Joe Williams

Appropriators’ Right-Hand Man Sounds Off on the Current Senate
Staff director is deeply steeped in Senate culture, history

Bruce Evans may be one of the last remaining staffers of a Senate that is slowly fading into the rearview mirror of history.

His list of influencers reads like a checklist of the chamber’s all-time most prominent Republican members. Evans learned tenacity from the late Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, tried to keep up with the intellect of former Sen. Slade Gorton of Washington, and was taught how to connect to constituents by former Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana.

Tax Day Fight Previews Larger Political Battle Over New Law
Midterm messaging is likely to contain a heaping dose of tax rhetoric

As citizens across the country rush to submit their 2017 tax returns before the deadline, Republicans and Democrats in Congress on Tuesday amped up the messaging battle over last year’s tax law.

The dueling talking points presented by each party are a preview of the months to come as the midterm elections approach.

McConnell to Discuss Clawing Back Spending With White House
 

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he would discuss a plan with the White House to withhold some funding included in the fiscal year 2018 spending bill, but noted the difficulties in advancing such a measure....
Cindy Hyde-Smith Sworn In as Mississippi’s Newest Senator
Replacement for Thad Cochran is first woman to represent state in Congress

Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith was sworn in to the U.S. Senate on Monday, becoming the first woman to represent Mississippi in Congress.

She took her oath of office as a member of the Senate at 3:04 p.m., with Vice President Mike Pence on hand to swear her in. 

Meet the Staffer on the Front Lines of a Brewing Trade War
Shane Warren has the sometimes difficult task of interpreting the White House trade agenda

When President Donald Trump fires up his Twitter account to talk trade, it is Shane Warren who is left to explain his posts to the Senate Republican Conference.

As the GOP’s chief international trade counsel on the Senate Finance Committee, Warren is helping to shape the chamber’s trade agenda at a time when Republicans control both Congress and the White House. But like many current jobs in Washington, working in a position subject to Trump’s whims presents its own set of challenges.

Survivor: Inside the Beltway
Senate’s bare-bones agenda paves way for Trump’s nominees with outcome uncertain

It’s the best of times and the worst of times for President Donald Trump’s nominees to top federal positions.

The confirmation process for a new secretary of Veterans Affairs, secretary of State and CIA director will help fill an otherwise bare-bones legislative calendar for the remainder of the year.

All 22 Female Senators Demand Leadership Acts on Sexual Harassment Legislation
They want legislation passed in the House to come to the floor in the Senate

Women in the Senate are ramping up the pressure on chamber leadership to pass legislation to address the issue of sexual harassment and discrimination in congressional offices. 

All 22 female Republican and Democratic senators sent a letter Wednesday urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer to bring House-passed legislation on the issue to the floor for a vote. 

McCain Presses Trump’s CIA Pick on Her Involvement With Torture Program
Says techniques ‘produced false and misleading information’

Sen. John McCainon Friday pressed Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, for information on her involvement with the agency’s “enhanced interroga...
Analysis: Omnibus Bill Signals Policy Areas Congress Will Punt On
Immigration, health insurance and shielding the special counsel among items left out

Congress appears ready to delay action indefinitely on a number of pressing policy issues.

The 2018 omnibus spending bill could be the last major legislative package to advance this year, a reality that spurred members in both chambers to lobby leadership to attach their pet project legislation to it.

To the Moon and Beyond! — Mission to Mars Funding in Omnibus
Goal is to put an astronaut on the red planet during Trump’s time in the White House

President Donald Trump is hoping to land a U.S. astronaut on Mars during his tenure in the White House, and Congress is prepared to continue to back up that mission.

The fiscal 2018 spending bill would provide $1.35 billion in funding for the Orion Spacecraft at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The program, which received the same level of funding for fiscal 2017, is aimed at building a vehicle for deep-space travel, including the moon and Mars.

Bipartisan Health Care Compromise Falls Apart, Obamacare Battle Continues

The politics of health care reared its ugly head yet again.

A grand, bipartisan bargain to stabilize the U.S. individual insurance market fell apart this week. And members on both sides of the aisle turned to what they know best: blaming the other party.

Spending Bill Unlikely to Include DACA Fix
White House, Democrats talking past one another

Prospects are dim that a short-term patch that would extend a program protecting about 690,000 “Dreamers” from deportation will be included in the upcoming fiscal 2018 spending bill.

Conversations remain ongoing between Congress and the White House on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, with some aides insisting a last-minute deal is a possibility. President Donald Trump wants to end the Obama administration program, but federal judges have blocked him and Dreamers brought to the United States illegally as children are in limbo.

Hatch Blasts White House Trade Policy, Seeks Action On Trade Imbalances
Finance chairman takes aim at China over steel and aluminum production, intellectual property

Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch on Tuesday issued a blistering critique of the Trump administration’s trade policy and called on the White House to take action to remedy imbalances with trade partners like China and the European Union. 

The Utah Republican, speaking at a Business Roundtable event with the Farmers for Free Trade, highlighted the threat posed to the U.S. economy by “external opponents and internal skeptics.” 

Democrats Notching Key Legislative Victories Ahead of Elections
Members hope achievements can drive support among voters in rural states

Moderate Senate Democrats on the ballot in 2018 are racking up a number of key legislative victories in advance of what is expected to be a bitter midterm election cycle.

The successes, on bills ranging from veterans’ issues to bank regulation and tax credits for so-called clean coal technology, are the kind that can drive support among voters in the rural states that many of these members call home.

Perceived Ban on Federal Research for Gun Violence to Remain
Pending omnibus will not reverse the “Dickey Amendment”

The pending fiscal year 2018 spending bill will not address a perceived ban on the federal government conducting research into gun violence, according to congressional aides.

Whether any other gun control measures are added to the spending bill, expected to be released Monday evening, remains an open question. Aides said no final decision has been made yet whether to include Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn’s legislation related to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Members Caught Off Guard on News of DACA Fix On Omnibus

The White House has held some discussions with Congress about addressing immigration in the pending fiscal year 2018 spending bill, according to GOP senators and aides, but members are skeptical that such a provision will be included in the omnibus package.

Lawmakers in both parties have sought a solution to the situation surrounding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — which covers undocumented immigrants who come to the country as children. President Donald Trump targeted it for expiration on March 5, which has been halted by court actions. The chamber voted on a series of different DACA proposals in February, but none garnered the necessary 60 votes to advance.

Despite Rancor On Tariffs, Senate GOP Rejects Legislative Response
What started off as a war cry has been reduced to a whimper

Senate Republicans, after decrying President Donald Trump’s recently announced tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, have no plans to pursue legislation to block them from going into effect.

“The thought that the president would undo action he’s taken strikes me as remote at best and I’d like to use floor time in the Senate for things that actually have a chance to become law,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday. “I think it’s highly unlikely we’ll be dealing with that in a legislative way.”

Flake Files Bill to Stop the Trump Tariffs
Prospects uncertain despite GOP concerns about steel, aluminum policy

Sen. Jeff Flake on Monday introduced legislation that would nullify the tariffs President Donald Trump imposed last week on steel and aluminum imports.

Mexico and Canada, who along with the U.S. are in the midst of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, are initially exempt from the new tariffs, a carveout Flake said would lead to uncertainty among other countries.

Sergeant-At-Arms Prepares for New Role as Advocate for Veterans
Frank Larkin set to work with wounded warriors after he leaves current role

Members of Congress love to talk about how important it is to care for military veterans. But in the view of Frank Larkin, there has been a lot of talk but little action. And he wants to change that.

Larkin, who has been Senate sergeant-at-arms for the past three years, will depart his post at the end of March. His decision to leave stems from the death of his son, an emotionally taxing experience for him and his family and one that gave Larkin a new mission in life.