Eager for a win after his controversial summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump on Wednesday took credit for an incumbent Republican’s primary victory.
Her victory came after she initially clashed with the GOP president. For instance, in 2016 she announced she would not vote for candidate Trump after a video surfaced of him bragging about grabbing women by the genitals.
But the two sides worked to improve relations, and Trump eventually endorsed her in the GOP primary runoff race against former Rep. Bobby Bright, a Democrat-turned-Republican in the Yellowhammer State.
To be sure, Roby had plenty of help from outside groups to defeat Bright. That list included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Winning for Women, a group backing Republican female candidates. But, according to Trump, it was his endorsement that propelled her to victory.
“My endorsement came appropriately late, but when it came the ‘flood gates’ opened and you had the kind of landslide victory that you deserve,” Trump wrote Wednesday. “Enjoy!”
Congratulations to Martha Roby of The Great State of Alabama on her big GOP Primary win for Congress. My endorsement came appropriately late, but when it came the “flood gates” opened and you had the kind of landslide victory that you deserve. Enjoy!
Roby will be a big favorite against Democratic business analyst Tabitha Isner in November’s general election. Trump carried the 2nd District, which stretches from the Montgomery metropolitan area to southeastern Alabama’s wiregrass region, by 32 points in 2016.
— Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.
Democratic senators gearing up for competitive re-elections tend to have whiter staffs, according to a Roll Call analysis of data released by Senate Democrats.
Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, who finds himself in a race rated Tilts Democratic by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales, has a staff that is 93 percent white. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III, also in a Tilts Democratic contest, was just behind him, at 92 percent.
Those numbers mirror the demographics of their home states, where 86 percent and 92 percent of people, respectively, are white.
This trend is not necessarily caused by the political leanings of the state. Several factors affect senators’ hiring decisions. A stronger link, for example, exists between the racial makeup of a senator’s home state and the diversity on his or her staff.
The Pine Tree State has the whitest population of any state — 93 percent, according to Census Bureau estimates from 2016.
Diversity in King’s office has decreased since last year, when he had 11 percent of his staffers were non-Caucasian.
Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz has the most diverse office in the Senate Democratic Conference.
Non-Caucasians make up 72 percent of his staffers. His office’s diversity comes mainly from Asian or Pacific Islander staffers, who account for 59 percent.
Schatz also had the most non-Caucasian staffers in 2017, with 66 percent.
There are some notable outliers, though. Not all Senate staffs closely align with the demographics of their state.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who faces a fellow Democrat in November in her bid for a fifth term, has a staff that is 32 percent non-Caucasian — slightly lower than the average for the conference. That’s despite the fact that Feinstein represents one of the least white states in the country.
California’s junior senator, Kamala Harris, by contrast, has the second least Caucasian office among Senate Democrats, with a 66 percent nonwhite staff. Her office is diverse across the board at 26 percent Latino, 26 percent black or African-American, 14 percent Asian or Pacific Islander and 3 percent Native American, Native Hawaiian or Alaska Native.
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker goes against the trend in the opposite way: His staff is less white than those of other senators from states with similar diversity levels. He has the third-most nonwhite staff, with 63 percent.
Last year, Tester had the least diverse office, with 93 percent white staffers, and Manchin was second-least diverse, with 91 percent.
Sens. Chris Van Hollen of Connecticut and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire are tied for the most female staffers this year, both at 67 percent, according to the data collected through the Senate Democrats’ Diversity Initiative. Both senators have increased their numbers since 2017, when Van Hollen had 64 percent female staffers and Hassan had 55 percent.
Last year, New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez had the most male staffers at 60 percent. This year, no Democratic Senate office cracked that number.
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While some offices may seem to be lagging behind when it comes to diversity, publicly releasing this data is considered a breakthrough in Congress. There is no rule that mandates congressional offices to provide data on the racial and ethnic makeup of its staff for the public record.
Lorenzo Olvera, the Diversity Initiative director who reports to Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, first collected the data last year. He and his team, which includes a deputy director, research aide and interns, sent out a voluntary survey, which the full conference agreed to complete.
The initiative dates back to 2007, but the data collection and establishment of the so-called Rooney Rule — encouraging offices to consider at least one minority candidate when interviewing for an open position, just as the NFL does in filling coaching vacancies — was a Schumer mandate.
Staffers of Middle Eastern or North African origin are the least represented demographic among Senate Democratic offices, according to the data. Twenty-four of the 49 offices have no Middle Eastern staffers.
Twenty-three offices have no Native American, Native Hawaiian or Alaska Native staffers — all of whom the data reports in one group.
The Hawaiian senators — Schatz and Mazie Hirono — have the most from this group on staff, with 15 percent and 13 percent, respectively. No other office breaks 10 percent.
Lawmakers and media personalities from both parties roundly criticized President Donald Trump’s performance at a joint press conference Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But some House conservatives, who remained mostly silent immediately after that meeting, have managed to extract at least one silver lining from the Helsinki summit: At least there was one.
“The good news is there was a summit,” Rep. Warren Davidson of Ohio said Tuesday at a panel on Capitol Hill with other House Republicans, including members of the hard-line conservative Freedom Caucus.
Davidson emphasized that Trump’s meeting with Putin “is consistent with efforts under George W. Bush and Barack Obama” to engage the mercurial Russian leader one-on-one and build a working relationship with him.
“Putin’s been in power for a long time in Russia, and … he’s been an adversary of the United States that entire time,” Davidson said. “I think it was good for the president to be engaged in diplomacy.”
The Republicans on the panel attempted to minimize the importance of the Trump-Putin press conference, which current and former GOP lawmakers have variously referred to as “shameful,” “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory,” and “the most serious mistake of his presidency.”
Watch: Next to Putin, Trump Defies U.S. Intel on Russian Election Interference
Despite numerous prompts from reporters, none of the GOP panelists could bring themselves to criticize Trump for his comments refuting the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia engaged in an extensive influence campaign in the 2016 election and siding with Putin as the Russian president denied that the Kremlin issued any such directives.
“I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia that hacked the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2016, Trump said, standing mere feet from Putin.
But the House Republicans on the panel didn’t exactly give Trump’s performance at the press conference a resounding endorsement either.
“I think anyone who watched that press conference, including the president himself, would say that was not his finest hour,” Davidson said. “I don’t think anyone in the Freedom Caucus is going to say, ‘Hey, we thought that was an amazing press conference.’”
“But we support the fact that the president was there on the stage having the press conference and having the dialogue,” the congressman added. “He’s brought us to the point where we have a chance to make this a better path.”
House conservatives urged reporters to look beyond Trump’s press conference and highlight what they see as the president’s foreign policy wins in the U.S.-Russia sphere: negotiating a joint pullout of operations in Syria once the Islamic State militants have been eradicated there; imposing sanctions on Russian oligarchs connected to Putin; and ousting 60 Russian officials in the wake of a nerve agent attack against a double agent and his daughter in the United Kingdom.
“There’s times when foreign policy sounds bad and works good and there are times when it sounds good and works poorly,” Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows of North Carolina said. “I’d rather have the first than the latter.”
House conservatives, unlike some of the more moderate members of their conference and the Democrats, do not think Trump has fallen for Putin’s sway of personality, despite his apparent affinity for the Russian president.
“This president is great at reading people — he knows that Mr. Putin is not a choir boy,” South Carolina Rep. Ralph Norman said. “[Putin] will do whatever he can to advance Russia.”
Trump met Tuesday with a handful of House Republicans to talk about taxes, but he was expected to address his time in Helsinki as well.
House Republican leaders have scheduled a Thursday vote on an anti-carbon tax resolution in hopes of putting vulnerable Democrats on record in favor of the tax, but they’re going to put some of their own members in a tough spot too.
“I’m voting against that,” Florida GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo, said of the resolution, which expresses the sense of Congress that “a carbon tax would be detrimental to American families and businesses, and is not in the best interest of the United States.”
Roll Call includes Curbelo on its list of the 10 most vulnerable House Republicans. Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales rates his race Tilt Republican.
Curbelo has drafted legislation he plans to introduce soon that would halt federal regulations on climate change in exchange for an escalating tax on carbon emissions, according to E&E News.
Whether Curbelo will be the lone Republican “no” vote on Thursday remains to be seen, but he’s hoping that other members of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus he co-chairs with Florida Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch vote against the anti-carbon tax resolution too.
The Climate Solution Caucus has 84 members, evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. The group’s mission is to “educate members on economically-viable options to reduce climate risk and to explore bipartisan policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of our changing climate.”
Deutch issued a statement Tuesday urging the caucus to vote against the resolution, which is authored by Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana. “This is an important moment for the Climate Solutions Caucus to show the American people that Democrats and Republicans can stand together against anti-climate efforts,” he said. “It is the very mission of the caucus to explore all viable options to address the growing threat of climate change.”
Deutch also took a dig at Scalise, saying, “When a climate denier who represents the oil industry tries to squash even a discussion about a possible strategy for curbing emissions, my caucus colleagues must rise above politics and do what’s right.”
The Climate Solutions Caucus is unlikely to be united in support of a carbon tax. Most House Republicans have taken pledges upon being elected to Congress promising not to impose new taxes.
Scalise admitted Tuesday that the point of the vote was to have everyone on record on the issue.
“There are still people talking about trying to impose a carbon tax, which would be devastating to our manufacturing economy, one of the great bright spots we see in our economy, where we’re bringing jobs back to America, rebuilding our middle class,” he said. “A carbon tax would destroy that.”
The chairman of the House Agriculture Committee said Tuesday that public pressure in support of expanded work requirements for food stamp recipients could help move Senate negotiators on the 2018 farm bill toward accepting the House legislation.
“I need 70 percent of Democrats in this world who believe work requirements are a proper thing and 90 percent of Republicans in this world who believe work requirements are a proper thing to tell their senator, ‘Hey, that work requirement makes a lot of sense,’” Agriculture Chairman K. Michael Conaway told the audience at an Axios forum.
The Texas Republican said he is ready to go to conference on the farm bill with the Senate soon. The schedule for voting on a motion to go to conference is shifting, he said, because ranking member Collin C. Peterson has to be in his district on Thursday. The vote could take place Wednesday or be delayed until July 23, Conaway said.
The vote on the motion would be to reject Senate changes to the House bill and request negotiations to develop a compromise bill. The goal is to produce a final bill that sets policies for farm, conservation, crop insurance, rural development and other programs before the current farm law expires Sept. 30.
Once the House votes to start negotiations, Conaway said the Senate is expected to respond quickly and agree to the motion. Each chamber would then name conferees, but Conaway, Peterson and their Senate counterparts, Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts and ranking member Debbie Stabenow, are expected to be the primary negotiators.
The Senate version of the farm bill, however, does not include new work requirements. Many states already have work requirements, Roberts and Stabenow said during a CQ on Congress podcast last week.
“The House bill takes $8 billion and sends it to the states,” Roberts said. “I don’t know who is going to implement this. I don’t know who in the Department of Agriculture has the capability to send that money out to states. ... Who is going to conduct the job training?”
In light of the ongoing trade disputes that are threatening U.S. exports, a new farm bill would provide anxious farmers and ranchers with a safety net, Roberts added. “Any other issue that comes up ... that has to come secondary to our overall mission, which is again to provide our farmers predictability and certainty.”
Roberts and Conaway agree that getting the farm bill done by September is important to provide a sense of stability to farmers.
The most sharply contested difference between the House and Senate farm bill versions is the treatment of work requirements under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program.
In the CQ on Congress podcast interview, Roberts and Stabenow said they believe they have found a pragmatic and workable approach to SNAP.
The Senate bill keeps the current 20-hour work requirements for able-bodied adults and would incorporate findings from 10 state demonstration projects that are trying to incorporate work and education requirements for working-age adults. The bill would fund an additional eight state pilot projects that focus on SNAP recipients with problems finding work.
The legislation would make it easier for state agencies to work with the private sector in training SNAP recipients for jobs. It would also end a bonus program that rewarded states with low error rates in benefit payments because of Justice Department concerns that several states manipulated data to collect rewards.
The House bill would expand work requirements to able-bodied adults ages 18 to 59 so that they keep their food benefits, requiring at least 20 hours a week of work that would be increased to 25 hours a week. The legislation also would tighten eligibility requirements, change the way monthly benefits are calculated and shift billions of dollars from food benefits into funding for state SNAP job-training and education programs.
What’s the quickest way to find out whether the House is in session? What committee hearings are scheduled? The name of a district’s congressional representative?
Soon, you might be able to ask Alexa.
A project in the House Clerk’s office would make it as easy to get information about Congress from a voice-activated smart speaker as it is to ask about the weather.
“This data should be usable and user-friendly,” said Sean Conaghan, a clerk’s office employee who demonstrated a pilot program Thursday at a conference devoted to data transparency in Congress.
The clerk’s office already stockpiles information on the internet, but much of it is in formats like JSON and XML that are not in general use. “We were thinking, how could we make this more publicly available and of more interest to the public?” he said.
Also watch: Trump Says He ‘Misspoke’ on Russian Election Meddling
Conaghan said the project started as a joke among colleagues. Wouldn’t it be great, they thought, if they could find out whether they could wear jeans to work — frowned upon when Congress is in session — as they hit their snooze buttons in the morning.
Turns out, a lot of people thought the same thing. A version he and his co-workers created as an internal team-building exercise has sparked interest among other offices, bringing with it the possibility that the project might expand and eventually be introduced to the public on an array of platforms including the popular Amazon service, he said.
Conaghan demonstrated the potential from the podium.
He asked his device, “Alexa, ask US House, is the House in session today.” The anodyne, female voice responded: “the House is currently in session. The last action is, the speaker announced that the House will now recess.” And the crowd of about 100 burst into enthusiastic applause.
Granted, these were people who had signed up for eight hours of presentations about “how agencies use technology well and how they can use it better in the future.”
But Conaghan said he was soliciting ideas for features that would make the program useful for a wider audience.
Such an embrace of new technology would be unusual on the Hill, but it’s not unheard of. Another decision in the House — the post-9-11 distribution of BlackBerries to all member offices — is widely considered to have sparked the smartphone revolution in Washington.
Whether the Alexa project will become such a game-changer remains to be seen, but there is a clear market. More than 43 million people in the United States own a smart speaker, according to NPR’s smart audio report—a count that may soon eclipse the number of people who could name their local representative.
House Republicans have abandoned a plan to vote on a Democrat-sponsored bill to terminate the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency after the bill’s authors said they and their colleagues would vote against it.
But GOP leaders are still planning to hold a vote on a resolution by Louisiana GOP Rep. Clay Higgins expressing the House’s support for all ICE officers and personnel and denouncing calls to completely abolish the agency.
The vote on Higgin’s resolution will occur Wednesday, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said. It will be brought up under an expedited procedure known as suspension of the rules, which requires two-thirds support for passage.
The other bill Republicans had been planning a vote on would have terminated ICE within a year of Congress enacting “a humane immigration enforcement system” to be designed by a commission the legislation would establish. The measure was introduced Thursday by Progressive Caucus Co-chair Mark Pocan and members Pramila Jayapal and Adriano Espaillat.
McCarthy said “it was very shocking” they would introduce a bill and then turn around and say they’d vote against it after he offered to bring it to the floor for debate.
Pocan, Jayapal and Espaillat had said they’d vote against their bill because Republicans were going to bring it up for political messaging purposes, not actually with intentions to pass it. They said they stood by the policy.
McCarthy suggested that Higgins’ resolution accomplishes the same goal in putting Democrats on record on whether they want to abolish ICE.
Speaking minutes before McCarthy, Majority Whip Steve Scalise said he wasn’t sure what had been decided or scheduled regarding the two ICE measures but that he supported putting Democrats on record on the matter.
“I know there is a lot of concern about what the Democrats are saying about their interest in abolishing ICE,” the Louisiana Republican said. “I think it’s a radical idea. It seems like they’re having an internal fight over where they really stand on it.”
Asked if Democrats saying they wouldn’t vote against their own bill was a reason not to vote on that one, Scalise said, “It’s one thing for them to say that, but to vote against your own bill on the House floor looks like you’re just playing political games with our national security. And I don’t think that’s a responsible place to be.”
In a sign that the ICE messaging votes were still fluid, McCarthy had not mentioned either on his weekly schedule released Friday evening.
A GOP aide said discussion had continued into the weekend and a final decision on scheduling was made Monday.
But GOP leaders had been monitoring the abolish ICE movement for weeks. McCarthy had brought it up during a GOP conference weeks ago as something they should keep an eye on and during last week’s conference meeting floated the idea of a floor vote.
When the Progressive Caucus members released their bill Thursday, Scalise brought up the idea of voting on that specific bill in various meetings held that day.
Later Thursday McCarthy told reporters that the House would have a debate on the Democrats’ bill before the August recess.
Democrats reacted quickly to that news saying they would vote against the bill and turn the debate into a discussion on family separations at the border and lack of legislation to permanently address that.
Watch: Pence: Democratic Leaders Must Stop ‘Spurious’ Calls to Abolish ICE
Some rank-and-file Republicans had questioned the wisdom of holding the messaging votes on ICE, particularly after Democrats said they’d vote against their bill. But others felt it still would have been useful to have Democrats on record voting against a measure they introduced.
It was a busy couple of days on Capitol Hill this week, with the blitz to get to know Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in full swing, plus a House hearing on the 2016 texts of embattled FBI agent Peter Strzok and Speaker Paul D. Ryan talking about his car getting eaten by woodchucks.
Thumbnail photo: Speaker Paul D. Ryan talks with staff as he walks to his weekly press conference in the Capitol on Thursday, July 12, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)