Mike Rounds

For New Veterans Affairs Chief, That Was the Easy Part
Robert Wilkie may have made it through the Senate, but the second-largest federal agency still has vacancies, other woes

Nominee Robert Wilkie is sworn in to testify in front of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee in the Dirksen Building on June 27. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

His confirmation Monday drew scrutiny and nine dissenters. Now Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie must face the real challenge: repairing the sprawling agency that serves the nation’s veterans, including 9 million who receive health care benefits through the department.

The second-largest federal agency is embarking on two major initiatives — a reorganization of its private medical care options and a $15.8 billion electronic health records project — at the same time that it seeks to fill key positions overseeing them.

Opinion: Push to Abolish ICE Is the New ‘Repeal and Replace’
Lost in the uproar is the fact that the agency does much more than deport people

Activists call for the end of ICE at a June 29 rally in New York organized by the Democratic Socialists of America. Such demands sound a lot like the cries of “repeal and replace” that greeted the 2010 health care law, Ramón and Lapan write. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images file photo)

Immigrant advocates have made #AbolishICE a rallying cry against the Trump administration, and the victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the New York Democratic primaries last month only turned up the volume.

As activists press Congress to defund U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement out of existence, several Senate Democrats have proposed to replace the agency or fundamentally reform it. But one key point bears repeating: Attempting to make policy by hashtag is not a recipe for success. Just as cries on the right to “repeal and replace” Obamacare failed to answer the logical next question — replace with what? —proponents of #AbolishICE haven’t done enough to grapple with what their campaign would mean in the long term.

How the Hill Reacted to the Trump-Kim Summit
Reaction ranges from a ‘huge deal’ to a ‘bi-lateral con job’

President Donald Trump answers a final question while departing a news conference following his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday in Singapore. Trump described his meeting with Kim as “better than anyone could have expected.” (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump made history Tuesday in Singapore as the first American president to meet face-to-face with a leader of North Korea since the Kim dynasty sprouted on the peninsula roughly seven decades ago.

At the heart of negotiations was the “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula in exchange for “security guarantees” for the North’s mercurial leader, Kim Jong Un.

Meet Two Likely New Members of the 116th Congress
South Dakota’s Dusty Johnson and New Mexico’s Deb Haaland are solid favorites for the fall

Deb Haaland won the Democratic primary for New Mexico’s 1st District and is strongly favored to win in November. (D.A. Banks/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Tuesday night’s winners of two open-seat primary contests are likely heading to Congress next year, with their general election races rated safely their party’s column.

Democrat Deb Haaland in New Mexico’s 1st District and Republican Dusty Johnson in South Dakota’s district at large are in strong positions to win in November. Both seats opened up when the female incumbents opted to run for governor.

Trump Call to Curb August Recess Picks Up Steam
Republican senators seem eager to keep Democrats off campaign trail

President Donald Trump leaves the Senate Republican policy lunch in the Capitol on Tuesday afternoon. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump did most of the talking Tuesday during a lunch-hour meeting with Senate Republicans, but lawmakers said he did not prod them to cancel their August recess. He did not have to. 

That’s because the idea appears to be gaining steam for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the large number of Democratic incumbents running for re-election could find themselves off the campaign trail and in Washington at a prime time for campaigning.

Trump Opens Door for Ronny Jackson Exit
Military physician under fire on multiple fronts, from qualifications to misconduct

Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, nominee for Veterans Affairs secretary, leaves the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Tuesday after a meeting with Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 6:55 p.m. | President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended his Veterans Affairs nominee, Ronny Jackson amid allegations of drinking on the job and creating a hostile work environment even as he opened the door for his White House doctor to withdraw his nomination.

“I’ll always stand behind him,” the president said.

Allegations of Excessive Drinking and Hostile Work Environment Delay VA Nominee’s Hearing
Jackson gave Trump clean bill of health in January

Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, nominee for Veterans Affairs secretary, leaves the Dirksen Senate Office Building after a meeting with Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will delay confirmation hearings for Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, President Donald Trump’s pick to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, after allegations rose from his past.

An aide with ranking Democrat Jon Tester confirmed to Roll Call that hearings were delayed after Chairman Johnny Isakson told the Washington Post and CNN.

Fact-Checking Trump’s Immigration Tweets
President sharpened attacks on Democrats over the weekend

President Donald Trump said over the weekend that DACA was “dead” because Democrats “didn’t care or act,” but there have been several efforts by members of both parties to solve the current crisis. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

In a series of tweets over the weekend and Monday morning, President Donald Trump made claims about immigration policy; border security; the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program; and the debate in Congress. Roll Call fact-checked some of Trump’s assertions, many of which are not true.

Trump first announced his intention to end DACA last September, and ordered the Homeland Security Department to begin winding the program down in early March. But two federal judges have blocked his efforts, leaving the program largely intact and keeping about 700,000 young undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers” in limbo.

Photos of the Week: Snow and the Threat of a Veto
The omnibus cleared both chambers and awaits Trump’s signature

Snow falls Wednesday. The Office of Personnel Management closed federal offices throughout Washington, but Congress remained open. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The week of March 19 neared its close as Washington waited. Veto or signature. Funding or shutdown.

Remember? It snowed this week. 

When Allies Attack: Friction Between Democrats, Immigration Advocates
Hard feelings about groups pressuring minority party

Demonstrators with United We Dream and others rally in the atrium of the Hart Building in January to call on Congress to pass the so-called DREAM Act to protect young immigrants from deportation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Friction lingers between Senate Democrats and progressive advocacy groups after the chamber failed to advance a bipartisan bill in February to protect the young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers. 

Tensions came to a breaking point in the weeks before the Senate voted on several immigration-related proposals aimed at extending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, aides say. The rift was a long time in the making, as some Democratic lawmakers questioned the strategy that pro-immigration and progressive groups used to drive action over the past six months.