The death last week of Robert W. Kastenmeier, who evolved in the House from a prominent peace crusader into a premier intellectual property protector, is the freshest reminder of an odd truth about the modern Congress.
A veritable bevy of Republican presidential hopefuls have already hired staff, wooed deep-pocketed contributors and made speeches in Iowa and New Hampshire, proving what we already know: The 2016 nomination preseason is well underway.
If budget resolutions are aspirational, sketching the big picture Congress envisions for government, then spending bills are the polar opposite: Blueprints that lawmakers micromanage down to the smallest line item.
The annual budget resolution has several purposes. In theory, its a mission statement on the proper role of government and a mirror on priorities for the coming decade. At a more practical level, it decides the limit on lawmaker-driven spending for the coming year and smoothes the path toward ambitious changes in federal policy.
We wont know the 2016 Republican presidential nominee for more than a year, but we already know the 10 states the electoral Big Ten that will select the next occupant of the White House.
Given that old adage, You cant tell where youre going unless you know where youve been, casting a close eye over last years congressional voting patterns is in order.
Senator Tom Cottons open letter to the leaders of Iran on negotiations over its nuclear program ran into a buzzsaw of criticism from the president, vice president, our negotiating partners and members of Congress from both parties. The main criticism: Senators should not thrust themselves directly into the middle of ongoing negotiations between the U.S. and other countries.
The most amazing thing about the Loretta Lynch story is that the congressional community no longer views it as amazing.
Yes, I know Pennsylvania Democrats dont have a 2016 Senate candidate who excites the entire party yet. I also know the election is 20 months away plenty of time for them to rally around a nominee.
House Republicans painted themselves and the Senate into a corner by making Department of Homeland Security funding after Feb. 27 contingent on rolling back President Barack Obamas unilateral immigration actions. Surely, they were fantasizing a corner with a hidden trap door and safe room.
Republicans may not realistically smell another Senate seat about to become available, but theyre moving quickly on the very real scent of political blood. And their nose for scandal has them salivating at more than the fate of Sen. Robert Menendez, who may be only weeks from facing federal corruption charges.
One of these House members is not like the others. One of these members doesnt hope to belong in the Senate.
Its arguably the most important single hour of federal policymaking this year, and its happening Wednesday morning inside a government building on Capitol Hill. But except for clusters of reporters and attorneys, joined by a few dozen citizens whove waited hours in a long queue for a glimpse, the event will remain invisible forever.
While the economy is a decisive topic in many presidential elections, national security looks increasingly likely to become a top issue in next years contest. And if that happens, it could dramatically affect both the direction of the race for the Republican nomination and the partys prospects in November.
The most obvious distinction Barbara A. Mikulski will take into retirement is that shes spent more time in Congress than any other woman, and thats a record worthy of significant recognition. But, especially at a Capitol so deeply mired in dysfunction and partisanship, the meaning of her service is deeper than mere longevity.
Q. Some friends of mine who are lawyers were recently discussing a political corruption prosecution that they seemed to think was a big deal. I believe it involved some sort of campaign finance violations by the campaign manager of someone who ran for Congress a few years back. As a non-lawyer, it wasnt clear to me what all the fuss was about. After all, people get prosecuted for political corruption all of the time. Are you aware of the case Im describing, and, if so, what makes it such a big deal?
Hes looking a little tan, sounding rested and signaling hes ready. Hes a former senator from a big swing state who was a senior member of the congressional leadership. He was even the runner-up for his partys presidential nomination last cycle.
Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walkers political organization is opening a campaign office for him in Iowa. Ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is meeting with major donors and hosting dozens of fundraisers around the country. Hillary Rodham Clinton, former senator, secretary of State and first lady, is quietly hand-picking a team of high-level advisers to run her anticipated White House bid.
Theyre not billionaire industrialists poised to bankroll millions in the 2016 campaign, but K Street still matters to the crop of aspiring presidential candidates.
There are 27 states where the attorney general is a Republican, and 22 of them have signed on to the lawsuit challenging President Barack Obamas effort to limit deportations. But only one of them is being ushered under the national spotlight Wednesday morning as the single elected official asked to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on the unconstitutionality of President Obamas executive overreach.
Do you remember Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California promising last fall to return the new Congress to the regular order? The initial test came on the first major bill in the well of both houses, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act. Whereas the Senate produced a veritable gusher of amendments with all hands at the wellhead, the House reverted to a narrowly-constricted flow tube controlled by a few valve masters.
Theres always at least of whiff of politics at the Oscars, but the speeches this year touched on as many different hot-button issues in Congress as ever.
The firing of Atlantas fire chief has already become a flashpoint in the debate over how to balance the religious beliefs of public officials against the civil rights of their constituents. Now the argument has spread to the Capitol prompting questions about proper congressional roles in local controversies, especially when statewide electoral and legislative consequences lie just below the surface.
Taxpayer dollars have been used to pay chaplains of the House and Senate since the spring of 1789, when the first of 106 different ordained Christian ministers were elected to those jobs.
Q. I read that Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., may face an ethics investigation for selling his house for too high a price. As a longtime House staffer, this worried me. Ive sold several big-ticket items over the years cars, a boat, houses, and while Ive always tried to make sure that the selling price is not too low, it never occurred to me to ensure that the price is not too high. Can it really be an ethics violation to get too good of a deal on something I sell?