The Texan Who Really Matters at the Capitol This Year

This year, the most consequential Texan in the Senate is definitely not Ted Cruz.  

That designation is awarded, without any equivocation, to the state’s senior senator, John Cornyn.  

The House's Ideology, in Seven Circles

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, has joined 3 of the GOP's key groups. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

In any organization filled with nothing but ambitious and opinionated people, groups with common interests are sure to come together — and Congress is no different.  

Every member’s Hill career begins by winning election to either the House or Senate, of course, and during the 114th Congress all of them are caucusing with either the Republicans or the Democrats. But right below those surfaces, the alliances get much more complex, nuanced — and oftentimes contradictory, as lawmakers subdivide into all manner of smaller clusters. Hawkings-Venn-Diagram-RC-FInal(WEB).jpg Since the nature of the Senate guarantees all members are power centers on their own, the caucuses and other groups to which they belong aren’t all that important. But the ethos is fundamentally different in the House. Since it’s more than four times bigger, and passage of many proposals requires assembling support from many camps, how you’re known and how much leverage you assert has much more to do with which colleagues you hang out with.  

Spending Deal a Likely Capstone for a Prominent House Chairman

Rogers has shepherded a host of omnibus packages since becoming the House's top appropriator. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House’s man of the decade on big budget bills, Harold Rogers, may be in his final days in such a catbird seat.  

The Kentuckian has been the top Republican engineer on four consecutive omnibus packages during his chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee. Now he’s on the cusp of completing his fifth, belatedly setting spending levels for a fiscal year with 10 weeks already in the rearview mirror. But, if the recent past is a guide, this bill will be the Rogers swan song. He’s still got one more year with the gavel. But it will be a presidential election year, and Congress decided relatively early in 2008 and again in 2012 to call timeout in the budget debate until the White House winner could play a decisive role. Both times, first under Democratic control and then with the Capitol divided, lawmakers went home to campaign after agreeing in September to putting almost all agencies and programs on autopilot until the following March.  

After the Revolution, a Single New Spot of Influence for the Freedom Caucus

Huelskamp was the second-highest vote-getter in the Steering Committee election. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

If you’re a member of the House Freedom Caucus, are you better off now than you were a dozen weeks ago?  

That question is worth asking in light of last week’s down-ballot House Republican leadership election. It was a sort of insiders-only coda to all those months of turmoil in the ranks that climaxed with Speaker John A. Boehner’s resignation announcement at the end of September. On the one hand, the most avowedly combative conservatives were granted one of their most prominent demands before quieting their uprising. As he’d promised them, new Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., arranged an opening for the Freedom Caucus to secure a significant voice at his top table.  

Kasich Labors to Make '90s Hill Win Work for Him Now

Kasich, right, with his Senate counterpart, Pete V. Domenici, left, helped forge a historic budget agreement in the 1990s. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The 2016 presidential field started with a pair of former congressional power players, one from each party, with singular lawmaking achievements on their record.  

Jim Webb, who engineered a big GI Bill of Rights expansion as a Virginia senator almost a decade ago, has now slipped off to Democratic oblivion. It’s not clear how much longer John Kasich, the Republican with an even bigger legislative accomplishment under his belt, will survive in a contest where standing out as the outsider has become the most rewarding approach. Kasich has the deepest governance résumé in the GOP field. His five years as governor of a fiscally solid Ohio were preceded by almost two decades in Congress, where he was a main architect of the only plan that’s balanced the federal books since the Lyndon B. Johnson administration.  

Schooling Time for New Crop of Hill Education Leaders

When Kline retires at the end of next year, it will mark a passing of the guard for congressional education leaders. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

One of the more remarkable aspects of the bipartisan agreement on a replacement for the No Child Left Behind law, which the House is on course to embrace this week, is the team of authors’ relatively modest level of collective devotion to education policy.  

This is especially true on the south half of Capitol Hill, which is on the backside of a changing of the guard for House members who make improving our schools one of their big interests. The timing of the rewrite of federal policies on elementary and secondary education is notable for more than the fact that it’s eight years overdue. The legislation is getting done a year before the retirement of John Kline, the Minnesotan who was catapulted over eight more senior colleagues into the top Republican slot on the Education and the Workforce Committee six years ago.  

The Would-Be Chairman With Ways and Means on His Side

Brady announced Monday he's running for Ways and Means chairman. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Assuming no more last-minute surprises this fall at the House Republican Conference, the only important personnel decision to be made in coming days is who’ll become chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.  

Paul D. Ryan’s agreement to be speaker, to be formally embraced by his GOP colleagues Wednesday, means after just 10 months he must give up the job he’s always described as his top political ambition.  

Daniel Webster Presses Nuanced Case for Speaker

Webster, center, is a long-shot candidate for speaker, but that hasn't deterred him. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Daniel Webster made clear over the past two weeks he wasn’t waiting on Paul D. Ryan’s big decision . And on Thursday, the relatively obscure Florida congressman reiterated he is still running for speaker, no matter what.  

He'll continue his quest, he said in a terse statement, “to transform a broken Congress based on the power of a few into a principle-based, member-driven Congress."  

Next Speaker Unlikely to Continue Long String of Leadership Insiders

Ryan, right, has policy chops but scant leadership experience. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated Oct. 13, 12 p.m. | There may be plenty of good reasons why Republicans are now seeking a “fresh face” as House speaker. But picking from outside the existing chain of command would also create some big challenges.  

It also would be highly unusual. It's been nearly a century since someone was chosen to preside over the House without ever occupying a lower rung in the leadership. The past 16 speakers, in other words, have won with serious insider credentials — even when political common sense has pointed to the selection of a certified outsider. It’s very possible that precedent will be broken this fall. Most of the members now in the roiling mix for speaker have made their reputations as policy experts, ideological warriors or marketing experts for the GOP — but have never been called on to practice those talents using the special tool kit of political power, staff resources and outside influence that comes along with a seat at the top table .  

Young Man in a Hurry, Chaffetz Now Positioned for a Longer Game

Chaffetz has his eye on a promotion. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Jason Chaffetz will bring a chameleon political background and unremitting ambition into Thursday’s caucus of Republicans with his eyes on the prize — just not this time.  

The fourth-term congressman from central Utah is not only looking three weeks ahead. He’s also thinking about 13 months from now, and also two years after that. The seemingly sudden and totally unorthodox Chaffetz campaign for speaker of the House looks designed for failure, but only in the nearest term. Out of the box six days before the initial balloting, he’s created no whip operation behind his candidacy and hasn’t even made his pitch over the phone to all 245 other members of the electorate.