House

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.

The Democrats who voted to keep impeachment options open
Why those who do not favor impeachment yet voted against blocking articles of impeachment

Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Mass., voted against tabling Rep. Al Green's impeachment articles to keep the option on the table but she does not yet support opening an impeachment inquiry. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A House vote Wednesday to block Texas Rep. Al Green’s articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump led to some contortions from Democrats yet to support impeachment or opening an inquiry, but mostly came down to this: keeping those options open. 

About two dozen Democrats who had not been on the record in favor of impeachment proceedings voted with Green against tabling, basically killing, his articles. A total of 95 Democrats voted that way, but most of those members had previously called for Trump’s impeachment or an inquiry. 

House Democrats apologize to India ambassador for Trump’s ‘amateurish’ claim about Kashmir
Trump claimed Indian prime minister asked him to mediate Kashmir dispute between his country and Pakistan

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., left, and Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., attend a committee markup in Rayburn Building on May 17, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee spoke with India’s ambassador to the U.S., Harsh Shringla, on Monday to apologize for President Donald Trump’s claim that he was asked by the Indian prime minister to mediate the Kashmir territorial conflict between his country and Pakistan.

“Everyone who knows anything about foreign policy in South Asia knows that India consistently opposes third-party mediation [regarding] Kashmir,” Rep. Brad Sherman of California tweeted Monday. “Everyone knows [Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi] would never suggest such a thing. Trump’s statement is amateurish and delusional. And embarrassing,” he wrote.

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.”

USDA seeks to narrow eligibility for food stamps
Proposal looks to tighten eligibility for people who receive noncash benefits

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the draft rule will close a loophole that allows people with gross incomes above 130 percent of the poverty level to become eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and potentially qualify for food stamps. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Trump administration will push ahead with a proposal to tighten food stamp eligibility for people who receive certain noncash benefits from a federal welfare program, a move that could end aid for up to 3 million people.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the draft rule published in Tuesday’s Federal Register will end what he and congressional Republicans say is a loophole that allows people with gross incomes above 130 percent of the poverty level to become eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and potentially qualify for food stamps through the program.

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.

Louisiana police officers fired over AOC post on Facebook
Ocasio-Cortez says Trump’s rhetoric that has incited threats is an ‘authoritarian’ tool to silence critics

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., responds to reporters questions in Rayburn Building about derogatory comments made by President Trump about her and other freshmen members last week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A police officer in Louisiana has been fired for writing on Facebook that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez should be shot. 

The police chief in Gretna, a New Orleans suburb, announced at a news conference Monday that Officer Charlie Rispoli was fired for writing the post and another officer, Angelo Varisco, was fired for “liking” it, WBRZ reported.

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.

4 things to watch when Mueller testifies
Former special counsel is unlikely to disclose any new information Wednesday

Former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III will face the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rarely does a congressional hearing have a longer, more dramatic buildup than former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s appearances Wednesday before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees — and the American public via television cameras.

The main question: Will his testimony change anything?

Moderation in the Trump era? Democrats, it’s futile
What’s the point of careful issue proposals when Trump will just bellow that they’re coming for your cars, air conditioning and straws?

The careful issue proposals of prior Democratic nominees like Hillary Clinton no longer represent the route to political safety, Shapiro writes. (Brian Ach/Getty Images file photo)

OPINION — The tone of the letter from the Columnists’ Guild I’m expecting any minute now will be as stiff as the old-fashioned stationery it’s printed on. It will note that I am “derelict in your duties” and “an embarrassment to the profession of opinion slingers” because I’ve failed to write a single column loudly lamenting the Democratic Party’s lurch to the far left.

We have all read versions of this column written by skittish liberals, nervous centrists and panicked never-Trump Republicans: “Don’t the Democrats understand that many voters like their employer-provided health care plans and will rebel over being forced into a rigid ‘Medicare for All’ system? Eliminating criminal penalties for crossing the border illegally would be an invitation for immigration chaos. And do Democrats really believe that Americans will sacrifice their lifestyles to comply with the extreme provisions of a Green New Deal?”