Podcast: A Map Puts Pennsylvania on Political Center Stage
Roll Call Decoder, Episode 4

Rep. Ryan Costello, R-Pa., runs past Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., on the House steps as members of Congress leave for the 4th of July recess following the final votes of the week in the Capitol on Thursday, June, 29, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The state’s Democratic congressional roster could grow by half a dozen, a huge boost for the party’s bid to take back the House this fall, thanks to new district lines drawn by the state’s highest court. Roll Call political reporter Bridget Bowman explains the party’s boosted targets for opportunity now that one of the nation’s most partisan gerrymandered maps has been re-colored in purple. 

Show Notes:

When the Deal Precedes the Bid, Time to Change the Rules?
With bipartisan agreement that the budget system is broken, the Hill sets in motion a serious overhaul debate

Boxes containing President Donald Trump’’s fiscal 2019 budget are unpacked by staff in the House Budget Committee hearing room on Monday morning. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The latest unfeasible budget proposal is so two days ago. But a rewrite of the unsalvageable budget process may be unavoidable three seasons from now.

What the White House delivered to the Capitol on Monday were among the least consequential documents of the year. That’s because their fine-print aspirations of fiscal restraint were entirely theoretical. They had been rendered meaningless three days before by the newest law on the books, which makes real the promise of at least $300 billion extra in acceptable appropriations during the next several months.

Podcast: ​In Search of the Ideal Political Map
Roll Call Decoder, Episode 3

Shirley Connuck, right, of Falls Church, Va., holds up a sign representing Texas’ 18th District, as the Supreme Court hears a case on possible partisan gerrymandering by state legislatures on October 3, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Courts are weighing in as never before on whether gerrymandering can be too political. If red and blue can no longer constitutionally dominate the mapmakers’ work, what are they to do? As Roll Call election analyst Nathan Gonzales explains, it’s very difficult to draw districts that are at once competitive, compact and fair to minority voters. And the 2018 primaries are about to get started.

 Show Notes:

Trump Faces the Audience That Matters More: Hill Republicans
State of the Union may be forgotten, but GOP lawmakers will remember his bid for party loyalty in crucial coming months

President Donald Trump speaks during the joint session of Congress to deliver his State of the Union Address in the Capitol on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Fresh off one speech designed to conjure an implausible degree of unity in the country, President Donald Trump will deliver another address designed to sustain his implausible degree of unity with Republicans on the Hill.

Tuesday’s State of the Union was all about persuading his national television audience, only two-fifths of which approves of his first year in office, to come around to the view of a “new American moment” in which a burst of economic vigor and the promise of tax cuts should be enough to sustain satisfaction past the next election.

Why Does Congress ‘Retreat?’
 

Gardner as Trump Scold? Why It Makes Sense — and Why It Doesn’t
No other mid-career GOP senator has crossed the president more often

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner is among a small group of Republican lawmakers who have opposed President Donald Trump’s policies and criticized his rhetoric. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

For an exception to the rule that it doesn’t pay for a congressional Republican on the rise to cross President Donald Trump, the curious case of Cory Gardner may provide the current best example.

He’s in the tiny clutch of GOP lawmakers who have not only opposed the president’s policies, on issues from immigration to marijuana, but also have called him out for his rhetoric, especially on race.

Podcast: How Trump is So Quickly Remaking the Federal Bench
Roll Call Decoder, Episode 2

President Donald Trump arrives for Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in the Capitol rotunda to honor former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., on January 17, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The end of filibusters, changes in other Hill customs and subcontracting nominations to conservative groups – all have combined to make Senate judicial confirmations much more about “consent” than “advice,” CQ legal affairs reporter Todd Ruger explains.

Show Notes:

The Many Ways to Draw a Gerrymander
Roll Call Decoder with David Hawkings: wonky explainers from a Capitol Hill expert

When a Shutdown Amounts to a Mulligan
Hill Democrats, Republicans and Trump all escape from the impasse with a shot at redemption

Signs were posted outside the Library of Congress in Washington on Sunday notifying visitors that all Library of Congress buildings would be closed to the public during a government shutdown. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

It may be hard to believe now, especially for those whose lives were upended the past three days, but this could end up being remembered as the “Never mind” shutdown.

Since the federal government is going to be fully back in business Tuesday — after just one weekday when the lights were only partially and inconsistently turned off — both parties in Congress may have won the same consolation prize for their long weekend of partisan petulance: a get-out-of-political-jail-for-free card.

Why Congress Won’t Touch the 25th Amendment
Authors intended it for total incapacity and vice president needs to lead any move

President Donald Trump isn’t likely to face an attempt to remove him, using the 25th amendment. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Pushing toward the pinnacle of defensive hyperbole by proclaiming himself “a very stable genius” has done more than anything to subject Donald Trump to speculation at the Capitol about how psychologically fit he is for the presidency.

Trump’s first comprehensive medical exam on Friday after a year in office, when his sedentary lifestyle and junk food habits have only been enabled, did not dispel worries by many congressional gym rats about the 71-year-old’s ability to withstand the job’s bodily strain.

Inside the House Republican Brain Drain
Record exodus by members who’ve wielded gavels will complicate next year

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce isn’t seeking re-election. He’s part of a record wave of departures by House chairmen. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

This has already become a wave election year, because a record wave of departures by House chairmen already guarantees a sea change in the Republican power structure next January.

Even if the GOP manages to hold on to its majority this fall, its policymaking muscle for the second half of President Donald Trump’s term will need some prolonged rehabilitation. And if the party gets swept back into the minority, its aptitude for stopping or co-opting the newly ascendant Democrats’ agenda will require some serious retraining.

Podcast: Unpacking This Year’s Version of the Budget Mess
Roll Call Decoder, Episode 1

Tourists file past the statue of George Washington in the Capitol Rotunda on Jan. 8. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Crimes and Bombs, Not Bills, Likely to Dominate Hill Attention
Election year begins with catch-up legislating but will soon be about waiting on Mueller and Kim

Robert S. Mueller III and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un could shape the year ahead. (Illustration Chris Hale/Photos Getty Images)

The people with the most power to drive the 2018 congressional agenda, especially after the tumultuous several weeks ahead, are neither members of the Capitol leadership nor the occupant of the Oval Office.

Whatever President Donald Trump wants to get done, however hard Paul D. Ryan and Mitch McConnell work to assist him, whether Nancy Pelosi and Charles E. Schumer decide to collaborate on or confront the Republican program — none of that will matter as much as the actions of just two folks who’ve never even run for federal office.

How Congressional Debate Is Supposed to Work (And How It Really Works)
 

Topic for Debate: Time to End Congressional Debates?
Real deliberation and persuasion are so rare, the move might improve Hill functionality

In the GOP’s successful push for its tax overhaul, floor debates appeared to have no influence on changing members’ positions. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Here’s a modest proposal to jumpstart the new year: Do away with what passes for “debate” on the floors of the House and Senate.

Doing so would mean Congress is facing up to its current rank among the world’s least deliberative bodies. It may be a place suffused with rhetoric, some of it pretty convincing at times, but next to no genuine cogitation happens in open legislative sessions and precious few ears are ever opened to opposing points of view.