Chris Coons

Barr assures senators of his independence
AG nominee says Mueller investigation isn’t a ‘witch hunt,’ Sessions ‘probably did right thing’ in recusing himself

William Barr, nominee for attorney general, testifies during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 5:59 p.m. | William Barr appeared to be on a path to confirmation as the next attorney general Tuesday, after he gave senators key assurances about the special counsel probe into the 2016 elections and distanced himself from some of President Donald Trump’s comments about the investigation.

During more than seven hours of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barr avoided the kind of missteps that might cost him votes of Republicans, who have a 53-47 advantage in the chamber. But some Democrats say he did not do enough to reassure them that he would protect Robert S. Mueller III’s probe and make the results public.

Trump opts against declaring national border emergency — for now
President has yet to rule out the move if shutdown talks stall, White House aides say

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., responded to President Donald Trump's Oval Office address. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump opted against using his first Oval Office prime-time address to declare a national emergency at the southern border, instead labeling the situation a “crisis” in an attempt to get Democrats to grant his demand for a wall and end the partial government shutdown.

The president delivered his plea to lawmakers to pass legislation to address the U.S.-Mexico border by repeating his hard-line rhetoric that the area is a transit route for hordes of migrants making illegal crossings, dangerous criminals, lethal narcotics and human traffickers. But he did not appear to dangle any olive branches toward Democrats or say anything that might attract enough Democratic votes to pass a bill with $5.7 billion for the barrier and end the shutdown.

Three things to watch in Trump’s border wall Oval Office address
Democrats expect more false, misleading statements as shutdown drags on

President Trump speaks in the Oval Office in February 2017 before Vice President Mike Pence swore in now-former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left). (John T. Bennett/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump’s first Oval Office prime-time address will put the border wall — his signature campaign promise — center stage as he considers declaring a national emergency at the southern border and aims to shift public opinion about the government shutdown.

Senior administration officials on Monday did not rule out the president making what would be a contentious announcement during his Tuesday address. Vice President Mike Pence was one of those officials, and he made clear in a television interview that aired Tuesday morning that Trump could make a move that Democrats already are panning.

Mueller protection bill reintroduced in the Senate, but still no prospects for floor time
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has argued the bill is unconstitutional

Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., left, and Chris Coons, D-Del., are among the leaders of the legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The senators pushing legislation Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III from any risk of improper termination by President Donald Trump are not giving up.

Their bipartisan legislation expired at the end of the last Congress, and they announced Tuesday that they were introducing it again, despite continued opposition from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

The Most Listenable Political Theater Podcasts of 2018
The year in review, sort of, of some of our favorite talks

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On Roll Call’s Political Theater Podcast, you won’t always get what you want. You won’t always get what you need. But you’ll never be bored. We hope. With that in mind, here are a few of our favorite podcasts from the year that was, which just happened to be our first.

[Subscribe to Political Theater at RollCall.com]Matt Bai, Jason Reitman and Jay Carson talking about Gary Hart and their film “The Frontrunner.”

Senate, House Convene as Some Government Agencies Shut Down
Talks between White House and Senate Democrats over Trump’s border wall come up short

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arrives at the Capitol for a rare Saturday session of the Senate. With no progress made in the impasse over funding President Donald Trump’s border wall that has caused a partial government shutdown, the Senate adjourned until after Christmas three hours after convening. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate and House convened in a rare Saturday sessions after nine Cabinet-level departments and several other federal agencies ceased operations Saturday morning in the latest government shutdown of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney issued a memo to the heads of executive departments and agencies late Friday directing them to implement shutdown plans for departments not funded by the spending bills for fiscal 2019 that have become law.

Trump Raises Christmas Shutdown Odds to ‘Very Good’
President is not serious about negotiating with Democrats, Sen. Coons says

President Donald Trump argues about border security and his wall with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as Vice President Mike Pence sits nearby last week in the Oval Office. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

President Trump raised the odds of a partial government shutdown Friday when he told reporters a Christmas crisis is “very” likely, sending another clear signal he is in no mood to negotiate with lawmakers.

“It’s possible that we’ll have a shutdown, I would say the chances are probably very good because I don't think Democrats care so much about, maybe, this issue,” he said.

Negotiations on Spending Deal Will Continue, But No Deal in Sight
Senate won’t vote on House spending plan, McConnell says he hopes White House and Democrats can make a deal

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., is seen on the Capitol's Senate steps before a procedural vote on the spending bill on Friday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sens. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker reached an agreement with the two Senate leaders that no vote on a spending plan will happen until there’s agreement between Senate Democrats, House Republicans and the White House.

“We’re not voting on anything else ... until there’s a global agreement,” Corker said on the Senate floor.

Senators Christmas Carol Their Way to Approval of Stopgap Government Funding
Live quorum call comes with melody of O Come All Ye Faithful

Christmas carols rang out throughout the Senate on Wednesday as the chamber passed a continuing resolution to fund the government.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A Senate procedural vote turned into sing-along session late Wednesday night as a group of senators gathered for a live quorum call and passed the time by singing Christmas carols, all leading up to a voice vote that passed stopgap spending legislation to avert a partial government shutdown.

The group of senators, which included Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Bill Nelson of Florida, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Angus King of Maine and others gathered together to sing a range of festive tunes.

House, Senate Democrats Identify Slate of Committee Leaders for New Congress
House Dem Caucus must still ratify, Senate is ready to go

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., has his roster of ranking members for committees ready. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Congressional Democrats have identified their incoming committee leadership for the 116th Congress, although the full caucus must still weigh in and a few key chairs will have to wait until the House speakership contest is settled. In the Senate meanwhile, the roster is finished, with some notable movement in the smaller Democratic minority. 

The House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee made its recommendations for most committee chairmanships in the new Congress on Tuesday evening, with a few others designated Monday. The full caucus must still approve the choices.