Politics

Senate Intelligence Democrats Skittish About Integrity of Russia Probe
Panel Democrats huddled Monday evening

Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee were unnerved of reported contact between Chairman Richard M. Burr and the White House. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee says reporters should, “stay tuned” to see what action panel Democrats might take to ensure the integrity of an investigation led by Chairman Richard M. Burr after reported contact with the White House.

Reports of a conversation between the Trump White House and the North Carolina Republican have cast a chill over the panel’s probe of alleged Russian efforts to undermine the 2016 U.S. election.

Top Conservatives Oppose GOP Health Care Plan, Muddying Path to Needed Votes
Members express optimism that consensus can be reached in the coming weeks

Meadows, center, and his conservative colleagues have expressed opposition to a House GOP plan to provide refundable tax credits to help individuals purchase insurance. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The top two House conservatives on Monday said they cannot vote for their conference’s health care repeal and partial replacement plan in its current form, meaning House GOP leaders have some work to do before they can offer a bill that will get the 218 votes needed to pass the House.

Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker and House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows both cited concerns over the plan’s refundable tax credits, saying it amounts to the creation of a new entitlement program. The North Carolina Republicans said that several of their conservative colleagues feel the same way and predicted that the plan could not pass the House in its current form.

Trump’s Cabinet Racks Up ‘No’ Votes in Senate
Congress has delivered more votes against Trump's Cabinet than the last four presidents' Cabinets combined

The most contentious Trump Cabinet vote so far was Betsy DeVos to be Education secretary, where Vice President Mike Pence had to cast a tie-breaking vote to confirm her. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

With the president historically unpopular, Senate Democrats seem to feel free to go on record against his more controversial picks to run executive departments.

Congress has delivered to President Donald Trump’s nominees 252 “no” votes. That’s more than the total “no” votes for the nominees of the four previous presidents combined.

Trump Budget Plan Requires Change in Law
Democrats unlikely to play ball in signing off on cuts to domestic spending

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said a more detailed budget plan would have to wait until May. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Donald Trump will slice into nondefense spending to pay for a 10 percent increase in defense spending in his fiscal 2018 budget, a senior Office of Management and Budget official said Monday. In addition, officials said the so-called skinny budget, or budget outline, will be shipped to Congress on March 16.

Trump is proposing a $54 billion increase in defense, taking defense up to $603 billion in fiscal 2018. Nondefense accounts would be cut by a corresponding $54 billion, in part by cuts in foreign aid.

Schumer Touts Manchin Plan Tying Trade Rep to Miner Pensions
Nominee appears to need a waiver from Congress to take job

Manchin intends to push his plan to make miners’ benefits more permanent. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

BY NIELS LESNIEWSKI AND LINDSEY MCPHERSON, CQ Roll Call

Sen. Joe Manchin III is making yet another pitch to get certainty regarding health care and pension benefits for retired coal miners, with the backing of Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer.

Schumer and Pelosi Prebuttal to Trump: We Disagree
Democratic leaders see no signs they can work with Republicans

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer speak at the National Press Club in Washington on Monday. NPC President Jeff Ballou appears at left. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Congress’ top two Democrats on Monday delivered their “prebuttal” to President Donald Trump’s upcoming first address to Congress, outlining reason after reason why Democrats cannot support anything they expect the president to propose. 

Speaking at the National Press Club, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Republicans’ early actions and rhetoric on health care, immigration, budget and taxes are out of step with the Democrats’ priorities and suggested there’s no room for the parties to work together.

Ryan, Trump Describe Obamacare Replacement As ‘Rescue Mission’
President: ‘Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated’

U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell speak to members of the media in front of the West Wing of the White House February 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. Ryan and McConnell had a meeting with President Donald Trump earlier. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump and top congressional Republicans on Monday described their efforts to replace the 2010 health care law as a pressing matter — even though doing so quickly defies their political interests.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky emerged from an Oval Office meeting with the president to tell reporters that the law is “collapsing.” McConnell sidestepped a question by reciting former President Bill Clinton’s campaign-season assessment that it is the “craziest thing in the world.”

McAuliffe: Trump Administration Deportations Prioritize Criminals
Virginia Democrat details conversations with Homeland Security secretary

McAuliffe, center, is the chairman of the National Governors Association. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Monday that the Trump administration has assured him that the targets of deportation efforts are people who have been involved in what he described as a “criminal enterprise.”

McAuliffe, a Democrat, is the chairman of the National Governors Association, which was finishing up meetings in Washington after a weekend gathering. The governors were at the White House for meetings with President Donald Trump after also visiting the executive mansion for a dinner with the president Sunday night.

Nunes Dismissive of Trump-Russia Connections
But House Intelligence chairman says investigation will continue

California Rep. Devin Nunes said his panel is investigating Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election in addition to leaks of classified information to the public. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The top lawmaker on the House Intelligence Committee said Monday he had no evidence of President Donald Trump’s advisers communicating with Russian officials during the transition period but his panel would continue to investigate the matter.

Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes said he didn’t rule out the possibility of it surfacing in the future.

Bush Doesn’t See Eye to Eye With Trump on Media, Muslim Ban
‘We need an independent media to hold people like me to account’

Asked if a special prosecutor was necessary to look into ties between President Donald Trump and his associates and Russia, former President George W. Bush replied, “you’re talking to the wrong guy.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President George W. Bush defended the media and expressed differing views from President Donald Trump on the Muslim ban and immigration during an interview Monday.

Despite getting his fair share of grief from the media, Bush told the “Today Show” that journalists and the media are crucial to governing, a stark difference from Trump’s condemnation of some media outlets as enemies of the state.

Joaquin Castro Still Considering Cruz Challenge
Says he’ll probably make a decision on Senate race ‘in seven or eight more weeks’

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said he will make a decision about running for Senate within the next two months. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Joaquin Castro said he will make a decision about whether he will challenge Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in the coming weeks.

“I’m going to take probably about seven or eight more weeks and make a decision about the Senate race,” the Texas Democrat told San Antonio station KENS.

Senators Get ‘Secret Hitler’ Game
Co-creators say they want to force Senate to act as a check on Trump administration

The secret-identity card game Secret Hitler draws parallels between Nazi Germany and today’s political climate. (SecretHitler.com)

The co-creator of a popular card game has sent his new game that “models the rise of fascism in a democracy” to every U.S. senator.

Max Temkin, who helped create the game Cards Against Humanity, teamed up with video game maker Mike Boxleiter and author Tommy Maranges, to create the board game Secret Hitler, the Daily Dot reported.

Last of Trump Nominees With Russian Ties Set to Sail Through Confirmation
Vote on Commerce secretary-designee Wilbur Ross comes amid new questions

Commerce Secretary nominee Wilbur Ross is expected to sail through a Senate confirmation vote Monday, in spite of questions about his business ties to influential Russians. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Commerce Secretary nominee Wilbur Ross was a top shareholder in a Cypriot bank with deep Russian ties when he met with the principal Russian investor. 

That meeting lasted only an hour, according to a cursory account Ross provided to the Senate. What he discussed during the encounter and the identity of the investor are among a number of unanswered questions about Ross’ potential connections to influential Russian figures as he awaits a vote on his confirmation Monday.

New Jersey Districts Will Test Democrats’ Suburban Strategy
National Democrats are making fresh targets out of Lance and Frelinghuysen

Protesters gather outside before New Jersey Rep. Leonard Lance’s town hall meeting at the Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg on Feb. 22. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

LIVINGSTON, N.J. — Mitchell Bross, a lifelong Republican, has some concerns about how GOP Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen voted this year.

But he hasn’t been able to share his concerns with the 12-term New Jersey congressman at a town hall meeting because Frelinghuysen refuses to have one.

Week Ahead Includes Trump Address, Cabinet Confirmations
Zinke’s departure will mark fourth House GOP vacancy

Zinke is expected to resign from his seat after he is confirmed as Interior secretary, creating a fourth House GOP vacancy. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump will dominate the attention on Capitol Hill with his first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, but lawmakers will also keep moving on confirming his Cabinet nominees and rolling back the previous administration’s regulations.

On Monday, the Senate votes to confirm Wilbur Ross as Commerce secretary. Ross, a billionaire investor, was on Trump’s economic advisory council during the presidential campaign. Senators will also vote Monday evening to end debate on Rep. Ryan Zinke’s nomination to be Interior secretary.