sponsored content
National Association of Broadcasters
Heard on the Hill

Word on the Hill: What’s Buzzing on Capitol Hill?

By Alex Gangitano

Senate to Weigh Large Cuts to Military Aid

By John M. Donnelly

Alabama Rep. Martha Roby survived her Republican primary runoff Tuesday night, rebounding from her sharp criticism of President Donald Trump in 2016 that sparked several challenges this year. 

With 47 percent of precincts reporting, Roby led with 67 percent of the vote to 33 percent for party-switching former Rep. Bobby Bright, when The Associated Press called the 2nd District race. 

Bright, who served a term in Congress as a Democrat before losing to Roby in 2010,  took heat for previously voting for Nancy Pelosi for speaker.

Roby had originally looked in danger of losing in the primary after she drew several GOP challengers. She sparked a backlash from Alabama Republicans in 2016 after she joined a slew of GOP lawmakers in declaring she would not vote for Trump after the leak of the Access Hollywood tape, in which the GOP candidate bragged about grabbing women by the genitals. 

She won a fourth term that fall by just 9 points, with a last-minute anti-Roby write-in campaign taking 11 percent of the vote.

After careful efforts to improve her working relationship with the White House and to remind voters of her conservative credentials, Roby won Trump’s endorsement last month. But it didn’t come until after after she was forced into the runoff, following her failure to win a majority of the GOP primary vote on June 5.

Roby did have some help from outside groups in her race against Bright. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was up on television supporting her. Winning for Women, a group backing Republican female candidates, also invested in digital ads on her behalf.

Roby will be the heavy favorite in the fall against Democratic business analyst Tabitha Isner. Trump carried the 2nd District, which stretches from the Montgomery metropolitan area to southeastern Alabama’s wiregrass region,  by 32 points in 2016.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Solid Republican.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

12,000

Eager for a win after his controversial summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump on Wednesday took credit for an incumbent Republican’s primary victory.

Alabama Rep. Martha Roby easily won her Republican primary runoff Tuesday evening by 36 percentage points.

Her victory came after she initially clashed with the GOP president. For instance, in 2016 she announced she would not vote for candidate Trump after a video surfaced of him bragging about grabbing women by the genitals.

But the two sides worked to improve relations, and Trump eventually endorsed her in the GOP primary runoff race against former Rep. Bobby Bright, a Democrat-turned-Republican in the Yellowhammer State.

To be sure, Roby had plenty of help from outside groups to defeat Bright. That list included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Winning for Women, a group backing Republican female candidates. But, according to Trump, it was his endorsement that propelled her to victory.

“My endorsement came appropriately late, but when it came the ‘flood gates’ opened and you had the kind of landslide victory that you deserve,” Trump wrote Wednesday. “Enjoy!”

Congratulations to Martha Roby of The Great State of Alabama on her big GOP Primary win for Congress. My endorsement came appropriately late, but when it came the “flood gates” opened and you had the kind of landslide victory that you deserve. Enjoy!

Roby will be a big favorite against Democratic business analyst Tabitha Isner in November’s general election. Trump carried the 2nd District, which stretches from the Montgomery metropolitan area to southeastern Alabama’s wiregrass region, by 32 points in 2016.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Solid Republican.

— Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

12,000

Capitol Ink | MAGA Correction

By Robert Matson

Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan was named in a new class-action lawsuit regarding allegations of sexual abuse at Ohio State University.

The Republican congressman, who was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State from 1986 to 1994, is one of three former school officials named in the lawsuit, Rolling Stone reported, including former team physician Richard Strauss, who has been accused of sexually abusing male athletes over two decades. He died in 2005.

The lawsuit, filed in district court Tuesday on behalf of an unnamed former Ohio State wrestler, says school officials stood by while the athletes were repeatedly “sexually abused, harassed, and molested” and “forced” to seek treatment from Strauss. The unnamed plaintiff says he was abused by Strauss at least 20 times. 

The lawsuit cites the initial report from NBC News from other victims who said they told Jordan about the abuse but were ignored

Watch: Ryan Defends Jordan as ‘Man of Honesty and of Integrity’

While some former wrestlers have said Jordan knew or should have known about the abuse, others have disagreed. Fifteen former athletes issued statements on a website last week, defending him against the allegations. 

Four former Ohio State wrestlers filed a separate lawsuit Tuesday that said the school knew about Strauss’ abuse, but Jordan was not named in that lawsuit. 

So far, Jordan has insisted he did not know about the abuse and never had any abuse reported to him. He has received support from Speaker Paul D. Ryan and members of the the hard-line conservative House Freedom Caucus that he co-founded.

Jordan has said he will assist in the investigation by Ohio State in any way possible.

Ohio Rep. James B. Renacci, the Republican Senate nominee this year, defended Jordan in an email last week as “an honorable and good man who has a long record of speaking truth to power.”

“While there is no place in Congress for individuals who have engaged in acts of physical or sexual abuse in their past, no one has accused Jim Jordan of abuse and he’s made clear that if he had knowledge of the conduct taking place at Ohio State he would not have hesitated to address it,” Renacci said.

A spokeswoman for Renacci’s fall opponent, Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown, said the accusations should be taken seriously.

 “We owe it to any victims and their families to get the bottom of what happened and figure out who's responsible,” Jenny Donohue said in an email.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

12,000

The North American Meat Institute held its annual Congressional Hot Dog Lunch in the Rayburn Courtyard. Several former professional baseball players, including Lou Piniella and Tim Raines, came out to sign balls and greet fans. Outside Rayburn, PETA held a counter event and gave out vegan hot dogs.

12,000

At least two Republican senators are urging their colleagues to do what President Donald Trump was unwilling to do at his joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday: hold Russia accountable for interfering in the 2016 election and its hyper-aggressive foreign policy.

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake is working on a measure that would “reaffirm support for the intelligence community,” he said on “Good Morning America” on Tuesday.

The measure would be a resolution, not a bill, and would carry no legislative weight other than to act as an official Senate rebuke to the president for siding with Putin over his intelligence agencies.

On Tuesday, Trump tried to walk back a comment he made at the Helsinki news conference where he said he saw “no reason to believe" Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2016.

The president told reporters at a White House meeting with GOP members of the House Ways and Means Committee that he has “full faith” in America’s intel apparatus.

Flake’s resolution would also call for “some kind of hearing or briefing by those involved” in the two-hour, one-on-one meeting between Trump and Putin in Helsinki “to try to find out what happened in that private meeting,” Flake said.

Senators could not enforce such a summons through a resolution.

Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado — who was widely panned by critics for not addressing the Helsinki summit or mentioning Trump by name in a statement after the press conference Monday — re-upped his calls for the Senate to force the State Department to determine whether Russia is a state sponsor of terrorism under U.S. law.

“I believe Russia is a state sponsor of terror,” Gardner said in his statement, “and I’ve introduced legislation that would mandate the State Department to determine whether Russia merits this designation, along with their allies Iran and Syria that are already designated.”

Gardner proposed a bill in April that would give the State Department 90 days to determine whether Russia's actions constitute such a label.

Countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism incur a number of penalties, including “restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance; a ban on defense exports and sales; certain controls over exports of dual use items; and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions,” according to the State Department.

Sen. Marco Rubio delivered a floor speech Tuesday renewing efforts to garner support for his bipartisan legislation that outlines immediate sanctions for any country that the director of national intelligence concludes interfered in a U.S. election.

“The only thing that Vladimir Putin understands is deterrence,” Rubio said.

“What the DETER Act does is it says, here is a list of sanctions, and these sanctions will go into effect immediately if the Director of National Intelligence, after intelligence assessment, determines that Russia is once again interfering in our elections,” Rubio said. “Before [Putin] even does it, he has a very clear understanding of what the price is going to be.”

Senate Majority Mitch McConnell has not indicated he will schedule a vote on Rubio’s bill, introduced alongside Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

12,000

Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar has endorsed Kelli Ward over fellow Arizona Rep. Martha McSally ahead of the state’s Republican primary next month.

Gosar criticized McSally in his announcement, saying “we cannot afford another establishment patsy who promises one thing and votes differently,” AZCentral reported.

Gosar said while he liked McSally personally, he found her to be “inconsistent politically.”

“None of us can count on Martha keeping a campaign promise as she will fall for whatever the D.C. elite tells her to do at the time. I have seen that firsthand,” he said.

McSally’s spokeswoman Torunn Sinclair criticized Gosar's voting record, saying she supported President Donald Trump's agenda more than Gosar did.

“The fact is Congresswoman McSally votes with the president 97 percent of the time while Congressman Gosar only votes with the president 77 percent of the time,” Sinclair said. “If he voted with the president as much as Martha, we could accomplish even more for Arizonans.”

Ward and McSally are competing against each other along with former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for the Republican nomination for Arizona’s senate seat. Sen. Jeff Flake is retiring in 2019.

Ward also has the backing of former White House political strategist and Breitbart executive Steve Bannon and Republican megadonor Robert Mercer, who contributed $500,000 to a super PAC supporting Ward, Politico reported Monday.

Some in the Republican establishment fear a Ward win would lessen the chances of the GOP keeping the seat. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is the front-runner in the Democratic primary.

Polls have shown McSally leading the Republican race ahead of Ward and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

A member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, Gosar is also known for pulling ostentatious stunts and making xenophobic remarks.

During this year’s State of the Union, Gosar asked Capitol Police to arrest “illegal aliens” since many Democrats invited undocumented immigrants to the address.

Over the weekend, Gosar traveled to London for a rally to support Tommy Robinson, a far-right activist who has frequently made divisive and inflammatory remarks about Islam.

Gosar criticized “disgusting and depraved individuals” who commit acts of sexual violence from Muslim communities, Phoenix New Times reported.

“We know these men come from commonly Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Muslim backgrounds,” the newspaper reported Gosar.

Correction 2:37 pm.| A previous version of this story misstated Sinclair's employer.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

12,000

Lawmakers and media personalities from both parties roundly criticized President Donald Trump’s performance at a joint press conference Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But some House conservatives, who remained mostly silent immediately after that meeting, have managed to extract at least one silver lining from the Helsinki summit: At least there was one.

“The good news is there was a summit,” Rep. Warren Davidson of Ohio said Tuesday at a panel on Capitol Hill with other House Republicans, including members of the hard-line conservative Freedom Caucus.

Davidson emphasized that Trump’s meeting with Putin “is consistent with efforts under George W. Bush and Barack Obama” to engage the mercurial Russian leader one-on-one and build a working relationship with him.

“Putin’s been in power for a long time in Russia, and … he’s been an adversary of the United States that entire time,” Davidson said. “I think it was good for the president to be engaged in diplomacy.”

The Republicans on the panel attempted to minimize the importance of the Trump-Putin press conference, which current and former GOP lawmakers have variously referred to as “shameful,” “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory,” and “the most serious mistake of his presidency.”

Watch: Next to Putin, Trump Defies U.S. Intel on Russian Election Interference

Despite numerous prompts from reporters, none of the GOP panelists could bring themselves to criticize Trump for his comments refuting the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia engaged in an extensive influence campaign in the 2016 election and siding with Putin as the Russian president denied that the Kremlin issued any such directives.

“I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia that hacked the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2016, Trump said, standing mere feet from Putin.

But the House Republicans on the panel didn’t exactly give Trump’s performance at the press conference a resounding endorsement either.

“I think anyone who watched that press conference, including the president himself, would say that was not his finest hour,” Davidson said. “I don’t think anyone in the Freedom Caucus is going to say, ‘Hey, we thought that was an amazing press conference.’”

“But we support the fact that the president was there on the stage having the press conference and having the dialogue,” the congressman added. “He’s brought us to the point where we have a chance to make this a better path.”

House conservatives urged reporters to look beyond Trump’s press conference and highlight what they see as the president’s foreign policy wins in the U.S.-Russia sphere: negotiating a joint pullout of operations in Syria once the Islamic State militants have been eradicated there; imposing sanctions on Russian oligarchs connected to Putin; and ousting 60 Russian officials in the wake of a nerve agent attack against a double agent and his daughter in the United Kingdom.

“There’s times when foreign policy sounds bad and works good and there are times when it sounds good and works poorly,” Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows of North Carolina said. “I’d rather have the first than the latter.”

House conservatives, unlike some of the more moderate members of their conference and the Democrats, do not think Trump has fallen for Putin’s sway of personality, despite his apparent affinity for the Russian president.

“This president is great at reading people — he knows that Mr. Putin is not a choir boy,” South Carolina Rep. Ralph Norman said. “[Putin] will do whatever he can to advance Russia.”

Trump met Tuesday with a handful of House Republicans  to talk about taxes, but he was expected to address his time in Helsinki as well.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

12,000

House Republican leaders have scheduled a Thursday vote on an anti-carbon tax resolution in hopes of putting vulnerable Democrats on record in favor of the tax, but they’re going to put some of their own members in a tough spot too.

“I’m voting against that,” Florida GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo, said of the resolution, which expresses the sense of Congress that “a carbon tax would be detrimental to American families and businesses, and is not in the best interest of the United States.”

Curbelo voted to support a similar resolution the House adopted in 2016. No Republicans voted against it at the time, but six Democrats joined the GOP in passing the resolution 237-163.

Roll Call includes Curbelo on its list of the 10 most vulnerable House Republicans. Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales rates his race Tilt Republican.

Curbelo has drafted legislation he plans to introduce soon that would halt federal regulations on climate change in exchange for an escalating tax on carbon emissions, according to E&E News.

Whether Curbelo will be the lone Republican “no” vote on Thursday remains to be seen, but he’s hoping that other members of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus he co-chairs with Florida Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch vote against the anti-carbon tax resolution too.

The Climate Solution Caucus has 84 members, evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. The group’s mission is to “educate members on economically-viable options to reduce climate risk and to explore bipartisan policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of our changing climate.”

Deutch issued a statement Tuesday urging the caucus to vote against the resolution, which is authored by Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana. “This is an important moment for the Climate Solutions Caucus to show the American people that Democrats and Republicans can stand together against anti-climate efforts,” he said. “It is the very mission of the caucus to explore all viable options to address the growing threat of climate change.”

Deutch also took a dig at Scalise, saying, “When a climate denier who represents the oil industry tries to squash even a discussion about a possible strategy for curbing emissions, my caucus colleagues must rise above politics and do what’s right.”

The Climate Solutions Caucus is unlikely to be united in support of a carbon tax. Most House Republicans have taken pledges upon being elected to Congress promising not to impose new taxes.

Scalise admitted Tuesday that the point of the vote was to have everyone on record on the issue.

“There are still people talking about trying to impose a carbon tax, which would be devastating to our manufacturing economy, one of the great bright spots we see in our economy, where we’re bringing jobs back to America, rebuilding our middle class,” he said. “A carbon tax would destroy that.”

Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer called the anti-carbon tax resolution a “political effort” designed to help Scalise, who is considered a potential candidate to replace Speaker Paul D. Ryan.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

12,000

What’s the quickest way to find out whether the House is in session? What committee hearings are scheduled? The name of a district’s congressional representative?

Soon, you might be able to ask Alexa.

A project in the House Clerk’s office would make it as easy to get information about Congress from a voice-activated smart speaker as it is to ask about the weather.

“This data should be usable and user-friendly,” said Sean Conaghan, a clerk’s office employee who demonstrated a pilot program Thursday at a conference devoted to data transparency in Congress.

The clerk’s office already stockpiles information on the internet, but much of it is in formats like JSON and XML that are not in general use. “We were thinking, how could we make this more publicly available and of more interest to the public?” he said.

Also watch: Trump Says He ‘Misspoke’ on Russian Election Meddling

Conaghan said the project started as a joke among colleagues. Wouldn’t it be great, they thought, if they could find out whether they could wear jeans to work — frowned upon when Congress is in session — as they hit their snooze buttons in the morning.  

Turns out, a lot of people thought the same thing. A version he and his co-workers created as an internal team-building exercise has sparked interest among other offices, bringing with it the possibility that the project might expand and eventually be introduced to the public on an array of platforms including the popular Amazon service, he said. 

Conaghan demonstrated the potential from the podium.

He asked his device, “Alexa, ask US House, is the House in session today.” The anodyne, female voice responded: “the House is currently in session. The last action is, the speaker announced that the House will now recess.” And the crowd of about 100 burst into enthusiastic applause.

Granted, these were people who had signed up for eight hours of presentations about “how agencies use technology well and how they can use it better in the future.”

But Conaghan said he was soliciting ideas for features that would make the program useful for a wider audience.

Such an embrace of new technology would be unusual on the Hill, but it’s not unheard of.  Another decision in the House — the post-9-11 distribution of BlackBerries to all member offices — is widely considered to have sparked the smartphone revolution in Washington.

Whether the Alexa project will become such a game-changer remains to be seen, but there is a clear market. More than 43 million people in the United States own a smart speaker, according to NPR’s smart audio report—a count that may soon eclipse the number of people who could name their local representative.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

12,000

Nineteen members of Congress spoke Tuesday against the Commerce Department’s tariffs on Canadian newsprint, telling the U.S. International Trade Commission the import tax hurt local newspapers.

The bipartisan group of legislators asked the ITC to reverse tariffs the Commerce Department imposed on Canadian newsprint imports. Opponents of the tariffs say they would deal a major blow to local newspapers, which already struggle to stay afloat, by increasing the cost of newsprint.

The tariffs already substantially increase the cost of newsprint, leading newspapers to shrink the size of their pages and plan for job cuts in response, the lawmakers said. The tariffs would hasten the decline of local news, they said, harming journalists and communities served by small local publications rather than major newspapers.

“In these communities, there are no big newspapers to bring people their local news,” said Rep. John Moolenaar, a Republican from Michigan. “These tariffs, if continued, would do lasting damage to these local institutions.”

The Commerce Department imposed tariffs in March on Canadian newsprint or uncoated groundwood paper. The department’s action came after the North Pacific Paper Company, a mill in Washington state, complained that Canadian manufacturers were harming their business by selling newsprint at non-competitive prices. The ITC held today’s hearing while it reviews the tariffs.

Tariffs have been a point of friction between the Trump administration and Congress, including some Republicans, who traditionally favor free trade with minimal government interference.

At Tuesday’s hearing, legislators said the news media’s shift to digital platforms is chiefly responsible for declining business for paper mills, not the cost of Canadian groundwood paper. The tariffs may create some jobs at North Pacific Paper Company, but would cause lost jobs across the country, lawmakers said.

Speakers against the tariffs included House Republican Conference chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Alaska and Democratic Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. The group comprised 13 Republicans, five Democrats and independent Maine Sen. Angus King.

Collins was the first to raise the issue in Congress. Several of the testifying lawmakers noted it is unusual to find agreement across the aisle on economic matters.

A representative for the North Pacific Paper Company, the petitioner for the tariffs, said the tariffs have allowed paper mills to ramp up production and re-hire American workers.

But King said the tariff on newsprint is a cure “worse than the disease,” and asked the commissioners to think of the issue as the local newspapers “that will be one inch smaller next year.”

Lawmakers noted the issue of tariff-driven cost increases are particularly sensitive in the newspaper business, given the impact on independent journalism.

“The freedom of the press is one of the central tenets of the First Amendment,” Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., said.

The publishing industries employ about 600,000 people in the United States, according to Stop Tariffs on Printers & Publishers, a group of companies in the printing and publishing industry leading the charge against the newsprint tariffs.

The group says 11,000 people from all 50 states have signed a petition against the tariffs, and more than 80 members of Congress, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, have raised concerns.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

12,000