Sen. Mike Lee has told the story of Weldon Angelos’ prison term hundreds of times, describing the 55-year sentence over three marijuana sales in 72 hours as “crazy” and “nuts.”
“I’ve been telling his story a lot,” Lee said during the meeting. “A lot of the time I was telling this good story, I would sit there and wonder, actually, I wonder if he’s going to care if I’m using his name this frequently.”
“But your story was very helpful in explaining to people why we need this legislation and why we need to reform the law,” Lee told Angelos, who has two sons, ages 19 and 17, and a daughter, age 13.
Angelos, 36 and the founder of a hip-hop music label, said he met others in prison with unjust sentences. He plans to tell his story himself in Washington in support of the bipartisan bill. The legislation appears unlikely to pass in this election-shortened year, and amid disagreements among Republicans in both chambers.
“It kept me together, and my family,” Angelos said to Lee. “Your support was amazing and I just wanted to come here and thank you personally for supporting me and your commitment to criminal justice reform.”

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In close races, the quality of the candidates can make all the difference. And with a few notable exceptions, most incumbents acquit themselves well with strong fundraising, good campaigns, and a message tailored for victory.
So this year, Roll Call has decided to rank the Senate challengers — that is, the candidates for office who aren’t incumbents. It’s a list that leans heavily Democratic in 2016, a year when Republicans are playing defense in all but two seats currently considered at all competitive.
The rankings are based on the candidates’ electoral history, their fundraising, and to a lesser extent, the quality of the campaigns they’ve assembled around them. They’re also based on Roll Call's own assessments, made during the course of the election cycle, of their strengths and weaknesses as candidates.
As the twice-elected governor of New Hampshire, Hassan has effectively universal name identification and a proven record of winning statewide. She’s also never held office in Washington, a big plus at a time when voters are primed for change. Hassan is a cautious but disciplined campaigner, who’s attracted plenty of outside financial support. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report rates the Senate race as a Pure Tossup .
Heck has shown during a trio of victories in a battleground congressional district that he can win over Latino and Asian-American voters, a necessity in a diverse state like Nevada. The battle-tested lawmaker, a doctor and brigadier general in the Army Reserve, has vulnerabilities buried in his immigration record, but his early work on the campaign trail has helped Republicans forget about the Nevada Republican they first wanted to run, Gov. Brian Sandoval. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report rates the race as a Pure Tossup .

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House lawmakers are intent on giving staff members a raise in 2017, concerned that low pay and long hours are contributing to an unprecedented congressional brain drain.
But the money won't go very far, according to a Roll Call analysis.
Even if every penny of the $8.3 million approved by the House in May is  used for staff pay and divided equally among employees in every office — a highly unlikely scenario — it would amount to roughly an extra $1,000 a year for each person. That's about what the average American worker spends on coffee every year, a recent study shows.
[ Congress Needs More and Better-Paid Staff ]
This comes on top of years of staff pay stagnation in part due to lawmakers who wanted to make a show of austerity during tight budget years, said Sam Farr, a retiring Democratic House member from California.

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Are you more of a Reid or a McConnell? A Pelosi or a Ryan? Answer a few simple questions, and you can find out which Congressional leader you have the most in common with.

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Former Chicago Bears Coach Mike Ditka is passing  on the opportunity to attend the Republican National Convention.
The news from Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed comes after reports  that Ditka had been mentioned as a potential guest for presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, whom Ditka has endorsed.
"No one's ever talked to me about it," he told  the Chicago Tribune. "I have no idea where it's coming from."
Ditka, a staunch Republican, has endorsed Trump and has criticized the GOP for not rallying behind the billionaire businessman.
Ditka has occasionally flirted with Illinois and national politics. In 2004, the NFL Hall of Famer considered  running for the Senate as a Republican against then-Illinois State Sen. Barack Obama.

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Democratic congressional aides have never felt more confident about their party’s chances in this year’s election than they do right now.
That’s the takeaway from CQ Roll Call’s June Capitol Insiders Survey.
Democrats have felt good for a while, of course, about Democrat Hillary Clinton’s chances of beating Republican Donald Trump in the presidential election, as well as their prospects for retaking the Senate majority, since Republicans are defending many more seats and several in traditionally Democratic states.
But Democrats are now thinking seriously about the House majority, a goal that once seemed impossible. Four in five Democratic aides who responded to the June survey said they thought Democrats would make significant gains there.
“They know it’s a heavy lift and a long shot, but that there is a shot at all is news,” says Brendan Daly, whose former boss, Nancy Pelosi of California, could return as House speaker if Democrats win 30 seats in November.

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Why They Didn't Show Up to Sit In

By David Hawkings

$1.1 Billion for Zika Aid Blocked in Senate

By Niels Lesniewski
Election Guide
Click here for ratings on every race in the country.

ClearPath Action Fund, a super PAC that backs conservatives who support clean energy, announced its endorsement of two upstate New York Republicans on Thursday.
Four-term Rep. Tom Reed, who represents the 23rd District, and freshman Rep. Elise Stefanik, who represents the 21st District, will each benefit from a six-figure digital media campaign the group will roll out soon.
Ads will appear on Facebook, Google, Twitter and YouTube and will be micro-targeted to what the super PAC calls "persuadable clean energy voters."
Reed faces a challenge from Democrat John Plumb  in his Safe Republican District. Democrat Kim Myers is challenging Stefanik in her Safe Republican district.
[ New York Could Hold Key to Democratic Majority in House ]

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El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn won Colorado's Republican Senate nomination Tuesday night.
Glenn's victory in the five-way primary comes as somewhat of a surprise given that he spent much less than self-funders Jack Graham and Robert Blaha. He ran his primary campaign with all-volunteer staff.
But he had late support from the outside groups Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks, as well as a host of conservative GOP leaders.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin endorsed him, and in recent days, he earned the backing of Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska.
Glenn was the only candidate of the five who qualified for Tuesday's GOP primary ballot at the state party convention — a gathering of fervent conservatives.

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In this week’s Office Space, Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky., shows off his vast collection of Kentucky bourbon, memorabilia from the University of Kentucky and photos of his historic congressional predecessor, Henry Clay.

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Take Five: Martin Heinrich

By Alex Gangitano

Congress Rocks Nats Field

By Thomas McKinless