Congress | KUOW News and Information

Congress

Updated 12:30 p.m. ET

President Trump kept one of his campaign promises, signing a bill Friday to make it easier for the secretary of veterans affairs to fire and discipline employees. It came in response to the 2014 VA scandal in which employees covered up long wait times while collecting bonuses.

The bill, which passed earlier this month with strong bipartisan support, also gives the secretary authority to revoke bonuses and protects whistleblowers who report wrongdoing.

Screenshot from appropriations.house.gov

Both Democrats and Republicans pushed back against cuts proposed for the U.S. Department of Energy when Energy Secretary Rick Perry came to Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

Washington state Republicans criticized Trump administration proposals to lop one-fourth off efforts to clean up radioactive waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and sell off much of the Northwest’s high-voltage power grid.

Russia's efforts to interfere with last year's elections will be front and center during two hearings on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson will appear before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence while the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will hear from current U.S. intelligence officials and state election experts.

Here are five questions likely to be on lawmakers' minds as they listen to witnesses and ask questions.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Republicans will release a discussion draft of their version of the health care bill on Thursday, with a vote likely next week.

Private health care talks have been underway in the Senate for weeks. McConnell tapped a 13-member working group last month to hash out senators' differences over the House-passed American Health Care Act. McConnell's office has since taken the lead drafting the Senate version of the party's long-promised legislation to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

Updated at 10:15 p.m. ET

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana has undergone surgery and will need further operations, after being shot by a man who opened fire with a rifle on an early morning baseball practice for Republican members of Congress in Alexandria, Va. Scalise was the most seriously injured of four victims of the shootings.

In this Sept. 10, 2013, file photo Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington.
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Washington Rep. Adam Smith (D) has unveiled a bill aimed at deterring Russian aggression against the U.S. and its allies.

The bill would pressure the Trump administration to create a comprehensive policy on Russia and increase sanctions.

The nation's top legal officer is set to go before Congress on Tuesday to try to defuse a bomb that the former FBI director dropped into his lap.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is scheduled to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee less than one week after James Comey told the committee he could not discuss openly certain information about Sessions' recusal from the investigation into Russia's election meddling last year.

TV networks have deployed countdown clocks. People are tweeting about places to watch and whether they'll offer morning cocktail specials. Congressional aides report that demand for seats inside the Senate hearing room has reached levels not seen for decades.

Anticipation is building for testimony from fired FBI Director James Comey, not least in the White House, where the president and his aides worry the telegenic former law enforcement leader could inflict both political and legal wounds.

What Comey might say

Spokane Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers says the current Republican health care bill is only part of a larger plan.
Flickr Photo/Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/e4kQ16

Most Washington state lawmakers are dismayed about the House vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. State insurance officials say it could lead to thousands of people losing their health insurance.


US Congress
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Bill Radke talks to Margot Sanger-Katz, The New York Times reporter who covers health care for The Upshot, about the health care bill that passed the House and what happens next. 

Police officers pause next to a sign outside a restaurant as they observe a May Day anti-capitalism march, Friday, May 1, 2015 in Seattle.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

When you’re out marching on May Day in Seattle on Monday, remember how the tradition began: as an attempt to get workers an eight-hour day.

And then think about this: Some labor advocates say the eight-hour day is under attack in Congress.

President Donald Trump shakes hands with 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch, his choice for Supreme Court associate justice in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Bill Radke talks to New York Times Magazine staff writer Emily Bazelon about the Senate vote on Judge Neil Gorsuch and what it means now that Senate Democrats are threatening to filibuster the the vote. 

After a day of statements, Tuesday's Supreme Court confirmation hearing was all about answers. Judge Neil Gorsuch was careful in his responses to Senate Judiciary Committee members, but there were still a number of insights that marked the day. Read our full Day 2 coverage here. These are five highlights:

FBI Director James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian Intelligence Activities.
AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Starting Monday morning, NPR reporters provide live coverage of the House Intelligence Committee’s public hearing on the investigations into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.

United States Capitol building.
Flickr Photo/Eric E Johnson (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/7enkXF

President Trump will address a joint session of Congress for the first time on Tuesday evening at the Capitol, around 6:00 p.m. PST.

The address comes a day after Trump gave an outline of his budget plan for Congress, which would increase defense spending and make cuts to domestic programs. Following tradition, House Speaker Paul Ryan invited the president to make the speech to lay out his agenda in the early days of his new administration. 

At a session in Fremont, Shaine Truscott with SEIU-775 helps train "peacekeepers" for protests.
KUOW photo/David Hyde

In a Fremont conference room, about a dozen people pored over a hand-drawn map of the area around Republican Congressman Dave Reichert's office over in Issaquah. 

This is the specter currently haunting President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress: a left-wing Tea Party movement – led by paid protesters – that aims to disrupt their Town Halls and other public events across the country.


Mardie Rhodes of Sammamish was one of the people at the rally in Issaquah on Thursday.
KUOW photo/David Hyde

Protesters gathered outside Congressman Dave Reichert's office in Issaquah on Thursday, upset that he hasn’t scheduled face time with the public during the first Congressional recess since Donald Trump was elected president.

An influential Washington state Congress member is among the officials pushing for an investigation into Michael Flynn's actions.

The confirmation today of Betsy DeVos as the 11th U.S. secretary of education brought angry denunciations and firm pledges of support — no surprise for a Cabinet nominee who had become a lightning rod for Americans' views about their public schools.

Here's our roundup, with excerpts from reactions around the country:

First, DeVos herself tweeted shortly after her confirmation:

And this tweet from Vice President Pence, who cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate:

President Trump tweeted his congratulations:

The teachers unions

There's a moment in the Broadway musical Hamilton where George Washington says to an exasperated Alexander Hamilton: "Winning is easy, young man. Governing's harder."

When it comes to health care, it seems that President Trump is learning that same lesson. Trump and Republicans in Congress are struggling with how to keep their double-edged campaign promise — to repeal Obamacare without leaving millions of people without health insurance.

Rep. Adam Smith
Office of Adam Smith / U.S. House

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith says he’s deeply disturbed by comments made by President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

Pramila Jayapal
Flickr Photo/Joe Mabel (CC BY SA 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/zznt82

Democrats in the U.S. House have introduced a bill to try to prevent immigration restrictions like the ones in effect under President Trump. Trump's executive order temporarily bans immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries and prohibits entry by any new refugees for four months.

Senator Jeff Sessions.
FLICKR PHOTO/Gage Skidmore (CC by SA 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/av61Fy

Bill Radke speaks with Puget Sound Business Journal digital editor Greg Lamm about the impact Jeff Sessions could have on Washington's marijuana and tech industries if he is confirmed as the U.S. attorney general.

Pramila Jayapal
Flickr Photo/Joe Mabel (CC BY SA 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/zznt82

Donald Trump's electoral victory was made official Friday by members of Congress.

Several Democrats made a last-ditch effort to block him from the presidency. Among them was Seattle's new Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.

Senator Patty Murray in the KUOW offices, Jan. 2016.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Just days into Congress' new session, major topics are on the table.

Washington Democratic Senator Patty Murray says she will fight back against a Republican plan to defund Planned Parenthood. This week House Speaker Paul Ryan said he wants to cut off federal financial support to the health organization.

Lawmakers returned to Washington and wasted no time getting to work on the repeal of Obamacare.

Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., introduced a resolution just hours after the new Congress convened Tuesday that will serve as the vehicle for repealing much of the president's signature health care law.

Spokane Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers says the current Republican health care bill is only part of a larger plan.
Flickr Photo/Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/e4kQ16

Patricia Murphy talks with Wall Street Journal reporter Amy Harder about the role of Donald Trump Jr. in deciding the president elect's pick for Interior secretary. Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers was initially a front runner for the position. On Thursday, Trump picked Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke.

Members of the U.S. House and Senate expect to pass a law in the next few days that would return a 9,000-year old set of human remains to Northwest tribes. “Kennewick Man” was found along the banks of the Columbia River in 1996 by two students.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has been unanimously re-nominated by his party to continue to serve as speaker in the 115th Congress.

According to Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong, Ryan was nominated by Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., a founding member of the conservative Freedom Caucus that helped to push out former House Speaker John Boehner.

Pramila Jayapal says she'll go to Congress 'on the defensive' against new president Donald Trump.
KUOW Photo/Lisa Willmer

In the race for the 7th Congressional District, which includes most of Seattle as well as Shoreline and Vashon Island, State Senator Pramila Jayapal emerged with a strong lead on election night over her opponent Brady Walkinshaw. 

Her victory would make her the first Indian-American woman in Congress.

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