Benjamin L Cardin

Highway bill upping spending by a quarter gets OK from Senate committee
The current five-year law funding surface transportation programs expires Sept. 30, 2020.

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said. “The bill will speed up project delivery will cut Washington red tape, so projects can get done faster, better, cheaper and smarter.” (File photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 21-0 Tuesday to advance a $287 billion bill that would fund the repair and maintenance of  roads and bridges over five years, expedite permitting processes for major infrastructure projects and make transportation systems more resilient to climate change effects.

The bill, which would increase spending by 27 percent over the current authorization, has the support of President Donald Trump, although he has walked away from broader infrastructure talks.

Getting rid of an agency isn’t easy
‘I would keep OPM,’ says Trump’s original pick

Virginia’s Mark Warner, left, and Tim Kaine are among the Democratic senators who worry that the president’s push to reorganize OPM could politicize the civil service. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump’s plan to shutter the White House Office of Personnel Management has stirred opposition from employee unions and Democrats in Congress. It is also opposed by the first person Trump nominated to run the agency, George Nesterczuk.

Trump chose Nesterczuk in May 2017 to lead OPM, which oversees government pay, benefits and performance management, but Nesterczuk later withdrew under stiff opposition from the employee unions.

Congress remembers D-Day ahead of Thursday’s 75th anniversary
Members hear from Holocaust survivor, relay stories of troops landing at Normandy

Holocaust survivor Steven Joseph Fenves of Rockville, Md., greets Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., during an event with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to honor the 75th anniversary of D-Day in the Capitol Visitor Center on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

World leaders, including members of Congress, will gather Thursday overlooking the beaches of Normandy to honor the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion and the heroism of those who served to save the world from Nazi terror. But on Tuesday, a much smaller (though perhaps no less emotional) ceremony took place in the Capitol complex.

Organized in conjunction with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, members of Congress took time to listen to Steven Joseph Fenves, a Holocaust survivor who was held in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and later the Buchenwald camp at the time of its liberation by American forces.

Retirement bill remains stalled amid Republican holds in Senate
Finance Committee chairman says as many as six GOP senators have issues with the bill ‘for different reasons’

Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden said the retirement savings bill, which has been worked on over the past three Congresses, “should have passed eons ago. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A handful of Republican senators are holding up what could be the biggest retirement savings bill in more than a decade.

After sailing through the House on a 417-3 vote May 23 before the weeklong Memorial Day recess, supporters hoped the legislation would garner unanimous consent for quick passage in the Senate the following day. But senatorial holds accumulated and continue to stall the measure.

Remembering Democrats’ convention credentialing mastermind
Former House administrative assistant oversaw DNC credentials for two decades

Jackie Falk is surrounded by gifts of flowers at the 1996 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. (Courtesy the Falk family)

Jackie Falk might not be a household name, unless you were trying to get credentials for the Democratic National Convention for two decades.

Because of the limited capacity of the venues for national political conventions, there is fierce competition for limited floor passes and seats, even among party luminaries.

Iran escalations bring war powers debates back to the Capitol
Sen. Tim Kaine expects debate behind closed doors at the Armed Services Committee

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jim Risch says President Donald Trump “doesn’t need any more authority than what he’s got” to respond to a potential attack. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)k

A Senate briefing by the Trump administration Tuesday about the escalation in tensions with Iran appears certain to kick off another round of sparring over the president’s war powers.

When asked last week whether President Donald Trump could strike Iran using existing authorities from the authorization for use of military force that was enacted after 9/11, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reflected on the history of disputes between the executive and legislative branches.

Trump lobbies for Dem support of immigration plan even while using hardline rhetoric
Can POTUS have it both ways on a proposal that appears mostly about his re-election campaign?

President Donald Trump, here with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the Rose Garden in June 2017, unveiled his latest immigration overhaul plan on Thursday. Not even GOP lawmakers voiced support, however. (Alex Wong/Getty Images file photo)

President Donald Trump on Friday lobbied for Democratic votes for an immigration plan that appears to have no traction while also throwing the kind of red-meat rhetoric toward his base that turns off those very Democrats.

In a morning tweet during a rare overnight stay at Trump Tower in New York, the president appeared be referring to polls like an April Washington Post-ABC News survey that showed a 17 percent jump in the number of Democrats who view the spike in migrant families showing at the U.S.-Mexico border as a crisis. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials say they made 100,000 apprehensions at the border in March, the biggest number in 12 years.

Trump‘s latest immigration plan came with no Democratic outreach
Proposal appears going no further than White House Rose Garden

A life-size cage installation by artist Paola Mendoza is set up on the Capitol lawn on May 7 to coincide with the anniversary of the Trump administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ family separation immigration policy. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump unveiled his latest immigration overhaul plan Thursday, but given its lack of outreach to Democrats, it likely will go little further than the Rose Garden setting where it first saw light. 

Trump used the White House backdrop to also reiterate some of his familiar hard-line immigration stances that may ingratiate him to his conservative base, but usually only repel Democrats and many independents.

Age, change and the Democrats’ challenge
2020 presidential race brings up issues of experience and demographics

From left, Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., in the Capitol. Harris and Sanders represent two different directions Democrats could go with their nomination process. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS — Is the Democratic race for president — and possibly even the 2020 general election — going to boil down to a choice of aged front-runners (or incumbent) versus a younger challenger who represents generational change? It’s certainly possible.

President Donald Trump, the oldest person ever to assume the presidency when he was inaugurated in 2017, turns 72 in June. It wouldn’t be without precedent if Democratic voters — and eventually the electorate as a whole — saw the 2020 election as an opportunity to make a statement about the future and generational change.

Senators unveil new plan to counter Vladimir Putin’s energy influence in Eastern Europe
Chris Murphy and Ron Johnson leading bipartisan effort to improve energy infrastructure

Sen. Christopher S. Murphy is introducing a new effort to counter Vladimir Putin’s influence in Eastern Europe. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Bipartisan lawmakers are unveiling Thursday the latest Capitol Hill effort to counter Vladimir Putin’s energy activities in Eastern Europe.

This time, a contingent of senators led by Democratic Sen. Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut and Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is introducing a bill that would authorize as much as $1 billion in financing for the next few years for energy sector projects in Europe.