Eliot L Engel

Senate set to assert itself on Syria sanctions, Middle East policy early in 2019
New Syria sanctions appear to be among the top legislative priorities

Sens. Marco Rubio and Jim Risch are leading the first bill introduced in the Senate in the new Congress. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate is moving quickly to assert its point-of-view on U.S. policy regarding Syria and in the broader Middle East, and it could serve as a rebuttal to the decision by President Donald Trump to pull back U.S. forces from Syria.

Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio introduced the first piece of legislation on the first day of the new Congress (designated as S 1), and it could lay a marker  on the situation in Syria and the Middle East. The backers include the new chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

House Foreign Affairs Eyes New Subcommittee to Investigate Trump
Focus would be potential financial ties between foreign governments and the president

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., is expected to chair the Foreign Affairs panel come January. The panel could add an investigations subcommittee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House Foreign Affairs Committee is planning a reorganization in the new Congress that would emphasize investigating the Trump administration as Democrats take control of the chamber.

The anticipated changes, which include plans to streamline the subcommittee structure, were outlined in conversations with three House staffers, who added that the focus would be potential financial ties between foreign governments and President Donald Trump. The staffers were not authorized to be quoted discussing the changes in advance of official action.

White House Shocked by Lawmakers’ Shock Over Trump‘s Syria Decision
White House, Pentagon cannot point to any troop withdrawal plan or final exit date

President Donald Trump is gearing up to withdraw troops from Syria. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images file photo)

Updated 4:05 p.m. | President Donald Trump on Wednesday abruptly declared victory against the Islamic State inside Syria and ordered the Pentagon to withdrawal all American military troops from the war-torn country. Lawmakers were blindsided, but senior administration officials claimed there was no reason for their confusion.

The commander in chief’s decision should have been “no surprise” to lawmakers, said a senior administration official who briefed reporters Wednesday afternoon. She declined to discuss whether Trump caught his Cabinet-level or White House national security officials off guard or whether there had been internal discussions prior to Wednesday morning.

House, Senate Democrats Identify Slate of Committee Leaders for New Congress
House Dem Caucus must still ratify, Senate is ready to go

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., has his roster of ranking members for committees ready. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Congressional Democrats have identified their incoming committee leadership for the 116th Congress, although the full caucus must still weigh in and a few key chairs will have to wait until the House speakership contest is settled. In the Senate meanwhile, the roster is finished, with some notable movement in the smaller Democratic minority. 

The House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee made its recommendations for most committee chairmanships in the new Congress on Tuesday evening, with a few others designated Monday. The full caucus must still approve the choices.

Meet the New House Republican Committee Leaders
9 panels get new Republican leaders after 2018 cycle retirements

Texas Rep. Kay Granger will be the first woman to serve as top Republican on the Appropriations Committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Republicans last week selected their new committee leaders to replace nine retiring GOP chairmen. 

The new leaders, however, will serve as ranking members since House Republicans will be in the minority next year. 

White House’s Mixed Messages to Iran Continue With Sanctions
Economic penalties had been removed under nuclear pact Trump left

U.S. President Donald Trump departs the White House July 31, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Updated 11:14 a.m. | The Trump administration reactivated sanctions Monday on Iran in an attempt to further squeeze its stumbling economy, a tough move that is the latest in a volley of mixed signals from Washington.

“Our actions will continue to limit Iran” from obtaining the resources needed to “support its malign behavior” across the Middle East, a senior administration official said Monday. “We are fully committed to rigorously enforcing our sanctions … to ensure they fully change course.”

Democrats Press GOP for Quick Legislative Response on Russia
Several measures in both chambers designed to push back on Putin

Protesters participate in a candlelight vigil in front of the White House Wednesday to protest President Donald Trump in the wake of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Congress could consider several bills in response to concerns about Russian meddling in the upcoming election. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

House and Senate Democrats are pressuring their Republican colleagues to bring to the floor legislation introduced in response to President Donald Trump’s comments — and revisions to those comments — this week on Russian interference in U.S. elections.

Democratic House leaders released a bipartisan package that includes 17 previously introduced bills that would further restrict the White House’s foreign policy and economic options when it comes to Moscow.

State Department Nominees Could Be In For Procedural Headache
Robert Menendez warns of making life difficult if questions go unanswered

Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., left, and ranking member Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., attend a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in Dirksen Building on the nominations of Brian J. Bulatao and Denise Natali for State Department positions on July 18, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey has made a thinly veiled threat against pending State nominations if the Trump administration is not more responsive to questions about their interactions and agreements with foreign leaders.

“If the administration is unwilling to consult with this committee in a meaningful fashion on vital national security issues, then we must consider all appropriate responses with regards to nominees before this committee,” the Foreign Relations ranking member said at a Wednesday hearing.

Paul Ryan Avoids Criticizing Trump as Helsinki Fallout Continues
Speaker attempts to send message about Russia to world without attacking president

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., faced questions about President Donald Trump's Helsinki summit at the GOP leadership press conference on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Speaker Paul D. Ryan on Tuesday attempted to send a clear message about Russia following President Donald Trump’s Monday summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but it was missing one thing — a direct rebuke of the president’s statements and actions.

“Let me be really clear,” Ryan said as a reporter asked the first of several consecutive questions about Russia during a GOP leadership press conference Tuesday. “Let me try and be as clear as I can to the world and the country: We stand by our NATO allies and all those countries who are facing Russia aggression.”

Trump Should Cancel Putin Summit Over Indictments, Democrats Say
Schumer: ‘Putin is an adversary who interfered in our elections’

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and other Democrats called on the president to skip his planned meeting with Vladimir Putin on Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats pounced on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s indictment of a dozen Russian military officers for their efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election, with some saying Monday’s Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin summit should be canceled.

“These indictments are further proof of what everyone but the president seems to understand: President Putin is an adversary who interfered in our elections to help President Trump win,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said in a statement.