Kirsten Gillibrand

Senate Set to Pass Defense Authorization Measure

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, left, seen here with Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, expressed regret the chamber could not agree on how to bring up all the amendments senators wanted to vote on. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

With the Senate’s 2018 defense authorization bill passing a procedural hurdle Thursday, the chamber is expected to vote on final passage of the massive military policy bill Monday.

The Senate voted 84-9 to invoke cloture and limit debate on a substitute version of the bill that includes 104 amendments.

Word on the Hill: Clinton’s Book Tour Hits D.C.
Your social calendar for the week

Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is in Washington on Monday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is in D.C. tonight for her book tour.

The former secretary of State, senator and first lady is traveling the country to talk about “What Happened,” her account of the 2016 election.

Booker Tacks Toward Democratic Party’s Base
Liberals eye New Jersey senator warily over ties to Wall Street and drug companies

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker speaks Wednesday during Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ event to introduce the so-called Medicare for All Act of 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker worked on burnishing his liberal credentials on economic and health care policy this week, which could appeal to his Democratic Party’s skeptical base. 

The first-term senator is considered among the many potential Democrats in the chamber who could run for president in 2020. But liberals are wary of him because of what they see as his ties to financial industries.

Bernie Sanders, the Man With Single-Payer Clout
Vermont independent continues to direct the future of national Democratic Party

Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders bashed special interest groups when introducing the so-called Medicare for All Act of 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The seismic shift in support for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ plan to transform the U.S. health care system into a single-payer program indicates the reach the Vermont independent has within the Democratic Party.

At the same time that his onetime presidential foe Hillary Clinton is reminding people of the party’s devastating loss last fall, Sanders is trying to define its future. His bill to enroll every American in Medicare drew 16 co-sponsors, 16 more than when he first introduced similar legislation in 2013.

Word on the Hill: Kaine and Alexander’s Bipartisan Jam
Free fries, and kickball for Harvey recovery

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, left, and Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander have a concert on Friday. (Courtesy bristolrhythm.com)

Music lovers can catch Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., on the harmonica and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., on the piano this Friday night.

Their band The Amateurs are performing at the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, a music festival this weekend in Bristol, a community that straddles the Virginia-Tennessee state line. The dynamic duo goes on stage at 5 p.m.

Drama Awaits Senate Debate on Pentagon Policy
No lack of substantive, high-profile issues for defense authorization measure

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., left, and ranking member Jack Reed, D-R.I., will manage a sprawling floor debate on the Pentagon policy bill starting this week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate will take up the massive Pentagon policy bill this week, providing a stage for high-profile debate on simmering national security issues ranging from transgender troops to the growing North Korea nuclear threat.

Senators have already filed hundreds of amendments to the defense bill, among them language to allow transgender people to serve openly in the military, establish a North Korea strategy, limit arms sales to U.S. allies, define U.S. objectives in Afghanistan and block the creation of a new military service.

Floods May Focus Lawmakers on Insurance Program Deep in the Red
Program’s current funds probably not enough to cover claims

Residents are evacuated from their homes after severe flooding following Hurricane Harvey in north Houston August 29, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Parts of southeast Texas have received more than 40 inches of rain since Harvey made landfall on Friday, with more torrential rain expected the next several days. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Hurricane Harvey, on track to cause some of  the worst flooding in U.S. history, stands to complicate efforts by Congress to reauthorize next month a federal flood insurance program that’s already about $24.6 billion in debt.

The Gulf Coast floods from Harvey, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency calls “one of the worst disasters in Texas history,” threatens to deepen the debt of the National Flood Insurance Program before the Sept. 30 reauthorization deadline. The program administered by FEMA provides flood coverage to more than 4.9 million policyholders, including 593,115 in Texas.

Gillibrand Leads Democrats in Opposing Trump’s Nominees
Parties largely split along partisan lines on president’s pics

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, seen here with Gen. James Mattis in January prior to his confirmation as Defense secretary, has recorded the most votes opposing President Donald Trump’s nominees so far. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

On the last day before the August recess, the Senate confirmed 65 of President Donald Trump’s nominees with a single bipartisan voice vote.

That has been a marked difference from the way Democratic senators have approached Trump’s picks for his team. 

Why Five Democrats Voted Against Confirming the New FBI Director
Reasons include Trump, ‘Bridgegate’ and warrantless surveillance

Sen. Elizabeth Warren was one of five Democrats to oppose confirmation of Christopher Wray as FBI director. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Five Senate Democrats who voted against Christopher Wray’s confirmation as FBI director had all offered reasons why by Wednesday afternoon.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren focused on questions about Wray’s independence from President Donald Trump.

Trump’s Tweet on Transgender Service Members Roils Congress
McCain: Americans who serve should be treated as patriots

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain says no able service member should be forced to leave the military. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump’s announcement Wednesday morning on Twitter that he will bar transgender people from serving in the military brings to a boil a previously simmering congressional debate.

Critics of Trump’s proposal have already vowed to fight back hard, and the battle will be joined promptly. It will start in the next 24 hours or so during House debate on security spending legislation.