The pending fiscal year 2018 spending bill will not address a perceived ban on the federal government conducting research into gun violence, according to congressional aides.
Whether any other gun control measures are added to the spending bill, expected to be released Monday evening, remains an open question. Aides said no final decision has been made yet whether to include Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn’s legislation related to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Advocates have been calling for Congress to act on guns in the aftermath of a high school shooting in Florida that left 17 people dead. Much of the recent advocacy efforts have been led by students, including a national protest last week on the issue.
The so-called “Dickey Amendment,” named for the measure’s original sponsor former Rep. Jay Dickey, R-Ark., has been a top target for Democrats since it was first included in an omnibus bill over a decade ago. Despite the heightened pressure, that measure will not be reversed in the pending fiscal year 2018 spending bill, Democratic and Republican aides said.
Watch: Sights and Sounds from #NationalWalkoutDay Protest on Hill
The original text of the amendment stated no funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” While the CDC has often interpreted that to mean no money can be spent to research gun violence, since that research could then be used for advocacy efforts, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has signaled that is not accurate.
“We’re in the science business and the evidence-generating business,” he recently told the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “So I will have our agencies certainly be working in this field as they do across the broad spectrum of disease control and prevention.”
A spokeswoman later said, “the department is in no way prohibited from the collection, analysis or reporting of public health data related to firearm violence.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised nearly $10.6 million in February.
That’s the most the committee has ever raised during the second month of the year, according to figures obtained first by Roll Call.
The DCCC raised $3.38 million from online donations in February, with an average online gift of $18. So far this cycle, the group has raised more than $50 million online, which includes 300,000 first-time online donors, and a total of $125 million this cycle. It ended February with $49 million in the bank.
“It’s been clear all cycle long that the grassroots are energized and unified around the goal of taking back the House,” DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján said in a statement.
“The DCCC’s historic fundraising combined with incredible candidate fundraising will ensure that Democratic candidates have the resources to tell their powerful stories and connect with voters,” he added.
Democrats need to gain 24 seats to win control of the House in November. (The Associated Press still hasn’t called last week’s special election for Pennsylvania Democrat Conor Lamb in the 18th District, although Democrats have claimed victory.)
The DCCC raised $7.1 million in February 2016, during the height of the presidential contest. This year’s stronger on-year fundraising comes as the fight over control of the House takes center stage, with February marking the final month of fundraising before the first primaries in March. The committee angered some liberal groups with its involvement in the primary for Texas’ 7th District, which was held on March 6.
The DCCC raised $9.35 million in January — less than the $10.1 million the National Republican Congressional Committee raised during the same month.
Watch: Pelosi — Lamb Win in Republican District a ‘Tremendous Victory’
For the second time in less than a year, a shooter took aim at Rep. Barry Loudermilk but missed, the congressman said.
Loudermilk was driving through the North Georgia mountains in September with his wife when they heard a “thump” hit the back of their car, the Georgia Republican told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a recent interview.
“I’d just passed it off as just something falling down in the trunk or [us] just hearing things or a rock hitting the back of the car,” Loudermilk said.
But when Loudermilk and his wife, Desiree, got out of the car later, they discovered a bullet jutting from just above the bumper of the car, which belonged to their daughter.
“The trajectory was directly toward the headrest of the driver,” Loudermilk said, “but the elevation was wrong.”
That piqued the interest of the FBI, he said. The bureau is investigating the shooting, which was not publicly disclosed until Loudermilk’s interview with the AJC.
The FBI confirmed it is investigating the matter, the AJC reported.
It is unclear whether the shooter knew the two-term congressman was driving the car or whether the shot was a one-off occurrence. Federal investigators “believe the car was targeted” because of the elevation of the shot and because no other similar shooting happened that day.
It was the second time in less than four months that Loudermilk survived a shooting attack.
He was on the field in Alexandria, Va., at the GOP Congressional Baseball Game practice in June when a gunman opened fire on dozens of lawmakers and staffers.
He was also on an Amtrak train headed to the GOP Congressional retreat in West Virginia in January when the train struck a truck.
Georgia’s 7th District will have a six-way Democratic primary after a former healthcare professional qualified for the race, according to local news reports Friday.
The seat is currently occupied by fourth-term Republican Robert Woodall and is rated Solid Republican by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales.
The latest candidate to enter the fray, Kathleen Allen, told the Forsyth County News she was inspired to run after hearing an elected official’s take on the affordable care act, an issue she has dealt with professionally. The newspaper did not identify the official.
“I thought this district deserves to be represented by someone who is listening to them and who knows what niche issues in this whole health care package relate to different constituents,” Allen told the newspaper.
Qualifying for the seat wrapped up last week and the field is among the most crowded of any of the state’s U.S. House races, according to the Associated Press.
The district voted 51.1 percent for President Donald Trump in the 2016 election, and 44.8 percent to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. That year, Woodall bested his Democratic opponent, Rashid Malik, with 60.4 percent of the vote.
Allan will join Democrats Carolyn Bourdeaux, David Kim, Ethan Pham, Melissa Davis and Steve Reilly in the May 22 primary. On the Republican side, Woodall will have only one challenger, Shane Hazel. The winners will face each other on Nov. 6.
A second Republican-crafted tax overhaul bill? In a highly competitive midterm election year? President Donald Trump keeps suggesting Republican lawmakers should do just that.
Trump and Republicans late last year relished his lone legislative feat, a tax bill that slashed rates while also opening new Arctic oil drilling and nixing Barack Obama’s individual health insurance requirement. He threw a celebration party with all congressional Republicans on the White House’s South Portico and insisted on signing the bill into law several days early in a hastily arranged Oval Office session.
During public remarks — both at official White House events and campaign rallies — he almost always brings up the tax law. He touted the tax cuts Wednesday during a roundtable with private-sector officials in St. Louis as they gushed about the law’s impacts on them personally, their employees and their businesses. And during a Saturday rally in Pennsylvania for GOP House candidate Rick Saccone, Trump urged the crowd to go vote for him Tuesday because “we need him. We need Republicans. We need the votes. Otherwise, they are going to take away ... your tax cuts.”
At least three times since Feb. 1 — and twice this week alone — the president has suggested Republicans need to team up with him again for “round two” of tax rate cuts and code alterations. He revealed Wednesday that House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady is working with him to write a second measure.
But the president's first comments about a second bill could be viewed as him just ribbing the Texas Republican, whom he has teased about working around the clock to get the GOP tax law crafted and to his desk.
“We’re now going for a phase two. We’re actually going for a phase two,” Trump said Wednesday. “It’s going to be something very special. Kevin Brady’s working on it with me.” He even contended that Democrats will have a “big incentive” to support the second bill.
Trump singled out Brady on Monday during an event at the White House, telling him, “Kevin, are we going for an additional tax cut, I understand?”
“He’s the king of those tax cuts. Yeah, we’re going to do a phase two,” the president said. “I’m hearing that.”
The audience, there to see the president honor the World Series Champion Houston Astros, responded with a collective laugh. A lighthearted Trump smiled, but persisted in a serious tone: “We’re actually very serious about that, Kevin. So it’s good.”
Those predictions of a “phase two” came after Trump went to the GOP policy retreat in West Virginia on Feb. 1 and said this while addressing Brady: “Maybe we’ll do a ‘phase two,’ I don’t know. We’ll do a phase two. Are you ready for that, Kevin? Huh? I think you’re ready. ... We’ll get them even lower.”
Asked just what the president is referring to and whether he was indeed working on a new tax overhaul bill, a White House official replied succinctly: “He was joking.”
But was he?
A Ways and Means spokeswoman referred a reporter to comments Brady made Wednesday on Fox Business. “We are,” he replied when asked if a second tax bill is in the works.
“We think even more can be done,” Brady said. “While the tax cuts for families were longterm, they’re not yet permanent. So we’re going to address issues like that. We’re in discussions with the White House, the president, on this issue.”
Brady and other Republicans dropped an idea earlier this week to include tax code fixes in a coming omnibus spending bill as Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said his caucus would only sign on if they got code changes they want in return.
Further muddying the waters about how serious Trump and Brady are is an audio recording of Trump’s off-the-cuff remarks at a Wednesday evening GOP fundraiser in Missouri that shows how the president often says things in certain terms even when he later admits he was uninformed about the subject matter.
Trump told Republican donors he once told Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Canada enjoys a trade surplus with the United States despite having “no idea” if that was true, according to the Washington Post.
Any Republican-crafted tax measure almost certainly would need special rules to allow it to pass the Senate with 51 votes — and even then it likely would not be a sure thing. And only a budget resolution can unlock those rules, known as “reconciliation.” GOP leaders have shown no inclination to even craft, much less pass, a budget resolution this year, complicating Trump’s idea — serious or not.
Brady would only commit to a timeline of “this year” for rolling out some “new, good ideas.” However, he did not commit to moving a second measure in 2018.
And one GOP source said that is for a good reason.
“I think the president enjoyed the tax reform process and wants more of it,” said one Republican source with knowledge of the situation. “But, of course, we can’t do that this year, and no one on the Hill is considering it at all.”
Watch: Congressional Republicans Had Wonky Plans for the Week. Then Trump Happened
The special election result in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District has rocked the political world on its heels, with Democrat Conor Lamb’s success in the heavily Republican region setting off a fresh round of speculation about the 2018 midterms.
Roll Call Senior Political Reporter Bridget Bowman, who reported from the area recently, was at the Capitol gauging reaction from members of Congress after the latest round of political jousting.
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Armed with a Nokia cellphone and a couple of semesters of graduate school, Dan Sena was ready for battle.
It was 1998, and the future executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was going to be a key cog in his party’s effort to take over a House seat in New Mexico, even though at the time his previous professional highlights included teaching tennis at a country club, washing dishes on his college campus and selling CDs at the Villa Linda Mall.
Then Sena, dressed in a suit and tie, got a reality check on appropriate canvassing attire from veteran Democratic consultant Sue Burnside.
“I remember her saying, ‘What the heck are you wearing?’” he recalled. “I told her, ‘I’m here to help you win.’ She said, ‘Go home and put some real clothes on. You don’t have any idea. You’re going to walk.’”
Over the next two decades, Sena honed his skills in federal, state and local campaigns and now leads the Democrats’ House campaign operation as it seeks to recapture the majority.
Watch: Congressional Republicans Had Wonky Plans for the Week. Then Trump Happened
Back in 1998, Sena felt called home to New Mexico to work on the special election in the Albuquerque-based 1st District. The University of Arizona graduate left Washington, D.C., where he was attending George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management, to spend the spring and early summer canvassing — going door to door, with a clipboard in hand.
“He was humble and ready to go to work,” Burnside remembered. “He came to his shift an hour early to do extra things.” He could have played his trump card, according to Burnside, considering his father was chairman of the state Democratic Party, but Sena chose to never tell his fellow canvassers.
Democrats’ hopes of winning the GOP seat faded when they nominated 31-year-old multimillionaire Phil Maloof, a state senator who wasn’t known for his intellectual heft. Republican Heather A. Wilson won the race by 5 points.
“The campaign was just hell and he never showed a moment of stress,” Burnside recalled. “I immediately offered him a job.”
Sena’s Hispanic father ran a van company, eventually receiving his MBA from Harvard, while his Irish mother taught fourth grade. His great-uncle, Dennis Chavez, served in the New Mexico Legislature in the 1920s and, in 1940, became the first person of Hispanic descent elected to a full term in the U.S. Senate.
“In the family, politics is a noble profession,” Sena said.
Now 42, Sena grew up in Santa Fe about 20 minutes away from his current boss, DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján, whose father was speaker of the New Mexico House. Back in 1998, Sena worked on Democrat Tom Udall’s successful 3rd District race and spent time at the Lujáns’ home since it was a staging area for the campaign.
Burnside and Sena had to build a New Mexico voter file from scratch for the Udall race, and she subsequently deployed him to a batch of races in California over the next few years.
He helped Joe Baca defeat Martha Macías Brown and the political establishment in a 1999 special election to replace her late husband, and he later worked on Jane Harman’s coordinated campaign. Sena also gathered signatures against the National Rifle Association to pressure the Utah Legislature to review its gun policies. (It didn’t work.) And he managed longtime City Councilmember Joel Wachs’ bid for mayor of Los Angeles in 2001.
“I was 25 and shouldn’t have been managing,” Sena recalled. Wachs went from one of the front-runners to a distant fourth place finish (11 percent) in the primary. “I drove that campaign directly into the ground,” Sena said.
In 2004, Sena helped register more than 250,000 Latino and Native American voters nationwide through Moving America Forward, the 501(c)(3) organized by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. Sena eventually worked on Richardson’s 2008 bid to become the first Hispanic president of the United States, but the governor dropped out after early disappointing finishes. All was not lost, however, considering the campaign in Iowa connected Sena with his future wife Elizabeth, now a partner at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.
Sena returned to the Land of Enchantment in 2008 as field director for Udall’s 61 percent to 39 percent victory for an open GOP Senate seat.
The next year, he worked on Blackberry co-founder Jim Balsillie’s unsuccessful effort to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes of the National Hockey League. And at the end of the 2010 cycle, Sena worked for Patriot Majority, Nevada Sen. Harry Reid’s independent expenditure committee, and directed Spanish media in the Democrat’s 5-point win over Sharron Angle.
But Sena wasn’t satisfied. For two weeks, he lived at the Days Inn in Ballston, Virginia, waiting for the Democratic Governors Association to call him back for an interview for a second stint. (He spent the 2006 cycle there as deputy political director.)
“We wanted someone who was experienced, but still full of energy,” said Colm O’Comartun, then the DGA’s executive director and a top aide to Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. “He brought a different perspective to the map that was different than the usual DC-insider perspective, and some geographic balance.”
After a cycle as DGA political director, Sena took a step back from politics. “I was interested in what life was like as a normal person,” he said. He took a job with Share our Strength, building capacity for the group’s “No Kid Hungry” campaign. “I was trying to think through how to balance marriage, a family, and work,” he recalled. “In the end, I wanted to win elections.”
When Udall’s 2014 re-election race tightened, Sena was called in to take the reigns. “When I’m in a tight spot, I want Dan Sena by my side,” the senator said.
“He’s like part of my family,” said Udall, whose daughter grew up with Sena. “He does things by the book, and always stays on top of all the important data you need to evaluate in making campaign decisions.”
He ran the campaign from a dilapidated building in the historic Nob Hill neighborhood of Albuquerque. Staffers recalled him choosing to share an office the size of a closet with the finance director to free up space for the rest of the staff, and carving out time each day for his wife and daughter.
“I drew a moat around those [voters] most likely to leave,” Sena said about running in a cycle that spiraled away from Democrats nationally. Udall won re-election by 11 points.
Sena returned to Washington to work for the DCCC as deputy executive director for voter contact and analytics during the 2016 cycle, in which Democrats netted six seats but fell short of expectations. Now Sena is the first Latino to direct a party campaign committee.
“Diversity is very important to me. And having an E.D. with all the skill sets that Dan has is first critical,” Luján said, while stressing the impact of younger, minority staffers seeing a person of color who grew up on a dirt road running a committee that will raise and spend at least $200 million.
“Coming into the 2018 cycle, I knew it would be unlike anything we’ve experienced,” Luján said. “As we looked at what we needed, we needed an agile strategist at the helm, someone who can work smart and develop partnerships with a number of grass-roots organizations.”
“We’re living in a new world and our campaigns have to adapt,” said Sena, who deployed a field program earlier than at any point in the committee’s history.
While historical midterm trends favor the minority party, the cycle is proving to be a challenge amid Democratic infighting over their ideological and strategic direction and public criticism of the DCCC.
“I know from my career that it can be tough to find a perfect balance between all groups, but ultimately we’ll all be unified to take back the House,” Sena said.