Patrick J Leahy

Appropriators seek to wrap up talks this weekend
But panel members acknowledge ‘hurdles’ as Dec. 20 deadline for bill passage looms

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, on Thursday said he was “more enthusiastic than I was a couple of days ago” that final negotiations on spending bills could be done this weekend. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Spending bill negotiators set their sights on wrapping up a year-end deal by this weekend, but they differed on how realistic that deadline might be.

With only two weeks left before current funding runs dry, appropriators are hoping to finalize work on all 12 spending bills and pass them by Dec. 20 to avoid another stopgap measure or possible government shutdown. But unless a deal comes together in the next several days, lawmakers have warned, there likely won’t be enough time to write the bills and move them through both chambers before the holiday recess.

Oversight panel sues Barr, Ross over census subpoenas
Committee probe into failed effort to add citizenship question continues

The House Oversight Committee is seeking to force Attorney General William Barr to comply with subpoena issued as part of its investigation over the failed effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House Oversight and Reform Committee has picked a court fight with the Trump administration, filing a lawsuit Tuesday to enforce subpoenas for documents sought in the panel’s investigation of the failed effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

In the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, the panel asks that Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross be ordered to comply with subpoenas issued as part of its investigation. The committee argues it needs the information to make sure the administration has not undermined the decennial count used to apportion federal representation and more than $1.5 trillion in annual federal spending.

Trump judicial pick blows off Democrats’ questions on Ukraine
An appeals court nominee has ignored a request from Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, but still advances

Steven J. Menashi during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on  September 11, 2019. He refused to answer questions on Ukraine, but his nomination was advanced to the Senate floor anyway.  (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

An appeals court nominee has ignored a request from Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to say whether he played a role in White House events now at the heart of the accelerating House impeachment probe — and Republicans haven’t let that halt his move through the confirmation process.

The committee voted 12-10 along party lines Thursday to advance the nomination of Steven Menashi, who works in the White House counsel’s office. President Donald Trump picked him for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit based in New York.

Trump administration shows up to USA Freedom hearing without answers to key questions about data collection
Mike Lee threatens monthly hearings after Justice Department remains not responsive to letter

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, suggested the Senate may need monthly hearings on FISA authorities. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senators expressed their displeasure Wednesday with the Trump administration’s inability to answer questions about the National Security Agency’s collection of call data records at a Judiciary Committee hearing. 

And one senator went so far as to suggest monthly hearings on foreign intelligence surveillance powers.

White House backing off $8.6 billion demand for border wall funding
The most immediate decision to make is how long a second temporary funding bill should last

A section of the border wall stretches through the “Rio Grande Valley Sector” of the Texas border in August. The Trump administration is backing off its demand for spending on the fiscal 2020 border wall. (Jinitzail Hernández/CQ Roll Call)

The Trump administration is backing off its demand for $8.6 billion in fiscal 2020 border wall spending in negotiations with top congressional leaders and appropriators, according to a source familiar with the talks.

That’s not just a recognition of reality — Congress hasn’t appropriated more than $1.375 billion for the wall in each of the past two fiscal years. It also reflects a realization that the administration risks losing a substantial boost in military spending and other GOP priorities if current stopgap funds end up extended for the entire fiscal year.

Impeachment news roundup: Nov. 5
Sondland reverses himself on Ukraine quid pro quo; investigators want to hear from Mulvaney

Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, arrives at the Capitol for his deposition on Oct. 17. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, revised his initial testimony significantly, amending it to say he told a top Ukrainian official that the country would “likely” not receive military aid unless it announced investigations into President Donald Trump’s political rivals, according to a transcript released Tuesday by the committees conducting the impeachment inquiry.

In an amendment to his transcribed testimony, Sondland said his recollections were “refreshed” after reviewing opening statements from diplomats William Taylor and Tim Morrison.

A portrait unveiling for ‘Alaskan of the century,’ Uncle Ted Stevens
Senators reminisce about the late Alaska senator and his legendary salmon fishing trips

Catherine Stevens, far left, the widow of the late Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, attends the portrait unveiling for the senator, with family members, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., right, and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., second right, in the Old Senate Chamber on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Some senators are better fishermen than others.

When senior lawmakers gathered with many of their former colleagues to unveil the leadership portrait of former Senate President Pro Tempore Ted Stevens on Wednesday, it was inevitable that there would be plenty of discussion of the legendary salmon fishing trips hosted by the late Republican from Alaska.

Shelby: Next stopgap could last until February or March
Appropriations chairman says spending bills unlikely to become law before Thanksgiving break

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., departs from the Senate lunch in the Capitol on Wednesday, Oct. 16. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby said the next continuing resolution to fund government agencies beyond the current stopgap’s Nov. 21 expiration might have to run beyond the end of this calendar year — perhaps into early spring.

“Unless a miracle happens around here with the House and the Senate, we will have to come forth with another CR,” said Shelby, R-Ala., noting that next February or March is “probably in the ballpark.”

Senate floor debate beckons amid spending bill impasse
Under stopgap law, lawmakers have about five weeks to reach funding agreement

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby says there’s a “good chance” the chamber can start debating spending bills next week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate next week could debate a package of spending bills that have received bipartisan support in the Appropriations Committee, according to Chairman Richard C. Shelby.

“I’ve been hearing that and conversations lend me to think there’s a good chance,” the Alabama Republican said Wednesday, noting that the final decision is up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “I think there are five, six, seven appropriations bills that we could pass if we get to the floor.”

Democrats: Budget rule change undercuts Congress’ authority
The new rule instructs agencies to report alleged violations only if the agency, in consultation with OMB, agrees a violation occurred

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., leaves the Senate Democrats’ policy lunch in the Capitol on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Democratic appropriations leaders wrote to the Office of Management and Budget Friday objecting to a decision to limit agencies’ reporting of alleged budget violations, which they said is an attempt to weaken congressional oversight.

The letter from House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., and Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, follows a General Accountability Office opinion that suggests the new procedure violates the law.