Patrick J Leahy

Congress will probably leave town without voting on a disaster bill
Partisan deadlock over how much relief aid should go to Puerto Rico is showing no signs of easing

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., exits the Senators Only elevator in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Wednesday, March 27, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A partisan deadlock over a disaster relief package showed no signs of easing Tuesday, as the two camps traded barbs over aid for hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

Senate Republicans made a new offer over the weekend that Democrats dismissed, weakening prospects for a deal before lawmakers leave town later this week for a two-week Easter recess. President Donald Trump has told Republicans he won’t support additional aid to Puerto Rico beyond an extra $600 million in food assistance that is already included in a GOP-written bill.

In prelude to nuclear option, Senate rejects speeding up confirmation of nominees
McConnell now expected to move forward with only Republican support

President Donald Trump alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., left, and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., last week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate inched closer Tuesday to Republicans using the “nuclear option” to slash the time for debate on the vast majority of judicial and executive nominations.

Senators blocked, 51-48, an effort by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring up a resolution that would have set a new standing order. The support of 60 senators would have been needed to advance the debate.

2020 Democrats reject GOP call to back Iowa disaster aid
Senate Democrats opposed bid by Chuck Grassley amid dispute about Puerto Rico

Sen. Charles E. Grassley pushed colleagues who are running for president to support disaster aid for Iowa. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democratic senators running for president in 2020 lined up on Monday to block a GOP disaster aid package that would support the key caucus state of Iowa.

The votes against a move by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to limit debate on a $13.45 billion Republican plan came as part of a broader dispute between President Donald Trump and Democratic lawmakers over assistance for Puerto Rico’s recovery.

Democrats look to defend Obamacare with disaster aid amendment

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., is looking to put Obamacare and Democrats' defense of it front and center. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 6:08 p.m. | Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer on Wednesday said Democrats would propose an amendment to a $13.45 billion disaster aid package that would block the Justice Department from carrying out President Donald Trump’s push for a court ruling invalidating the 2010 health care law.

The move is another threat to consensus on a supplemental spending bill that leaders hoped could be negotiated in a bipartisan manner, but talks have until now been weighed down by disagreement over the package’s size and scope. Senate Democrats’ strategy introduces a new hurdle and is part of a broader push by Democrats to steer public attention toward health care.

Mueller probe could spark historic balance of powers debate
Lawmakers, administration set for battle over how much of report to make public

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III walks after attending church on Sunday in Washington. He turned in his report on the Russia investigation to Attorney General William P. Barr on Friday. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

The political spotlight focused brightest on reticent special counsel Robert S. Mueller III for nearly two years, his every legal move and court filing scrutinized by a country eager to decipher what the Russia investigation had uncovered about President Donald Trump.

But with Mueller’s work done, the question changes from what Mueller found to how much of it House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler and other lawmakers can make public.

Disaster aid vote is expected after recess, but what’s in it is still in the works
Several issues, including Puerto Rico, continue to be sticking points

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., left, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., conduct a news conference in February. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate leaders are teeing up a vote after the weeklong St. Patrick’s Day recess on an as-yet-undefined disaster aid package for victims of major storms and other natural disasters during the last two years.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on Thursday filed a motion to limit debate on proceeding to a $14.2 billion disaster aid bill the House passed in January.

Puerto Rico aid among issues complicating disaster bill talks
The size and scope of a disaster aid package has become a flashpoint among Senate appropriators

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., talks with reporters before a meeting with Republican and Democratic negotiators on government spending on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The size and scope of a disaster aid package has become a flashpoint as Senate appropriators construct a supplemental spending bill they hope to move quickly.

The fight appears to be between Democrats who want additional aid for Puerto Rico and states ravaged by 2017 storms, while Republicans are attempting to keep the bill contained to rebuilding from disasters that struck last year.

Democrats vow Judge Chad Readler will be 2020 issue
Murray and Schumer among Democrats blasting his role in targeting health care law

The Senate confirmed Chad A. Readler, President Trump’s nominee to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the 6th Circuit, on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats say they will remember the Wednesday afternoon vote to confirm Chad A. Readler, one of President Donald Trump’s most contentious judicial nominees.

The 52-47 vote to install Readler on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio could easily be lumped in with many other Trump choices pushed through the Senate by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Senate to follow House, keep earmarks out of spending bills
Earmarks have also been banned in the Senate since 2011

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., is seen after the Senate Policy luncheons on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate appropriators don’t plan to revive earmarks this year, following the House’s lead set late last week by the Democratic majority across the Capitol.

“I would listen to meritorious things, but I don’t see that happening right now. The House has just spoken,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., said Monday.

In bid to avoid shutdown, spending deal drops Violence Against Women Act extension, other contentious provisions
House and Senate conferees were signing the document Wednesday night, votes expected Thursday

Senate Appropriations leaders Richard C. Shelby, right, and Patrick J. Leahy led conference negotiations on senators’ behalf. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As negotiators were finalizing a final fiscal 2019 funding package highlighted by border security spending Wednesday evening, it became clear that an extension of the Violence Against Women Act wouldn’t make the cut.

Several policy riders in the mix earlier Wednesday, including back pay for federal contractors for wages lost during the 35-day partial shutdown and the VAWA extension, didn’t make it in the final bargaining over the fiscal 2019 spending conference report, according to aides in both parties.