As the August recess nears, candidates and maybe-candidates are making decisions that set the stage for both upcoming special elections and the 2018 midterms.
Indiana Rep. Luke Messer announced on Wednesday he’s running for Senate.
In declaring his bid to challenge vulnerable Democratic incumbent Joe Donnelly, the third-term Republican congressman tweeted, “We’re in!!” with a link to his new campaign site just before noon.
Messer, who represents the 6th District, had been widely expected to run for Senate for months. Until he wasn’t.
In recent weeks, rumors have been flying about Messer, a member of House GOP leadership, getting cold feet. Much of that chatter first originated from allies of fellow Hoosier Rep. Todd Rokita of the 4th District, who’s also expected to run for the GOP nod.
A primary between these two Wabash College alumni has been among the worst kept campaign secrets in Washington this year, with both maintaining congressional re-election organizations that have been openly gearing up for Senate bids.
Other Republicans still considering entering the race include Attorney General Curtis Hill, state Rep. Mike Braun and state Sen. Mike Delph.
— Simone Pathé
McConnell “is a swamp critter,” Brooks told reporters at an event organized by the Heritage Foundation. Instead of “draining the swamp” as President Donald Trump has promised, McConnell is enabling old ways of doing business in Washington, the congressman said.
If elected to the Senate, Brooks said, he would not only vote to replace McConnell as the party’s leader but he would also approve of far-reaching changes in the way the Senate works, including getting rid of the legislative filibuster.
Brooks is among nine Republicans vying in the Aug. 15 GOP primary for the solid red seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he became attorney general.
Sen. Luther Strange, the appointed incumbent, has the backing of McConnell and the Republican Party establishment. A runoff will be held Sept. 26 if no one clears 50 percent of the vote, with the general election on Dec. 12.
— Gopal Ratnam
Former Rep. Cresent Hardy has announced that he will not seek elected office in 2018.
The Nevada Republican said in a statement Tuesday that he would “continue to spend some much-needed time with my wife, children and grandchildren,” the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
“After having prayed over this issue, and discussed it with my family, I have made the decision that I will not be a candidate for office in 2018,” he said.
Hardy represented Nevada’s 4th District for a single term before losing to Democrat Ruben Kihuen last fall.
Hardy had been considering a comeback in the Silver State’s 3rd District where freshman Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen is vacating her seat to run for Senate.
— Eric Garcia
The 1st District Democratic congresswoman is mulling a run against the vulnerable Republican, but would have to first face off against Rep. Jacky Rosen of the 3rd District in a primary.
Heller led Titus 47 percent to 45 percent, within the poll’s 4-point margin of error, the Las Vegas Review-Journal first reported. Titus’ campaign paid Anzalone Liszt Grove Research to conduct the survey of 600 likely voters in June.
Rosen, who formally announced her challenge to Heller earlier this month, is backed by former Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid.
Titus said she would make a decision “after spending time in the district during the month of August.”
— Kyle Stewart
The House on Wednesday night rejected, 116-309, an amendment that would have eliminated one-third of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
The amendment, offered by Virginia Republican Morgan Griffith to the four-bill appropriations minibus the House is currently debating, would have abolished CBO’s 89-employee budget analysis division and saved a total of $15 million in salaries. Roughly half of Republicans joined Democrats in voting down the amendment.
House Freedom Caucus leaders designed the amendment to have CBO cut down on in-house staff and aggregate analyses from outside groups.
North Carolina Republican Mark Meadows, chairman of the conservative caucus, told Roll Call on Tuesday that he did not expect the amendment to pass but that he hoped it would highlight the need for CBO to update its scoring methodology.
“It wasn’t as much the negative scores as it was CBO’s reluctance to change their erroneous forecasts from previous years and correct the assumptions that they’ve made,” he said.
Griffith said in a floor speech on his amendment that CBO scored his amendment and estimated it would have no net effect on budgetary authority or outlays. He questioned how the elimination of 89 employees with aggregate salaries of $15 million would have no budgetary effect.
“I don’t think any of us believe that,” he said. “So here’s the conundrum that my friends have on the other side of this issue: A ‘yes’ vote means that you agree with me that something needs to be reformed at CBO. A ‘no’ vote means that you agree with CBO’s assessment that this amendment abolishing 89 employees will have no effect. Therefore I would submit to you that the CBO in effect has determined that their budget analysis division has no value.”
The amendment was also significant because it was House Republicans’ first attempt to use the Holman rule, which allows members to offer amendments to appropriations bills designed to reduce the scope and size of government. The rule had not been used in decades but Republicans decided to reinstate it on a one-year trial basis, incorporating it into the House rules package adopted at the beginning of the year.
Because the House may not consider amendments to another appropriations bill this year, the Griffith amendment may have been Republicans only shot at using the Holman rule. The CBO amendment is likely to be used by critics of the Holman rule as a reason it should not be renewed on a permanent basis.
“This is exactly what we worried about when Republicans reinstated this arcane rule in January,” Democrats who represent federal government employees said in a joint statement. “The Holman Rule empowers members of Congress to target individual federal employees. The rule is being used to punish an important advisory body for doing its job by providing forecasts which some members now find inconvenient.”
The statement came from Maryland Reps. Steny Hoyer, the House minority whip, Jamie Raskin, John Delaney and Anthony Brown, Virginia Reps. Don Beyer, Gerry Connolly and Bobby Scott, and District of Columbia Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton.
House Democrats also dismissed the amendment as Republicans continuing to attack the CBO because of their frustration with the agency’s analysis of their health care overhaul legislation.
Budget Committee ranking member John Yarmuth said the amendment would destroy an agency that was created to serve as “impartial referee” so Congress would not have to rely on administration analyses of legislation.
“It is beneath the Congress to attack the CBO, which is only doing its job, and it should be embarrassing to my Republican colleagues that they are launching these attacks simply because they do not have the courage to defend the damaging effects of their plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act,” the Kentucky Democrat said in a floor speech during debate on the amendment. “This needs to stop.”
The Blue Dog Coalition, a group of fiscally conservative Democrats, criticized the amendment as a “dangerous” attack on a nonpartisan organization.
“If you find yourself attacking the umpire because you don’t like the balls and strikes that are being called, it’s a sign that you’re losing,” Blue Dog co-chairs Jim Costa of California, Henry Cuellar of Texas and Daniel Lipinski of Illinois said in a statement criticizing the Freedom Caucus leaders who pushed the amendment.
The House also rejected, 107-314, an amendment that would have reduced funding for the CBO by $25 million.
Freedom Caucus member Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who offered the amendment, said it cuts CBO’s funding by “the same amount they were wrong on the enrollment from the ACA from the projection until now, which is 15.4 percent.”
Three top U.S. auditors briefed a House Armed Services panel Tuesday on discomfiting reports of uncontrolled spending in Iraq and Afghanistan. The reports had all been posted online earlier this year. But the effect of presenting them in a single hearing was striking.
First, the Defense Department had spent as much as $28 million since 2008 buying “unnecessary, untested and costly” uniforms for Afghan security forces, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko told the Oversight and Investigations panel.
Four days earlier, Defense Secretary James Mattis had issued a blistering memo on the uniforms audit to officials overseeing Afghan security forces funding. The audit reveals “a complacent mode of thinking” in the acquisition bureaucracy, Mattis wrote. “Cavalier or casually acquiescent decisions to spend taxpayer dollars in an ineffective or wasteful manner are not to recur.”
Secondly, a Pentagon web-based system designed to track shipments of weapons, equipment and vehicles under the Iraq Train and Equip program had “limited visibility and accountability” over them, said Jessica Farb, director of International Affairs and Trade at the Government Accountability Office. America has spent more than $2 billion since fiscal 2015 on that program, she said.
What’s more, the Army 1st Theater Sustainment Command’s oversight of the same program was lacking, said Michael Roark, an assistant inspector general in the Pentagon.
Roark told of more than 13,000 shotguns and rifles worth some $20 million that he said the Army was not adequately tracking and securing in Iraq and Kuwait.
Pentagon officials said at the House hearing that they are addressing the issues. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., the subcommittee chairwoman, said she is “eager to know specifically how to avoid similar missteps in the future.”
Freshman Rep. Ro Khanna, 40, a California Democrat, talks about campaigning for President Barack Obama, getting mentored by former Rep. Tom Lantos, and his grandfather’s role in the independence movement in India.
Q: What has surprised you about Congress so far?
A: I didn’t quite know how the votes work. It reminds me of a school where recess is called or something, the bells go off and then everyone is packed in elevators with 20, 25 people and you scramble to get to the floor. I didn’t have any idea about how the bells would go off — that’s something that was completely new to me. On a more substantive level, I’ve been pleasantly surprised as to how many people will meet with you; interesting thinkers, community leaders. The fact that you’re a member of Congress, a lot of people will meet and share their ideas and that’s been really exciting.
Q: Tell me about your grandfather Amarnath Vidyalankar and the lessons you learned from him.
A: I have such admiration for him. He spent his entire life in the Indian independence movement and then became a part of India’s very first parliament. As a young person, he decided [to] work for someone … who was a freedom fighter, as his aide. Later on, he spent years in jail in the 1940s as part of India’s independence movement with [Mahatma] Gandhi. It showed to me the value of someone who dedicated their life to a political cause, it showed that politics could shape human rights and, in fact, the world. He was a real figure in our family. A lot of people would tell stories about him, stories about his life and I’m sure that had a sense of inspiring my public service.
Q: Tell me about campaigning for former President Barack Obama’s 1996 state Senate campaign in Illinois.
A: I really knocked on doors. I volunteered. It gave me an exposure to politics, it was my first exposure to elected politics and I’m sure it put the seed in my mind that politics is something interesting. I always had a passion for human rights and policy issues because of my grandfather’s story. That was my first experience in sort of elected politics and what that’s like.
Q: In 2004, as a 27-year-old, you challenged former Rep. Tom Lantos in a Democratic primary and lost. He later became your mentor. How did they work out?
A: I ran a protest campaign. It was a two-month effort and it was probably a little bit naive in terms of I certainly wasn’t prepared to be in Congress back then. It was more sort of an expression of my views. Lantos, to his incredible credit, invited me to come to the Capitol afterwards and said, ‘Look, you ran a spirited race but let me tell you, politics is an organic process and you’ve got to really build roots in a community and build roots in a party.’ He introduced me to Nancy Pelosi and I ended up getting involved with helping her in the efforts in 2006 to take back the House and Lantos facilitated, in certain ways, my involvement in the community. He was just a very decent person and I think he was struck by sort of the bravado of someone at 27 challenging him.
Q: As a foodie, do you cook yourself?
A: I’ve got to admit, I try more restaurants than I cook. I used to be able to cook and I still do, sometimes, a quiche, which is my one specialty. I enjoy, as does my wife, different restaurants whether it’s Italian, Indian, Asian fusion, and we’re getting to know now some of the restaurants here.
Last book read: Chris Hayes’ “A Colony in a Nation”
Last movie seen: “Hidden Figures”
Favorite song of all time: “One” by U2.
Role model: I really admire Barack Obama.