order to routine appropriations, is essentially guaranteed to generate little beyond disappointment.

Podcast: In Congress, GOP at a Legislative Standstill
The Big Story, Episode 56

Even with the first all-Republican government in a decade, Congress has yet to send any meaningful legislation to President Donald Trump, say CQ Roll Call congressional leadership reporters Niels Lesniewski and Lindsey McPherson. They explain why health care, taxes, the budget and confirmations will likely remain stuck at least through the summer.

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.