Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 6, 2016

December 29, 2015

How to Tie a Bow Tie | David Hawkings Edition


HawkingsHere10.30.15What better way to round out the old year than to learn a new skill — specifically how to tie a bow tie like a pro.

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December 16, 2015

The Pelosification of Chuck Schumer


UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 8 - Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., raises his arms as he speaks alongside Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., during the weekly Senate Democrat luncheon news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, December 8, 2015. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Schumer, left, is on his way to being the Republicans’ new bogeyman. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

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

Silence Greets Pleas for War Authority


UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 9: Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., and Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., (not pictured) hold a news conference on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015, outside of the Capitol to de-authorize use of Capitol office space and staff provided to the recent ex-Speaker of the House. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Jones says Congress is neglecting its constitutional duty on declaring war. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

“Politics makes strange bedfellows” is one of the oldest adages around. These days, the prospect of another war is making for some particularly strange bedfellows in the House.

An extraordinarily bipartisan group of 35 members, hoping to benefit from the heightened attention on Congress in the session’s closing days, is pressing anew for a debate on authorizing the use of military force against the Islamic State. Full story

December 15, 2015

David Hawkings’ Whiteboard: The 2016 Congressional Calendar


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.

Full story

Spending Deal a Likely Capstone for a Prominent House Chairman


UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 10: House Appropriations chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., speaks with reporters as he leaves the House Republican Conference meeting in the basement of the Capitol on Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rogers has shepherded a host of omnibus packages since becoming the House’s top appropriator. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House’s man of the decade on big budget bills, Harold Rogers, may be in his final days in such a catbird seat.

The Kentuckian has been the top Republican engineer on four consecutive omnibus packages during his chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee. Now he’s on the cusp of completing his fifth, belatedly setting spending levels for a fiscal year with 10 weeks already in the rearview mirror. Full story

December 14, 2015

After the Revolution, a Single New Spot of Influence for the Freedom Caucus


UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 21: Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., talks with reporters after a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the Capitol, October 21 2015. Many questions from reporters were about the likelihood of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., being elected Speaker of the House. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Huelskamp was the second-highest vote-getter in the Steering Committee election. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

If you’re a member of the House Freedom Caucus, are you better off now than you were a dozen weeks ago?

That question is worth asking in light of last week’s down-ballot House Republican leadership election. It was a sort of insiders-only coda to all those months of turmoil in the ranks that climaxed with Speaker John A. Boehner’s resignation announcement at the end of September. Full story

December 10, 2015

Senate and Obama’s Final Round Over Judges


UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 28: Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tn., and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tn., hold a press conference to talk about their alternatives to the Democrat's approach to solving the "Fiscal Cliff." (Photo By Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

Tennessee’s two GOP senators, Lamar Alexander, left and Bob Corker have signed off on Crenshaw’s nomination, but the nomination is still stalled. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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

December 9, 2015

Kasich Labors to Make ’90s Hill Win Work for Him Now


7-1-99.BUDGET AND CBO REPORT -- Pete V. Domenici, R-N. M., and John R. Kasich, R-Ohio, during a press conference on the budget and the CBO report..CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY PHOTO BY DOUGLAS GRAHAM

Kasich, right, with his Senate counterpart, Pete V. Domenici, left, helped forge a historic budget agreement in the 1990s. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The 2016 presidential field started with a pair of former congressional power players, one from each party, with singular lawmaking achievements on their record.

Jim Webb, who engineered a big GI Bill of Rights expansion as a Virginia senator almost a decade ago, has now slipped off to Democratic oblivion. It’s not clear how much longer John Kasich, the Republican with an even bigger legislative accomplishment under his belt, will survive in a contest where standing out as the outsider has become the most rewarding approach. Full story

December 8, 2015

Corporate Conservatives Strike Back with Ex-Im Win


Ryan let the House work its will when it came to the Export-Import Bank. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Ryan let the House work its will when it came to the Export-Import Bank. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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

December 7, 2015

Treaty Semantics, Senate Politics and the Paris Climate Talks


Loy thinks Paris has the potential to be stronger than the treaty he helped negotiate, the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Loy says there is little consensus on what would constitute legally binding language in a climate agreement. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In the simple world of civics class, the president gets to make treaties and they’re binding on the United States when two out of three senators say so.

In today’s complex political world, that’s almost never how it plays out. Beyond baked-in partisanship and steep distrust of whoever occupies the White House lies this obstacle to Senate ratification of any international agreement: The protection of American sovereignty is among the most basic conservative objectives. Full story

December 2, 2015

Schooling Time for New Crop of Hill Education Leaders


When Kline retires at the end of next year, it will mark a passing of the guard for congressional education leaders. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When Kline retires at the end of next year, it will mark a passing of the guard for congressional education leaders. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

One of the more remarkable aspects of the bipartisan agreement on a replacement for the No Child Left Behind law, which the House is on course to embrace this week, is the team of authors’ relatively modest level of collective devotion to education policy.

This is especially true on the south half of Capitol Hill, which is on the backside of a changing of the guard for House members who make improving our schools one of their big interests. Full story

December 1, 2015

David Hawkings’ Whiteboard: Omnibus


CQ Roll Call Senior Editor David Hawkings explains Congress’ monster of a budget bill, the omnibus.

Related:

David Hawkings’ Whiteboard: The 2016 Congressional Calendar

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The Tall (and Expensive) Tale of the Capitol Christmas Tree


UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 30 - The U.S. Capitol Christmas tree is seen on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Monday, November 30, 2015. This year's tree, a 74 feet Lutz tree is from Chugach National Forest in Alaska and will be lit on Wednesday, December 2, 2015. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

The Capitol Christmas will light up on Wednesday. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

It may be an unstoppably powerful combination: The seemingly unbridled expansion of everything about “the holidays,” and the perception that even the most modest and benign government program will eventually spiral out of control.

This is in no way a “bah, humbug” screed; the family has been making an annual pilgrimage to the West Lawn since the 1980s, and we’re eager to repeat the ritual again in the coming weeks. But just maybe there’s a cautionary tale woven into the history of the Capitol Christmas Tree. Full story

November 19, 2015

Bill Shuster Wants ‘Like Father, Like Son’ Moment


bill shuster

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When negotiators on the highway and mass transit bill formally convened Wednesday, it took only a few minutes for them to cut their first deal: Rep. Bill Shuster was named chairman of the conference committee.

The decision further cements the Pennsylvania Republican’s standing as one of the most prominent legislators of the year — and it raises the stakes for his performance in the next few weeks.

A new set of policies and payments for public works, six years overdue, is now tantalizingly close to becoming one of the biggest achievements in the first year of the 114th Congress. Shuster made clear at the conferees’ opening session he will press hard for an agreement soon after next week’s holiday recess.

“So, staff on both sides of the aisle, happy Thanksgiving,” he said.

It’s a moment he’s been preparing for throughout his three years at the helm of the House Transportation and Infrastructure panel. But he began his schooling for this time as a boy, aided by the example and perhaps the genetics of his father. Full story

November 18, 2015

Sanders Pursues Next Job With Interest in Post He Has Now


UNITED STATES - JULY 22: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., prepares to speak to federal contract workers during a rally on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 22, 2015, to push for a raise to the minimum wage to $15 an hour. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Sanders has used his Senate seat to push issues important to him — and his presidential campaign.  (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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

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