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The final career decision Elijah E. Cummings will probably ever make comes as welcome news for both Democrats who could become the next president — and not very comforting news for any of the Republicans who might get the job instead.
When Cummings announced Tuesday that he would seek to remain as a Baltimore congressman, he ended (at nearly the last possible moment) almost a year of public pondering about running instead for Maryland’s open Senate seat.
At first glance, the Reid Ribble retirement doesn’t appear headline-worthy. Yes, he is now among 16 House Republicans, half from tea party takeover class of 2010, to announce a voluntary departure at year’s end. But, no, that retirement roster is hardly extraordinary, and it’s little surprise that a decent number of those insurgent outsiders have concluded they’ve made their mark and can move on.
Just below the surface, though, Ribble’s decision to abandon the congressional seat for northeastern Wisconsin looks like a canary in the coal mine’s warning about the future of the GOP.
Of all Donald Trump’s curious unblemished records, this one will almost surely end pretty soon: At last one member of Congress will endorse him for president.
As good a bet as any is that this signal move will come from Jeff Sessions, the junior Republican senator from Alabama.
One of the blizzard’s most important, if unintended, effects was keeping the federal budget deficit buried as a 2016 campaign issue.
The return of a rising tide of red ink has been almost entirely overlooked by both parties’ candidates in the presidential race and the relatively few competitive contests for Congress. There was a chance that would change this week, when the head of the Congressional Budget Office was supposed to describe his very sobering assessment of the fiscal future in appearances before both congressional budget committees. Instead, after the snowstorm, his Tuesday testimony in the Senate and then Wednesday’s in the House were postponed indefinitely.
When you talk in political circles about an Iowa endurance test, a reference to the presidential caucuses looming in a dozen days is unmistakable. Use the phrase at the Capitol, though, and the meaning may point elsewhere.
Charles E. Grassley, with his inimitable personality blend that’s equal parts cantankerous and friendly independent-mindedness, manages to avoid spending too much time in fundraising call rooms, hearing the pleadings of lobbyists or dropping by charity dinners
. (He’s steadfastly resisted a blizzard of entreaties that he endorse a fellow Republican before his home state votes, for example.)
The passions of the Republican civil war that surfaced because of Gov. Nikki R. Haley’s comments Tuesday night have been trumped by something that for Congress might be even more important:
Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who won the House gavel last fall as the consensus choice of both the combative insurgent conservatives and the cooler-headed establishment mainstream, left no doubt which side he stands with now.
“Please don’t get in the way” is one way of synthesizing Tuesday night’s message to Congress from President Barack Obama.
On many of the big things that matter most, he asserted, he’s positioned to leave the country in much better shape than how he found it and how his would-be Republican successors describe it — tacitly urging the Hill’s GOP to resist legislative gamesmanship that while playing into presidential politics might crimp the hopeful trajectory of his final year. Full story
During the brief lull in campaign news over the holidays, and with forecasts for the new year popping up on all fronts, folks obsessed with politics could be forgiven for all their idle scenario spinning.
A wave of predictions about at least one brokered convention is a quadrennial flash in the pan. Talk about the Republicans deadlocking in Cleveland come July started more than a month ago. And in recent days, the same climactic plot twist has been envisioned by politically smart people at three successive holiday social gatherings:
For those whose lives revolve around the Capitol, the year’s final presidential debate offered two notable insights: Bashing the legislative process remains a pungent applause line, and Republicans may have found their newest liberal boogeyman.
Put another way, all the morning-after assessments of how the candidates performed in Las Vegas overlooked two standouts of particular importance to the congressional class. One of the biggest losers Tuesday night was Congress itself. And one of the biggest winners was, of all people, Charles E. Schumer. Full story
As the new year fast approaches, CQ Roll Call Senior Editor David Hawkings lays out what’s on the docket for members as they run for re-election in 2016.
To predict how the judicial wars between this Republican Senate and President Barack Obama will end, keep an eye on labor lawyer Waverly Crenshaw Jr.
A quarter-century ago, he was the first African-American hired at one of Nashville’s most prominent law firms. Ten months ago, he was chosen for the opening on the local federal trial court. Five months ago, with the blessing of both of Tennessee’s Republican senators, he was endorsed without a dissenting voice in the Senate Judiciary Committee. And since then … nothing, except that as of last week the judgeship had been vacant a full year, and the backlog of cases has grown such that court administrators have declared a “judicial emergency.” Full story
Unlike most of his Republican analogues, Bernard Sanders is overtly trying to harness his senatorial work this fall to the service of his presidential campaign.
The evidence goes beyond his presence on the Senate floor, though on that front he stands out. Of the five senators trying to win the White House, the Vermont independent running as a Democrat has missed the fewest votes: Just 14 this year, as of Tuesday, for a 95 percent attendance rate. Three of his colleagues running for the GOP nomination have missed 75 or more roll calls. (The exception is Kentucky’s Rand Paul, who’s only skipped five more ballots than Sanders.)
Merely showing up for work is hardly a predictor of success, of course. (Barack Obama made only 62 percent of the Senate votes the year before winning the presidency.) But it’s part of what helps Sanders to ward-off the sort of the criticism that has dogged Republicans Marco Rubio of Florida, who’s missed the most votes by far, and Ted Cruz of Texas, whose campaign has emphasized his disdain for the Senate’s ways under the management by his own party.
In contrast, Sanders is using the power of Senate incumbency to advance causes that highlight themes of his national campaign — that the Washington game is rigged to benefit the moneyed heavyweights at the expense of the little guy, and he’s the candidate to turn that balance of power on its head. Full story
Decades of waiting on the arrival of the annual congressional calendar and then poring over the details affords Hill long-timers a nuanced appreciation of the myriad political calculations and logistical limitations that go in to setting the Capitol’s timetable for an entire year.
Inside the stretches of legislating followed by the bursts of recess, the schedules for 2016 announced this week by the Republican top brass in the House and Senate offer some quirky rhythms and unexpected sequences that give insight into the hectic election year ahead. Here are five messages delivered by the new diary. Full story
Assuming no more last-minute surprises this fall at the House Republican Conference, the only important personnel decision to be made in coming days is who’ll become chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.
Paul D. Ryan’s agreement to be speaker, to be formally embraced by his GOP colleagues Wednesday, means after just 10 months he must give up the job he’s always described as his top political ambition.
Kevin Brady of Texas announced Monday he wants to be the next to run the House’s most important panel, which writes tax, trade, health care and social safety net legislation. Pat Tiberi of Ohio declared his candidacy last week. Full story
Daniel Webster made clear over the past two weeks he wasn’t waiting on Paul D. Ryan’s big decision. And on Thursday, the relatively obscure Florida congressman reiterated he is still running for speaker, no matter what.
He’ll continue his quest, he said in a terse statement, “to transform a broken Congress based on the power of a few into a principle-based, member-driven Congress.”
The rationale for his long-shot candidacy is more complex than how he’s being marketed: As the preferred candidate of the House Freedom Caucus, Webster has the favor of 40 or so of the most conservative Republicans, a bloc of support no leader of today’s House can hope to govern without.
In fact, the 66-year-old lawmaker from Orlando’s career in public life has made him something of a Rorschach test for his Republican colleagues. Full story