Susan Collins

Rothenberg’s Best & Worst of 2019 Year-End Awards
This year is more than represented by the worst

Congratulations to Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, who tops Stuart Rothenberg’s list of Most obnoxious Republican members of Congress for 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION — It’s December, and that means it’s time for another of my “Best & Worst of the Year” columns. And since it has been a pretty awful year, there should be a lot of worsts.

As always, I’ll offer a set of nominees for each category. Then I’ll pick my winner. But you too can play along at home by selecting your choices. If you disagree with me, I really don’t care. Amuse yourselves, and send any complaints about my categories or my “winners” to Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia.

Foreign aid rider tangles up final spending talks
The White House is concerned the rider could cut out faith-based aid groups from USAID contracts

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., listens during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday. Shaheen says her amendment, creating concerns for the White House in year-end spending talks, has nothing to do with funding abortions. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Urged on by anti-abortion activists and religious groups, the White House is raising concerns in year-end spending talks about language secured by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., in the Senate’s State-Foreign Operations bill they fear could cut out faith-based aid groups from U.S. Agency for International Development contracts.

Shaheen argues the provision in the bill would simply require USAID contractors to adhere to current law, which stipulates they can’t deny services to individuals based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, marital status, political affiliation or other factors.

Former EPA advisers say agency’s mercury proposal is flawed
Process for devising proposal to weaken Obama-era pollution rule was ‘fatally flawed,’ they say

The EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standard targeted emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants.  (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

As the EPA gets closer to finalizing changes to an Obama-era air pollution rule, a group of former agency advisers says the Trump administration’s attempt to weaken the mercury emissions regulations is based on faulty and outdated data.

The Trump administration a year ago proposed a rule that would revoke the EPA’s legal justification for issuing the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard rule that aimed to curb hazardous air emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants.

FDA nominee to face questions on issues from vaping to salmon
It might be hard for Stephen Hahn to win over Democrats because of a pending White House vaping decision

Stephen Hahn, President Donald Trump’s choice to head the Food and Drug Administration, faces a confirmation hearing on Wednesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. (Courtesy The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center)

When President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration appears for the first time before a Senate panel on Wednesday, he’ll likely face tough questions about some policy issues that he may not have thought much about previously.

While the nominee, Stephen Hahn, is a highly regarded cancer doctor who has helped lead a research hospital with a budget nearly the size of the FDA’s, the confirmation hearing will be a reminder of the breadth of the agency’s work.

States in the East with outsize roles in the 2020 elections
Pennsylvania remains a presidential battleground, while Collins bid in Maine will be closely watched

Maine Sen. Susan Collins is a Republican running in a state that voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016, but she has a strong personal brand that will help her if she seeks another term as expected in 2020. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

If there’s an abiding lesson from 2016, it’s that national public opinion in the presidential race is not as important as the votes of individual states. Republican Donald Trump won by taking 304 electoral votes to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s 227, even as Clinton beat him by 2.9 million votes and 2.1 percentage points nationally.

In 2020, Democrats will be looking to recapture states Trump won that went for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. And many of those states will also be prime battlegrounds in the fight for control of the Senate, where Democrats need a net gain of four seats to take a majority (three if they win the White House and the vice president can break 50-50 ties), while Republicans need a net gain of 19 seats to retake the House.

Democrats protest, but Senate confirms Steven Menashi to federal appeals court
Nominee for Second Circuit described as ‘bottom crawler’ by Democratic leader

Steven J. Menashi was confirmed to the federal bench on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The man Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer described as a “bottom crawler” was confirmed Thursday to a lifetime appointment on the federal appeals court based in his home state of New York.

Schumer and other Democrats have opposed many of President Donald Trump’s nominees to be federal judges that have been called up for votes by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. But the opposition to Steven J. Menashi has been more voracious than for most.

Moneyball, meet politics: Could VAR settle arguments about candidate strength?
Vote Above Replacement puts Klobuchar atop presidential field, Collins way above other senators

Maine Republican Susan Collins, center, outranks the entire Senate on Inside Elections’ Vote Above Replacement statistic, while Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, right, ranks highest among Democratic presidential contenders. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

In the era of data and metrics and models in political analysis, at least one question still remains: How do we quantify the strength of individual candidates?

Arguing over whether a candidate or incumbent is good or bad is an age-old tradition in the political media and among party operatives. Typically, candidate strength is measured by fundraising or the margin of a win or loss. But that can fail to account for the particular election cycle or the possibility that any candidate running on a particular party’s line in a particular year or state would do just as well.

Playing Chutes and Ladders with impeachment
Plenty of risks ahead for over-zealous Democrats and skittish Republicans

As the House Intelligence panel, led by Rep. Adam B. Schiff, prepares to open impeachment hearings, there are plenty of risks ahead for over-zealous Democrats and skittish Republicans, Shapiro writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION — “With the president impeached — in effect, indicted — by the House, the frenzied trial for his conviction or his acquittal under the Articles of Impeachment began on March 5. … It was a trial to rank with all the great trials in history — Charles I before the High Court of Justice, Louis XVI before the French Convention, and Warren Hastings before the House of Lords.”

That overwrought description of the 1868 Senate impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson comes from John F. Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage,” which won the 1957 Pulitzer Prize.

Trump judicial pick blows off Democrats’ questions on Ukraine
An appeals court nominee has ignored a request from Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, but still advances

Steven J. Menashi during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on  September 11, 2019. He refused to answer questions on Ukraine, but his nomination was advanced to the Senate floor anyway.  (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

An appeals court nominee has ignored a request from Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to say whether he played a role in White House events now at the heart of the accelerating House impeachment probe — and Republicans haven’t let that halt his move through the confirmation process.

The committee voted 12-10 along party lines Thursday to advance the nomination of Steven Menashi, who works in the White House counsel’s office. President Donald Trump picked him for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit based in New York.

Senate Republicans kill Democratic move on Trump health policy
Democrats decried letting states approve so-called ‘junk plans’

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., sees the vote on the health insurance guidance as a referendum on support for people with pre-existing conditions. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate rejected a Democratic resolution to nullify a Trump administration health care policy that supporters billed as a referendum on support for pre-existing condition protections.

The 43-52 vote on Wednesday blocked a disapproval resolution that would have reversed a 2018 guidance expanding changes states could make to their insurance markets through waivers. Democrats forced the vote via the Congressional Review Act even though no states have sought to make the types of changes the administration is encouraging.