senate

Senate confirms Esper to be Defense secretary
The vote ends an eight-month period during which the massive bureaucracy was led by a series of acting leaders

Chiarman Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., left, shakes hands with Secretary of Defense nominee Mark Esper before the start of Esper’s confirmation hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee on July 16, 2019. He was confirmed by the Senate Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Mark Esper to be the next Defense secretary, 90-8, bringing to an end an eight-month period during which the massive bureaucracy was led by a series of acting leaders.

Esper, who has served as Army secretary since 2017, follows James Mattis as President Donald Trump’s second Senate-confirmed Defense secretary.

Kyrsten Sinema invokes memory of John McCain in maiden speech
Arizona Senator uses address to advocate for her legislation to combat veteran suicide

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., delivered her maiden speech on the floor on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

In her maiden speech on the Senate floor, Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema invoked the courage of the late Sen. John McCain and recounted the tragic story of a veteran’s suicide that might have been prevented with better access to appropriate mental health care.

Sinema, a Democrat, said she is committed to making sure veterans don’t feel trapped, as Sgt. Daniel Somers did when he committed suicide in 2013, and shining a light on the 20 veterans who die everyday as a result of suicide.

Trump’s budget chief tries to sell spending and debt limit deal to skeptical conservatives
Fiscal hawks blast agreement: ‘Washington has all but abandoned economic sanity’

Acting OMB Director Russ Vought is viewed as closely aligned with spending hawks in the GOP. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Acting White House budget chief Russell Vought appeared on the Fox News Channel Tuesday morning to defend the two-year spending and debt limit accord reached Monday, which had immediately been savaged by conservatives for costing too much and doing nothing to rein in long-term deficits.

“I love the concern of the conservatives who are bringing attention to the problems that we have with fiscal responsibility in this town. This president put forward more spending cuts than any president in history, and we have been negotiating for five months,” Vought said. “We’re now up against a deadline, heading into the August recess, where we need the debt limit extended, we need to continue to rebuild the military.”

Senators plot drug bill, Pelosi mulls drug price negotiations
Proposals target Medicare drug prices

Senate Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, on Tuesday offered a details on a drug price bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley on Tuesday unveiled details on a long-anticipated drug price bill and scheduled a Thursday committee markup.  Republicans indicated a cost estimate of the measure predicted it would lower consumer and government costs.  

The final bill is expected to contain provisions that would slow the growth of Medicare’s prescription drug spending, limit the cost-sharing for people receiving Medicare, and make it easier for state Medicaid programs to pay for expensive treatments.

Where are the members of the 115th Congress that left under scandal?
Only two scandal-tarred lawmakers from last Congress are still serving

Montana Republican Ryan Zinke, who was Interior secretary until last December, is now a managing director at cybersecurity and blockchain company Artillery One. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As the #MeToo movement took hold in the past two years, nine members of the 115th Congress relinquished their seats amid allegations of sexual misconduct. That’s more than any Congress since at least 1901, based on an analysis of congressional departures by FiveThirtyEight.

Two other lawmakers left under scrutiny for financial or ethical improprieties, two who joined the Trump administration were later forced to resign their Cabinet posts, and two representatives indicted last year are still in office fighting the charges.

What counts as ‘foundational’ tech?
As Commerce gears up for export debate, definitions remain in dispute

An attendee participates in a augmented reality demonstration to show how lidar, or light detection and ranging, works during a briefing on autonomous vehicles in June. (Alex Wong/Getty Images file photo)

In the coming weeks, the Commerce Department plans to announce a notice seeking comments on how it should draw up export control rules for so-called foundational technologies, similar to an effort the agency launched in November 2018 for a category called “emerging” technologies.

The rules were mandated after Congress passed the 2019 defense authorization act calling on the Commerce Department to establish export controls on “emerging and foundational technologies” that are critical to U.S. national security. But tech companies, universities, and research labs across the country continue to be alarmed that overly broad export restrictions could ultimately hurt American technological superiority.

Capitol Ink | Security Detail

Kamala Harris, Jerry Nadler bill would decriminalize marijuana, expunge most convictions
Legislation set to be unveiled on Tuesday would include a 5-percent tax on cannabis products

Strains of marijuana are on display at The Apothecary Shoppe marijuana dispensary in Las Vegas. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Changing marijuana policy needs to go beyond decriminalization to the expunging of old criminal convictions, according to two key Democratic lawmakers.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York and California Sen. Kamala Harris, a 2020 White House hopeful, have come together on new legislation designed to address both sides of the equation. The legislation is likely to serve as a key marker heading into next year’s elections. 

White House, Hill leaders agree on two-year budget deal
‘This was a real compromise in order to give another big victory to our Great Military and Vets!’ Trump tweeted

President Donald Trump alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., left, and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., talks to the media about Robert Mueller’s report upon arriving for the Senate Republican Policy luncheon in the Capitol on March 26, 2019. Trump tweeted Monday he and both Senate and House leaders had agreed on a budget deal. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House leaders released legislation late Monday that would implement the two-year accord on appropriations and the debt ceiling struck earlier in the day by the White House and top Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill.  

The 26-page draft bill, expected to get a House vote Thursday, calls for raising limits on discretionary spending by $321 billion over two years, compared to the strict caps imposed under a 2011 deficit reduction law.

Remember John Ensign? He just got divorced from wife of three decades
Former Nevada senator resigned in 2011, facing threat of expulsion over cover-up of affair

Former Sen. John Ensign finalized a divorce last week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Sen. John Ensign, who resigned from the Senate in 2011 while facing the possibility of expulsion, has divorced his wife after more than three decades, bringing up memories of a sordid affair that reached as far as the FBI and FEC. 

Ensign, a Republican from Nevada who returned to his veterinary practice after leaving the Senate, had been involved in an extra-marital affair with a staffer of his who was married to his chief of staff, and went to such great lengths to try to hide it that the Ethics panel came to believe he had violated federal civil and criminal law. The FBI and FEC began probes of Ensign, but then either dropped their investigations or dismissed complaints.