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.

Booker’s CROWN Act would ban discrimination against black hairstyles
Federal initiative is part of state-by-state push by group that includes Dove products

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., is among those calling for more federal protections against discrimination of hairstyles commonly worn by African Americans. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Nappy. Kinky. Too curly. These are adjectives sometimes used to describe natural black hair. While they can be insulting, some lawmakers say these perceptions also lead to discrimination against African Americans.

Several recent high-profile incidents involving discrimination and racial insensitivity have convinced lawmakers that more federal protections need to be put in place to prevent prejudice against hairstyles associated with black culture.

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.  

Trump jokes about White House ‘Russian Room’ at UN lunch
‘We’ll take care of that,’ US president tells Moscow’s ambassador to UN

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a joint press conference after their summit on July 16, 2018, in Helsinki, Finland. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump just can’t help himself sometimes — not even when it comes to Russia, the country that has dogged his entire presidency.

Amid an impeachment scandal related to his dealings with Ukraine — which the Kremlin invaded in 2014 — Trump dropped a quip Thursday about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s homeland.

At the Races: We have 2020 vision

By Stephanie Akin, Bridget Bowman and Simone Pathé

Welcome back to At the Races! We are relaunching just as the campaign cycle gets interesting. Each week we’ll bring you news and analysis from the CQ Roll Call team that will keep you informed about the 2020 election. Know someone who’d like to get this newsletter? They can subscribe here.

White House says it’s ready for impeachment votes and trial
However, one Trump aide says: ‘We don’t know if Pelosi has the votes or not’

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone leaves the Capitol after attending the Senate Republicans' lunch  Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump and senior aides reacted to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement that articles of impeachment are coming by essentially calling for a vote and a Senate trial.

The White House messaging is similar to that used by President Bill Clinton and his aides in 1998: pressing lawmakers to expedite the impeachment process and Senate trial so Washington can focus on other matters.

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.

Duncan Hunter’s expected exit could be a relief for GOP
Republicans are confident they will hold Hunter’s seat without him on the ballot

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

When California GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter announced he would plead guilty to using campaign funds for personal purposes, he also indicated he wouldn’t run for reelection. That’s likely welcome news for Republicans looking to hold on to his seat. 

“We’re going to pass it off to whoever takes this seat next, and we’ll make sure that that’s a seamless transition,” Hunter told KUSI News on Monday. “I think it’s important to keep the seat a Republican seat.”

North Carolina’s George Holding left with few options for 2020
This is the second time redistricting has altered GOP congressman’s district

North Carolina Rep. George Holding’s new district lines are less favorable to Republicans. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

North Carolina Rep. George Holding has been here before, facing a district that doesn’t look like the one he currently represents. 

But unlike in 2016, when court-mandated redistricting moved his seat across the state and he choose to run in a different district closer to home, the partisan composition of his current 2nd District has now changed significantly, becoming virtually unwinnable for a Republican. 

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.

The perils of positive thinking
America’s optimism aside, Pentagon's track record of buying arms has been spotty since WWII

An F-35 zips past the Capitol dome during a flyover in Washington on June 12. In the decades since World War II, the Pentagon’s track record of buying the weapons and equipment needed to execute its mission to protect America and its interests has become spotty. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS — Americans like optimism. It goes hand in hand with the can-do spirit that saw industry transform itself into the juggernaut that powered the Allied victory in the Second World War.

The Defense Department’s overly optimistic approach to acquisition is a major factor behind that checkered performance. In part, that’s a reflection of military culture, where it is hard to tell a superior, especially one wearing stars on his or her shoulders, that a goal won’t be met.