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Steve Israel Finds New Platform
Former DCCC chairman, former Sen. Rick Santorum to join CNN as contributors

Former Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., talks with reporters in the Capitol Visitor Center after a meeting with House Democrats in June 2016. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former New York Democratic Rep. Steve Israel, an eight-term veteran of the House, is joining CNN as a contributor to its political coverage.

CNN anchor and media correspondent Brian Stelter tweeted Tuesday morning that the former chairman of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee and former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will join the network.

Low Approval Ratings Could Speed Possible Trump-GOP Clash
President-elect at 40 percent in 2 polls, around half of Obama’s 2009 rating

President-elect Donald Trump tweeted that the opinion polls that show him with a lower transition rating than his predecessors were “rigged.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President-elect Donald Trump tried to cast doubts Tuesday on his low approval ratings, but the numbers — around half of those of his predecessor in 2009 — could accelerate an emerging collision with his own party. 

Two new polls put Trump’s approval rating at 40 percent just three days before he will be sworn in as the 45th president. At the same point in President Barack Obama’s transition period eight years ago, one of those polls, conducted by CNN/ORC International, had his approval rating at 84 percent.

Opinion: Narrowing the Racial Wealth Gap
Do policies meant to address big problems aggravate an economic divide?

The incoming Trump administration and lawmakers should anticipate whether new policies will improve or aggravate wealth inequities, Shapiro and Asante-Muhammad write. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

We have a proposition for the incoming Trump administration and the new Congress and it’s not a liberal or a conservative idea. It’s just a call for pragmatism when developing new federal policies over the next four years.

For too long, even when coming together to enact laws to accomplish noble goals, Congress and previous presidents have ignored the unintended effects of “one-size-fits-all” legislation on the racial wealth divide in this country. What seems like a great idea — making college more affordable, for example — can actually feed the divide.

Chao Drives Toward Quick Confirmation
Transportation designee wins bipartisan praise at Commerce Committee

Transportation Secretary-designee Elaine Chao testifies as her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, looks on during her Senate Commerce Committee confirmation hearing on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

On Wednesday morning, Sen. Mitch McConnell’s most important title in the Senate wasn’t majority leader. It was husband.

“I regret that I have but one wife to give for my country’s infrastructure,” the Kentucky Republican quipped at the confirmation hearing for his spouse, Transportation Secretary nominee Elaine L. Chao. The line was borrowed from former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, whose wife, Elizabeth, once held the same Cabinet post.

Sessions Will Follow the Law, But He Won’t Lead on It
Job requires someone who is aware of oppression and discrimination

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions’s answers on the first day of his attorney general confirmation hearing on Tuesday were “deeply unsatisfying and basically meaningless,” Allen writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

It sounds so good that Jeff Sessions said it over and over again when Democratic senators pressed him on how he would approach the job of attorney general: I will follow the law.

It’s what he said when Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin asked what he would do with “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. Ditto when Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked him about gay rights and abortion rights. 

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.

Fish on a Treadmill and Other Waste, According to Jeff Flake
Arizona Republican plans another push for a permanent earmark ban

The cover of Sen. Jeff Flake’s latest Wastebook. (Courtesy Sen. Flake’s office)

Sen. Jeff Flake highlights 50 examples of questionable, even frivolous federal spending in the latest edition of his government wastebook.

Flake calls the latest volume “Wastebook: PORKémon Go.” All told, the Arizona Republican’s office says it details more than $5 billion in inappropriate spending by federal departments and agencies.

Intelligence Officials Say Putin Ordered Campaign to Help Trump
Activities demonstrated a ’significant escalation in directness’

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. prepares to testify before the Senate Armed Services hearing on cyberthreats on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign targeting the 2016 U.S. presidential election to undermine confidence in American democracy, smear Hillary Clinton and, eventually, to help lift Donald Trump to victory, according to a declassified report from U.S. intelligence agencies.

The document, based on information and analysis from the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency, spells out the U.S. spy agencies’ conclusions on what they say was Russia’s wide-ranging venture to interfere in the American vote.

RSC Chairman: Conservatives May Clash With Trump on Infrastructure, Debt Ceiling
Walker advocates for Obamacare replacement in 2017, no earmarks

Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker says Congress will work with Trump but conservatives may disagree with him on issues such as infrastructure and the debt ceiling. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The new chairman of the Republican Study Committee said Thursday that conservatives could clash with President-elect Donald Trump early in his administration on infrastructure spending and on the debt ceiling.

In an interview for C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” scheduled to air Sunday, North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker said it is incumbent upon Congress to work with the incoming administration but that there will likely be some differences of opinion. 

Ryan Bucks Trump, Says Congress Will Not Raise Tariffs
Speaker’s comment breaks from president-elect’s promise to impose ‘border tax’

Speaker Paul Ryan said Congress will not raise tariffs, undermining President-elect Donald Trump’s plan to institute a “border tax” for companies that leave the U.S. but want to continue doing business here. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, in a break from President-elect Donald Trump, said Wednesday that Congress is not going to increase taxes on imports and exports through tariffs. 

“We’re not going to be raising tariffs,” Ryan said on “The Hugh Hewitt Show.”