Patrick J Toomey

Trump says McConnell ‘totally on board’ with background checks
President dismisses possibility of NRA opposition to legislation

President Donald Trump says Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is “totally on board” with “intelligent background checks,” but a Senate aide says McConnell hasn’t endorsed “anything specific.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump on Friday gave perhaps his strongest endorsement yet of a background checks overhaul bill for firearms purchases, and predicted Republican lawmakers would “lead” on the issue despite opposition from the National Rifle Association.

“Frankly, we need intelligent background checks. This isn’t a question of NRA, Republican or Democrat. I spoke to [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell yesterday. ... He is totally on board,” the president told reporters as he left the White House for a 10-day working vacation.

Emotional Portman hopes for consensus on combating gun violence after Dayton, El Paso mass shootings
Ohio Republican, at the Capitol on Tuesday, appeared shaken by deaths

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman was back at the Capitol on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Ohio Republican Rob Portman said Tuesday that after seeing blood being cleaned from sidewalks in Dayton, he hopes his fellow senators can emerge from their predictable partisan corners to find agreement on more legislation to address gun violence.

Portman pointed to working on “red flag” grants to encourage states to  keep firearms from individuals with mental health challenges as perhaps the most immediate step. Asked about an expanded background check bill sponsored by Pennsylvania Republican Patrick J. Toomey and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin III, Portman said, “I think we should look at everything.”

Gun safety theatrics could come to Congress during Tuesday pro forma sessions
Neither House nor Senate expected to return any time soon

Pennsylvania Sen. Patrick J. Toomey says an immediate vote on his background checks bill would be “counterproductive.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 4:45 p.m. | Democratic lawmakers itching for action on gun safety legislation will get their first chances to make some noise on Tuesday.

That’s when the House and Senate are scheduled to begin holding pro forma sessions, with no legislative business expected in either chamber until a full week after Labor Day in September. However, there’s a long history of members of Congress using the brief moments when the floors of the two chambers open for business during the August recess to engage in a bit of theater.

GOP senators uneasy with Fed pick on gold, deposit insurance
Questioning a return to the gold standard and eliminating federal deposit insurance

“I'm not convinced we should switch to a gold standard anytime soon,” said Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., (File photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Republican senators have expressed concerns about Judy Shelton, one of President Donald Trump’s picks for the Federal Reserve Board, over her support for a return to the gold standard and eliminating federal deposit insurance, but, so far, are holding back from publicly opposing her nomination.

Trump tweeted his intention in early July to nominate Shelton and Christopher Waller to the two vacant seats on the seven-member Fed board. Waller, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, is seen by most observers as a conventional pick, but Shelton’s decades-long advocacy for resurrecting the Bretton Woods monetary system has put her at odds with most economists and some Republican senators. The system pegged the dollar to the price of gold and other currencies to the dollar.

Senate Banking members take skeptical look at cryptocurrencies
Blockchain firms have tried selling lawmakers on the potential for dramatically reduced transaction costs.

Senate Banking Chairman Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, sees data privacy as one of the primary risks. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Concerns over data privacy and skepticism about just how unique and beneficial cryptocurrencies and other blockchain-based digital assets could be dominated Tuesday’s Senate Banking Committee hearing on regulating the new technology.

“This new digital currency and blockchain technology is a very real — and potentially helpful — innovation,” said Chairman Michael D. Crapo, R-Idaho. “It’s also potentially harmful as there can be some serious risk involved in it.”

Finance advances drug price measure with tepid GOP support
Only six of the panel’s 15 Republicans voted to advance the measure

Senate Finance Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, pushed back against criticism that the measure represented “price controls” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate Finance Committee on Thursday approved, 19-9, a draft bill meant to reduce the cost of drugs in Medicare and Medicaid.

Only six of the panel’s 15 Republicans voted to advance the measure, joining all 13 Democrats. The most controversial amendments to the measure were rejected on mostly party-line votes.

Facebook incurs wrath from both parties at Libra currency hearing
Bipartisan group asks why Americans should trust Facebook with their paychecks given its repeated data privacy scandals

David Marcus, head of Facebook's Calibra digital wallet service, prepares to testify during the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on "Examining Facebook's Proposed Digital Currency and Data Privacy Considerations" on Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senators from both parties questioned at a hearing Tuesday why Americans should trust Facebook’s new digital currency system with their paychecks given the social media giant’s repeated data privacy scandals.

Libra, a cryptocurrency under construction by a Facebook subsidiary called Calibra, was announced in May to a blast of bipartisan incredulity by lawmakers and the Trump administration. Critics asked how the company could ensure that Libra, which is designed to be anonymous, could be prevented from being used by money launderers, traffickers or terrorists.

Democrats condemn Trump’s racist tweets, congressional Republicans mostly silent
House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern calls his GOP colleagues ‘cowards’

Democratic Reps. Ayanna S. Pressley, from right, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Veronica Escobar  testify about their trip ICE detention facilities at the southern border last week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 5:59 p.m. | While Democrats were united in their condemnation of President Donald Trump’s call Sunday for four members of Congress to “go back” to “the crime infested countries from which they came,” Republicans on Monday were slow to publicly comment on the president’s tirade. 

On the Republican side of the aisle, condemnations of Trump for calling four of their colleagues unworthy to serve in Congress because of their non-European heritage were slow to materialize. Even as conservative pundits decried the president’s targeting of four progressive lawmakers — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — as an ugly attack rooted in racism, not a political critique. 

Joe Sestak is running for president, here are some congressional basics
Eye on 2020

Former Rep. Joe Sestak leaves the set after the Senate Democrats primary debate with Katie McGinty and Braddock, Pa., Mayor John Fetterman at WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, April 5, 2016. One of the three Democrats will be selected in the April 26th primary to run against Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

A latecomer to a crowded presidential field, former Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president Sunday.

Road ahead: House tackles first spending package and NDAA endurance contest
House also set to vote on a ‘not quite contempt’ resolution Tuesday

A man stands near the Mountains and Clouds sculpture in the Hart Building atrium on June 4. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House has blockbuster floor action teed up this week, including votes on the first spending package for fiscal 2020 and a measure that would authorize the Judiciary Committee to pursue civil lawsuits against Attorney General William Barr and other administration officials.

House lawmakers have been warned that late-night votes are on the schedule as they work through floor consideration of a five-bill package that amounts to about $990 billion in discretionary spending for fiscal 2020.