hawkings

Political Gerrymandering: Is There a Math Test for That?
Supreme Court may consider whether practice is unconstitutional

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled in a North Carolina racial gerrymandering case and may take on a Wisconsin case this fall that involves partisan gerrymanders. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Racial gerrymanders have been undone many times, most recently when the Supreme Court ruled against a pair of North Carolina congressional districts this week. But another case from that same state, heading into federal court next month, has a shot at eventually persuading the justices to do what they’ve never done before: strike down an election map as an unconstitutionally partisan gerrymander.

The high court ruled three decades ago that it may be unconstitutional to draw political boundaries so that one party was sure to win a disproportionate number of elections, but it’s never come up with a means for deciding when such mapmaking has become too extreme.

Hill and Mueller Don’t Have to Clash, but It Will Not Be Easy
Congressional inquiries and prosecutors have different purposes, but the same witnesses

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller’s appointment as special counsel for the Russia investigation was greeted positively by lawmakers, but they disagreed on the effect his probe will have on their own investigations. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Congressional inquiries and special counsels can productively coexist, serving complementary purposes because of their reciprocal approaches, unless they’re unable to settle inevitable fights over the same documents and star witnesses.

That may be the best response to a question many on Capitol Hill started asking as soon as Robert S. Mueller III was appointed to run the government’s probe of Russian interference in last year’s election and whether Moscow collaborated with President Donald Trump’s campaign:

A Senator Out of His Shell, and Under Trump’s Skin
Connecticut’s Blumenthal at the center of opposition to president

Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal makes his way through the Senate subway in the Capitol after a meeting of Senate Democrats on May 10. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Of the 157 tweets President Donald Trump has sent in the last month alone, just six have singled out individuals for ridicule. And half of those have been directed at Richard Blumenthal.

The senior senator from Connecticut, who’s made reticence and prudence the guideposts of his first four decades in political life, is projecting a very different sort of persona these days. While presenting himself in public as quietly as ever, he’s become one of president’s most incisive Democratic antagonists on an array of topics.

Defeated Lawmakers Trek From the Hill to Middle Earth — And Beyond
Life after Congress has included ambassadorships for dozens

Former Sen. Scott Brown was nominated by President Donald Trump to be U.S. ambassador to New Zealand. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

If three makes a trend and four creates a pattern, then dispatching favored congressional losers to New Zealand has become not just a sliver but a pillar of the American diplomatic order. 

When Scott Brown takes over the embassy in Wellington by this summer — his confirmation virtually assured thanks to the endorsements of both Democratic senators who have defeated him — the onetime matinee idol for Republican centrists will become the fourth former member of Congress who’s assumed that particular ambassadorship after being rejected by the voters.

Halftime for Special Election Bragging Rights
As South Carolina votes Tuesday, neither side in Trump referendum fight has an edge

This year’s special elections could be a more reliable bellwether of President Donald Trump’s effect on the political landscape, Hawkings writes. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

One of the many ways sports and politics are alike is that the “expectations game” is central to both.

The incessant boasting and trash talk by the players makes great theater, but no difference in the outcome of any match or any election. Over time, however, critical masses of paying customers will start shifting their passions elsewhere if the advance histrionics and the eventual outcomes don’t occasionally match.

How Trump and Hill GOP Could Fill the Looming Legislative Void
Bipartisan deal to ease spending curbs would give Congress ways to seem productive

President Donald Trump and congressional Republican leaders may have to move relatively quickly to secure some serious help from the Democrats to avoid budgetary gridlock, Hawkings writes. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Forget the fake news folderol about another shutdown showdown at the end of next week, because just over the horizon looms the year’s really big fiscal morass. 

It’s highly likely that the first order of business when Congress comes back, keeping the bureaucracy humming for just five months, will prove to be the policymaking equivalent of an empty net goal.

Why McConnell Vowed to Preserve Minority’s Big Remaining Power
After going ‘nuclear’ for Gorsuch, legislative filibuster not endangered

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has accrued and sustained power in Washington for longer than three decades in part by being a man of his word, Hawkings writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Thursday’s showdown at the Capitol has been heralded by such melodramatic rhetoric — a miasma of transparent flip-flopping and brazen hypocrisy sullying virtually every senior senator, from both parties — that two genuinely meaningful consequences of the moment may be hard to appreciate.

The first is more obvious: The views of the political minority will never again matter when filling the confirmation-required government job with by far the biggest and longest-lasting impact on the lives of Americans.

How Devin Nunes Got Where He Is Today
Networking, not expertise, got him the Intel gavel so many now want to take away

California Rep. Devin Nunes is facing criticism for gridlocking the House Intelligence Committee at a potentially historic point in history. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Any search for a single Republican capable of undermining not only his party’s efforts to project a modicum of independence from President Donald Trump, but also the House’s institutional standing in the world of global affairs oversight, would not normally focus on an alfalfa and dairy farmer turned congressman from California.

But such is the uniquely unsettled nature of Washington this spring that the open casting call for the most newly pilloried person at the Capitol this year is over after just 10 weeks, the role awarded by virtually unanimous consent to Devin Gerald Nunes.

GOP Gets a Second Shot at Governance Test
But as shutdown showdown looms, no signs of change in party factionalization

President Donald Trump and Congress soon face a partial government shutdown if they can’t work something out. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The tax overhaul can wait, and it’s going to have to.

For the Republican government that so phenomenally flopped its first big attempt at policymaking, a much more basic test of governance looms in the next month — and another failure seems hardly a politically acceptable option.

Eight Is Enough: Trump’s Tough Search for Gorsuch Democrats
‘Deep red five’ and others targeted to vote to break coming SCOTUS filibuster

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch testifies on the second day of his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Donald Trump’s first quest for a Hard Eight began long before Neil Gorsuch’s two days as a Senate witness made it as easy as it’s ever going to be for the president to win his first big judicial bet. 

That’s still not going to be that easy.