Congress

Judge questions whether House can sue over border wall funding
The judge was skeptical whether federal courts should jump into the ‘ugly dispute between the political branches’

The border barrier between the U.S. (L) and Mexico runs down a hillside on May 20, 2019, as taken from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. A federal judge heard arguments Thursday over whether to block the Trump administration from transferring Defense Department funds to pay for border wall projects. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

A federal judge in Washington expressed skepticism Thursday about whether the federal courts should jump into the middle of an “ugly dispute between the political branches” over the Trump administration plan to move around federal funds to build a border wall.

U.S. District Judge Trevor N. McFadden said that a House lawsuit to block the Trump administration’s spending was in “unusual territory,” since higher courts have never ruled on whether the legislative branch could sue the executive branch.

Alexander, Murray outline plan to lower health costs
Alexander he hopes it will get a committee mark up next month and the Senate will debate a bill in July

Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and ranking member Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., conduct a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing in Dirksen Building titled "Vaccines Save Lives: What Is Driving Preventable Disease Outbreaks?" on March 5, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Two influential senators released draft health care legislation Thursday, a package of narrowly tailored proposals that will likely be part of a measure to lower health care costs that lawmakers hope to pass this year.

The draft bill, from Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and ranking member Patty Murray, D-Wash., targets five areas: banning surprise medical bills; speeding low-cost generic drugs to market; increasing transparency; improving public health; and enhancing health information technology, according to a summary.

Senate passes long-stalled disaster aid bill with Trump support
Negotiators agreed to revisit stripped border funding-related funding after the Memorial Day recess

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and chef Jose Andres talk after running into each other in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Thursday, May 23, 2019. Andres was on Capitol Hill for a briefing held by the Power 4 Puerto Rico Coalition, calling on Congress to help Puerto Rico achieve future growth and prosperity after the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. On Thursday the Senate approved a $19.1 billion disaster aid deal which included $600 million in nutrition assistance to Puerto Rico to help restore funding that ran dry in March. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

After months of negotiations, Congress and the White House on Thursday reached agreement on a $19.1 billion disaster aid bill that will help communities recover from a series of deadly storms and wildfires. 

The draft bill does not include the humanitarian aid for migrants at the southern border sought by the Trump administration, the last hurdle that had been preventing a deal on the package.

Senate backs bill to stem flood of robocalls plaguing cell phones
Bipartisan effort would increase civil penalties to $10,000 per call

Senate Majority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., sponsored the bill to tackle illegal robocalls. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Lawmakers are fed up with the barrage of scam and nuisance calls plaguing them and their constituents and on Thursday, the Senate passed a bipartisan measure to combat robocalls.

Senators voted, 97-1, to pass a bill (S 151) designed to authenticate and block robocalls and enforce penalties on scammers who use automated equipment to pump phones full of bogus calls.

‘For the good of the country’: Pelosi hopes Trump family or staff stage an intervention
Speaker says president deployed ‘bag of tricks’ to avoid infrastructure meeting he was unprepared for

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., conducts her weekly news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center on Thursday, May 23, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump’s family or staff should stage an intervention, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday, noting she’s concerned for his well-being and that of the country.

“I pray for the president of the United States,” the California Democrat said. “I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country.”

Democratic campaign chief cancels event for this anti-abortion Democrat
Rep. Cheri Bustos signaled she will continue to defend Rep. Dan Lipinski

Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., is a first-term DCCC chairwoman. She withdrew from an event for Rep. Dan Lipinski, who is an anti-abortion Democrat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The congresswoman who leads House Democrats’ campaign arm announced Wednesday she would no longer headline a fundraiser for an anti-abortion incumbent congressman.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Cheri Bustos agreed months ago to host a $1,000-per-plate breakfast fundraiser for Rep. Dan Lipinski because of their friendship, a spokesman for Lipinski said. But criticism of her support for Lipinski grew louder this month amid the passage of laws severely restricting abortion in six states.

Senate to take one last shot at disaster, border aid bill
The remaining sticking points are over immigration and oversight provisions related to Trump’s border funding request

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., arrives for a news conference after the Republican Senate Policy Luncheon on May 14, 2019. On Thursday McConnell said on the Senate floor, that his colleagues need to come up with a disaster aid compromise “today, because one way or another the Senate is not leaving without taking action.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Republicans were huddling behind closed doors Thursday morning to discuss their next move on supplemental aid for disaster victims and handling a huge influx of migrants at the southern border.

One emerging possibility was to drop billions of dollars in aid the White House is seeking for border-related agencies, including Homeland Security and Health and Human Services.

AOC and Warren team up to probe Treasury Secretary Mnuchin over Sears bankruptcy
Question Mnuchin's time on the Sears board, connection to CEO Eddie Lampert

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., is questioning Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about his ties to the bankrupt Sears. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez teamed up Thursday to blast Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over the bankruptcy of Sears.

The Democrats from Massachusetts and New York, respectively, are questioning Mnuchin’s actions as a member of the Sears board and his longstanding ties to Eddie Lampert, the Sears CEO who came into that role after the retailer was purchased by his hedge fund.

A new era for the ERA?
Equal Rights Amendment measures gain traction in Congress and beyond after #MeToo

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., right, and Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., attend a June 2018 news conference in the House Triangle on the need to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

In a moment of reckoning for women’s equality, lawmakers and investors are teaming up to push for change in corporate boardrooms, executive suites, and across the country — and that’s generating renewed interest in an Equal Rights Amendment.

Propelled by the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, women are flexing their power to confront everything from gender pay disparities and harassment to the lack of legal protections and corporate diversity.

Retirement savings bill seeks small business buy-in
Bipartisan momentum for change comes as retirement crisis looms

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal’s retirement savings bill would create incentives for businesses to provide access to workplace savings plans for some of the most underserved groups. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House on Thursday will take up what could be the most significant changes in retirement savings policy in more than a decade.

But the bill’s backers acknowledge it’s just an initial step in addressing what critics call a huge hole in Americans’ nest eggs, at a time when traditional pension plans are increasingly rare and Social Security is facing financial headwinds.

Exiting Capitol Police chief honored by Pelosi, McCarthy
Matthew Verderosa retiring after three decades on the force

U.S. Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa is retiring after more than three decades on the force. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

After more than three decades on the force, Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa received recognition and a fond farewell from Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on the House floor Wednesday.

“Police Chief Verderosa has proven himself as leader of the highest patriotism and professionalism who has proudly carried forth the Capitol Police’s nearly two centuries of storied service,” Pelosi said on the floor.

US could be at war by the time Congress returns from recess, Udall says
Democrats force votes on approving war with Iran, but come up short in the Senate

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., is worried that the United States may be at war with Iran by the time Congress returns from recess. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats on both sides of Capitol Hill have been forcing votes on President Donald Trump’s military powers this week amid the ratcheting up of tensions with Iran, getting predictably disparate results.

In the latest test, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday turned back a Democrat-led effort to move legislation designed to thwart preemptive military action against Iran.

Abortion-rights groups lay out 2020 races they plan to target
The moves come on the heels of recently passed state restrictions on abortion in six states that will all face court challenges

Dr. Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood, speaks at an abortion-rights rally at Supreme Court in Washington to protest new state bans on abortion services on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. On Wednesday, abortion-rights groups outlined the races they plan to target in 2020. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Abortion-rights groups outlined the political races they plan to target Wednesday, a day after the groups organized 500 events across the country. Anti-abortion groups countered with plans to sharpen the Republican platform with stricter anti-abortion language, a day after some groups met at the White House.

The moves come on the heels of recently passed state restrictions on abortion in six states that will all face court challenges.

Bernhardt defends Interior public records review policy
Bernhardt said the so-called ‘awareness review’ policy was legal and ‘very long-standing in the department’

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt testifies during a Senate Appropriations on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the FY2020 budget proposal for the Interior Department in Dirksen Building on Wednesday, May 22, 2019. Bernhardt said to lawmakers the so-called “awareness review” policy was legal. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt defended on Wednesday the agency’s policy allowing politically appointed officials to review and comment on public records requests that relate to them.

Appearing before a Senate appropriations subcommittee to testify about his department’s budget, Bernhardt said the so-called “awareness review” policy was legal.

Before Trump meeting, Hungary hired a powerhouse K Street firm
Greenberg Traurig signed on to represent the Embassy of Hungary for $100,000 for six months of work

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during a meeting in the Oval Office on May 13, 2019. The authoritarian prime minister’s government recently hired lobbying and law firm Greenberg Traurig to represent the Embassy of Hungry. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The government of Hungary hired a powerhouse K Street firm just before the country’s controversial and authoritarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, had a meeting last week with President Donald Trump in the White House.

Lobbying and law firm Greenberg Traurig signed on to represent the Embassy of Hungary for $100,000 for six months of work, new Justice Department documents show. The disclosures included a contract for work dated April 26, just on the cusp of the meeting that took place May 13.