Policy

McConnell, Mnuchin Unequivocal About Avoiding Default on the Debt
Majority leader and Treasury secretary say debt limit will be increased on time

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin expressed confidence the debt limit would be increased. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared without hesitation Monday that Congress will raise the debt limit come September.

“There is zero chance — no chance — we won’t raise the debt ceiling. No chance. America is not going to default, and we’ll get the job done in conjunction with the secretary of the Treasury,” the Kentucky Republican said, appearing alongside Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Russia Portfolio Comes in Handy for Senate Staffer
Shaheen aide Naz Durakoglu comes via Atlantic Council, State Dept., House

Naz Durakoglu is a senior foreign policy adviser to New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. (Screenshot, Middle East Institute)

Naz Durakoglu started her new job working for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in early June, shortly after the New Hampshire Democrat had pushed to add Russia sanctions to an Iran sanctions bill as it moved through the Foreign Relations Committee.

But after Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee said he would move ahead with a bipartisan effort to tighten sanctions against Moscow, Shaheen withdrew her amendments. The timing, though, put Durakoglu, as a senior foreign policy adviser to Shaheen, in the middle of discussions about how to respond to Russia’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 election.

‘Right to Try’ Bill Could Face Slower Action in House
Changes to measure possible during Energy and Commerce markup

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson’s "Right to Try" legislation faces an uncertain future in the House. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A Senate-passed bill intended to help dying patients access experimental drugs will likely face lengthier deliberations in the House. While the Senate fast-tracked the bill on Aug. 3, the House will likely subject it to a hearing and markup before bringing it up to a vote, according to congressional aides and a lobbyist.

The bill would reduce some of the paperwork involved in getting access to experimental treatments, and would offer protections to the drug companies who choose to make drugs available outside of a clinical trial. It’s the federal version of “Right to Try” measures that have been passed in 37 states with support from libertarian-leaning Republicans who say the Food and Drug Administration prevents dying patients from getting treatments.

Republicans to Weigh Surplus of Tax Policy Options
Standalone bills provide a glimpse into senators’ priorities

South Dakota Sen. John Thune has introduced several standalone bills that could be wrapped into a broader overhaul of the U.S. tax code. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Legislation introduced by Republican senators over the past several months could help guide the upcoming debate on an overhaul of the U.S. tax code.

While the effort is still in the adolescent stage, the bills provide an early look into the priorities members will push for during the forthcoming tax negotiations.

Transgender Military Ban Lawsuit Could Turn on Trump Tweet
Suit claims White House turned Trump’s Twitter posts into official guidance for DOD

(Ted Eytan/CC BY 2.0)

Five transgender service members filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s apparent decision to reinstate a ban on transgender people serving in the military — a case that could turn on whether official policy can be announced on Twitter.

Lawyers for GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders and the National Center for Lesbian Rights represent plaintiffs who are in the Air Force, the Coast Guard and the Army and served from three years to two decades, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. The plaintiffs are not named in the lawsuit filed Wednesday.

Lobbyists Push GOP to Repeal Obamacare Fees in Tax Overhaul
Trade group is launching digital ad buys in key states

Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, seen here with Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow wants to look at a possible repeal of the 2010 health care law's taxes as part of a larger tax package. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Republican effort to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health care law may have stalled, but lobbyists are pushing the GOP to continue to target the provisions the industry most despises: the law’s taxes.

House and Senate Republicans hope to push forward on a tax overhaul when Congress returns in September, an item they previously delayed in favor of health care. Repealing the 2010 health care law and its corresponding taxes would have helped simplify the GOP’s upcoming work, but those hopes were deflated when the Senate did not pass a repeal bill last month.

CBO Would Disclose Research Models, Data Under Lee Measure
Utah Republican latest to target Congress’ budget scorekeeper

Utah Sen. Mike Lee wants the CBO to ‘show how its models work.’ (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The hits keep coming for the Congressional Budget Office, as Republicans in Congress continue to lash out against the nonpartisan scorekeeper following its unflattering analysis of recent GOP health care proposals.

Republican lawmakers and White House officials in recent months have accused the CBO of partisan bias; called for slashing its budget; singled out individual employees; and suggested the agency is now obsolete.

People’s Policy Project Wants to Change the Think Tank World, $5 at a Time
Matt Bruenig takes new approach to policy research through small, monthly donations

(Chris Hale/CQ Roll Call)

The People’s Policy Project is the only think tank funded by tiny monthly donations.

“I thought I could get $1,000 a month,” Matt Bruenig said about his initial plans for the organization, also known as 3P.

Enzi Plans September Budget Markup as McConnell Urges Speed

Chairman Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., takes his seat for the Senate Budget Committee to order for the hearing with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on the President’s budget proposals on Tuesday, June 13, 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Budget Chairman Michael B. Enzi told Republicans Thursday he intends to mark up a fiscal 2018 budget resolution in September.

In addition, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., met with Republicans on the Budget Committee late Thursday morning and charged them with producing a budget resolution after the recess.

Drug Smuggling Biggest Threat Along Canadian Border, DHS Says

Jimmy Emerson/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The biggest threat to the U.S.-Canada border continues to be drug smuggling with criminal gangs employing low-flying airplanes to avoid detection, the Department of Homeland Security said in a report to Congress on Thursday.

“The most common threat to U.S. public safety along the northern border continues to be the bidirectional flow of illicit drugs,” the Northern Border Threat Analysis report said. “To avoid detection by U.S. and Canadian law enforcement,” transnational criminal groups occasionally fly “private aircraft at low altitude to evade radar detection, but there are no reports to suggest that the tactic is employed on a large scale.”