Energy & Environment

At the Races: Is Lesko’s Win in the Desert a Mirage?
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Welcome to At the Races! You can keep track of House and Senate races with this weekly newsletter by subscribing here. We want to hear what you think. Email us at attheraces@cqrollcall.com with your questions, tips or candidate sightings. — Simone Pathé and Bridget Bowman

A Plea for the Old School Senate: Senators Really, Really Want to Move Spending Bills This Time
Meeting on nomination rules changes gives way to talk of spending bills, comity

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., brought a chart of the Senate floor to the Rules Committee. (Rules and Administration Committee screenshot)

What could have been a contentious meeting about shortening Senate debate time for nominations turned into more of a bipartisan conversation among some of the most senior senators at taking another shot at moving regular spending bills.

“Let’s pick an appropriation bill, put some training wheels on it and head it to the floor. Let’s see how this works,” Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin said. “We’ve got to educate ourselves.”

Committees Tackle Politically Powerful Issue of Opioids Legislation
Senate HELP panel advanced bipartisan package Tuesday

Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, chairs the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, which will consider over 60 bills to address the opioids crisis at a Wednesday markup. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House heads into a marathon opioid markup Wednesday, a day after the Senate health committee approved bipartisan legislation of its own addressing the crisis. Both chambers are eager to advance bills to combat the crisis under an aggressive timeline, with an eye toward demonstrating action before the midterms on an issue that affects voters representing most demographics and districts.

“Even though this epidemic is worse in some parts of the country than others, find me a congressional district where this isn’t an issue,” said Keith Humphreys, a drug policy expert at Stanford. “Absolutely, they do not want to go into an election and have their constituents mad at them.”

Who Can Fill Paul Ryan’s Shoes in the House GOP?
He may be retiring from Congress, but that doesn’t mean he’s going away

Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who kept a fractured party together and raised gobs of campaign cash, could be a tough act to follow. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The brain drain from departing House Republicans with policy expertise had sparked worry among party insiders even before Speaker Paul D. Ryan announced his plans to retire.

Now, the extraordinary attrition, along with a potentially brutal upcoming midterm campaign, is enough to send the GOP into panic mode.

Opinion: Virtually Safe? Not Until We Root Out Online Terrorism
As lawmakers grill tech CEOs on data, extremists still have their virtual safe havens

A policeman stands guard in Times Square not far from the site of a pipe bomb explosion on Dec. 11. Virtual safe havens make it harder to counter terrorism, Misztal and Michek write. (John Moore/Getty Images file photo)

The bomber who shut down Times Square last December reportedly found instructions online and read Inspire, al-Qaida’s digital magazine. One of the men who opened fire on a free-speech event three years ago in Texas had been in contact with terrorists abroad using Twitter and Surespot, an encrypted messaging application.

Terrorist groups are thriving online — recruiting followers, disseminating propaganda, planning attacks. While lawmakers are looking at the dangers that lurk on the internet, from Russian interference to Facebook data scrapes, they should be paying more attention to countering terrorism in the digital realm.

Opinion: Congress Needs to Hold On to Its Power of the Purse
Any rescission proposal from the White House should be acted upon quickly

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul D. Ryan at the Capitol in February. Congress should act quickly on any rescission proposal from the Trump administration to avoid relinquishing more control over the appropriations process to the executive branch, Hoagland writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sixteen words in the U.S. Constitution have governed the federal government’s budget process for over 230 years: “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law.” Presidents of all parties over the country’s long history, nonetheless, have sought to wrest from Congress more control over the Treasury than those 16 words allow.

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln spent millions of dollars without congressional approval. While this was otherwise an unconstitutional act, Lincoln felt his actions were guided by the greater responsibility of his oath to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Podcast: New Climate Change Threats Alarm Scientists
CQ on Congress, Episode 99

A catfish on the shore of Lake Erie near North Toledo, Ohio, in 2017. (Andy Morrison/The Blade via AP)

A CQ Magazine special report this week examines alarming new consequences of climate change, such as beetles killing trees, coral reef die-offs and food losing nutritional value. Brenda Ekwurzel of the Union of Concerned Scientists and CQ reporter Elvina Nawaguna explain the threats.

Complaint Against Crapo Over Controversial Condo
Liberal watchdog group says Idaho senator didn’t report free use of condo that caused controversy for EPA’s Pruitt

Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, had a complaint filed against him by a liberal watchdog group. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A liberal watchdog group filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Sen. Mike Crapo for fundraisers he held at the same condominium that caused controversy for EPA administrator Scott Pruitt.

The Campaign for Accountability filed the complaint on Thursday that Crapo’s campaign committees did not report paying for the use of the condo on campaign filings, Bloomberg reported.

Grid Cybersecurity Bills Advanced by House Energy Subcommittee
Bipartisanship crumbles for export bill

The committee advanced bills to protect the electric grid and pipeline control systems from cyber attack. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Bipartisan bills that aim to improve the government’s response to cybersecurity attacks on the electric grid advanced out of a House Energy and Commerce panel Wednesday. The action was the latest sign of heightened awareness on Capitol Hill that malicious hackers might be able to turn out the lights.

Four pieces of legislation — all focused on putting into statute coordination within the Department of Energy to prevent cyber attacks on the grid and other energy infrastructure — were advanced by the Energy Subcommittee by voice votes. The votes showed unusual unity on the often-partisan panel.

NRCC Chairman Urges Members to Keep Talking Taxes
Republicans view the tax overhaul as a salient campaign issue

NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers wants House Republicans to keep talking about the tax overhaul. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers had a message for House Republicans on Tuesday morning: keep talking about the tax overhaul.

The Ohio Republican presented attendees at a GOP conference meeting with polling that showed voters have not heard from them lately about the tax overhaul, according to a source with knowledge of the discussion. Stivers “implored them to continue to sell it,” the source said.

Don’t Expect a Dramatic Finish as Ryan Runs to the Tape
Retiring speaker unlikely to rock the boat during the midterms

Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is not running for re-election. But that may not give him any more freedom to do what he wants. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

With Speaker Paul D. Ryan retiring after this Congress ends in January, he seemingly has newfound freedom to either make a stronger push for conservative policy priorities or strike bipartisan grand bargains with Democrats.

In reality, the Wisconsin Republican has little room to do either — at least not until after November.

GAO: Pruitt’s Pricey Privacy Booth Violated Federal Law
Monday report states funds were not legally available

A staffer exits the Senate subway on April 11 with a poster detailing EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s ethics issues. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The EPA violated federal law when it paid more than $43,000 to install a soundproof privacy booth for Administrator Scott Pruitt without first notifying congressional appropriators, the Government Accountability Office said.

The agency violated the law by using more than $5,000 of fiscal 2017 appropriated funds for an unintended purpose without giving lawmakers advance notice, GAO investigators wrote in a report released Monday.

Planned Parenthood, Other Groups To Spend $30 Million on Midterms
Progressive coalition to target young and minority voters in Florida, Michigan, and Nevada

Liberal groups are hoping to turn out enough voters in (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A coalition of liberal organizations that includes the political arm of Planned Parenthood rolled out a $30 million program Monday to mobilize “infrequent voters” to cast ballots for progressive candidates in the  midterm elections.

Infrequent voters include people of color, women and young people, the coalition says in a joint news release.

EPA Pesticide Approval Without Endangered Species Review in Farm Bill
Environmental groups describe provision as an ‘unprecedented attack’

A provision in the 2018 farm bill would allow the EPA to approve pesticides without reviews aimed at protecting endangered species. (David McNew/Getty Images file photo)

A provision in the 2018 farm bill would allow the EPA to approve pesticides without undertaking reviews now required to protect endangered species.

Environmental groups say the provision is an “unprecedented” attack that could have lasting ramifications for ecosystems across the nation.

Meet the Dogs of the House, Round III
Canine friends from the offices of Walters, Knight, Gomez, Calvert, Murphy and Tenney

Pablo’s fame around Capitol Hill hasn’t gone to his head. (Courtesy Rep. Mimi Walters’ office)

Capitol Hill offices have found that there’s nothing like a dog to break the ice.

Constituents can’t get enough of Colt the corgi, Cali the dachshund and other House canines.