Democrats are not on the cusp of winning a Senate seat in Mississippi. But if we learned anything over the last two years, it’s that Republicans find new ways to make special elections more close and exciting than they should be.

First of all, go read Stu Rothenberg’s column on the race and the dynamic. He does a good job of laying out the electoral challenge in front of former Democratic Rep. Mike Espy, even if appointed GOP Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith is not a stellar candidate.

My colleague Leah Askarinam offers a deep dive into the Nov. 27 runoff — from how the special election came about to the dynamics at play in the jungle primary earlier this month to all the latest developments — in the latest issue of Inside Elections

After reading both pieces, you should come to the conclusion that Hyde-Smith is likely to win this race. But because of the strange timing of the election (the Tuesday after Thanksgiving) and a lack of polling data on the race, there is enough uncertainty to change the rating from Solid Republican to Likely Republican.

Also Watch: Senate Republicans Talk Leadership Team and Special Counsel Protections

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

12,000 Read more...

President Donald Trump again broke with U.S. intelligence Tuesday, this time siding with senior Saudi leaders and their denials they ordered the killing of a Washington Post journalist.

It came in a most unusual written statement from the White House, issued as the press corps on duty ahead of Thanksgiving gathered in the Rose Garden for the generally light-hearted turkey pardoning.

“King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi,” Trump said in a White House statement that began with these unusual lines: “America First!” and “The world is a very dangerous place!”

Trump himself often uses those lines.

The consensus has been that Jamal Khashoggi was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and it has been reported the CIA concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is to blame for the murder. Trump, however, is personally leaving it open to speculation.

“Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said in the statement, essentially absolving the Saudi leaders of any blame.

He acknowledged members of Congress want to enact tough penalties on the Saudi government, and said he would listen to ideas, but he did not announce any additional action he will take now.

“That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran,” Trump said.

Trump revealed the Saudi leaders used a phrase he employs in his battle with American media outlets in describing their view of Khashoggi.

“Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an ‘enemy of the state’ and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that — this is an unacceptable and horrible crime,” the President said.

The president also issued caveats for any legislation both chambers might send him to punish the Saudis.

“I understand there are members of Congress who, for political or other reasons, would like to go in a different direction — and they are free to do so,” Trump said. “I will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America.”

That also seems to mean that even if lawmakers were to make a move as part of a broader piece of legislation, he might decide to use authorities as commander-in-chief to basically ignore them perhaps through a signing statement.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee member Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., ripped the president soon after he announced his decision to believe the senior Saudis.

“President Trump’s refusal to accept the CIA’s assessment that MBS not only knew about but ORDERED the assassination of #Khashoggi is a betrayal of the American intelligence community and yet another clear indicator of his disdain for freedom of the press,” she tweeted.

That panel is among those expected to most aggressively investigate Trump and his administration once Democrats take control of the chamber in January.

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

12,000 Read more...
Heard on the Hill

Word on the Hill: What’s Buzzing on Capitol Hill?

By Alex Gangitano
12,000

One of the staunchest opponents of marijuana decriminalization in Congress, Rep. Joe Kennedy III, changed course on Tuesday, endorsing nationwide legalization in a Boston Globe editorial.

“I believe we must implement strong, clear, and fair federal guidelines. To do that requires us to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and legalize it at the federal level,” the Massachusetts congressman wrote, citing its value to public health and racial inequities in how laws on pot are enforced. 

While Kennedy bemoaned the patchwork of state marijuana laws across the U.S., he wrote that “our federal policy on marijuana is badly broken.”

That stance represents a reversal for the 4th District Democrat, who voted against a 2015 provision to claw back the powers of the Department of Justice to pursue medical marijuana businesses in states that have legalized them.

Kennedy said his reluctance on decriminalization stemmed from concerns that marijuana could become addictive for people with a history of substance abuse and adolescents. 

“I’ve seen the devastating effects of drugs that are used and abused. I’ve met family after family torn apart by addiction,” Kennedy wrote. 

But critics have pointed out that Kennedy previously wanted even non-addictive cannabinoids out of reach. In 2015, he opposed a narrow, bipartisan bill to shield children with seizure disorders who use non-psychoactive cannabidiol extracts from the Drug Enforcement Agency, according to Marijuana Moment, an online magazine in favor of legalization. 

Kennedy has also come under fire for his relationship to the pharmaceutical industry. He earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock value from investments in Gilead Sciences Inc., which was the subject of a congressional probe into drug price gouging. He sponsored legislation that may have revised the Centers for Disease Control’s opioid prescribing guidelines, which were opposed by drugmakers.

His cousin, former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, founded an organization aimed at stalling momentum towards decriminalization, and has also been criticized for his ties to the pharmaceutical industry, including the makers of anti-opioid drugs. 

Six in 10 Americans support legalizing marijuana, including a majority of Republicans, according to recent polling.

Watch: New Lame Duck, Same Lame Congress: Congressional Hits and Misses

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

12,000 Read more...

OPINION — When Nancy Pelosi’s supporters talk about her strengths for the job of speaker, “counting votes” is usually right at the top of the list. But counting hardly describes the process that Pelosi has deployed for the last 16 years as the Democratic leader in the House to pass more landmark pieces of legislation than any other sitting member of Congress.

Part kindly godmother (think baby gifts and handwritten notes), part mentor, part shark, part party boss, Pelosi’s uncanny ability to move legislation may be the most important, yet least discussed, aspect of the Democrats’ internal debate about who should lead them into the future.

Is Pelosi polarizing? Of course, but that’s what Republicans have gotten in return for the $100 million of ads they ran to define her. Is she too old? The late Sen. Strom Thurmond wasn’t too old to chair the Senate Armed Services Committee, even when he was 20 years older than Pelosi is today. Is she the breath of fresh air some freshman Democrats are looking for in their leadership? Maybe not, but do they want to feel good or pass bills? If passing bills is the goal, Washington veterans are scratching their heads about why Pelosi isn’t these new Democrats’ first choice for speaker instead of their last.

The votes that Pelosi has pushed through in her career reads like a wish list for liberals even today — the Affordable Care Act (complete with protections for pre-existing conditions); the DREAM Act to give legal status to undocumented immigrants brought here as minors; the Equality Act extending civil rights protections to LGBTQ Americans; and the cap-and-trade bill to reduce greenhouse emissions, which remains the only climate change legislation ever passed by a house of Congress. The blame for the fact that several of those bills never became law rests on the shoulders of many Democrats in Washington, but Pelosi isn’t one of them.

Watch: Pelosi Talks Midterm ‘Wave,’ Says She Has Votes for Speakership

A look under the hood of the Pelosi whip operation reveals a give-take-and-twist that she learned at the knee of her father, Tom D’Alesandro, a congressman and later mayor of Baltimore. As an old-school pol, he kept a detailed “favor file,” to track constituents who asked for, received, and ultimately owed a favor back to the operation. To practice her penmanship as a girl, Pelosi helped keep the list by writing name after name after name on long yellow sheets of paper. The politics of the personal defines Pelosi’s approach today.

“I think she is just willing to use every tool at her disposal to take away reasons you can’t be with her,” one Democratic chief of staff said. Those tools start with carrots, before the votes are ever on the calendar. Calls, notes, checks and fundraisers come during campaigns; face-to-face check-ins follow on the Hill.

Leading up to major votes, Pelosi wants to know what it would take to get members to yes. Before the House debate on the ACA, she convened simultaneous groups of lawmakers in separate conference rooms in the Capitol and shuttled between the two to hammer out their differences. Heading into the vote for the Equality Act, Pelosi’s staff gave her a list of 62 members who had not committed to vote for the bill to see which ones she wanted to call herself. “I’ll take them all,” she said.

“You can almost hear the ‘Jaws’ soundtrack when she’s hunting votes on the floor,” said a person who knows Pelosi’s tactics well. Another said, “It’s click-click-click (meaning the sound of her heels walking in the marble hallways toward them), she’s coming for you.”

When direct appeals haven’t gotten the job done, Pelosi is known to turn to her outside game, activating anyone who knows a member and could change their minds.

In 2010, when Indiana Rep. Joe Donnelly, a Notre Dame graduate, was slow to commit to voting for the ACA, Pelosi reached out to Father Theodore Hesburgh, the former president of Notre Dame, who in turn reached out to Donnelly. “I can’t believe you had Father Hesburgh call me,” Donnelly told her later. But it worked. Donnelly was a yes.

The year before, when Ohio Rep. Zack Space was similarly undecided on the climate bill, Pelosi called Greek-American donors for their help with Space, a descendant of Greek immigrants. Like Donnelly, Space voted yes. So did Virginia Rep. Tom Perriello, after a friend from elementary school called at the behest of the speaker’s office to convince him on the DREAM Act. “Someone I went to second grade with called and was like, ‘Tom, you might not vote for the DREAM Act? I know we haven’t talked in 32 years, but …” Perriello told Ezra Klein in 2010.

Whether it’s carrots, sticks, committee chairmanships or the threat of no committees at all, at the end of the day, “What the speaker wants, the speaker gets,” South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, a key Pelosi lieutenant, once said.

If there’s anything in Pelosi’s legislative strategy that she didn’t seem to see coming when she was speaker the last time around, it was losing the majority in 2011 amid complaints that she passed too much legislation, including bills that Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Barack Obama couldn’t get through the Democratic Senate. But is today’s Democratic Party looking for a leader to soft pedal their agenda? It didn’t seem like it on Election Day.

If Pelosi is elected leader again, her team says she’ll focus on prescription drug prices, infrastructure, and government reform, all items that President Donald Trump has said he wants action on, but has failed to pass.

But it’s starting to look like the hardest vote Pelosi will have to whip at this point is her own race for speaker. Although the vast majority of the caucus is expected to support her, 16 veteran and incoming members released a letter on Monday saying they will oppose her efforts to take back the gavel. Although 16 isn’t remotely enough to win a speaker vote, it’s just enough to defeat one.

Cue the ‘Jaws’ soundtrack. There’s only one member of Congress who has shown she knows how to win a vote like this.

Patricia Murphy covers national politics for The Daily Beast. Previously, she was the Capitol Hill bureau chief for Politics Daily and founder and editor of Citizen Jane Politics. Follow her on Twitter @1PatriciaMurphy.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

12,000 Read more...

U.S. stock markets continued to drop sharply on Tuesday, but the chief economic adviser to President Donald Trump insists the economy is not headed for a recession.

“I don’t even remotely agree with that,” Lawrence Kudlow told reporters when asked if he agrees with some top financial firms that the American economy is primed for a major slowdown after steady growth under President Barack Obama and faster growth under the Trump administration.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average at one point Monday was down 500 points before ending down 396 points. The Dow and other leading U.S. markets continued to decline on Tuesday. The Dow was down nearly 500 points (1.8 percent) just after 10 a.m. Tuesday, with the S&P 500 Index down 38.1 points (1.4 percent).

[Analysis: Buck Stops Here? Not So Much for President Trump]

Kudlow dubbed the downturn a “correction,” describing financial sector warnings of a recession as among the “weirdest” things he has been reading lately.

But the president has had plenty to say about U.S. markets and their growth in value under his watch.

“The stock market is way up again today and we’re setting a record, literally all the time,” Trump tweeted on in January, adding stocks under a President Hillary Clinton “would have gone down 50% from where it was.”

Trump continued to tout the value of American markets most of the year, especially at his campaign rallies into early October.

He frequently told the story of an unnamed man he met at a rally who thanked him for the state of the economy and the growth in his personal retirement account. Trump claimed the unidentified man was appreciative that his wife, who once considered him a “loser” on such matters — now sees him as a “financial genius.”

But the president has been mostly silent in recent weeks as markets turned downward.

A White House spokeswoman signaled the administration would have nothing else to say about the market drop.

[Awkward Moments from Donald Trump's Veterans Day Do-Over]

Brian Levitt of Oppenheimer Funds and Benjamin Mandel of J.P. Morgan agreed in a CNBC interview that what is most likely happening is a move toward “average” U.S. economic growth after months of “excellent” growth.

Trump used the state of the economy as a midterms selling point and aides had signaled he hopes it remains strong to boost his 2020 re-election campaign.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

12,000 Read more...

Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette has dropped out of the race for majority whip, leaving South Carolina Rep. James E. Clyburn running unopposed to retain his No. 3 position in Democratic leadership. 

“Many of my supporters have expressed concern about pressure they are receiving to return the three senior leaders to their posts without opposition,” DeGette said in a statement.  “We have enough work to do without this internal pressure. Therefore, I am withdrawing my bid for Whip at this time.”

DeGette had formally announced her bid for whip Nov. 7, after the midterm elections, but she said she had been talking to colleagues about her interest in the position for the better part of a year.

But her entry into the race still surprised and upset members of the Congressional Black Caucus who were backing Clyburn, especially since he was the only one of the top three longtime Democratic leaders to get a challenger. 

“I just find it interesting and insulting at the same time that he’s the one with opposition,” CBC Chairman Cedric Richmond said last week. 

The Louisiana Democrat said he had been getting calls from Civil Rights leaders who were upset about DeGette’s challenge to Clyburn, the highest ranking black member of Congress. 

Clyburn said he had received such calls as well but noted he did not believe that DeGette was running against him for racial reasons. He had a conversation with her on the floor early last week in which he said they discussed ensuring the race remained civil.

DeGette said when she decided to run she had thought Clyburn would be running for a higher position and so initially did not think she would be challenging him. Once it became clear he was running for whip, she said she stayed in the race because she thought she was qualified for the job and had garnered enough support that she thought she had a shot at winning. 

Richmond pushed back on DeGette’s assertion that she didn’t know Clyburn would run for whip, saying he made that clear to her in a conversation they had on the floor in September.

“I told her specifically … that if the leadership stays the way it is, Clyburn is going to run for whip,” he said. “She said, ‘do  you really think that’s the case.’ I said yes.”

DeGette said in her statement that she looks forward to continuing on as a chief deputy whip, an appointed role. Since the whip gets to pick his deputies, it would ultimately would be up to Clyburn to allow her to remain in that role.

House Democrats are scheduled to hold their leadership elections on Nov. 28.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

12,000 Read more...

A top super PAC aligned with President Donald Trump is infusing the Mississippi Senate special election runoff with nearly $300,000 to help Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.

Hyde-Smith will face former Democratic Rep. Mike Espy, who also served as Agriculture secretary in the Clinton administration, in the Nov. 27 runoff. Neither cleared 50 percent in the Nov. 6 jungle primary, which saw two Republicans and two Democrats run together on the same ballot.

America First Action will run radio, television, and digital ads all across the state touting the president’s endorsement of Hyde-Smith and her record of voting in lockstep with his priorities since her April appointment to replace Sen. Thad Cochran, who retired for health reasons.

The ad features Trump’s remarks from a rally for Hyde-Smith earlier this year. 

“Cindy has voted with me 100 percent of the time,” the president says. “She’s always had my back. ... A vote for Cindy is a vote for me and ‘Make America Great Again.’” 

The spot also highlights Hyde-Smith’s endorsement from the National Rifle Association.

America First Action will also contribute resources for a get-out-the-vote phone call operation from Tuesday through the runoff election.

Trump himself is scheduled to headline two rallies on Nov. 26, the day before the election, in Tupelo and Biloxi.

He will be in Tupelo at 5 p.m. and then in Biloxi three hours later.

The special election winner gets to serve out the final two years of Cochran’s term. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the Mississippi special Senate election Solid Republican.

Hyde-Smith earned national headlines in recent days after the release of video showing her making controversial remarks. In one, she’s heard saying she’d be “on the front row” if invited by a supporter to a public hanging. In another, she indicated support for making it “just a little more difficult” for liberal college students to vote.

Her campaign has called the first remarks “an exaggerated expression of regard” for the supporter and said the latter comments were made in jest.

John T. Bennett contributed to this report.

Watch: Senate Republicans Talk Leadership Team and Special Counsel Protections

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

12,000 Read more...
12,000

Progressives in the House are calling for a vote on a single-payer “Medicare-for-all” bill in the next Congress, but the expected chairmen who will set the agenda for next year say they have other health priorities.

Still, the progressives’ push could earn more attention over the next two years as Democratic candidates begin vying to take on President Donald Trump in 2020. A handful of potential presidential candidates expected to declare interest have already co-sponsored “Medicare-for-all” legislation, an issue that was also a flashpoint in Democratic primaries over the past year.

Most Democrats say the proposal, which polls show enjoys significant public support, hasn’t been fully fleshed out and isn’t ready for floor consideration. The drawbacks, like a major tax increase, the type of changes that would be needed to the Medicare program and the reality that millions of Americans would lose their current coverage plan, could become politically dangerous, they say.

Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, who is set to be chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said last week he supports the concept, but doesn’t expect the votes to be there. Instead, Pallone said he wants to focus on shoring up the 2010 health care law and addressing prescription drug prices, including by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

“Our priority has to be stabilizing the Affordable Care Act, preventing the sabotage that the Trump administration has initiated,” he told reporters.

Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who founded the Medicare-for-All Caucus earlier this year and is chief among those calling for a vote on a single-payer measure, acknowledged those priorities are important and should be addressed, but said it was also the time to turn to a broader overhaul of the health system.

“We should continue to try to shore up health care as we have it, but we really have to be pushing to a complete transformation of our health care system and not just trying to do little fixes here or there because we’re still leaving out too many Americans who are literally cutting their pharmaceuticals into half because they can’t afford it, or getting off of health care because it’s not a choice to pay another $300 a month,” she said.

A bill has little chance of winning support from Senate Republicans and Trump, so some Democratic advisers are wary of highlighting an issue that divides the party and could open up lawmakers to outside attacks.

“Until they do a better job of selling this thing, I don’t want to see this become a litmus issue for 2020,” said Jim Manley, a Democratic operative who worked for then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Moderates are feeling confident after a group of suburban district Democrats swept the party back into the majority for the first time since 2010.

Rep. Ron Kind, a Ways and Means Committee member, said most members who flipped seats in the election did not embrace the single-payer proposal, suggesting that it’s not the best path for Democrats to take if they want to notch up accomplishments.

“I don’t think [it] makes a lot of political sense,” the Wisconsin Democrat said.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a more progressive member of the party who could lead the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee next year, said it would be appropriate to learn more about the policy in the next session, but that plans for a vote were “premature.”

“We’ve not fully explored cost, transition, the effect of on people who have — such as many union workers — strong policies now,” the Texas Democrat said. “There’s so many aspects of it, so I wouldn’t envision that there would be any early vote.”

Manley said that while “Medicare-for-all” is polling well now, he would expect its favorability to drop as the idea is further hashed out. But taking a smaller step toward expanding federally financed insurance plans, such as instituting a public option which several newly-elected members have backed, may not be enough to satisfy those on the far left, he said.

Jayapal pushed back on the concept that the single-payer idea is unpopular in suburban parts of the country, noting recent polling that shows a majority of Americans support “Medicare-for-all.” She mentioned newly-elected Democrats from Orange County, California, like Katie Porter, Josh Harder and Harley Rouda, all of whom were backed by Jayapal’s recently-formed Medicare-for-all PAC.

“We have to change our notion of what wins in swing districts,” she said.

Progressive advocacy groups will be pressuring Democrats. Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder Adam Green said lawmakers should vote on a “Medicare-for-all” bill next year even if it would fail. The House could also hold votes on a public option plan or changes to the health law, he said.

“The advice we’ve given to House leadership is to beware of a lowest common denominator agenda,” he said, adding, “Let’s pass things that will pass the House but are almost certain to die in the Senate so there’s a bright north star the sky for 2020 voters signaling what Democrats would do if given more power.”

Democrats are certain to talk about expanding coverage in some way over the next two years as the 2020 primary elections near. While some likely candidates back a government-run single-payer plan, others support smaller steps, like creating a public option or allowing adults between the ages of 55 and 65 to buy into Medicare.

David Kendall, senior fellow for health and fiscal policy at Third Way, a center-left think tank in Washington, said Democrats could face a challenge if a single-payer plan is seen as the “dominant position” for the party.

But if the debate is about “competing ideas about how to get to universal coverage and cost control, then I think it’ll be okay,” he said.

In the Senate, Democrats have offered at least six bills ranging from a Medicare buy-in proposal from Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan to a “Medicare-for-all” single-payer plan from independent Sen. Bernie Sanders. Several senators seen as likely presidential candidates have either offered their own plan or signed on to one or more proposals.

Take Sen. Cory Booker, who is expected to enter the primary fray. He has co-sponsored six bills that would expand on the health law. Sen. Kamala Harris has signed on to five, while Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand co-sponsored four of the measures.

Trump and other Republicans have already begun attacking “Medicare-for-all,” warning of tax hikes and seniors losing their current Medicare coverage. If Democrats further push the proposal, it’s likely that health industry groups and other groups will strongly resist it, too.

The primary stretch could give Democratic candidates a chance to truly define what a “Medicare-for-all” policy means, a process that Congress could mirror.

“The whole fact that we’re speculating on what it means means it ain’t ripe for legislative action yet,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia.

New Lame Duck, Same Lame Congress: Congressional Hits and Misses

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

12,000 Read more...
12,000
12,000

Forty years ago Sunday, a young Jackie Speier was shot and left for dead on an airstrip in Guyana, after helping her boss — Rep. Leo Ryan — rescue 25 cult members from a deadly cult commune known as Jonestown. Ryan was shot and killed that day, shortly before more than 900 members of the commune died of a mass suicide and murder.

Speier, who has been a member of Congress from California since 2008, joined Roll Call to listen to recently uncovered audio of an interview her former boss conducted with a cult escapee, just months before Ryan was killed in the so-called Jonestown massacre.

12,000 Read more...
12,000
12,000
12,000
Politics

Chuck Grassley Opts for Finance Chairmanship

By Roll Call Staff
12,000
12,000

Vice President Mike Pence is getting bipartisan backing for pressing Aung San Suu Kyi over the imprisonment of two Reuters journalists in Myanmar.

Pence met with the state counsellor of the country, also known as Burma, in connection with his trip to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, which has taken him countries across Asia, as well as Australia.

“As co-chairs of the Senate Human Rights Caucus, we have repeatedly condemned the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s Rakhine State and called on the Government of Burma to release Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo,” said Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Chris Coons, D-Del. “We applaud Vice President Pence for affirming the United States’ commitment to a free and independent press and delivering a strong criticism of the treatment of the Rohingya during his meeting with Burmese State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi at the ASEAN Summit on Wednesday.”

The senators continued: “The Government of Burma should take immediate steps to improve conditions for the Rohingya and other ethnic and religious minorities in Burma, including providing a pathway to citizenship for the Rohingya.”

Tillis and Coons expressed a commitment to assist displaced Rohingya refugees now in Bangladesh. The development of democracy in Myanmar has been among the most-watched developments in foreign policy in the Senate.

That’s largely because of the long time interest in the country coming from current Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Senior administration officials told reporters traveling with Pence that the vice president specifically asked Suu Kyi to pardon the Reuters journalists, apparently going even beyond what he had said to Suu Kyi in public.

At the top of the Wednesday meeting with Suu Kyi, Pence said, “Let me also say that, in America, we believe in our democratic institutions and ideals, including a free and independent press. And the arrest and jailing of two journalists last fall was deeply troubling to millions of Americans, and I look forward to speaking with you about the premium that we place on a free and independent press.”

“Let me urge all our nations to do more to address the plight of the Rohingya. More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled their homeland because of the slaughter and persecution by Myanmar’s security forces and vigilantes. This is a humanitarian crisis, but we must also beware the potential radicalization of refugees,” Pence also said this week at an East Asia Summit Plenary Session in Singapore.

Watch Also: Ai Weiwei Discusses Refugee Crisis

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

12,000 Read more...

Democrats’ draft proposals for overhauling the House rules would return at least some so-called regular order processes to the lower chamber by ensuring major bills go through committee before hitting the floor. 

The requirement that all bills being brought to the floor under a rule must have gone through a committee hearing and markup is just one of several notable changes Democrats are floating to House rules now that they’ll be in the majority. 

Incoming Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern presented the draft proposals, a list of which was obtained by Roll Call, to the Democratic Caucus Thursday afternoon.

Some of the notable proposals include:

 

One proposal not included on the list is a restoration of earmarks.

Since the 2010 earmark ban Republicans implemented was included only in their intraparty rules, Democrats technically do not need to use the rules package to restore them. They can just start using them again. 

However, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who’s expected to be majority leader next Congress, has suggested that language be added to the rules package outlining the parameters under which earmarks could be used and providing guidelines for ensuring they are transparent. 

Watch: Pelosi Talks Midterm ‘Wave,’ Says She Has Votes for Speakership

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

12,000 Read more...

Rep. Ruben Kihuen harassed women who worked with him and violated the House’s official code of conduct, according to a House Ethics Committee report released Thursday. 

“Kihuen made persistent and unwanted advances towards women who were required to interact with him as part of their professional responsibilities,” the report says. The advances included kissing, grabbing and comments about underwear.

The release comes after a nine-month inquiry by an investigative subcommittee empaneled in Dec. 2017. 

The Nevada Democrat refused to resign following allegations of harassment by women who worked for and with him, even after top Democrats called on him to step down. But Kihuen decided not to seek re-election, making the announcement a day after the Ethics Committee launched its investigation.

At the time, he disputed the allegations against him, but said they “would be a distraction from a fair and thorough discussion of the issues in a re-election campaign.” 

Three women testified before the investigative subcommittee that Kihuen made unwanted physical and verbal advances toward them between 2013 and 2017. The report details Kihuen’s actions toward a D.C. “firm employee,” a campaign staffer and a Nevada lobbyist.

The committee found that while serving as a member of the House, Kihuen repeatedly kissed the firm employee’s cheek, touched her shoulders and back and commented on her physique. He also inquired about her relationship status and asked if she lived alone. Kihuen insinuated that he would help the D.C. firm employee with her career in exchange for a romantic relationship, according to the Ethics report.

The campaign staffer testified that Kihuen made unwanted advances toward her by touching her thigh while they were driving back from a meeting and by grabbing the back of her thigh as she stood up to check her computer. She told the committee that Kihuen would tell her “you look really good,” and “I would take you out if you didn’t work for me,” by suggesting that the two of them should get a room as they arrived at a hotel for a meeting, and by asking her if she ever cheated on her boyfriend.

The female lobbyist, who worked with Kihuen in Nevada between 2013 and 2015, testified that he slid his hand under her dress and onto her thigh, grabbed her buttocks, asked her to sit on his lap, inquired what color her panties were and suggested that she would look good naked. The report also says the lobbyist testified that he sent messages suggesting — through emojis — that they make a sex tape together.

Screen Shot 2018-11-16 at 3.17.37 PM

The subcommittee’s full report includes over 100 pages of text messages, chats and emails between Kihuen and the women, along with the women discussing Kihuen’s behavior with other people.

While the investigative subcommittee chose not to “address whether any of Representative Kihuen’s behavior prior to being sworn in as a Member of the House” fell within the panel’s jurisdiction, the full House Ethics Committee asserted in the report that it has jurisdiction over “misconduct relating to a successful campaign for election to the House.”

The full Ethics panel decided that Kihuen’s behavior toward the campaign staffer, coupled with his actions when he was serving in the House, warrants “reproval.”

Reproval by the Ethics Committee is “intended to be a clear public statement of rebuke of a Member’s conduct issued by a body of that Member’s peers acting … on behalf of the House of Representatives.”

House Rule XXIII, clauses 1 and 2, states that “a Member … of the House shall behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House” and “shall adhere to the spirit and the letter of the Rules of the House.”

Roll Call Reporters Discuss Covering Sexual Harassment on the Hill in the #MeToo Era

 

12,000 Read more...

The midterms have come and gone and it’s back to the Hill for members new and old. The lame duck sessions in the House and Senate gaveled in Tuesday while new member orientation kicked off its first week.

The chambers, along with orientation, recess next week for the Thanksgiving holiday and will start up sessions again the week of Nov. 26.

Here's the entire week in photos:

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

12,000 Read more...

The House Ethics Committee found Rep. Mark Meadows failed to take “prompt and decisive action” to handle alleged sexual harassment in his congressional office, according to a Friday report.

The committee also found Meadows violated House rules by failing to take action to ensure his office was not engaging in discrimination.

The House Ethics Committee is requiring Meadows to reimburse the U.S. Treasury for the amount paid to a Meadows staffer who was removed from his role due to allegations of harassment, $40,625.02.

A group of employees in Meadows’ Washington office reported in October 2014 to the deputy chief of staff at the time that Kenny West had acted inappropriately toward them. Meadows continued to pay West his full-time salary after he was moved to a part-time advisory role. The Code of Official Conduct for House members says that members may not “retain an employee who does not perform duties for the employing office commensurate with the compensation the employee receives.”

The Ethics Committee found that when West was demoted to senior adviser, his pay remained the same. The report says that the committee found “little evidence of official work that he completed during that time.”

“To cut off all contact between Mr. West and most of his female employees, caused another potential problem. An environment where only male staff have access to the Chief of Staff risks unequal treatment of employees based solely on sex,” the report said.

The committee found that Meadows did not know about West’s behavior until several of his female staff made complaints to him in Oct. 2014. Meadows arranged for an independent investigation through the Office of House Employment Counsel, or the Office of Compliance.

“After that independent review was complete, he ignored its findings and the recommendation by the independent investigator to terminate Mr. West’s employment,” according to the Ethics Committee report.

“While Representative Meadows took some important immediate steps – restricting Mr. West from the congressional offices and prohibiting him from contacting most of the female employees – those steps were essentially all he did to prevent and correct the alleged sexual harassment for nearly six months,” says the report.

Meadows was approached by GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy, who told him that the measures he took to separate West from the female staff were not working. The speaker’s office got involved in the spring of 2015, which prompted Meadows to remove West from his supervisory role.

“There is no place in any congressional office for looking up skirts, or down shirts; staring at a woman’s chest; unwanted touching; or making sexual comments, even if subtle or in jest. The fact that Mr. West supervised the women he did these things to makes his behavior even more unacceptable,” says the report.

“Making sure my team feels safe and secure in our office is the highest priority for me and I’m truly sorry for any stress this situation caused them. I thank the Ethics Committee for their work in resolving this, and my office will remain committed to serving western North Carolinians every day to the best of our ability,” said Meadows in a statement Friday afternoon.

Meadows intends to pay back the severance as the committee requested, according to an aide.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

12,000 Read more...
12,000