Lisa Murkowski

As House passes Arctic drilling ban, Interior goes the other way
Trump administration moves to open part of sensitive area to drilling, a win for Alaska Republicans

A pair of moose are seen near the Sheenjek River in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. (Alexis Bonogofsky/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The Interior Department and the House are moving in different directions on Arctic drilling.

Hours after the House voted 225-193 to block oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the agency said it was moving to open a portion of the area to drilling.

House takes aim at Trump’s drilling plan with three bills
Bills would block offshore exploration in parts of the Gulf of Mexico, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the Pacific and Atlantic coasts

A surfer rides a wave at the Huntington Beach pier with an oil rig and Catalina Island in the background in Huntington Beach, CA in 2018 (Photo by Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

Lawmakers from both parties evoked the memory of the 2010 BP oil spill Tuesday to drum up support for a trio of House bills that would hamper offshore drilling and President Donald Trump's energy agenda. 

The House is expected to vote Wednesday and Thursday on three bipartisan bills that would block exploration in parts of the Gulf of Mexico, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.

For spending bills, now comes the hard part
Both chambers need to reach agreement before Sept. 30 to avoid a repeat of the 35-day partial government shutdown

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, Homeland Security Appropriations chairwoman, said that getting her committee’s spending bill enacted will be ‘difficult.’ (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Congressional leaders and the Trump administration proved last week that they can work together by reaching an agreement to avoid default on the nation’s financial obligations and prevent $125 billion in spending cuts that could disrupt the longest U.S. economic expansion on record.

Assuming the House-passed budget pact is cleared by the Senate this week and signed into law, lawmakers still have their work cut out for them.

Dark spirits were at play in Congress this week: Congressional Hits and Misses
Week of July 15, 2019

A thunderstorm passes over the U.S. Capitol building on Thursday, July 11, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

“This has been a difficult and contentious week, in which darker spirits seem to have been at play,” said House Chaplain Patrick J. Conroy during a long and stressful week on the Hill, which saw controversial tweets, members fearing Facebook and a House member straight up ditching his post on the House floor.

Familiar offsets could resurface in spending caps talks
Budget watchdog groups start to dust off older proposals, as well as some new ones

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wants offsets for any increase to discretionary spending caps. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Another year, another spending caps negotiation — accordingly it’s time once again to check the couch cushions for “pay-fors” just innocuous enough to skate by without kicking up too much lobbying dust.

For instance, extending automatic cuts to Medicare and dozens of other “mandatory” spending accounts, which have become so routine they’re almost unnoticed, has been a mainstay of all three deals in the last five years to relieve the pressure on appropriators. Extending fees collected by Customs and Border Protection on passenger and cargo arrivals in the U.S., first enacted in 1985, has been rolled over constantly as a go-to offset for all manner of legislation, including the 2013 and 2018 spending deals.

Debate on e-cigarettes lights up 10 years after FDA tobacco law
Calls grow for agency, Congress to do more after spike in teen use

Florida Rep. Donna E. Shalala says Congress must update the 2009 law that gave the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A decade after Congress gave the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products, there is a growing sense that the law should be revisited to address a product that lawmakers barely knew about in June 2009: electronic cigarettes.

The tension lies in how to balance e-cigarettes’ potential benefits with their clear risks. While e-cigarettes may offer a less harmful alternative for adults who smoke combustible cigarettes, they can appeal to young people who never would have smoked.

Women senators ‘shame the guys to hurry up and vote’
Female lawmakers push their male colleagues to pick up the pace

Her female colleagues said it was Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s idea to shame their male colleagues into getting their business done in the time allotted. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The women of the United States Senate took their colleagues to task Wednesday for taking too long to vote.

In the middle of a vote series that typically would have appeared mundane— with members frequently leaving the floor during one vote and returning during the next, or sitting in the cloakroom on their cell phones — most of the women were seated at desks, calling for regular order in an attempt to speed up what have become increasingly long series.

Why Ken Cuccinelli is persona non grata in the Senate
Trump tapped the Senate Conservatives Fund president in acting capacity for Citizenship and Immigration Services

Ken Cuccinelli has been named the acting head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump’s decision to appoint Ken Cuccinelli to lead the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in only an acting capacity should be no surprise considering that he would appear to have no shot of Senate confirmation.

That is owed to his tenure as president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee with a long track record of working against incumbent Republican senators, challenging them from the party’s right flank.

A Trump administration review of mining bans has green groups worried
Environmental groups say they worry the report could give the White House a rationale for opening federal lands to new mineral extraction

U.S. Department of Commerce building in Washington. A new Commerce Department report has created worry among environmental groups, who say the report could give the Trump administration a rationale for opening federal lands to new mineral extraction. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A Commerce Department report about U.S. reliance on foreign sources of minerals deemed essential for national security has stirred fears among environmental groups that the Trump administration may lift existing bans on new mining claims on public lands, including sites near the Grand Canyon.

Commerce recommended in the report released Tuesday that the Interior and Agriculture Departments complete a “thorough review” of all such bans — also called withdrawals — and develop “appropriate measures to reduce unnecessary impacts that they may have on mineral exploration, development and other activities.”

Thad Cochran: A life in photos
Photos of the late Mississippi senator from the CQ Roll Call archives

Portrait of Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., from 1985. A year earlier, he easily won a high-profile race for re-election over former Democratic Gov. William F. Winter. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran died Thursday at the age of 81. The mannerly former chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee — where he was a dependable provider for his home state — spent more than four decades in Congress.

Cochran retired from the Senate in April 2018 after dealing with health issues. The longtime Republican lawmaker began his congressional career in the House, winning election to Mississippi’s old 4th District in 1972. After three terms, he ran and won a race for Senate in 1978, becoming the first Republican to win statewide office in the Magnolia State since Reconstruction.