Abortion

At the Races: 2018 Starts in PA-18
Our weekly newsletter on the latest in House and Senate races

Welcome to At the Races! You can keep track of House and Senate races with this weekly newsletter. Subscribe here. We want to hear what you think. Email us at at attheraces@cqrollcall.com with your questions, tips or candidate sightings. — Simone Pathé and Bridget BowmanThis week … Trump is wading into another special election, Democrats went after one of their own and Tim Pawlenty said “no thanks” to a Senate run.

Senate Republicans Steamroll Judicial Process
‘Advice’ dwindles in the GOP’s rush for judges

(iStock)

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans hardly could have done more last year to help President Donald Trump reshape the nation’s federal courts with conservative appointees.

They put Justice Neil Gorsuch in a Supreme Court seat, one they blocked Barack Obama from filling during his last year in the White House. Then they approved a dozen Trump picks for the influential appeals courts that have the final say on the vast majority of the nation’s legal disputes — a record number for a president’s first year in office.

The Next Special Election in the Heart of Trump Country
President will travel to Pennsylvania’s 18th District on Thursday

Democrats see Conor Lamb’s moderate profile and background as a Marine and federal prosecutor as an advantage in Pennsylvania’s 18th District. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

It’s no accident that President Donald Trump will travel Thursday to an equipment manufacturing plant outside of Pittsburgh. And it’s no accident that Pennsylvania Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone will be there too. 

The visit is an official one, but with a political backdrop. H&K Equipment is located in Pennsylvania’s 18th District, where Saccone will face Democrat Conor Lamb on March 13, the first special election of the year.  

Two Democratic Lawmakers Go After One of Their Own in Illinois
Schakowsky and Gutiérrez endorse Marie Newman in Democratic primary

Marie Newman, center, speaks during an event in Washington on Wednesday to receive the endorsements of Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Luis V. Gutiérrez in her primary challenge to their fellow Illinois Rep. Daniel Lipinski. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Democrats are optimistic about their chances of kicking out GOP incumbents in 2018, but first a few sitting Democrats would like to kick out one of their own.

Illinois Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Luis V. Gutiérrez on Wednesday endorsed a primary challenger to fellow Illinois Rep. Daniel Lipinski, a Blue Dog Democrat who’s opposed to abortion rights. 

Senators Threaten Legislation Over Social Media Firms' Content

Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune said he was more focused on oversight than legislation for social media companies and their content. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Big social media companies made a case against new legislative mandates by emphasizing their voluntary efforts to root out terrorism-related material and other objectionable content on their sites during a Senate hearing Wednesday.

But senators from both parties warned representatives of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter of legislative action even as Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., said he was focused on oversight rather than legislation, which could further open the companies to lawsuits. The committee approved a bill that would allow online businesses to be sued and prosecuted for sex trafficking content, but Thune indicated he wasn’t ready to do the same over terrorism content.

Anti-Abortion Groups Look for Wins in 2018
Senate vote on a 20-week abortion ban is a top priority

Attendees gather near the Washington Monument on Jan. 27, 2017, during the speaking portion of the annual March for Life. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Anti-abortion groups, pursuing a list of priorities, hope to further capitalize on the Republican control of both chambers and the presidency in 2018.

Groups that oppose abortion scored a series of wins last year, including the appointment of several conservatives to top Department of Health and Human Services positions, the House passage of a late-term abortion ban bill and the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

States Alarmed by Delay in HHS Family Planning Money
Title X grant recipients play the waiting game, fearing revival of abortion gag rule

The Department of Health and Human Services has yet to announce a new round of Title X funding for family planning, leaving advocacy groups fearing for the future. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

State officials are dismayed that the Trump administration has stalled the process for applying for new family planning money the states are counting on. Abortion advocacy groups worry that the delay may mean the administration is planning to target abortion providers or rewrite family planning policies. 

The funding announcement was expected by November, with states’ applications for 2018-19 due Jan. 3. But the announcement still isn’t out. The funding is provided by the Title X program, through the only federal grants focused on family planning.

Will 2018 Be the New Year of the Woman?
With new senator, the 115th Congress now boasts the most women to date

Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith is administered an oath by Vice President Mike Pence during a mock swearing-in ceremony in the Capitol’s Old Senate Chamber on Jan. 3. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

With the seating of Minnesota Democrat Sen. Tina Smith on Tuesday, Jan. 3, the 115th Congress is now able to claim 106 female members — the most of any Congress to date.

Smith is the 51st woman to serve in the Senate since the first was appointed in 1922. There are currently 22 female senators serving, an all-time high for the chamber, and 84 women serving as voting representatives in the House (just one below the record of 85 set in 2015).

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce Announces Retirement
Royce was Democratic target in midterm elections

Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., is retiring. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Ed Royce announced Monday he will not be running for re-election. The California Republican is in his final term as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“In this final year of my Foreign Affairs Committee chairmanship, I want to focus fully on the urgent threats facing our nation, including: the brutal, corrupt and dangerous regimes in Pyongyang and Tehran, Vladimir Putin’s continued efforts to weaponize information to fracture western democracies, and growing terrorist threats in Africa and Central Asia,” Royce said in a statement.

HHS Political Appointees’ Résumés Show Ties to Price, Pence
Many also have links to conservative groups close to vice president

At least 16 staffers at the Heath and Human Services Department have ties to former Secretary Tom Price, a review of résumés shows. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Political appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services include at least 16 staffers with ties to former Secretary Tom Price and at least 12 with connections to Vice President Mike Pence or Indiana, a review of 129 résumés of appointed staffers in the department shows.

Pence’s influence over the agency can be seen in the appointment of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, who worked closely with the former Indiana governor to expand Medicaid in that state, and the appointment of Verma’s deputy Brian Neale, who currently oversees Medicaid and served as Pence’s health care policy director in Indiana. A number of staffers also have ties to conservative groups close to Pence, such as the Heritage Foundation and anti-abortion organizations.