Pat Roberts

Republican Senators Mostly Silent After Trump’s North Korea Threat
President would hit regime, military targets - not civilians, White House says

Republican Sens. Bob Corker (center), Marco Rubio (seated right) and Jim Risch (standing right) all declined to comment on GOP President Donald Trump's threat to "totally destroy" North Korea if it attacks the United States. Also pictured are GOP Sens. Cory Gardner (standing left) and Ron Johnson (seated left). (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker hurried into an elevator. Sen. Marco Rubio quickly ducked into the Capitol Visitor Center television studio. And Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain shut down reporters’ repetitive questions.

No Republican senator could be found Tuesday who was willing to question President Donald Trump’s threat before the United Nations General Assembly to “totally destroy” North Korea unless it gives up its nuclear arms and long-range missile programs, which he views as a direct threat to the sovereignty and security of the United States and its allies.

Word on the Hill: Highest Congressional Honor for Dole
Historical society lectures, cancer advocates, and former member updates

Legislation to give former Sen. Bob Dole the Congressional Gold Medal is headed for the president’s desk. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Amid all the action in Congress this week, you might have missed a vote honoring former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan.

The House approved on Tuesday a bill, introduced by Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., to present Dole with the Congressional Gold Medal. It had already passed in the Senate, where it was introduced by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. The measure now moves to President Donald Trump’s desk.

Democrats Tell Trump to Withdraw Clovis Nomination for USDA
Schumer, Schatz cite nominee’s “extremist views” on race, homosexuality

Sam Clovis Jr. is President Donald Trump’s nominee for undersecretary for research, education and economics at the Agriculture Department. (Courtesy Alex Hanson/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0)

Senate Democrats said Wednesday they would “vehemently oppose” the appointment of Sam Clovis Jr., President Donald Trump’s nominee for a top scientific post at the Department of Agriculture, potentially dovetailing with unrelated reservations already expressed by a key Senate Republican.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York and Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii cited Clovis’ rejection of climate science and his “extremist views” on race and homosexuality in a press release. They called for the immediate withdrawal of his nomination as USDA undersecretary for research, education and economics.

Opinion: Why HELP Could Be on the Way for Obamacare Recipients
Hopeful signs of bipartisan consensus on fixing health care markets

Senate HELP Committee leaders Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray could help spear bipartisan consensus in Congress for a short-term fix for Americans struggling to afford health insurance, Murphy writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Lamar Alexander had barely announced his plans to hold hearings next month on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on stabilizing the insurance markets for Obamacare when the idea started getting panned.

Keep in mind there are no specific hearings scheduled yet, no witnesses, no bill written, and few parameters of what is on or off the table. Alexander, the committee chairman, has only said that he wants a final product to be “small, bipartisan, and balanced,” but he hasn’t said what that means, other than flexibility for states and short-term triage for the exchanges.

Some Notable Confirmations, Honors as Senate Wraps Up for Recess
Chamber approves Kay Bailey Hutchison, Mark Green, honors Bob Dole

The Senate on Thursday confirmed former Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to be U.S. ambassador to NATO. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate wrapped up its summer session Thursday after confirming a large bloc of executive nominees, including a former senator and former House member. It also approved awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to former Sen. Bob Dole, the 94-year-old Kansas Republican whose long service included stints at majority and minority leader and who has continued to advocate causes ranging from the rights of the disabled to veterans issues. 

Among the 69 nominees confirmed in multiple en bloc packages, by voice vote and by unanimous consent, was a former member of the club, Texas GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, President Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. ambassador to NATO. Her selection comes at a time when relations with NATO have frayed in light of Trump’s criticism of fellow NATO signatories and his icy relationship with top NATO leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel. 

White House Talks Tax Outreach, but Senators Guarded
Legislative director outlines ambitious timetable

White House legislative affairs director Marc Short, left, here with Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso last week, has hopes for a bipartisan tax overhaul effort. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll)

The White House sees Democrats up for re-election in states President Donald Trump won as possible partners in their effort to overhaul the tax code, but Senate Republicans appear less optimistic about the chances of a bipartisan bill.

White House legislative director Marc Short said Monday the White House is not wed to using the often partisan reconciliation process to advance a tax overhaul, though senators were hesitant to rule out that procedural tool.

Is Russia Friend or Foe? White House Won't Say
Congressional GOP has no problem labeling as adversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) shakes hands last Friday with U.S. President Donald Trump at a G-20 summit in Germany. (Wikimedia Commons)

The White House refuses to say if Russia and Vladimir Putin are ally, enemy or something in between.

Three times this week, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has been asked by reporters to describe the official position of President Donald Trump on Russia. Each time, she has declined to describe how the president views relations with Moscow, a nuclear-armed global power with whom relations soured under the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.

Hatch Promises Open Process for Senate Tax Bill
Utah senator says all Finance panel Republicans will be involved

Senate Finance Chairman Chairman Orrin G. Hatch says his panel’s tax overhaul efforts will not be a “secretive exercise.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rural Areas Brace for Health Care Bill Impact
Senate GOP bill could undermine health insurance coverage

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is concerned her state's residents could lose out on health insurance safeguards. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Senate historically has paid special attention to the needs of rural areas, but as the chamber readies its health care bill, there are concerns that the bill would undermine coverage in those places more than anywhere else.

While the exact text of the Senate bill is not yet posted publicly, all signs point to somewhat similar language to the House bill (HR 1628), which would reduce funding for Medicaid compared to current law and impose caps on Medicaid funding. Under the House bill, older people also would face higher premiums — and rural areas tend to be home to a large number of older Americans.

Staff Departures Undermine GOP Legislative Agenda
A number of key health and tax aides have left Capitol Hill

Eric Ueland, staff director for the Senate Budget Committee, is one of many high-profile staffers leaving Capitol Hill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Key Republican staffers are departing Capitol Hill with the GOP in control of Congress and the White House, raising questions about how the party will advance its ambitious agenda to overhaul the U.S. tax code and health care system.

Senior personnel for the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee have departed and lobbyists say others are preparing to depart the Senate Finance Committee. A handful of health policy staffers for members on those panels have also left for jobs off Capitol Hill and a key individual on the Senate Budget Committee was recently nominated for a senior post at the State Department.