American Indians

2020 census begins! Decennial headcount starts in Alaska
Effort starts in remote villages before residents disperse for seasonal work in spring

U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham addresses state and Alaska Native leaders in Anchorage days before Tuesday’s first count of the 2020 census. (Mark Thiessen/AP)

By snowmobile and small plane, the 2020 census starts Tuesday in Alaska, facing the same language barriers and government trust issues that will make the count difficult on the U.S. mainland on top of actual physical obstacles like the rugged terrain where most of the state lies off the road system.

The geography of Toksook Bay, a fishing village on Alaska’s western coast that’s hosting the first count, shows the difficulty of counting the state’s residents. Many of the state’s villages, including Toksook Bay, can only be accessed by boat, plane or snowmobile. The effort starts in Alaska midwinter to count residents there before they disperse for seasonal work in the spring. 

The top 10 Roll Call stories from 2019
Readers favored stories about Mueller, impeachment, AOC ... and weaponized ticks?

It was a busy news year in “the swamp,” including when a protester from Clean Water Action was seen wearing a Swamp Thing costume during the March confirmation hearing for David Bernhardt, nominee to be secretary of the Interior. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Some may argue that calling 2019 a busy year on Capitol Hill would be an understatement.

The 116th Congress was sworn in amid the longest government shutdown in history, featured hearings on a bombshell report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, and ended with votes to impeach President Donald Trump and pass a spending package to keep the government running through next September.

Californians without health insurance will pay a penalty — or not
The Golden State will join four states and Washington, D.C., in requiring their residents to have health coverage and penalizing those without it.

(DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images)

By Bernard J. Wolfson, Kaiser Health News

Californians, be warned: A new state law could make you liable for a hefty tax penalty if you do not have health insurance next year and beyond.

Congress to Pentagon: Find and fix racially offensive forms
Defense Department had expressed reluctance to review thousands of documents

The U.S. Army Reserve commemorated its 100th anniversary by conducting a mass reenlistment of 100 soldiers on the West Front of the Capitol. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

The defense authorization bill that President Donald Trump is expected to sign into law soon would require the Defense Department to report to Congress on efforts to rid official military documents of “racially or ethnically insensitive” terms.

CQ Roll Call reported earlier this year on several previously undisclosed examples of outdated and offensive language on official Defense Department forms — and the pain these terms have caused military personnel and their families.

Researchers warn census privacy efforts may muddy federal data
Latest test creates ‘absurd outcomes’: households with 90 people and graveyards populated with the living

Protesters hold signs at a rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court after justices blocked the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Steps taken by the Census Bureau to protect individual responses may muddy cancer research, housing policy, transportation planning, legislative map-drawing and health care policy, researchers have warned the agency.

The problems come from a new policy — differential privacy — that adds “noise” to census data to help prevent outside attackers from identifying individuals among public data. However, the agency’s latest test of the policy created what researchers called absurd outcomes: households with 90 people and graveyards populated with the living. Such results could skew a count used to redistribute political power and $1.5 trillion in federal spending nationwide.

What’s the shocking secret sauce to progress on the Hill? Impeachment
Cameras focused on Ukraine allowed work to get done on trade, spending and defense

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., after a meeting to announce a spending deal on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION — If your only source of information about Capitol Hill last week was cable news, I forgive you for believing that all non-impeachment work in Congress had screeched to a halt, that Republicans and Democrats were at each other’s throats, and that Congress itself had reached an ugly new low.

But if you had looked away from your screen and walked the halls of the House and Senate instead, you would have seen the rest of the story playing out away from television cameras and media scrums — member meetings, committee hearings and real, bipartisan agreements on long-stalled issues being struck at the very moment that impeachment seemed to be swallowing Washington whole.

Democratic Tri-Caucus to track diversity of witnesses in House hearings
Initiative would have committees send witnesses diversity surveys

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, is one of the leaders of the Tri-Caucus, along with Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., and Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Callfile photo)

The chairs of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus announced Thursday that starting in January 2020 they will track the diversity of witnesses testifying in House committee hearings. 

Collectively known as the Tri-Caucus, the groups want to ensure diversity of witnesses that help inform policies and legislation to ensure the laws Congress passes are “inclusive and work for Americans of all backgrounds.”

Study shows growing ocean damage as protection bills languish
Finds most ocean acidification, which harms marine life and coastal economies, has been triggered by 88 companies, including Exxon Mobil

A slide shows growing acidification of the world’s oceans during a presentation of data at a climate conference in Spain earlier this month.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

As lawmakers push legislation to protect the nation’s coastal waters, scientists are placing much of the blame for degrading ocean conditions on emissions from large energy companies including Exxon Mobil Corp., which was cleared Tuesday in a long-running climate court case.

A study published Wednesday in the scientific journal Environmental Research Letters found that carbon emissions from the largest energy and cement companies are responsible for more than half of a damaging side effect: increasing acidity in the planet’s oceans, which harms marine life and coastal economies.

Democratic lawmakers slowly take sides in 2020 primary
30 percent of congressional Democrats have endorsed, with most backing Joe Biden

From left, Massachusetts Reps. Lori Trahan, Ayanna S. Pressley, and Katherine M. Clark have all endorsed their home-state senior senator, Elizabeth Warren. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

More than two-thirds of Democratic lawmakers have yet to take sides in the presidential primary, a sign that the race remains in flux. But the campaigns that have nabbed congressional endorsements so far could benefit from shows of support, particularly from high-profile freshmen.  

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s decision to back Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna S. Pressley’s endorsement of her home-state senator, Elizabeth Warren, grabbed national headlines. But support from lawmakers with lower profiles can still help presidential campaigns generate local media attention, demonstrate support from key constituencies and provide a team of surrogates who can be deployed across the country. 

Blame game in standoff over Violence Against Women Act
Ernst says Democrats motivated by her 2020 race; Schumer calls her ‘afraid of NRA’

Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst said talks with Democrats over renewing the Violence Against Women Act broke down because Democratic leaders did not want senators who are up for reelection next year like her to get legislation passed. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst said Tuesday that Democrats trying to undermine her 2020 reelection contributed to stalled talks to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

Ernst had been working with Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California for months on a bipartisan reauthorization bill before both sides said the negotiations fell apart earlier this month.