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Gonzales

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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s national profile is on the rise as an outspoken advocate for the state’s legal battle against President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration.

Inslee, along with the state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, has done a few victory laps after the state’s wins in a lawsuit to block Trump’s order on halting travel from seven Muslim-majority countries in early February.

“He got thumped,” Inslee, a former congressman, told CNN on Feb. 9, responding to Trump’s immediate tweet to appeal.

“SEE YOU IN COURT,” Trump tweeted.

“We just saw him in court. He lost,” Inslee retorted on MSNBC the same day.

The Democratic governor’s pushback to Trump and advocacy for refugees have resonated, and some are going as far to include him in the 2020 presidential mix.

“I love this job. It’s really not in the stars. I am focused on this,” Inslee said in an interview with the Seattle Times, dismissing such thoughts.

But presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, told the newspaper that he has thought for a while Inslee could prove “the ideal Democratic nominee” in 2020.

“Optimism is the great oxygen in American politics,” Brinkley said, arguing that the governor has a sunny and approachable style that could play well in the age of Trump.

But the Pacific Northwest has never produced a president, possibly the result of the political culture in the region, Margaret O’Mara, a history professor at the University of Washington, told the newspaper.

“It kind of goes against the grain of the way Washington state political culture works… it tends to be about collaboration,” O’Mara said.

Inslee, 66, won his second term in November with 54 percent of the vote over Republican Bill Bryant.

In 2018, Inslee will chair the Democratic Governors Association, for which he now serves as vice chairman now, which will give him the opportunity to meet with prominent Democrats and donors around the country.

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Opinion

Capitol Ink | Age-Old Question

By Robert Matson
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Late nights are part of working on Capitol Hill, especially in the 115th Congress.

Just more than a month into this Congress, 66 percent of self-identified staffers say they’re going to bed later than they were last session and 57 percent said they’re waking up earlier.

Of the 100 respondents to Heard on the Hill’s Survey Monkey poll, conducted from Feb. 8-13, seven said they are getting only four hours of sleep a night while one said two hours.

The most common answers were five to six hours, while one fortunate responder said he or she got nine hours of sleep a night.

Eight respondents said they are working about 10 more hours a week than they were working in the 114th Congress. One said 12 more hours, three said 15 more hours, one said 20 more hours and one said 30 more hours.

On a daily basis, the two highest answers were five and four hours more a day than last Congress.

Others said they worked the same amount as last Congress or roughly the same.

Occupations differed among the respondents: 21 percent worked for a Senate Democrat, 10 percent worked for a Senate Republican, 17 percent worked for a House Democrat and 23 percent worked for a House Republican.

Others said they worked for the Senate sergeant-at-arms, the Senate Disbursing Office, the secretary of the Senate, a House committee or on the Senate floor. One had a nonpartisan Hill job and one had a nonpartisan Senate job.

Twenty percent said they would rather not say where they worked.

Answers varied when asked if their bosses are working longer hours than the last Congress. Dozens said no or not sure, one said his or her boss worked 24 hour day, and one made reference to the overnight speeches in the Senate.

One outlier response: “My boss doesn’t do anything.”

Last week, while voting on President Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks, especially the controversial Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Democrats spoke in protest throughout the night and Republicans scheduled votes for the middle of the night or early morning.

The survey was released through Twitter the morning after Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren was shut down by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell while speaking on the floor about the Sessions nomination.

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Lawmakers looking to draw attention to pet issues have formed groups in favor of everything from auto care to zoos. Now, there’s a caucus for cannabis.

Rep. Earl Bluemenauer said the move — to be announced at a press conference Thursday — is a sign of how mainstream the drive for marijuana legalization has become.

“This is happening all across the country, and its going to continue,” said the Oregon Democrat, an advocate for legalized marijuana since the 1970s. “The industry is growing, as is public acceptance and demand for medical marijuana.”

Blumenauer is one of the caucus’s founding members, along with California Republican Dana Rohrabacher, Colorado Democrat Jared Polis and Alaska Republican Don Young.

A wave of states approved recreational marijuana in November, a seeming boon for the argument that federal laws and regulations need to be revised to keep up.

But it remains to be seen whether new Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime foe of legalized marijuana, will roll back Obama-era policies that have allowed pot businesses to flourish in states where it is legal.

The marijuana industry brought in $6.7 billion in legal sales in the U.S. last year. That figure is expected to grow after eight states — including the economic bellwether of California — passed marijuana-related referendums in November.

With that election, a total of eight states and the District of Columbia have now legalized recreational use of the drug and 28 states have legalized medical marijuana.

“This is a huge deal for my constituents,” said Polis, whose state collects tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue and fees from legal marijuana sales every year.

But some state-level officials have cautioned regulators and business owners that they have no way of knowing what the future of the industry will be under the Trump administration.

In California, for example, a state analyst warned lawmakers this week not to invest too much money into a new system to regulate medical and recreational sales because there could be a federal crackdown, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Under President Barack Obama, the Justice Department declined to interfere with states that had legalized marijuana, even though federal law defines it as an illegal drug.

Rohrabacher said he doubted the new administration would target medical use, which has mainstream support, but recreational use could be vulnerable. A poll published in June by Quinniapiac University found that 89 percent of respondents supported medical use, while 54 percent supported legal recreational marijuana.

“There are some areas that we need to focus on and make sure the Trump administration doesn’t go wholeheartedly in the wrong direction,” Rohrabacher said.

He and other members of the caucus pointed out that Trump said during his campaign that states should be allowed to make their own laws regarding marijuana use.

Congress passed a spending bill in 2014 that prohibits the Justice Department from using federal money to prosecute medical marijuana businesses in states where it is legal. That prohibition, co-sponsored by Rohrabacher, must be reapproved every fiscal year.

One opponent of marijuana legalization, though, questioned the need for a cannabis caucus.

Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana and a former White House adviser, pointed to records that showed the caucus members had taken donations from pot lobbyists, the Marijuana Policy Project and the National Cannabis Industry Association.

“So it’s not surprising they are forming a group to please their donors,” he said.

The cannabis caucus will focus initially on increasing medical research and revising banking and tax regulations that impede legal marijuana businesses, Blumenauer said. Measures that would address each of those issues have received broad support in both the House and the Senate in previous Congresses.

“These are things that aren’t strictly partisan,” Blumenauer said.

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Roll Call’s Black History Month series talks with lawmakers and Hill figures to explore the intersection of black history and life in Congress and the Capitol building itself.

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