health care

House floor shenanigans punctuate start of spending season
Democrat calls GOP males ‘sex-starved,’ while Republicans use procedural delay tactics

From left, Republicans Justin Amash, Chip Roy and Jim Jordan are seen during a House Oversight and Reform Committee markup on Wednesday. Roy was requiring the House to conduct roll call votes on noncontroversial amendments. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Congressional proceedings are usually pretty dry, but on Wednesday, House floor watchers might as well have been tuned into a reality TV show given all the shenanigans occurring as lawmakers debated their first spending package for the upcoming fiscal year.

Between a Democratic lawmaker calling her GOP male colleagues “sex-starved” and Republicans using a series of procedural tricks to delay proceedings, there was no shortage of tension to kick off the fiscal 2020 appropriations process.

‘Sex-starved males’ comment sets off House floor kerfuffle
Rep. Norma Torres stirs GOP colleagues with comments during debate

Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif., referred to some GOP colleagues as "sex starved males" on the House floor, setting off a brief spat. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A routine House debate nearly exploded Wednesday when California Democrat Norma J. Torres implied her Republican colleagues were “sex-starved males” for opposing abortion.

“Mr. Speaker, it is tiring to hear from so many sex-starved males on this floor talk about a woman’s right to choose,” Torres said as lawmakers debated a rule setting up amendment consideration for a four-bill spending package that includes funding for public health programs.

Silently, Buttigieg joins protest at White House against Trump policies
Democratic presidential candidate in listen-only mode at ‘Repairers of the Breach’ rally

Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg sits down to wait before he attends a rally protesting President Donald Trump’s policies outside of the White House on Wednesday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

It’s a rare thing for a presidential candidate to keep his mouth shut at a campaign appearance. But that’s what Pete Buttigieg did, resolutely, during a 45-minute stop at a Washington, D.C. march Wednesday.

Buttigieg was not planning to speak at the event, a rally in front of the White House held by a group called Repairers of the Breach, organizers said.

‘Cadillac tax’ repeal could get floor action, thanks to Pelosi’s new rule
The tax is aimed at high-cost health care plans

Speaker Nancy Pelosi ushered in a new way to bring bills to the floor. Now members of her party want to use it to repeal the so-called “Cadillac Tax.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Moderate Democrats in the House won a major victory last year when incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi supported a new rule that can force her to bring to the floor bills with at least 290 co-sponsors.

Ironically, one of the first to benefit from the process could be a bill to repeal a feature of the 2010 health care law. The provision imposed a tax on high-cost health care plans in order to pay for the law’s new spending. Health care economists supported the tax as a way of suppressing rising health costs, but labor unions — which often negotiate generous insurance benefits for their members — don’t like it.

Democratic voters are channeling Mick Jagger
‘I can’t get no satisfaction,’ Jagger sang — and Dems are starting to agree

A quarter of Democrats don’t like what their party is doing in the House, according to the latest Winning the Issues survey. They’re channeling Mick Jagger, Winston writes. (Charles McQuillan/Getty Images file photo)

OPINION — “I can’t get no satisfaction,” sang Mick Jagger. Apparently, neither can the majority of the country’s voters. So says our latest Winning the Issues survey, conducted May 31-June 1.

“Are you satisfied or not satisfied with what the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives has done so far?” That was the neutral question we asked voters in the survey, trying to get a handle on just how the new Democrat-led house is doing. In essence, we were asking people to rate whether Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her new majority had met their expectations in these first six months.

Repeal of abortion funding ban won’t be part of spending debate, sponsor says
Longstanding Hyde amendment unlikely to be addressed on House floor this week

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., speaks with reporters as she leaves the House Democrats’ caucus meeting in the Capitol on June 4, 2019. Jayapal co-sponsored a proposal to repeal the Hyde amendment. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

An amendment to repeal a 42-year-old prohibition on using federal public health funds for abortions won’t be part of the debate on a nearly $1 trillion appropriations bill covering the Department of Health and Human Services and several other agencies.

That was the view Monday night of Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington, who co-sponsored a proposal to repeal the Hyde amendment, which the appropriations package headed to the House floor this week would continue. The language is named for its author, the late Illinois Republican Rep. Henry J. Hyde.

Why Ken Cuccinelli is persona non grata in the Senate
Trump tapped the Senate Conservatives Fund president in acting capacity for Citizenship and Immigration Services

Ken Cuccinelli has been named the acting head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump’s decision to appoint Ken Cuccinelli to lead the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in only an acting capacity should be no surprise considering that he would appear to have no shot of Senate confirmation.

That is owed to his tenure as president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee with a long track record of working against incumbent Republican senators, challenging them from the party’s right flank.

Unassuming House counsel is a key player in Trump-Congress fights
Douglas Letter helps shape and put in action House Democrats’ litigation strategy

House General Counsel Douglas Letter has played an increasingly key and busy role behind the scenes to help shape the House Democrats’ litigation strategy and then press it in the nation’s courtrooms.(AP/Susan Walsh file photo)

In just 10 days last month, House General Counsel Douglas Letter crisscrossed the country in what he dubbed a “traveling road show” to defend congressional power in federal courtrooms using his affable style.

On a Tuesday in Washington, the veteran litigator in a plain navy suit and red tie defended a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee subpoena for eight years of President Donald Trump’s financial records from an accounting firm.

Artificial intelligence is coming. Will Congress be ready?

Lawmakers still grappling with the downsides of the internet and social media era, such as loss of privacy, criminal hacking and data breaches, are now trying to balance the promises and perils of artificial intelligence. (iStock)

It can help trace missing children, but misidentifies people of color. It can help detect cancer, but may recommend the wrong cure. It can help track criminals, but could aid foreign enemies in targeting voters. It can improve efficiency, but perpetuate long-standing biases.

The “it” is artificial intelligence, a technology that teaches machines to recognize complex patterns and make decisions based on them, much like humans do. While the promised benefits of the technology are profound, the downsides could be damaging, even dangerous.

Democrats running for president should run for the Senate. The state Senate.
State legislatures have taken over the issues that Washington can’t or won’t deal with

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s presidential race has inspired many, Murphy writes, but if the goal is to make a difference in people’s lives, he would have been better off running for the Indiana Legislature. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

OPINION — Maybe it’s the book sales. Maybe it’s the national press. Maybe they really do think they’re just “born for it.” Whatever the allure of running for president is this year, about two dozen Democrats are giving it a shot.

The fact that only about five of them have a legitimate chance of winning the nomination has left several hopefuls from purple states getting criticized for wasting a perfectly good chance to knock off an incumbent Republican senator and flip the Senate to the Democrats in the process.