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Dark spirits were at play in Congress this week: Congressional Hits and Misses
Week of July 15, 2019

A thunderstorm passes over the U.S. Capitol building on Thursday, July 11, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

“This has been a difficult and contentious week, in which darker spirits seem to have been at play,” said House Chaplain Patrick J. Conroy during a long and stressful week on the Hill, which saw controversial tweets, members fearing Facebook and a House member straight up ditching his post on the House floor.

Anti-vaxxer allegedly threatened to kill Rep. Frederica Wilson
Suspect is a Pentagon contractor who had access to sensitive information

Reps. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., right, was reportedly the target of a death threat by a man angry about a bill she introduced requiring vaccinations. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A grand jury in Maryland has indicted a Department of Defense contractor on one felony count of threatening a member of Congress.

Darryl Albert Varnum, who works out of the headquarters of the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency, allegedly left a threatening voicemail for a lawmaker one evening in late June, according to court records.

Senators roll out pilot program to speed asylum claims
Plan would streamline process for migrant families who have legitimate claims

Republican senators behind the asylum proposal include Ron Johnson, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A group of nine senators — six Republicans and three Democrats — is proposing a new pilot program to better manage the influx of families seeking asylum at the southwest border.

“Operation Safe Return,” as the group calls it, would be the first bipartisan step to address the situation at the border, the senators said in a letter Thursday to Trump administration officials. Their plan would streamline the process by which migrant families who have legitimate claims for asylum are processed at the border, and swiftly weed out those who do not.

Blockchain Caucus co-chair: Ease up on Facebook's Libra

Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., conducts a House Small Business Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight and Regulations hearing in Rayburn. Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Lawmakers hint at regulatory models for Facebook cryptocurrency
Libra: ‘Which is it, fish or fowl?’

“This looks exactly like an exchange-traded fund,” said Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., (File photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House members suggested Wednesday that Facebook Inc.‘s proposed cryptocurrency could be deemed an exchange-traded fund, a currency or a commodity, all of which could require some degree of regulatory oversight.

“What we’re struggling with is: What are you?” said Democratic Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter summing up a four-hour House Financial Services Committee grilling of a company executive about the proposed cryptocurrency known as Libra.

Facebook incurs wrath from both parties at Libra currency hearing
Bipartisan group asks why Americans should trust Facebook with their paychecks given its repeated data privacy scandals

David Marcus, head of Facebook's Calibra digital wallet service, prepares to testify during the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on "Examining Facebook's Proposed Digital Currency and Data Privacy Considerations" on Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senators from both parties questioned at a hearing Tuesday why Americans should trust Facebook’s new digital currency system with their paychecks given the social media giant’s repeated data privacy scandals.

Libra, a cryptocurrency under construction by a Facebook subsidiary called Calibra, was announced in May to a blast of bipartisan incredulity by lawmakers and the Trump administration. Critics asked how the company could ensure that Libra, which is designed to be anonymous, could be prevented from being used by money launderers, traffickers or terrorists.

Rep. Will Hurd ‘honored’ to shave constituent’s head
Lisa Sanders, who lost her daughter in 2007 to a brain tumor, ‘braved the shave’ for cancer research fundraiser

Rep. Will Hurd shaves Lisa Sanders' head at a fundraiser for childhood cancer research on Tuesday. (Courtesy St. Baldrick's Foundation)

Rep. Will Hurd helped a hometown hero “brave the shave” Tuesday at a fundraiser for childhood cancer research.

The Texas Republican shaved the head of Lisa Sanders from Helotes, Texas, at a “46 Mommas” event hosted by St. Baldrick's Foundation — a volunteer- and donor-powered charity focused on curing childhood cancer, according to its website.

When Kamala Harris lost on election night, but won three weeks later
Her nail-biting 2010 victory for California attorney general raised her national profile

Kamala Harris, here campaigning in Los Angeles in September 2010, came under fire in her race for state attorney for her record as San Francisco district attorney. (Jason Redmond/AP file photo)

This is the fourth installment in “Battle Tested,” a series analyzing early campaigns of some Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination. Earlier pieces focused on Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Cory Booker and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

In November 2008, Kamala Harris was sprinting through Burbank airport with her campaign adviser, Ace Smith.

Mnuchin blasts Facebook's Libra currency on eve of hearings
The treasury secretary expressed concern it ‘could be misused by money launderers and terrorist financiers’

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a House Energy and Commerce Committee in Rayburn Building on the protection of user data on April 11, 2018. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday he worries Facebook’s Libra and other cryptocurrencies “could be misused by money launderers and terrorist financiers.”(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Facebook’s Libra and other cryptocurrencies “could be misused by money launderers and terrorist financiers,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday, one day before Congress begins a series of hearings probing the social media giant’s first foray into next-generation financial technology.

“The U.S. welcomes responsible innovation including new tech that improve the efficiency of the financial system,” Mnunchin said during a White House press briefing.

Road ahead: Pressure rising for debt limit deal
Lawmakers face deadline on debt even as other priorities come to floor

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other congressional leaders and the administration only have a few legislative days to strike a deal  on raising the debt limit. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Congress is set to consider several high-profile measures this week, including holding two Cabinet officials in contempt, raising the minimum wage and ratifying tax treaties, but lawmakers will be unable to avoid the contentious issue of raising the federal debt ceiling. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been speaking by phone, trying to reach agreement on avoiding a potentially calamitous debt default.