Hawkings

Insider’s guide to Hill policy, people & politics

No-Alias: Smith & Jones Will Alter the Senate in ’18
Two newest Democrats will join as powerful a minority as possible, whether they skew left or to the center

The Senate will be a very different place after the arrival of two new Democratic senators: Doug Jones, the winner of Tuesday’s stunning upset in Alabama, and Tina Smith, who was tapped on Wednesday to fill the pending vacancy in Minnesota. (CQ Roll Call file photos)

Turns out, the Senate is going to be quite a different place next year even without Roy Moore — and that’s not only because senators named Smith and Jones will be serving together for the first time in 86 years.

The chamber will have its closest partisan split in a decade, and the narrowest divide in favor of the Republicans since the spring of 2001. The roster of women will expand to a record 22, and for the first time a pair of women will comprise the Senate delegations of four states. The Deep South will be represented by a Democrat for the first time in four years.

How Moore Would Change the Senate From Day One
From collegial courtesy to the page program, Hill culture would be rattled

Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore and his wife Kayla leave Moore's "Drain the Swamp" rally in Midland City, Ala., on Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The nature of the Senate would be challenged right away, and in several tangible ways, with the election of Roy Moore.

Even though Congress is now defined by its tribal partisanship, which long ago gave the lie to whatever senatorial claim remained to being “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” Tuesday’s special election in Alabama threatens to make life in the northern half of Capitol Hill an even more unpleasant experience. Traditions and courtesies that have applied a bit of congenial gloss to the coarseness of the place would soon enough become endangered by Moore’s very presence.

David Hawkings’ Whiteboard: How Two Bills Become One Law
 

A Gun Rights Vote Only the GOP Base Can Appreciate
Expansion of concealed carry permission will die in the Senate, but the NRA really wanted the vote

Majority Whip John Cornyn has some doubts that he can get a bill passed that would improve background checks for gun purchasers but doesn’t make it easier for gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines. A House bill passed Wednesday would do both. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

One government shutdown may be narrowly averted, but another looms right around the corner. The stain of sexual misconduct at the Capitol continues to spread, and an alleged child predator is days away from possibly joining the Senate. Middle East destabilization seems assured as Congress gets its wish to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Public support dwindles daily for a loophole-encrusted, deficit-busting tax package that would be the year’s biggest legislative achievement. The push for presidential impeachment has gone far enough to necessitate procedural pushback in the House.

A week such as this one — already chockablock with headlines touching the Hill — seemed to the Republicans who run the place like an ideal time for making a bold hiding-in-plain-sight move.

Podcast: A Mystery PAC and the Rest of the Strange Alabama Senate Finale
The Big Story, Episode 82

Roy Moore is facing allegations of sexual misconduct. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A week before Alabama's special election, Roll Call election analyst Nathan Gonzales describes how he unearthed an obscure political action committee supporting Roy Moore — just one more twist in a campaign where his alleged preying on teenage girls is the main issue, and has created a deep rift among his fellow Republicans.

 

GOP Gets Ready to Own a One-Sided Shutdown Argument
Past showdowns happened in divided governments, and still Republicans got blamed. So what’s different now?

President Donald Trump, flanked by Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell faces the prospect of the first government shutdown when one party controlled all levers of government. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Among the story lines that have made the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency genuinely unique, few can top this one for its potential consequences for responsible governance as well as good politics: A government controlled exclusively by one party may shut itself down.

Four times in the past three decades, budgetary impasses have required non-essential personnel to stay home and the activities at their agencies to be suspended. In each case, at least one chamber of Congress was controlled by a political party different from the president’s, the stalemates reflecting intractable partisan disagreements over policies and spending priorities.

Conyers Scandal Creates Opening for House Democrats
Leaving Judiciary post after 23 years means new liberal messenger in age of Trump

From left, Reps.  Jerrold Nadler of New York, Zoe Lofgren of California and John Conyers Jr. of Michigan at a House Judiciary Committee news conference in 2012. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The forced amble toward the exits by Rep. John Conyers Jr. is accelerating one of the most consequential power vacuums in Congress in the eyes of the Democratic base.

The moment is as much about the party positioning itself for the future as it is about managing sexual harassment problems in the present.

An Old Saw’s New Twist: Death (of the Deficit Hawks) and Taxes
A few Republicans clinging to old party orthodoxy could doom Trump’s big win

Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney has said “a lot of this is a gimmick,” referring to the tax bill’s expiration dates for some of the lower rates. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

This apparent contradiction confronts Congress as it returns for a grueling month of legislating: The Republicans who run the Capitol, so many of whom came to Washington as avatars of fiscal responsibility, are going to spend the rest of the year working to make a worsening federal balance sheet look even worse.

December holds the potential for a productivity breakthrough, but it also threatens to end in embarrassing deadlock — which is why the clear consensus within the upper reaches of the congressional GOP is that it’s the right time to get comfortable with any feelings of hypocritical guilt.

Decoding Reconciliation: Why the Senate Only Needs 50 Votes on Tax Bill
 

Podcast: Sexual Harassment in Congress — More to Come
The Big Story, Episode 80

California Rep. Jackie Speier introduced legislation last week to address and prevent sexual harassment on Capitol Hill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Show Notes:

Four Senate Stories That Might Shape Moore’s Fate
Past election and ethics controversies offer precedent for GOP

Those who hope to block Moore from the Senate might look to the paths pursued by, clockwise from top left, Robert G. Torricelli, John Ensign, Roland W. Burris and Lisa Murkowski. (Douglas Graham, Scott J. Farrell and Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photos)

Torricelli, Murkowski, Burris & Ensign: That’s not the newest lobbying law firm on K Street, but rather a roster of senators whose extraordinary political careers point toward the four tough paths for Republicans intent on keeping Roy Moore out of the Senate.

The lateness of the electoral hour, combined with Alabama’s deeply red nature and solid support from the state’s GOP base, continue to afford the 70-year-old, twice-removed chief justice of the state Supreme Court big advantages if he persists in his campaign — notwithstanding allegations that while he was a prosecutor in his 30s he sexually assaulted two teenage girls and pursued romantic relationships with others.

Who’s Getting to Write the Tax Bill
Roll Call Decoder with David Hawkings

How do the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committee members get their assignments?  Political bomb-throwers rarely get the call. Facing a tough campaign is a plus. So are party loyalty and K Street support. Senior editor David Hawkings explains.

Podcast: What Tuesday's Elections Signal for the 2018 Congressional Map
The Big Story, Episode 79

Virginia Gov.-elect Ralph Northam greets supporters at an election night rally November 7, 2017 in Fairfax, Virginia. Northam defeated Republican candidate Ed Gillespie. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

While the Democratic surge in the off-year voting gives the party reason to smile, the midterm election is a long way off. Roll Call reporters Simone Pathé and Bridget Bowman detail what the results in Virginia, New Jersey and elsewhere mean for the Democrats' quest to take back the House. 

 

Kevin Brady: A Low-Profile Tax Writer for the Highest-Stress Time
Texan may be the most obscure Ways and Means chairman in such a pivotal role

Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, places books of the current tax code on the dais, during a House Ways and Means Committee markup of the Republicans’ tax reform plan titled the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, in Longworth Building on Monday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Millions of taxpayers, not to mention seemingly all of K Street’s lobbyists, are focused this week on the work of a man precious few outside the Beltway have ever heard of — but who’s among the most powerful people at the Capitol at the moment.

Perhaps expecting Kevin Brady to be a household name is asking too much of the typical American household, where two out of three people can’t name their own member of Congress.