Richard J Durbin

Forget impeachment, let’s talk about the Nats: Congressional Hits and Misses
Week of October 14, 2019

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., departs from a press conference after the Senate Republicans’ lunch in the Capitol on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

While no one is on the same page about the impeachment inquiry or the Trump administration’s foreign policy moves, all of D.C. can at least agree on one thing: the Nationals making it to the World Series is “pretty exciting,” as ever-enthusiastic Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put it.

Between putt-putt mishaps, rebukes of Chairman LeBron James and an auction for the Stanley Cup, Congress has been on the ball lately.

Impeachment news roundup: Oct. 15
Trump accuses Democrats of selected leaks, and Democrats provide an impeachment update

Fiona Hill, President Donald Trump’s former Russia adviser, arrives at the Capitol to testify before Congress as part of the House’s impeachment inquiry on Monday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, and Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday they would not comply with congressional subpoenas.

“If they enforce it, then we will see what happens,” Giuliani told ABC News.

White House plans to cut refugee admittance to all-time low

The Statue of Liberty in New York City is seen through fencing on Aug. 14, 2019. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images file photo)

The Trump administration announced on Thursday plans to slash its refugee admittance program by almost half next year, the lowest cap since the refugee system was created in 1980.

The White House said it would admit no more than 18,000 refugees for the next fiscal year, a drop from its current limit of 30,000 and a plunge from the 110,000 admitted in 2016 under President Barack Obama’s final year in office.

Comeback tour for Al Franken enters new phase with radio show
Minnesota Democrat was podcasting, now will be on SiriusXM

Sen. Al Franken and his wife, Franni, leave the Capitol on December 7, 2017, after Franken announced on the Senate floor that he would resign his seat. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

After almost two years in the wilderness, former Sen. Al Franken is jumping back into the public eye —sort of — with a new SiriusXM radio show that will focus on politics and culture.

The one-hour show premieres 10 a.m. EDT Sept. 28 and will feature comedian and fellow “Saturday Night Live” alumnus Chris Rock as Franken’s first guest.

Farm payment disclosure language delaying stopgap funds
Disagreement remains on how to information on payments made under Trump’s trade mitigation assistance program

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., talks with reporters after a news conference in the Capitol on August 13, 2019. On Wednesday, Hoyer said he hopes a stopgap funding bill would be filed as soon as lawmakers can iron out final details, including on language that would let the White House keep making payments to farmers and ranchers under President Donald Trump’s trade mitigation assistance. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Disputes over language that would let the White House keep making payments to farmers and ranchers under President Donald Trump’s trade war mitigation program were delaying release of a stopgap appropriations measure needed to keep the government open beyond the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30.

“Almost ready,” House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., said Wednesday afternoon. She said outstanding issues include how to draft language that would provide adequate reimbursement to the Commodity Credit Corporation for payments made under Trump’s tariff relief program. The CCC is approaching its $30 billion borrowing cap and without the appropriations “anomaly” White House officials say they’d have to stop making payments to eligible farmers and ranchers.

Health care riders, farm payouts slow stopgap deal
Bill pulled from House Rules agenda late Tuesday afternoon

Montana Sen. Jon Tester is among those objecting to potential provisions in a stopgap spending bill needed to keep the government open after Sept. 30. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Trade assistance for farmers hit by retaliatory tariffs and the details of several health care program extensions were standing in the way of agreement on a stopgap funding measure Tuesday, sources said.

According to a senior Democratic aide, the bill was likely to include an increase in the Commodity Credit Corporation’s $30 billion borrowing cap that the Trump administration asked for earlier this month. But provisions on “accountability and transparency” were still under discussion, the aide said.

Senate Democrats prepare marathon floor session on gun violence
Late night is expected as 22 senators are prepared to call for legislation

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., will lead nearly two dozen senators in a marathon of floor speeches on gun violence Tuesday night. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Nearly two dozen Senate Democrats plan to make it a late night on Tuesday, speaking out on the Senate floor about the impact of gun violence and legislative proposals Congress could explore.

The speeches are expected to begin around 5:30 p.m. and run late. Connecticut Democrat Christopher S. Murphy is leading the effort, spurred by mass shootings in Texas and Ohio during the August recess and the lack of clear response from the White House on what, if any, gun control measures they could agree to.

Bipartisan group urges FDA to go beyond vaping flavor ban
Senators call for more action to curb e-cigarettes

Last week, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., called on Sharpless to resign if the FDA did not restrict flavored e-cigarette sales, but Durbin said Thursday that Sharpless “responded to my letter in a positive way and I want to give him a chance to show that he’s serious.” (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senators from both parties emphasized to the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday that more should be done to curb youth vaping beyond the Trump administration’s decision a day earlier to ban e-cigarette flavors.

Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless briefed the senators in a morning meeting that the organizer, Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Illinois, described in positive terms. Last week, Durbin called on Sharpless to resign if the FDA did not restrict flavored e-cigarette sales, but Durbin said Thursday that Sharpless “responded to my letter in a positive way and I want to give him a chance to show that he’s serious.”

Senate appropriations process continues to devolve
Labor-HHS-Education and State-Foreign Operations spending bills mired in abortion dispute

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., has seen the Senate’s appropriations process begin to fray this week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate appropriators have abandoned plans to mark up two spending bills Thursday that have become mired in a partisan dispute over abortion policy.

The Appropriations Committee announced it will postpone consideration of its fiscal 2020 Labor-HHS-Education bill and its State-Foreign Operations bill. As of Wednesday evening, the panel still planned to take up its Defense and Energy-Water bills at a full committee markup, along with a measure that would divvy up total discretionary spending among the 12 subcommittees.

Border wall, other disputes sidetrack Senate spending work
Panel's markup is delayed; government funding lapses on Oct. 1

Sen. Richard Durbin wants to move forward on military spending, but is unsure if that will happen. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate’s appropriations process fell into disarray Tuesday after a scheduled markup was abruptly postponed in a dispute over policy riders, and a fight over the border wall threatened to hold up defense spending.

Democrats were also resisting the GOP majority’s proposed subcommittee allocations that are needed to draft the 12 fiscal 2020 spending bills. And some lawmakers said there was still no agreement between the House and Senate on the length of a stopgap funding measure that will be needed to avoid a government shutdown come next month, when the new fiscal year begins.