Politics

Senate Panel to Consider Rules Change

By Jason Dick
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Vice President Mike Pence will remain in Washington next week to preside over the Senate’s vote on the Republican tax overhaul bill, his chief spokeswoman said, a signal GOP leaders expect to thread the needle.

“Yesterday the White House informed Senate Leadership that due to the historic nature of the vote in the Senate on tax cuts for millions of Americans, the VP would stay to preside over the vote,” Alyssa Farah, Pence’s press secretary, said in a statement. “The Vice President will then travel to Egypt [and] Israel where he’ll reaffirm the United States’ commitment to its allies in the Middle East and to working cooperatively to defeat radicalism.

“He looks forward to having constructive conversations with both [Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and [Egyptian] President [Abdel-Fattah] el-Sisi to reaffirm President Trump’s commitment to our partners in the region and to its future,” she said.

Watch: Schumer Calls on McConnell to Delay Tax Vote Until Jones Is Seated

The questionable attendance of Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Thad Cochran of Mississippi, who both face health complications, raises doubts about whether the GOP will have the requisite votes.

Further complicating matters, at least two GOP senators are not sure bets. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio signaled Wednesday he is not yet ready to support the emerging GOP measure being crafted by a House-Senate conference committee. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker previously voted against the Senate’s version over concerns it would balloon the federal deficit.

If both oppose the conference panel’s compromise bill, Pence’s vote would be needed as the 51st and decisive one.

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Facing renewed allegations of misconduct, Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold will not seek re-election in 2018, according to a source familiar with the situation.

The embattled Republican congressman plans to serve out the rest of his term and is not resigning, the source said.

The House Ethics Committee last week voted to establish a subcommittee to continue investigating allegations of sexual misconduct against the Republican lawmaker.

The Office of Compliance already paid $84,000 to settle claims of harassment that were tied to Farenthold's office. The congressman later said he would would pay the government back the money.

CNN reported Wednesday that a male former senior staffer has approached the Ethics Committee with reports of the congressman being verbally abusive and sexually demeaning.

Fellow Texas Rep. Roger Williamsendorsed one of Farenthold's most prominent primary challengers, former Texas Water Development Board Chairman Bech Bruun, on Wednesday. The filing deadline was Monday, so it's too late for other candidates to get on the ballot.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race for the 27th District Solid Republican.

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One report speculated he would quit after the tax overhaul was signed into law. Another said he was done after the 2018 elections, opting for retirement after 10 terms. For his own part, Speaker Paul D. Ryan says he’s not leaving in the near term. And Donald Trump says he wants the Wisconsin Republican to stick around.

The will-he-or-won’t he game started early on Thursday in the wake of a HuffPost report that stated members were beginning to speculate Ryan would hang it up after the tax bill was done, a long time priority for the former Ways and Means Committee chairman.

“The possibility that Ryan finishes the tax bill and decides he no longer wants to continue in Congress has begun to loom over internal Republican conversations,” HuffPost reported.

That was followed by a Politico story that stated no one could be found who believed Ryan wanted to stick around after the 2018 elections.

“In recent interviews with three dozen people who know the speaker — fellow lawmakers, congressional and administration aides, conservative intellectuals and Republican lobbyists — not a single person believed Ryan will stay in Congress past 2018,” Politico reported.

At Ryan’s Thursday news conference, most of the questions concerned the tax conference committee report, timing and details about an upcoming continuing resolution to fund the government past Dec. 22 and even whether lawmakers should continue sleeping overnight in their offices, which the speaker and a few dozens other lawmakers do.

As Ryan concluded the presser and was leaving, a reporter yelled a question as he left about the rumors of his impending departure.

“I’m not, no,” he said with a chuckle.

Meanwhile, at Thursday’s White House news briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president, whom Ryan has had his differences with dating back to the 2016 presidential campaign, urged the speaker to please stay.

Trump told Ryan if the report of Ryan’s departure was true, he would be “very unhappy,” Sanders said.

“I think it may have caught Speaker Ryan by surprise,” she said.

Kellie Mejdrich and John T. Bennett contributed to this story.

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Sponsored Content: Energy Decoded

By National Biodiesel Board
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — For the first time in more than two decades, Alabamians are sending a Democrat to the Senate.

Doug Jones pulled off a stunning upset, defeating Republican nominee Roy Moore in Tuesday’s special election. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Jones led Moore 50 percent to 49 percent.

“We have come so far and the people of Alabama have spoken,” Jones said at his victory celebration here. “At the end of the day, this campaign has been about dignity and respect.”

He will serve out the remaining term of former GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions, who resigned in February to become attorney general. Jones will be up for re-election again in 2020.

His victory also means Republicans are now reduced to a one-vote majority in the Senate.

President Donald Trump took to Twitter to congratulate Jones on a “hard fought victory.”

“The write-in votes played a very big factor, but a win is a win. The people of Alabama are great, and the Republicans will have another shot at this seat in a very short period of time. It never ends!” the president tweeted.

Moore, meanwhile, refused to concede the election. He told his supporters Tuesday night, “It’s not over,” adding that the race could go to a recount.

The ballroom at the Sheraton hotel here roared when screens showed the race was being called for Jones. Music blared and Jones worked the crowd after his victory speech, with supporters hugging, waving signs and dancing.

According to exit polls, Jones was able to turn out African-American voters and win over more moderate Republicans. Black voters make up 23 percent of registered voters in Alabama, but made up 30 percent of Tuesday’s electorate, according to data from The Washington Post. Seventy-five percent of self-described moderate voters also backed Jones.

After Jones won the primary in August, Democrats thought he could be the right candidate to appeal to moderate Republicans. But they acknowledged they would need a “perfect storm” to win a Senate race in a deep-red state like Alabama.

They got one.

Just over four weeks ago, The Washington Post published a story with four women alleging that Moore, a former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, inappropriately pursued them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. One of them also alleged sexual assault. Five more women have come forward since then, with two of them also alleging assault.

Moore was already unpopular among some Republicans in the state, who were turned off by his controversial rhetoric and high-profile defiance of federal orders.

He was twice ousted from the state bench — first in 2003 for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the courthouse, and again last year for ordering judges not to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision.

But the allegations were the last straw for some Republicans, including a slew of GOP leaders. The state’s senior GOP senator, Richard C. Shelby, went on national television Sunday to reiterate that he could not vote for Moore.

President Donald Trump, who is popular in the state, stood by the former judge, arguing he needed a GOP senator to support his agenda. But his backing was not enough to push Moore over the finish line.

Jones sought to draw a contrast with Moore, emphasizing that he could work across party lines and would be willing to work with all of his constituents.

David Seale, 48, who said he does not align with a particular party but has recently been leaning Democratic, said he liked that Jones was willing to talk about issues and face reporters. (Moore has made few public appearances since the allegations surfaced.)

“He’s a person with credibility and dignity,” Seale said after he emerged from the Jefferson County Courthouse here. “He has a long history for standing up for the right thing.”

One African-American woman who declined to give her name said she supported Jones because he was fair, and she was also impressed with his role in sending members of the Ku Klux Klan to jail.

Jones was a U.S. attorney in the late 1990s when he took on the case of the 1963 bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham that took the lives of four young girls. He convicted two KKK members responsible for the bombing.

As a senator, Jones has promised to work across the aisle.

But he is also likely to be a key vote for Democrats in the Senate. He supports fixing the 2010 health care law, and said he opposes cutting taxes for the wealthy at the expense of lower-income families.

Jones said his victory means Alabamians want to send someone to the Senate who can get things done. He referenced funding the soon-to-expire Children’s Health Insurance Program in his victory speech, which drew loud cheers from the crowd.

Rep. Terri A. Sewell, the lone Democrat in the Alabama delegation, stood onstage with Jones, his family and campaign aides Tuesday night. She had campaigned with the senator-elect throughout the race.

Sewell interjected when Jones during his speech when he referenced going to Washington, repeating a phrase she had used all week.

“Help is on the way!” she said.

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Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday appointed Lt. Gov Tina Smith to fill the Senate seat vacated by outgoing Sen. Al Franken, who has yet to announce his resignation date.

Smith said Wednesday she will run for the remainder of Franken’s term, which is up in 2020. The special election will be held concurrently with next year’s midterms, when Democratic-Farmer-Labor Sen. Amy Klobuchar also faces voters.

“It is up to Minnesotans to decide for themselves who they want to complete Sen. Franken’s term. I will run in that election,” Smith said.

Dayton was under pressure to appoint a woman after Franken resigned amid allegations he inappropriately touched women.

[Ratings Change: Franken Steps Down Amid Allegations, Seat Starts Likely Democratic]

The majority of his Senate Democratic colleagues called on the second-term senator to step aside. In a Dec. 7 speech on the Senate floor, Franken said he’d resign in the coming weeks, but denied some of the allegations against him.

Smith, 59, had never held elected office before Dayton asked her to be his running mate in 2014.

Prior to that, she was his chief of staff. Dayton, himself a former senator, is term-limited. Smith had considered running for the DFL nomination for governor in 2018, but decided against it.

She previously worked as a marketing manager for General Mills. She was also the the vice president for external affairs for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

[From Top Lieutenant to Lt. Governor]

Her political experience predates her tenure as lieutenant governor. She became chief of staff to Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak in 2006. She’s close to former Vice President Walter F. Mondale and managed his brief 2002 Senate campaign.

Republicans have been waiting to see whom Dayton appoints before declaring their interest in the 2018 race, which Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates Likely Democratic. Hillary Clinton won Minnesota by less than 2 points last fall.

Former GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty has said he’s considering the race. Winning re-election in 2006, he was the last Republican to win a statewide election in Minnesota. Former Sen. Norm Coleman, whom Franken unseated in 2008, ruled out a bid last week and has said he’ll be meeting with Pawlenty to talk about Senate service.

[What Happens to Franken’s Seat If He Resigns?]

GOP freshman Rep. Jason Lewis, who was elected to the 2nd District last fall, could take a look at the race. Five-term GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen told Roll Call last week he would not be interested in running in a special election, citing his work on the Ways and Means Committee.

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Politics

Terri Sewell Is Getting Some Help

By Bridget Bowman
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Pfizer
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Doug Jones has largely distanced himself from national Democrats in his campaign for Senate in deep-red Alabama. But three days out from Election Day, he’s brought in some national figures to boost turnout from a key voting bloc — African-American voters.

“I’m here to try and help some folk get woke!” New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, told a crowd of roughly 200 at a rally in Montgomery at Alabama State University.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport,” Booker, who is often referred to as a potential future presidential candidate, reminded the crowd.

Aside from Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who campaigned for Jones in October, the Jones campaign has not called in national Democratic figures to help his campaign after the former U.S. Attorney won the primary.

That could help Jones avoid alienating members of a coalition that he needs to win — which includes Republicans who do not support the GOP nominee, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore.

But Jones also needs to turn out African-American voters, who make up nearly a quarter of registered voters in Alabama and typically support Democrats.

Jones — who prosecuted two Ku Klux Klan members who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963, killing four young girls — has visited African-American churches throughout his campaign. And he has reached out to black voters through targeted mailers and ads.

He was once again at a black church on Saturday, even though snow and ice closed highways early Saturday morning.

Jones addressed the congregation at Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in Selma Saturday afternoon, along with Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell, a Selma native, and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

This church has a special place in civil rights history. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke often here. And it’s where marchers began their trek to Montgomery in 1965, only to be met with violence six blocks away at the Edmund Pettis Bridge.

Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis, who led that march and was beaten by state troopers at the bridge, is expected to join Jones on the campaign trail Sunday.

But Jones said his push was not just aimed at the key voting bloc.

“This is not just a question about African-American voters. This election is about everybody in the state,” Jones said. “So while we are reaching out to the African-American community in Selma, and elsewhere, we’re reaching out with the same messages to everyone else.”

Jones also dismissed a question about whether bringing Democratic leaders from out of state could turn off other voters.

“The people that are going to be coming here today have issues that we have in common with the people of Alabama,” Jones said. “I don’t think you can say that with some of the people that are coming in on the other side.

Jones’ comment appeared to be a veiled reference to the Moore campaign. Moore will host former White House adviser Steve Bannon and Texas GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert at a Monday “Drain the Swamp” rally on the even of the election.

Jones pointed to Patrick’s work on civil rights as a reason he was with the campaign Saturday. And he highlighted Booker’s familial roots in Alabama when introducing the New Jersey Democrat.

“I’m looking at my family tree before I came down to Alabama, and we might be related,” Booker joked with Jones.

Booker did reference Moore when he addressed the crowd. He criticizing Moore, who was twice removed from the state Supreme Court for violating federal orders. Booker and Jones also pointed out Republicans have been critical of Moore, and said Jones is best positioned to work with both parties.

They did not spend much time on the allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore. Nine women have come forward alleging misconduct, including sexual assault, mainly when they were teenagers and Moore was in his thirties.

Jones declined to weigh in about a development Friday where one of Moore’s accusers said she had written notes around a yearbook she signed. The Moore campaign said that admission meant the accuser was not telling the truth.

“Look I’m not dealing with those accusations. That’s his issue, not mine,” Jones said. “So I’ll let them deal with that. What I’m talking about with these folks in here, that never came up. We talked about jobs. We talked about education. We talked about the economy”.

“We’re going to continue to do that right up until the polls close on December the 12th,” Jones said.

Juanda Maxwell, 69 of Selma, is a member of Brown Chapel and was inside when Jones, Patrick and Sewell addressed the congregation. The event was was closed to the press. She estimated 100 people attended.

Maxwell said their central message was to talk about reasons to vote.

“Be positive and give your people something to vote for and not against,” Maxwell said, as water from melting snow dripped from the tree above. “Because if you don’t give them to vote for they may not get out of this weather. We’re not used to this cold.”

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Opinion

Capitol Ink | Tax Cut Christmas

By Robert Matson
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Opinion

Opinion: Where Science Goes, So Goes Our Nation

By Rep. Paul D. Tonko
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Heard on the Hill

The Hottest Holiday Parties on the Hill

By Alex Gangitano
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