Sanders Is Latest Obstacle to Obama Nominee

Sanders (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama's nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration is facing friendly fire, with Democratic presidential candidate Bernard Sanders and Massachusetts Democrat Edward J. Markey both placing a hold on the nomination.  

Sanders said Tuesday that Robert Califf, currently serving as deputy commissioner at the FDA, is too closely tied to the pharmaceutical industry. Califf ran a research operation while at Duke University that received funding from that industry. "At a time when millions of Americans cannot afford to purchase the prescription drugs they require, we need a leader at the FDA who is prepared to stand up to the drug companies," Sanders, an independent from Vermont who caucuses with the Senate Democrats, said in a statement. "We need someone who will work to substantially lower drug prices, implement rules to safely import brand-name drugs from Canada and hold companies accountable who defraud our government."  

GOP Ponders Senate Rules Changes

Alexander has been leading the working group. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Facing dismally low approval ratings and accusations that Congress is dysfunctional, some senators are looking at changing the rule book so they can get more things done.  

Senate Republicans huddled Wednesday to discuss changing Senate rules to make the institution function more effectively, but they are far from coalescing around a single proposal. Emerging from a room off the Senate floor, lawmakers cautioned there were a number of options, but the senator leading the effort is hoping Republicans and Democrats can reach a consensus on any changes in the next two to three months. “I think the discussion was very well received," Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., told reporters. "It’s hard to get here, it’s hard to stay here, and while you’re here you’d like to accomplish something. But when we stand around and wait all week for these various motions to be approved, that’s not accomplishing anything."  

Senator Envisions Chamber's Role Under a President Trump

Sasse spoke Thursday about a potential Trump White House. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Move aside Plato's cave, the Senate floor now has the allegory of President Donald Trump.  

"Today I'd like to propose a thought experiment. Imagine President Trump has been propelled into the White House with 300 electoral votes," Sen. Ben Sasse said on the Senate floor. "The first hundred days are huge. He signs an order that turns the Peace Corps into stone masons to build the southern wall, he shutters the Department of Education, and by executive order he turns the Department of Interior into the classiest oil company the world has ever known."  

Senate Clinches Deal to Finish Omnibus on Friday

Rubio had hinted at a slow down of the omnibus, but it won't take place. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

No level of consternation about the big omnibus spending and budget deal will interfere with this year's Christmas getaway.  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced an agreement that will allow the Senate to quickly call up and pass the combined measure after the House finishes work Friday — without a weekend session.  

Corker's Lowball Financial Disclosure — a Symptom of a Bigger Problem?

Corker retained a CPA to review his financial disclosures. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Reading through the addendum to Sen. Bob Corker's financial disclosure, you might think the Tennessee Republican had been seriously misreporting assets and income.

But the reality might more underscore the shortfalls of the system.  

Obama Takes Backseat in Omnibus Talks

Blunt said the president has to be involved in the government-funding debate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Barack Obama has stayed in the background as lawmakers have negotiated a year-end spending measure, allowing senior members to duke it out.  

The White House is describing Obama’s role in the talks as minimal, though Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday there has been “some presidential involvement.” The president has taken a low-profile approach in the recent handful of times lawmakers have faced funding deadlines. But, for the most part, senior White House staffers have communicated the Obama administration’s views on various issues related to the under-construction omnibus spending bill.  

Senate GOP Not Deterred on Planned Parenthood, Obamacare

Lee said he was encouraged by the emerging reconciliation measure. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It's all systems go for the Senate GOP's effort to defund Planned Parenthood and upend the Affordable Care Act.  

Republican senators emerged from a conference meeting Monday evening generally enthused by the effort to gut as much of the health care law as is feasible under the chamber's budget reconciliation rules.  

Paul Holding Up Spending Bill Over Refugee Welfare

(Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul says he won't allow a transportation and housing spending bill through quickly without a vote about Syrian refugees, likely halting final passage until after Thanksgiving.  

In a statement, Paul called it "an outrage" that Senate leadership filed cloture on the bill without his amendment regarding welfare for new refugees, and he promised he "will not back down." "I will use all available Senate rules and procedures to force them to use all possible time," Paul said in a statement.  

Senate Bides Time as Highway Bill Negotiations Continue

Collins departs from the weekly Senate Republicans luncheon on Nov. 10. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

It might feel like Groundhog Day with another deadline arriving to fund highway programs, but negotiators hope this one will be the last.  

They have until the end of the week to produce and advance a conference agreement on transportation programs, absent another extension. It's also the vehicle for reviving the Export-Import Bank.