congressional-operations

Appropriators seek to wrap up talks this weekend
But panel members acknowledge ‘hurdles’ as Dec. 20 deadline for bill passage looms

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, on Thursday said he was “more enthusiastic than I was a couple of days ago” that final negotiations on spending bills could be done this weekend. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Spending bill negotiators set their sights on wrapping up a year-end deal by this weekend, but they differed on how realistic that deadline might be.

With only two weeks left before current funding runs dry, appropriators are hoping to finalize work on all 12 spending bills and pass them by Dec. 20 to avoid another stopgap measure or possible government shutdown. But unless a deal comes together in the next several days, lawmakers have warned, there likely won’t be enough time to write the bills and move them through both chambers before the holiday recess.

Impeachment news roundup: Dec. 5
Committee leaders to meet today on next steps toward impeachment, Judiciary members prepared to work over weekend

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announces Thursday that she is calling on the House Judiciary Committee to proceed with articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Judiciary Democrats have been advised to stay in Washington this weekend for impeachment strategy sessions, but members were unclear whether they’d be huddling to prepare for a Monday hearing or to begin debating the scope of articles of impeachment.

The committee announced Thursday afternoon that it will hold a hearing at 9 a.m. Monday to receive a presentation from Intelligence Committee counsel on its impeachment inquiry report, as well as a presentation from its own counsel. Members on the panel were not clear what the Judiciary counsel would be presenting.

Impeachment hearing more about Judiciary panel than witnesses
Members poised to use testimony to highlight concerns with president’s behavior, committee’s process

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler has not revealed much about impeachment strategy, but the open hearing and unscripted nature of member questions could make that hard to maintain. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House Judiciary Committee’s first hearing Wednesday in a push to impeach President Donald Trump will be more about the members of the committee than the witnesses, and what it reveals about where the process is headed in the next two weeks.

Four constitutional law experts will appear to discuss the meaning of the Constitution’s impeachment standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” But members from both sides are poised to use the testimony to highlight their concerns with the president’s behavior or their concerns with the impeachment process.

House pushes ‘dozen bills or none’ approach to spending talks
GOP senators express doubts as House leaders insist on finalizing appropriations by Dec. 20

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby says he doubts that all 12 overdue spending bills for the current fiscal year could be finalized before the Dec. 20 deadline. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Democratic leaders are insisting that all 12 overdue spending bills for the current fiscal year must be finalized before any of them can reach the floor, according to sources familiar with strategy talks.

The demand for some kind of grand bargain could complicate hopes for completion of at least a portion of fiscal 2020 appropriations before stopgap funding runs dry on Dec. 20 and Congress adjourns for the winter holidays. 

House calendar for 2020 includes presidential election year oddities
Parties’ annual policy retreats are also on the schedule

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer has released the 2020 calendar. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Once House members conclude their work for 2019, they will not be expected back on Capitol Hill until the evening of Tuesday, Jan. 7.

That’s according to the new House calendar for 2020 officially unveiled Thursday morning by House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland.

Uncertain times could bring new lobbying strategies
Workarounds include deeper outreach to think tanks, academia and other institutions

Even as more lawmakers have shrugged off donations from PACs and as the Trump era has disrupted the nation’s politics, K Street has not suffered a noticeable hit to its bottom line. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS — It’s hard to imagine a more bonkers, unpredictable and politically toxic backdrop for K Street operators than the current one. But just wait until 2020 actually arrives. 

The presidential election year will hit lobbyists with potential risks all around. Candidates up and down the ballot will press proposals to remake the influence industry and to overhaul the nation’s campaign finance system. More candidates will reject K Street and business donations. The approaching elections, along with an expected impeachment trial early on, will turn Capitol Hill into an even bigger political mess.

Tim Ryan was once a star quarterback, with Congress as his backup
Ohio Democrat recalls how he got his start on Capitol Hill

Before he was a congressman, Ohio’s Tim Ryan was an intern and a staff assistant for his predecessor, Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Tim Ryan “caught the bug” for Congress first as a summer intern in 1994 and then as a staff assistant the following year for a fellow Ohioan, the late and colorful Democratic Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.

He recalls meeting Traficant during his senior year in high school, when Ryan was the star quarterback of his team. The two bonded over their football experiences. Ryan was recruited to play for Youngstown State, but an injury cut short his college football career. 

Democrats prepare to duel McConnell over year-end wish list
Amid push for legislation benefiting Kentucky constituents, Dems seek their own concessions

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing several initiatives to benefit his constituents, including renewal of tax breaks for bourbon distillers, aid for retired coal miners and appropriations to bolster Kentucky’s hemp industry. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As former Sen. Wendell Ford often said, with small variations: “Kentucky is beautiful women, fast horses, bourbon whiskey, cigarettes and coal. I represent Kentucky, and that’s what I represent.”

The colorful Ford, a Democrat who died in 2015, had little else in common with Mitch McConnell, the stoic Kentucky Republican who served as the junior senator from the Bluegrass State alongside Ford for 15 years until the latter’s 1999 retirement. But the Senate majority leader is clearly taking a few pages from Ford’s playbook in the year-end legislative scramble as he heads into a potentially difficult reelection campaign in 2020.

Payment to Elijah Cummings’ wife continues long-standing tradition
Stopgap spending measure released Monday includes $174,000 to Maya Rockeymoore Cummings

Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, widow of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., will receive the death gratuity in the latest stopgap spending measure. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, the widow of the late Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, will receive an $174,000 payment as part of a continuing resolution that is expected to keep the government open through Dec. 20.

The personal payment in this latest spending bill continues a long-standing practice of providing a death gratuity for a departed member’s survivors. The gratuity is usually included in the next appropriations bill following a lawmakers's death and is paid to the “next of kin” in the amount of one year’s compensation — $174,000.

GOP ‘storm the SCIF’ stunt could jeopardize classified briefings
Bipartisan memo warns lawmakers of consequences for them and the House

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., speaks during a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center outside a deposition related to the House impeachment inquiry on Oct. 23, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House Ethics Committee responded this week to efforts by House Republicans to access the secure facility in the basement of the Capitol during a closed-door impeachment deposition on Oct. 23, issuing a memo about breaches of security and warning lawmakers of potential consequences.

The memo, dated Thursday, reminds lawmakers that all members and staff who have access to classified information take an oath to not disclose any such information and that access to classified information and secure areas are on a “need to know” basis.