Susan Collins

Photos of the Week: Jones Wins in Alabama, Tax Conference Gavels In
The week of Dec. 11 as captured by Roll Call’s photographers

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi arrive for a news conference in the Capitol on Wednesday. They spoke out against the Republican tax plan ahead of the Senate-House conference committee meeting. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

At the Races: Jonesing for Another Special Election Yet?
Doug Jones pulled off an upset in Alabama, giving Democrats hope for 2018 wave

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Welcome to At the Races! You can keep track of House and Senate races by subscribing to this weekly newsletter here. We want to hear what you think. Email us at attheraces@cqrollcall.com with your questions, tips or candidate sightings. — Simone Pathé and Bridget BowmanThis week … A Democrat won in deep-red Alabama, Minnesota’s getting a new female senator and another Texas Republican isn’t coming back in 2019.

Holding on: We’ll get back to Alabama in a second, but first ... embattled Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold is retiring, GOP sources confirmed Thursday. But he says he’s not going anywhere yet. The four-term Republican will serve out the remainder of his term, which means an ethics probe into allegations of his misconduct will continue. Some of his fellow Texas members were already ready to show him the door. Just last night, Roger Williams endorsed one of Farenthold’s primary challengers. The filing deadline for Texas congressional races was Monday.

No-Alias: Smith & Jones Will Alter the Senate in ’18
Two newest Democrats will join as powerful a minority as possible, whether they skew left or to the center

The Senate will be a very different place after the arrival of two new Democratic senators: Doug Jones, the winner of Tuesday’s stunning upset in Alabama, and Tina Smith, who was tapped on Wednesday to fill the pending vacancy in Minnesota. (CQ Roll Call file photos)

Turns out, the Senate is going to be quite a different place next year even without Roy Moore — and that’s not only because senators named Smith and Jones will be serving together for the first time in 86 years.

The chamber will have its closest partisan split in a decade, and the narrowest divide in favor of the Republicans since the spring of 2001. The roster of women will expand to a record 22, and for the first time a pair of women will comprise the Senate delegations of four states. The Deep South will be represented by a Democrat for the first time in four years.

Those That Shall Not Be Named: Cost Sharing Reductions
Once a nonstarter, health insurance subsidies part of year-end calculus

Speaker Paul D. Ryan once panned a measure that would restore cost-sharing reduction subsidies for health insurance companies. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

In Congress, where most lawmakers are hesitant to spill secrets about ongoing negotiations, answers are often found in what lawmakers are not saying. And House Republican leaders are not saying much about subsidies for health care insurers lately.

GOP leaders’ continued refusal in recent weeks to rule out funding the cost-sharing reduction subsidies, or CSRs, which President Donald Trump’s administration has stopped paying, is not a guarantee that Congress will do so. But it’s certainly a green light for negotiations to continue.

Some GOP Senate Candidates Follow Party’s Evolution on Moore
Like McConnell, candidates moved away from calling on Ala. Republican to step aside

Indiana Rep. Todd Rokita said he’d be “comfortable” with Alabama GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore in the Senate. He previously suggested Moore should drop out. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

While many sitting Republican senators — including Alabama’s own Richard C. Shelby — have continued to criticize Roy Moore, a few candidates who’d like to join them in the Senate have taken a more measured tone leading up to Tuesday’s election.

In several cases, that warmer embrace (or less forceful rejection) of the Alabama GOP Senate nominee is a change in tone from their previous public statements.

Analysis: McConnell Enters Year-End Sprint With Options Limited
Promises made to GOP senators could come back to haunt him

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made many deals to get the Senate GOP tax bill through the chamber, and that might limit his options in the homestretch. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is hoping to close out 2018 with a bang and silence the skeptics who just a few short months ago were ramping up calls for his ouster following a brutal defeat on the Republican effort to overturn the 2010 health care law.

But after creating an intricate web of promises to get the GOP tax legislation past the Senate, the Kentucky Republican must now juggle the difficult task of keeping those commitments.

Budget Deal Could Bust Caps by $200 Billion
Two-year agreement expected to draw motley crew of supporters

Marc Short, left, White House director of legislative affairs, and Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse at the Capitol on Dec. 1. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Congressional negotiators have moved well north of $200 billion in their discussions of how much to raise discretionary spending caps in a two-year budget deal.

The higher numbers under consideration follow an initial Republican offer several weeks ago to raise defense by $54 billion and nondefense by $37 billion in both fiscal 2018 and 2019 — a $182 billion increase in base discretionary spending.

Picture This: A ‘Perfecto’ Final Tax Bill
As House, Senate negotiate, president raises expectations

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks with reporters about the GOP tax bill between votes in the Capitol on Nov. 30. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House and Senate are not even in formal conference negotiations on a tax overhaul measure yet, but the expectation from the White House is clear: It’s got to be “perfecto.”

On a day of increasing uncertainty over how to fund the government past Dec. 8, President Donald Trump hosted a small group of Senate Republicans at the White House and placed his marker. 

Freedom Caucus Seeks to Delink Tax and Spending Negotiations
Members threatened to sink motion to go to conference on tax overhaul

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows says there’s growing consensus for a longer stopgap funding bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House Freedom Caucus on Monday threatened to sink a motion to go to conference on the tax overhaul — a procedural move they had been pushing for — in an attempt to negotiate a longer stopgap funding bill to delink upcoming tax and spending deadlines.

But in the end, all but one member of the 36-member hard-line conservative caucus voted for the motion to go to conference after Chairman Mark Meadows had a conversation off the floor with Speaker Paul D. Ryan, and other caucus members huddled on the floor with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Michigan Rep. Justin Amash was the only caucus member to vote against the motion, which was agreed to, 222-192.

Trump Gives Roy Moore Strongest Endorsement Yet
President labels Democratic candidate Doug Jones ‘a Pelosi/Schumer Puppet!’

President Donald Trump made his strongest endorsement yet of Roy Moore in the special election for Alabama’s Senate seat. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Updated at 3:23 p.m. | Donald Trump on Monday gave his strongest endorsement yet to Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, making clear that keeping the seat in Republican hands is more important to the president than the sexual misconduct charges against the former judge.

The president used a pair of tweets to urge Alabama voters to send Moore to the Senate in next Tuesday’s special election, writing that Democrats’ blanket opposition to the just-passed Senate Republican tax cut bill shows Moore’s vote is necessary.