Christopher S Murphy

FBI never completes hundreds of thousands of gun checks
Internal report raised alarms in 2015

Many gun background checks are never completed by the FBI because they are purged from the agency’s computers. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images file photo)

Updated Dec. 4, 1:33 p.m. | The FBI never completes hundreds of thousands of gun background checks each year because of a deadline that requires it to purge them from its computers, despite a report that raised alarms about the practice in 2015.

The data obtained by CQ Roll Call, which has not been previously published, shows how the FBI still struggles to complete background checks four years after a breakdown in the system contributed to a shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, that left nine black churchgoers dead.

Senator finds out about school shooting during gun control debate
California shooting highlights Senate gun control debate in real time

Sen. Richard Blumenthal is passed a note about a school shooting on the Senate floor Thursday. (Senate Recording Studio/Screenshot)

When Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., started speaking on the floor Thursday morning, he had not yet heard about the mass shooting at a Southern California high school a little less than an hour before. During Blumenthal’s speech on gun control legislation, a staffer passed him a note alerting him to the shooting. Although he incorrectly stated that the shooting took place in Santa Clara, Calif. instead of Santa Clarita, Calif., Blumenthal quickly pointed to the massacre where two people died as a real-life example of the need for the legislation.

Surprise billing fight highlights hurdles for bolder health care changes
Disagreements over payments foreshadow difficulty of moving overhaul like ‘Medicare for All’

National Nurses United union members wave "Medicare for All" signs during a rally in front of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America in Washington on April 29. A September poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 30 percent of people consider implementing a national Medicare for All plan a top priority. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The challenge of passing legislation to stop surprise medical bills is underscoring just how hard it is in Washington to change the health care system, even in small ways, and raising questions about Democrats’ far more ambitious overhaul plans. 

Stopping surprise medical bills wasn’t supposed to be this difficult. Lawmakers in both parties want to protect patients from certain unanticipated out-of-pocket costs, and industry groups say they agree with the broad goal. But fights over payments to doctors and other medical providers that so far have stalled the legislation foreshadow the hurdles of moving a major overhaul, such as a “Medicare for All” government-run health care plan, after the 2020 elections.

Impeachment strains longstanding bipartisan support for Ukraine
Consensus built on keeping Ukraine inside the Western European camp

President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy look on during a meeting at the United Nations in New York on Sept. 25. (Getty Images file photo)

The bipartisan backing for Ukraine in its long face-off with Russia has been a hallmark of Congress’ role in foreign policymaking for decades. Congress — both parties — has generally been willing to confront Moscow more forcefully over its treatment of Ukraine than the Trump, Obama or George W. Bush White Houses.

But with U.S. policy toward Ukraine the centerpiece of the impeachment inquiry, President Donald Trump’s antipathy toward Kyiv out in the open, and Republicans not wanting to break with their GOP president publicly over Ukraine policy, concern is rising that this longstanding bipartisan consensus to keep Ukraine inside the Western European camp could erode.

Senate Republicans kill Democratic move on Trump health policy
Democrats decried letting states approve so-called ‘junk plans’

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., sees the vote on the health insurance guidance as a referendum on support for people with pre-existing conditions. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate rejected a Democratic resolution to nullify a Trump administration health care policy that supporters billed as a referendum on support for pre-existing condition protections.

The 43-52 vote on Wednesday blocked a disapproval resolution that would have reversed a 2018 guidance expanding changes states could make to their insurance markets through waivers. Democrats forced the vote via the Congressional Review Act even though no states have sought to make the types of changes the administration is encouraging.

Charleston mass murderer got his gun because of background check gaps, internal report shows
Four years later, Congress and White House have made little progress on gun legislation

Mourners enter Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015 after a mass shooting by Dylann Roof, a self-declared white supremacist, left nine people dead. (Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images file photo)

Dylann Roof got the pistol he used to kill nine people in a historic black church in South Carolina without a completed background check because of gaps in FBI databases, legal restrictions on how long the FBI can keep data on gun purchasers and other breakdowns in the system, according to an internal report obtained by CQ Roll Call.

Four years after the 2015 attack at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston — and several more high-profile mass shootings — a bipartisan group of senators is still trying to hammer out a deal with the White House on background check legislation. 

Trump contends ‘no quid pro quo’ with Ukraine is ‘whole ballgame’ on impeachment
Democratic Sen. Murphy: President used ‘access to the White House’ to ‘help destroy his political rival’

President Donald Trump walks out of the White House to answer questions while departing the White House on Thursday. He did so again Friday under fire about his actions regarding Ukraine, China and Joe Biden. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump on Friday declared his requests that foreign governments investigate his domestic political foes are in bounds, and said a probe of the Bidens would not be required of China before a possible trade deal is finalized.

His comments came as Republican and Democratic lawmakers sparred over text messages released late Thursday night showing U.S. diplomats in Ukraine discussing offers to — and demands of — that country’s new government for a pledge to probe former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden in return for diplomatic prizes President Volodymyr Zelenskiy desperately wanted from Trump.

Staff security clearances may vex House Intelligence members
Rank-and-file members likely have no aides to consult on the most sensitive information in impeachment probe

House Intelligence member Jackie Speier has called for panel members to have one personal staffer with TS/SCI clearance. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rank-and-file members of the House Intelligence Committee, who are at the nucleus of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, likely have no personal aides to consult on the most sensitive information handled in the high-stakes probe.

The two Californians who lead the panel, Chairman Adam B. Schiff and ranking Republican Devin Nunes, have staff with Top Secret Sensitive Compartmented Information Security Clearance, also known as TS/SCI clearance. But other lawmakers on the committee traditionally have not had personal staff with such a clearance.

The art of the ask: Foreign aid isn’t a campaign ‘slush fund’
Trump’s Ukraine request deviates from the traditional carrot-and-stick approach

President Donald Trump is under fire for a July 25 conversation in which he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open an investigation into potential 2020 opponent Joe Biden. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Arms sales and foreign aid have long been a part of the United States’ carrot-and-stick approach to foreign policy. But President Donald Trump’s call with the Ukrainian leader is something entirely different.

Making access to American weapons or dollars contingent upon behaviors that support U.S. interests is standard procedure.

Lawmaker pay freeze extended in Senate Legislative Branch bill
Pay for lawmakers has decreased by around 15 percent compared to inflation and other factors since 2009

From left, Sens. John Kennedy, R-La., Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., prepare for a Senate Appropriations Committee markup on June 19, 2019. The committee advanced its 2020 Legislative Branch spending bill, which marks an increase of about $256 million over current levels. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday advanced, as amended, a $5.09 billion fiscal 2020 Legislative Branch spending bill that would continue a pay freeze for members of Congress. The issue has proved troublesome in the House, where a spending bill approved by appropriators this summer with a cost-of-living adjustment has yet to be brought up on the floor.

The Senate version, approved by the panel 31-0, would mark an increase of about $256 million over current levels to fund the House, Senate and joint operations, including Capitol Police, the Government Accountability Office, and other offices.