Richard E Neal

Democrats prepare to duel McConnell over year-end wish list
Amid push for legislation benefiting Kentucky constituents, Dems seek their own concessions

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing several initiatives to benefit his constituents, including renewal of tax breaks for bourbon distillers, aid for retired coal miners and appropriations to bolster Kentucky’s hemp industry. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As former Sen. Wendell Ford often said, with small variations: “Kentucky is beautiful women, fast horses, bourbon whiskey, cigarettes and coal. I represent Kentucky, and that’s what I represent.”

The colorful Ford, a Democrat who died in 2015, had little else in common with Mitch McConnell, the stoic Kentucky Republican who served as the junior senator from the Bluegrass State alongside Ford for 15 years until the latter’s 1999 retirement. But the Senate majority leader is clearly taking a few pages from Ford’s playbook in the year-end legislative scramble as he heads into a potentially difficult reelection campaign in 2020.

Impeachment news roundup: Nov. 19
Congressional investigators hearing from two aides who listened in on Trump’s July call with Zelenskiy

Jennifer Williams, left, special adviser for Europe and Russia to Vice President Mike Pence, and Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, are sworn in Tuesday before testifying in the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House Intelligence Committee heard Tuesday afternoon from two witnesses called by Republicans on the panel in its impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, the National Security Council’s former senior director for Europe and Russia policy both gave testimony Tuesday afternoon.

DeFazio wants to go big on infrastructure despite hurdles
Plan embraces automated vehicles and intelligent transportation roadways

House Transportation Committee chairman Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., is pushing an ambitious bill that could help House Democrats show they are trying to do big things beyond impeachment (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats are renewing their push for a major infrastructure bill without the support they once hoped to get from President Donald Trump.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter A. DeFazio, D-Oregon, presented a comprehensive infrastructure plan during a closed-door meeting of House Democrats late Thursday. The legislation is still being drafted, he said, and he declined to offer any cost estimates.

Top Republicans say costs a hurdle to bipartisan tax deal
GOP leaders say House Democrats want too much in return for movement on a bill to renew tax breaks known as extenders

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, walks to the Senate floor for a vote in June. Republican leaders say House Democrats want too much in return for movement on a bill to renew tax breaks known as extenders. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Republican leaders say House Democrats are asking for too much in return for movement on a bill to renew 30-plus tax breaks known collectively as extenders.

Senate Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley said his office estimates one version of the House Democrats’ request at $710 billion for a package that would make both the tax extenders and a proposal by House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., permanent.

Democrats seeking votes in Trump country tout miners’ benefits
As Republicans prepare a coal pension fix proposal, Democrats push for more

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, center, Sens. Joe Manchin III and Sherrod Brown, right, called for action on Democratic pension proposals this week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Republicans say they’re close to unveiling a plan to address a $66 billion funding shortfall affecting coal miners’ and other union pension plans, an issue Democrats see as advantageous politically and as a possible bargaining chip in trade talks with the Trump administration.

President Donald Trump championed manufacturing and coal industry jobs during his 2016 campaign, including in critical swing states he won like Pennsylvania and Ohio. In the 2020 campaign, Democrats have been touting “broken promises” to workers in those states and others, including more traditional GOP bastions like Kentucky where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is up for reelection next year. 

Watch: Democrats plan to name prescription drug bill for Elijah Cummings
The Maryland Democrat died early Thursday

Chairman Elijah Cummings, who died Thursday, is seen during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Wednesday, February 27, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats in tears after first caucus gathering since Cummings’ death
Leaders, members share memories of Baltimore Democrat during weekly whip meeting

Capitol workers lower the flag to half staff after the passing of Rep. Elijah Cummings on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Several House Democrats on Thursday left their first caucus gathering since the death of their colleague, Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, weeping or holding back tears. 

The House Oversight and Reform chairman’s death left Virginia Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, one of the panel’s subcommittee chairs, inconsolable. He exited Democrats’ weekly whip meeting Thursday in a stream of tears, not stopping to talk to colleagues or reporters as he usually would. 

Rep. Elijah Cummings, key Democrat in impeachment investigation, has died
House Oversight chairman had battled health issues in recent years

Rep. Elijah Cummings presides over a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing in July. The longtime Maryland Democrat died early Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee and a key player in the ongoing impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, died early Thursday of complications from longtime health issues, his office said in a statement. The Maryland Democrat was 68.

Cummings had missed roll call votes since Sept. 11 and said in a Sept. 30 statement that he expected to return to the House by mid-October after having a medical procedure, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Political tensions escalate as drug pricing bills move forward
Rift began when Pelosi called for Medicare to negotiate prices for a set of high-cost drugs

Senate Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa unveiled the text of his committee's drug pricing bill on Wednesday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The discord between the parties over plans to bring down drug costs deepened this week as Democrats insisted on allowing Medicare to negotiate prices and launched an impeachment inquiry that threatens to consume Congress.

Still, members of key committees said Wednesday they wanted to continue bipartisan work to lower costs, a major concern of voters, and lawmakers in both chambers took steps toward advancing their proposals. The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee held the first hearing on legislation unveiled last week by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Democrats leaving a caucus meeting on drug legislation late Wednesday said markups are expected soon after a two-week recess in October. Meanwhile, Senate Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa and ranking Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon unveiled the text of their bill on Wednesday.

State and local tax cap rollback included in year-end tax talks
Democrats leading SALT discussions say they hope to have legislation ready for markup in October

Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., and House Democrats are looking to roll back the cap on annual state and local tax deductions. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A senior House Ways and Means Democrat said Wednesday that a full, though temporary, elimination of the current $10,000 cap on annual state and local tax deductions is among the proposals being discussed for a possible markup in the coming weeks.

Committee Democrats also discussed in a Wednesday caucus meeting how a “SALT” rollback and a raft of other tax legislation the committee has advanced or will soon consider might fit into a deal later this year with Senate Republicans, and what offsets might be offered as part of any package, said Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-New Jersey.