Mark S Kirk

A nice chunk of change: Commemorative coins benefit all involved
Coin bills are a surprisingly competitive affair as lawmakers race to get their bills approved

Coin bills are one of the last remaining ways for an individual member of Congress to bring home the bacon. (Courtesy the U.S. Mint)

Two weeks a month, Stephanie Keegan travels from her home in New York’s Hudson Valley to Washington to lobby Congress on a host of veterans’ issues. Of late, she’s spent much of her time working on what would seem like an arcane matter — getting lawmakers to co-sponsor a bill that would create a commemorative coin honoring a museum for Purple Heart recipients.

But it is serious business and she uses a variety of tactics: making constant phone calls, showing up at offices unannounced, provoking moist eyes.

Thad Cochran: A life in photos
Photos of the late Mississippi senator from the CQ Roll Call archives

Portrait of Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., from 1985. A year earlier, he easily won a high-profile race for re-election over former Democratic Gov. William F. Winter. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran died Thursday at the age of 81. The mannerly former chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee — where he was a dependable provider for his home state — spent more than four decades in Congress.

Cochran retired from the Senate in April 2018 after dealing with health issues. The longtime Republican lawmaker began his congressional career in the House, winning election to Mississippi’s old 4th District in 1972. After three terms, he ran and won a race for Senate in 1978, becoming the first Republican to win statewide office in the Magnolia State since Reconstruction. 

Microsoft Says Russians Tried to Hack Senate and Think Tanks
Operation used domain names similar to the Senate and two conservative institutions

Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, is chairman of the board of directors for International Republican Institute. Microsoft said the think tank was targeted by Strontium, also referred to as “Fancy Bear,” which is associated with Russian intelligence. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Microsoft announced late Monday that it thwarted a spearphishing attack against the U.S. Senate by a group affiliated with Russian intelligence.

In a statement, the tech giant said its digital crimes unit “executed a court order to disrupt and transfer control of six internet domains created by a group widely associated with the Russian government.”

Political Foes Turned Podcasting Friends
Democrat Ali Lapp and Republican Liesl Hickey bring House race expertise to podcast

Democratic strategist Ali Lapp and and Republican strategist Liesl Hickey chat before recording an episode of their podcast “House Talk with Ali and Liesl” at the EMILY’s List office in Washington, D.C. (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Ali Lapp spent several hundred thousand dollars trying to defeat Rep. Mark S. Kirk in 2006. The Illinois Republican, whose office was led by Chief of Staff Liesl Hickey, held on.

Fast forward 10 years, and the two women met for the first time at Tonic, a bar in Washington’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood, for what they jokingly call their “blind date.”

Illinois Primaries: Ratings Changes in Two Races
Land of Lincoln may help Democrats gain seats

Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill., narrowly survived a primary challenge Tuesday night. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Illinois primaries are in the books, setting the stage for an important batch of congressional elections in November. 

Assuming Democrat Conor Lamb is certified as the winner of the special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th District, Democrats still need a net gain of 23 seats to win the House majority. That’s a wide enough gap that Democrats, instead of cherry-picking victories around the country, will look to score big in a handful of states. Illinois might be one of them.

Illinois Democrats Seek to Chip Away at Republicans’ House Majority
Second-in-nation primaries set stage for targeting GOP seats

Democrats are targeting four GOP-held seats in Illinois, where voters head to the primaries Tuesday. (Composite by Chris Hale/CQ Roll Call)

Democrats are targeting four seats in Illinois, where voters will pick their nominees Tuesday in the second congressional primaries of the year. 

It’s an early test for the party’s ability to nominate candidates it thinks are viable in the general election. Unlike in Texas, which held the cycle’s first primaries two weeks ago, there are no runoffs in Illinois. So a simple plurality would be enough to advance to the November general election. 

Illinois House Primaries Will Be Early Testing Ground for Democrats
Democrats have several pickup opportunities, but they need viable candidates first

Democrats are confident they’ll have a general election nominee who can take on Illinois GOP Rep. Peter Roskam. The primary is on March 20. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

With early voting starting in less than a month, Illinois will be a testing ground for Democrats’ ability to nominate general election candidates they think can win out of crowded primaries. 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting four Republican-held districts, but the committee is not explicitly picking favorites in all those primaries. 

Food on the Line This World Series in Both Chambers
Bets among Gomez, Jackson Lee and Harris, Cruz

Clockwise from top left, Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and Jimmy Gomez of California, and Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Ted Cruz of Texas are involved in some friendly World Series wagers. (Photos by Bill Clark and Tom Williams, composition by Chris Hale/CQ Roll Call)

California and Texas lawmakers aren’t just talking smack about their home-state Dodgers and Astros. They’re putting food on the line for the World Series.

California Rep. Jimmy Gomez, whose district includes Dodger Stadium, made a bet with fellow Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, whose Houston district includes Minute Maid Park, home of the Astros. If the Astros win, Gomez owes Jackson Lee “French Dipped” sandwiches from Philippe’s, a downtown Los Angeles restaurant. If the Dodgers win, Jackson Lee owes Gomez some Texas barbecue.

Conservatives Take Shots at Independent-Minded GOP Senators
Activists worry party mavericks could upend health care repeal efforts

Maine Sen. Susan Collins has often found herself at odds with conservative groups. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Activist groups that want conservative orthodoxy on Capitol Hill have aimed their fire previously at Republicans including House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and his predecessor, John A. Boehner. Now they have some new targets. 

Their focus has turned to three senators who’ve shown some willingness to challenge President Donald Trump: Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John McCain of Arizona.

The Democrat Who Hugged the President
Trump and Sen. Joe Manchin share an interlocked fate

West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin III has embraced the idea of working with President Donald Trump, a smart strategy given the Mountain State’s strong support for Trump in last year’s election. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Most Democrats fled after President Donald Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress last week. But Sen. Joe Manchin III instead approached him — and leaned in for a hug.

The gesture only lasted a few seconds. But it speaks volumes about the symbiotic relationship that has emerged between the West Virginia Democrat and the Republican president in recent months.