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Trump civil rights official wants to defend abortion opponents and religious freedom
OCR is now reporting a rise in civil rights complaints related to a person’s moral beliefs

Roger Severino, the director for the HHS’ Office of Civil Rights, speaks at a news conference on Jan. 18 announcing a new division on conscience and religious freedom. The new division will aide medical professionals who object to certain procedures on religious grounds. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images file photo)

A Trump administration official charged with protecting civil rights has major plans for defending abortion opponents and promoting religious freedom, he said in a rare and wide-ranging interview.

Roger Severino, the director for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights, highlighted his goals to investigate states that require insurance to cover abortion, protect individuals who reject certain vaccinations on religious grounds, and defend students training to be medical providers if they object to participating in abortions.

Interior Secretary Bernhardt under investigation by inspector general
Democrats and watchdog groups have alleged ‘potential conflicts of interest and other violations’

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was confirmed by the Senate last week by a vote of 56-41. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former oil and gas lobbyist, is under investigation by his agency’s inspector general over “potential conflicts of interest and other violations,” an agency official said Monday.

In an April 15 letter to Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, Interior Department deputy inspector general Mary Kendall said her office opened an investigation into Bernhardt following at least seven complaints from Democratic lawmakers and independent watchdogs alleging the conflicts and other violations.

Hemp concerns and trade jitters top agriculture appropriations hearing
The Agriculture Department’s request includes cuts to research, rural housing and international humanitarian food programs

Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue takes his seat to testify during the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday, June 13, 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate appropriators had trade woes and the promise of industrial hemp on their minds Thursday as they sought assurances from Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue of better times for farmers in their states.

Perdue testified before the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee on the president’s $15.7 billion request for discretionary funding for the Agriculture Department. The request is more than $4.2 billion lower than the enacted level for fiscal 2019 and includes cuts to research, rural housing, international humanitarian food programs and other areas popular with lawmakers.

The net neutrality bill is dead in the Senate, but Democrats don’t mind
Democrats are confident they’ll be able to use it to skewer vulnerable GOP candidates next November

Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., leave the Senate Policy luncheons in the Capitol on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already declared the Democratic net neutrality bill, which passed the House on Wednesday, “dead on arrival” in the upper chamber.

But Senate Democrats don’t seem to mind.

Senate staffers told ‘What not to do...’ Mar-a-Lago USB-edition
Staffers got an email after a Secret Security agent put the intruder’s flash drive in a computer, and it began installing files

Senate staffers were issued a cybersecurity warning Monday evening. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate staffers received an email Monday evening with the subject line “What not to do...” 

An image of the message, obtained by Roll Call, shows that a Senate IT Security listserve sent staffers a message pointing out some don’t-try-this-at-home (or work) cybersecurity behaviors. 

More Chinese fentanyl may stay out of the US under a new bipartisan bill
Another bipartisan proposal would help physicians learn more about a patient’s substance abuse history.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., arrives in the Capitol for the weekly Senate luncheons on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Calls to address the opioid crisis resumed Thursday as lawmakers released a bill that aims to curb the flow of illegal opioids into the United States and another to help physicians learn more about a patient’s substance abuse history.

The separate actions by a bipartisan group of senators and another of House members are drawing fresh attention to the overdose crisis, which is a concern for both parties even though Congress cleared an opioids law just last year. One of the bills, a Senate measure, stands a good chance of becoming law, said co-sponsor Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer.

Chris Murphy says ‘double standard’ exists between physical and cybersecurity in the Senate
Connecticut Democrat pressed sergeant-at-arms on securing senators' personal devices

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., calls how the Senate handles cybersecurity a "double standard." (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senators want to fix what they’re calling a “double standard” between how physical and cyber security are handled by the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms.

At a Legislative Branch Appropriations subcommittee hearing Wednesday, Sen. Christopher S. Murphy pressed Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger on threats to lawmakers and staff’s personal digital devices, including smartphones.

Ways and Means considers major changes to retirement savings incentives
Much of the bill, approved by the committee Tuesday, recycles provisions from previous Congresses

Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., and ranking member Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, talk before a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on U.S.-China trade relations in Longworth Building on Wednesday, February 27, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The third time may be the charm for a 122-page collection of retirement benefit tweaks that died in the last two Congresses but has become a top priority for House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal.

Much of the bill that the Ways and Means Committee approved Tuesday recycles provisions from previous Congresses. One major change would make it easier for small businesses to band together to offer retirement benefits, while offering tax credits to defray the start-up costs.

Senators want help securing the personal phones of members and staff
The proposal would allow the Sergeant-at-Arms to provide “voluntary cybersecurity assistance” to lawmakers, some staff

Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., want the the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms to help secure personal devices of members and staff against cyber threats. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Two Senate Intelligence Committee members introduced a bill Wednesday to protect both personal electronic devices and Senate accounts of members and staff from cybersecurity vulnerabilities and threats. 

The proposal from Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, and Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton would allow the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms to provide “voluntary cybersecurity assistance” to lawmakers and certain Senate staff to secure accounts and personal devices.

Hearing into 737 Max crashes will focus on FAA oversight
A Senate subcommittee will question the FAA‘s certification process for the 737 Max 8 and 9 began Wednesday

A Boeing 737 Max 8 airliner takes off from Renton Municipal Airport near the company’s factory, on March 22, 2019 in Renton, Washington. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

The first of what will likely be many congressional hearings into two catastrophic overseas crashes of Boeing’s new 737 Max jets began Wednesday with senators focusing on how federal safety regulators delegate work to the manufacturers they oversee and how they react after accidents happen.

The Senate’s aviation and space subcommittee, led by Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, will question the Federal Aviation Administration’s certification process for the 737 Max 8 and 9, and the March 13 decision to ground the planes, which came after other airlines and nations had already done so.