hawkings

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.

Yesterday’s US Attorneys May Be Tomorrow’s Congressional Candidates
Abrupt ouster by Trump administration provides incentive

Dana Boente could be a plausible challenger to Republican Scott Taylor in Virginia’s 2nd District. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images file photo)

President Donald Trump’s abrupt ouster of almost half the country’s U.S. attorneys has done more than create yet another tempest for his nascent administration. It’s also created a new and potentially potent Democratic political class.

Campaign consultants in both parties have long identified prosecutors — especially those confirmed by the Senate to act as the chief federal law enforcement officers in the nation’s 93 judicial districts — as top-flight congressional recruiting opportunities. But, for reasons that aren’t all that obvious, the Republicans have propelled many more crime busters onto Capitol Hill than the Democrats in recent years.

High Risk for Trump’s Asking Congress to Probe His Tapping Claim
Intelligence panels’ bipartisan approach might lead to answers president won’t like

President Donald Trump’s calls on Congress to investigate his wiretapping allegations carries many risks and could also complicate the selling of his legislative agenda, Hawkings writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In the long and storied history of congressional investigations, there’s no record of lawmakers acting at the president’s behest to get to the bottom of his own extraordinarily explosive but totally unsubstantiated allegations.

But that is going to be the case in the already amply unprecedented era of President Donald Trump. The result could not only change the very nature of legislative branch oversight, but also alter the turbulent course of this nascent administration.

How a Tenet of GOP Orthodoxy Slipped Away
Trump saying nothing about cutting entitlements, and Ryan saying nothing about that

President Donald Trump faces some grim forecasts on budget issues, but shows no signs of being open to cuts to entitlement programs, Hawkings writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Nothing President Donald Trump said in his first speech to Congress, and nothing visible on this year’s budget battle horizon, will change the grim realities of the long-range federal fiscal forecast.

Trump continues to sound like he’s out to refashion the Republicans as populist protectors of elderly Americans and their expansive government safety net, and GOP leaders on the Hill newly sound like they aren’t going to do anything to stand in his way. That represents a fundamental retreat from three decades of party orthodoxy, which could revive the sort of ballooning annual deficits long derided by Republicans as the enemy of national economic stability.

Nevada’s Hill Sway Sinks While Other Small States Surge
New Roll Call Clout Index reveals big disconnects between population and Capitol influence

With the retirement of former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, the Nevada congressional delegation has lost much of its legislative leverage, Hawkings writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Harry Reid may have masterminded one of 2016’s biggest statewide Democratic sweeps as he headed toward retirement, but the Nevada congressional delegation he left behind has lost much of its legislative leverage as a result. 

In fact, only two delegations have less collective influence at the Capitol this year than the six lawmakers from the Silver State, the newest Roll Call Clout Index reveals.

Tennessee, Texas Stand Out for Strengthened Hill Sway
In Roll Call’s Clout Index for this Congress, California delegation’s longtime hold on top spot is threatened

Party affiliation and longevity have helped propel members of the Tennessee delegation such as Sen. Bob Corker into positions that convey authority and power, Hawkings writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

No state in this decade has seen a more meaningful boost than Tennessee in institutionalized congressional influence.

Only eight states, all with much bigger delegations because they’re much more populous, have more overt sway at the Capitol this year. That is one of several notable findings from the new Roll Call Clout Index, which the newspaper uses to take a quantifiable measurement of every state’s potential for power at the start of each new Congress.  

For the GOP, a Dangerous Gamble on the All-Important Town Hall
Old-school constituent connections work best, but the anger is proving tough to withstand

Police escort California Rep. Tom McClintock through a town-hall audience in Roseville, California, last Saturday. (Randall Benton/The Sacramento Bee via AP)

Consider 10 and 19 as two more figures that help illustrate the risky congressional Republican strategies of passivity, defensiveness and avoidance during the first month of the Trump administration.

Ten is the total number of GOP lawmakers who have town hall meetings scheduled next week, the longest period Congress will be back home since the inauguration.  

Did McConnell Put Warren Right Where He Wants Her?
Senate GOP boss elevates left‘s hero, maybe because she‘s not strongest 2020 Democratic option

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may be hoping that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren becomes the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee in 2020. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sure, he’s a really buttoned-down guy working to prevent the Senate from getting totally bottled-up, but there are solid reasons to suspect Mitch McConnell wants a “Nevertheless, she persisted” hoodie as much as anyone.

The majority leader is obviously much more Brooks Brothers than Raygun. Still, he may well realize that his latest grandmaster move in the never-ending game of electoral chess requires ditching the rep stripe tie in favor of some printed-on-demand slogan swag.

Don‘t Expect the Senate to Back Away From the Brink
Ending all filibusters seems inevitable, Gorsuch's confirmation the likely ‘nuclear’ spark

It may not be a question of if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will use the “nuclear option” to break a legislative deadlock, but when, Hawkings writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Nuclear winter is coming. 

Perhaps it won’t arrive during this Supreme Court showdown. But then the odds will approach metaphysical certainty with the next vacancy on the court, unless deadlock on a premier piece of legislation happens first.