New Jersey

Omnibus Bill in Sight After ‘Big Four’ Meet to Iron Out Kinks
Finishing touches on $1.3 trillion package being applied

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speak to reporters following a meeting of House and Senate leaders in Speaker Paul D. Ryan's office on the $1.3 trillion fiscal 2018 omnibus appropriations bill on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Congressional leaders and the White House have reached a preliminary deal on a roughly $1.3 trillion fiscal 2018 omnibus appropriations bill. GOP and Democratic aides were putting the finishing touches on the mammoth package and were expected to file it later Wednesday morning for House floor consideration.

Some issues remain unresolved as of Wednesday morning, requiring leadership attention.

Republican Lawmakers Missed Opportunity to Save Trump From Trump
Legislative protection for special counsel could have forced president to refocus

Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., says he’s received assurances that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s firing is “not even under consideration.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Congressional Republicans have let slip a golden opportunity to make good on their most important and counterintuitive campaign promise of 2018 — covering for President Donald Trump at every mind-numbing opportunity.

They still have half a year to change their collective minds, but for now the GOP is essentially all in on one of the most outside-the-box political strategies of all time: Betting that safe passage for their imperiled majorities requires lashing themselves to a president mired in record low approval ratings, subsumed by self-orchestrated chaos and in the crosshairs of a special counsel.

Senate Opts Against Limiting Trump’s War Powers
Measure to cease most military actions in Yemen shot down

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, here at a rally at the Capitol last year, pushed a resolution to end most U.S. military operations in Yemen. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Amid a whirlwind day of White House news, President Donald Trump on Tuesday retained the expanded war powers he inherited from his post-9/11 predecessors, as the Senate shot down a measure that would have ordered him to cease most U.S. military operations in Yemen.

Trump scored a victory on behalf of the executive branch’s ability to launch and sustain military operations in new countries without first getting authorization from Congress. Amid pressure from Republican leaders, the White House and the Pentagon, the chamber killed a resolution, 55-44, offered by a bipartisan group of senators that would have required Trump to cease all U.S. military action against groups other than al-Qaida in Yemen.

Opinion: When Congress Lost Its WWII Veterans, Cynicism Crept In
Upholding the rule of law and democratic norms does not happen automatically

Former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole speaks with Army Sgt. Maj. Beth Lyle following a press conference on the World War II Memorial in 2000. Congress isn’t the same now that it has no more veterans of that war, Walter Shapiro writes. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

Something was lost when the World War II generation vanished from the halls of Congress.

Originally personified by young veterans like John Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Jerry Ford, who were elected to the House in the 1940s, the torch of memory was later held high by former Senate Republican leader Bob Dole (who suffered grievous war wounds with the 10th Mountain Division in Italy).

Podcast: Top Appropriators Seek Hometown Cash as Shutdown Threat Nears
CQ Budget, Episode 52

House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen is retiring at the end of the session, and theoretically the New Jersey Republican could grab some extra federal dollars for his district. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

CQ appropriation reporters Kellie Mejdrich and Ryan McCrimmon explain how a committee chairmanship can pay off in more ways than one and why Republicans are once again talking about another round of tax cuts.


Departing Appropriations Chairmen Set to Reap Omnibus Bounty
Fiscal 2018 spending bill a swan song for Cochran, Frelinghuysen

Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran’s swan song as the outgoing chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee may be a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo )

The outgoing chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations committees are set up for a bountiful swan song as a sprawling $1.3 trillion fiscal 2018 omnibus spending bill comes to fruition this week.

For Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran, resigning April 1, it’s a “mic drop” moment as the ailing 80-year-old Mississippi Republican will walk off the stage just after the omnibus measure is expected to become law. Cochran’s departure leaves his state with an enormous loss of clout that he will be anxious to ameliorate in his final go-round.

From Assistant to Chief, Women Heading Hill Offices
‘I don’t want people from the outside world calling and thinking I’m taking dictation in here’

Rep. Rosa DeLauro hugs fellow Connecticut Democrat Sen. Christopher J. Dodd during a 2010 event. In 1981, she joined a handful of congressional female chiefs of staff when Dodd hired her off the campaign trail. Also pictured, at left, former House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

Women have been heading up congressional offices dating back to the 1940s, but that “assistant” position looked very different from today’s chief of staff post.

The 1946 Legislative Reorganization Act created the title of administrative assistant, which evolved into chief of staff. In 1947, there were about six female administrative assistants in the Senate, according to Senate Historian Betty K. Koed.

Plenty of Pitfalls for Hill Staffers Doing Campaign Work
Lines between official and campaign time can be murky

Staffers doing campaign work have to make sure they’re not doing it on government time. But there’s no set way to keep track of that time. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

With campaign season here, Hill staffers are likely to find their duties expanding with election-related tasks.

Press secretaries and senior staff doing paid or volunteer campaign work routinely flock to nearby coffee shops with their personal laptops to send campaign press releases or go on walks to take reporters’ calls about their boss’s re-election. Campaign work has to be done on staffers’ own time, off government property.

In Shift, White House Embraces Art of the Possible
GOP source: ‘You’re just not going to pass legislation in 2018’

President Donald Trump speaks at Republicans’ retreat in West Virginia on Feb. 1 as Speaker Paul D. Ryan and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise look on. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump and White House officials, with their modest response to school shootings and in other recent remarks, have shelved bold demands of Congress for asks rooted more in the art of the possible.

The president started 2018 by pushing members of both parties to swing for the fences on a sweeping immigration deal, even offering them political cover when he told them he would “take all the heat you want to give me.”

Staffers Find Community Service Sees No Party Lines
‘We come from all different parts of the country but we call this place home’

The Capitol Hill Community Service Association did a cleanup at the John Taylor Elementary School in August 2017. School business manager Joe Brown, center, is flanked by, from left, Ron Hammond, Imani Augustus, Brad Korten, Kristen Siegele, Alex Erwin and Maureen Acero. (Courtesy CHCSA)

Congressional staffers who may not agree ideologically are finding ways to come together in service. The bipartisan Capitol Hill Community Service Association gives them a chance to volunteer in D.C.

“I was trying to find a way to help bridge the divide. We all know it can be very toxic here sometimes, not to the fault of staffers, obviously. We’re all here because we want to serve and I think community service is one of those places where we can find that common ground,” said the association’s co-leader Brad Korten, a legislative aide to New Jersey Democratic Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman.