Congress

Esper, Milley nominations head to floor; Hyten‘s fate unclear
McConnell lined up Monday cloture vote, which Esper is expected to clear easily, and a final confirmation vote by Wednesday

Secretary of Defense nominee Mark Esper prepares to testify during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday advanced to the floor the nominations for Mark Esper to be Defense secretary and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promptly filed cloture on the nomination, lining up a Monday cloture vote, which Esper is expected to clear easily, and a final confirmation vote by Wednesday.

Senate schedules debate on 9/11 victims compensation bill
The bill sailed through the House last week, but Senate fiscal hawks worried about price tag

Comedian and advocate Jon Stewart along with 9/11 responders are seen on the Speaker’s balcony after a meeting in the Capitol with Speaker Nancy Pelosi about funding for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate leaders have agreed to take up a bill Tuesday that would extend a financial lifeline to thousands of victims suffering health problems from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The bill sailed through the House last week on a 402-12 vote, but has faced resistance in the Senate from fiscal hawks worried about its price tag. The measure would effectively make permanent a special compensation fund for first responders and other victims of the 2001 attacks, while providing however much money is needed to pay all eligible claims.

Senate seeks to make sure that hacking election systems is a federal crime
Senators unanimously pass narrow legislation, but no broad action is expected

The Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would clarify that hacking election systems and machines is a federal crime. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate took another small step to improve election security Wednesday evening, even as there is no plan for a broader debate on the floor.

As the chamber was closing for the evening, senators passed by unanimous consent a bipartisan bill out of the Senate Judiciary Committee designed to make sure that hacking election systems is actually a federal crime.

Blockchain Caucus co-chair: Ease up on Facebook's Libra

Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., conducts a House Small Business Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight and Regulations hearing in Rayburn. Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Catholic nuns, priests protesting migrant child treatment arrested on Capitol Hill
The protest was organized by several faith-based organizations to condemn treatment of migrant children at U.S.-Mexico border

Capitol Police arrest protesters participating in civil disobedience in the Russell Rotunda at the Capitol on Thursday, July 19, 2019. A coalition of Catholic activists organized the protest to pressure the Trump administration and Congress to end the practice of detaining immigrant children. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Seventy demonstrators from a Catholic coalition were arrested Thursday in the Russell Senate Office Building as they protested the conditions migrants are being held in at detention facilities abutting the U.S. southern border.

The protest was organized by several faith-based organizations, including Faith in Public Life, Faith in Action and Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. Catholic priests, nuns, and lay members converged on Capitol Hill to put pressure on Trump administration and lawmakers in Congress to end “the immoral and inhumane practice of detaining immigrant children.” 

House votes to raise federal minimum wage
Issue exposed rifts among Democrats. Legislation stalled in Senate

The House voted on Thursday to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 12:46 p.m. | The House voted 231-199 Thursday to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour incrementally over six years, but the Democratic effort was almost derailed by divisions between progressives and moderates.

Progressives on Wednesday had issued a last-minute warning to their moderate colleagues not to help Republicans make any last-minute changes to the bill through the procedural maneuver known as a motion to recommit, or MTR. If moderate Democrats helped the GOP add what the progressives considered poison pill language to the measure, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus were prepared to vote against it, the group’s co-chairs, Reps. Mark Pocan and Pramila Jayapal, said. 

Lawmakers hint at regulatory models for Facebook cryptocurrency
Libra: ‘Which is it, fish or fowl?’

“This looks exactly like an exchange-traded fund,” said Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., (File photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House members suggested Wednesday that Facebook Inc.‘s proposed cryptocurrency could be deemed an exchange-traded fund, a currency or a commodity, all of which could require some degree of regulatory oversight.

“What we’re struggling with is: What are you?” said Democratic Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter summing up a four-hour House Financial Services Committee grilling of a company executive about the proposed cryptocurrency known as Libra.

Secret Service pressed for plan to avoid future Mar-a-Lago security breaches
A 33-year-old Chinese woman was arrested with malware, other suspicious items

President Donald Trump walks to speak with supporters after arriving on Air Force One at the Palm Beach International Airport to spend Easter weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort on April 18, 2019. ( Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Three senior Senate Democrats are pressing the U.S. Secret Service on whether security has been beefed up at President Donald Trump’s Florida and New Jersey resorts after a 33-year-old Chinese woman talked her way into his Mar-a-Lago property while he was there.

Yujing Zhang, 33, pleaded not guilty on charges of trespassing and lying to U.S. Secret Service agents after being arrested March 30 at the president’s Florida resort. When searched, she was found carrying a pair of passports, four mobile devices, a laptop computer, a thumb drive allegedly containing malware and one external hard drive.

Armed Services panel to huddle on three top Pentagon nominees
Joint Chiefs vice chairman nominee faces stiff headwinds

The committee will probably vote overwhelmingly to give its consent to Army Secretary Mark Esper becoming the next Pentagon chief. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate Armed Services Committee, in a closed-door meeting Thursday, is expected to approve the president’s choice for Defense secretary and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman and to discuss the embattled nomination of the Air Force general tapped to be the military’s No. 2 general, committee members and staff said Wednesday.

The committee will probably vote overwhelmingly to give its consent to Army Secretary Mark Esper becoming the next Pentagon chief, clearing the way for a Senate vote in the coming days to confirm him. The panel is also expected to send to the floor the nomination of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley to be the next Joint Chiefs chairman.

'Send her back' chant chills Washington
Some Republicans criticize crowd at Trump rally; McConnell says Trump is ‘onto something’ with attacks on progressive ‘squad’

President Donald Trump speaks during his “Keep America Great” rally Wednesday in Greenville, North Carolina, where a chant of “Send her back” broke out about Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar. (Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

The words “send her back” briefly drowned out the President Donald Trump’s speech in Greenville, North Carolina, last night, and quickly sent chills through Washington.

Trump carried his screed against Rep. Ilhan Omar from Twitter on to the stage of a campaign stop Wednesday night, prompting supporters to respond that he should “send her back” to the country she emigrated from as a child. The moment stoked fear about both the safety of the congresswoman and about the ramifications of the nation’s most powerful politician inflaming racial and religious hatred.

Mnuchin says there is a topline agreement on spending caps and debt limit
Treasury secretary says talks continue on offsets and structure of a deal

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that the White House, Senate and House have an agreement on a two-year debt ceiling increase. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that agreement has been reached on spending levels for fiscal 2020 and fiscal 2021 as well as a two-year extension of the debt limit.

“The good news is we’ve reached an agreement between the administration, the House and the Senate on topline numbers for both year one and year two. We’re now discussing offsets as well as certain structural issues. And we’ve agreed as part of that deal there would be a long-term, two-year debt ceiling increase,” Mnuchin said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “So, I think, all of our first choice is to reach an overall agreement and we’re working hard to do that. But if for whatever reason we don’t get there in time, I am encouraging a debt ceiling increase.”

Democrats appear stymied on a top priority: climate legislation
Outside of passing Paris accord bill, new House majority has little to show

Democrats, led by Sen. Edward J. Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, center, introduce the Green New Deal in February. The resolution still hasn’t received a committee vote and hasn’t resulted in legislation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It’s been more than six months since Democrats assumed control of the House promising to take bold action on climate change. And what do they have to show for it?

Just one major bill directly addressing the issue has passed on the floor, a measure that would force the U.S. to honor its commitments in the Paris climate accord. A comprehensive climate change package has yet to emerge, and a bill reintroduced by the chairman of the main committee of jurisdiction over Clean Air Act issues hasn’t had a committee vote.

Sen. Isakson hospitalized with rib fractures after fall
Georgia Republican “is in pain, but resting and doing well,” spokeswoman says

Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson was hospitalized with broken ribs. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Johnny Isakson was hospitalized after falling and fracturing four ribs in his apartment in Washington, D.C., his office said in a statement. 

The Georgia Republican was admitted to George Washington University Hospital on Tuesday night. 

House passes repeal of Obamacare tax on high-cost plans
‘Cadillac tax’ never took effect under intense lobbying against it by employers and unions

“If we fail to repeal the Cadillac tax, we will leave working families with less health care coverage, higher out-of-pocket health care costs and little to no wage increases,” says Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House passed, 419-6, legislation Wednesday to repeal the so-called Cadillac tax, pleasing health insurers, unions and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers who have long pushed to scrap the levy.

The measure would permanently repeal the 40 percent excise tax on high-cost employer-provided health insurance, which was envisioned as a key way to pay for the 2010 health care law. The tax, which Congress twice delayed from taking effect, is set to go into effect in 2022.

House holds Barr, Ross in contempt over census subpoenas
Vote of 230-198 on a contempt resolution came after weeks of conflict between the administration and House Oversight

House Oversight Chairman Elijah E. Cummings says it was necessary to hold the attorney general and Commerce secretary in contempt because they had stymied a legitimate investigation of the census by the panel. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House voted Wednesday to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress over the chamber’s probe into the administration’s now-abandoned attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The 230-198 vote on a contempt resolution came after weeks of conflict between the administration and the House Oversight and Reform Committee over subpoenas related to the addition of the question. President Donald Trump dropped it from the census last week after the Supreme Court blocked the plan, calling the administration’s rationale for it “contrived.”