Congress

Appropriators seek to wrap up talks this weekend
But panel members acknowledge ‘hurdles’ as Dec. 20 deadline for bill passage looms

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, on Thursday said he was “more enthusiastic than I was a couple of days ago” that final negotiations on spending bills could be done this weekend. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Spending bill negotiators set their sights on wrapping up a year-end deal by this weekend, but they differed on how realistic that deadline might be.

With only two weeks left before current funding runs dry, appropriators are hoping to finalize work on all 12 spending bills and pass them by Dec. 20 to avoid another stopgap measure or possible government shutdown. But unless a deal comes together in the next several days, lawmakers have warned, there likely won’t be enough time to write the bills and move them through both chambers before the holiday recess.

Lawmakers weaponize colleagues’ call records
Devin Nunes disclosure could presage conflict over phone conversations

The phone records of House Intelligence ranking member Devin Nunes, R-Calif., have become an issue in the impeachment inquiry. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump this week gave members of Congress a glimpse at a new and distressing weapon in partisan warfare — the exposure of lawmakers’ call records as part of congressional oversight.

The House Intelligence Committee report in its investigation into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine included the call records of the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who is reportedly under criminal investigation, and his indicted associate Lev Parnas.

Following guilty plea, Duncan Hunter barred from voting in the House
Stripped of committee assignments and banned from voting, his role in Congress is diminished

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., is not allowed to vote in the House, following his guilty plea earlier this week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House Ethics Committee notified Rep. Duncan Hunter that his recent guilty plea means he should no longer cast votes in the House. The instruction is not mandatory, but the panel threatened action against him if he continues to vote.

Hunter last voted on Wednesday, in favor of a measure to crack down on robocalls. He did not weigh in on any of the four roll call votes the House took on Thursday. 

Targeting China, senators want Olympics to move up human rights timeline
10 senators have written to IOC President Thomas Bach

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., is leading an effort to pressure the IOC to speed up implementation of human rights standards . (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Looking toward China’s hosting of the 2022 Winter Olympics, senators from both parties want the International Olympic Committee to speed up the timeline for requirements designed to protect human rights in host countries.

In the letter signed by 10 senators led by Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn, the lawmakers express concern about China’s track record to IOC President Thomas Bach.

Never mind impeachment, this bipartisan committee is going forward
House modernization panel prepares for its second year

Chairman Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., right, and vice chairman Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., are seen during a Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress business meeting in the Capitol earlier this year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Amid the partisan polarization of impeachment, the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress began examining possible changes Thursday to the chamber’s rules and procedures, seeking out ideas to make the legislative branch function better. 

 The panel, a temporary and bipartisan project to revamp Congress for the modern era, is tasked with offering recommendations about how to update technological savvy on Capitol Hill and how to improve the quality of work for lawmakers and staff. It began earlier this year as a one-year effort but will now carry on through next year with a fresh infusion of funds, and through the divisive 2020 elections.  

Pelosi: ‘Don’t mess with me’
Pelosi lashes out at reporter who suggested she and Democrats ‘hate’ President Donald Trump

As she ends her weekly news conference Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., angrily reacts after a reporter asks if she hates the President on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 1:09 p.m. | Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been unshakable as she’s guided her caucus toward the decision she announced Thursday that the House will vote on articles of impeachment against Donald Trump. But when a reporter questioned whether she was doing so because she hates Trump, Pelosi exploded. 

The heated exchange, occurring at the end of Pelosi’s weekly press conference, culminated in a warning from the speaker that was directed at James Rosen from the Sinclair Broadcast Group but is a broader indication that she is ready to brush off any attacks that come her way as the House moves to impeach Trump.

House will proceed with articles of impeachment against Trump, Pelosi says
Pelosi instructed committee chairmen to draft articles

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces on the Speakers Balcony in the Capitol on Thursday that she is calling on the House Judiciary Committee to proceed with articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that she has asked House committee chairmen to draft articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

“Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and a heart full of love for America, today I'm asking our chairmen to proceed with articles of impeachment,” Pelosi said.

Health groups reveal ads pushing Democrats to back drug bill
The groups will build on an ad push supporting the House bill earlier this year by the group Protect Our Care

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., left, and Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., attend a rally in the Capitol Building to call on the Senate to vote on House Democrats’ prescription drugs and health care package on in May 2019. Several left-leaning health care groups are launching a seven-figure advertising campaign that builds on a previous effort by the group Protect our Care pushing for the passage of the pricing bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A left-leaning health care group is doubling its seven-figure advertising push for the passage of House Democrats’ drug pricing bill in an effort to counter industry and conservative opposition to the proposal, according to information shared exclusively with CQ Roll Call.

The effort, which will be paired with additional spending from other left-leaning health groups, comes as Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California announced the House will vote next week on legislation that would allow Medicare to negotiate prices for up to 250 prescription drugs a year.

Impeachment news roundup: Dec. 5
Committee leaders to meet today on next steps toward impeachment, Judiciary members prepared to work over weekend

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announces Thursday that she is calling on the House Judiciary Committee to proceed with articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Judiciary Democrats have been advised to stay in Washington this weekend for impeachment strategy sessions, but members were unclear whether they’d be huddling to prepare for a Monday hearing or to begin debating the scope of articles of impeachment.

The committee announced Thursday afternoon that it will hold a hearing at 9 a.m. Monday to receive a presentation from Intelligence Committee counsel on its impeachment inquiry report, as well as a presentation from its own counsel. Members on the panel were not clear what the Judiciary counsel would be presenting.

Congress frets over program to streamline Pentagon procurement
Some worry that companies won’t spend own money on research, may not compete for important programs

Some in Congress worry that, without assurances of a payoff in production, industry will not spend its own money on research work and some companies may not even compete for some important programs, denying the Pentagon access to certain talent. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Four years ago, Section 804 of the defense authorization law freed certain Pentagon programs from the usual acquisition rules, from documenting why a program is needed to how much Pentagon experts who do not work for the same armed service think it will cost.

But now virtually every congressional panel, including both authorizers and appropriators, has expressed in legislation or in reports some degree of concern about how these programs to develop new missiles, satellites, helicopters and combat vehicles are being implemented.

Train safety technology hasn't quite reached the station
Fatalities add up as cost and complexity delay full implementation of 'positive train control' system

Rescue crews and investigators inspect the site of a May 2015 Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia . (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

After years of delays, a railroad safety system that federal regulators say could have prevented some 300 deaths since 1969 is finally close to full implementation — but large gaps remain, with commuter railroads using the system on fewer than half of the tracks required by December 2020.

Overall, the news for supporters of the so-called positive train control system is promising — 92 percent of the 58,000 track miles required to implement the safety system have it installed, according the Federal Railroad Administration, which is overseeing compliance with the law. 

House Democrats to move on temporary ‘SALT’ cap increase
Ways and Means panel could take up legislation as early as next week, Pascrell says

New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. says the House Ways and Means Committee could take up legislation to increase the SALT deduction cap as early as next week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House Ways and Means Committee could take up legislation as early as next week that would increase a limit on state and local tax deductions that has riled Democrats from high-cost regions, according to a senior panel member.

The “SALT” bill, which has not yet been released, is still in flux, but the $10,000 deduction limit set by the Republican-backed tax code overhaul would be raised to an as-yet undetermined level for three years, according to Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr.. A final figure hasn’t been decided on, the New Jersey Democrat said, describing it as “maybe $15,000 or $20,000, whatever that figure’s going to be.”

Wide partisan gulf on display at impeachment hearing
First day of testimony offers little hope of mutual agreement on facts uncovered by House Democrats

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., speaks with ranking member Doug Collins, R-Ga., during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump on Dec. 4. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Democrats and Republicans might have been in the same hearing room Wednesday, but the first day of testimony in this phase of the impeachment process of President Donald Trump underscored just how little the parties are engaging with each other.

And the daylong House Judiciary Committee hearing dedicated to exploring the Constitution’s impeachment standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors” offered little hope of some mutual agreement on the facts that House Democrats uncovered, how to interpret them or the entire impeachment process.

Kelly Loeffler’s second day on the job will set mark for Georgia women
The only other woman to represent Georgia in the Senate served a single day

Rebecca Latimer Felton was the first woman to serve in the Senate — for one day in 1922. (Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division).

Businesswoman Kelly Loeffler, appointed Wednesday by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to replace Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, is set to become only the second woman to represent the Peach State in the United States Senate. But when she is sworn in next month, she will occupy the same seat once held for a single day in 1922 by Democrat Rebecca Latimer Felton, the first woman to ever serve in the chamber.

Felton, an activist for women’s suffrage and a newspaper columnist, already had a long political career when she was appointed at the age of 87 to represent Georgia in the Senate. During the 1870s, she served as an unofficial campaign manager, adviser and speechwriter to her husband, William Felton, who represented Georgia in the House from 1875 to 1881.

Impeachment trial timing hangs over 2020 Senate calendar
January schedule is filled with question marks

Both houses of Congress have now set tentative schedules for 2020. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate has released its calendar for 2020, but the year will begin with a giant question mark because of a possible impeachment trial.

The month of January is missing from the schedule entirely.