leadership

Criminal Justice Bill Could Bring Out Drama in Senate
Tom Cotton threatens Christmas showdown, throws gauntlet at colleagues

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says the chamber will consider a criminal justice reform measure, but opponents might make it a rough debate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate is poised to vote on a bipartisan criminal justice bill as soon as this week, the culmination of behind-the-scenes negotiations and a public campaign by lawmakers, the White House and advocates to press Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring it to the floor this year. But that does not mean the debate will be free of drama. 

McConnell announced Tuesday that the revised bill would be put on the floor agenda this month “following improvements to the legislation that [have] been secured by several members.” That ended weeks of uncertainty about whether the Senate would have a chance to vote on prison and sentencing changes that would be the first in a generation and could become a signature accomplishment right before the end of the 115th Congress.

Trump Wants New Chief of Staff Who ‘Believes in What We’re Doing’
Sarah Sanders suggests John Kelly should have hashed out gripes ‘behind closed doors’

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly waits to speak as press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders introduces him during a White House briefing in October 2017. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump’s top spokeswoman suggested her boss grew frustrated with outgoing Chief of Staff John Kelly disagreeing with his policies — and sometimes taking disputes public.

“I think he brought a lot of structure to the White House that was needed at the time he came in,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of his second chief of staff. “That being said, I think the president is looking for somebody who believes in what we’re doing.”

Pelosi Opponent Moulton Stares Down Potential Primary Challenge
Massachusetts state senator mulls opposing him in 2020

Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., has antagonized some progressive groups with his opposition to Nancy Pelosi’s bid for speaker. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton positioned himself as a chief antagonist to Nancy Pelosi when he joined with other Democrats to oppose her bid to reclaim the speaker’s gavel — rankling party leadership and progressive organizations.

But Moulton might soon be facing down a different kind of political rival: a primary opponent.

Mitch McConnell Touting Victory With Hemp Legalization on Farm Bill
Issue is becoming an early plank of the Kentucky Republican’s 2020 re-election bid

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been promoting industrial hemp language in the farm bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to put himself on the farm bill conference committee was insurance that one of his policy priorities — and a key issue for his 2020 re-election campaign — would make it to President Donald Trump’s desk this year.

“At a time when farm income is down and growers are struggling, industrial hemp is a bright spot of agriculture’s future,” McConnell said Tuesday morning. “My provision in the farm bill will not only legalize domestic hemp, but it will also allow state departments of agriculture to be responsible for its oversight.”

3 Takeaways From Trump’s Made-For-TV Oval Office Border Brawl
“You get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you,” Pelosi says

President Donald Trump argues about border security with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as Vice President Mike Pence sits nearby, silent, in the Oval Office on Tuesday. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

ANALYSIS | Vice President Mike Pence looked taken aback, barely moving and saying nothing as President Donald Trump and the top Democratic congressional leaders bickered and moved the country — with each insult and barb — closer to a partial holiday season government shutdown.

The former Indiana congressman’s statuesque performance was a contrast to the kinetic scene unfolding around him, another made-for-television moment that allowed the bombastic Republican president to pick a fight with the two Democrats perhaps most reviled by his conservative base on live cable TV.

Border Wall Meeting Spirals as Trump Bickers With Pelosi, Schumer
President stands firm on $5B ask as shutdown possibility nears

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., argued Tuesday with President Donald Trump over his proposed southern border wall. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Updated 12:49 p.m. | President Donald Trump and top congressional Democrats bickered about his proposed southern border in front of reporters Tuesday as they sought to avert a partial government shutdown.

Trump grew angry at one point and threatened to shutter part of the federal government over the holidays unless Congress meets his demands, with the Democrats warning he would take responsibility for what they already are calling a “Trump shutdown.”

House Democrats to Wait ’Til Next Year in Term Limit Discussion
Hard talk will have to wait for incoming freshmen in 116th Congress

The large freshman class will have a chance to weigh in on the House Democrats' rules package, an and specifically whether to have term limits for leaders and committee chairs. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

With the current impasse on the upcoming speaker election as backdrop, House Democrats on Tuesday discussed the concept of term limiting their elected leaders and committee chairs, but decided to postpone until January when the incoming freshmen will be present to participate.

“We’re going to talk after the New Year,” Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters.

Trump Hedges on $5 Billion for Border Wall on Day of Meeting With Schumer, Pelosi
President hints at military construction of barrier, which could be problematic legally

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Just before a scheduled meeting with Democratic leaders on border security funding, President Donald Trump appeared to soften his demand for $5 billion in construction funds for his southern border wall proposal.

in a series of tweets, the president sought to build a case that portions of fencing and levee wall already built or in the works on his watch have successfully increased border security to a degree, even without the money he wants. And in a subsequent tweet, Trump foreshadows “some important announcements” in his administration’s trade talks with China; if true, any positive headlines of those talks could be drowned out by an ugly partial government shutdown that Trump likely would be blamed for.

Senate Could Work Between Holidays for Criminal Justice Bill
More GOP support cited by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., holds a press conference in the Capitol on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, the day after Election Day. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate will take up a bipartisan criminal justice bill this month after changes to the text secured more support from Republicans, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday.

Senators could turn to the new text as early as the end of this week, he said.

Ahead of Meeting With Democratic Leaders, Trump Repeats False Wall Claim
President to meet with Schumer and Pelosi to talk border wall funding

President Donald Trump said Democrats have resisted border security for political reasons and because they have been “pulled so far left.” (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump, just hours ahead of a key meeting on the issue with Democratic leaders, made an impassioned plea for his southern border wall — and repeated another partially false claim.

The commander in chief claimed that “large Caravans that WERE forming and heading to our Country” have ceased in Central America because of “our newly built Walls, makeshift Walls & Fences, or Border Patrol Officers & Military.”