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James Inhofe and the art of the bipartisan joke
Political Theater Podcast, Episode 78

Senate Armed Services Chairman James M. Inhofe and ranking member Jack Reed have a warm relationship that enables them to move bipartisan legislation, something Inhofe discusses in the latest Political Theater podcast. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. James M. Inhofe is one conservative guy, and he is proud of it, trumpeting vote-tracking organizations that peg him as the most right-wing in the chamber. And yet, the Oklahoma Republican has an equally proud history of working with some of his most liberal colleagues on bipartisan legislation. 

As chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he and Rhode Island’s Jack Reed, the panel’s ranking Democrat, constructed the highly popular defense authorization bill the last two years. And before that, he worked quite productively with California Democrat Barbara Boxer, the yin to Inhofe’s yang on environmental issues, as leaders of the Environment and Public Works Committee. This, despite Inhofe writing a book that claimed global warming was, as the title attested, “The Greatest Hoax.” And yet, “We prided ourselves in getting things done,” he says. 

Trump’s pick to lead the Pentagon brings military experience and political savvy to his new job
A former Raytheon lobbyist, Esper has also been an Army officer and congressional staffer

Sen. Jack Reed, left, speaks with Army Secretary Mark Esper before the start of an Armed Services hearing in March. President Donald Trump on Tuesday tapped Esper to be acting Defense secretary. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Mark Esper has been an Army officer, congressional staffer and corporate lobbyist. Now the Army secretary is the third person President Donald Trump has tapped to lead the Pentagon, at least temporarily.

In two tweets Tuesday afternoon, Trump announced that acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan was out after six months on the job — and was withdrawing from consideration for the permanent post to “devote more time to his family.” Esper, in turn, got promoted and a ringing endorsement from the commander in chief.

Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan gives up post, withdraws name from nomination
Shanahan was to succeed Mattis, who had differences with President Trump

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has stepped down, and Army Secretary Mark Esper will succeed him. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has given up his post and withdrawn his nomination to take the job permanently, President Donald Trump tweeted, announcing yet another Cabinet change.

Army Secretary Mark Esper will be the new acting Pentagon boss, Trump said. Shanahan, a former defense industry executive, replaced retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis when he stepped down, citing differences with Trump.

Is the census ready for its online debut?
Census Bureau says it’s prepared for security threats, but watchdogs raise doubts

The prospect of an external attack has driven the Census Bureau to lean on the Department of Homeland Security. Above, workers attend a training session in Houston in February 2016. (Scott Dalton/Houston Census Office)

Next year the federal government will launch its largest public-facing online portal in years, for an undertaking facing risks ranging from foreign cyberattacks to collapsing under its own weight: the 2020 census.

For the first time, the census will rely on online responses, one of a slew of technological upgrades by the Census Bureau that also includes computerized address verification. Those changes have watchdogs worried, despite assurances by the bureau that it will be ready when the census is rolled out in Alaska starting in January. 

‘My way or the highway’: An approach to the NDAA debate
There are nearly 400 amendments filed to the bill, which has become law the past 58 years

Chairman James Inhofe, left, and ranking member Sen. Jack Reed are seen during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, June 4, 2019. Inhofe will manage the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill starting as soon as Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate is expected to debate the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill this week, but it may be a debate in name only.

In the past six years, the Senate has approved scores of amendments to the mammoth Pentagon policy bill, known as the NDAA — short for National Defense Authorization Act. But almost all of them have been of the unobjectionable variety, approved by unanimous consent as part of huge packages of similarly uncontroversial proposals.

Democrats spar with State official over arms sales maneuver

Rep. David Cicilline accused a senior State Department official of gas-lighting Congress in his assertions about why the administration needed to subvert Congress on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A senior State Department official on Wednesday appeared to blame Democrats for the administration’s decision last month to declare a state of emergency over Iran to avoid congressional review of billions of dollars of weapon sales to Arab Gulf states.

R. Clarke Cooper, assistant secretary of State for political-military affairs, attributed the emergency order to holds placed in spring 2018 by Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Robert Menendez on $2 billion in proposed precision-guided missile sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Menendez, D-N.J., placed the holds in response to the many civilian casualties in the Yemen civil war, in which the two Gulf nations are fighting against Iranian-backed Houthi insurgents.

Military bases unprepared for gathering climate change storm 
Responses to hurricanes, flooding already raising alarm bells in Congress and beyond

Months after Hurricane Michael struck Tyndall Air Force Base in October, the main hangar’s roof is badly damaged. (Elvina Nawaguna/CQ Roll Call file photo)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — A mangled red, white and blue patrol plane still lies across what was once a park here where families played and picnicked, nine months after Hurricane Michael stormed out of the Gulf of Mexico with its 155-mile-per-hour winds.

And beyond that wreckage and other detritus, about 300 of this Air Force base’s nearly 500 damaged buildings are slated to be razed. The Air Force wants at least $4.25 billion to rebuild Tyndall at its current location on the Florida panhandle, a process the 325th Fighter Wing commander, Col. Brian Laidlaw, said could take several years.

Prayers up for Big Papi
Lawmakers issue well wishes to former Red Sox slugger David Ortiz after shooting

David Ortiz makes a surprise appearance at Fenway Park in October. New England lawmakers sent messages of support after Ortiz was shot this weekend. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images file photo)

Lawmakers all across Red Sox Nation are chiming in with their well wishes for retired slugger David “Big Papi” Ortiz, who is recovering from a gunshot wound suffered in his native Dominican Republic.

Everyone from Boston’s Ayanna Pressley to Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island is offering praise and hopes of a speedy recovery for the ailing Red Sox legend. Even former president Barack Obama shared a photo of Ortiz’s White House visit to celebrate the team’s 2013 World Series victory.

Photos of the Week: A moose and a bear enter the Capitol
The week of June 3 as captured by Roll Call’s photojournalists

Tourists stop to take photos in the Small Senate Rotunda after touring the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the Capitol on Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Lawmakers returned from the Memorial Day recess to a shortened week, thanks to the departure of the delegation — led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi — to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France.

Back in Washington, the capital city marked the WWII victory at Normandy with a memorial at the war’s memorial on the National Mall.

Democrats want to require Pentagon to study climate change risks on military bases
It’s the latest effort by House Democrats to scrutinize and quantify the challenges a warming planet poses to the military

Colorado Rep. Jason Crow, center, wants to include language in the NDAA bill that would require the Pentagon to more aggressively study the risks posed to its bases by climate change. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats will seek to include in the proposed National Defense Authorization Act language that would require the Pentagon to more aggressively study the risks posed to its bases by climate change, their latest effort to scrutinize and quantify the challenges a warming planet poses to the military.

Colorado Rep. Jason Crow unveiled a summary of the measure Thursday, saying it will be included in the chairman’s mark to be offered by Washington Rep. Adam Smith, who leads the House Armed Services Committee that takes up the bill June 12.