Christopher H Smith

Road ahead: As Congress digests Mueller conclusions, it has plenty more on its plate
House will attempt to override Trump’s veto, while Senate takes up Green New Deal

A Capitol Visitor Center employee sets up a shade umbrella last Tuesday outside the CVC entrance. The Senate and House minority parties may need an umbrella to block the shade the majorities plan to throw at them this week amid votes on the Green New Deal and overriding a presidential veto. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Capitol Hill spent much of the weekend waiting to find out what special counsel Robert S. Mueller III discovered about Russian efforts to undermine the 2016 election. But as Congress digests the principal conclusions of his report, prepared by Attorney General William P. Barr, leaders will also try to get members to address other priorities.

Barr’s four-page letter sent to Congress on Sunday afternoon stated that Mueller “did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts.”

House to vote on equal pay, VAWA, net neutrality bills, in next 3 weeks
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced the upcoming votes in a “Dear Colleague” letter sent Monday

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., announced the major bills the House will consider over the next three-week work period in a dear colleague letter Monday. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House will vote over the next three weeks on bills to help reduce the gender pay gap, reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and codify the Obama-era net neutrality rule.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced the votes in a “Dear Colleague” letter Monday outlining plans for the three-week House work period beginning March 25.

Party unity on congressional votes takes a dive: CQ Vote Studies
Decline more dramatic in the Senate

Of the top six Democrats who broke from their party in 2018, four are no longer in Congress, including Heidi Heitkamp, right. Senators eyeing the presidency, meanwhile, are sticking to their party like glue. Elizabeth Warren had a perfect unity score. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

After Democrats and Republicans reached record highs sticking together by party on congressional votes in 2017, those numbers nose-dived in 2018 as lawmakers worked across the aisle on high-profile legislation, including a rewrite of the Dodd-Frank financial law, a package dealing with the opioid crisis, spending bills and an overhaul of the country’s criminal justice laws.

CQ’s annual vote study shows that in the House the total number of party unity votes — defined as those with each party’s majority on opposing sides — fell from 76 percent of the total votes taken in the House in 2017, a record, to 59 percent in 2018. That latter figure is the lowest since 2010, the most recent year of unified Democratic control of Congress. Election years typically have fewer votes and 2018 was no exception — the total number of votes taken in the House, 498, was the lowest since 2002.

Meet the lawmakers who didn’t stick to their parties’ position on guns
Eight Republicans and two Democrats crossed the aisle on Wednesday

New York Rep. Peter King voted for expanded background checks and has long been the lead Republican co-sponsor of the measure. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

With the help of eight Republicans, the Democratically-controlled House on Wednesday passed new gun safety legislation that would expand background checks.

And while the legislation isn’t likely to go anywhere in the Senate, it was a top priority for many new Democratic members who came to power last fall by making gun safety a salient campaign issue. An overwhelming majority of Americans support universal background checks.

Republicans from moderate districts bucking their party on background checks
Five Republicans have co-sponsored gun safety legislation hitting the floor on Wednesday

Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick has signed onto legislation to expand background checks. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Wednesday’s House vote on legislation expanding background checks for gun sales is a top priority for a handful of Republicans from more moderate districts.

But while they’re largely in line with public opinion on the issue — and with the chamber’s new Democratic majority — they’re at odds with other Republicans in Congress.

Parkland shooting to be commemorated with new bill requiring background checks on gun sales
The bill would require gun sellers to conduct background checks on buyers

"There's nothing statistically that supports that," Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Ga., said to the claim by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., that undocumented immigrants are to blame for gun violence in the U.S. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Flanked by the parents of children killed or disabled by guns, including the parents of children slain in the Parkland shooting one year ago, Rep. Jerry Nadler announced Thursday he would advance a bill to require background checks on gun sales next week.

Nadler chairs the Judiciary Committee, which has broad jurisdiction over firearm regulations. The New York Democrat announced the committee will advance the Bipartisan Background Checks Act on Wednesday, Feb. 13th. The next day, February 14th, marks the anniversary of a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which claimed 17 lives.

House Republicans block passage of anti-shutdown resolution despite removal of language blaming Trump
Meanwhile, House Democrats pass bill to increase federal employees’ pay for 2019

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., dismissed a Democrat-authored resolution expressing disapproval of government shutdowns as a negotiating tactic as a "glorified press release." (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Illustrating the deep partisan divisions that remain following the 35-day partial government shutdown that ended last week, the House on Wednesday rejected a symbolic resolution expressing disapproval of shutdowns as a negotiating tactic.

The resolution fell short, 249-163, because most Republicans opposed it, despite Democrats amending it Tuesday to drop language the GOP found objectionable

Ocasio-Cortez joins most Republicans in voting against House Democratic bills to reopen government
House bills headed nowhere in Senate as upper chamber prepares to hold test votes Thursday that are expected to fail

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., center, voted against two Democratic bills to reopen the government Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats passed two more bills Wednesday to reopen the government that most Republicans continued to oppose, but there was one surprise in the otherwise predictable floor proceedings — freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez voted “no.”

The New York Democrat, a rising star in the progressive wing of the party with a massive social media following, explained her vote on Instagram. 

March for Life activists get anti-abortion boost from Trump
President: ‘I will veto any legislation that weakens pro-life federal polices’

The March for LIfe draws abortion opponents to Washington each year. Above, Jennifer Crowther of Alexandria, and her daughters Natalie and Cassidy, rally at 2017’s event. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Lawmakers and anti-abortion advocates who gathered Friday for the nation’s largest annual anti-abortion rally say they are pivoting to a defensive strategy in Congress, with a focus on confirming conservative judges as legislation stalls.

Thousands of advocates gathered to protest the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion. The event featured a surprise appearance by Vice President Mike Pence with second lady Karen Pence, and a video message from President Donald Trump.

Day 25 of the shutdown and the impasse held fast
Spending bill fails, president holds firm, House freshmen march

Freshman House members, including Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., leave the Capitol office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Tuesday after a visit to urge action on reopening the government. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

On the 25th day of the longest government shutdown in modern history, the House failed to advance a spending measure, the president was half-stood up for lunch, and freshman House Democrats marched on the Senate. 

In an already busy day on Capitol Hill, the House failed to advance a stopgap measure to fund shuttered federal agencies through Feb. 1, as Democrats sought to pressure Republicans to end the partial shutdown.