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- Congressional Hits and Misses: Week of April 20, 2015
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Senior Editor David Hawkings writes the “Hawkings Here” blog and column for Roll Call.
His aim is to provide penetrating, non-partisan and forward-looking analysis of policies being formed on Capitol Hill – and the people and politics driving the debates.
Hawkings has been a passionate Congress-watcher at CQ Roll Call for two decades.
Before his current assignment, he spent two years as founding editor of the company’s Daily Briefing and six years as managing editor of CQ Weekly.
He’s also been senior editor for legislative affairs; the magazine’s economics editor and its congressional affairs editor; and co-editor of “Politics in America,” the signature reference work on members of Congress.
He offers analysis every Monday and Friday on NPR’s Washington affiliate, WAMU, and is a regular guest analyst on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC.
Before joining the company, he was a correspondent in the Washington Bureau of Thomson Newspapers and a reporter, columnist and editor at the San Antonio Light.
He’s a native of New York and a graduate of Bucknell University.
The newest Roll Call Clout Index reveals that, even more than before, the largest potential for influence belongs to the states with the most people and therefore the biggest delegations. So it’s worth paying special attention to the smaller places with lawmaker contingents positioned to punch highest above their weight.
Four years after lawmakers gave up earmarking, the last of the billions once dedicated to pet projects has effectively been spent, and one result is a changed roster of states laying claim to the most clout in Congress.
Eight years ago, the last time sitting senators launched competing quests for a presidential nomination, each touted their congressional records as evidence they were more the true agent of change than the other one.
The GOP presidential field is now, officially, thicker with senators than at any time in the past two decades. All three with declared candidacies have viable paths to the nomination — underscoring the bewilderment about why a fourth Senate Republican, who would be among the longest of long shots, is considering joining the hunt.
It’s the first federal bribery indictment of a sitting senator in almost a quarter century, and the defendant is among the most combative and combustible Democrats in the Capitol. So why have Republicans spent the better part of the past two weeks with their hands over their mouths?
It’s not only the season’s most consequential political event, but also a rare local election with a big rooting interest on the Hill. Voters in the nation’s third-biggest city are deciding next week if they still want to be led by a onetime member of congressional leadership.
Senators readying their patience, their reading material and even their bladders for the annual ritual known as the “vote-a-rama” may rightfully be getting ready to ask, “Will it be worth it?”
The odds have crested the 50-50 threshold for what would surely become one of the year’s biggest legislative achievements — an overhaul of how doctors and other Medicare providers get paid. And the usual encrusted ideological positioning, at both ends of the political spectrum, is no longer the biggest obstacle.
The death last week of Robert W. Kastenmeier, who evolved in the House from a prominent peace crusader into a premier intellectual property protector, is the freshest reminder of an odd truth about the modern Congress.
If budget resolutions are aspirational, sketching the big picture Congress envisions for government, then spending bills are the polar opposite: Blueprints that lawmakers micromanage down to the smallest line item.
The annual budget resolution has several purposes. In theory, it’s a mission statement on the proper role of government and a mirror on priorities for the coming decade. At a more practical level, it decides the limit on lawmaker-driven spending for the coming year and smoothes the path toward ambitious changes in federal policy.
Given that old adage, “You can’t tell where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been,” casting a close eye over last year’s congressional voting patterns is in order.
The most amazing thing about the Loretta Lynch story is that the congressional community no longer views it as amazing.
Republicans may not realistically smell another Senate seat about to become available, but they’re moving quickly on the very real scent of political blood. And their nose for scandal has them salivating at more than the fate of Sen. Robert Menendez, who may be only weeks from facing federal corruption charges.
One of these House members is not like the others. One of these members doesn’t hope to belong — in the Senate.
It’s arguably the most important single hour of federal policymaking this year, and it’s happening Wednesday morning inside a government building on Capitol Hill. But except for clusters of reporters and attorneys, joined by a few dozen citizens who’ve waited hours in a long queue for a glimpse, the event will remain invisible forever.
The most obvious distinction Barbara A. Mikulski will take into retirement is that she’s spent more time in Congress than any other woman, and that’s a record worthy of significant recognition. But, especially at a Capitol so deeply mired in dysfunction and partisanship, the meaning of her service is deeper than mere longevity.
He’s looking a little tan, sounding rested and signaling he’s ready. He’s a former senator from a big swing state who was a senior member of the congressional leadership. He was even the runner-up for his party’s presidential nomination last cycle.
There are 27 states where the attorney general is a Republican, and 22 of them have signed on to the lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama’s effort to limit deportations. But only one of them is being ushered under the national spotlight Wednesday morning as the single elected official asked to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on “the unconstitutionality of President Obama’s executive overreach.”
There’s always at least of whiff of politics at the Oscars, but the speeches this year touched on as many different hot-button issues in Congress as ever.
The firing of Atlanta’s fire chief has already become a flashpoint in the debate over how to balance the religious beliefs of public officials against the civil rights of their constituents. Now the argument has spread to the Capitol — prompting questions about proper congressional roles in local controversies, especially when statewide electoral and legislative consequences lie just below the surface.
Taxpayer dollars have been used to pay chaplains of the House and Senate since the spring of 1789, when the first of 106 different ordained Christian ministers were elected to those jobs.
It looks like a refresher course is in order on how Congress handles a veto, procedurally and politically.
If you believe the two most conservative justices, then the Supreme Court can nearly be counted on to declare that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to get married. And if their expectation proves true, that decision may well go down as the most significant nationwide expansion of civil rights where Congress was on the sidelines.
Not often do a congressman and an anchorman see their careers simultaneously lurching onto parallel and perilous tracks. But that’s one way of looking at what’s happening with Aaron Schock and Brian Williams.