Benjamin L Cardin

Tillerson Termination Adds New Priorities to Senate Calendar
Weeks in April and May could be consumed by State, CIA nominations

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will need to clear some floor time for the nominations of Mike Pompeo to lead the State Department and Gina Haspel to run the CIA. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Whatever the Senate might have wanted to focus on in April and May will now have to compete for time with a new priority thrust upon it by President Donald Trump.

Once senators got past the initial shock of Trump’s Twitter announcement Tuesday that he was ousting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, they quickly moved toward paving the way to debate and confirm CIA Director Mike Pompeo as Tillerson’s successor, as well as Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel to lead that agency.

Photos of the Week: Graham Lies in Honor, Gun Control Bills and #Windmageddon
The week of Feb. 26 as captured by Roll Call's photographers

A Secret Service uniformed officer uses his foot to stop a trash can lid as it blows down Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House during the high winds warning in Washington on Friday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A powerful storm hit the East Coast on Friday causing wind advisories and debris to fly around the White House and the Capitol Building.

Earlier in the week, the House canceled votes on Wednesday and Thursday as Rev. Billy Graham, a prominent religious leader and adviser to 12 consecutive U.S. presidents, was lying in honor. He died Feb. 21 at the age of 99. 

Senators Rebuke GSA, FBI Over Handling of FBI Headquarters
Abrupt abandonment of years-long process to relocate miffs lawmakers

The front of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building on Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republican and Democratic senators on Wednesday blasted the General Services Administration and the FBI over costs, press leaks and changes in security requirements in its redrawn plan for a new FBI headquarters.

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso complained at a hearing that senators learned of the GSA’s abrupt cancellation of a previous FBI plan last year through press reports rather than from the agencies. He also cited the missed deadlines on that plan, which had been more than a decade in the making.

Maryland Democrats Blast FBI HQ Plan
Cardin, Hoyer concerned about effort to put new FBI building at current location

Maryland lawmakers are criticizing the GSA and FBI plan to rebuild the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building on its current site. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Trump administration’s proposal to keep the FBI headquarters adjacent to the president’s hotel complex in downtown D.C., has raised the ire of Maryland lawmakers.

“Throughout the Bush and Obama Administrations, the FBI and GSA repeatedly told Congress that the FBI needs a new, fully consolidated headquarters, going so far as to stress the need for selecting a new site because the existing location does not allow the FBI to consolidate the almost 11,000 headquarters employees into one facility,” House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer said in a statement

Cleared of Corruption Charges, Robert Menendez Regains Top Foreign Relations Post
New Jersey Democrat stepped aside in 2015 after indictment

New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez will resume his duties as ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee after being cleared in his federal corruption case. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Robert Menendez is resuming his duties as the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, with the Senate Democratic Conference reaffirming his position now that he has been cleared of federal corruption charges. The New Jersey Democrat might not be out of the woods yet, though, because the Senate Ethics Committee is free to look into his case now that federal prosecutors are done with him. 

According to multiple Democratic senators, the conference acted to restore Menendez’s position during Tuesday’s policy lunch.

Maryland, Virginia Senators Want More Money for Metro in Infrastructure Plan
Trump announced his $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan in his State of the Union

WMATA is still making improvements to the safety of its trains. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

After President Donald Trump called for a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan in his State of the Union address, senators from states surrounding Washington, D.C., said it should include money for the city’s public transportation system.

Four Democratic senators — Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia, and Benjamin L. Cardin and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland — wrote a letter to the administration on Friday asking it not only to maintain the funding already in place for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, known locally as Metro, but to add more for improvements.

Senate Democrats Ask Why Trump Let Russian Spy Chief Into United States
Also question Treasury secretary on Russia sanctions implementation

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, pressed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about Russian sanctions Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Leading Senate Democrats want to know why the Trump administration allowed a top Russian spy onto U.S. soil.

Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer led other Democrats in raising concerns Tuesday about a reported visit by Sergey Naryshkin, Russia's foreign spy chief and an ally of President Vladimir Putin.

Organizing the Senate Can Sometimes Get Messy
No-fuss committee changes haven’t always been the norm

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer meets with Sens. Doug Jones of Alabama and Tina Smith of Minnesota in the Capitol on Jan. 3. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate’s leaders reached a deal to adjust committee membership without much fanfare this month, but such comity has not always been a sure thing.

Last month’s election of Alabama Democrat Doug Jones that set the Republican majority at 51-49 meant that the two parties would need to make relatively straightforward changes, providing for the GOP to hold one-seat majorities on committees either by reducing the total number of Republicans where there was a surplus, or adding an extra Democrat.

Roy Who? Trump, GOP Quickly Pivot From Alabama to Taxes
Democrats characterize Alabama result as repudiation of president

Republican Roy Moore rides his horse across a field on his way to vote at the Gallant Volunteer Fire Department in Gallant, Ala., on Tuesday. Moore lost to Democrat Doug Jones in Tuesday’s Senate special election in Alabama. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers tried Wednesday to pin blame for Roy Moore’s special Alabama Senate race loss on the controversial former judge, but Democrats contend the president owns the bruising defeat after his full-throated endorsement. 

At the White House, the message was all about a GOP tax overhaul bill following Democrat Doug Jones’ stunning upset win in a state that had not put a member of that party in the Senate since 1992. On Capitol Hill, Republican members admitted relief that Moore would not be bringing his sexual misconduct allegations to Washington — and they asserted neither Trump nor the GOP were damaged by the Alabama race, despite the embrace of Moore by Trump and the Republican National Committee.

A Huge Congressional Settlement Involving Sexual Harassment — And Hardly Anyone Knew
Lawmakers on Helsinki Commission blindsided by report of $220K payout

Florida Rep. Alcee L. Hastings has denied allegations of sexual misconduct that led to a $220,000 payment to a former congressional staffer. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The $220,000 paid to former staffer Winsome Packer in 2014 is by far the largest known settlement involving Congress and accusations of sexual harassment in recent years.

But few, if any, of the lawmakers who served on the congressional commission where Packer worked seem to have been informed about it until the sum was reported by Roll Call on Friday.