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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.”

In scrutinizing IG report on FBI, senators differ on what’s important
GOP focus on mistakes obtaining Carter Page warrant; Democrats highlight no FBI bias

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz testifies Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and his review of the FBI’s investigation into Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Horowitz also testified that neither Attorney General William Barr nor U.S. Attorney John Durham who is pursuing a criminal investigation of the origins of the FBI probe offered any new information that would alter the conclusions of the inspector general’s findings.

Both Barr and Durham have said they disagreed with the inspector general’s report, but Horowitz told Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, that the only disagreement he and Durham had was on the question of whether the FBI should have launched a preliminary investigation or a full probe. 

Passion play: Trump drags FBI ‘lovers’ Strzok and Page into 2020 race
Lindsey Graham joins president in making former feds ‘central figures’

Lisa Page, former legal counsel to former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, arrives on Capitol Hill on July 16, 2018, to testify before House members. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

This time, Donald Trump was less animated while dramatizing the pillow talk. But the president still went there Tuesday night, eager to turn two former FBI employees into characters in the 2020 campaign narrative he’s building. And some of his congressional GOP allies are happy to help.

“I love you so much, Lisa. Please, Lisa! Lisa, I’ve never loved anyone like you. We won’t allow this to happen to our Lisa,” Trump told an arena full of supporters in Hershey, Pennsylvania. “Please tell me you love me, Lisa! I love you, Peter. I love you! I love you like I’ve never loved anyone!”

National Democratic groups litigate 2020 in the courts
Party committees are trying to expand the electorate by challenging state voting laws

DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos says some GOP state legislators were trying to “keep African Americans away from the ballot box.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

More than in previous election cycles, national Democratic groups are making litigation over election and voting laws a key part of their 2020 strategy. 

A handful of Democratic groups are currently litigating about a dozen cases over what they see as unfair election laws and maps across the country. 

Florida lawmakers seek assurance offshore drilling plan is dead
Scott and Rubio try to leverage Trump's nominee as deputy Interior secretary to extract a no-drilling commitment from administration

Scott and others in the Florida delegation are seeking assurances that the Trump Administration won’t revive a proposal to allow oil and gas drilling off their state’s coasts. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Rick Scott plans to meet this week with Katharine MacGregor, who is nominated to become Interior deputy secretary, as his fellow Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has a hold on her nomination, all to seek assurances that the Trump administration won’t move to allow oil and gas drilling off their state’s coasts.

Although the Interior Department said it was suspending its offshore drilling plan after widespread outcry, including from a bipartisan coalition of Florida lawmakers, Scott and Rubio’s actions show the delegation is not leaving anything to chance.

DOJ watchdog finds problems, not politics in Trump campaign probe
Report does not back president’s most sweeping criticisms of FBI investigation

Michael Horowitz, inspector general of the Justice Department, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee in July 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The FBI had enough evidence to launch a criminal probe into members of President Donald Trump’s campaign during the 2016 election, and political bias did not motivate that decision, a Justice Department watchdog concluded.

But DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz also identified “significant concerns” with how the FBI handled aspects of the investigation, particularly how it handled applications to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page to a secret court that oversees such requests.

Road ahead: Impeachment articles and spending bills top the agenda
Senators will continue voting on confirming nominations, including for the Ninth Circuit

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has asked the Judiciary Committee to move ahead with drafting articles of impeachment. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House is barreling toward a vote on articles of impeachment, possibly before the holiday recess.

House Judiciary Democrats stayed in Washington over the weekend for impeachment strategy sessions, and a Monday hearing will set the scene for the scope of articles of impeachment.

Foreign aid rider tangles up final spending talks
The White House is concerned the rider could cut out faith-based aid groups from USAID contracts

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., listens during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday. Shaheen says her amendment, creating concerns for the White House in year-end spending talks, has nothing to do with funding abortions. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Urged on by anti-abortion activists and religious groups, the White House is raising concerns in year-end spending talks about language secured by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., in the Senate’s State-Foreign Operations bill they fear could cut out faith-based aid groups from U.S. Agency for International Development contracts.

Shaheen argues the provision in the bill would simply require USAID contractors to adhere to current law, which stipulates they can’t deny services to individuals based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, marital status, political affiliation or other factors.

Train safety technology hasn't quite reached the station
Fatalities add up as cost and complexity delay full implementation of 'positive train control' system

Rescue crews and investigators inspect the site of a May 2015 Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia . (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

After years of delays, a railroad safety system that federal regulators say could have prevented some 300 deaths since 1969 is finally close to full implementation — but large gaps remain, with commuter railroads using the system on fewer than half of the tracks required by December 2020.

Overall, the news for supporters of the so-called positive train control system is promising — 92 percent of the 58,000 track miles required to implement the safety system have it installed, according the Federal Railroad Administration, which is overseeing compliance with the law. 

Strange bedfellows as local battles over Airbnb attract Capitol Hill attention
Members of Progressive and Freedom caucuses allied on side of hotel industry

Hawaii Democratic Rep. Ed Case, who returned to Congress after working in the hotel industry, has attracted co-sponsors from both ends of the political spectrum for his bill that would ensure local regulations apply to short-term rental sites like Airbnb. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

 

It was the most expensive local referendum in New Jersey history. Airbnb raised more than $4 million this fall to fight one city’s regulations on short-term rentals. But in a high-profile blow as the company prepares to go public next year, the short-term lodging service lost overwhelmingly, defeated by a coalition of groups that spent one-fourth of the money.