Jonathan Miller

Key Votes 2019: How vulnerable members voted
They’re facing tough races in November, but not all bucked their parties much

The Senate held 10 votes identified by CQ Roll Call as “key votes” for 2019, and the House had a dozen. Below is a selection of members projected by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales to have competitive races, the percent they stuck with their party on those votes and their overall unity score for 2019.

[CQ Roll Call’s Key Votes in 2019]

Key Votes 2019: Amid partisan acrimony, legislative wins in Congress were hard to come by
House and Senate veered in opposite directions

All throughout 2019, Democrats sang from the same hymnal: We sent hundreds of bills with bipartisan support over to the Senate, where they went to die.

And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has taken pride in referring to himself as the “Grim Reaper” presiding over a legislative graveyard, arguing that he is serving as a bulwark against “radical, half-baked, socialist” legislation being churned out in the House.

Picture Mitch McConnell as a knight riding an elephant
This chess set is no joke, and it’s selling pretty well, says inventor AJ Khubani

Maybe you’ve been up late at night watching MSNBC or the NFL Network, and through your bleary eyes have noticed an ad for a chess set featuring Mike Pence as a queen and Nancy Pelosi as a knight riding a donkey.

Turns out it’s not some waking nightmare, but instead an ad for the 2020 Battle for the White House Chess Set, an off-kilter idea from the same man who brought the world AmberVision glasses and the PedEgg, which is basically a cheese grater for rough feet.

Impeachment isn’t the only obstacle to legislative wins for Congress in 2020
‘Investigate and legislate’ playbook may not work for Democrats again

On Dec. 18, the House voted to impeach President Donald Trump. On Dec. 19, the House approved a major rewrite of a trade agreement with Mexico and Canada. Those two events, just 24 hours apart, marked the culmination of a strategy Democrats have sought to execute since the day they took control of the House last year: investigate and legislate.

“Our view is we are here to make things better for our constituents and stand up for the constitutional oaths that we took,” said Rep. Tom Malinowski, a freshman Democrat from New Jersey who ousted a Republican in 2018. “Those things are not in conflict with one another. And by the way, that’s always been true. When Nixon was being impeached, Congress passed a major infrastructure bill. When Clinton was being impeached, the Congress passed major legislation.”

It’s Devin Nunes v. World when it comes to lawsuits
California Republican has sued parody Twitter accounts, media, others

Rep. Devin Nunes has been a high-profile participant in the impeachment inquiry as ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, but since March, the California Republican has also filed six lawsuits, the most recent one reportedly against CNN. He’s also threatened to sue The Daily Beast. Here’s where the six lawsuits stand.

In March, Nunes filed a $250 million defamation suit against Twitter and two parody accounts — Devin Nunes’ Cow and Devin Nunes’ Mom — and Liz Mair, a Republican consultant, alleging that Cow and Mom accused him of being a Russian spy who was friends with racists. Twitter sought to dismiss the suit, but in October, a judge in Virginia allowed the case to go forward. Also in October, Nunes’ lawyer sent a letter to Nunes’ 2018 Democratic opponent, Andrew Janz, demanding Janz make the person behind the cow account stop. Janz’s lawyer rejected that demand.

The scandal with no name continues to vex Washington
Ukraziness? Snakes on Ukraine? Badfellas? What should we call it?

Two years ago, official Washington failed to come up with a name for … the thing that happened two years ago. Most everyone settled on Trump-Russia or the Russia investigation or the Mueller probe or any number of unimaginative appellations.

Well, here we are again, nearly two months into yet another Donald Trump scandal with no name. “Why is there not a catchy, gate-like name for this Ukraine scandal yet?” asked one Twitter user in October. “It’s like the writers aren’t even trying anymore.” Indeed, John Oliver, the host of “Last Week Tonight” on HBO, could only come up with “Stupid Watergate 2.” Jimmy Kimmel recently coined “Ukraziness.” Other attempts have been made online, some better than others: Snakes on Ukraine. Zelenscheme. Crackpot Dome. Red Hat.

Get to know these new congressional caucuses
Agritourism not your bag? Try the Air Cargo Caucus!

There are dozens of caucuses in Congress. Here’s a roundup of a few new ones formed this year.

Money generated by vineyards, orchards, breweries, distilleries and farm markets totaled $949 million in 2017, according to Virginia Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton, who formed this caucus to “strengthen the agritourism industry” and “highlight the positive impacts they have.” Wexton recently touted on Twitter a visit to a winery and farm in her suburban D.C. district. North Carolina Republican David Rouzer serves as caucus co-chair. 

Editor's Note: Democrats on TV

Editor's Note: A July 11 story that described the number of times members of Congress have appeared on television in 2019 was incorrect and based on incomplete statistics.

The story relied on CQ’s Newsmaker transcripts from Jan. 3 through June 26, which include appearances on CNN, CNN International, MSNBC, Fox News, Fox Business, PBS NewsHour, cable news town halls and the Sunday morning talk shows. The transcripts do not include every TV appearance by members of Congress.

One congressman’s lonely quest to defund hobo festivities
Rep. Ralph Norman’s efforts have thus far met with little success

Rep. Ralph Norman is determined to put a stop, once and for all, to government funding for celebrations of hobos and hobo-related activity.

Earlier this month, the South Carolina Republican filed an amendment to an appropriations package that would prohibit a certain type of federal funding “to any school to celebrate Hobo Day,” which raises an obvious question: Is there a scourge of government-funded hobo bacchanalias?

What’s that thing crawling over my hand at the spy museum?
Newly relaunched, $162 million International SpyMuseum in L’Enfant Plaza doesn’t ‘tell people what to think’

The woman encouraged the visitor to slip his hand into the mystery black box. “You should feel a tarantula or spider,” she explained.

He couldn’t feel it, so Jackie Eyl, who helped design the exhibit, plunged her hand in. “Ooh! It just touched me!” she exclaimed, somehow still surprised despite her familiarity with the contraption.

A place for the GOP to mull life after Trump
The Niskanen Center promotes the “free-market welfare state”

Jerry Taylor, a former climate-change skeptic, was chatting recently about the future of the Republican Party when he sat up in his chair inside the sixth-floor offices of the center-right think tank he runs and extended his hand to two portraits flanking him, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, two giants of the Republican Party. “Our ideas are not so alien to the GOP,” he insisted.

Perhaps, but the ideas that he and his think tank, the Niskanen Center, are promoting — which they describe as the “free-market welfare state” — are still having a hard time finding a home in the party of Donald Trump.

The GOP's 2020 agenda, or lack thereof
CQ on Congress podcast, Episode 150

Jonathan Miller talks about his new CQ Magazine cover story on the Republicans' decision, thus far, to ignore policy proposals in their 2020 planning. Miller found this worries some lawmakers, like Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher, who'd like to see the party offer new ideas.

 

Party unity on congressional votes takes a dive: CQ Vote Studies
Decline more dramatic in the Senate

After Democrats and Republicans reached record highs sticking together by party on congressional votes in 2017, those numbers nose-dived in 2018 as lawmakers worked across the aisle on high-profile legislation, including a rewrite of the Dodd-Frank financial law, a package dealing with the opioid crisis, spending bills and an overhaul of the country’s criminal justice laws.

CQ’s annual vote study shows that in the House the total number of party unity votes — defined as those with each party’s majority on opposing sides — fell from 76 percent of the total votes taken in the House in 2017, a record, to 59 percent in 2018. That latter figure is the lowest since 2010, the most recent year of unified Democratic control of Congress. Election years typically have fewer votes and 2018 was no exception — the total number of votes taken in the House, 498, was the lowest since 2002.

Congressional scandals ain’t what they used to be
The modern playbook for surviving scandal was created by a Democrat

Jim Jordan has a reputation.

He is a pit bull: Video clips of the Ohio Republican tearing into witnesses in committee is like sweet nectar to many conservatives.

Jim Jordan Named Oversight Ranking Member After Dropping Out of Judiciary Contest
Ohio Republican said leadership made it clear he would not get the job

Updated 8:07 p.m. | Rep. Jim Jordan, the Ohio Republican and a high-profile supporter of President Donald Trump, told Roll Call on Thursday that he would not seek the top GOP slot on the House Judiciary Committee.

“It’s been made clear to me, talking with leadership, that I’m not going to get that job, so I’m not going to do it,” he said. “It would be a waste of my time; a waste of their time, so I’m not going to pursue that. What they decide with ranking member on Judiciary is up to Leader McCarthy,” a reference to Kevin McCarthy of California, the outgoing majority leader who will be minority leader in the next congress.

Grassroots Have Grown Deeper Since Trump. Now Comes the Hard Part
It hasn’t been all roses, sunshine and lollipops

First there was the shock of Donald Trump’s election. Then came the marches and protests. Next came the outraged phone calls to Congress.

Now comes the hard part: Getting people elected.

Republicans Poised to Stand by Trump, Win or Lose
No matter the outcome in November, those who have backed Trump will continue to do so

In 2006, the reckoning finally came for Republicans. After 12 years in power in the House, scandal after scandal brought the party down — Tom DeLay, the powerful majority whip from Texas, quit after being indicted, and Rep. Mark Foley of Florida resigned following a scandal involving underage congressional pages. The Iraq War was looking lost. And the president was a drag on everyone. Republicans lost 30 seats in the House, six in the Senate.

Almost immediately after the election, Republicans started eating their own.

The Last of the Gingrich Revolutionaries
Come January, the GOP class of 1994 could be down to seven

It was nearly 24 years ago that Republicans swept into power in stunning fashion, ending 40 years of Democratic rule in the House.

But those 73 new Republicans who came to the House and 11 who came to the Senate on the 1994 wave engineered by Georgia Republican Newt Gingrich and his “Contract with America” have now dwindled down to a handful, and after this election only seven will likely be left in Congress.

Chuck Schumer Navigates the Resistance
The Senate’s Democratic leader wants to get along with everyone. Now he finds himself between Scylla and Charybdis

Back when he was policy director for Sen. Charles E. Schumer, Jim Kessler had a conversation with his boss about working with a high-profile Republican. This is how it went, according to Kessler.

Schumer: I can call Newt, he likes me.

National Mall Softball Reprieve Was Example of D.C.-Federal Communication
D.C. delegate to Congress praises National Park Service for listening

In November, the National Park Service stunned many when it announced that it would be closing wide swaths of the National Mall to organized sports and would be raising fees elsewhere.

But in a partial victory for sports on the Mall, the park service now says it is withdrawing that proposed ban and will instead conduct a formal study to come up with a “comprehensive” new plan.