Delaware

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.

Shutdown ripples hit K Street; businesses and unions anxious
Even seemingly unrelated interests say the impasse is starting to upend their policy agenda in Washington

K Street groups are pushing for an end to the partial government shutdown. Already this week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s biggest business lobby, sent a letter to lawmakers and the White House. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Lobbying groups and unions are stepping up their campaigns aimed at ending the partial government shutdown, making clear their mounting frustration as the financial pressures hit businesses and furloughed workers alike.

Some sectors, such as those in travel and tourism, are coping with direct disruptions to their businesses, with top destinations such as national parks shuttered. Even seemingly unrelated interests say the shutdown has begun to upend their policy agenda in Washington because the impasse is consuming the time of lawmakers and the administration.

Email dump could slow EPA confirmation fight
Shutdown throws a wrench in court-ordered document release related to potential conflicts of interest

Andrew Wheeler, acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, prepares to testify before the Senate Environment and Public Works panel last year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler has been formally nominated to run the Environmental Protection Agency, setting up a contentious confirmation fight just as a court order threatens the release of over 20,000 emails related to his potential conflicts of interest.

The White House on Wednesday formally sent Wheeler’s nomination to the Senate, triggering the start of the process. Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, was confirmed to be the agency’s deputy in April 2018 and became acting administrator in July after the departure of scandal-plagued Scott Pruitt, who resigned from the top post amid mounting ethics issues.

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.

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.

Postal Service Prayer: Deliver Us From Fiscal Doom
White House stops short of calls for outright privatization, but big changes could lie ahead

United States Postal Service employee Gloria Hinton participates in a rally in Washington in 2011. Over the last decade, mail volume has tanked but package delivery has become more important than ever. The White House is calling for a legislative overhaul, but conflict with Congress could get in the way. (Tom Williams/Roll Call file photo)

The United States Postal Service faces a major policy shakeup at a time when package delivery has become more central to Americans’ lives than ever.

A growing reliance on e-commerce has driven demand for direct-to-door shipping for everything from textbooks to toothbrushes. And to the casual observer, USPS is playing what looks like a seamless part in the process, with more and more packages delivered the “last mile” to customers’ doors by government workers.

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.