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Gun safety theatrics could come to Congress during Tuesday pro forma sessions
Neither House nor Senate expected to return any time soon

Pennsylvania Sen. Patrick J. Toomey says an immediate vote on his background checks bill would be “counterproductive.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 4:45 p.m. | Democratic lawmakers itching for action on gun safety legislation will get their first chances to make some noise on Tuesday.

That’s when the House and Senate are scheduled to begin holding pro forma sessions, with no legislative business expected in either chamber until a full week after Labor Day in September. However, there’s a long history of members of Congress using the brief moments when the floors of the two chambers open for business during the August recess to engage in a bit of theater.

‘Come back ... immediately’: Democrats call for special session in aftermath of mass shootings
There has be no sign that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell intends to change the schedule.

From right, Connecticut Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy attend an event with lawmakers and victims to call on Congress to act on gun violence prevention in 2018. Corey Taylor, who was killed in a 2013 Texas shooting, appears in a photo at left. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats in the Senate have steadily called for a special session to address gun violence after a spate of deaths by assailants armed with assault weapons.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for an end to the Senate's August recess after mass shootings in Texas and Ohio claimed more than two dozen lives. 

Senate panel advances asylum bill over Democratic objections
‘This is supposed to be the Senate Judiciary Committee — not the Donald Trump committee,’ Leahy says

Sens. Lindsey Graham and Patrick J. Leahy talk in 2015. On Thursday they clashed over Graham’s asylum bill, which aims to reduce the flow of migrants to the southern border. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved, 12-10, Sen. Lindsey Graham’s asylum overhaul bill that aims to stanch the flow of migrants to the southwest border.

But the vote came amid loud protests from Democrats that the legislation was hastily pushed through. Democrats said Graham, the committee chairman, broke from longstanding committee procedures in scheduling a markup for Thursday and not allowing any Democratic amendments.

Grassroots groups prepare for a post-Roe v. Wade America
January D.C. conference will train abortion opponents on policies and activism strategies

Anti-abortion groups are looking at training advocates on policies and activism strategies under the assumption that the Supreme Court will eventually expand states’ authority over abortion. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Advocates, state lawmakers and legal organizations are setting up the infrastructure to prepare for potential changes to the landmark 1973 abortion rights case Roe v. Wade.

Four major conservative advocacy groups will host an event next January that will train abortion opponents on policies and activism strategies to implement under the assumption that the Supreme Court eventually may change its precedent and expand states’ authority over abortion.

Airwaves reserved for educational purposes may go to 5G
As FCC clears the way for fifth-generation wireless network, students’ spectrum will be no more

As “the homework gap” continues to divide American children who have internet at home from the 12 million who don’t, the FCC has approved a plan to scrap an educational requirement that has governed a slice of the U.S. airwaves since the Kennedy administration. (Shutterstock)

For students at Burton Middle School in Porterville, California, a small city at the southeast corner of the massive and rural San Joaquin Valley where the poverty level is 30 percent, a Wi-Fi signal outside of the school is hard to come by.

In a nation where an estimated 70 percent of teachers assign homework requiring a broadband connection, internet access is often inaccessible for poor people and minorities, and a quarter of the students in Porterville lacked home internet access as recently as five years ago.

Bipartisan bills push carbon tax, as GOP pollster offers Democrats help on climate
Frank Luntz pledged to help Democrats with their climate messaging

Republican pollster Frank Luntz, pledged to help Democrats address climate change in a nonpartisan, dispassionate way. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Climate change policy may be in for a softer, less polarized atmosphere with Republicans and Democrats teaming up on a flotilla of legislation to tax carbon emissions and decarbonize American industries, and a longtime Republican spin guru pledging to help Democrats with their climate messaging.

For instance, in the Senate, Democrats Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Cory Booker of New Jersey joined with Republicans Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Mike Braun of Indiana on Thursday to introduce a bill targeting emissions from the industrial sector.

Senate confirms four-star general, inches forward another despite sexual assault allegations
The Senate voted 89-1 to confirm Army Gen. Mark Milley to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, nominee for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrives for his Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing in Dirksen Building on July 11, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate on Thursday voted 89-1 to confirm Army Gen. Mark Milley to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, just hours after the Armed Services Committee decided to move forward with Air Force Gen. John Hyten’s nomination to be the military’s No. 2 officer despite lingering questions about allegations of sexual assault.

The progress on the Joint Chiefs nominees comes as senators try to firm up leadership at the Pentagon, which has been in a state of transition for months.

Next week, Senate will consider budget deal, confirm judges and two senior officials
UN ambassador and deputy secretary of Defense nominees will also make the to-do list

Kelly Knight Craft, nominee to be ambassador to the United Nations, will be confirmed by the Senate before August recess. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

While House members could leave the Capitol for August recess as early as Thursday night, the Senate has work still to be done, including clearing the budget and debt limit deal and confirming 19 judicial nominations.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said that in addition to the judges, the Senate would be prioritizing confirmation of David Norquist to be deputy secretary of Defense and Kelly Knight Craft to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Esper content with defense budget, calls for 'stable leadership'
Top jobs in the Pentagon remain unfilled or are being carried out by 'acting' officials

Mark Esper enters the top job at the Pentagon Tuesday as the new Secretary of Defense. Esper said the $738 billion allocated to the military for fiscal 2020, is a 'good number.' (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Newly minted Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper enters the top job at a moment of both relief and urgency for the Pentagon.

The relief came from an agreement this week between Congress and the White House to fund the military for the next two years at $738 billion in fiscal 2020 and $740.5 billion in 2021, numbers that defense hawks have said they can live with.

Mueller shuns spotlight, but says probe didn’t ‘exonerate’ Trump
President has claimed investigation cleared him of obstruction of justice

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller leaves the witness table for a recess in the House Judiciary Committee hearing on "Oversight of the Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election" on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

On a day House Democrats hoped Robert S. Mueller III’s televised testimony Wednesday would animate the special counsel’s 448-page report for the nation, the star witness eschewed the leading role with a muted performance with few soundbites during the first of two back-to-back hearings.

Mueller’s answers were concise. He often said simply, “True,” or “I rely on the language of the report.” The 74-year-old gray-haired Marine veteran and former FBI director frequently didn’t speak into the mic.