Lindsey Graham

Senators to Watch as Trump Era Begins
Rank-and-file senators likely to be key players in 115th Congress

Georgia Sen. David Perdue, left, and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III are both senators to watch. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans may have full control in Washington, but the Senate remains the Senate, which means it’s the place where rank-and-file Democrats and Republicans retain the most clout and potential for influence. Here are the key senators from outside of the top echelons of the leadership structures to watch as the 115th Congress gets underway.

The moderate from Maine will be the first person to watch on any contentious votes, particularly on budget reconciliation votes that aim to repeal parts of the 2010 health care law. She has, for instance, been among the small number of Republicans opposing efforts to tie the GOP health care plans to stopping federal funding of Planned Parenthood.

Confirmation Hearings Bring Out the Senate Angst
McConnell said to expect votes on Cabinet nominations Friday

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate will return on Friday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

By BRIDGET BOWMAN and JASON DICKCQ Roll Call

The Senate eased into inauguration week with a pair of confirmation hearings, with committees taking up the cases for, or against, Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke to be Interior secretary and Betsy DeVos to be Education secretary.

Porn, Weed and Other Takeaways From Sessions Hearing
AG hopeful could flip DOJ positions on obscenity and online gambling.

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on his nomination for attorney general on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Jeff Sessions revealed several policy changes he might bring to the Justice Department during his confirmation hearing this week to be attorney general in the Trump administration.

The main focus was the Alabama Republican defending his record from criticism by Democratic lawmakers and civil rights groups, who question his independence and whether he will enforce voting rights and other laws important to minorities and women. But moments that didn’t grab headlines give new insight into Sessions’ legal thinking on some issues and what he’ll do if he is confirmed.

No Sophomore Slump for Marco Rubio
Senator appears to be carving out his own role in Trump’s Washington

With his vote, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio could decide the fate of President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of State, Murphy writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

For a guy who didn’t want to be in the Senate anymore last year, Florida’s Marco Rubio is certainly making a tall glass of lemonade out of the lemons he got running for president in 2016. With a single hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week, Rubio went from being the Republican Most Likely to Miss a Vote, a distinction he earned on his way to losing the GOP nomination, to being the Republican Most Likely to Hold Donald Trump’s Feet to the Fire. It’s a role that holds both risks and immense power. That, for Rubio, could be more important than anything.

The hearing, of course, was to consider the nomination of Rex Tillerson to be Trump’s secretary of State. Although Sen. Jeff Sessions’ hearing to be attorney general was expected to have the most fireworks of the week, the Tillerson hearing went off-track as soon as Rubio began grilling the former Exxon Mobil CEO about the reams of accusations against Russian President Vladimir Putin of widespread corruption and human rights abuses. 

Tillerson Grilled on Russia at Confirmation Hearing
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle pose questions about sanctions

Secretary of State-designee Rex Tillerson arrives for his confirmation hearing on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Secretary of State-designee Rex Tillerson faced questions on Russia throughout a lengthy confirmation hearing Wednesday, but the most aggressive exchange came from a Republican senator who could sink his nomination in committee: Marco Rubio.

At the Senate Foreign Relations hearing, the fast-talking Floridian and former presidential candidate grilled the former Exxon Mobil CEO on sanctions against Russia and whether Russian president Vladimir Putin was a war criminal who murders his political opponents.

Word on the Hill: Sasse Goes Junk Food-Free
‘Wait a minute, I’m under oath’

Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse accepted a challenge from his child. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

You may see Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., binging on chips and candy on Feb. 1.

He tweeted that one of his three kids challenged him to not eat junk food for the rest of January. And, he agreed.

Senators Warn Tillerson About Backing New Russia Sanctions
Secretary of State nominee will face questions about Russian hacking Wednesday

Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin, John McCain and Lindsey Graham attended a news conference in the Capitol to introduce a bipartisan bill increasing sanctions on Russia.(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson might face hurdles to getting confirmed if he does not back a bipartisan plan to impose new sanctions on the Russian Federation.

Foreign Relations Ranking Democrat Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland led a bipartisan group of 10 senators in introducing expanded Russian sanctions legislation Tuesday in response to what the intelligence community has concluded was Kremlin hacking of the Democratic National Committee and military actions including the incursion into Ukraine.

AG Pick Sessions Defends Record at Contentious Hearing
Alabama Republican argues he’s strong on civil rights

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general, is sworn in on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 6:42 p.m. | Sen. Jeff Sessions made his case to be attorney general Tuesday, in a confirmation hearing punctuated by racially charged protesters and warnings from Democrats that minorities fear he wouldn’t protect their rights as the Justice Department leader.

The Alabama Republican decried accusations of racial insensitivity that sunk his 1986 nomination to be a federal judge as “damnably false,” and appealed to his colleagues on the Judiciary Committee to study his record of 20 years working beside them in the Senate.

Word on the Hill: Farewell Obama
Carolyn Maloney calls on Trump to back women’s museum

Tune in to watch President Barack Obama’s farewell address tonight. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Barack Obama will deliver his farewell address from Chicago at 9 p.m. ET tonight.

The Network for Progress is hosting a watch party entitled the “2017 Kickoff Progress Party,” which will include a discussion about the “return of ‘Yes We Can’ vision for the Democratic Party.”