congressional-operations

House calendar for 2020 includes presidential election year oddities
Parties’ annual policy retreats are also on the schedule

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer has released the 2020 calendar. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Once House members conclude their work for 2019, they will not be expected back on Capitol Hill until the evening of Tuesday, Jan. 7.

That’s according to the new House calendar for 2020 officially unveiled Thursday morning by House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland.

Uncertain times could bring new lobbying strategies
Workarounds include deeper outreach to think tanks, academia and other institutions

Even as more lawmakers have shrugged off donations from PACs and as the Trump era has disrupted the nation’s politics, K Street has not suffered a noticeable hit to its bottom line. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS — It’s hard to imagine a more bonkers, unpredictable and politically toxic backdrop for K Street operators than the current one. But just wait until 2020 actually arrives. 

The presidential election year will hit lobbyists with potential risks all around. Candidates up and down the ballot will press proposals to remake the influence industry and to overhaul the nation’s campaign finance system. More candidates will reject K Street and business donations. The approaching elections, along with an expected impeachment trial early on, will turn Capitol Hill into an even bigger political mess.

Tim Ryan was once a star quarterback, with Congress as his backup
Ohio Democrat recalls how he got his start on Capitol Hill

Before he was a congressman, Ohio’s Tim Ryan was an intern and a staff assistant for his predecessor, Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Tim Ryan “caught the bug” for Congress first as a summer intern in 1994 and then as a staff assistant the following year for a fellow Ohioan, the late and colorful Democratic Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.

He recalls meeting Traficant during his senior year in high school, when Ryan was the star quarterback of his team. The two bonded over their football experiences. Ryan was recruited to play for Youngstown State, but an injury cut short his college football career. 

Democrats prepare to duel McConnell over year-end wish list
Amid push for legislation benefiting Kentucky constituents, Dems seek their own concessions

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing several initiatives to benefit his constituents, including renewal of tax breaks for bourbon distillers, aid for retired coal miners and appropriations to bolster Kentucky’s hemp industry. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As former Sen. Wendell Ford often said, with small variations: “Kentucky is beautiful women, fast horses, bourbon whiskey, cigarettes and coal. I represent Kentucky, and that’s what I represent.”

The colorful Ford, a Democrat who died in 2015, had little else in common with Mitch McConnell, the stoic Kentucky Republican who served as the junior senator from the Bluegrass State alongside Ford for 15 years until the latter’s 1999 retirement. But the Senate majority leader is clearly taking a few pages from Ford’s playbook in the year-end legislative scramble as he heads into a potentially difficult reelection campaign in 2020.

Payment to Elijah Cummings’ wife continues long-standing tradition
Stopgap spending measure released Monday includes $174,000 to Maya Rockeymoore Cummings

Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, widow of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., will receive the death gratuity in the latest stopgap spending measure. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, the widow of the late Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, will receive an $174,000 payment as part of a continuing resolution that is expected to keep the government open through Dec. 20.

The personal payment in this latest spending bill continues a long-standing practice of providing a death gratuity for a departed member’s survivors. The gratuity is usually included in the next appropriations bill following a lawmakers's death and is paid to the “next of kin” in the amount of one year’s compensation — $174,000.

GOP ‘storm the SCIF’ stunt could jeopardize classified briefings
Bipartisan memo warns lawmakers of consequences for them and the House

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., speaks during a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center outside a deposition related to the House impeachment inquiry on Oct. 23, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House Ethics Committee responded this week to efforts by House Republicans to access the secure facility in the basement of the Capitol during a closed-door impeachment deposition on Oct. 23, issuing a memo about breaches of security and warning lawmakers of potential consequences.

The memo, dated Thursday, reminds lawmakers that all members and staff who have access to classified information take an oath to not disclose any such information and that access to classified information and secure areas are on a “need to know” basis.

Capitol Police sexual discrimination trial in the hands of jury
Department admits it ‘messed up’ procedure, but defends firing former officer

Former Chief Matthew Verderosa said at trial last week that the department had a systemic failure when it came to completing quarterly reports for new officers. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Summing up his client’s argument she was fired by the Capitol Police when a superior officer found out she talked to internal investigators about alleged sexual harassment, attorney R. Scott Oswald left the jury with a question Thursday.

Why would her assistant chief tell Chrisavgi Sourgoutsis to put disciplinary matters in the past, and that she could get back vacation time that had been frozen if she did, when the department was planning to fire her?

House leaders give modernization panel more time
A second year of work ahead for committee that seeks to make Congress more efficient

Chairman Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., right, and vice chairman Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., are seen during a Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress meeting in the Capitol in March. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Like most any fixer-upper endeavor, renovating Congress for the modern era will take at least a year longer than originally planned.

The House’s temporary Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress is on track to get more time to finish its effort to update the legislative branch amid the increasing political polarization of the 2020 elections. The House Rules Committee approved a rule Wednesday extending the modernization panel through next year. The full chamber voted Thursday, making the extension official.

Impeachment deposition bickering offers preview of brinkmanship to come in public hearings
Jordan, Schiff exchanges on process illustrate distrust between the parties

Rep. Jim Jordan has questioned the process, such as members' ability to ask questions, during depositions. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

The first closed-door deposition in the House’s impeachment inquiry opened with a partisan squabble about whether members would be able to question witnesses. The bickering showed a distrust between Democrats and Republicans that has consumed the deliberations ever since. 

That is unlikely to go away anytime soon as lawmakers prepare for public hearings that are expected to begin later this month. Some of the process questions Republicans raised that led to partisan disputes in the depositions have seemingly been put to bed, while others may spill into public hearings. 

Impeachment testimony details Republicans’ process fight, in public and behind closed doors
State Department lawyers passed on chance to set boundaries, says Yovanovitch's counsel

Rep. Mark Meadows speaks to reporters outside a scheduled deposition related to the House's impeachment inquiry in the Capitol Visitor Center on Monday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The first release of transcripts of closed-door testimony in the impeachment probe of President Donald Trump on Monday brought into stark relief the procedures governing the depositions — a significant turning point in the inquiry because House Republicans have made questioning the process a cornerstone of their defense of the president.

The arguments Republicans have aired outside of the secure facility in the Capitol basement — that Trump administration lawyers should be present, that the impeachment inquiry is not valid and lacks due process for the president — were clearly represented as a boiling over of frustrations from behind closed doors in the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility.