How Congress Could Fail Its Annual Budget Test

Last year, GOP Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., celebrated their accomplishments, including the first budget resolution in six years. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

They completed just one time the biggest, and supposedly easiest, test of governing competence they’d set for themselves. Now the Republicans in charge of the Capitol are on the cusp of not even attempting a repeat performance.  

Their tacit decision to walk away from the normal budget process, even before it has started, became clear this week. It’s the strongest evidence yet of the fundamental challenge facing the GOP as it campaigns for continued control of Congress: The party’s internal ideological frictions remain stronger than its yearning to calm an angry electorate by restoring functionality to the legislative gears.  

Cruz and Rubio Differ in Style, Not So Much on Votes


Tuesday's New Hampshire primary is supposed to reveal if Ted Cruz has claimed a prime position on the “insurgent” side of the road and whether Marco Rubio has pushed to the front of the “establishment” lane.  

But the best empirical evidence from their senatorial records reveal that, while their styles of conservatism are undeniably different, they have nonetheless ended up taking the same positions on policy substance far more often than not. The votes they’ve cast suggest they’re close enough to touch across the white stripes symbolically dividing the GOP. During their three years together at the Capitol, Florida’s Rubio has voted according to President Barack Obama’s wishes only a relative handful of times more often than Texas’ Cruz, placing their cumulative presidential support scores during Obama’s second term in almost the same place — comfortably below the Senate Republican average.  

Bypassing the Senate, Cummings Has One More Career Fork Ahead

Cummings stays put in the House. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The final career decision Elijah E. Cummings will probably ever make comes as welcome news for both Democrats who could become the next president — and not very comforting news for any of the Republicans who might get the job instead.  

When Cummings announced Tuesday that he would seek to remain as a Baltimore congressman, he ended (at nearly the last possible moment) almost a year of public pondering about running instead for Maryland’s open Senate seat.  

What One House GOP Retirement May Say About the Future

Is Ribble's retirement the canary in the calming for Republicans? (Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call)

At first glance, the Reid Ribble retirement doesn’t appear headline-worthy. Yes, he is now among 16 House Republicans, half from tea party takeover class of 2010, to announce a voluntary departure at year’s end. But, no, that retirement roster is hardly extraordinary, and it’s little surprise that a decent number of those insurgent outsiders have concluded they’ve made their mark and can move on.  

Just below the surface, though, Ribble’s decision to abandon the congressional seat for northeastern Wisconsin looks like a canary in the coal mine’s warning about the future of the GOP. Since stepping aside as president of the family roofing business to win his first race for public office, Ribble has been one of the more iconoclastic members of the Republican Conference, and several of his unpredictable turns have ended up being harbingers of important story lines.  

Who'll Be First in Congress to Endorse Trump?

Sessions has been effusive in his praise for Trump. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Of all Donald Trump’s curious unblemished records, this one will almost surely end pretty soon: At last one member of Congress will endorse him for president.  

As good a bet as any is that this signal move will come from Jeff Sessions, the junior Republican senator from Alabama.  

Blizzard Whiteout Buries Issue of Red Ink

CBO Director Keith Hall won't be testifying this week, as planned, about the rising budget deficit. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

One of the blizzard’s most important, if unintended, effects was keeping the federal budget deficit buried as a 2016 campaign issue.  

The return of a rising tide of red ink has been almost entirely overlooked by both parties’ candidates in the presidential race and the relatively few competitive contests for Congress. There was a chance that would change this week, when the head of the Congressional Budget Office was supposed to describe his very sobering assessment of the fiscal future in appearances before both congressional budget committees. Instead, after the snowstorm, his Tuesday testimony in the Senate and then Wednesday’s in the House were postponed indefinitely.  

Unnoticed, Grassley Sets Record for Most Time Without a Missed Senate Vote

Grassley, center, has set a Senate record.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When you talk in political circles about an Iowa endurance test, a reference to the presidential caucuses looming in a dozen days is unmistakable. Use the phrase at the Capitol, though, and the meaning may point elsewhere.  

Haley Prompts Ryan to Take Sides in the Fight for GOP's Soul

UNITED STATES - September 2: South Carolina Gov. Nikki R.  Haley's State of the Union address drew praise from Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

The passions of the Republican civil war that surfaced because of Gov. Nikki R. Haley’s comments Tuesday night have been trumped by something that for Congress might be even more important:  

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who won the House gavel last fall as the consensus choice of both the combative insurgent conservatives and the cooler-headed establishment mainstream, left no doubt which side he stands with now.  

Members Cast as Foils, if Not Spoilers, in Obama's Final SOTU

(Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

“Please don’t get in the way” is one way of synthesizing Tuesday night’s message to Congress from President Barack Obama.  

On many of the big things that matter most, he asserted, he’s positioned to leave the country in much better shape than how he found it and how his would-be Republican successors describe it — tacitly urging the Hill’s GOP to resist legislative gamesmanship that while playing into presidential politics might crimp the hopeful trajectory of his final year.

Could Brokered Convention Yield a Ryan Nomination?

Ryan, seen here with Romney, right, at the 2012 GOP convention, already has experience on a national ticket. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

During the brief lull in campaign news over the holidays, and with forecasts for the new year popping up on all fronts, folks obsessed with politics could be forgiven for all their idle scenario spinning.  

A wave of predictions about at least one brokered convention is a quadrennial flash in the pan. Talk about the Republicans deadlocking in Cleveland come July started more than a month ago. And in recent days, the same climactic plot twist has been envisioned by politically smart people at three successive holiday social gatherings: