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Republicans in Congress Are Coy About Whether They Would Take Interior Post
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said this week she is not interested in the job

Several senators praised outgoing Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and endorsed his capacity to take on the secretary of the Interior job. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In anticipation of the appointment of a new Department of the Interior secretary this week, one member of Congress on the reported shortlist has confirmed his interest in the post, but most rumored candidates have shied away from public statements.

President Donald Trump said on Twitter Saturday that he would nominate a replacement to outgoing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke this week. 

Did Tax Reform Scrooge the Holiday Party Spirit?
Political Theater, Episode 49

The holiday party circuit was a bit subdued this year. Did Congress take away incentives to live it up during this time of the year? (CQ Roll Call file photo)

Whether it was a cramped schedule, the funeral of a president, changes to the tax code or overall crankiness, the holiday party scene this year seemed a little, um, meh. CQ Roll Call's Niels Lesniewski, Kate Ackley and Peter Cohn crash the party that is Political Theater to discuss the wine, song and and tax deductions of the Washington holiday party circuit. 

House Ethics Clears Rep. Raul Grijalva of Wrongdoing
Arizona congressman was investigated related to a settlement with a former staffer

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., has been cleared of ethics violations related to a settlement he paid to a former staffer. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House Ethics Committee has reportedly cleared Rep. Raul Grijalva of wrongdoing related to a $48,000 settlement paid to a female staffer in 2015.

The Arizona Democrat settled with the former staffer in 2015 after she accused him of creating a hostile work environment and being intoxicated and left Grijalva’s office after working there just three months.

Trump Signals Defeat on Wall Demand as Christmas Crisis Deadline Nears
Democrats ‘fight to the death’ to block barrier project, president gripes

President Donald Trump argues about border security with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer , right, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as Vice President Mike Pence listens in the Oval Office last week. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump signaled defeat Wednesday on his threat to shut down nearly half the federal government over his border wall funding demand, possibly pulling the country back from the brink of a Christmas crisis.

His morning tweet and spokeswoman’s comments Tuesday marked another abrupt reversal for the 45th president, who last week roared at the top two congressional Democrats that he would “take the mantle” and shut down parts of the government unless they gave him $5 billion for his border barrier.

Here Are the House Members Who Have Skipped Votes This Lame-Duck Session
Most of the absentees are members who lost re-election, ran for another office or are retiring

The lame-duck session of Congress has seen its fair share of absenteeism in the House. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

More than 40 percent of House members have missed at least one vote this lame-duck session, leading to attendance problems that have prohibited the outgoing Republican majority from advancing legislation that Democrats don’t want to help them pass — and a smaller subset have missed at least half of all lame-duck votes.

There have been only 20 House roll call votes since the lame-duck session started on Nov. 13, but 17 members have missed at least half of them. Of those 17 repeat offenders, 11 are Republicans and six are Democrats.

Trump Set to Sign Farm Bill, Minus the Food Stamp Changes He Wanted
Planned signing comes a day before current stopgap government funding expires

Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Pat Roberts expect to attend the farm bill signing later this week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Lawmakers expect President Donald Trump to sign the farm bill legislation Thursday even though it excludes Republican priorities Trump supported such as changes to food stamps.

Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas and ranking member Debbie Stabenow of Michigan plan to be at the White House, though the former said Tuesday that he doesn’t have a time or any details.

New Jersey Police Seek Immigrants’ Trust, Get Pushback From ICE
Tensions rise in sanctuary clash between state, federal law enforcement

Immigration rights protesters take over the Senate steps of the Capitol in 2017. In New Jersey, police will no longer be permitted to ask about a suspect’s immigration status. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Ten New Jersey law enforcement officers — including stern-looking state troopers and local police chiefs — are the stars of a series of unusual videos in which they seek the trust of undocumented immigrants, each explaining in a different language that police in the Garden State are not allowed to turn them over to federal immigration officials.

Long Hill Township Police Chief Ahmed Naga speaks in Arabic, and State Police Lt. Col. Fritz Fragé makes the pitch in Haitian Creole. And the top cop in the State Police, Col. Patrick Callahan, says in English that “we cannot do our jobs without the trust of the communities we serve.”

Senate Sends Criminal Justice Bill to the House
Action comes after years of debate, bipartisan support

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.,resisted bringing the criminal justice bill to the floor initially, but he ultimately supported it. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate voted 87-12 to pass an amended criminal justice overhaul bill on Tuesday, sending a bipartisan measure that almost did not make it to the floor to what backers said was a clear and swift path to becoming law.

The bill, which was brought to the floor as an amendment to an unrelated measure, survived initial indifference from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a series of amendments from Republican opponents, and the addition of some other amendments before ultimately earning an overwhelming bipartisan final vote.

To Prevent Election Meddling, Invest in Black Voters, Groups Say
Russian disinformation campaign seized on long history of suppressing black votes

A voter enters the polling station at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Birmingham, Ala., to vote in the 2017 special election to fill Jeff Sessions' seat in the U.S. Senate. In the foreground is a historical marker noting a 1963 civil rights march to the courthouse to register African-American women as voters. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Political leaders seeking to prevent future meddling in American elections could take a lesson from the Russians: Invest in black voters.

That’s one takeaway from reports this week that Russian operatives disproportionately targeted African-Americans during the 2016 election, according to groups that seek to increase black participation and representation in American politics. 

Marijuana States Rights Amendment Blocked, But Cory Gardner Will Be Back
Colorado GOP senator said he will be offering the legislation again

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said he will be back to try to protect states' rights with respect to marijuana. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Cory Gardner failed to add language to the Senate’s criminal justice bill that would ensure the federal government respects Colorado’s marijuana legalization. But neither the Republican senator, who is running for re-election in 2020, nor the issue will be going away.

Gardner tried to line up as part of the floor debate on the criminal justice overhaul an amendment based on legislation he introduced with Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren.