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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.
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.)
In any organization filled with nothing but ambitious and opinionated people, groups with common interests are sure to come together — and Congress is no different.
Every member’s Hill career begins by winning election to either the House or Senate, of course, and during the 114th Congress all of them are caucusing with either the Republicans or the Democrats. But right below those surfaces, the alliances get much more complex, nuanced — and oftentimes contradictory, as lawmakers subdivide into all manner of smaller clusters. Full story
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.
Why in the world would any story about this year’s State of the Union ritual start with a reminiscence about Bill Clinton from three decades ago?
Because love him or loathe him, the shared judgment of the political class is he changed a whole lot of standards for how Washington operates. And one of the first ways he did so was way back in 1985, transforming how the opposition party presents its rebuttal to the president’s address. Full story
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
Maybe the lopsided votes clearing what’s colloquially dubbed “the highway bill” didn’t put a sufficient drumroll under the potentially historic nature of the occasion.
The new law does more than set surface transportation policies and spending levels for five years, the first time since 2009 that road and mass transit improvements have enjoyed an extended lease on life.
The measure, passed overwhelmingly last week and signed into law Friday, has also resurrected the Export-Import Bank — and credit for that goes to the first success of a discharge petition in almost 14 years. That cumbersome procedure is in almost all cases only theoretically available to a majority of House members when their leadership is ignoring them. Full story
Many colorful “firsts” are accompanying Paul D. Ryan into the speakership. Most are distinctions from his past he can do nothing to alter: The only Wisconsinite to ever preside over the House, the first who’s been Ways and Means chairman, waited tables on Capitol Hill or toiled as a House staffer.
There’s one symbolically important aspect of his present life, however, that’s also unprecedented among House speakers — and that he may be pressed to change:
“If it wasn’t for the filibuster, he’d still be the speaker today.”
That out-of-the-box theory was unspooled the other day by the ultra-right wing Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona. In his view, Speaker John A. Boehner’s agenda was sufficiently conservative to merit the good graces of almost all the most confrontational House Republicans and their like-minded constituents. But Boehner’s commitment to the cause, Franks posited, got unfairly overlooked because so little legislation got through Congress. Full story
What’s the best job security Paul D. Ryan can hope for, even if the Republican malcontents hold their fire long enough and he becomes speaker of the House?
That would be one year. Fourteen months, at the outside. Full story
Tuesday’s symposium on the legacy of Walter Mondale, the former vice president and power-player senator, offers a fresh rationale for considering a smartly argued report that’s gone largely overlooked in all this fall’s congressional news.
The white paper, released last month by the nonprofit and nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, concludes that congressional polarization has spread gridlock so widely and deeply beyond the Capitol that it’s gummed up the works significantly for the executive branch as well. Full story
These two weeks have been an intense reminder about how unstable the speakership of the House has become. Thursday put a shocking spotlight on another reality: Republicans have had nothing but unexpected heartache in choosing their own leaders in the past quarter-century.
The congressional world has continued to turn, and the party has managed to regain power after losing it, but not without enduring some of the most melodramatic episodes in memory during times of leadership transition in the House GOP.
This was highlighted with exceptional clarity by Kevin McCarthy’s out-of-the-blue decision to abandon his quest to become speaker, even as he stood minutes away from winning the nomination of his colleagues with the support of perhaps 80 percent of his caucus. His announcement made him, in all but the most official terms, the second out of the past four anointed Republican candidates for the top job in the House who has taken himself out of the running at effectively the final hour. Full story
One of the most important legislative drives this fall will manifest John A. Boehner’s promise to “clean the barn” for the next speaker — or else looms as the first ideological comeuppance for the new Republican leadership.
In recent days, the suspense has changed from “if” to “when” Congress will reopen the Export-Import Bank, effectively padlocked since this summer thanks to one of the most consequential current disputes between the GOP’s small-government purists and its big-business buddies.
The dynamic of that tussle has been transformed by the changing of the guard within the House Republican high command. Full story
Too many members cannot be trusted to behave themselves when Pope Francis comes to the Capitol, the congressional leadership has decided. And so, to enforce decorous discipline, some extraordinary measures are being readied.
Each party is assembling teams of lawmakers to essentially act as blocking tackles, willing to restrain any of their colleagues intent on trying to reach out for a papal touch as he walks onto the floor of the House.
And after the historic speech, the doors to the cloakrooms and the hallways will be blocked — and in some cases, locked — to prevent lawmakers from leaving the chamber for perhaps half an hour, until Francis has appeared on a West Front balcony to greet the ticketed throng and then departed the Hill by motorcade. Full story
Sen. Robert Menendez has raised the legal stakes for all of Congress, and bought some crucial time for his own imperiled career, with the aggressive strategy he’s unveiled for fighting corruption charges.
If the New Jersey Democrat gets his way, then the indictment against him — alleging he put his congressional muscle to work for a longtime friend and benefactor in return for campaign cash and lavish pampering — will be put in limbo for years, maybe even until after he’s next up for re-election in 2018. Full story