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Trump civil rights official wants to defend abortion opponents and religious freedom
OCR is now reporting a rise in civil rights complaints related to a person’s moral beliefs

HHS Office of Civil Rights Director Roger Severino speaks at a news conference announcing a new division on Conscience and Religious Freedom at the Department of Health and Human Services January 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. The new division, part of the department’s Office of Civil Rights, will aide medical professionals who object to certain procedures on religious grounds. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

A Trump administration official charged with protecting civil rights has major plans for defending abortion opponents and promoting religious freedom, he said in a rare and wide-ranging interview.

Roger Severino, the director for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights, highlighted his goals to investigate states that require insurance to cover abortion, protect individuals who reject certain vaccinations on religious grounds, and defend students training to be medical providers if they object to participating in abortions.

A blockchain bill, backed by industry, may tie SEC’s hands
The bill would provide a safe harbor from federal securities regulations for digital currencies and other blockchain-based products

Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, leaves the House Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington on Wednesday morning, June 13, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Even as the nation’s infant blockchain industry lines up in support of a new bipartisan bill to exempt digital tokens from Securities and Exchange Commission oversight, others warn about the dangers of Congress making the situation worse.

The bill from Reps. Warren Davidson, an Ohio Republican, and Darren Soto, a Florida Democrat, would provide a safe harbor from federal securities regulations for digital currencies and other blockchain-based products. But outside of the young sector’s backers, some worry that the bill goes too far in its current form.

Interior Secretary Bernhardt under investigation by inspector general
Democrats and watchdog groups have alleged ‘potential conflicts of interest and other violations’

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was confirmed by the Senate last week by a vote of 56-41. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former oil and gas lobbyist, is under investigation by his agency’s inspector general over “potential conflicts of interest and other violations,” an agency official said Monday.

In an April 15 letter to Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, Interior Department deputy inspector general Mary Kendall said her office opened an investigation into Bernhardt following at least seven complaints from Democratic lawmakers and independent watchdogs alleging the conflicts and other violations.

‘Medicare for All’ keeps defining 2020 political landscape
Progressive health care plan could become point of contention as campaign heats up

From left, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., at an event Wednesday to introduce the “Medicare for All Act of 2019.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The “Medicare for All” bill that presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders released Wednesday is more likely to be litigated on the campaign trail than in the halls of Congress. And it highlights a rare political divide among Democrats on one of their marquee issues even as the party seeks to appear unified.

Supporters of the Vermont independent are vying with Democrats who prefer to expand and protect the 2010 health care law. Those differences have recently been overshadowed by larger fights between the two parties after the Trump administration broadened its position in a high-profile lawsuit by calling to strike down the entire 2010 law.

Did you say ‘spying?’ Barr walks back testimony after making a stir
Barr clears up his Senate testimony after cable news and social media buzz over one of his word choices

Attorney General William Barr testifies before a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Tuesday. Lee J. Lofthus, assistant attorney general for administration, appears at left. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Attorney General William Barr sought to “please add one point of clarification” at the end of his testimony Wednesday before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee — and the veteran law enforcement official needed it.

Cable news and social media were abuzz with one of Barr’s earlier word choices, when he told senators that he would look into the work of U.S. intelligence agencies directed at the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election because “spying did occur.”

Bernie Sanders’ new Medicare for All bill would cover some long-term care

Renelsa Caudill, a nurse at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, is greeted by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., after speaking at an event to introduce the “Medicare for All Act of 2019,” in Dirksen Building on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., are also pictured. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday released an updated bill to implement a single-payer health insurance system, a politically divisive hallmark of his White House bid.

The unnumbered Senate bill would transition the U.S. health care system to a single-payer system over a four-year transition and eliminate nearly all premiums, co-pays and deductibles. The legislation largely mirrors Sanders’ 2017 proposal, but the new plan also would cover home and community-based long-term care services through an expanded Medicare program, according to a summary. The earlier version would have maintained those services through existing Medicaid benefits.

‘Looking in the mirror’: Democrats’ failure to coalesce on spending numbers gives House GOP an opening
House minority shouldn’t be a player in budget talks, but Democrats may need their votes

House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., center, is concerned that House Democrats are squandering their leverage in budget talks. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Republicans should have virtually no power in the minority, but Democrats’ inability to unify as a caucus around topline fiscal 2020 spending levels has given them some unexpected leverage. The question now is what they’ll do with it.

President Donald Trump and his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, don’t want to raise the statutory discretionary spending caps for fiscal 2020, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to reach a bipartisan deal to do just that to avoid a 10 percent cut in spending from fiscal 2019 levels.

California Rep. Eric Swalwell officially enters presidential race
Swalwell is the third House Democrat to announce a presidential bid

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., pictured with his daughter, Kathryn, on the first day of the 116th Congress January 3, 2019, announced Monday he is running for president. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

California Rep. Eric Swalwell is officially running for president, becoming the third House Democrat to enter the crowded 2020 field.

Swalwell is making his announcement on CBS’s The Late Show, which tweeted a clip of him telling host Stephen Colbert, “I am running for president of the United States.” 

Age, change and the Democrats’ challenge
2020 presidential race brings up issues of experience and demographics

From left, Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., in the Capitol. Harris and Sanders represent two different directions Democrats could go with their nomination process. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS — Is the Democratic race for president — and possibly even the 2020 general election — going to boil down to a choice of aged front-runners (or incumbent) versus a younger challenger who represents generational change? It’s certainly possible.

President Donald Trump, the oldest person ever to assume the presidency when he was inaugurated in 2017, turns 72 in June. It wouldn’t be without precedent if Democratic voters — and eventually the electorate as a whole — saw the 2020 election as an opportunity to make a statement about the future and generational change.

Hearing into 737 Max crashes will focus on FAA oversight
A Senate subcommittee will question the FAA‘s certification process for the 737 Max 8 and 9 began Wednesday

A Boeing 737 Max 8 airliner takes off from Renton Municipal Airport near the company’s factory, on March 22, 2019 in Renton, Washington. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

The first of what will likely be many congressional hearings into two catastrophic overseas crashes of Boeing’s new 737 Max jets began Wednesday with senators focusing on how federal safety regulators delegate work to the manufacturers they oversee and how they react after accidents happen.

The Senate’s aviation and space subcommittee, led by Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, will question the Federal Aviation Administration’s certification process for the 737 Max 8 and 9, and the March 13 decision to ground the planes, which came after other airlines and nations had already done so.