Sheldon Whitehouse

Crucial Health Bills Have a Fraught Path Amid Partisan Blowups
Bickering could delay progress on changes to 2010 health care law

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said the panel will next focus on Medicare policies related to patients with chronic illnesses. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A highly anticipated markup of a must-pass Food and Drug Administration bill was postponed Wednesday because of partisan sparring over the firing of FBI Director James B. Comey. The delay comes after the Senate Finance Committee last week indefinitely postponed a hearing on the Children’s Health Insurance Program because of the toxic politics of the Republican health care bill. The cancellations raise questions about whether a deluge of drama consuming the Capitol could push lower-profile but important health care legislation off the rails.

Both bills — which congressional leaders hoped to pass without major controversies — need to be addressed well before their Sept. 30 deadlines so the FDA employees and children’s health providers who rely on funding affected by the bills can keep working.

Comey Defends Pre-Election Actions on Clinton Investigation
But FBI director says he wouldn’t change decision to release info

FBI Director James Comey testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

FBI Director James B. Comey vigorously defended his actions ahead of the 2016 presidential election when it came to criminal investigations about candidates, as senators from both political parties warned him at a hearing Wednesday that the agency’s reputation was on the line.

Comey testified at the Senate Judiciary Committee the day after Hillary Clinton blamed him in part for her election loss, since he told Congress just 11 days before the election that the agency was reopening a criminal probe into her use of personal email to improperly send classified information when she was secretary of State.

Word on the Hill: Party Time
Burgers in Cannon today

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks with her husband, Paul, center, and Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey at an Atlantic/CBS News pre-party before the 2016 White House Corespondents’ Association Dinner. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner is a day away. But Friday is a big night for parties to start the weekend off.

RealClearPolitics, the Distilled Spirits Council, the National Restaurant Association and the Beer Institute are joining for the first annual Toast to the First Amendment. It is from 7 to 10 p.m. at the National Restaurant Association, 2055 L St. NW.

Democrats Keep Pounding on Michael Flynn
Sheldon Whitehouse refers to Trump as 'Swamp Thing'

Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, left, went after former national security adviser Michael Flynn again on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Democrats kept hammering former national security adviser Michael Flynn as a pre-eminent example of what they call the Trump administration’s questionable ethics. 

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called Thursday for the declassification of documents related to the activities of Flynn, a onetime head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and a senior Trump campaign official.

Udall: Congress Should Compel White House to Release Visitor Logs
New Mexico Democrat hits Trump over decision to keep records secret

New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall is the sponsor of the MAR-A-LAGO Act. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

One Democratic senator says Congress should require the White House to release its visitor records, after the administration announced Friday the logs would be kept secret.

The Trump administration cited security and privacy concerns in its decision to not publicly release its visitor logs. The decision, first reported by Time magazine, differs from the Obama administration, which publicly released its visitor records — though those logs were subject to redaction.

Photos of the Week: Senate Goes Nuclear to Confirm Gorsuch
The week of April 3 as captured by Roll Call’s photographers

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gives a thumbs-up on Thursday after the Senate invoked the "nuclear option" which will allow for a simple majority vote to confirm a Supreme Court justice nominee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The consideration of Neil Gorsuch to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court was front and center all week on Capitol Hill. The final vote for confirmation took place Friday morning, with Vice President Mike Pence presiding over the Senate, but the lead-up had more fireworks — with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell invoking the “nuclear option” on Thursday to lower the threshold of cloture votes needed, effectively clearing the way for Gorsuch’s approval. 

Photos of the Week: Cherry Blossoms and Intelligence Chaos as Gorsuch Awaits Vote
The week of March 27 as captured by Roll Call’s photographers

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, takes a photo with his phone during the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Russian intelligence activities on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As the cherry blossoms reached full bloom in Washington this week, so did the congressional investigations into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. After the House investigation faced obstacles, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s query began to ramp up, with the leaders conducting a bipartisan news conference and the entire panel holding its first full hearing on the matter. 

Next week, Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch is expected to receive a vote on the Senate floor. Demonstrators both for and against the nominee made appearances in the capital this week.

Word on the Hill: Ready to Run
Make reservations to dine out for a good cause next week

The Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run is an annual race that passes monuments, such as the World War II Memorial, and runs along the Tidal Basin. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Capitol Hill Competition is fast approaching.

Part of the larger Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run on April 2, it awards the fastest House or Senate congressional office with the Capitol Cup to display for a year.

Fears Surface of Russian Hack of Congress IT System
Subcommittee told legislative branch is highly vulnerable

Sasse asked about the likelihood of a Russian incursion. Witnesses said it was likely. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senators’ examination of Russian efforts to undermine democracies took a turn that hit close to home on Wednesday, when witnesses openly speculated to the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism that Congress itself was likely the victim of nefarious hacking.

When Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., asked experts testifying about the likelihood of such an incursion, former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves offered it was “almost certain” congressional IT systems have been infiltrated by Russia’s security services, particularly if two-factor security is not deployed.

Liberals Put Political Money in Spotlight of Gorsuch Fight
Senate Democrats urged to probe nominee’s views on campaign finance law

North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, seen here meeting with Judge Neil Gorsuch last month, is facing pressure from liberals and conservatives ahead of the Supreme Court nominee’s confirmation hearings. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democratic lawmakers and liberal interest groups are intensifying their pressure on senators to probe Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s views on campaign finance law during his confirmation hearings next week.

“He does not come into this with the benefit of the doubt in his favor,” said Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Judiciary Committee member. The panel is scheduled to begin the Colorado judge’s hearings at 11 a.m. Monday.