Hawkings

Insider’s guide to Hill policy, people & politics

Podcast: What’s Moore Strange Than Alabama’s Senate Race?
The Big Story, Episode 72

Judge Roy Moore campaign worker Maggie Ford collects campaign signs after the U.S. Senate candidate forum held by the Shelby County Republican Party in Pelham, Ala., on Friday, Aug. 4, 2017. Moore is running in the special election to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Alabama’s Senate contest Tuesday is the first election skirmish in this year’s Republican civil war. Appointed Sen. Luther Strange is the candidate of the party establishment yet has the backing of the outsider president, Donald Trump. But former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s controversial conservatism has the ear of many Trump diehards. A preview from reporters who’ve seen the contest up close, Roll Call’s Bridget Bowman and The Economist’s James Astill.

Which of These Bills Is Not Like the Others? The Defense Budget
Testy and balky debate, like this year, still has ended with authorization for 57 straight years

Two U.S. army Blackhawk helicopters approach for landing at an airfield in Australia during a joint U.S. and Australian training exercise in July. (Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images File Photo)

For the uninitiated, it might have seemed last week like the annual legislation authorizing the nation’s military was about to come off the rails. And only now does it appear to be clamoring out of some thick mud — yet another example of a Congress so challenged when it comes to discharging even its most fundamental responsibilities.

Rest assured, though: There’s truly nothing more certain in the Capitol’s life cycle than enactment of the annual National Defense Authorization Act.

Schumer’s Big Gamble on the Virtue of ‘Yes’
Most Senate minority leaders are all about ‘no’ — but the Trump era isn’t like most times

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer has transformed this fall’s congressional dynamic and has become the breakout senatorial star of the season. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If the Senate’s governing principle can be reduced to this, “Saying no is easier than saying yes,” then it makes sense that leading the caucus so often focused on stopping stuff is much less demanding than being in charge of the group that’s always held responsible for getting things done.

Six men have personified this lesson during the past 40 years, former senators who had both responsibilities while they were floor leaders. For Democrats Robert C. Byrd, Tom Daschle and Harry Reid, as well as for Republicans Howard H. Baker Jr., Trent Lott and Bob Dole, solid arguments can be made that their stewardships were much more successful as minority leaders than as majority leaders.

Podcast: How the GOP Congress Could Help ‘Dreamers’ Now
The Big Story, Episode 70

Demonstrators outside the Trump International Hotel on Tuesday. President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind the DACA program could imperil GOP majorities in the House and Senate, Murphy writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Hill Republicans lambasted President Barack Obama’s deportation protections for 800,000 young people brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents, but now they sound willing to heed President Donald Trump’s invitation to turn the DACA program into law. What’s changed? CQ Roll Call immigration reporter Dean DeChiaro and education reporter Emily Wilkins explain.

Show Notes:

Trump and GOP Lawmakers — Even More on the Rocks
‘Must pass’ agenda tests a strained unified government

President Donald Trump targeted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in multiple Twitter attacks over the August recess. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Can this marriage of convenience be saved?

Will the first unified Republican government in a decade hold together in its current state of snarky detente, or will the majorities in Congress and President Donald Trump launch into a full-blown separation with the potential for policymaking divorce?

David Hawkings’ Whiteboard: What Is the Debt Ceiling?
 

Congress has a number of pending deadlines when it returns to D.C. after Labor Day, and committing to paying the government’s bills is one of them. Senior editor David Hawkings lays out what it means to raise the debt limit, and how it's separate from the debate over funding the government.

Podcast: After Charlottesville, Civil Rights Under Trump at the Fore
The Big Story, Episode 67

Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies during the Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearing on Tuesday, June 13, 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Last weekend’s bloody Virginia demonstrations incited by white supremacists will focus new attention on how the Trump administration is altering the Justice Department’s approach to hate crimes and other civil rights issues, CQ legal affairs reporter Todd Ruger explains. It’s a big test for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, already under fire from the president and because of his own record on race.

Show Notes:

David Hawkings' Whiteboard: What Would Impeachment Look Like?
 

Podcast: Inside the Senate’s Struggle With Civility
The Big Story, Episode 65

Senators are heading home for summer break, after a health care implosion highlighted the partisan ill will that’s festered all year. Ed Pesce, who edits CQ’s Senate coverage, explains how hardline GOP procedural tactics have taken the chamber to a new low, and what could get civil deliberations back on track.

McCain’s Many Parts in Getting to ‘No’ on Health Care
Hero, then goat to his Senate GOP colleagues. But did the maverick actually bridge their gap?

Arizona Sen. John McCain speaks at a news conference Thursday on the Senate Republicans’ “skinny” repeal bill. His later vote against the measure helped defeat the legislation. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Very rare is the senator with the singular sway to play the scold, the savior, the spoiler, the sacrificial offering and the spurned playmaker for his own party — and all within a spurt of fewer than 60 hours. But that was how this week played out for John McCain.

He may have had other, similar stretches during his three decades working to hold the title of the Senate’s main maverick. But for the indefinite future, he’s not going to have another one nearly as baroque, with so many highs and lows in so short a stretch that delighted, confounded, openly infuriated but secretively satisfied fellow Republicans.

Rare Warning to Trump From Hill GOP Leader
Firing Sessions could poison president’s agenda in Senate, Cornyn says

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, right, says firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions could jeopardize President Donald Trump’s ability to “get anything else done.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate majority’s No. 2 leader has given President Donald Trump one of the strongest pushbacks from any Republican in Congress this year: Firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions could bring to a halt GOP cooperation with the administration’s legislative agenda.

“Well, it’s the president’s prerogative, but he is then going to jeopardize, potentially, his ability to get anything else done here,” Majority Whip John Cornyn told reporters Wednesday. “And I don’t think that should be his desire or preference.”

Sessions on the Cusp of Martyrdom or Oblivion
If he’s fired, will former Senate GOP colleagues draw a line against Trump?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been the target of almost daily taunting from President Donald Trump. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

When Jeff Sessions was preparing last fall to begin a third decade in the Senate, his future as a rock-ribbed conservative legislative force looked limitless, but just three seasons later, he’s been pushed to the precipice of his career.

The almost daily taunting he’s taking from President Donald Trump points toward one of two probably quick endings to his brief run as attorney general, quitting or getting canned.

How Bad Political Manners Fomented the Health Care Mess
Lawmakers feel free to misbehave when their leaders drop ‘regular order’

Republicans in Congress may be emulating President Donald Trump’s political manners. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A president whose brand is all about flouting basic political manners is getting matched in misbehavior more and more by fellow Republicans in Congress.

The first six months under President Donald Trump have been marked not only by a further coarsening of GOP rhetoric, stoked mainly by incessant infighting in backrooms, but also by increasing defiance of decades of behavioral norms — from Trump’s nominal friends and skeptics alike, when they’ve been trying to work with him and when they’ve been scrambling to maneuver despite him.

GOP Senators Take Sessions’ Side in Spat With Trump
Former colleagues provide cover to beleaguered attorney general

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is under fire from President Donald Trump, but his former colleagues in the Senate have nothing but nice things to say about him. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Confronted with the rare and awkward choice of siding with either a president of their party or a Cabinet member who’s a former colleague, Senate Republicans are sounding of single mind:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, until five months ago a senior GOP senator from Alabama, has done nothing to merit the upbraiding he’s been taking from President Donald Trump.

Podcast: Why Republicans Haven’t (Yet) Said Nyet to Trump on Russia
The Big Story, Episode 63

CQ Roll Call columnist Walter Shapiro and senior editor David Hawkings consider the Watergate scandal and what its rhythms reveal about why today’s GOP lawmakers are still taking a wait-and-see approach to the sprawling, sometimes confusing connections between the Russians and President Donald Trump.