A Gun Rights Vote Only the GOP Base Can Appreciate
Expansion of concealed carry permission will die in the Senate, but the NRA really wanted the vote

One government shutdown may be narrowly averted, but another looms right around the corner. The stain of sexual misconduct at the Capitol continues to spread, and an alleged child predator is days away from possibly joining the Senate. Middle East destabilization seems assured as Congress gets its wish to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Public support dwindles daily for a loophole-encrusted, deficit-busting tax package that would be the year’s biggest legislative achievement. The push for presidential impeachment has gone far enough to necessitate procedural pushback in the House.

A week such as this one — already chockablock with headlines touching the Hill — seemed to the Republicans who run the place like an ideal time for making a bold hiding-in-plain-sight move.

Podcast: A Mystery PAC and the Rest of the Strange Alabama Senate Finale
The Big Story, Episode 82

A week before Alabama's special election, Roll Call election analyst Nathan Gonzales describes how he unearthed an obscure political action committee supporting Roy Moore — just one more twist in a campaign where his alleged preying on teenage girls is the main issue, and has created a deep rift among his fellow Republicans.

 

GOP Gets Ready to Own a One-Sided Shutdown Argument
Past showdowns happened in divided governments, and still Republicans got blamed. So what’s different now?

Among the story lines that have made the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency genuinely unique, few can top this one for its potential consequences for responsible governance as well as good politics: A government controlled exclusively by one party may shut itself down.

Four times in the past three decades, budgetary impasses have required non-essential personnel to stay home and the activities at their agencies to be suspended. In each case, at least one chamber of Congress was controlled by a political party different from the president’s, the stalemates reflecting intractable partisan disagreements over policies and spending priorities.

Conyers Scandal Creates Opening for House Democrats
Leaving Judiciary post after 23 years means new liberal messenger in age of Trump

The forced amble toward the exits by Rep. John Conyers Jr. is accelerating one of the most consequential power vacuums in Congress in the eyes of the Democratic base.

The moment is as much about the party positioning itself for the future as it is about managing sexual harassment problems in the present.

An Old Saw’s New Twist: Death (of the Deficit Hawks) and Taxes
A few Republicans clinging to old party orthodoxy could doom Trump’s big win

This apparent contradiction confronts Congress as it returns for a grueling month of legislating: The Republicans who run the Capitol, so many of whom came to Washington as avatars of fiscal responsibility, are going to spend the rest of the year working to make a worsening federal balance sheet look even worse.

December holds the potential for a productivity breakthrough, but it also threatens to end in embarrassing deadlock — which is why the clear consensus within the upper reaches of the congressional GOP is that it’s the right time to get comfortable with any feelings of hypocritical guilt.

Podcast: Sexual Harassment in Congress — More to Come
The Big Story, Episode 80

Show Notes:

Four Senate Stories That Might Shape Moore’s Fate
Past election and ethics controversies offer precedent for GOP

Torricelli, Murkowski, Burris & Ensign: That’s not the newest lobbying law firm on K Street, but rather a roster of senators whose extraordinary political careers point toward the four tough paths for Republicans intent on keeping Roy Moore out of the Senate.

The lateness of the electoral hour, combined with Alabama’s deeply red nature and solid support from the state’s GOP base, continue to afford the 70-year-old, twice-removed chief justice of the state Supreme Court big advantages if he persists in his campaign — notwithstanding allegations that while he was a prosecutor in his 30s he sexually assaulted two teenage girls and pursued romantic relationships with others.

Podcast: What Tuesday's Elections Signal for the 2018 Congressional Map
The Big Story, Episode 79

While the Democratic surge in the off-year voting gives the party reason to smile, the midterm election is a long way off. Roll Call reporters Simone Pathé and Bridget Bowman detail what the results in Virginia, New Jersey and elsewhere mean for the Democrats' quest to take back the House. 

 

Kevin Brady: A Low-Profile Tax Writer for the Highest-Stress Time
Texan may be the most obscure Ways and Means chairman in such a pivotal role

Millions of taxpayers, not to mention seemingly all of K Street’s lobbyists, are focused this week on the work of a man precious few outside the Beltway have ever heard of — but who’s among the most powerful people at the Capitol at the moment.

Perhaps expecting Kevin Brady to be a household name is asking too much of the typical American household, where two out of three people can’t name their own member of Congress.

Trump’s Stamp on Judiciary Starting: It Could Be Much Faster
With no filibuster and a GOP Senate, he’s got a big opening to reshape appeals courts

While White House officials are subsumed by the fresh intensity of the special counsel investigation, and House Republicans are preoccupied with propping up the tax overhaul, their GOP colleagues in the Senate are focusing on something not nearly as provocative as either of those things — but perhaps almost as consequential over the long haul.

This week, they’re pushing to double, from four to eight, the number of reliable conservatives that President Donald Trump has installed on the federal appeals courts during the opening year of his administration.

Ahead, the First Pure Party-Line Modern Tax Cut?
Bipartisanship has heralded tax bills for decades, but the Trump era is all about unique dynamics

The steady path toward today’s partisan polarization at the Capitol is etched in the history of tax bills over more than half a century.

If President Donald Trump is able to pull off his uphill drive to join most of his predecessors since World War II in securing a significant tax cut, it’s very possible he’ll do so exclusively with the votes of congressional Republicans.

Podcast: Women's Political Power in the Age of Trump
The Big Story, Episode 77

Donald Trump's presidency has encouraged women to make campaign contributions in unprecedented numbers. Will more women run for Congress, too? CQ lobbying reporter Kate Ackley and Roll Call political reporter Simone Pathé explain.

What Happens When Corker Lays Down His Foreign Relations Gavel?
Tennessee Republican leaves a committee far from what it used to be

Neither Peyton Manning nor Reese Witherspoon is going to become chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next year. Not Charlie Daniels, Dolly Parton or Samuel L. Jackson, either.

The most clear-cut reason is that none of those celebrity Tennesseans is likely to end up running to become a senator, much to the disappointment of Beltway insiders starved for glitzy, if harmless, political distractions in the Trump era and already enthralled by Kid Rock’s flirtation with a Senate run in Michigan.

New High Court Term, Same No-TV and Tape-Delay Rules
Arguments will be invisible, and hard to hear, even for member of Congress with eyes on landmark redistricting case

The Supreme Court term starting next week promises to be among the most consequential in years, but it’s guaranteed to be as invisible as ever to the American citizenry.

The campaign to get cameras in the courtroom has almost totally foundered. Instead, some open-government advocates have started campaigning to simply hear oral arguments in real time  — so far, also with no success.

Podcast: What’s Moore Strange Than Alabama’s Senate Race?
The Big Story, Episode 72

Alabama’s Senate contest Tuesday is the first election skirmish in this year’s Republican civil war. Appointed Sen. Luther Strange is the candidate of the party establishment yet has the backing of the outsider president, Donald Trump. But former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s controversial conservatism has the ear of many Trump diehards. A preview from reporters who’ve seen the contest up close, Roll Call’s Bridget Bowman and The Economist’s James Astill.

Which of These Bills Is Not Like the Others? The Defense Budget
Testy and balky debate, like this year, still has ended with authorization for 57 straight years

For the uninitiated, it might have seemed last week like the annual legislation authorizing the nation’s military was about to come off the rails. And only now does it appear to be clamoring out of some thick mud — yet another example of a Congress so challenged when it comes to discharging even its most fundamental responsibilities.

Rest assured, though: There’s truly nothing more certain in the Capitol’s life cycle than enactment of the annual National Defense Authorization Act.

Schumer’s Big Gamble on the Virtue of ‘Yes’
Most Senate minority leaders are all about ‘no’ — but the Trump era isn’t like most times

If the Senate’s governing principle can be reduced to this, “Saying no is easier than saying yes,” then it makes sense that leading the caucus so often focused on stopping stuff is much less demanding than being in charge of the group that’s always held responsible for getting things done.

Six men have personified this lesson during the past 40 years, former senators who had both responsibilities while they were floor leaders. For Democrats Robert C. Byrd, Tom Daschle and Harry Reid, as well as for Republicans Howard H. Baker Jr., Trent Lott and Bob Dole, solid arguments can be made that their stewardships were much more successful as minority leaders than as majority leaders.

Podcast: How the GOP Congress Could Help ‘Dreamers’ Now
The Big Story, Episode 70

Hill Republicans lambasted President Barack Obama’s deportation protections for 800,000 young people brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents, but now they sound willing to heed President Donald Trump’s invitation to turn the DACA program into law. What’s changed? CQ Roll Call immigration reporter Dean DeChiaro and education reporter Emily Wilkins explain.

Show Notes:

Trump and GOP Lawmakers — Even More on the Rocks
‘Must pass’ agenda tests a strained unified government

Can this marriage of convenience be saved?

Will the first unified Republican government in a decade hold together in its current state of snarky detente, or will the majorities in Congress and President Donald Trump launch into a full-blown separation with the potential for policymaking divorce?

Podcast: After Charlottesville, Civil Rights Under Trump at the Fore
The Big Story, Episode 67

Last weekend’s bloody Virginia demonstrations incited by white supremacists will focus new attention on how the Trump administration is altering the Justice Department’s approach to hate crimes and other civil rights issues, CQ legal affairs reporter Todd Ruger explains. It’s a big test for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, already under fire from the president and because of his own record on race.

Show Notes: