John B Larson

GOP conservatives sharpen knives for spending fight
House Republicans express concern about paying for $2 trillion infrastructure tab

House Ways and Means ranking member Kevin Brady says conservatives need to put entitlement programs “back on America’s radar.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Conservatives are making a fresh push to spread their message of fiscal discipline after new estimates that the Medicare and Social Security trust funds will soon be depleted, and amid talk of a $2 trillion infrastructure spending package and busting discretionary spending limits.

The House Republican Study Committee released a budget proposal Wednesday that assumes cutting $12.6 trillion in spending over a decade and eliminating the deficit within six years.

Social Security could go broke by 2035, but lawmakers have new ideas to fix it
If policymakers wait too long, solutions to fixing the program may involve politically unpalatable options

Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., leaves the Capitol after the final votes of the week on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

There’s nothing like waiting until the last minute — as long as waiting doesn’t make the problem worse.

Therein lies the conundrum facing lawmakers and 2020 presidential candidates when it comes to Social Security, which last year paid out retirement and disability benefits to some 63 million Americans.

House Democrats make habit of voting on legislation that doesn’t change any laws
For four legislative weeks the House has held votes on nonbinding resolutions used for messaging

Rep. Colin Allred, D-Texas, center, is the sponsor of the House’s latest nonbinding resolution, a measure condemning the Trump administration for arguing in federal court that the entire 2010 health care law should be overturned. He is pictured with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., left, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., right at a rally on the matter on Tuesday outside the Supreme Court. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Democrats are forming a nonbinding habit. For four legislative weeks in a row, the new majority has held votes on resolutions that do not carry the force of law and are designed simply to send a message.

A Roll Call analysis found that roughly one out of every five votes the House has taken this year while the government has been open have been on nonbinding measures.

Emerging border security deal will be first big test of Democratic unity
With some barrier funding expected, vote may show fractures among new House majority

Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., said he expects to oppose whatever border security funding agreement appropriators reach because he does not support any funding for a border barrier. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

When it comes to legislating, House Democrats are still in the honeymoon stage of their new majority. They haven’t had to take any difficult votes yet. But the rocky period is coming, and it will likely start next week with a vote on a border security funding package. 

House and Senate appropriators serving on a Homeland Security funding conference committee signaled Thursday that they’re narrowing in on a border security deal that could be finalized and ready for floor votes next week ahead of a Feb. 15 government funding deadline. 

Democrats and Republicans clash over health care goals in Ways and Means
In between partisan comments, lawmakers mentioned health policies the panel could consider this year

Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., and ranking member Kevin Brady, R-Texas, talk during the House Ways and Means Committee organizational meeting for the 116th Congress on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Ways and Means Committee members hinted at health policy areas that could earn their attention this year during a Tuesday hearing on pre-existing conditions protections, but past disagreements will be difficult to move beyond if the meeting was any indication.

Essentially every committee Republican expressed support for guaranteeing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and called on Congress to lower health care costs.

Dems Have Walked Out Over Guns, and Now Kavanaugh
Kamala Harris and Mazie Hirono aren’t the only ones to make a dramatic exit in the Trump era

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and a handful of other Democrats headed for the exits Friday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

As a group of Democrats strode out of the hearing room Friday morning, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley wasn’t pleased.

“You folks who are photographers know that you’re supposed to sit down,” he said over the clicking cameras.

Do-Nothing Amendments Give Lawmakers Bragging Opportunity About Successes
Provisions have no real-world impact

Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., is among the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents this midterm cycle. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House adopted amendments on a two-bill spending package last week purporting to redirect sums ranging from $100,000 to study the impact of a mineral found to cause cracking in concrete home foundations, to $36 million for “public safety and justice facility construction” at the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

There’s just one catch: the provisions simply give the illusion of moving money around — with no real-world impact on agency funding priorities. The net financial impact of all 14 such amendments considered during debate on the $58.7 billion Interior-Environment and Financial Services measure — out of 87 total floor amendments on the bill — was precisely zero.

Proposals Would Help Homeowners, Make Ex-Presidents Pay for Office Supplies
Financial Services spending bill amendments also could affect local post offices

Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., wants to bar the U.S. Postal Service for expanding its offering of financial services. Other proposed amendments to the Financial Services spending bill would help homeowners with bad foundations. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Local post offices would be barred from offering most banking services, homeowners with crumbling foundations would get some help and ex-presidents would have to pay for their own office supplies under proposals to amend the House’s fiscal 2019 Financial Services spending bill.

Proposed amendments also include some of the usual suspects: keeping the District of Columbia from enforcing certain local laws, allowing federally insured banks to take deposits from companies in the marijuana industry, and barring federal funds from being spent at properties owned by President Donald Trump.

Crowley Loss Creates Open Field for Next Generation of Democratic Leaders
Plenty of options, but who wants to — and who’s ready to — step up?

From left, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen, New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Luján, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner and Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos attend a rally in Berryville, Va., in July 2017. The event featured a wide swath of Democratic leaders from both chambers. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

“Not so fast. Not so fast.”

That was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s initial response — albeit a joking one — Wednesday morning to a reporter who pointed out that “at some point” the California Democrat and her top two lieutenants will no longer be in Congress.

House Democrats Punt on Leadership Question After Anti-Pelosi Candidate Wins
Caucus members say individual candidates should decide whether to run on calls for a leadership change

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., left, hosts a reception in honor of Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, in the Capitol on Wednesday. The Democrats’ most likely new member ran amid promises to not support her as caucus leader. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

After four straight elections falling short of the majority, House Democrats have had their fair share of discussions about their caucus leadership and whether it’s time for a change. But with momentum on their side in the current cycle, they’re not yet ready to revisit those talks — even after the strong special election performance of a Democratic candidate who pledged not to support Nancy Pelosi in another bid for Democratic leader.

Democrat Conor Lamb led Republican Rick Saccone in Pennsylvania’s 18th District special election, with all precincts reporting but the final outcome still undetermined at press time. Lamb’s expected victory is significant in a district President Donald Trump carried by nearly 20 points in 2016, although Republicans downplayed the chances of Democrats replicating that success in similar districts.