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Columns

Latest Partisan Divide: Religion and Politics Should Mix

“Never discuss politics or religion in polite company” is one of those rules to live by that family elders have been passing on for generations.

Mandatory Sexual Harassment Training for Congressional Staff?

Capitol Hill staffers might be learning a new issue area in the upcoming Congress: preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.

Rothenberg: Senate GOP Gains At Least 7 Seats

While the current Rothenberg Political Report ratings don’t show it, I am now expecting a substantial Republican Senate wave in November, with a net gain of at least seven seats.

Bigger and Better Things: Staffers Who Run for Office

Think being a congressional staffer can lead to bigger and better things? What about public office? You’re in good company: 75 of the current House and Senate members previously served as congressional staff, according to CQ Roll Call Member Information and Research. Hill Navigator discusses what aspects of the job may serve you well.

The Best Ads of 2014 – Oh Really?

A few weeks ago, I noticed a piece in Time headlined “The Best 6 Political Campaign Ads of the Summer (So Far).”

Conservatives Pick Mike Lee as His Ambitious Pals Eye 2016

The caucus of the most conservative senators has chosen a new leader. It’s not either of the Republicans who will probably come to mind first — but he may well be the man who’s going to push the Senate hardest to the right over the long term.

McDonnell Appeal Begs Question: What Is Corruption?

As Bob McDonnell’s lawyers gear up to appeal the former Virginia Governor’s conviction on 11 counts of bribery, conspiracy and extortion, federal prosecutors, legal experts and elected officials around the country are all watching closely.

On Ebola, Obama's Bold Move Is Greeted on Hill With Eager Assent

Contrary to what seemed certain as the week began, American military boots will soon be on the ground to combat a societal scourge on the other side of the world. And virtually no one in Congress sounds opposed to the idea.

Can Answering a Campaign Call Break the Law? | A Question of Ethics

Q. As an aide to a Member of the House, I have a question about the rule requiring the separation of campaign work from official House activities. In our office, we are generally careful about keeping these separate. But, one problem we run into time and again is that people outside the House are not at all familiar with the distinction. For example, we frequently receive calls or emails about the Member’s upcoming campaign at our Member’s House office. We don’t want to run afoul of the rules. But, we don’t want to ignore folks either. What can we do?

First Clinton, Now Biden Offer Iowa Their Versions of 2016 Populism

She went out to grill some beef, and now he’s going out to help some nuns.

Influence Industry Remembers 'Unique' Thomas H. Boggs Jr. | K Street Files

Thomas H. Boggs Jr. had the clout of an oracle, the air of a senator and a joie de vivre that gleefully declared his family’s Louisiana roots.

Nuclear Option Helped Obama Refashion Bench

Ten months after his fellow Democrats “went nuclear” in the Senate on his behalf, President Barack Obama is done putting his stamp on the federal judiciary — at least for the year, but maybe forever if Republicans take control of the place.

War Powers Resolution Nags a Reluctant Congress | Procedural Politics

In his Sept. 10 address to the nation, President Barack Obama asserted he already had authority to go after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant but would welcome congressional action to underscore the U.S. commitment. Leaders of both parties in Congress, while supportive of the president’s aims, visibly balked at holding a direct vote to authorize military action, at least before the midterm elections. It was a rare profile in bipartisanship if not courage.

Campaign Money Debate Won't Help Hill's Reputation

It’s nothing more than another Senate floor sideshow this week, a stage-managed debate in slow motion where the ultimate outcome is such a decisive and foreordained defeat that almost no one is paying attention.

Kevin McCarthy Pledges Return to Regular Order | Procedural Politics

Newly minted House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., began his first day on the job promising committee process, regular order and civility — a good start and tall order.

Constitutional Amendment Debate Roils ACLU | Rules of the Game

The emotional debate over free speech versus free political spending, which erupted onto the Senate floor this week, exposes a deep rift on Capitol Hill and at the nation’s leading civil rights group, the American Civil Liberties Union.

Number of Laws Congress Enacts Isn’t the Whole Picture | Procedural Politics

The 113th Congress may well become the least productive Congress in modern history based on the number of bills signed into law. That is the measure many observers use to assess the institution’s productivity. But it does not provide the most complete or accurate picture.

Rhetoric Overload, Four Decades After Nixon

Richard M. Nixon’s fate was effectively sealed 40 years ago today. It’s a curious coincidence at the start of an August recess when the extraordinarily serious matter of presidential impeachment is going to be tossed around in such a cavalier and cynical manner.

The Almost Invisible Final Days of a Once-Forceful Leader

Eric Cantor’s slow fade toward the exits of the House majority leader’s office is one day from its official completion. But as a practical matter he’s been almost invisible for several weeks.

Possible Senate GOP Majority Would Be Young, but Would Have Enough Elders for Heft

Conventional wisdom holds that if Republicans take the Senate, generational turnover and term limits will combine to produce a balky and potentially amateurish legislative process next year.

Why a Namesake Post Office Is All Barry Goldwater Might Get This Year

Few things Congress does come in for more ridicule than its penchant for naming post offices. While the exercise soaks up some floor time and keeps the clerks busy, it alters public policy not one bit. Instead, each new honorific provides lawmakers with nothing beyond a sliver of feel-good accomplishment.

Spending Impasse Solidifies With Midterm Results Holding Next Move

This week notwithstanding, this summer on the Hill has been less sticky than usual. But it’s shaping up to be as somnolent as ever.

GOP Struggles With Fundraising for Women's Initiatives | Rules of the Game

It’s been a promising year for Republican women who have set out to fix their party’s “woman problem,” but not good enough for their bank accounts.

Elizabeth Warren's Summer of Surrogacy Helps Keep 2016 Talk Alive

If Rand Paul is taking this summer’s most prominent turn in the Republican spotlight, then the same must be said for his Senate colleague Elizabeth Warren among the new generation of national Democratic players.

When Is a Tweet an Ethics Violation? | A Question of Ethics

Q. As a staffer for a Member of the House, one of my responsibilities is to run his official Twitter and Facebook accounts, and I have a question about permissible uses of those accounts. The Member occasionally likes to help political allies by making public endorsements during their campaigns. I figure it is okay to announce these via Twitter as I have seen other Members do it, but another staffer in our office said the rules might not allow it. It’s not really against the rules to tweet endorsements of other candidates, is it?

Elizabeth Warren's Summer of Surrogacy Helps Keep 2016 Talk Alive

If Rand Paul is taking this summer’s most prominent turn in the Republican spotlight, then the same must be said for his Senate colleague Elizabeth Warren among the new generation of national Democratic players.

Who Has Time for Legislating Anyway? | K Street Files

Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Financial Services panel, was in a rush to recess a lengthy markup so he and the other lawmakers could make it across the street to the Capitol for evening floor votes.

Reforms May Fade, but Voter Anger Won't | Rules of the Game

Opponents of big money in politics celebrated some small victories lately: A constitutional amendment to curb campaign spending cleared a key Senate committee and was introduced in the House. And a new “super PAC to end all super PACs” raised $5 million in a matter of weeks.

Budget Act Anniversary Prompts Introspection | Procedural Politics

Any anniversary divisible by ten, whether of a country, institution or historic event prompts a spate of news articles, speeches and special commemorations that inevitably pose the question: What does it mean today?

Did House Travel Disclosure Rules Change? | A Question of Ethics

Q. I am hoping you can clear up some confusion about the controversy over news that the House Ethics Committee changed the rules to limit Members’ disclosure of gifts of free travel on annual financial disclosure forms. The reactions seemed all over the place. Some said that it was a big step backwards. Others said that nothing really changed. So, what’s the story?

New FCC Disclosures Reveal Underground Election | Rules of the Game

A trove of new public records recently opened up by the Federal Communications Commission sheds light on the ways undisclosed political ads are creating an underground midterm election that’s increasingly hidden from view.

Hobby Lobby Ruling Fuels Amendment Push

In its recent ruling to confer religious liberties on closely held corporations, the Supreme Court makes no mention of its 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling.

Defense Signing Statement Reveals President’s Prescience | Procedural Politics

One of my first columns for Roll Call was about the furor over President George W. Bush’s use of signing statements (“The Problem Isn’t Signing Statements; It’s Enforcing the Laws,” Aug. 14, 2006). I was reacting to an American Bar Association task force report that concluded that such statements, issued when a president signs a bill into law, are “contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers.”

Betsy Mullins Named President and CEO of Women’s Campaign Fund, She Should Run

The Women’s Campaign Fund and its nonprofit arm She Should Run announced Tuesday that Betsy Mullins will be its new CEO and president, directing the sister organizations in their shared mission of increasing women’s political participation at all levels of government.

Mississippi Runoff Takes Financial Toll on GOP (Video)

Mississippi’s bruising GOP Senate primary, which voters will decide Tuesday in a runoff (get live results here!), has come at great cost — more than $17 million — to Republicans.

Why Can’t Hill Staff Contribute to Their Boss’ Campaign? | A Question of Ethics

Q. I am a staffer for a member of the House and I have a question about restrictions on campaign contributions. I saw that Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, was under investigation for accepting campaign contributions from employees of his congressional office. Generally, I know that this is not OK, but I don’t really understand why. It seems to me that congressional staffers are among those who would most want to donate to members’ campaigns. I know I’d like to donate to my member’s campaign. He could use it, and I believe in him. Why can’t I donate?

Unemployment Extension Cause Has Invisible Lobby | K Street Files

Walk through the Capitol South Metro station and you’ll pass SoftBank ads that festoon the walls — but you won’t see a campaign for the 3 million people hoping Congress will pass an unemployment insurance extension.

First, Chill All the Lawyers in Congress | Procedural Politics

To put a gentler twist on Shakespeare’s more drastic remedy: The first thing we do, let’s chill all the lawyers in Congress. That way they may become cool and practical legislators.

Cantor's Loss Worries Business Lobbyists on Export-Import Bank, Immigration

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary loss Tuesday shocked K Street and has left the business community without a crucial, well-placed ally in the ongoing battle between conservative and pro-business factions within the GOP.

Campaign Finance Hearings Showcase Extremes | Rules of the Game

As Senate Democrats gear up for their third in a series of public hearings on the state of campaign finance, Capitol Hill can expect another made-for-TV performance that’s long on political theatrics and short on policy.

Costly Midterms Fuel Hundreds of Joint Fundraising Committees

House and Senate candidates are stockpiling campaign cash for the costliest midterms on record by making good use of the multi-politician war chests known as joint fundraising committees.

Big Business' Summer Agenda | K Street Files

Big business’ summer agenda on Capitol Hill reads like one big do-over.

Campaigns Ignore State Law at Their Peril | A Question of Ethics

I heard that a member of the House was in hot water for using a raffle to raise campaign funds. As a longtime campaign employee, this surprised me. I am nearly certain that this issue has come up several times over the years, and that the government has always confirmed that it is legal for campaigns to use raffles to help to raise funds. Why would the campaign of a member of the House now face legal problems for doing so?

Opinion Duel: CQ Roll Call Moderates Debate on Raising the Minimum Wage

In the third installment of The Purple Network’s “Opinion Duel,” Roll Call Editor-in-Chief Christina Bellantoni moderated a discussion with Charles C. W. Cooke, from National Review and The Nation’s ZoŽ Carpenter over the politically charged topic of increasing the minimum wage.

Campaign Bitcoins Proliferate, but FEC Rules Unclear

Candidates testing the waters of bitcoin fundraising are following different sets of rules as they go along, a function of both the freewheeling culture of the digital currency world and of mixed signals from the Federal Election Commission.

Democrats' Anti-Koch Attacks Have a Familiar Ring

There is an oddly familiar ring to Democrats’ escalating attacks on the conservative billionaire Koch brothers.

Steeped in Overhead: A Look at the Expenses of Tea Party Groups

Republican leaders are stepping up their campaign to discredit tea party activists who are challenging them on Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail, accusing conservatives of lining their own pockets at the expense of the GOP.

Is Negotiating Political Agreement a Lost Art? | Procedural Politics

Voters often complain that members of Congress “can’t seem to agree on anything.” You know people are on to something when their own representatives in Washington echo the same complaint — one of the few bipartisan sounds emanating from the capital, if not in perfect harmony.

Groups Try to Mute the Comcast Lobby | K Street Files

Just what will a “Comcastic” lobbying budget buy you? A growing coalition of consumer groups hopes “not a new merger” is the answer.

Why Did Petri Ask to Be Investigated? | A Question of Ethics

Q. I read that Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., has requested the House Ethics Committee to investigate himself. I know that members call for ethics investigations from time to time, but, I don’t recall if I’ve ever heard of a member asking for an investigation of himself. As I understand it, responding to an ethics investigation can be time-consuming and costly. Why would any member wish this upon himself?

Make Schools Like the Olympics | Pennsylvania Avenue

The Winter Olympics prove again (as if proof were needed) that competition makes athletes strive to go faster, jump higher and become more agile.

Congress’ Budgeting Would Baffle a Martian | Procedural Politics

If a martian landed here today with the mission to bring back information on how Congress makes budgets, he might report back there is no sign of intelligent life in Washington — at least when it comes to budgeting. On the other hand, he might conclude the opposite: The budget process is so convoluted and complex that officials have obviously encrypted the whole thing so no other country or planet can crack the code as to how U.S. budgets are really made.

Candidate-Super PAC Firewall Breaking Down | Rules of the Game

When the Supreme Court deregulated independent political spending four years ago, the court reasoned that unrestricted money posed no corruption risk because a firewall separates candidates from their outside benefactors.

May Staffers Write for Money? | A Question of Ethics

Q. I am a staffer for a member of the House and am considering getting a second job. My wife, who is an attorney, is pregnant with our first child, and she plans to stop practicing law so that she can stay home and raise our child. I am more than happy with this arrangement, but it will definitely be a blow to our family budget, so I am looking for ways to supplement my income. One idea was to resume my career as a writer. I wrote for newspapers and magazines before working in the House, and would like to write some magazine articles on the side after the baby arrives. I would not allow the writing to interfere with my official duties in any way. I assume this is okay, but figured I would check. May I write magazine articles for money while employed by the House?

Can Senate De-Escalate Partisan Nuke Warfare? | Procedural Politics

In my previous column (“McConnell’s Lament Stirs Fresh Breeze of Hope,” Jan. 29) I called attention to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Jan. 8 floor remarks in which he conceded that both parties are to blame for today’s hyper-partisanship and vowed to restore the committee system, Senate floor debates and a full week’s work if Republicans regain control of the chamber. McConnell said this will not require a change in Senate rules, but rather a change in behavior that will not happen overnight.

Go 'Small' on Immigration | Kondracke

Next to achieving Middle East peace, the hardest thing in the world seems to be passing a law to repair what everyone agrees is a “broken” immigration system. But there’s a chance, if Republicans and Democrats think not big but small.

Why Did the Ethics Investigation of Radel End? | A Question of Ethics

Q. I have a follow-up question to your recent column about the House Ethics Committee’s investigation of Trey Radel. Radel has since resigned from the House, and the Ethics Committee announced that, as a result, it was ending its investigation. Can you help me understand this? I would think that the mere fact that Radel resigned doesn’t mean that he didn’t do anything wrong. So, why would the Ethics Committee stop investigating him?

McConnell’s Lament Stirs Fresh Breeze of Hope | Procedural Politics

It is not unusual for sitting members of Congress to twitch and moan that the other party is destroying the institution. The majority party lambastes the minority for obstructing the important business of the country and the minority counter-bastes the majority for excluding it from making those important decisions.

It's the States, Stupid! | Pennsylvania Avenue

The New York Times’ front-page story on Jan. 12 on one-party domination of all but 13 state governments is an important piece of journalism that should cause serious rethinking and action.

Why Is Trey Radel Being Investigated? | A Question of Ethics

Q. I am a House staffer with a question about the House Ethics investigation of Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla. I know Radel pled guilty to a drug charge last year, but I’m pretty sure that the charge was just a misdemeanor. Also, I know that the House Ethics Committee automatically investigates any Member who commits a crime, but I thought that applied just to felonies, not misdemeanors. If that’s right, why is the Ethics Committee investigating Radel?

Czar Speaker Is Vindicated on Overthrow Ruling | Procedural Politics

In my Dec. 18 column, “Senate Leader Reid’s Rule Recalls House Czars”, I recounted how a group of progressive Republicans and Democrats removed Speaker Joe Cannon, R-Ill., as chairman and a member of the Rules Committee in 1910 by claiming a constitutional privilege to change House rules from the floor. When Cannon ruled the motion was not privileged under the Constitution, his decision was appealed and overturned.

The State of K Street | K Street Files

No one expects a boom in the lobbying business this year. But out of the dysfunction and stalemate of 2013, K Streeters see signs of potential work in select areas, including a revival for an old standby: appropriations.

May Campaign Funds Be Used for Holiday Gifts? | A Question of Ethics

Q. Over the holidays, I saw news reports that some members of the House use funds from their campaigns to purchase holiday gifts for constituents. As a concerned citizen, this practice surprised me. I would think that money donated to campaigns should be used solely for campaign purposes. Is it really okay to use campaign funds to buy holiday gifts?

Senate Leader Reid’s Rule Recalls House Czar Speaker Reed | Procedural Politics

The joke used to be that the House of Representatives has dozens of rules while the Senate has just two: unanimous consent and exhaustion.

The Year in Political Money: Less Transparency, More Deregulation | Rules of the Game

Campaign spending trends were not as sensational this year as in 2012, when super PACs and other outside groups pumped more than $1 billion into politics, three times what they spent in the previous presidential election cycle.

The Year in Congressional Ethics | A Question of Ethics

A famous Tacitus quote about government corruption raises a chicken and egg question. One common translation is: “The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.” But it is also sometimes cited as, “The more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the state.”

The Tragedy of the Budget Deal | Kondracke

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., are grown-ups, and it looks as though they are reaching a deal to avoid another government shutdown crisis — provided superpartisans don’t block it.

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