Opinion & Analysis

Opinion: Putin’s Job Is Easy When Americans Do It for Him
Partisan maneuvering undermines the election process

A demonstrator holds up a sign of Vladimir Putin during an anti-Trump “March for Truth” rally on June 3, 2017, in New York City. Putin’s rigged re-election gives him time to meddle in elections elsewhere in world, Mary C. Curtis writes — but given the partisan efforts to affect outcomes in the U.S., he may have little to do here. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images file photo)

Russian president Vladimir Putin easily cruised to a fourth term this past weekend, surprising absolutely no one. The only nail-biters were how many people would head to the polls — always unpredictable when the victor is certain — and how completely Putin would trounce the token opposition. Now, presumably, the newly re-elected leader can turn his attention to meddling in elections in other countries.

Speaking of the United States, while both Democrats and Republicans would prefer a little more predictability in the November midterms, if not Russian-style oversight, it is members of the GOP who seem most nervous about the eventual outcomes, especially in close House races. And while the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity was officially disbanded in January, its spirit lingers on in hints from officials that certain votes should count more than others.

Opinion: Fossil Fuels Aren’t Dead, and North Dakota Is Proof
Investing in coal and natural gas still pays dividends for our communities

Investing in fossil fuel research doesn’t mean throwing good money after bad; it means prosperity for our communities, Hoeven writes. Above, workers watch a gas flare at an oil well site in Williston, North Dakota, in 2013. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images file photo)

One of the most important challenges we face as a nation is reducing our deficit and debt. As a proud fiscal conservative, I understand we must make tough financial decisions; that is why I have worked diligently on measures that will put our nation on a path to a balanced budget.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which formulates the federal government’s spending plans, I know there is a distinct difference between making wise investments and frivolous spending. I believe it is important that we steer our scarce federal dollars toward effective investments like energy research and innovation.

Capitol Ink | The Birds

Opinion: Congress, the CBO Is Not Your Football
As omnibus approaches, lawmakers should resist the temptation to throw the agency around

CBO Director Keith Hall, right, talks with Senate Budget Chairman Michael B. Enzi before an oversight hearing in January. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Congress finally heads for a vote this week on a long overdue omnibus appropriations package for fiscal 2018 — a year that is nearly halfway over. Fiscal policy debates on taxes and health care have added friction to an already partisan atmosphere.

Caught in the middle of this endless wrangling on Capitol Hill about budget priorities — where to cut, where to spend — is an organization that has come under fire for telling it like it is on the cost of those proposals, the Congressional Budget Office.

Opinion: Putting the ‘N’ in SNAP Should Be a Farm Bill Priority
Program should be strengthened to promote nutrition among SNAP recipients

Among the recommendations of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s SNAP Task Force is continuing incentives for recipients to consume fresh fruits and vegetables (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As Congress begins its deliberations on this year’s farm bill, it’s time to pay more attention to the “N” in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Launched as a pilot program by President John F. Kennedy and expanded nationwide by President Richard Nixon, the food stamps program — now SNAP — has enjoyed bipartisan support over its nearly 60-year history. From its initial goals of supporting farm incomes and ensuring low-income families did not face hunger, it has evolved into an effective anti-poverty program. That evolution continues today with a focus on nutrition.

Opinion: Trump’s Name Isn’t on Any Midterm Ballot — But It’s All About Him
Lawmakers can’t keep ignoring president’s misconduct

The Ides of March may not have been a good day for the national security adviser, H.R. McMaster — who, politically speaking, may be in the process of getting shivved by President Donald Trump, Walter Shapiro writes. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images file photo)

It was ghoulishly fitting that Donald Trump got out the long knives on the Ides of March. On a day when top Trump officials might have been justifiably nervous about going to the Forum, Trump apparently decided to fire national security advisor H.R. McMaster, according to The Washington Post.

If McMaster has indeed joined Rex Tillerson in the ever-growing Trump Alumni Association, it should put to rest the glib theory that the so-called “adults in the room” could constrain a petulant president.

Opinion: We All Have the Same Challenges
Female staffers should be judged by the results they produce

Barrett Karr, center, is chief of staff to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Also pictured, Kelly Dixon, director of legislative operations. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

I am often asked what it is like to be a female chief of staff. My answer is that it is probably not that much different from being a male chief of staff — we all have the same challenges. 

But the question reminds me that I am fortunate to have worked for Kay Granger, John Kline and now Kevin McCarthy.

Opinion: Not the Pennsylvania Message You’d Expect, but One Heard Around the World
World is watching as America struggles with basic questions of democracy and representation

President Donald Trump spoke at a rally for Rick Saccone Saturday night. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The election for a congressional seat in Pennsylvania was over, yet not over, on Wednesday, with all eyes on the few hundred votes that gave Democrat Conor Lamb an initial edge over Republican Rick Saccone.

And the reckoning has only begun. Amid the hand-wringing from nervous Republicans fearing a midterm blue wave and cautious optimism from Democrats who realize November is a long way off were signs that the tensions of this campaign resonate far beyond a spot in the southwestern corner of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Opinion: Building a Water Workforce for America’s Future
Infrastructure investment must include training for those who manage our critical water systems

It is critical to invest in training for the engineers and technicians  who keep the nation’s critical water systems in operation, Tonko writes. Pictured above, the Kensico Dam and Reservoir in Valhall, N.Y. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images file photo)

America faces a tough reality when it comes to our drinking water infrastructure. Eighty-six percent of U.S. households today depend on public water, and the EPA has estimated that nearly $400 billion will be needed in the coming decades just to keep those systems in working order.

Unfortunately, underground pipes and pumps aren’t the only critical components of these systems that are being overlooked. Even as water system failures hit communities all across the U.S., the professionals who keep these beleaguered systems operating safely are aging too. Many are already approaching retirement. In fact, some 37 percent of water utility workers and 31 percent of wastewater utility workers are expected to retire in the next decade.

Capitol Ink | Trump Country Mile

Opinion: Pompeo’s Rendezvous With Senatorial Waterboarding
Secretary of state designee faces the most anti-Trump committee in Congress

CIA Director Mike Pompeo is slated to succeed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. But he will face one of the most grueling confirmation hearings since President Donald Trump took office, Shapiro writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

In the realm of the 21st century Sun King, Donald J. Trump, there is room for only one Rex, the president himself.

The style of Tuesday morning’s surprise sacking of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made corporate human relations departments seem warm and nurturing in comparison. Trump fired the highest-ranking Cabinet member — the official who is fourth in line for presidential succession — in Halloween fashion by trick or tweet.

Opinion: Trump Can’t Help Stepping on His Own Message
President hurts himself, perhaps his party’s chances — and obscures his accomplishments

President Donald Trump deserves more credit than he’s getting for his first year in office, Winston writes, but he has struggled to manage his message. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

As the firestorm known as Iran Contra began to ebb, a new White House director of communications joined the Reagan team to help rebuild the presidential persona and move beyond what had been a grueling and damaging scandal.

A consummate communications professional, Tom Griscom had been a reporter, Majority Leader Howard Baker’s press secretary and the head of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee before landing at a prestigious D.C. public relations firm. That’s when Baker came knocking one more time.

Capitol Ink | Clear Skies Ahead

Opinion: Why the Pennsylvania Special Election Is Not So Special
Such contests are more about storylines than winning

Tuesday’s special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th District between Republican Rick Saccone, left, and Democrat Conor Lamb boils down to a fight for national bragging rights, Murphy writes. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

All elections have consequences, but on a scale of zero-to-life-changing, Tuesday’s special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th District between Republican Rick Saccone and Democrat Conor Lamb has fewer real-world consequences than most.

You wouldn’t know it from the screaming national headlines or the colossal amount of cash both parties are putting up to occupy the seat for the next nine months (almost $12 million in ad spending alone), but the reality of special elections this cycle is that they are more about winning a storyline than about winning any House seat.

Capitol Ink | March Maxim