USDA official says agencies can find new staff after they move to Kansas City
Research chief also disputes reports that USDA is burying climate science research

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced new homes for the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A top Agriculture Department research official told a Senate committee that two agencies slated for a contested move out of Washington can recover from an exodus of employees and denied media reports the department has hidden agency documents on climate change.

Scott Hutchins, deputy undersecretary for research, education and economics, said Thursday that many employees eligible to move to the Kansas City metropolitan area with either the Economic Research Service or National Institute of Food and Agriculture have notified USDA that they will stay in Washington. Employees who have agreed to move have until Sept. 30 to make the trek west, where the agencies will operate out of a temporary space until USDA finds a long-term landlord.

Senators roll out pilot program to speed asylum claims
Plan would streamline process for migrant families who have legitimate claims

Republican senators behind the asylum proposal include Ron Johnson, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A group of nine senators — six Republicans and three Democrats — is proposing a new pilot program to better manage the influx of families seeking asylum at the southwest border.

“Operation Safe Return,” as the group calls it, would be the first bipartisan step to address the situation at the border, the senators said in a letter Thursday to Trump administration officials. Their plan would streamline the process by which migrant families who have legitimate claims for asylum are processed at the border, and swiftly weed out those who do not.

White House offers up extensive menu of cuts for spending caps deal
The administration wants at least $150 billion in savings

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is leading the talks for her side of the aisle. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Trump administration has laid out a wide array of spending cuts and tweaks to mandatory programs for Democratic leaders to consider for inclusion in a two-year discretionary caps and debt limit package.

The White House offsets menu includes $574 billion culled from items in President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget request, according to a source familiar with the proposal. In addition, there’s $516 billion in “structural reforms” obtained by extending current discretionary spending limits by another two years, through fiscal 2023.

Clete Willems is trading in the White House for K Street
“My biggest joke now is I went to become a partner in a law firm, so I can work less”

Clete Willems has gone from chauffeuring Rep. Paul D. Ryan to working on trade policy at the White House to partnering at the Akin Gump law firm on K Street. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The timing of Clete Willems’ recent departure from the White House seemed a bit inopportune what with negotiations over trade disputes with China hitting a pivotal point. But the international economics adviser to the president says he had other commitments to keep.

Though the Trump White House has a reputation for unpredictability and plenty of staffing drama, Willems says the reason for his departure was more personal. When he took on the new gig at the beginning of the Trump administration, he made a pact with his wife: When they had a second child, he would head for the exit. His daughter was born in March.

Does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez need a ‘chief of change’ or a change of staff?
Who is calling the shots in New York Democrat’s office?

By going after Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other House Democrats, Saikat Chakrabarti, left, chief of staff to New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, broke a cardinal rule of the unwritten Hill staffer code, Murphy writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION — Mention the name Saikat Chakrabarti to Democratic chiefs of staff on Capitol Hill, and you’ll get an array of fed-up responses to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s high-profile top aide, from “Ugh” to “What the (expletive)?” to “He’s got to go.”

Although staffer feuds are not uncommon, the Harvard-educated former tech executive who leads AOC’s office has recently committed the two great sins against the unwritten code of Capitol Hill staffers. The first is to never upstage the boss.

Ghosts of Confederate Mississippi endure in the Capitol
Jefferson Davis, James Z. George were Confederates, white supremacists

A statue of James Z. George, a Confederate colonel and U.S. senator, is on display in the Capitol Visitor Center. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

While answering phones in the Mississippi congressional office where he worked, Ty James was called the n-word by someone on the other end of the line. It was 2017 and marked the second time he had been called that.

Those kinds of experiences have helped convince James, a native Mississippian and African American who is press secretary for Rep. Bennie Thompson, that the two statues representing the state in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection shouldn’t be devoted to men who were Confederates and white supremacists.

When congressional staffers are elected officials too
Staffers who wear two hats have to answer to their boss’ constituents — and their own

Connecticut state Rep. Sean Scanlon works for Democratic Sen. Christopher S. Murphy. (Courtesy Connecticut General Assembly)

Sean Scanlon caught the political bug when he was a kid growing up in Guilford, Connecticut. 

Many young people infected with the same passion for politics often face a choice: Do you want to run for office yourself and be a politician? Or do you work in politics behind the scenes?

Former GOP staffer running for Virginia delegate knows not to knock the ‘swamp’
Hill experience isn’t a liability for D.J. Jordan on the campaign trail

Former Hill staffer D.J. Jordan, here at a July Fourth parade in Daly City, Va., is running for the Virginia House of Delegates. (Courtesy D.J. Jordan)

When D.J. Jordan was a Hill staffer, his drive into the city took an hour and 15 minutes, and that was on a good day. He turned to the fine art of slugging — picking up fellow commuters at designated parking lots to reach a quorum for the HOV-3 express lanes.

“It has literally been my personal nightmare,” Jordan said. “I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve missed family dinner and missed my son’s football practice and missed my daughter’s dance rehearsal or recital because I’m stuck in traffic.”

Andy Kim is paying his pen pal forward
New Jersey Democrat recalls lessons from ex-boss and foreign policy giant Richard Lugar

New Jersey Rep. Andy Kim still draws inspiration from his brief stint as an aide to former Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Richard G. Lugar. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

New Jersey Democrat Andy Kim learned a lot of what he knows about governing from two of his mentors — the late Republican Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana and the late Ambassador Chris Stevens, who died in the 2012 Benghazi attack.

One started out as a pen pal, the other as an officemate. And after stints at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the State Department and the Pentagon, those lessons still come in handy for Kim, one of 23 House freshmen under the age of 40. 

Fly me to the moon … before China does
Trump administration wants to get there by 2024, but the competition will be stiff

The image of a Saturn V, the rocket that sent Apollo 11 into orbit in 1969, is projected Tuesday on the Washington Monument. Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A new space race is on, and this time it’s the U.S. versus China rather than the former Soviet Union.

In the coming years, NASA and the China National Space Administration separately plan to send a series of missions to the moon with the goal of having a strong presence on its south pole — heightening the likelihood of tension and conflict.

Are you cut out for the campaign trail?
How to tell if you’re a campaigner or meant for the Hill life

Jennifer Wexton campaign manager Ray Rieling points to CNN’s coverage of the Virginia 10th District race as Wexton’s staff and family watch election returns in the campaign’s war room on election night 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Half-eaten doughnuts. Late-night conference calls over multiple cups of coffee. The life of a campaigner can be hectic and unpredictable. It’s also more physical, whether it’s spending hours in a car driving from the Tallapoosa County Democratic Women’s luncheon or logging miles on Saturday morning door knocking in the summer heat.

It’s best suited for those with a high tolerance for chaos.

Senate schedules debate on 9/11 victims compensation bill
The bill sailed through the House last week, but Senate fiscal hawks worried about price tag

Comedian and advocate Jon Stewart along with 9/11 responders are seen on the Speaker’s balcony after a meeting in the Capitol with Speaker Nancy Pelosi about funding for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate leaders have agreed to take up a bill Tuesday that would extend a financial lifeline to thousands of victims suffering health problems from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The bill sailed through the House last week on a 402-12 vote, but has faced resistance in the Senate from fiscal hawks worried about its price tag. The measure would effectively make permanent a special compensation fund for first responders and other victims of the 2001 attacks, while providing however much money is needed to pay all eligible claims.

Trump: US shoots down Iranian drone in Strait of Hormuz
‘The drone was immediately destroyed,’ the president said

President Donald Trump and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (L) talk to reporters in the Oval Office at the White House July 18, 2019 in Washington, DC. According to the Dutch government, the two leaders will discuss defense and security cooperation, especially focused on whether the Netherlands will participate in a global effort to secure international waterways against threats from Iran. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Trump said U.S. forces shot down an Iranian drone that was operating too close to an American vessel.

Trump said the drone was shot down in the Strait of Hormuz, an important shipping lane that provides the only access to open ocean from the Persian Gulf. He called on other countries to condemn Iran and protect their own ships.

Senate seeks to make sure that hacking election systems is a federal crime
Senators unanimously pass narrow legislation, but no broad action is expected

The Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would clarify that hacking election systems and machines is a federal crime. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate took another small step to improve election security Wednesday evening, even as there is no plan for a broader debate on the floor.

As the chamber was closing for the evening, senators passed by unanimous consent a bipartisan bill out of the Senate Judiciary Committee designed to make sure that hacking election systems is actually a federal crime.

President Trump can’t stop slamming his reelection campaign team
Stump speech’s syrupy ending is ‘getting a little obsolete,’ gripes candidate in chief

President Donald Trump concludes a rally at the Williamsport Regional Airport in Montoursville, Pa., on May 20. At its still-sunny start, he questioned why his staff had the stage lights turned to such a bright setting - and he just keeps publicly bashing them. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS — First, it was the lights. Next, it was the price of — perceived — bad advice. And Wednesday night, it was the months-old end to his canned campaign stump speech.

President Donald Trump, the New York-based real estate executive whose penchant for delegating has faded since taking office, isn’t exactly hiding his annoyance with his reelection campaign advisers.