Jim Risch

Senate rejects Paul bid to block arms sales to Bahrain, Qatar

A bid by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to block arms sales to Qatar and Bahrain fell short on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate on Thursday rejected a bid by Sen. Rand Paul to block arms sales to Qatar and Bahrain even as senators brace for a more contentious debate next week over proposed weapons exports to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The vote Thursday means the proposed sales — a $3 billion Apache Helicopter package for Qatar and a $750 million munitions package to support Bahrain’s F-16 fleet — can go forward.

Democrats spar with State official over arms sales maneuver

Rep. David Cicilline accused a senior State Department official of gas-lighting Congress in his assertions about why the administration needed to subvert Congress on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A senior State Department official on Wednesday appeared to blame Democrats for the administration’s decision last month to declare a state of emergency over Iran to avoid congressional review of billions of dollars of weapon sales to Arab Gulf states.

R. Clarke Cooper, assistant secretary of State for political-military affairs, attributed the emergency order to holds placed in spring 2018 by Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Robert Menendez on $2 billion in proposed precision-guided missile sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Menendez, D-N.J., placed the holds in response to the many civilian casualties in the Yemen civil war, in which the two Gulf nations are fighting against Iranian-backed Houthi insurgents.

US could be at war by the time Congress returns from recess, Udall says
Democrats force votes on approving war with Iran, but come up short in the Senate

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., is worried that the United States may be at war with Iran by the time Congress returns from recess. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats on both sides of Capitol Hill have been forcing votes on President Donald Trump’s military powers this week amid the ratcheting up of tensions with Iran, getting predictably disparate results.

In the latest test, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday turned back a Democrat-led effort to move legislation designed to thwart preemptive military action against Iran.

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.

What is carrot pudding? And other burning questions from Congress’ high-calorie cook-off
46 lawmakers strapped on aprons to raise money for the March of Dimes

Lawmakers don their chef gear on Wednesday to raise money for the March of Dimes. (Kathryn Lyons/CQ Roll Call)

Now that I’ve awoken from my food coma, I’m able to share how I (over)indulged at the 37th Annual March of Dimes Gourmet Gala Wednesday night. Forty-six members of Congress competed in this year’s cook-off, but only six lucky members won trophies, plus coveted bragging rights.

Now, any cuisinier who fed me last night is a winner in my book — even Sen. Bob Casey, who shared his family’s carrot pudding. What the &%$# is carrot pudding, you ask?

Senate vote upholds Trump veto of Yemen resolution
The vote didn't reach the two-thirds majority needed to overturn President Donald Trump’s veto last month

Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, center, Tim Scott, R-S.C., left, and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, conduct a news conference in the Capitol on December 19, 2018. Lee was one of several lawmakers who gave impassioned pleas to override a veto by President Donald Trump on a resolution to end U.S. military participation in the Yemen civil war. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate on Thursday voted to uphold a presidential veto of a resolution that would have ordered an end to U.S. military participation in the civil war in Yemen.

The vote came despite impassioned bipartisan pleas from lawmakers like Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who argued Saudi Arabia does not deserve “unflinching, unwavering, unquestioning” U.S. support for its involvement in the war.

Lawmakers cheer NATO chief despite Trump criticisms of alliance
Jens Stoltenberg draws standing ovation

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi escorts NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg through Statuary Hall to his address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The head of NATO Wednesday gave a historic speech to Congress that was as much about celebrating the military bloc as it was about U.S. lawmakers signaling their continued commitment to the alliance amid a period of turbulent trans-Atlantic relations.

“Together, we represent 1 billion people,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said of the 29 nations that make up the Western military alliance. “We are half of the world’s economic might and half of the world’s military might. When we stand together, we are stronger than any potential challenger economically, politically, and militarily.”

Road ahead: HR 1 vote, Cohen returns, senators seek info on Khashoggi, North Korea
House Democrats to vote on top priority, while Senate Republicans continue to confirm judges

Travelers exit Union Station as the Capitol Dome reflects in the glass door on Friday, March 1, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House this week will vote on its marquee bill, HR 1, and haul Michael Cohen back in for more questioning, while senators seek information on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the latest North Korea summit.

HR 1, formally titled the For the People Act after Democrats’ 2018 campaign slogan, is a government overhaul package featuring changes to voting, campaign finance and ethics laws

Meet the new Senate Foreign Relations boss, not the same as the old boss
Jim Risch says he speaks regularly with the president, but does not air laundry

Sen.  Jim Risch, R-Idaho, left, is the new chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, working with ranking member Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Contrary to past practice, when the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has a disagreement with President Donald Trump, the public might not hear about it.

But Sen. Jim Risch says that the president himself certainly does — often from the chairman himself.

Senators want ban on Chinese Huawei tech in energy infrastructure
Letter to Cabinet comes from key members of the Senate Intelligence Committee

Sen. John Cornyn is leading senators calling for a ban of Huawei products from U.S. energy infrastructure. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A bipartisan group of senators, led by members of the Intelligence Committee, want the Trump administration to prohibit electrical equipment made by Huawei from being used in the U.S. energy infrastructure.

The call for a ban on the components from the Chinese technology giant came in a letter dated Monday to Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, led by Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn.