hawkings

A Day That’s Both Routinized and Indelibly the President’s Own
Trump’s populist tone, churlish crowd, combine with ageless Capitol pomp

From left, First lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, Major General Bradley Becker, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence review the troops following Donald Trump’s swearing-in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

If inaugurations are like weddings — the central figures remain singular and the emotional sensibilities vary, but the liturgies are similar and the outcome is always the same — then the opening day of Donald Trump’s presidency absolutely kept the metaphor relevant.

On Friday, he became the only billionaire, the only brand personification and the only person without any prior experience as a public servant to take the oath of office. And then he excoriated the capital establishment arrayed around him using caustic language and campaign-rally cadences particularly discordant for an inaugural address.

A Ceremony of Stability for a Shake-It-Up President
Inaugurals are meant to unify the nation, a fundamental Trump challenge

Since his election, President-elect Donald Trump has not backed away from his headline-grabbing approach of responding to every perceived slight with a combative brickbat, Hawkings writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

No ritual embodies the stability of the American government more than an inauguration. And no one in modern times has arrived for the ceremony as a more purposeful destabilizer of governing norms than Donald John Trump, who becomes the 45th president of the United States on Friday.

The inaugural is this country’s ultimate civic rite, designed to assure the orderly transfer of enormous power, bolster patriotism and bind together a diverse people behind their new leader. The pageantry of the day, in so many ways fundamentally unchanged since the 18th century, almost cannot help but imbue each new holder of the office with similar auras of credibility and historic import.

House Republican Women See a Boost in Authority
3 committees, other powerful posts newly under control of 21-person caucus

Texas Rep. Kay Granger is the new chairwoman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, which drives the allocation of more than half a trillion dollars annually to the military. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

For the past four years, Republicans endured pointed barbs about how the only woman with a House committee gavel was presiding over the fittingly sexist-sounding “housekeeping committee,” the Hill’s nickname for the panel overseeing the Capitol’s internal operations.

That’s not a fair jape anymore. Exactly a century after the arrival of the first female elected to Congress, Jeannette Rankin of Montana, her GOP successors will be wielding more titular power in the Republican-run House than ever. Women will soon be presiding over three standing committees, a record for the party, while a fourth has taken over what’s arguably the chamber’s single most consequential subcommittee, because it takes the lead in apportioning more than half of all discretionary federal spending.

For 20, a New Year’s Boost in House Legislative Sway
How the winners of top committee assignments made their own luck

Keep an eye peeled for these House members with plum new committee assignments, from left to right, first row: Pete Aguilar, Earl L. “Buddy” Carter, Katherine M. Clark, Ryan A. Costello, Carlos Curbelo; second row: Suzan DelBene, Debbie Dingell, Brian Higgins, John Moolenaar, Grace Meng; third row: Dan Newhouse, Scott Peters, Mark Pocan, Raul Ruiz, David Schweikert; fourth row: Terri A. Sewell, Scott Taylor, Tim Walberg, Jackie Walorski and Mimi Walters. (Bill Clark, Meredith Dake-O’Connor and Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photos. Scott Taylor courtesy Scott Taylor for U.S. Congress)

Specialization seasoned with seniority is the surest recipe for a meaningful legislative career in the House, which is more than big enough to swallow all the dilettantes and short-timers without a trace. It’s finding a substantive niche, then fitting in over the long haul, that proves perennially frustrating for many members. 

But the goal of becoming a successful and substantive lawmaker just got a whole lot easier for a score of them.

Parsing New Senate Committee Rosters for Future Career Moves
Senators with 2020 ambitions, or 2018 re-election worries, hope for help from new assignments

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker have both landed plum committee assignments that could bolster their 2020 presidential prospects. (Bill Clark/Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call file photos)

There’s little doubt about committees being a stronger force for shaping legislation in the House than in the Senate. That is why so many lobbyists and lawmakers had their ears pressed to the door Wednesday while the Republican Steering Committee started filling openings on the most influential House panels. 

But when it comes to shaping national political careers, it’s the Senate where such assignments often represent the biggest value. That is why everyone already pondering the next Democratic presidential campaign, and before that, the senatorial balance of power after the 2018 midterms, has been parsing the committee rosters finalized this week.

How to Watch the Quirky Congressional Opening Day
Look for unusual traditions, cacophony and a few moments of bipartisanship

Congressional opening day collegiality may devolve into partisan posturing almost as soon as the swearing-in Bibles are shelved. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If the last fall’s orientation period for the newest lawmakers was the Capitol Hill equivalent of freshman days at college, then the formal convening of the 115th Congress on Tuesday is the first day of school.  

And so it may be useful, for the congressional community as well as the throngs of well-wishers in town just for the festivities, to be reminded of some of the curious ways in which the customs of the day are different from all the others.

Milder Persona, Same Hard Line from New Freedom Caucus Chairman
Mark Meadows is eager to back Trump, but only when he adheres to the House GOP conservative group’s views

Mark Meadows, R-N.C., as elected to become the new chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. (Bill Clark/RC Roll Call)

A defining principle for the House Freedom Caucus can be summarized this way: The painful short-term political consequences for the Republican Party from provoking internal discord must be steadfastly disregarded in the name of long-term conservative purification.

The second lawmaker to lead the group, Mark Meadows of North Carolina, has a reputation as one of the friendliest and folksiest newcomers to influence in Congress. But he is signaling no interest in deviating from that combative rubric even in the coming era of unified GOP control over Washington, born out of an election where voters signaled an intense desire to end the capital norms of backbiting gridlock.

A New Democratic Gatekeeper on the Trump Agenda
Neal at Ways and Means, one of House minority’s 3 new bigwigs, positioned as key legislative field director

Massachusetts Rep. Richard E. Neal is positioned to become a key legislative field director as the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, Hawkings writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The most important changes in the House Democratic power structure so far look more like a tectonic shift than a dramatic upheaval.

Counterintuitively, a caucus where white men have been reduced to a two-fifths plurality will be represented by three baby boomer white men as the fresh public faces confronting the new Trump administration on the biggest domestic policy debates of next year, from highways to health care.

Balancing Risk and Reward in Trump’s Surprising First Hill Battle
Delaying budget finish until he’s president means his priorities must wait, creates an opening for Democrats

On the Hill before Thanksgiving, Vice President-elect Mike Pence announced that Donald Trump wants this year’s budget to wait until he’s president. Incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer will decide if the spending bill is where Democrats draw their oppositional line. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Donald Trump’s presidential transition is already salted with plenty of big surprises. For Congress, the most unsettling may be his decision to start his legislative agenda-setting by ignoring this famous life lesson:

“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today,” goes the aphorism often attributed to one of Trump’s most accomplished predecessors, Thomas Jefferson.

Why Trump’s Term Limits Push Is DOA in Congress
President-elect’s executive assertions have senior Republicans leery of ceding sway

President-elect Donald Trump, center, may face an uphill battle on congressional term limits. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It makes increasingly perfect sense why President-elect Donald Trump wants congressional term limits. And it makes just as much sense why his putative Republican helpmates on the Hill will overlook short-term political expediency and take the lead in rebuffing him.

Atop Trump’s “drain the swamp” campaign platform was the promise to push restrictions on time served in the House or Senate, although he’s not specified how short the maximum congressional tenure should be.