John McCain, Senate Hell-Raiser Whose Independence Cut Both Ways, Dies at 81
Iconoclasm sank his presidential run but buoyed him on the Hill

John McCain, whose wide-ranging independent streak sliced through an era of hardening partisanship and made him an indispensable senator for more than three decades, long before and well after his turn as the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, died Saturday.

He was 81 years old and had been diagnosed in July 2017 with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. His family announced on Aug. 24 that he had decided to stop treatment, saying “the progress of disease and the inexorable advance of age render their verdict. ”

Mr. Hawkings’ Opus: 5 Reasons Why Congress Is Broken
 

Roll Call senior editor David Hawkings has been covering Congress for three decades, and he’s convinced that the legislative branch is more broken now than at any other point in his career. Here’s why.

Below is a transcript of the video.

The 5 M’s for Describing Why Congress Is Broken
Remembering the root causes of Hill dysfunction will surely be easier than correcting them

Thirty years covering Congress leave me totally convinced the institution is more badly broken today than at any other point in my career, which means getting asked time and again to enumerate the causes for the deepening dysfunction.

Proposing how to cure the place of its metastasizing polarization and partisanship is up to the politicians who work there. But decoding what ails Capitol Hill is the central work of today’s congressional correspondent. And after plumbing the topic with hundreds of people in recent years — senators and House members, staffers and think tankers, lobbyists and advocates — I have reduced what’s a pretty complex diagnosis to five elements.

Why Former Sen. Jon Kyl Got Tapped to Guide Brett Kavanaugh
Supreme Court nominees need an experienced ‘sherpa’ to navigate the Senate’s unique ways

He spent 18 years as a senator on the Judiciary Committee, the last six as the Republican whip and No. 2 in leadership. Now his lobbying clients include a group already spending millions to push the federal courts hard right. His big gig on the side is rooting out perceived liberal bias on social media.

If Jon Kyl does not have the ideal background for successfully shepherding a Supreme Court nominee through this Senate, perhaps no one does.

Podcast: A Supreme Campaign Issue
Roll Call Decoder, Episode 14

For six Democratic senators in rough fights for re-election in Trump states, the coming vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation will be a career-defining moment that cuts both ways. Roll Call political analyst Nathan Gonzales and his Inside Elections colleague Leah Askarinam explain the dynamics of each campaign. 

Watch: Trump Nominates Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court

Will Trump’s Goal to Reorganize the Government Get Anywhere? Look to Congress
Roll Call Decoder with David Hawkings, wonky explainers from a Capitol Hill expert

President Donald Trump has some bold ambitions for restructuring the federal government. Roll Call senior editor David Hawkings looks back at how Trump’s reorganization plans compare to his predecessors’, who may or may not have had a willing partner in Congress.

Below is a transcript of the video.

Decoding the High Court Confirmation Process: 2 Things Trump Needs to Worry About
 

Senior editor David Hawkings breaks down what we already know about the Senate's confirmation process for a Supreme Court replacement for retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Because of rules changes and the Senate and White House being under the same party's control, there are really only a few things that could go awry, Hawkings says....
So Many Facets in the Downfall of a Single Democrat
Crowley’s ouster emboldens the left, scrambles House leadership and gives all incumbents pause

There’s some silliness to reading too much of a national trend into any single congressional election. So instead it may be better to consider Joseph Crowley’s defeat as more of a Rorschach test.

For the “Bernie Bots,” it’s a sign the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is newly ascendant.

Podcast: A Growing Controversy
Roll Call Decoder, Episode 13

Another Big Boost for Hill Security Spending
A year after baseball shooting, Capitol Police keeps growing and cyber-attack worries intensify

At a time when steady significant growth for the Capitol Police looks sure to continue, members of Congress are confessing heightened concern they’ll never be altogether shielded from threats both old-fashioned and high tech — no matter where they are.

The Senate on Monday, and the House three weeks ago, passed bills allocating more than $450 million for the congressional force in the coming year. It would be at least a 6 percent hike and produce a Capitol Police budget one-third bigger than just five years before. No other part of Congress, nor any of its support organizations, has seen anything approaching such generous and sustained increases in recent years.

Why Are the Dreamers Called the Dreamers?
 

Congress is continuing its debate on immigration this week during an ongoing furor over the Trump administration’s family separation approach to border security. Senior editor David Hawkings takes a look at the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy put in place by President Barack Obama and rescinded by President Donald Trump and how it affected the so-called Dreamers, named for a long-embattled bill that was never signed into law.

Below is a transcript of the video.

Court’s Gerrymandering Punt Looks to Land in North Carolina
Current House map was drawn by partisan greed, its author says. Is that unconstitutional?

When it sidestepped an opening to decide the future of partisan gerrymandering this week, the Supreme Court may have turned a tobacco grower and farm equipment dealer into one of the most important people in American politics.

The farmer and John Deere salesman, 47-year-old David Lewis, is also an influential state legislator who represents the rural geographic center of North Carolina — the state that will now be Ground Zero in the three-decadeslong debate over whether electoral boundaries can ever be drawn with so much partisan motivation that they’re unconstitutional.

How Mark Sanford Proudly Failed His Loyalty Test
No regrets from second House Republican ousted by someone claiming stronger Trump allegiance

Today’s Congress deserves its reputation for uniformity in the ranks. Gender and ethnicity aside, the place is overrun with members priding themselves on their message discipline, policymaking tunnel vision and personal lives scrubbed and shielded from public view. And for the Republicans, of course, unflinching loyalty to President Donald Trump is now the core of the homogenized brand.

So is Hill survival even possible anymore for a member capable of thoughtful departures from his partisan talking points, open to ideological subtlety, with a home life that’s been a national melodrama — and who on top of all that has called out the president on more than one occasion?

Podcast: Will a Minibus Rescue Hill’s GOP?
Roll Call Decoder, Episode 12

Republicans would love to avoid shutdown drama before the midterm but a tight timetable stands in the way. CQ’s appropriations reporter Kellie Mejdrich explains why the budgetary salvage vehicle is called a “minibus” and why it just might work.

For 2020, Hill’s Democrats Won’t Be So Super
Activists pushing to neutralize nominating say-so of members of Congress and other party insiders

Does it make sense to tell the folks responsible for bringing the tribe back to the Promised Land that they’re losing some of their clout to help keep it there?

That’s one way of phrasing the question the Democratic National Committee has started to answer in recent days.

What Is a Discharge Petition Anyway?
 

Senior editor David Hawkings breaks down the seldom-used House tactic that members are wielding to try to force an immigration vote to the floor: the discharge petition.

Below is a transcript of the video:

Sometimes, the Dissidents Do Leadership a Solid
As immigration debate shows, rare House discharge petitions can force the majority out of a self-made jam

It sounds like something that might be overheard at the congressional appliance dealership: Power abhors a vacuum, especially when there’s a political mess overdue for cleanup, and a great tool for fixing all that is a discharge petition.

It’s also an apt summation of what’s going on now with the Republican catharsis over immigration — which is notably similar to what went down three years ago, during the last House majority leadership interregnum, and also to another fabled GOP rift back in 2002.

GOP Slips Past Another Senate Custom, and Democrats Turn Blue
Home-state senators’ sway over judicial nominees is quickly disappearing

The latest threat to what’s made the Senate the Senate for generations can be illustrated with a sheet of paper the color of cornflowers.

First to go was the reverence for compromise. It went out the window a decade or so ago, the start of the current era when the most conservative Democrat is reliably positioned to the left of the most liberal Republican. Then the veneration of minority-party rights got obliterated, five years ago, with a blast of “nuclear” limits on filibuster powers.

What’s a Senate Blue Slip and Why Is It Losing Power?
 Roll Call Decoder with David Hawkings, wonky explainers from a Capitol Hill expert

It’s a literal blue slip of paper that for decades meant a senator could block a president’s nominee to a federal judgeship in their home state. These days, however, the Senate’s blue slip might be becoming defunct. Senior editor David Hawkings explains.

Below is a transcript of the video:

A Steady Flow of Political Royal Blood to Congress
Hill dynasties don’t last so many generations any more, but plenty of family members still try to stay in electoral business

Saturday’s wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is creating another surge of American royal mania, and with a particular twist — besotted chatter about their offspring someday running for Congress, or even president, while remaining in the line of succession to the British throne.

It’s a fanciful notion, regardless of whether the Los Angeles actress retains dual citizenship after she passes her British citizenship test, because the Constitution prevents titled nobles from taking federal office.