Tennessee, Texas Stand Out for Strengthened Hill Sway
In Roll Call’s Clout Index for this Congress, California delegation’s longtime hold on top spot is threatened

No state in this decade has seen a more meaningful boost than Tennessee in institutionalized congressional influence.

Only eight states, all with much bigger delegations because they’re much more populous, have more overt sway at the Capitol this year. That is one of several notable findings from the new Roll Call Clout Index, which the newspaper uses to take a quantifiable measurement of every state’s potential for power at the start of each new Congress.  

Bob Michel, Last Leader of the ‘Old School’ House GOP, Dies at 93
Compromise and collegiality were hallmarks, but got him pushed aside by his caucus in the 1990s

Robert H. Michel, who as the House minority leader from 1981 until his 1994 retirement became the longest-serving congressional Republican leader who never experienced majority power, died Friday. He was 93 and had lived on Capitol Hill much of the time since stepping down after 19 terms representing central Illinois.

Michel epitomized the congressional Old School in nearly every way, which worked to his advantage for almost all of his four decades in office. He prized collegiality, collaboration, civility and courtesy as essential political virtues. He evidenced a steady reverence for the institutional prerogatives, customs and limitations of what he fondly termed “the people’s House.”

For the GOP, a Dangerous Gamble on the All-Important Town Hall
Old-school constituent connections work best, but the anger is proving tough to withstand

Consider 10 and 19 as two more figures that help illustrate the risky congressional Republican strategies of passivity, defensiveness and avoidance during the first month of the Trump administration.

Ten is the total number of GOP lawmakers who have town hall meetings scheduled next week, the longest period Congress will be back home since the inauguration.  

Ep. 41: Town Hall Voter Anger May Force GOP to Stall Obamacare Repeal

As they head back into their states and districts next week, lawmakers could continue to face angry voters at town halls over repealing the Affordable Care Act, says CQ Roll Call’s political reporter Simone Pathé and health reporter Erin Mershon. This and fear of a backlash in the 2018 election, they explain, could further delay any action on the GOP’s six-year quest to repeal Obamacare.

Did McConnell Put Warren Right Where He Wants Her?
Senate GOP boss elevates left‘s hero, maybe because she‘s not strongest 2020 Democratic option

Sure, he’s a really buttoned-down guy working to prevent the Senate from getting totally bottled-up, but there are solid reasons to suspect Mitch McConnell wants a “Nevertheless, she persisted” hoodie as much as anyone.

The majority leader is obviously much more Brooks Brothers than Raygun. Still, he may well realize that his latest grandmaster move in the never-ending game of electoral chess requires ditching the rep stripe tie in favor of some printed-on-demand slogan swag.

Don‘t Expect the Senate to Back Away From the Brink
Ending all filibusters seems inevitable, Gorsuch's confirmation the likely ‘nuclear’ spark

Nuclear winter is coming. 

Perhaps it won’t arrive during this Supreme Court showdown. But then the odds will approach metaphysical certainty with the next vacancy on the court, unless deadlock on a premier piece of legislation happens first.

Ep. 39: Not Even the Usually Lofty Senate Can Escape the Trump Tumult
The Big Story

The Senate is known for its courtesies and decorum, but it’s just two weeks into the Donald Trump administration and the chamber has become as chaotic as it’s been in a long time, says CQ Roll Call’s senior editor David Hawkings. The carping and parliamentary brinkmanship over Cabinet nominees could bode ill for the legislative agenda ahead, say CQ Roll Call’s leadership editor Jason Dick and senior reporter Niels Lesniewski.

Show Notes:

The Incredible Shrinking Split Tickets
Midterm campaign field starts with just 35 crossover House districts

For the latest evidence of the nation’s polarized politics, the granular returns from November offer these slivers of bright purple insight:

Voters in just 35 congressional districts, or 8 percent of the total, elected a House member from one party while preferring the presidential candidate of the other party — the second election in a row where the share of ticket-splitting seats was in the single digits. Before that, 1920 was the last time the number of such crossover districts fell below one out of every nine.

Capitol Hill: Trump’s Ultimate Truth Squad
Presidents don’t usually get to decree what facts and figures will shape legislation

If President Donald Trump’s emphatic disregard for the facts continues, it will soon threaten the viability of the legislative process and imperil the minimal credibility now afforded Congress. 

During his initial week in office, Trump has stood fast by three whoppers of substantial import — given that they now bear the imprimatur of the Oval Office, not the campaign trail or the board room or the set of a reality TV show. But so far, his spreading of falsehoods has not managed to muddy, or sully, the process of advancing the policy changes the country elected him to make.

A Day That’s Both Routinized and Indelibly the President’s Own
Trump’s populist tone, churlish crowd, combine with ageless Capitol pomp

If inaugurations are like weddings — the central figures remain singular and the emotional sensibilities vary, but the liturgies are similar and the outcome is always the same — then the opening day of Donald Trump’s presidency absolutely kept the metaphor relevant.

On Friday, he became the only billionaire, the only brand personification and the only person without any prior experience as a public servant to take the oath of office. And then he excoriated the capital establishment arrayed around him using caustic language and campaign-rally cadences particularly discordant for an inaugural address.

A Ceremony of Stability for a Shake-It-Up President
Inaugurals are meant to unify the nation, a fundamental Trump challenge

No ritual embodies the stability of the American government more than an inauguration. And no one in modern times has arrived for the ceremony as a more purposeful destabilizer of governing norms than Donald John Trump, who becomes the 45th president of the United States on Friday.

The inaugural is this country’s ultimate civic rite, designed to assure the orderly transfer of enormous power, bolster patriotism and bind together a diverse people behind their new leader. The pageantry of the day, in so many ways fundamentally unchanged since the 18th century, almost cannot help but imbue each new holder of the office with similar auras of credibility and historic import.

House Republican Women See a Boost in Authority
3 committees, other powerful posts newly under control of 21-person caucus

For the past four years, Republicans endured pointed barbs about how the only woman with a House committee gavel was presiding over the fittingly sexist-sounding “housekeeping committee,” the Hill’s nickname for the panel overseeing the Capitol’s internal operations.

That’s not a fair jape anymore. Exactly a century after the arrival of the first female elected to Congress, Jeannette Rankin of Montana, her GOP successors will be wielding more titular power in the Republican-run House than ever. Women will soon be presiding over three standing committees, a record for the party, while a fourth has taken over what’s arguably the chamber’s single most consequential subcommittee, because it takes the lead in apportioning more than half of all discretionary federal spending.

For 20, a New Year’s Boost in House Legislative Sway
How the winners of top committee assignments made their own luck

Specialization seasoned with seniority is the surest recipe for a meaningful legislative career in the House, which is more than big enough to swallow all the dilettantes and short-timers without a trace. It’s finding a substantive niche, then fitting in over the long haul, that proves perennially frustrating for many members. 

But the goal of becoming a successful and substantive lawmaker just got a whole lot easier for a score of them.

Parsing New Senate Committee Rosters for Future Career Moves
Senators with 2020 ambitions, or 2018 re-election worries, hope for help from new assignments

There’s little doubt about committees being a stronger force for shaping legislation in the House than in the Senate. That is why so many lobbyists and lawmakers had their ears pressed to the door Wednesday while the Republican Steering Committee started filling openings on the most influential House panels. 

But when it comes to shaping national political careers, it’s the Senate where such assignments often represent the biggest value. That is why everyone already pondering the next Democratic presidential campaign, and before that, the senatorial balance of power after the 2018 midterms, has been parsing the committee rosters finalized this week.

How to Watch the Quirky Congressional Opening Day
Look for unusual traditions, cacophony and a few moments of bipartisanship

If the last fall’s orientation period for the newest lawmakers was the Capitol Hill equivalent of freshman days at college, then the formal convening of the 115th Congress on Tuesday is the first day of school.  

And so it may be useful, for the congressional community as well as the throngs of well-wishers in town just for the festivities, to be reminded of some of the curious ways in which the customs of the day are different from all the others.

Saying Goodbye to the Departing Members of the 114th Congress

Around 55 members of Congress will be leaving the Hill for good (at least for now) at the end of 2016. They include the longest-serving woman in congressional history, two former Peace Corps volunteers and a senator whose race came down to 1,011 votes. Here are some notable facts about just some of these soon-to-be former lawmakers....
Milder Persona, Same Hard Line from New Freedom Caucus Chairman
Mark Meadows is eager to back Trump, but only when he adheres to the House GOP conservative group’s views

A defining principle for the House Freedom Caucus can be summarized this way: The painful short-term political consequences for the Republican Party from provoking internal discord must be steadfastly disregarded in the name of long-term conservative purification.

The second lawmaker to lead the group, Mark Meadows of North Carolina, has a reputation as one of the friendliest and folksiest newcomers to influence in Congress. But he is signaling no interest in deviating from that combative rubric even in the coming era of unified GOP control over Washington, born out of an election where voters signaled an intense desire to end the capital norms of backbiting gridlock.

A New Democratic Gatekeeper on the Trump Agenda
Neal at Ways and Means, one of House minority’s 3 new bigwigs, positioned as key legislative field director

The most important changes in the House Democratic power structure so far look more like a tectonic shift than a dramatic upheaval.

Counterintuitively, a caucus where white men have been reduced to a two-fifths plurality will be represented by three baby boomer white men as the fresh public faces confronting the new Trump administration on the biggest domestic policy debates of next year, from highways to health care.

Balancing Risk and Reward in Trump’s Surprising First Hill Battle
Delaying budget finish until he’s president means his priorities must wait, creates an opening for Democrats

Donald Trump’s presidential transition is already salted with plenty of big surprises. For Congress, the most unsettling may be his decision to start his legislative agenda-setting by ignoring this famous life lesson:

“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today,” goes the aphorism often attributed to one of Trump’s most accomplished predecessors, Thomas Jefferson.

Roll Call Decoder: How Does New Member Orientation Really Work?
 

The newly elected members of Congress are back for more orientation after a break for Thanksgiving. Roll Call senior editor David Hawkings explains what these freshmen do during their time learning about the workings on Capitol Hill....