House effort on Steve King censure fizzles
Matter referred to Ethics Committee as some Democrats express disappointment

An effort to censure Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, for racist comments fizzled on Wednesday as the chamber voted to refer the matter to the Ethics Committee. (Bill Clark/Roll Call file photo)

An effort to further punish Rep. Steve King for racist comments fizzled Wednesday when the chamber voted to instead refer the Iowa Republican’s case to the House Ethics Committee.

On a voice vote, the House referred a censure resolution from Illinois Democrat Bobby L. Rush to the Ethics panel, instead of censuring him directly.

Democrats cry foul as GSA inspector condemns Trump Hotel contract
GSA lawyers knew government lease to Trump Hotel might violate Constitution, but ‘punted’ on legal concerns

The Trump International Hotel's lease with the General Services Administration is in possible violation of the Constitution, the GSA inspector general said in a report Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democratic lawmakers were outraged Wednesday after the General Services Administration inspector general suggested in a report that a contract between the agency and the Trump International Hotel could be in violation of the Constitution.

In 2016 and 2017, the GSA decided to maintain its lease of the Old Post Office Building to the Trump International Hotel after Donald Trump was elected president — even though a government-issued lease to the real estate organization headed by the president of the United States represents an obvious and serious conflict of interest, the report details.

Support for ‘wall’ at all-time high among Republicans, low for Democrats, study finds
Pew study brings insight to the current Washington logjam

President Donald Trump’s border wall prototypes as seen from Tijuana, Mexico, in March. (Mario Tama/Getty Images file photo)

A new Pew Research Center poll finds Republican support for a southern border wall has reached an all-time high, while support among Democrats supporting the wall has never been lower.

The polling provides insight on deepening divisions between President Donald Trump’s $5.7 billion request for a border barrier and Democratic leaders’ opposition to any wall funding. It comes at a time when there’s no apparent end in sight for a partial government shutdown that’s now in its third week.  

What’s not part of the shutdown? 2020 Senate campaigns
Political Theater, Episode 52

Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa is one of 22 Republican senators up for re-election in 2020, and one of the few potentially vulnerable ones at that. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Politics never sleeps, not even during a government shutdown. That is especially true of Senate campaigns, because the unique nature of that chamber and its election cycle means folks need to be on their toes. Nathan Gonzales, the publisher of Inside Elections and Roll Call’s elections analyst, discusses which senators are the most vulnerable as the 2020 cycle ramps up, and how things like the current shutdown factor into political positions. 

Show Notes:

Grassley wants IRS to give taxpayers a break if they messed up witholdings

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, center, thinks the IRS should give taxpayers a break if they did not withhold enough from their paychecks. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee does not want taxpayers punished if they end up owing an abnormally large amount of money to the IRS this tax season because of issues with the changes in tax withholding under 2018 tax code changes.

While Sen. Charles E. Grassley praised the efforts of the IRS and the Treasury Department to advise people of the importance of updating tax withholding figures, as well as the online calculator, he said that it was clear there could be issues.

New Inspector General named for Capitol Police
Michael A. Bolton has been serving as acting IG since last March

The Capitol Police Board announced Wednesday the selection of Michael A. Bolton to be the department’s inspector general. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Capitol Police Board announced Wednesday the selection of Michael A. Bolton to be the department’s inspector general. Bolton has been serving in the role in an acting capacity since March of last year and previously served as assistant IG for investigations.

“Mr. Bolton’s more than 30 years of law enforcement and auditing experience, and 16 years in the OIG community have been an asset to the USCP Office of Inspector General and the Department. I look forward to our continued partnership in ensuring that the USCP continues to promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in the administration of its programs and operations,” Capitol Police Chief Matthew R. Verderosa said in a statement.

Senate effort to block Russia sanctions relief comes up short
Clear majority of senators supported attempt to maintain sanctions on three Russian firms, but not 60 of them

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., fell short of 60 votes on his Russia sanctions measure. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer came up just short in his effort to get legislation through the chamber blocking the Treasury Department from easing sanctions on a trio of Russian companies.

Less than 24 hours after securing 57 votes to support a motion to proceed to the joint resolution disapproving of Treasury’s move to lift sanctions on three Russian firms that have been controlled by sanctioned oligarch Oleg Deripaska, the same number of senators voted to limit debate — but that was three short of the 60 needed to cut off debate and get the measure to a final passage vote.

Vote Mama helps moms with young children to run for office
New York’s Liuba Grechen Shirley launches PAC to support progressive candidates

Liuba Grechen Shirley, shown here with her children Mila, left, and Nicky, persuaded the Federal Election Commission to allow her to use campaign funds from her House campaign to pay for child care expenses. (Courtesy Liuba Grechen Shirley)

Liuba Grechen Shirley attracted national attention when she persuaded federal election officials to allow her to use money she raised for her 2018 congressional campaign to pay for babysitting expenses.

She still lost her 2018 House campaign. So did the six other women with children under 2 who ran for Congress last year, she said, in spite of what has been universally recognized as a watershed moment for women in politics.

Former Rep. Ruben Kihuen gets ratioed after announcing next campaign on Twitter
The House Ethics Committee concluded in November that Kihuen sexually harassed women he worked with

Former Rep. Ruben Kihuen's tenure in Congress was defined mostly by a sexual harassment scandal. Now he is running for city council in Las Vegas. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Former Rep. Ruben Kihuen’s brief tenure in Congress was defined largely by a sexual harassment scandal. When the former congressman announced his campaign for Las Vegas City Council on Twitter Tuesday, he received swift and negative blowback.

The Nevada Democrat only served one term, before revelations that he repeatedly sexually harassed women — including a former campaign aide — severely imperiled his chances for re-election. 

Steve King’s constituents in Iowa grapple with his ‘white supremacy’ comments
Some think Washington lawmakers are ‘overreacting,’ while others have said the Iowa Republican should resign

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, is under pressure from constituents in the 4th District for comments he made questioning when “white supremacy” became an offensive term. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Top Republicans in Washington — including Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican — have called for Rep. Steve King to resign from office over his comments about white supremacy and white nationalism to The New York Times last week.

 

Pence signals little progress with China since Trump-Xi agreement
U.S. ‘remains hopeful’ Chinese officials will engage in serious talks

Vice President Mike Pence walks through Statuary Hall on his way to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's office in the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 8. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Vice President Mike Pence Wednesday signaled that the Trump administration has made little progress in trade talks with China, even after what the White House portrayed as a breakthrough late last year.

Pence painted a picture of a new lull in U.S.-China trade talks even after President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed Dec. 1 over local steaks in Argentina to call a truce in what had been a tense tariff war that threatened to slow the global economy.

Protesters disrupt EPA confirmation hearing, held despite shutdown
The group objected to the activating of furloughed staff to help the acting administrator prepare for the hearing

Demonstrators were removed from the confirmation hearing for Andrew Wheeler, President Trump’s pick to lead the EPA. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Two demonstrators were removed Wednesday morning from the confirmation hearing of Andrew Wheeler —President Trump’s pick to lead the EPA.

Protesters in the hallway and hearing room objected to the business in front of the Environment and Public Works Committee, because the EPA remains closed as part of the partial government shutdown. The group of over a dozen protesters included people representing Code Pink and The Moms Clean Air Force, some with strollers and their children in tow.

Disaster aid bill could grow, block diversion of funds to wall
Measure unlikely to go far in Senate

Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., (left), is pushing for a disaster aid package. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., opposes an amendment Democrats are preparing that he describes as an “exercise in futility. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House is scheduled to take up a $12.1 billion disaster aid package Wednesday that would reopen the nine closed Cabinet agencies for three weeks and, if approved during floor debate, prevent President Donald Trump from tapping the bill’s emergency funds for building a border wall.

The underlying bill would direct aid to victims of recent calamities such as hurricanes that hit Florida and the Carolinas, wildfires that ravaged California and typhoons that struck island territories in the Pacific, House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., told the Rules Committee on Tuesday.

Pelosi asks Trump to delay State of The Union until government reopens
The speaker asked the president to delay the address scheduled for Jan. 29 or deliver it in writing

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., holds her weekly on camera press conference in the Capitol on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019.(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to President Donald Trump on Wednesday asking he delay his Jan. 29 State of the Union address, or deliver it in writing, unless the government is reopened.

The California Democrat said a State of the Union address has never been delivered during a government shutdown “since the start of modern budgeting” in fiscal 1977. Pelosi also cited security concerns because the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security are not funded.

Trump to try again to court moderate House Democrats on border wall
Goal for Situation Room meeting is funds for ‘real border security and the wall’

President Donald Trump, flanked by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, speaks earlier this month in the White House’s Rose Garden. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet Wednesday with the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus in the Situation Room as the White House tries to cobble together votes for a shutdown-ending bill that includes funding for his proposed southern border wall.

The Problem Solvers group is composed of just under 50 Republican and Democratic House members. The session will mark the second time in as many days the White House has attempted to court moderate and deal-minded House Democrats.