Patrick J Leahy

‘Regular Order’ Still Not Out of the Woods
Current appropriations process is still a far cry from before the late 2000s

Sens. Richard C. Shelby, left, and Patrick J. Leahy ride the Senate subway in 2011. Shelby, now the Senate Appropriations chairman, has touted the return to regular order in this year’s appropriations process. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS | Senate leaders have spent the past few months crowing about the return to “regular order” on appropriations, justifiably in many respects. They’ve passed nine spending bills, the first time that’s happened since 2009, and a first before September since 1999. And Congress sent three spending bills to the president’s desk before the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year, which hasn’t happened in 10 years.

But by several metrics, the Senate hasn’t matched the fuller appropriations debate in the “world’s greatest deliberative body” that existed prior to the late 2000s. Senators have spent roughly 16 days this year debating their appropriations bills on the floor; the average was nearly 28 days from fiscal 1986 through 2006. The Senate has considered 165 amendments to fiscal 2019 spending bills, compared with 269 per year during the fiscal 1986-2006 period.

Obscure Pentagon Fund Nets $2B, Sets Pork Senses Tingling
Program prompts complaints of ‘jurassic pork’ as some see earmarks by another name

Where supporters see a way to bankroll innovate programs that the military may not even know it needs, critics see pork by another name. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Pentagon will soon have received about $2.3 billion in the last nine years — money the military never requested — for a special fund intended to help replace earmarks after Congress banned them, our analysis shows.

Buried deep inside the $674.4 billion Defense spending measure for fiscal 2019 that the Senate is expected to vote on this week is a chart with one line showing a $250 million appropriation for the Defense Rapid Innovation Fund, the latest installment of sizable funding for a largely unknown program that quietly disburses scores of contracts every year.

Senate Scrambles for Next Move With Kavanaugh Nomination in the Balance
Growing number of senators say accuser, judge should be able to have say

The Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh hung in the balance on Monday as senators sorted out the chamber's next move in light of sexual assault allegations against the judge. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The most important of those voices was Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, who said Christine Blasey Ford, a California college professor, deserves to be heard after coming forward publicly with the allegation over the weekend.

“So I will continue working on a way to hear her out in an appropriate, precedented and respectful manner,” Grassley said in a news release.

Leahy Endorses Return of Spending Bill Earmarks
Doing so could allow for orderly, timely appropriations process, Vermont Democrat says

Remarks by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., on bringing back earmarks echo similar ones expressed by House Minority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., last week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee would like to bring earmarks back to the appropriations process, restoring a practice banned in 2011 after several years of scandals and negative publicity.

Vermont Sen. Patrick J. Leahy told C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” on Friday that there’s “no question” that once again allowing earmarks is one way lawmakers can have an orderly, timely process for annual appropriations bills.

A Hurricane, a Kavanaugh Vote and a Spending Package: Photos of the Week
The week of Sept. 10 as captured by Roll Call’s photographers

Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., takes a selfie on the House steps after casting his last vote of the week on Thursday afternoon. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

There was a watershed moment in Washington this week — three spending bills were cleared ahead of the Oct. 1 deadline and sent to the president’s desk for signature. That’s the first on-time delivery of a quarter of the annual appropriations measures in a decade.

Elsewhere in the Capitol, the Senate Judiciary panel set a final vote on the president’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, for Sept. 20, despite controversy. 

Kavanaugh Vote Will Go On for Now, Grassley Says
Letter from Feinstein to federal authorities raises alarms

Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., conduct a markup of the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 13, 2018, where Republicans voted to move the committee vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to September 20th. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley does not plan to change a Sept. 20 vote on Brett Kavanaugh because of a mysterious letter about the Supreme Court nominee’s past that was referred to “federal investigative authorities,” a committee spokesman said Thursday.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the panel’s top Democrat, revealed in a cryptic news release Thursday that she had information about Kavanaugh but was keeping it confidential at the request of the individual who provided the information.

Kavanaugh Set to Advance Amid Democratic Objections
Supreme Court nominee mostly evasive in follow-up answers to Judiciary panel

Brett Kavanaugh, nominee to be Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, is on track for a Judiciary Committee vote next week. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to hold a committee vote on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh at a specific time, 1:45 p.m., on Sept. 20. The vote was 11-10 along party lines over the objections of committee Democrats who said it would prematurely cut off debate.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee still had a lot of questions for Kavanaugh after last week’s confirmation hearing — they asked more than 1,200 written follow-up queries. But the nominee didn’t provide many revealing answers late Wednesday when he turned in 263 pages of responses in which he tried to provide more thoughts on one of the more dramatic moments of his confirmation hearing, brush aside questions about his finances, and clean up answers about abortion, his independence from political pressure and other topics.

Civil Rights Commission Calls for Action on Voting Rights Fix
State actions since 2013 have hurt minority voting rights, new report says

Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, second from right, at a rally outside the Supreme Court in January to oppose an Ohio voter purge law. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights urged Congress on Wednesday to update the landmark law that protects voter rights, finding in a new report that a 2013 Supreme Court decision helped lead to elections with voting measures in place that discriminate against minorities.

But opposition from Republican lawmakers has stalled legislation to change the Voting Rights Act of 1965 since the 5-4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder that struck down a key enforcement mechanism in the law. Current efforts appear stuck for the same reason.

Democrats Ramp Up Attacks on Kavanaugh’s Honesty After Hearings
Leahy says high court nominee gave “untruthful testimony, under oath and on the record”

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Democrats have added a new line of attack against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, accusing the longtime appeals court judge of misleading or even lying under oath during his confirmation hearing last week.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer highlighted Kavanaugh’s answers about his work more than a decade ago, as White House counsel during the George W. Bush administration.

Kavanaugh Signals Landmark Abortion Case Roe Is ‘Settled’ Matter
‘I understand the importance of the issue,’ Supreme Court nominee says in confirmation hearing

Senate Judiciary ranking member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., listens as Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., speak during the confirmation hearing of Brett Kavanaugh on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh signaled he views the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade as a “settled” matter, coining the phrase “precedent on precedent” while noting it has been reaffirmed several times.

“As a judge, it is an important precedent of the Supreme Court,” he told Senate Judiciary ranking member Dianne Feinstein of California. “I said that it’s settled as a precedent of the Supreme Court under stare decisis,” a Latin term that means to “stand on the decisions.”