2019

This senator lost one son, but gained another
Death and murder shook his family, but Father’s Day is still a time of joy for Kevin Cramer

Kevin and Kris Cramer, center, pose for a family photo. Son Isaac, far right, died last year. (Courtesy Kevin Cramer)

Father’s Day at Kevin Cramer’s house is “wonderfully chaotic,” as the senator puts it, even with grief still fresh. It’s not much different from any other weekend: Four kids and five rambunctious grandchildren running around, plus a big piece of meat on the grill — maybe a burger, maybe moose.

“You can eat moose?” I ask skeptically.

All you need is ribs: Isakson barbecue brings hungry senators together
Leadership may have hated it at first, but the lunch is now a big hit

South 40 Smokehouse from Marietta, Ga., serves up brisket, pulled pork and ribs Thursday in the office of Sen. Johnny Isakson for his annual barbecue lunch. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The smell of pulled pork, Texas beef brisket, Saint Louis pork ribs, baked beans, and creamy mac and cheese wafting through the halls of the Russell Senate Office Building can mean only one thing: Johnny Isakson’s annual barbecue lunch.

Every year, for more than a decade, the senior senator from Georgia feeds his colleagues from both sides of the aisle a BBQ lunch prepared by a pitmaster from his home state. Despite being met with initial pushback from party leaders, the get-together has grown into a highly anticipated event.

Trump’s comments blur line between ‘oppo research’ and stolen information
President said he might accept dirt from a foreign government

President Donald Trump said he would consider accepting opposition research from a foreign government. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump’s argument in an interview that it was acceptable, and even common, to use opposition research from foreign governments threw a spotlight Thursday on how campaigns research opponents and whether they draw a line at foreign interference.

Trump said in a Wednesday interview with ABC News he would consider accepting “oppo research” from a foreign government and wouldn’t necessarily alert the FBI. He also said members of Congress “all do it, they always have.”

Ethics panel increases salary threshold for House staffer disclosures
Staffers making $127,914 or more also face restrictions on income earned outside of congressional duties

House staffers who make more than $127,914 or more for at least 60 days during 2019 will need to file a financial disclosure statement on or before May 15, 2015. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House Ethics Committee has increased the salary threshold that subjects staffers to the same disclosure requirements and employment restrictions as members of Congress, according to guidance the panel released Thursday.

House employees who make $127,914 or more for at least 60 days during 2019 will need to file a financial disclosure statement on or before May 15, 2020. That’s an increase of $1,766 from the previous year.

Social media should be accountable for ‘deepfake content,’ intelligence experts say
Deepfake videos not only can be used by foreign and domestic perpetrators against political opponents, but could be used to hurt companies

Rep. Adam B. Schiff led the House Intelligence Committee hearing regarding social media immunity involving fake videos on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Congress should amend portions of U.S. law that allow social media companies to enjoy immunity for content posted on their platforms in light of the significant dangers posed by artificial intelligence-enabled fake videos, a panel of experts told the House Intelligence Committee at a hearing Thursday.

Social media companies should be asked to exercise reasonable moderation of content, and U.S. government agencies should educate citizens on how to tell if a video is fake and invest in technologies that will aid in such determinations, the experts said.

Opponent pounces after Duncan Hunter’s wife switches to guilty plea
“Those who know Hunter the most, trust him the least,” Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar says

Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar is seeking a rematch against GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter in California’s 50th District. (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Democrat challenging indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter went on the attack Thursday after the California Republican’s wife entered a guilty plea in the federal campaign finance case against her and her husband. 

Margaret Hunter pleaded guilty Thursday to a single count of conspiracy to misuse campaign funds, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The plea comes with a sentence of up to five years and a fine of $250,000. 

Some vulnerable Democrats stick to the middle — though not all of them
On votes, Matt Cartwright is a notable exception among Democrats in Trump districts

Pennsylvania Rep. Matt Cartwright has the highest party unity score among House Democrats from districts that backed President Donald Trump. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Thirty-one Democrats in the House face a daunting challenge next year. They must win re-election in districts that President Donald Trump won in 2016. For many, the 2016 results were close. But in eight of the districts, Trump won in a romp, by more than 9 points.

It would make sense for those Democrats to stake out moderate territory to distinguish themselves from their party’s vocal liberal wing. Most of them are, with one notable exception.

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House Oversight votes to hold Barr, Ross in contempt over census question
Democrats’ struggles with the administration over census have played into larger battles with White House

House Oversight Chairman Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., right, and ranking member Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, conduct a markup Wednesday on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House Oversight and Reform Committee voted Wednesday to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress as Democrats argued the pair defied subpoenas in a probe of the addition of the citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The 24-15 vote followed the Justice Department earlier asserting executive privilege to withhold documents sought by the committee. Democrats claim the question would suppress noncitizen participation and would be used to draw Republican-favored maps. The administration says it is needed to enforce the Voting Rights Act.

Are you (financially) smarter than a sixth-grader?
Watch out, Warren Buffett — there are middle schoolers on the Hill after your job

Want to keep up with the future investors of America? Get out your calculators. (Shutterstock)

Words such as “portfolio,” “investment” and “diversify” echoed in the Rayburn foyer and flew way over my head as winning middle and high school students from 10 congressional districts gathered on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. The kids were there to claim bragging rights and offer a crash course in Economics 101.

When it comes to the stock market, “start as early as you can and pay attention to what you’re investing in, and make sure it’s a long-term investment,” advised Raylee Stopka, a sixth-grader from Texas. (Sound dating advice for anyone looking for a soulmate as well.)