congressional-affairs

Analysis: Why Recent Tax Overhaul Efforts Failed and This One May, Too
Republicans taking tax message on the road this week without details

Four years ago, former House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp and former Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus speak with Mrs. G TV and Appliances president Debbie Schaeffer and Marguerite Mount, the store’s accountant, during the Camp-Baucus Tax Reform Tour stop in Lawrence, N.J. It didn’t result in a legislative victory. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The last time Republican tax writers unveiled legislation for overhauling the tax code, it elicited this telling response from the speaker of the House: “Blah, blah, blah, blah.”

It was Feb. 26, 2014, and the House Ways and Means Committee had just unveiled a tax overhaul discussion draft, with full legislative text and both dynamic and static scores from the Congressional Budget Office.

Trump Costs Prompt Secret Service Plea to Congress
‘The president has a large family, and our responsibility is required in law’

A Secret Service agent wipes down one of the presidential limousines at the U.S. Capitol before the start of the Inauguration parade on Jan. 20, the day Donald Trump was sworn in as president. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Secret Service, anticipating the demands of protecting President Donald Trump and his family, wants Congress to again lift pay caps so it can reimburse its agents for overtime work during fiscal 2018.

Whether the agency will need additional appropriations remains to be decided. But the service, part of the Homeland Security Department, estimates about 1,100 employees will work overtime hours that would exceed the statutory pay caps in place during calendar year 2017, Director Randolph “Tex” Alles said in a statement Monday.

On Afghanistan, Trump Bets On Generals He Once Criticized
President says ‘my original instinct was to pull out’

U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson (right) shakes hands with troops ahead of a handover ceremony at Leatherneck Camp in Lashkar Gah in the Afghan province of Helmand on April 29, 2017. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images)

Candidate Donald Trump often said he knew more when it came to the country’s foes than America’s top military leaders. But by siding with retired and current four-star generals on Afghanistan, Trump placed a big bet on a group he once believed had been “reduced to rubble.”

Trump announced Monday night at Joint Base Fort Myer Hamilton Hall in Arlington, Va., he will keep thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan despite his long-held disdain for the operation there. The president’s decision came after a months-long review by his national security team, and reports indicate he will raise the American military presence there to around 12,000.

McConnell, Mnuchin Unequivocal About Avoiding Default on the Debt
Majority leader and Treasury secretary say debt limit will be increased on time

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin expressed confidence the debt limit would be increased. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared without hesitation Monday that Congress will raise the debt limit come September.

“There is zero chance — no chance — we won’t raise the debt ceiling. No chance. America is not going to default, and we’ll get the job done in conjunction with the secretary of the Treasury,” the Kentucky Republican said, appearing alongside Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Beefing Up Afghan Troop Level Would Be Major Shift for Trump
In 2012, he called conflict ‘complete waste,’ adding, ‘Time to come home!’

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Melissa Fusco gives candy to an Afghan boy on the streets in Logar Province in Afghanistan in 2009. President Donald Trump will address the nation Monday night on his plan for U.S. military operations there. (Courtesy Spc. Richard Jones/Wikimedia Commons)

President Donald Trump is expected to announce Monday night that he is sending thousands more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, breaking with his yearslong disdain for the nearly 16-year-old conflict there.

As a candidate, Trump rarely talked about the Afghanistan War and stability operation other than to disparage it. He used it as an example of why his nationalistic approach would be better than any of his Republican or Democratic foes, arguing the George W. Bush and Obama administrations had wasted billions of dollars there for little strategic gain.

Congress Set for Horse-Trading Over Must-Pass Bills in September
“Clean” debt limit increase will likely require Democrats’ support

North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker said a clean debt ceiling increase appears unlikely to pass without “more more increased spending and must-pass legislation to attract the necessary votes.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Congress’ September agenda is packed with several must-pass bills that Republicans and Democrats are likely to look to as leverage for extracting concessions on other priorities.

With a short legislative calendar next month — only 12 days when both chambers are scheduled to be in session (the Senate has a few extra days on its timetable) — some measures could be packaged together, creating even more leverage and risk. 

Trump Is Quickly Running Out of GOP Factions to Alienate
Republican strategist: ‘He’s basically crossing out all of his allies’

President Donald Trump’s ouster of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is seen by some as his first major slight to his conservative base. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump is running out of Republican Party factions to offend and alienate after firing Steve Bannon, the White House chief strategist who was a bridge to the president’s conservative base.

Along with Friday’s blow to his base, a defensive and sometimes erratic Trump in the past few weeks alone has attacked once-supportive business leaders, GOP lawmakers and voters eager to distance themselves from far-right and white supremacist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. He’s also lashed out at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a key player in any effort to push forward his legislative agenda.

Trump Says ‘Obstructionist Democrats’ Undermining National Security
President sends mixed messages before leaving for Camp David security summit

President Donald Trump, here aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford in March, lashed out at Democrats over what he says is their intent to "delay" his national security policies. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images file photo)

Donald Trump began the last workday of yet another chaotic week of his presidency by accusing Democrats of hindering the country’s security — while also sending some mixed signals.

About 90 minutes before his scheduled departure for a Camp David summit with his national security team on North Korea and related issues, the president took to Twitter with contradictory messages about the state of American security.

For Bobby Scott, a District Carved in Calm
Virginia Democrat takes business-as-usual approach, absent political rhetoric

Virginia Rep. Robert C. Scott speaks to attendees at a town hall in Norfolk on Monday. (D.A. Banks/CQ Roll Call)

NORFOLK, Va. — At a recent town hall here in Virginia’s second most populous city, Rep. Robert C. Scott patiently took questions from more than two dozen residents waiting in line. The queue stretched to the very back of a high school auditorium with some standing for the entire portion of the two-hour public meeting.

Absent was the rancor that has dominated town halls across the country this year — mostly those held by congressional Republicans facing angry crowds, upset over changes the GOP wants to make to the 2010 health care law and expressing steadfast opposition to Donald Trump’s presidency.

Budget and Appropriations Members Rack Up Travel Time
Boots on the ground or paid vacation?

Staff travel makes up a significant chuck of the amounts spent on travel by the Appropriations and Budget committees. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Members of the Budget and Appropriations committees have spent about $2 million on foreign travel since the start of 2016, including trips to Argentina, Tanzania, Italy and the United Kingdom, according to an analysis of congressional records.

Appropriations Committee members far outpace their colleagues on the Budget Committee in the number of trips and how much they've spent on travel outside the United States. From Jan. 1, 2016 through March 31, 2017, Appropriations Committee members and staff spent $1.9 million on foreign travel and Budget Committee members and staff spent $36,000.