Farm Bill

A Tax Conference Committee Meeting Mostly For Show
Parameters are clear for final Republican push on tax bill

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady makes his way to a meeting in the speaker’s office in the Capitol on Dec. 6. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Nothing against the members of the House and Senate attending Wednesday’s inaugural meeting of the conference committee finalizing the tax code overhaul, but it’s mostly for show and unlikely to be must-see television.

That’s because, with the arguable exception of the farm bill, open meetings of conference committees are not where the deals get done, despite the talking points from top negotiators.

Clovis Latest Casualty of Russia Probe, Withdraws Nomination
Trump adviser identified as communicating with Papadopoulos

Sam Clovis, seen here high-fiving then-candidate Donald Trump in Iowa last year, has withdrawn his nomination to a top post at the Agriculture Department. (Scott Olson/Getty Images file photo)

Sam Clovis, the nominee for the Agriculture Department’s top scientific post, has withdrawn from consideration after being identified as one of the Trump campaign officials with whom former campaign aide George Papadopoulos communicated about his Russian contacts.

“We respect Mr. Clovis’s decision to withdraw his nomination,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

Opinion: The Women in Washington Staying for the Fight
Collins, Feinstein and Pelosi want to keep fighting for their causes

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is among the women in Congress planning to stick around and keep fighting for their causes. (Tom Williams/Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Bob Corker’s leaving the Senate, and who can blame him? At a certain point, life’s just too short to get called “Liddle Bob” on Twitter by anyone, especially by the president of the United States.

But even as Corker announced that he’d retire at the end of his term, two of the Tennessee Republican’s female colleagues decided last week they’re not going anywhere, at least not if they can help it. Both women said while they had considered leaving Washington, the job in the Capitol was too important to walk away from.

Two Senators, Two Parties, One River, Similar Message
Agricultural issues sprinkle talking points of both McConnell and Donnelly

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, left, and Sen. Joe Donnelly, sounded similar messages on agriculture policy Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

BOONVILLE, Ind. — On opposite sides of the Ohio River on Thursday, a Republican leader under attack from President Donald Trump and a Democratic senator facing a potentially difficult re-election bid sounded a similar, agriculture-heavy message to core constituencies.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellspeaking at a farm bureau breakfast in his home state of Kentucky — trumpeted the future abolishment of an Obama-era rule despised by many in the industry and provided assurances that farmers would be taken care of in an upcoming reauthorization of legislation that governs many agriculture programs.

Opinion: Let the Senate Be the Senate Again
The alternative: Taking the road to irrelevance

From left, Sen. John Barrasso, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. John Thune conclude a news conference after McConnell announced there would be no vote on the health care bill this week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

I have a question for the senators trying to decide whether to vote for the Obamacare repeal bill when it comes up in the Senate:

Did you really fly 1,000 miles in coach for this?

Budget Disagreements Bedevil House GOP

House Budget Chairwoman Diane Black, R-Tenn., continues to look for agreement amid GOP factions on the spending blueprint. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House Budget Committee is unlikely to unveil a fiscal 2018 budget resolution until after the Independence Day recess as Chairwoman Diane Black continues to struggle to marry competing interests on using the reconciliation process to cut mandatory spending.

Conservatives are pushing for several hundred billion dollars in mandatory savings cuts through reconciliation, with House Freedom Caucus members saying the Budget Committee’s latest offer of $200 billion in cuts over 10 years is not enough to win their support. Meanwhile, committee chairmen are pushing back on a continually increasing target, saying they need to preserve some of those savings for other legislative negotiations.

House GOP Still Bickering Over Budget
Defense increase, mandatory spending cuts primary areas of disagreement

Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent says Republicans should not waste time arguing over topline levels for nondefense discretionary spending since those will likely be raised in the Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Republican squabbling over a defense spending increase and mandatory spending cuts continues to put in danger a fiscal 2018 budget resolution, and subsequently, plans to overhaul the tax code.

After a Friday conference meeting to discuss the budget and appropriations process, their second “family conversation” of the week on the topic, the House GOP appeared no closer to consensus on a budget resolution that could get the 218 needed votes on the floor.

GOP Frets About Fiscal Restraint Progress
Conservatives pushing cuts to mandatory spending

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan says Republicans are still discussing options for the budget and appropriations process, even as conservatives are pushing for steep cuts to mandatory spending. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Fiscal restraint has long been part of the Republican Party’s brand, but GOP lawmakers have made little progress on reducing the amount of money the federal government spends. And frankly, they’re sick of it.

That’s the impetus for what has become a serious push by rank-and-file House Republicans to use the budget reconciliation process to enact mandatory spending cuts.

Take Five: Dwight Evans
Pennsylvania Democrat explains how to order a Philly cheesesteak

Pennsylvania Rep. Dwight Evans served in the state legislature for 36 years. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Freshman Rep. Dwight Evans, 62, a Pennsylvania Democrat, talks about starting a charter school, representing universities, and how he likes to eat a Philly cheesesteak.

Q: What has surprised you so far in your time in Congress?

Opinion: Are Republicans Storming the Castle or Walking the Plank on Health Care?
Upcoming health care vote could have consequences for 2018

Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, was singled out by President Donald Trump at Tuesday’s House GOP conference meeting for not yet voicing his support for the Republican health care plan. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Republicans are getting leaned on, hard, to vote for the GOP health care bill. First came the invitations to the White House Bowling Alley. Then the lunch dates. Still hunting for votes over the weekend, President Donald Trump flew members to Mar-a-Lago. But by Tuesday, with a floor vote looming, President Trump was naming names at the GOP caucus meeting. “Mark Meadows?” the president said, looking for the leader of the Freedom Caucus, who has still not said he’ll vote for the bill. “Stand up, Mark. … Mark, I’m going to come after you.”

The White House later said that the president was “just having fun” at the caucus meeting. But when a White House goes into full whip mode, which this White House obviously has, it’s time for the members on the sharp side of the whip to ask themselves whether they’re being asked to storm the castle or walk the plank. In other words, will their vote on health care this week help deliver a successful, necessary legislative victory, or are they being asked to support a bill that may not pass, may not work, or may cost them and their party their seats in two years’ time.