Opinion & Analysis

Opinion: The Grand Old Patsies
Few Republicans dare to criticize Trump over his behavior toward Putin

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., was among the Republican lawmakers who did not criticize the president directly after the Helsinki summit. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Commenting after President Donald Trump’s performance in Helsinki, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell observed, “I have said a number of times, I’ll say it again: The Russians are not our friends. And I entirely believe the assessment of our intelligence community.”

Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander said in a release, “There is no doubt that Russia interfered in our 2016 presidential election.”

Opinion: As Trump Hangs Dan Coats Out to Dry, Russia Hacks On
If you really want to lose sleep at night, read a US-CERT report

President Donald Trump shows off a World Cup football given to him by Vladimir Putin. The president is fiddling as computer networks burn, Murphy writes. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

If you looked carefully at the setup for the press conference with President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday, there was something off. Something big.

Standing before a row of alternating Russian and American flags, Trump stood squarely in front of a Russian flag, while Putin spoke with his own Russian flag over one shoulder and America’s stars and stripes over the other. With Trump praising Putin and Putin defending the American president as someone who — trust him — stood firm for his country in their two-hour private confab, it was impossible at times to figure out who was on Russia’s side and who, if anyone, was speaking for America.

Capitol Ink | Meet the President

Opinion: Push to Abolish ICE Is the New ‘Repeal and Replace’
Lost in the uproar is the fact that the agency does much more than deport people

Activists call for the end of ICE at a June 29 rally in New York organized by the Democratic Socialists of America. Such demands sound a lot like the cries of “repeal and replace” that greeted the 2010 health care law, Ramón and Lapan write. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images file photo)

Immigrant advocates have made #AbolishICE a rallying cry against the Trump administration, and the victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the New York Democratic primaries last month only turned up the volume.

As activists press Congress to defund U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement out of existence, several Senate Democrats have proposed to replace the agency or fundamentally reform it. But one key point bears repeating: Attempting to make policy by hashtag is not a recipe for success. Just as cries on the right to “repeal and replace” Obamacare failed to answer the logical next question — replace with what? —proponents of #AbolishICE haven’t done enough to grapple with what their campaign would mean in the long term.

Opinion: McCain’s Legacy of Stronger Military Reflected in Senate’s Landmark Defense Bill
This year’s NDAA could be a big win for military personnel and their families

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, left, hands the gavel to House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry before a National Defense Authorization Act conference meeting in October. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain has served on the committee for over three decades, helping it draft and pass dozens of National Defense Authorization Acts — some seemingly routine, others carrying historic significance.

This year’s NDAA, the annual policy bill for the Defense Department, has the potential to rank among the latter. Many provisions in the Senate version, drafted under McCain’s leadership, would have a positive long-term effect on military readiness, servicemember satisfaction and, crucially, the well-being of military families, who are often overlooked.

Opinion: Dems to African-American Women: This Time We Mean It
Party hopes to ‘rebuild relationships’ and ‘restore trust’ ahead of the midterms

When DNC Chairman Tom Perez showed up at the Essence Festival in New Orleans this month, it wasn’t for the Janet Jackson concert, Curtis writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

So why was Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, making an appearance at this year’s Essence Festival in New Orleans, an event known for its high-powered mix of music, culture and empowerment, geared to engage black women globally? Did he see and enjoy “Girls Trip,” the 2017 mega-hit about the reunion of four black female buddies, set against the backdrop of the festival, and decide to get in on the fun, maybe take in a Janet Jackson concert?  

Or was he connecting with his party’s most loyal base, which has carried the electoral load for years, and has also expressed dissatisfaction when that contribution was downplayed or overlooked?

Capitol Ink | American Graffiti

Opinion: When Political Discourse Becomes Bullying
With the extremes sucking the oxygen, we’ve traded thoughtful argument for shaming

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave a restaurant in Virginia last month. The hounding of government officials in their private lives is not protest but bullying, Winston writes. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

There was a time when I saw appearing on cable news shows, both left and right, as an opportunity for a civil debate on serious policy issues. That was probably naive, but I believed in the inherent value of proof-based and polite argument in providing the nation with the information to make good policy choices.

But as time went on, I began to feel like Michael Palin in the famous Monty Python “Argument Clinic” sketch. In the comedy bit, Palin goes to the “clinic” to buy an argument. He pays out his five pounds, but when he meets his “arguer,” Graham Chapman immediately goes on the attack.

Opinion: Why the Kavanaugh Pick Is Not as Safe as It Seems
Collins and Murkowski aren’t the only Republicans who could balk at Trump’s choice

Sen. Rand Paul could be the one to throw a wrench in the Supreme Court confirmation, even as all eyes turn to a pair of his colleagues, Shapiro writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It is a memory seared into Brett Kavanaugh’s soul — and it may well be an image that briefly flickers through his mind every time a loud siren goes off in Washington.

In his Monday night East Room debut as Donald Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee, Kavanaugh harked back to working for George W. Bush on 9/11. Introducing his wife, Ashley, Kavanaugh said, “We met in 2001 when we both worked in the White House. Our first date was on Sept. 10, 2001. The next morning, I was a few steps behind her as the Secret Service shouted at all of us to sprint out the front gates of the White House because there was an inbound plane.”

Capitol Ink | Democrat Flop

Opinion: GOP Should Beware of Roe v. Wade Becoming the Fight
Republicans could lose the war for female voters for a generation

Abortion rights supporters demonstrate outside the Supreme Court in 2016. A return to the spotlight for Roe v. Wade during the confirmation debate could re-energize women who assumed the issue was decided long ago, Murphy writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Now that we know President Donald Trump has settled on Judge Brett Kavanaugh as his next choice for the Supreme Court, Senate Republicans are poised to deliver on a promise they have been making to conservatives for decades.

In Kavanaugh, the GOP has both its biggest opportunity to move the court to the right for a generation as well as its biggest danger — months of unscripted moments when abortion, reproductive rights and women will be at the center of a heated debate that Republicans have proved uniquely terrible at navigating over the years.

Capitol Ink | Expecting

Opinion: An Open Health Diplomacy Hand Works Better Than a Fist
Investing in global health programs like PEPFAR is a win-win for all

Patients visit the Coptic Hospital, which is partially funded by PEPFAR, in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2006. The United States should expand, not shrink, its strategic health diplomacy, Daschle and Frist write. (Brent Stirton/Getty Images file photo)

Recent headlines have been filled with stories and images of parents being separated from their children by the U.S. government. This is not what our country represents.

In fact, 15 years ago, we enacted the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, to do quite the opposite, and the program has gone on to save the lives of millions, keep families intact, and provide support for millions of orphans, vulnerable children and their caregivers. It represents the best of America, and we can be proud of the global legacy it has created.

Opinion: Agency Watchdogs Can Do Much More Than Bark and Bite
For inspectors general, collaborative approach would lead to better oversight

Disgraced former GSA head Martha Johnson prepares to testify before Congress in 2012 after an inspector general report revealed her agency’s “excessive and wasteful” spending on short ribs, artisanal cheese and souvenir carabiners. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Americans’ trust in our government institutions is near all-time lows.

Some of the cynicism — and criticism — stems from more than a decade of hyperpolarization. But much of the distrust is due to high-profile government scandals, such as the initial failure of the Healthcare.gov website, insufficient care at Veterans Affairs hospitals, and the General Services Administration’s over-the-top Las Vegas conference.

Opinion: Small Businesses Win Big With New Health Care Options
As premiums skyrocket, association health plans help level the playing field

The new rule expanding the use of association health plans is a simple solution to a big problem, Blunt write. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

For Kalena Bruce, a fifth-generation cattle farmer in Stockton, Missouri, finding affordable health coverage under Obamacare hasn’t been easy. She’s a young mom and business owner paying $700 a month in premiums alone, not to mention deductibles and copays.

That’s why she’s become an advocate for allowing more small businesses like hers to bring down their health care costs by pooling together. It’s an idea that’s worked for Missouri businesses for more than 15 years and will now be available nationwide thanks to the Trump administration’s new rule expanding access to association health plans, or AHPs.