Kansas

Opinion: Why HELP Could Be on the Way for Obamacare Recipients
Hopeful signs of bipartisan consensus on fixing health care markets

Senate HELP Committee leaders Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray could help spear bipartisan consensus in Congress for a short-term fix for Americans struggling to afford health insurance, Murphy writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Lamar Alexander had barely announced his plans to hold hearings next month on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on stabilizing the insurance markets for Obamacare when the idea started getting panned.

Keep in mind there are no specific hearings scheduled yet, no witnesses, no bill written, and few parameters of what is on or off the table. Alexander, the committee chairman, has only said that he wants a final product to be “small, bipartisan, and balanced,” but he hasn’t said what that means, other than flexibility for states and short-term triage for the exchanges.

Some Notable Confirmations, Honors as Senate Wraps Up for Recess
Chamber approves Kay Bailey Hutchison, Mark Green, honors Bob Dole

The Senate on Thursday confirmed former Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to be U.S. ambassador to NATO. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate wrapped up its summer session Thursday after confirming a large bloc of executive nominees, including a former senator and former House member. It also approved awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to former Sen. Bob Dole, the 94-year-old Kansas Republican whose long service included stints at majority and minority leader and who has continued to advocate causes ranging from the rights of the disabled to veterans issues. 

Among the 69 nominees confirmed in multiple en bloc packages, by voice vote and by unanimous consent, was a former member of the club, Texas GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, President Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. ambassador to NATO. Her selection comes at a time when relations with NATO have frayed in light of Trump’s criticism of fellow NATO signatories and his icy relationship with top NATO leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel. 

Word on the Hill: Weekend Plans?
WOTH will be back mid-August

It's finally the weekend so get out of the Capitol — and the capital. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

It’s the weekend in Washington and the Senate recess has finally arrived, so pick up a book from our summer reading list, or if you're feeling active, try to beat the number of steps that Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., takes in a day.

HOH went for a walk with the congressman recently and ran some errands around the complex with him.

Missouri’s Josh Hawley Forms Exploratory Committee for Senate Bid
GOP donors have been urging the state attorney general to challenge McCaskill

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., greets newly elected Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (right) prior to speaking to supporters in Springfield, Missouri in November. (Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has formed an exploratory committee with the Federal Election Commission for a challenge to Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.

“Josh’s state campaign committee has ceased expenditures and the soliciting or accepting of donations while he considers becoming a federal candidate,” Hawley spokesman Scott Paradise said in an email, according to the Kansas City Star

White House Talks Tax Outreach, but Senators Guarded
Legislative director outlines ambitious timetable

White House legislative affairs director Marc Short, left, here with Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso last week, has hopes for a bipartisan tax overhaul effort. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll)

The White House sees Democrats up for re-election in states President Donald Trump won as possible partners in their effort to overhaul the tax code, but Senate Republicans appear less optimistic about the chances of a bipartisan bill.

White House legislative director Marc Short said Monday the White House is not wed to using the often partisan reconciliation process to advance a tax overhaul, though senators were hesitant to rule out that procedural tool.

Word on the Hill: Bike Your District
Hiking town hall and BaconFest

West Virginia Rep. Alex X. Mooney tweeted a photo from his bike ride across his district. (Courtesy Mooney’s Twitter page)

Lawmakers often find interesting ways to travel across their states or districts each recess.

Last August, Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., walked across the Nutmeg State, and Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., did a motorcycle tour across the Wolverine State.

Blame It on the Rain: House Departs for August Recess
A rainy last session day in D.C. as captured by Roll Call’s Bill Clark

Arkansas Rep. Bruce Westerman walks down the House steps in the pouring rain on Friday, following the final votes as Congress leaves town for its summer recess. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

While the Senate is scheduled to stay on in Washington for at least another few days to take care of legislative business, House lawmakers on Friday finished up their final votes ahead of the summer recess.

And it was just in time, too, as heavy downpours hit the nation’s capital, with a D.C. area flash flood watch in effect through Saturday afternoon.

Word on the Hill: Week Wrap Up
Tennis tournament results, Baby Desk report, bossy staffers

A Capitol employee pushes a cot towards Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s suite of offices in the Capitol on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

It’s the end of a very long congressional week.

Senators spent the night in the Capitol and I’m sure many of you reading this now are running on little — or no — sleep.

Some GOP Skepticism of Sending Obamacare Repeal to Conference
Questions about what the ‘skinny’ bill would produce

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski has some concerns about what may happen when the House and Senate go to conference on health care. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Several senators are expressing skepticism about the emerging Republican plan to pass a bill rolling back “skinny” pieces of the 2010 health care law and then hope for a broader agreement in a conference committee with the House.

Kansas Republican Jerry Moran, who was one of the senators who came out against the broader Senate health care bill, told Roll Call he is concerned about entering a conference without a real Senate position.

How the Courts Could Upend Gerrymandering
Democrats and voter rights groups pin hopes on high court case

A new, mathematical approach to proving partisan gerrymandering will be tested at the Supreme Court this fall in a case about Wisconsin’s state Assembly district lines. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

By RANDY LEONARD and TODD RUGER

Congressional maps in key battleground states such as Pennsylvania have shifted the political balance of Congress toward Republicans — but that could soon change.