congressional-operations

Do chatty senators really face jail time during impeachment?

Former Oregon Sen. Bob Packwood was arrested in 1988 after barricading himself inside his office, locking one door and blocking another with a chair in an attempt to prevent a quorum so that Republicans could stall debate on campaign finance legislation. The sergeant-at-arms escorted Packwood to the Senate chamber, and he was physically carried onto the floor. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Despite a dramatic daily warning, if senators fail to stay silent during President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, it’s unlikely that they’ll end up arrested. And no, there is not a Senate jail.

At the beginning of each trial day, Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger will declare, “Hear ye! Hear ye! Hear ye! All persons are commanded to keep silent, on pain of imprisonment.”

Road Ahead: Impeachment trial imminent and war powers debate continues
Pelosi ready to send articles to Senate this week

Speaker Nancy Pelosi conducts her weekly news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Impeachment action is bound for the Senate this week, ending the long standoff between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over the framework of President Donald Trump’s trial. Pelosi intends to send the House’s articles of impeachment to the Senate and name impeachment managers, launching a trial that could begin before the week is out.

The impeachment articles, which the House approved in December, charge the president with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

After a busy week, Congress is ready for the holidays: Congressional Hits and Misses
Week of Dec. 16, 2019

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney speaks with reporters as she passes the holiday sign in the basement of the Capitol as she leaves the House Democrats caucus meeting on Dec. 17. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

McMorris Rodgers reproved by Ethics Committee for inappropriate use of funds
Washington Republican has to pay Treasury Department back $7,575

Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., was reproved by the House Ethics Committee and has to pay back $7,575. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

For more than five years, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ offices exhibited a concerning pattern of using both taxpayer money and unofficial resources inappropriately and an indifference to laws governing the use of those resources, a House Ethics Committee report found Thursday, leading the panel to reprove her and force her to pay the Treasury Department back $7,575.

The Ethics panel found that the Washington Republican provided inappropriate compensation for consultant services from 2012 to 2017. She defrayed the cost of official services she got from the consultants with either political funds or the consultants’ voluntary provision of services, acts that are in violation of House rules because they incorporated unofficial office accounts. Further, Rodgers used official money for consultant services that would have been a violation of rules restricting the use of the office budget, known as the Members’ Representational Allowance, but the funds used to pay consultants were largely paid for by her House leadership office, which is not subject to the same regulations. This is a shortcoming that the committee discovered in leadership offices, and it referred the issue to the chamber’s inspector general.

Researchers warn census privacy efforts may muddy federal data
Latest test creates ‘absurd outcomes’: households with 90 people and graveyards populated with the living

Protesters hold signs at a rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court after justices blocked the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Steps taken by the Census Bureau to protect individual responses may muddy cancer research, housing policy, transportation planning, legislative map-drawing and health care policy, researchers have warned the agency.

The problems come from a new policy — differential privacy — that adds “noise” to census data to help prevent outside attackers from identifying individuals among public data. However, the agency’s latest test of the policy created what researchers called absurd outcomes: households with 90 people and graveyards populated with the living. Such results could skew a count used to redistribute political power and $1.5 trillion in federal spending nationwide.

California water politics complicate House panel’s oversight
Natural Resources chairman wants to investigate Interior secretary’s role in water allocation report that benefited a committee member’s district

California Democratic Rep. Jim Costa represents part of California’s San Joaquin Valley, a drought-prone region where the politics surrounding agricultural and water interests can often trump partisanship. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona wants his committee to give him subpoena authority for multiple possible investigations, but California Democrat Jim Costa may vote against that as the panel considers whether Interior Secretary David Bernhardt improperly influenced a decision to send more water to his district.

Costa told CQ Roll Call he’s not sure he can support giving Grijalva such unlimited subpoena authority. Costa said he discussed the matter with the chairman, who plans a committee vote on the question in January, and said he’d support a “specific subpoena” in the panel’s current investigation into the Bureau of Land Management headquarters relocation. 

J. Brett Blanton on track to become next architect of the Capitol
Nominee was most recently deputy vice president for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority

J. Brett Blanton, nominee to be architect of the Capitol, right, introduces his family to Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt, R-Mo., before the start of his confirmation hearing on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Most of J. Brett Blanton’s nomination hearing before the Senate Rules Committee to be the next architect of the Capitol on Thursday was essentially a one-on-one public interview between him and Chairman Roy Blunt, as the remaining 18 members of the committee were absent for the majority of the hearing.

No opposition to Blanton, a Virginia resident, is evident, making him likely to be confirmed as the 12th architect of the Capitol. If confirmed, Blanton said he expects to start leading the agency by mid-January.

Democratic Tri-Caucus to track diversity of witnesses in House hearings
Initiative would have committees send witnesses diversity surveys

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, is one of the leaders of the Tri-Caucus, along with Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., and Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Callfile photo)

The chairs of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus announced Thursday that starting in January 2020 they will track the diversity of witnesses testifying in House committee hearings. 

Collectively known as the Tri-Caucus, the groups want to ensure diversity of witnesses that help inform policies and legislation to ensure the laws Congress passes are “inclusive and work for Americans of all backgrounds.”

Voting rights, a partisan issue? Yes, Republicans have fallen that far
‘Party of Lincoln’ seems to believe it can only win by placing as many obstacles to voting as possible

Reps. John Lewis, right, and Terri A. Sewell and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy at a news conference before the House passed the Voting Rights Advancement Act on Dec. 6. Only one Republican voted for the bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION — Stacey Abrams has it right, for right now. She lost her 2018 race to be the governor of Georgia to Republican Brian Kemp, who as secretary of state was in charge of the election, a situation that would not pass the sniff test in North Korea.

OK, that comparison is a little far-fetched, but only a little.

Craft distillers, retailers wait anxiously for tax extenders
Stakeholders predict layoffs, hiring freezes if deal is not struck by end of year

Rep. Denver Riggleman says it would be “disastrous” for his wife’s Virginia distillery if a 2017 provision that cut excise taxes is not extended past its Dec. 31 expiration date. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman says a looming tax increase on small craft distillers will lead to layoffs at the distillery his family operates in Afton, Virginia, where they make a handful of spirits with colorful names like Strange Monkey Gin and Blackback Bourbon.

And Jeff Quint, a Swisher, Iowa, distillery owner who makes bourbon from corn grown on his family farm, says the demise of the small distillers’ break will force him to rethink new hires he’d been planning.