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Ratings Changes: 15 Races Shift Toward Democrats, 1 Toward Republicans
Democratic chances have improved beyond Pennsylvania

From left, Democrats Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Stephanie Murphy of Florida are looking more secure in their re-elections this fall, while, from right, Republicans Ted Budd and Mimi Walters may be more vulnerable. (Bill Clark/Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call file photos)

Less than eight months before Election Day, the midterm landscape is still taking shape. It’s still not clear whether Democrats will have a good night (and potentially fall short of a majority) or a historic night in the House that puts them well over the top. But mounting evidence nationally and at the district level points to a Democratic advantage in a growing number of seats.

Democratic prospects improved in a handful of seats in Pennsylvania, thanks to a new, court-ordered map. And the party’s successes in state and local elections over the last 14 months demonstrate a surge in Democratic voters, particularly in blue areas, that could be problematic for Republican candidates in the fall. GOP incumbents in districts Hillary Clinton carried in 2016 might be particularly susceptible to increased Democratic enthusiasm.

Administration Pushes Abstinence Promotion
Latest moves alarm reproductive rights advocates

Recording artist Ciara, center, performs in honor of National Teen Pregnancy Awareness Month in New York’s Times Square in 2011. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images file photo)

Recent administrative actions signal a shift from promoting comprehensive sexual health information to abstinence-only education, which concerns reproductive rights advocates who question abstinence promotion’s efficacy at preventing teen pregnancy.

The administration already announced last year the discontinuation of a teen pregnancy prevention, or TPP, program that funded grants to communities that study ways to prevent teens from getting pregnant and run prevention programs. The Department of Health and Human Services has promoted more abstinence-only alternatives and increasingly uses the phrase “sexual risk avoidance,” another term for abstinence, in materials.

Congressional Offices Announced as Democracy Award Finalists to Help Establish Trust in Congress
Congressional Management Foundation picks finalists in four categories

Arizona Rep. David Schweikert and Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, right, are among the finalists. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

To try to “restore a little faith” in Congress, the Congressional Management Foundation on Friday announced the finalists for its first Democracy Awards.

The organization chose its finalists for their focus on constituent services, their workplace environment, innovation, and transparency.

At the Races: Desert Drama
Our weekly newsletter on congressional campaigns

The primary in the race to replace GOP Rep. Trent Franks is Tuesday. Franks resigned in December amid allegations of sexual harassment. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Thanks for subscribing to At the Races! You can keep track of House and Senate races with this weekly newsletter. Sign up here. We want to hear what you think. Send us your questions, tips or candidate sightings. — Simone Pathé and Bridget Bowman

House Cancels Votes for Billy Graham to Lie in Honor in Capitol Rotunda
Senate will remain in session Wednesday and Thursday

Hawaii Sen. Daniel K. Inouye lies in state on Dec. 20, 2012, on Capitol Hill. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House is shortening its Feb. 26 work week, canceling votes that Wednesday and Thursday, for the late Rev. Billy Graham to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda.

“As is traditional, votes are no longer expected in the House on Wednesday, February 28, or Thursday, March 1,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office announced. “Last votes next week will now occur during the evening hours of Tuesday, February 27.”

Cruz Talks Gun Legislation, Obamacare at CPAC
 

‘Harden’ Schools to Combat Shooters, Trump Says
Calls for offensive measures, training and arming teachers

Washington, D.C., area students and supporters protest against gun violence outside the White House on Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump wants to “harden” schools to secure them like banks, but the security guards he envisions would be teachers and other school employees.

For the second consecutive day, the president pitched the notion of giving firearms and specialized training to some teachers and school staffers so they could combat individuals who enter schools with the intent of killing people. He further drove home that he opposes existing laws allowing individuals under the age of 21 to purchase assault rifles.

Pence Energizes CPAC Crowd
 

Cruz Escalates Intra-GOP Fight With Grassley Over Biofuels
‘This is about jobs’

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, walks through the Senate subway as he leaves the Capitol on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

By calling for price caps on renewable fuel credits, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz on Wednesday made clear that a wide gulf remains between lawmakers from agricultural states and those from oil patch states over the future of biofuels, even within the GOP. 

His comments also dimmed hopes that Cruz would lift his hold on the confirmation of Bill Northey, an Iowan nominated by President Donald Trump to be undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation at the Department of Agriculture. That hold has led to rhetorical skirmishes between Cruz and Iowa Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley.

Defense Bill’s New Lobbying Restrictions May Send Contractors Scrambling

Lockheed Martin crew members stand by a C-130J-30 Hercules cargo plane on the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base. (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call)

Lobbying compliance lawyers around Washington are drawing attention to a provision in the defense authorization law Congress passed in December.

It bars retiring military officers of high rank and top Defense Department civilians who leave the Pentagon from lobbying there for two years, while some lower level officers now face a one-year lobbying ban.