Why Congress Won’t Touch the 25th Amendment
Authors intended it for total incapacity and vice president needs to lead any move

Pushing toward the pinnacle of defensive hyperbole by proclaiming himself “a very stable genius” has done more than anything to subject Donald Trump to speculation at the Capitol about how psychologically fit he is for the presidency.

Trump’s first comprehensive medical exam on Friday after a year in office, when his sedentary lifestyle and junk food habits have only been enabled, did not dispel worries by many congressional gym rats about the 71-year-old’s ability to withstand the job’s bodily strain.

Inside the House Republican Brain Drain
Record exodus by members who’ve wielded gavels will complicate next year

This has already become a wave election year, because a record wave of departures by House chairmen already guarantees a sea change in the Republican power structure next January.

Even if the GOP manages to hold on to its majority this fall, its policymaking muscle for the second half of President Donald Trump’s term will need some prolonged rehabilitation. And if the party gets swept back into the minority, its aptitude for stopping or co-opting the newly ascendant Democrats’ agenda will require some serious retraining.

Crimes and Bombs, Not Bills, Likely to Dominate Hill Attention
Election year begins with catch-up legislating but will soon be about waiting on Mueller and Kim

The people with the most power to drive the 2018 congressional agenda, especially after the tumultuous several weeks ahead, are neither members of the Capitol leadership nor the occupant of the Oval Office.

Whatever President Donald Trump wants to get done, however hard Paul D. Ryan and Mitch McConnell work to assist him, whether Nancy Pelosi and Charles E. Schumer decide to collaborate on or confront the Republican program — none of that will matter as much as the actions of just two folks who’ve never even run for federal office.

How Congressional Debate Is Supposed to Work (And How It Really Works)
 

Do congressional debates ever really succeed in changing any minds? Senior editor David Hawkings explains the different forms of debate in the House and the Senate, and how they tend to have very little effect on legislation....
Topic for Debate: Time to End Congressional Debates?
Real deliberation and persuasion are so rare, the move might improve Hill functionality

Here’s a modest proposal to jumpstart the new year: Do away with what passes for “debate” on the floors of the House and Senate.

Doing so would mean Congress is facing up to its current rank among the world’s least deliberative bodies. It may be a place suffused with rhetoric, some of it pretty convincing at times, but next to no genuine cogitation happens in open legislative sessions and precious few ears are ever opened to opposing points of view.

Podcast: A Big Finish for Trump's First Year; Can He Sell Conservative Accomplishments?
The Big Story, Episode 84

The biggest tax overhaul in three decades, a record roster of judicial confirmations, strikes at Obamacare and a regulatory rollback: Roll Call White House correspondent John T. Bennett reviews how the president ended up winning much of what he campaigned for, but remains at record low approval ratings. Can he sell his agenda to midterm voters?

 

The GOP is Anxious to Be Productive: 4 Takeaways From the 2018 Congressional Calendar
Roll Call Decoder with David Hawkings: wonky explainers from a Capitol Hill expert

Senior editor David Hawkings takes a look at the 2018 congressional calendar for a sneak peek at what to expect from the House and Senate come the new year....
No-Alias: Smith & Jones Will Alter the Senate in ’18
Two newest Democrats will join as powerful a minority as possible, whether they skew left or to the center

Turns out, the Senate is going to be quite a different place next year even without Roy Moore — and that’s not only because senators named Smith and Jones will be serving together for the first time in 86 years.

The chamber will have its closest partisan split in a decade, and the narrowest divide in favor of the Republicans since the spring of 2001. The roster of women will expand to a record 22, and for the first time a pair of women will comprise the Senate delegations of four states. The Deep South will be represented by a Democrat for the first time in four years.

How Moore Would Change the Senate From Day One
From collegial courtesy to the page program, Hill culture would be rattled

The nature of the Senate would be challenged right away, and in several tangible ways, with the election of Roy Moore.

Even though Congress is now defined by its tribal partisanship, which long ago gave the lie to whatever senatorial claim remained to being “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” Tuesday’s special election in Alabama threatens to make life in the northern half of Capitol Hill an even more unpleasant experience. Traditions and courtesies that have applied a bit of congenial gloss to the coarseness of the place would soon enough become endangered by Moore’s very presence.

David Hawkings’ Whiteboard: How Two Bills Become One Law
 

Members of the House and Senate will be going to conference committee to iron out the many differences between the two chambers’ tax bills. However, this means of hashing things out is divergent from the norm. Roll Call senior editor David Hawkings explains the various means Congress has used to reconcile disagreements between House and Senate versions of a bill....
A Gun Rights Vote Only the GOP Base Can Appreciate
Expansion of concealed carry permission will die in the Senate, but the NRA really wanted the vote

One government shutdown may be narrowly averted, but another looms right around the corner. The stain of sexual misconduct at the Capitol continues to spread, and an alleged child predator is days away from possibly joining the Senate. Middle East destabilization seems assured as Congress gets its wish to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Public support dwindles daily for a loophole-encrusted, deficit-busting tax package that would be the year’s biggest legislative achievement. The push for presidential impeachment has gone far enough to necessitate procedural pushback in the House.

A week such as this one — already chockablock with headlines touching the Hill — seemed to the Republicans who run the place like an ideal time for making a bold hiding-in-plain-sight move.

The Language of Congress: What’s the Difference Between Resigning and Retiring?
 

Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., caused some confusion when he said he was “retiring today.” Senior editor David Hawkings breaks down the difference between retirement and resignation in this edition of Roll Call’s Decoder....
Podcast: A Mystery PAC and the Rest of the Strange Alabama Senate Finale
The Big Story, Episode 82

A week before Alabama's special election, Roll Call election analyst Nathan Gonzales describes how he unearthed an obscure political action committee supporting Roy Moore — just one more twist in a campaign where his alleged preying on teenage girls is the main issue, and has created a deep rift among his fellow Republicans.

 

GOP Gets Ready to Own a One-Sided Shutdown Argument
Past showdowns happened in divided governments, and still Republicans got blamed. So what’s different now?

Among the story lines that have made the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency genuinely unique, few can top this one for its potential consequences for responsible governance as well as good politics: A government controlled exclusively by one party may shut itself down.

Four times in the past three decades, budgetary impasses have required non-essential personnel to stay home and the activities at their agencies to be suspended. In each case, at least one chamber of Congress was controlled by a political party different from the president’s, the stalemates reflecting intractable partisan disagreements over policies and spending priorities.

Conyers Scandal Creates Opening for House Democrats
Leaving Judiciary post after 23 years means new liberal messenger in age of Trump

The forced amble toward the exits by Rep. John Conyers Jr. is accelerating one of the most consequential power vacuums in Congress in the eyes of the Democratic base.

The moment is as much about the party positioning itself for the future as it is about managing sexual harassment problems in the present.

An Old Saw’s New Twist: Death (of the Deficit Hawks) and Taxes
A few Republicans clinging to old party orthodoxy could doom Trump’s big win

This apparent contradiction confronts Congress as it returns for a grueling month of legislating: The Republicans who run the Capitol, so many of whom came to Washington as avatars of fiscal responsibility, are going to spend the rest of the year working to make a worsening federal balance sheet look even worse.

December holds the potential for a productivity breakthrough, but it also threatens to end in embarrassing deadlock — which is why the clear consensus within the upper reaches of the congressional GOP is that it’s the right time to get comfortable with any feelings of hypocritical guilt.

Decoding Reconciliation: Why the Senate Only Needs 50 Votes on Tax Bill
 

Unlike most legislation in the Senate, the chamber’s tax overhaul effort will not be subject to the 60-vote filibuster threshold. Why is that? Senior editor David Hawkings explains how certain deficit-altering bills are granted special parliamentary powers through a process called reconciliation....
Podcast: Sexual Harassment in Congress — More to Come
The Big Story, Episode 80

Show Notes:

Four Senate Stories That Might Shape Moore’s Fate
Past election and ethics controversies offer precedent for GOP

Torricelli, Murkowski, Burris & Ensign: That’s not the newest lobbying law firm on K Street, but rather a roster of senators whose extraordinary political careers point toward the four tough paths for Republicans intent on keeping Roy Moore out of the Senate.

The lateness of the electoral hour, combined with Alabama’s deeply red nature and solid support from the state’s GOP base, continue to afford the 70-year-old, twice-removed chief justice of the state Supreme Court big advantages if he persists in his campaign — notwithstanding allegations that while he was a prosecutor in his 30s he sexually assaulted two teenage girls and pursued romantic relationships with others.