Matthew Fleming

A Senate Freedom Caucus? No Need

The House Freedom Caucus has shown conservatives the far-right can have an impact on the legislative process. But don't expect a similar group to spring up in the Senate; they already have one. Sort of. It's not that senators are less conservative — Republicans such as Ted Cruz of Texas, Jim Risch of Idaho or Jeff Sessions of Alabama would attest to that. And it's not that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is so much better liked than his former counterpart who was chased into retirement by the Freedom Caucus, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio.  

Perhaps the main reason a Freedom Caucus is less likely in the Senate is attributable to the institution itself: Senators need to work together to get things done, but unlike House lawmakers, senators don't need a coalition to block things. If a key power of the Freedom Caucus is veto power over legislation, senators can erect procedural hurdles on their own.  

A Senate Freedom Caucus? No Need

The House Freedom Caucus has shown conservatives the far-right can have an impact on the legislative process. But don’t expect a similar group to spring up in the Senate; they already have one. Sort of.

It’s not that senators are less conservative — Republicans such as Ted Cruz of Texas, Jim Risch of Idaho or Jeff Sessions of Alabama would attest to that. And it’s not that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is so much better liked than his former counterpart who was chased into retirement by the Freedom Caucus, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio.

Ethics Probes Waiting for Resolution

The House Ethics Committee acts confidentially and typically uses minimalist language to announce whether it is investigating a member of Congress. This makes tracking open cases difficult, but there are 10 cases the committee has previously stated it is reviewing. The committee has no rules compelling it to make a public announcement that a review has been closed, sometimes resulting in a delay in a case's resolution coming to light — though members certainly have an interest in publicizing something that reflects well on them.  

Boehner 'Comfortable' With House Ethics Protocols

Ethics Probes Waiting for Resolution

The House Ethics Committee acts confidentially and typically uses minimalist language to announce whether it is investigating a member of Congress. This makes tracking open cases difficult, but there are 10 cases the committee has previously stated it is reviewing.

The committee has no rules compelling it to make a public announcement that a review has been closed, sometimes resulting in a delay in a case’s resolution coming to light — though members certainly have an interest in publicizing something that reflects well on them.

Polis Cleared by House Ethics Committee

The House Ethics Committee on Monday announced it will not look further into allegations that Rep. Jared Polis used official resources to promote two businesses.  

In 2015, Riot Games, the maker of an online video game "League of Legends" that Polis has played for years, contacted the Colorado Democrat to appear in a video promoting the game as part of a series of "human interest" stories to "capture and share more positive, human stories of fun, talented, competitive and responsible individuals who also just happen to be part of our player base," according to the Ethics Committee release.  

Gun Control Debate Stuck on Mental Health Reform

At first glance Democrats seem to oppose mental health reform in response to mass shootings. Many in the Senate say they embrace such reform, but they'd rather close loopholes in gun laws first. The result, however, is no movement on either gun control or mental health.  

Democrats used much of Thursday's Obamacare repeal vote-a-rama to push gun control amendments in response to a spate of mass shootings. Most of those measures didn’t have a lot to do with mental health. Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., one of the most outspoken advocates of gun control following the murder of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. in 2012, is working with Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., to increase funding to states t hat meet treatment goals .  

Senators in Paris for Climate Conference Will Tell France, 'We Have Your Back'

Barring a scheduling meltdown, a delegation of Democratic senators will break from debates over the health care law, government spending and highway funding to fly to Paris for the U.N. climate change conference. Some of those who plan to make the trip said they're going not only to show support for the Obama administration's climate agenda, but to stand with France following terror attacks that killed 130 people last month.  

"I think it's also important that our government officials say to the French people that we have their back, that we are with them, that we'll give them the help they need even as they have just suffered this grievous loss which we feel deeply is a crime against all humanity," said Sen. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts. "It's an important message to send."  

Bush, Cheney Ticket to Reunite in Capitol

The 2000 Republican presidential ticket will reunite Thursday for a ceremony dedicating the marble bust of former Vice President Dick Cheney in the Senate's vice presidential collection.  

Former President George W. Bush will make remarks, and he will be joined by several congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis.; Senate Rules and Administration Chairman Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; and, of course, Cheney himself. William Behrends sculpted the bust, his second in the collection. (He did the bust for Spiro Agnew as well.)  

Democrats Look Past Planned Parenthood, Obamacare Fight

Senate Democrats won't put up much of a floor fight against Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and gut the Affordable Care Act, aware that it eventually faces a certain veto from President Barack Obama.  

Senators will consider the Planned Parenthood provision and partial rollback of Obama's signature domestic achievement as part of the budget reconciliation process this week, which requires only majority support to pass the chamber.  

Democrats Look Past Planned Parenthood, Obamacare Fight

Senate Democrats won’t put up much of a floor fight against Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and gut the Affordable Care Act, aware that it eventually faces a certain veto from President Barack Obama.

Senators will consider the Planned Parenthood provision and partial rollback of Obama’s signature domestic achievement as part of the budget reconciliation process this week, which requires only majority support to pass the chamber.

Democrats Look Past Planned Parenthood, Obamacare Fight

Senate Democrats won’t put up much of a floor fight against Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and gut the Affordable Care Act, aware that it eventually faces a certain veto from President Barack Obama.

Senators will consider the Planned Parenthood provision and partial rollback of Obama’s signature domestic achievement as part of the budget reconciliation process this week, which requires only majority support to pass the chamber.

Lankford Joins League of Waste Watchers

Sen. James Lankford released his first book of "wasteful" federal programs and regulations on Monday, joining a group of Republican senators with similar reports.  

But instead of trying to outdo his colleagues, the Oklahoma Republican called on all members of Congress to come up with their own list and look for common ground to cut spending. "This is not just us and what we're trying to do, we're encouraging every other office to take this on as well," Lankford said.  

Dick Cheney to Return to Capitol -- in Stone

Dick Cheney returns to the Capitol next Thursday -- and this time, it's for good.  

A bust of the 46th vice president, who served under George W. Bush, will join 44 others in the Senate's vice presidential collection on Dec. 3. Cheney and his wife, Lynne, will be in attendance.  

Mike Lee in the Middle of Reconciliation Battle

Sen. Mike Lee will find himself in the middle of the debate on the Affordable Care Act on Monday, as well as between two colleagues running for president.  

The Utah Republican and chairman of the  Senate Steering Committee is joining fellow Republicans Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida in their opposition to anything short of a full repeal of the law. The topic will likely come up in a meeting Monday of Senate Republicans, and the chamber could begin debating it under the budget reconciliation process as early as Dec. 2.  

Why Mike Lee Won't Do Hallway Interviews

Sen. Mike Lee is no longer taking hallway interviews. While any senator might decline to answer a particular question (sometimes it's the wrong question, the wrong reporter or the wrong time), the Utah Republican, around September, joined a small group of senators who will not take questions from reporters in between points A and B, where most members of the press buttonhole lawmakers on any topic that comes to mind.  

Lee told CQ Roll Call — as part of a wide-ranging interview in his Senate office Thursday — that most questions thrown at him are generally not of the "yes" or "no" variety, and he said he felt he was often giving them short shrift.  

Senators Focused on Visa Waiver Vulnerabilities

While Syrian refugee resettlement has dominated the headlines in Congress this week, the more pressing national security debate in the Senate is about the way tourists and other travelers enter the United States.  

Senators from both sides of the aisle emerged from closed briefings concerned about security risks posed by the visa waiver program, which allows citizens from 38 countries to visit the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa. After an all-senators briefing by administration officials late Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she intends to introduce legislation Thursday — along with Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. — that would bar individuals who have been in Syria or Iraq within the past five years from making use of the visa waiver program to gain entry into the U.S.  

Markell Opens Arms to Syrian Refugees as Others Pause

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell announced on national TV Tuesday his state will continue to welcome Syrian refugees in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, even as fellow governors across the country call for a moratorium on their admission.  

The Democrat touted his position in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and in an op-ed on CNN.com , saying these “are families in desperate straits.” “The situation in Syria in particular demands that we take every precaution before admitting someone inside our borders,” he wrote. “But we must show empathy by taking into account their individual situations and ensuring they are treated humanely.”  

The 5 Agencies Ted Cruz Would Cut

Like a certain Texas Republican before him, Ted Cruz had a bit of an "oops" moment during Tuesday's GOP presidential debate.  

While certainly not as egregious as former Texas Gov. Rick Perry's famous faux pas at a 2011 debate when he forgot the third agency he'd like to cut  ("Oops," Perry said), the junior senator from Texas listed the five agencies he would eliminate — but omitted the Department of Education by counting the Commerce Department twice. Unlike Perry, who stopped after "oops," Cruz plowed right through the moment.  

How Cruz the Outsider Won Purple Hearts for Fort Hood Victims

Updated 7:40 p.m. | On Ted Cruz's Senate office wall hangs a framed copy of one of the Texas Republican's proudest legislative accomplishments. And like the outsider persona he touts on the presidential campaign trail, Cruz eventually voted against the bill that made it happen.  

Cruz added an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act last year in the Armed Services committee that ultimately awarded the Purple Heart to victims of the 2009 massacre at the Fort Hood military facility in Texas. Thirteen people were killed and more than 30 injured.  

Cruz Outpaces GOP Rivals by Wielding Gavel

At a time when senators running for president have faced criticism for missing votes, the anti-Washington, anti-leadership Ted Cruz has been quietly productive in at least one quantifiable way: Convening subcommittee hearings.  

The Texas Republican — who has the third lowest vote participation percentage in the Senate, according to CQ Vote Watch — has convened nine hearings as chairman of two subcommittees, outpacing the three other senators running for the Republican presidential nomination. “We’re facing enormous challenges in America," Cruz said in an interview last week. "And as chairman of two subcommittees, I have endeavored to convene hearings addressing those challenges. I made a promise to 27 million Texans that if they elected me I would fight for them each and every day. And that is a promise I take very seriously."