Congress

House Speaker Paul Ryan announced Thursday that Republicans will — once again — vote to cut off federal tax dollars for Planned Parenthood. They are planning to include the measure as part of a bigger upcoming bill to repeal pillars of Obamacare. This isn't the first time that they have tried to pass this type of legislation — President Obama vetoed a similar bill last January.

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Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

US spy chiefs insisted Thursday they have strong evidence that Russia mounted an unprecedented bid to disrupt the American election, standing firm in the face of Donald Trump's refusal to accept their conclusions.

One day before the heads of four intelligence bodies brief the president-elect on their assessment of Russian meddling in last year's race, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate hearing he had "very high" confidence in their findings.

Amid this week's firestorm over Republicans' attempt to weaken the Office of Congressional Ethics (and subsequently, backpedal on that attempt), you may have seen this chart floating around the Internet. It depicts data from Google Trends about Americans' search interest in learning who their congressional representatives are, with a pronounced spike around 9 a.m. Tuesday.

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Marco Bello/Reuters

Latin American transparency activists are keen to see what becomes of the Office of Congressional Ethics, a corruption watchdog in the US House of Representatives that's now in the media spotlight.

Republican lawmakers voted to gut the powers of the independent office Monday night. But on Tuesday they withdrew the plan under heavy criticism, including from President-elect Donald Trump. 

Alejandro Salas, Transparency International's regional director for the Americas, worries that the US is sending mixed signals to those fighting corruption around the world.

CM Guerrero / The Miami Herald

House Republicans abruptly reversed course Tuesday and abandoned a plan that would have gutted an independent office that investigates wrongdoing by representatives in Congress.

After a storm of criticism, including from President-elect Donald Trump, House Republicans have reversed themselves and restored the current rules of the Office of Congressional Ethics.

GOP members met Tuesday afternoon and agreed by unanimous consent to withdraw a change to House rules approved late Monday evening, before the new Congress was sworn in, that would have weakened the ethics office, an independent watchdog first established in 2008 under House Democrats.

The House and Senate are back in Washington today for the start of the 115th Congress. With GOP control of both chambers and soon the Oval Office, Republicans are promising an aggressive agenda that will prioritize the repeal of the current president's signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act. The Senate is expected to start that process with a budget resolution this week.

Updated at 10:15 a.m. ET

The House Republican Conference voted Monday night to approve a change to House rules to weaken the independence of the Office of Congressional Ethics and place it under the oversight of the House Ethics Committee, a panel controlled by party leaders.

It will be part of a broader House Rules package to be voted on by the full body on Tuesday after the 115th Congress officially convenes and the House elects a speaker.

As the 115th Congress is sworn in Tuesday, Republicans will be poised to control Washington with a stronger hand than they have in a decade — with the Senate, House and the White House in GOP control once President-elect Donald Trump takes office on January 20.

This past November, Republicans held their congressional losses to a minimum, helped by an unexpectedly strong GOP wave behind Trump. After losing just two Senate seats, they'll hold a 52-48 edge (two independents caucus with Democrats). In the House, Republicans lost six seats, giving them a 241-194 majority.

I cover Congress, and one of the coolest secrets about my job is the furry, four-legged friend I get to bring to work everyday.

Mickey Chang is my effervescent, forever loving, black and white Shih Tzu. You may not know this, but the U.S. Capitol is the most dog-friendly workplace you will ever find. And come on — anyone who has to watch Congress all day needs a therapy dog.

Besides, Mickey loves schmoozing with senators.

Lawmakers have been bringing their dogs to the Capitol since the 1800s, according to the Senate Historian's Office.

Nancy Pelosi beat back her toughest challenge yet to her leadership of Democrats in the House of Representatives, defeating Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan to secure another term as House minority leader.

The California Democrat got 134 votes to Ryan's 63 in a secret ballot vote on Wednesday. Pelosi had boasted going into the vote that she had support from two-thirds of the caucus, and she received just over that amount.

Even if Hillary Clinton does win the White House on Tuesday, the tightening of the presidential race in the final week has been the most detrimental to Democrats' downballot hopes.

No matter who wins the presidential election on Tuesday, it's nearly certain Congress will be more narrowly divided come January.

And with no clear mandate likely coming out of 2016, there is little reason to be overly optimistic that the next Congress can escape the cycle of unproductivity and polarization that has gripped Washington in recent years.


The 115th Congress: Political Dynamics

With little chance of a Democratic House takeover in the 2016 election, the two likeliest scenarios are:

It’s good news to Florida’s Congressional Delegation and Governor Rick Scott that Congress could be close to striking a deal on funding efforts to combat the Zika virus. Florida just passed the 800 mark for the amount of cases reported to health officials. But, Florida leaders are a bit split on how that funding should be accomplished.

Kate Stein / WLRN

The total cost of mosquito control in Miami-Dade County became a bit clearer Tuesday, as officials released a preliminary look at the county’s 2016-2017 budget.

 

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