Human Services

Disaster Program Issues Loom Over Future Aid
As lawmakers dole out millions for Texas and Puerto Rico, oversight problems remain

A U.S. Army soldier tosses bottled water provided by FEMA to be passed on to residents in a neighborhood without grid electricity or running water on Oct. 17 in San Isidro, Puerto Rico. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

As lawmakers shuttle multiple supplemental spending packages through Congress to address the devastation from one of the worst hurricane seasons on record, federal audit reports show major ongoing problems with federal agencies’ ability to ensure money is spent correctly.

Tens of billions of dollars are expected to flow from two major sources: the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund and the Community Development Block Grant program, administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. But multiple federal watchdog reports demonstrate that lawmakers are in some cases funding repairs with little ability to ensure the work complies with federal law.

Congressional Democrats Call for More Gun Violence Research
Report, House bill draw attention to lack of federal funding

Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy sponsored a bill that could lead to more federal funding for gun violence research. (Bill Clark/Roll Call)

Congressional Democrats have launched renewed calls for federal research into gun violence prevention in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting.

Senate Democrats on Wednesday presented a report from the Government Accountability Office highlighting the limitations lawmakers have imposed on researchers attempting to understand gun violence, which they called a “public health crisis.”

Nominations Fill Legislative Void in Senate
Work stalled in the chamber amid partisan health care and tax effort

Callista Gingrich, nominated to be Vatican ambassador, is one of many nominees awaiting a vote from the Senate. She’ll get hers on Monday afternoon. (Bill Clark/Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Republicans have repeatedly accused the Democratic minority of slow-rolling the process of confirming President Donald Trump’s nominees for hundreds of vacant federal and judicial positions. But after engaging in a partisan agenda for most of this year, the GOP may need those confirmation votes just to fill up floor time in the chamber.

The major tenets of the Republican agenda are largely stalled, with the legislative health care effort in tatters and an overhaul of the U.S. tax code still in development.

‘Call me,’ Trump Tells Democrats After Nixing Obamacare Subsidies
President paints Dems as in pocket of ‘their pet insurance companies’

President Donald Trump speaks on the phone in the Oval Office earlier this year. On Friday morning, he instructed Democrats to call him to talk about a "fix" for Obamacare. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“Call me.”

That was the message early Friday morning from President Donald Trump to Democrats after he drew their ire late Thursday night for canceling health care subsidies they immediately said would drive up insurance premiums.

Trump to Stop Paying Obamacare Cost-Sharing Subsidies
Schumer and Pelosi: ‘American families will suffer just because President Trump wants them to’

President Donald Trump speaks as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) left, Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, third from right, and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, second from right, look on after Trump signed the executive order to loosen restrictions on Affordable Care Act "to promote health care choice and competition." (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The administration will stop reimbursing health insurers for the 2010 health care law’s controversial cost-sharing reduction payments, the White House said Thursday night.

“Based on guidance from the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services has concluded that there is no appropriation for cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies under Obamacare,” the White House Office of the Press Secretary said in a statement. “In light of this analysis, the Government cannot lawfully make the cost-sharing reduction payments.”

Rick Perry Defends Private Travel Costs at House Energy Hearing
Some sites are too remote to be accessed by commercial airlines, secretary says

Energy Secretary Rick Perry testifies during a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce’s Energy Subcommittee on Thursday. (Bill Clark/Roll Call)

BY ELVINA NAWAGUNA

Energy Secretary Rick Perry told lawmakers Thursday that his use of private aircraft for work travel is sometimes justified because his department’s national laboratories and some sites he has to visit are too remote to be accessed by commercial airlines.

With Signature, Trump Tries to Chip Away at Obamacare
President’s bold promises not reflected in heavily bureaucratic order

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday that could mean major changes for former President Barack Obama’s signature 2010 health care law. Also pictured, Vice President Mike Pence; Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, sixth from left; North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx, third from left; Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, left. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump continued chipping away at his predecessor’s legacy when he signed an executive order Thursday that spells major changes for President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law. But the order merely directs agencies to craft new rules that one senior official would only say could “possibly” help millions of Americans despite Trump’s bold promises.

Trump called the order a “historic announcement” and promised it would come at zero cost to federal coffers. During a signing ceremony at the White House, he also promised it would bring more affordable coverage to “millions,” and said plans would be available “all across state lines” with competition among providers that he promised will be “staggering.”

Want to Know How to Curb Gun Violence? Don’t Ask Congress
Majorities have blocked gun-related research for decades

Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords turns to shake her fist at the Capitol as her husband, retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, looks on during a news conference after the mass shooting in Las Vegas. (Bill Clark/Roll Call)

The mass shooting in Las Vegas last week — like every high-profile mass shooting — raised a host of questions about why such horrors happen and how they can be prevented. But don’t look to Congress to help provide the answers.

Could gunman Stephen Paddock have been stopped while he was stockpiling dozens of weapons ahead of his rampage if law enforcement officials had tracked and flagged suspicious gun purchasing patterns?

Diane Black, Prepping Gubernatorial Bid, Takes Victory Lap
Tennessee Republican finally shepherded budget resolution through House last week

House Budget Chairwoman Diane Black has had an undeniable impact on this year’s budget process, thanks to her efforts to forge a compromise package. (Tom Williams/Roll Call)

The first woman to chair the House Budget Committee finally shepherded the fiscal 2018 resolution through her chamber Oct. 5, a traditionally thankless task that she took on after President Donald Trump tapped the former chairman, Tom Price, to be secretary of Health and Human Services.

Rep. Diane Black is now preparing to hand in her gavel after 10 months on the job, so she can focus on her campaign to become Tennessee’s next Republican governor, she announced in early August.

White House Rolls Out Immigration Bill Demands but Top Democrats Object
List of asks closely aligns with Trump’s ‘America First’ philosophy

Immigration rights activists rally in Dupont Circle in Washington on May 1. The White House rolled out its demands for a broad immigration bill on Sunday night. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Trump administration on Sunday evening unveiled a sweeping list of demands for immigration overhaul legislation that Congress is slated to take up by early next year. But senior Democrats are already signaling the White House’s demands could sink any such bill.

Senior White House and administration officials told reporters on a hastily arranged call that President Donald Trump wants an immigration bill he set in motion last month to include funding for his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, provisions aimed at cracking down on the flow of minors from Central and South America, a new merit-based legal immigration system and changes to the federal grant program for so-called “sanctuary cities.”