Presidential race

Senators to Watch as Trump Era Begins
Rank-and-file senators likely to be key players in 115th Congress

Georgia Sen. David Perdue, left, and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III are both senators to watch. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans may have full control in Washington, but the Senate remains the Senate, which means it’s the place where rank-and-file Democrats and Republicans retain the most clout and potential for influence. Here are the key senators from outside of the top echelons of the leadership structures to watch as the 115th Congress gets underway.

The moderate from Maine will be the first person to watch on any contentious votes, particularly on budget reconciliation votes that aim to repeal parts of the 2010 health care law. She has, for instance, been among the small number of Republicans opposing efforts to tie the GOP health care plans to stopping federal funding of Planned Parenthood.

Trump vs. Lewis: A Question of Character
The difference between being a character — and having it

Georgia Rep. John Lewis stands on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., on Feb. 14, 2015. Lewis was beaten by police on the bridge on "Bloody Sunday," March 7, 1965, during an attempted march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

When we think of Rep. John Lewis on a bus, it is as a teenage “Freedom Rider,” putting his own life at risk in order to form a more perfect union. When we think of Donald Trump on a bus, it is as a boorish billionaire, musing about sexually assaulting women.

When we think of Lewis and racial politics, it is in the context of waking America’s conscience to the civil, voting and housing rights denied to citizens because of the color of their skin. When we think of Trump and racial politics, it is in the context of denying housing to citizens based on the color of their skin, fomenting white nationalism and seeking ways to discriminate against Muslims without running afoul of the First Amendment.

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.

Democrats, Donors Turn Focus to State Legislative Races
Republicans say their foes have tried before but still came up short

Former Attorney General Eric Holder’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which is backed by President Obama, will focus prominently on state legislative races. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Senate map is chock-full of deep red states, the House map skews Republican, and the presidential race doesn’t start for at least two more years. 

If Democrats and their donors want to find ways to win in 2018, they might need to refocus down the ballot — way down the ballot.

Senate Panel to Probe Links Between Russia, Political Campaigns
Burr and Warner statement says committee will ‘follow the intelligence wherever it leads’

Vice chairman Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., left, and chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., confer before Tuesday’s hearing on Russian intelligence activities. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s inquiry into Russian intelligence operations against the United States will investigate any possible links between Russia and American political campaigns, the panel said Friday.

The bipartisan investigation will also include a review of the American intelligence agencies’ assessment of what they say was Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including cyberattacks and other so-called active measures.

Mixed Bag of Republicans Vote Against Obamacare Repeal Vehicle
GOP defectors cite deficit, lack of replacement

Dent voted against the budget resolution because of concerns about the GOP rushing to repeal Obamacare without a replacement plan. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Republicans on Friday passed a bare-bones fiscal 2017 budget resolution with few intraparty defections, as most GOP members saw the unbalanced and long-delayed spending plan as a necessary means to an end of repealing the 2010 health care law.

The nine Republicans who voted against the measure raised concerns about either the budget not balancing, a key priority for fiscal conservatives, or the aggressive timeline of repealing the Affordable Care Act, given that the GOP has yet to present a replacement plan. The final vote was 227-198. 

White House Watch: What to Watch for in Trump’s Inaugural Address
 

Pelosi Calls for Investigation Into Trump's Ties to Russia
’This is an issue that is great deal of interest to the American people,’ House minority leader says

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wants an investigation in to President-elect Donald Trump’s ties with Russia. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Friday called for an investigation into any ties Donald Trump has with Russia and whether the Kremlin has any compromising information on the president elect. 

“We want our agencies of government to investigate what those connections are and hopefully resolve it in our favor,” the California Democrat told reporters at her weekly news briefing. 

Texas Republican Compares Mexican Singers to Russian Interference
Says actors and singers who performed at Clinton rally tried to influence election, too

Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, wants “the whole story.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, said the Mexican singers and soap opera stars who appeared at Hillary Clinton events influenced the election as much as Russian hackers did.

“Those are foreign actors, foreign people, influencing the vote in Nevada. You don’t hear the Democrats screaming and saying one word about that,” Conaway told the Dallas Morning News.

No Sophomore Slump for Marco Rubio
Senator appears to be carving out his own role in Trump’s Washington

With his vote, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio could decide the fate of President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of State, Murphy writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

For a guy who didn’t want to be in the Senate anymore last year, Florida’s Marco Rubio is certainly making a tall glass of lemonade out of the lemons he got running for president in 2016. With a single hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week, Rubio went from being the Republican Most Likely to Miss a Vote, a distinction he earned on his way to losing the GOP nomination, to being the Republican Most Likely to Hold Donald Trump’s Feet to the Fire. It’s a role that holds both risks and immense power. That, for Rubio, could be more important than anything.

The hearing, of course, was to consider the nomination of Rex Tillerson to be Trump’s secretary of State. Although Sen. Jeff Sessions’ hearing to be attorney general was expected to have the most fireworks of the week, the Tillerson hearing went off-track as soon as Rubio began grilling the former Exxon Mobil CEO about the reams of accusations against Russian President Vladimir Putin of widespread corruption and human rights abuses.