Rep. Chris Collins indirectly continued his feud with late colleague Louise Slaughter by declining to co-sponsor a bill that would rename a post office in New York after the congresswoman who died in March.
Collins, a Republican, is the only member of the New York delegation not to co-sponsor the post office renaming bill.
Slaughter, a New York Democrat, played a significant role in sparking an investigation into Collins for insider trading that eventually resulted in an indictment.
Slaughter authored and often pushed for Congress to adopt the so-called STOCK Act to ban insider trading by federal officials, including members of Congress.
Collins pleaded not guilty earlier this year to multiple charges involving alleged insider trading tips he gave family members and friends about an Australian biotech company for which he was a board member and held significant stock.
In 2017, Slaughter called on the Office of Congressional Ethics to probe allegations of insider trading against Collins. The OCE independently reviews claims of misconduct — criminal, ethical, and otherwise — against House members and then decides whether to refer certain matters to the House Ethics Committee if they warrant deeper investigation.
In October of that year, Collins fired back at the congresswoman, calling her a “despicable human” and suggesting that members should not pursue ethics inquiries against one another.
“She’s on a witch hunt, she’s a despicable human,” Collins said of Slaughter, Fox News reported. “You don’t go after another member.”
New York Rep. Joseph D. Morelle, along with two dozen other cosponsors from the Empire State, introduced the bill Friday to rename the post office in Fairport, New York, after Slaughter and her husband.
“Louise Slaughter was a dear friend, a trailblazer, and a champion for families in Monroe County and across the nation,” Morelle said in a statement. “Louise has left a lasting impact on our entire community, and we remain grateful to her and her husband for their immeasurable contributions to our society.”
Poliquin lost his race as part of the state’s new ranked-choice voting system for congressional races. Voters rank their choices in order of preference. If no candidate receives a majority, the last place candidate’s votes are distributed to his or her supporters’ second choice. The process of elimination continues until a candidate gets majority support.
Poliquin had a slight lead in the first round but did not win a majority. Golden went on to win a majority on the second round of the process.
“The recount process has confirmed, and re-affirmed, an important fact: I won the largest number of votes on Election Day,” Poliquin said in a statement posted on Facebook. “... Although we continue to evaluate the legal process and the need for an Appeal on the Constitutionality of rank voting, due to the impending Holidays, I believe it’s important to end the recount process.”
Poliquin had also challenged the ranked-choice system in court, but a federal judge rejected that challenge Thursday.
Poliquin’s defeat means there will be no Republicans from New England in the House next year. But Golden, a Marine veteran and state legislator, will likely be a top GOP target in 2020. Trump carried the expansive 2nd District by 11 points in 2016.
Two lame-duck House Republican women are sounding the alarm on their own party for excluding minorities and women from their messaging.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the first Latina to ever hold federally elected office, is retiring after 30 years from her seat representing South Florida and its Hispanic-heavy population.
Both are leaving Congress in less than three weeks, and both have delivered stark warnings to the GOP that it needs to act fast to win over historically marginalized communities such as blacks and women.
The ‘Fun’ in Dysfunction, iPhone Confusion and the Sound of Silence: Congressional Hits and Misses
In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Love staunchly adhered to the core principles of conservatism but said Republicans have not effectively packaged those principles and pitched them to minorities in American cities and elsewhere.
Republicans are losing the messaging battle, Love suggested.
“For too long, conservatives in my party have focused on administering purity tests instead of expanding our audience. And in doing so, we have too often failed to adequately articulate our party’s principles to others, allowing our opponents to define or caricature our principles for us,” the Utah Republican wrote.
“We have especially failed to bring our message to, and connect with, women and racial minorities. And we have effectively written off cities as Democratic strongholds. Our nation is poorer for it,” she wrote.
Ros-Lehtinen suggested the Republican party has tacked too hard toward the cultural insecurities and economic hardship of white men, even as demographic shifts have trended toward a more diverse electorate.
Ros-Lehtinen has for years represented South Florida’s 27th District, where 43 percent of the population is Cuban-American, a reliably Republican voting group. But Hillary Clinton carried the 27th District by more than 20 points in 2016, and the district flipped blue this cycle after Ros-Lehtinen elected to retire instead of running for a 16th term.
The Florida Republican warned in an interview with NPR that her party has not adapted over the years to include members of society who are not white men.
“Instead of going forward, we’re going backward,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “We need to pay attention to the changing demographics of our country. We have not been attuned to that. We have been appealing to one certain section of America. I don’t know what you want to call it. The white, male conservative is definitely getting a lot of issues thrown their way.”
Ros-Lehtinen said that young people “rejected” the GOP this past election, suggesting that Republicans are in danger of failing to capture future generations of voters unless they cultivate a more inclusive tone.
“Young people rejected the Republican Party ... Suburban women left our party. And minorities did not see us as a welcoming voice. You just have to show people that you care,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “And we’re not even willing to do that. We don’t go to those neighborhoods. We don’t go to suburbia. We don’t talk to women.
“We’re not doing anything to appeal to those groups,” she said.
Runoff elections aren’t just for Mississippi and Louisiana — radio and television correspondents on Capitol Hill will vote in a runoff on Dec. 19 for the final position on the Radio-Television Correspondents Association.
Members of the RTCA, the primary organization promoting access for broadcasters on Capitol Hill, voted Thursday to elect the group’s executive committee. Seven candidates ran to fill four vacancies.
Three of the slots were filled after vote counting concluded Thursday evening, just as the Radio-TV and photographers holiday parties were getting underway.
Fox News Capitol Hill producer Jason Donner was elected RTCA chairman with 132 votes. Ben Siegel of ABC and Kelsey Snell of NPR decisively won executive committee seats with 131 and 113 votes, respectively.
The runoff election next week will be a face off between Sinclair Broadcast Group’s Paul Courson and The Associated Press’ Padma Rama, who each earned 101 votes.
Committee members were told Thursday evening that the tie for the fourth seat would be decided during an executive committee meeting Friday, but just after midnight the committee announced the runoff election.
“All credentialed members are invited to vote, even if you voted in the original election this week,” advised Ellen Eckert, deputy director of the Senate Radio & Television Correspondents Gallery, in the overnight email to members.
Both candidates said they would push for expansion of video access on Capitol Hill. There are many locations where still photography is allowed and reporters are permitted to interview lawmakers, but video recording is not permitted.
Thomas McKinless contributed to this report.Watch: The ‘Fun’ in Dysfunction, iPhone Confusion and the Sound of Silence: Congressional Hits and Misses
Amid a debate within the Democratic Party about whether progressive ideas can sway voters in suburbia, candidates affiliated with an advocacy group that campaigns against gun violence sought — and won — elected office even in historically conservative suburban districts.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America appealed to suburban women on overhauling gun laws amid a rash of mass shootings in recent years, including the one in Parkland, Florida, in February.
The organization advocates so-called red-flag laws and banning bump stocks and assault weapons, and it opposes allowing guns on college campuses. It plans to achieve those policy aims by campaigning aggressively in future election cycles.
“Exit polling is still being parsed, but one thing is clear: In an election where women voters were crucial in swaying the balance of power, gun violence prevention was a priority issue for women from all walks of life,” the group’s founder, Shannon Watts, wrote about the midterm elections. “Gun violence isn’t a right-or-left issue — it’s a life-or-death issue.”
Putting that theory to practice, Moms Demand Action launched a formal training program last year for volunteers interested in running for office — an ambitious new stage for the six-year-old organization. It’s just one sign of the group’s growing influence: Everytown for Gun Safety, its parent organization, and Giffords PAC, another gun control group, outspent the National Rifle Association this midterm cycle.
The groups say views on guns in America’s suburbs have altered in a way that is unfavorable to the guns rights movement, especially among women. And that shift coincides with gun rights groups becoming increasingly aligned with the Republican Party.
In all, volunteer leaders with Moms Demand Action won at least 16 elected offices across the country last month, according to the group, unseating some suburban incumbents who had never been challenged before. The winners include Democratic Rep.-elect Lucy McBath, a onetime national spokesperson for the group, who captured a House seat in Georgia once held by Newt Gingrich.
Anecdotal evidence on Election Day complemented earlier polling by EveryTown/Hart Research Associates that showed 75 percent of women of color and 72 percent of suburban women want to hear more from candidates about gun violence. The poll also found suburban women backing Democrats over Republicans on gun policy by a 26-point margin.
“Suburban voters made gun safety a top issue, and until something is done to stem the tide of gun violence, it’s safe to say their focus on the issue will remain,” Katie Peters, communications director for Giffords PAC, wrote on the group’s website after the election.
But political scientists are still parsing how the politics around guns are changing. They caution that the issue’s salience reaches beyond single-issue voters.
“The broader gun culture — one that values individualism, independence, and ideas on public safety — motivates gun owners to vote for a variety of reasons,” said Abigail Vegter, a Ph.D candidate at the University of Kansas who recently presented research on the political participation of gun rights voters at the annual conference of the American Political Science Association.
“This makes them a tough bloc to go up against as our research suggests that they turn out to vote even when guns are not a salient issue in a given election,” Vegter continued. She also pointed to disappointing results for Democratic candidates in Florida last month, where the March for Our Lives after the Parkland shooting pushed the issue of guns to the forefront.
Still, Moms Demand Action undoubtably changed how political scientists and pundits talk about guns when McBath scored a significant victory over Republican Karen Handel in the affluent but rapidly changing suburbs of Atlanta. It was a stinging upset for the GOP in a district where it had defeated an extremely well-funded challenger just 15 months earlier.
The day after Thanksgiving marked a painful anniversary for McBath: Six years have passed since her son Jordan Davis was shot to death.
In 2012, a 45-year-old white man fired at the black teenager and his friends as they sat in a parked car at a Florida gas station after berating them about the volume of the rap music they were listening to.
“One of the most effective ways to inform and persuade people is by telling them about your first-person experience,” McBath wrote at the launch of her campaign. “It’s a credential I wish upon no one, but I’ve found solace and purpose through my fight.”
Moms Demand Action has found other candidates in its ranks of volunteers whose lives were suddenly defined by gun-related tragedies.
Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex was murdered at the Aurora, Colorado, theater massacre in 2012, won a state House seat in suburban Denver, ousting the chamber’s second-highest-ranking Republican. He said speaking plainly about his tragedy made him an effective campaigner.
“It could be as simple as we all love our kids, and they look at me and see that only through the grace of God, it’s not them. I hope they see part of themselves in me,” said Sullivan, who described himself as a “labor guy” who also campaigned on increasing vocational training.
Like McBath, Sullivan said advocating changes to gun laws has given him a new sense of purpose. (He will be the lead sponsor of a red flag bill, aimed at confiscating guns from people deemed to be a public safety hazard, in his first legislative session.) But the work does not repair his grief.
“People say tragedy doesn’t change you, it reveals you. And it revealed to me I had these capabilities,” Sullivan said. “But people ask, ‘Was this always your retirement plan?’ I say, ‘No, I planned to sit in the backyard with Alex and pick our fantasy football teams.’ Maybe he would have had kids by this time. That’s what I thought it would be like and it was all taken away.”
While the Democrats’ flipped 40 House seats last month on a battlefield that stretched largely across suburban districts, their jubilation in the weeks since Election Day has been tempered by a debate about the durability of those gains.
The success of Moms Demand Action — which Watts describes as “one of the largest grassroots movements in the country” — might point to the issue of gun control as a path to securing reliable Democratic footholds in the suburbs and changing the country’s gun laws.
Watts founded Moms Demand Action by creating a Facebook group and seeking out other parents who felt horrified by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. But these days, the group positions itself as a dogged rival to the NRA, one of the most powerful interest groups in the country.
The NRA derives much of its political heft from its ability to engage and motivate staunchly pro-gun rights voters with television ads, mailers and other media. But Moms Demand Action might provide a counterweight.
Take the McBath race. She prevailed with a modest $1.2 million campaign chest in the same district where Democrat Jon Ossoff, running for Rep. Tom Price’s vacated seat in a 2017 special election, had failed, despite spending thirty-fold more: $31 million.
But those numbers belie McBath’s “built-in grassroots arm” in the form of Moms Demand Action volunteers who knocked on doors, made phone calls, and sent postcards to voters, according to Watts.
In New Hampshire, Democrat Linda Harriott-Garthright credited Moms Demand Action for helping her win back her state House seat in part by supplying volunteers to knock doors, an important asset in a state that values face time with candidates.
Her campaign was also aided by calls and donations, “the whole nine yards,” Harriott-Garthright said. She also campaigned on increasing the minimum wage.
Her position on guns is informed by the 1980 shooting death of her brother-in-law, a case still unsolved.
She thinks the issue of gun control resonated with voters “because it’s real for them: moms and dads, aunts and uncles. With all of the shootings going on, they realize that could have happened at my school, and my church. I think that has a lot to do with it.”
Moms Demand Action volunteers also boosted Chrissy Clark, a mother stirred to advocacy by school shootings who won a North Carolina state House seat north of Charlotte that Republicans had held for 18 years. Clark attributes that history in part to gerrymandering.
Clark started to think about running for office when her state legislators kept rescheduling hearings on a spate of guns rights bills, which she viewed as an attempt to shut out Moms Demand Action volunteers. But as a stay-at-home mom with a relatively flexible schedule, she was often able to stick around until the meeting occurred.
“I had this misconception that politicians wanted to hear from their constituents,” said Clark, who also ran on expanding Medicaid and increasing funding for education.
“One of the most important things Moms Demand Action did was to provide training for volunteers — everything from letters to the editor to speaking to the media to understanding legislation to phone banking — everything you need to run a campaign,” Clark said. “Running an issue-based campaign [for gun safety] translated pretty easily to campaigning for office.”
From the Vault: Gun Control Front and Center in Remaining Democratic Primaries
OPINION — With members of the 115th Congress rushing to tie up their legislative loose ends, one unresolved issue may have a more lasting impact than any other. It is the continued failure of congressional budgeting.
Since February, a special Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform has been trying to develop ways of repairing Congress’ deteriorating budget procedures. After nine months of discussions, committee members failed to send even their handful of fairly unremarkable recommendations to the House and Senate for a vote. Thus the budget process continues to collapse.
Budgeting is central to nearly everything Congress does, the cornerstone of its Article I authority. The severe breakdown in budget practices over the past decade has led to a worsening fiscal outlook and squandered much of the legislature’s constitutional authority. To restore Congress as a relevant governing body, regardless of its partisan makeup, lawmakers must, first and foremost, recommit themselves as an institution to their fiscal responsibilities.
That said, the complex and cumbersome congressional budget process needs a thorough overhaul. When Congress next tries to reform the process, the effort should be guided by the principles and suggestions below. (These are among an extensive set of proposals I developed with the House Budget Committee staff while serving as the Committee’s chairman in the 114th Congress.)
Over many years, the legislative branch has ceded too much of its budgeting authority to the executive. For example, under current law, the process starts with the administration’s budget, forcing Congress to respond to the president’s agenda rather than defining its own set of policies proactively. This is backward and antithetical to the Constitution’s goals and framework. Congress should complete its own budget first.
Existing budget rules are too easy to circumvent, or often are simply waived. Such waivers, typically buried in procedural measures, should be subject to open, explicit votes, so the entire House, and the general public, can judge whether they are acceptable. In addition, Congress should eliminate loopholes that allow spending or tax bills to be considered before a budget is in place, and funding for emergencies, which is exempt from spending limits, should focus on specific and urgent problems, and be limited to a short amount of time.
Most of the government’s spending goes for major entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and numerous others. These programs run on effectively permanent authorizations, so their spending goes on automatically, without any further congressional approval. With unchecked entitlement spending driving chronic and ever-deepening budget deficits, Congress should spell out and enforce specific limits on these programs. Without such limits on the largest shares of federal spending, the notion of budgeting is meaningless.
When the Congressional Budget Office evaluates proposals to reform entitlement spending, it measures the budgetary impact relative not to current levels, but against estimates of future spending. These so-called “baseline” projections create the presumption that nearly all such entitlement spending must increase year after year. Consequently, spending less than the ever-rising baseline projections is declared a “spending cut” — even though actual spending is still rising every year. Budget estimators should be required to compare reform proposals to actual current levels of spending, and clearly reflect how spending would still increase, though at a slower and more sustainable rate.
The arcane nature of many budget practices makes them difficult for the public, and many members of Congress, to understand. Congress should strive for more straight-forward presentations that non-budget-experts can grasp. In addition, Congress should call for a regular public assessment, perhaps by the comptroller general, of the government’s budgetary condition. The fiscal State of the Union is critically important for every American.
For much of the nation’s history, policymakers agreed the most sound fiscal goal was to maintain balanced budgets in peacetime. Since that norm was abandoned, fiscal policy has been adrift, leading to an ever-more-likely sovereign debt crisis. To put the government on a stable financial trajectory, Congress should adopt a series of long-term declining debt targets and ensure they are enforceable — by automatic means if necessary.
These are only a few of the steps Congress should consider to vastly improve its budget practices. Still, they cannot substitute for the most critical element: the determination of legislators to exercise their fiscal and constitutional responsibilities. No amount of procedural reforms, however well designed, can restore that conviction.
Tom Price served as chairman of the House Budget Committee during the 114th Congress and as secretary of Health and Human Services in the Trump administration.
Watch: What’s a Continuing Resolution?
Rep. Ruben Kihuen, who will leave Congress after just one term, is taking steps to run for Las Vegas city council, according to files submitted to the IRS.
A House Ethics subcommittee reported in November that Kihuen, a Nevada Democrat, had sexually harassed women who worked with him.
Kihuen filed with the IRS to form a 527 political organization that can raise unlimited funds from groups and individual donors. The stated purpose of his 527 group, which is exempt from taxes, is for a “municipal election campaign.”
Kihuen, once a Harry Reid prodigy, has been rumored since the spring to be mounting a run for retiring Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Coffin’s seat.
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Kihuen has not officially announced a run for the seat. His office could not immediately be reached for comment on the 527 organization filing.
Kihuen’s bright future in Congress quickly dimmed just halfway into his first term in office after reports surfaced that he had repeatedly harassed women who worked for his campaign.
A House Ethics Committee report released last month found that Kihuen harassed women who worked with him and violated the House’s official code of conduct.
“Kihuen made persistent and unwanted advances towards women who were required to interact with him as part of their professional responsibilities,” the report said. The advances included kissing, grabbing and comments about underwear.
The release came after a nine-month inquiry by an investigative subcommittee impaneled Dec. 2017.
Kihuen apologized for his past actions around the time of the initial media reports and announced he would not run for re-election.
“After much reflection and introspection, I recognize that regardless of the fact that I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable or disrespected, what matters is how my actions were perceived by the women who came forward,” he said. “It saddens me greatly to think I made any woman feel that way due to my own immaturity and overconfidence. I extend my sincere apologies to each of these women.”
Katherine Tully-McManus contributed to this report
Senate Armed Services Chairman James Inhofe has ditched a stock purchase in one of the Pentagon’s leading defense contractors amid pressure from a news organization that was preparing a report on the connection between his official duties and personal finances.
Inhofe’s office distanced the senator from his personal finances, saying in a statement that all of his financial transactions are handled by a third-party adviser.
The Daily Beast first reported this story.
The Oklahoma Republican has long been a proponent of increasing military spending. Last week, he successfully lobbied Defense Secretary James Mattis and President Donald Trump to ask for a record $750 billion in defense spending from Congress for Fiscal Year 2020. Trump had previously sought cuts to the defense budget, which is currently $717 billion.
News outlets reported that budget request Sunday. Two days later, Inhofe’s financial adviser reported to a public Senate database that he had invested $50,000 to $100,000 of the senator’s money in Raytheon, the third-highest paid defense contractor by the U.S. government.
Raytheon’s contract with the Pentagon tops $10 billion. The company builds high-precision missiles and other heavy munitions for the U.S. military.
When the Daily Beast inquired about Inhofe’s new stock in Raytheon, his office said the senator told his financial adviser to cancel the transaction and avoid future stock purchases in defense and aerospace companies.
He did not know about the Raytheon stock purchase until Wednesday morning, his office said.
“The senator has had no involvement in and has not been consulted about his stock transactions,” said Leacy Burke, his communications director. “As such, the Senator was not aware of this stock purchase until it came through the system very early [Wednesday] morning.”
Inhofe called his adviser to reverse, or “bust,” the transaction before it was actually settled, meaning the senator “never took ownership of it,” Burke said.
Inhofe also sent a letter to his financial adviser thanking him for his service but instructing him not to invest his money in aerospace and defense companies.
“Four years? No, I don’t think that’s a lame duck, no,” the California Democrat said Thursday when asked if she felt she has made herself one by agreeing to the term limit.
Pelosi had previously refused to provide an end date on her tenure as Democratic leader for fear that she’d be weakening her negotiating stance.
But on Wednesday she agreed to a three- to four-term limit for senior Democratic leadership proposed by Democrats who had been opposing her speaker bid in exchange for their support. She told reporters Thursday that she’s “comfortable” with it limiting her time with the gavel to four more years. (The four years Pelosi already served as speaker from 2007 through 2010 counts toward the limit.)
“That’s a long time,” the 78-year-old said. “I was saying one term, was what I was saying. They were saying six months, to begin with. I feel very comfortable about what they are proposing. And I feel very responsible to do that, whether it passes or not.”
Asked if her assertion that she didn't want to limit herself to one more term as speaker meant she'd run for another in 2020, Pelosi declined to answer.
“I’m going to be speaker,” she said. “I’m going to do what we do. And there are a lot more important things around here than what my intentions are as we go forward.”
If Pelosi should run for speaker again in 2020 (assuming Democrats retain the majority) she’ll need approval of two-thirds of the Democratic caucus, under the agreement she reached with her former opponents. She surpassed that threshold running unopposed during the caucus election this year, and also got two-thirds support when she had a challenger for minority leader in 2016.
The deal is expected to provide Pelosi enough votes to be elected speaker during a Jan. 3 floor vote, even though there are 15 Democrats who are still publicly opposing her.
Rep. Cheri Bustos, the new Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairwoman, announced her senior staff hires for the 2020 cycle Thursday. Her campaign manager Allison Jaslow will be the committee’s executive director.
The DCCC is shifting to defense in 2020 after flipping 40 seats to take over the House. The committee will be tasked with protecting vulnerable new members, including 31 Democrats running for re-election in districts President Donald Trump won in 2016.
Bustos, whose northern Illinois district Trump won by less than 1 point in 2016, has billed herself as a Democrat who knows how to win over Trump supporters.
She is bringing over veterans of her own team, including Jaslow, to the DCCC. She is also elevating staffers from the successful 2018 committee, including two African-American staffers who were key to the committee’s diversity and digital efforts.
Watch: Border Wall Meeting Gets Hectic Between Trump, Schumer, Pelosi
“America’s strength has always come from our diversity,” Bustos said. “That’s why I’m committed to building a leadership team that reflects the tremendous diversity of our House Democrats and our nation.”
Both House campaign committees will now have women executive directors. Jaslow’s counterpart at the National Republican Congressional Committee will be Parker Hamilton Poling, who has served as chief of staff for North Carolina GOP Rep. Patrick McHenry.
Jaslow is an Iraq War veteran who managed Bustos’ first campaign in 2012 when she unseated Illinois GOP Rep. Bobby Schilling. She worked as Bustos’ first chief of staff and was recently the head of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
In a statement announcing the senior staff, Bustos credited Jaslow with helping her secure a swing seat. Bustos won re-election in 2018 by 24 points against a Republican opponent with minimal campaign funds.
Bustos is also bringing her deputy chief of staff and spokesman Jared Smith to the DCCC, where he will serve as the committee’s communications director. Smith assisted Bustos’ work on the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.
Two DCCC staffers from the 2018 team will also be promoted. Jalisa Washington-Price, who directed the DCCC’s Office of Diversity in 2018, will be the new chief of staff. She also helped manage the committee’s $30 million “Year of Engagement” effort to connect with minority voters.
Ryan Thompson will serve as the DCCC’s next digital director after serving as the deputy director in 2018. He was also a leader in the “Year of Engagement” effort. According to the press announcement, Thompson oversaw a $15 million budget to build the committee’s email list, which in turn raised $106 million for the DCCC in the 2018 cycle.
“The DCCC did amazing work in 2018 to win 40 seats,” Bustos said in a statement. “Our challenge is to build on that progress, to fortify and expand our majority.”