Articles of Interest

GOP Unified Control Still Means Divided Congress

The demise of the Republican effort to repeal the 2010 health care law put an exclamation point on what has become obvious in Washington: The GOP, for all its enthusiasm following its election win last year, is too riven with dissension to meet ambitious goals it set out for itself.

And President Donald Trump seems to have oversold his skills as a deal-maker.

“On delivering on their campaign promises, it’s hard to pat them on the back and tell them they’ve done a good job,” said Sam Geduldig, a former aide to House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, now a partner at the CGCN Group lobbying firm.

That said, the downfall of the Senate health care effort has obscured the achievements Congress has had.

History shows that “it is a mistake to expect big-ticket legislative accomplishments during the early months of presidents newly elected to the office,” said David Mayhew, the Yale political scientist who is perhaps America’s foremost student of congressional productivity.

The exceptions come in moments of crisis, such as early 1933, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed landmark legislation to regulate the sale of stock in response to the Great Depression, or early 2009, when President Barack Obama got his stimulus bill to revive an ailing economy.

Obama didn’t sign his health care law or his financial regulatory overhaul, Dodd-Frank, until his second year in office. President George W. Bush got a tax cut across the finish line in June of his first year but didn’t sign the biggest policy victory of his first Congress, the No Child Left Behind law, until January of the following year.

Trump and Republican leaders in Congress have set ambitious goals to overhaul the 2010 health care law and revamp the tax code. Prospects for both look bleak — GOP leaders announced last week they were throwing out their initial tax plan — but who knows?

It’s easy to foresee the 115th Congress setting a record for futility. But there have been achievements.

So far, the biggest GOP win was the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, gained by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to change Senate rules to allow a simple majority to confirm him — as well as hold the seat open more than year after Antonin Scalia’s death, depriving Obama of the chance at so much as a hearing for his nominee to succeed Scalia, Merrick G. Garland.

The Senate has confirmed every Trump Cabinet appointee it considered. Trump’s only loss on that front, his first Labor Department nominee Andrew Puzder, dropped out after acknowledging that he’d hired an unauthorized immigrant as a housekeeper.

Trump trails his three most recent predecessors, Obama, Bush and Bill Clinton, in the pace of his nominations and confirmations.

On the productive side of the ledger, this Congress did make innovative use of the Congressional Review Act, a 1996 law allowing it to rescind recently finalized regulations.

It had been used successfully once before, in 2001, when Bush signed a resolution revoking a rule by the Clinton Labor Department requiring employers to protect their workers from repetitive stress injuries: the ergonomics rule.

This year, Congress rescinded 14 Obama-era regulations to keep pollution out of streams and guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, among other things. Such CRA resolutions make up nearly a third of its legislative output.

It also sets a precedent future Congresses will surely mimic.

In May, Congress finalized fiscal 2017 spending. It came seven months after the fiscal year began, but was done without shutdown brinkmanship.

In June, Trump signed a law that marks a bipartisan win: a measure responding to the scandal at Veterans Affairs Department hospitals, where dying veterans were left waiting for appointments. The law makes it easier to fire VA employees for poor performance and for whistleblowers to come forward.

Still, Congress hasn’t made much progress on basic obligations. Fiscal 2018 appropriations bills have only begun to move, with no indication Republican leaders can, as promised, restore an orderly budget process.

The House passed a “minibus” spending bill Thursday covering four of the 12 annual appropriations bills for defense, military construction and veterans’ benefits, energy, and the legislative branch. It included $1.57 billion for barriers along parts of the U.S.-Mexico border.

There’s little likelihood it will be enacted in its current form. Because Democrats can block appropriations bills in the Senate, given the 60-vote threshold there, the two parties need to reach a deal to raise limits on defense and nondefense spending enacted in 2011.

Democrats don’t plan to go along with the wall funding, or the defense spending increase in the House bill if there are not comparable nondefense increases. Congress must raise the debt limit, too, this fall — always a fraught vote.

House Republicans hope to move a fiscal 2018 budget resolution when they return in September that would allow them to move forward with a tax overhaul using the fast-track budget reconciliation procedure. Reconciliation allows the Senate to pass measures that have budgetary effects such as taxes, spending and the deficit with only a simple majority.

But disagreements among Republicans over the centerpiece of the House GOP leaders’ initial tax proposal, a border adjustment tax that would have hit imports, prompted leadership on Thursday to ask the tax-writing committees to start over.

Meanwhile, Congress is making progress on other must-pass bills. The House has passed measures reauthorizing the Food and Drug Administration’s system of user fees — which help fund the agency — and a defense authorization bill. They await Senate action.

Both chambers are moving forward with legislation, due by Sept. 30, to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration. Progress is slow because of Trump’s plan to privatize the air traffic control system. The House has incorporated the proposal into its bill, but the Senate has rejected it. Republicans are divided over the idea, with rural members most likely to oppose it for fear it could hurt small airports.

And work has begun on reauthorization of the federal flood insurance program, also set to expire this year.

Another issue is what to do about surveillance authority granted to the National Security Agency in 2008 to collect emails of foreign terrorist suspects. The NSA’s dragnet at one time captured messages written by Americans who were not suspects but merely mentioned people who were, prompting an outcry from civil libertarians. The agency earlier this year said it was now only collecting emails to or from suspects.

Even so, the expiration of the authority at the end of this year will prompt a fight between security hawks who want to renew it, and civil liberties advocates who want to let it expire, or curtail it. Congress has made no progress on a resolution.

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Why Is Trump Headed to Duluth and Who Is Pete Stauber?
Minnesota’s 8th District is prime GOP pick-up opportunity in November

President Donald Trump, seen here holding a rally in Kentucky last year, is appearing with GOP candidate Pete Stauber in Minnesota’s 8th District Wednesday night. (George LeVines/CQ Roll Call file photo)

With a House map full of potential Democratic pick-up opportunities, Minnesota’s 8th District presents a rare bright spot for Republicans.

President Donald Trump is headed to the sprawling northeast Minnesota district, home to the mining region known as the Iron Range, for a Wednesday night rally in Duluth. Republican candidate Pete Stauber’s campaign said he’ll be speaking too.

Life is No Picnic: White House Congressional Chowdown Gets Chop
President cancels Thursday evening confab, even as cooks prepared meals

Then House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., poses with clowns for a picture at the congressional family picnic. July 29, 1996 (Maureen Keating/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump announced he will “cancel and postpone” Thursday evening’s congressional picnic at the White House because “we’re all so busy.”

“I was just walking over to the Oval Office and thinking, ’You know, it just doesn’t feel right to have a picnic for Congress when we’re working on doing something so important.” 

Trump Signs Executive Action Ending Family Separation
ACLU warns president's action merely replaces 'one crisis for another'

Central American asylum seekers wait as U.S. Border Patrol agents take groups of them into custody on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Updated 3:19 p.m. | Bowing to public pressure, President Donald Trump on Thursday signed an executive action ending the practice of separating migrant children from their parents amid a firestorm that saw congressional Republicans break with him.

The president contends Congress must pass legislation addressing the matter for it to be permanently solved given existing laws and court rulings his administration says mandates a process under which migrant children are separated from their parents when caught trying to illegally enter the United States.

With Family Separation as Backdrop, House Sets in Motion Immigration Votes
Speaker talks up compromise bill as addressing multiple issues in one swoop

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., escorts President Donald Trump to the House Republican caucus meeting in the basement go the Capitol on Tuesday, June 19, 2018 to discuss immigration amid an uproar over family separation at the Southern border. On Thursday, the House will vote on two immigration bills. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As the focus on family separations at the Southern border intensifies, Speaker Paul D. Ryan declined Wednesday to say whether House Republicans would take up standalone legislation to prevent such separations at the border if their broader immigration bill addressing the issue fails.

“Right now we’re focused on passing this bill that’s coming to the floor tomorrow,” the Wisconsin Republican said.

Grimm Compares Migrant Children’s Conditions to ‘Day Care’ Dropoff
Rep. Donovan, who Grimm is challenging for his old seat, also defended family separation policy

Former Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., compared the conditions for migrant children separated from their parents on the border to child day care. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Republican Rep. Michael G. Grimm of New York dismissed the cries of migrant children separated from their families on the border as equivalent to the weeping of kids being dropped off at day care.

“I can take you to any nursery and you’re going to hear the exact same things. As a mother leaves to go to work and has to leave her child at day care, you’re going to hear those exact same things,” Grimm said during an interview with local news media Tuesday.

Poll: Kim Jong Un Looks Stronger Than Trump After Summit
North Korean leader extracted more from the negotiations, respondents say

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un participate in a signing ceremony during a meeting on Sentosa Island in Singapore on June 12. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Kim Jong Un appears stronger than President Donald Trump in the wake of their historic summit, according to a new Economist/YouGov poll.

Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed a week after the meeting said Kim is a strong leader, up from roughly half in April.

Clark Says She Would ‘Politely Decline’ Help From Bill Clinton
Massachusetts congresswoman she hopes other Democrats will follow suit

Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., said she would not help former President Bill Clinton's help on the campaign trail.. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Katherine M. Clark said she would say thanks, but no thanks if she was offered help on the campaign trail by former President Bill Clinton.

Speaking on Boston Public Radio, Clark said “I would politely decline” if she were asked.

Man Arrested for Threatening Mast’s Kids Over Immigration Policy
‘If you’re going to separate kids at the border, I’m going to kill his kids,’ caller to congressman’s office says

A man was arrested for threatening to kill the children of Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., center, in response to the White House’s family separation policy. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A man from Stuart, Florida, has been arrested after threatening to kill Republican Rep. Brian Mast’s children over President Donald Trump’s family separation policy.

Lawrence Key was arrested after allegedly making a threatening call to Mast’s Washington office on Monday, WPTV reported.

An Ex-Con Looks for a Comeback in New York’s 11th District
But first, Michael Grimm needs to defeat Rep. Dan Donovan in the GOP primary

Former Rep. Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y., is challenging Rep. Dan Donovan, R-N.Y., for his old seat in New York’s 11th District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It’s been 90 years since someone with a criminal conviction was elected to the House. But one felon could jump-start his congressional comeback if he wins a Republican primary next week.

GOP voters in New York’s 11th District head to the polls Tuesday to choose between Rep. Dan Donovan and former Rep. Michael G. Grimm, who resigned his seat in early 2015 and served seven months in prison after pleading guilty to tax evasion.

House Immigration Compromise Faces Dim Prospects Amid Conservative Opposition
No compelling case for Freedom Caucus members to vote for it, Meadows says

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, is among the conservatives opposed to a compromise immigration bill that President Donald Trump has endorsed and that the House is expected to vote on this week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A Republican immigration bill negotiated in recent weeks by cross sections of the House GOP Conference faces dim prospects for passage after several conservatives indicated opposition to the measure Tuesday.

House Republican leaders invited President Donald Trump to the Capitol on Tuesday evening to try to sell the legislation to the conference. And while Trump said he supports the compromise measure — along with one by House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte that most conservatives in the conference prefer — it does not appear to have swayed enough conservatives to ensure the bill’s passage.

Can Aruna Miller Upset the Largest Self-Funder in House Race History?
Maryland hopeful has many of the credentials that have boosted Democratic women this year

Maryland state Del. Aruna Miller greets voters at an early polling place in Gaithersburg, Md, on June 18. She stands behind the electioneering line which prevents a candidate from being too close to a voting site. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — If there’s one electoral trend from 2018 so far, it’s that Democratic women are winning primaries in House districts across the country.

But in Maryland, which has no women in its congressional delegation for the first time in more than 40 years, the most competitive woman running for the Democratic nomination in the open 6th District is at a big disadvantage.

Opinion: When Even Ted Cruz Balks at Trump’s Excesses
Children’s screams are now the soundtrack of the Trump era

A boy and father from Honduras are taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents near Mission, Texas, on June 12. (John Moore/Getty Images)

If the arc of history does indeed bend toward justice, then we know what soundtrack will greet future visitors to the Donald J. Trump Presidential Library and Golf Resort.

It will be the eight-minute audio recording, obtained and authenticated by ProPublica, of children in a Border Patrol detention facility screaming for their parents.

Capitol Ink | Space Force One

Trump Administration Finalizes Rule on Health Plans
“You’re going to save massive amounts of money and have much better health care,” president says

Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta suggested the new rule on associate health plans would help ease regulatory burdens on small businesses. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Trump administration on Tuesday finalized a rule expanding the availability of alternative insurance plans that do not meet the 2010 health care law’s requirements despite objections from consumer advocates and the industry.

The rule will extend so-called association health plans, which allow insurance companies to skirt benefit requirements and other parts of the 2010 law. President Donald Trump heralded the new rule in a speech Tuesday to the National Federation of Independent Business trade group, or NFIB.

Judge Rules Ann Kirkpatrick Lives in Tucson, Can Stay on Primary Ballot
Arizona Democrat is seeking a comeback from 2nd District

Former Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick is seeking a comeback from Arizona’s 2nd District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick does live in Tucson, a judge ruled Tuesday in a lawsuit challenging her residency in the 2nd District. The lawsuit, financed by one of her Democratic primary opponents, had attempted to remove her from the primary ballot.

Former state Rep. Matt Heinz, the losing 2016 Democratic nominee for the seat, helped fund the lawsuit that alleged Kirkpatrick falsely claimed in campaign documents that she lived in Tucson. Candidates are not required to live in the districts they are running in, but the plaintiffs alleged Kirkpatrick violated state law that required candidates to accurately reflect their residency on nominating papers.