Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette has dropped out of the race for majority whip, leaving South Carolina Rep. James E. Clyburn running unopposed to retain his No. 3 position in Democratic leadership. 

“Many of my supporters have expressed concern about pressure they are receiving to return the three senior leaders to their posts without opposition,” DeGette said in a statement.  “We have enough work to do without this internal pressure. Therefore, I am withdrawing my bid for Whip at this time.”

DeGette had formally announced her bid for whip Nov. 7, after the midterm elections, but she said she had been talking to colleagues about her interest in the position for the better part of a year.

But her entry into the race still surprised and upset members of the Congressional Black Caucus who were backing Clyburn, especially since he was the only one of the top three longtime Democratic leaders to get a challenger. 

“I just find it interesting and insulting at the same time that he’s the one with opposition,” CBC Chairman Cedric Richmond said last week. 

The Louisiana Democrat said he had been getting calls from Civil Rights leaders who were upset about DeGette’s challenge to Clyburn, the highest ranking black member of Congress. 

Clyburn said he had received such calls as well but noted he did not believe that DeGette was running against him for racial reasons. He had a conversation with her on the floor early last week in which he said they discussed ensuring the race remained civil.

DeGette said when she decided to run she had thought Clyburn would be running for a higher position and so initially did not think she would be challenging him. Once it became clear he was running for whip, she said she stayed in the race because she thought she was qualified for the job and had garnered enough support that she thought she had a shot at winning. 

Richmond pushed back on DeGette’s assertion that she didn’t know Clyburn would run for whip, saying he made that clear to her in a conversation they had on the floor in September.

“I told her specifically … that if the leadership stays the way it is, Clyburn is going to run for whip,” he said. “She said, ‘do  you really think that’s the case.’ I said yes.”

DeGette said in her statement that she looks forward to continuing on as a chief deputy whip, an appointed role. Since the whip gets to pick his deputies, it would ultimately would be up to Clyburn to allow her to remain in that role.

House Democrats are scheduled to hold their leadership elections on Nov. 28.

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, in her bumpy bid to reclaim the speaker’s gavel, has wooed endorsements from more than two dozen outside groups and labor unions, an atypical element of a debate usually held within the party’s inner sanctum.

The public show of support for the California Democrat makes clear the high stakes of the leadership slate for the incoming House majority and for the party’s off-the-Hill allies. MoveOn.org weighed in on Pelosi’s behalf on Thursday evening, as other progressive and liberal-leaning groups say privately their leaders are considering taking the unprecedented step of making an endorsement in a leadership contest.

“We can think of no one better suited to be speaker at this critical moment in history,” wrote a group of union leaders — including from the American Federation of Government Employees, United Auto Workers and the National Association of Letter Carriers — in a letter to Pelosi after the election. “We stand ready to work with you and the entire Congress on behalf of the tens of millions of working men and women and their families who are looking to us, and to you, to address their critical concerns.”

MoveOn.org, in the group’s mobilization on behalf of Pelosi’s bid, tweeted Thursday: “We strongly support and call on all members of the Democratic caucus to support @NancyPelosi for Speaker. Were it not for her skilled and effective leadership, the [Affordable Care Act] would not be law today. Dems must reject attempts to defeat her and move caucus to the right.”

Pelosi, the first-ever woman to serve as speaker, held that gavel from 2007 through 2010 and her signature legislative achievements included the 2010 health care law known as Obamacare, as well as a lobbying overhaul in 2007 that she championed after Democrats won the House, in part, in the 2006 elections by attacking Republicans for a “culture of corruption” on the heels of the Jack Abramoff scandal.

Some of her colleagues, such as Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, argue that the party should elect new leadership in the 116th Congress, but they have not publicly coalesced around a specific alternative to Pelosi.

Other groups that have made public their preference for Pelosi include the abortion-rights organization NARAL Pro-Choice America, the League of Conservation Voters, People for the American Way, the health care-focused Protect Our Care, the Service Employees International Union, campaign finance overhaul group End Citizens United, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the United Farm Workers and the Communications Workers of America.

Tax March, a liberal effort that opposed the 2017 Republican tax overhaul and also advocates for the public disclosure of the president’s tax returns, also endorsed Pelosi. “For two years, Leader Pelosi worked alongside Tax March in this fight — crisscrossing the country to educate constituents at town halls, mobilizing activists and organizers on the ground, and holding Republicans accountable for their shameful tax law,” said the group’s executive director, Maura Quint.

The leaders of some of the nation’s most prominent liberal organizations and unions have also personally backed Pelosi, including Shannon Watts, founder of the gun-control organization Moms Demand Action and AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka.

“I’m looking forward to calling her Madam Speaker again,” Watts tweeted recently.

Though the Center for American Progress does not make endorsements in congressional leadership races, according to a spokeswoman for the organization, the group’s president Neera Tanden personally backed Pelosi for the post.

Some organizations on the left, however, are urging progressive Democrats to withhold their speaker votes as a way to “extract concessions,” said Waleed Shahid of Justice Democrats, a group that backed primary challengers such as Reps.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts.

“We also want any potential speaker to build a movement around the policies that the overwhelming majority of Democrats agree with: Medicare For All, rejecting corporate donations, free college, and dismantling mass incarceration and mass deportation,” Shahid said in an email.

A longtime Democratic operative, who would only discuss the gavel campaign on condition of anonymity for fear of drawing the ire of Pelosi or other party members, said that the unusual outreach by progressive organizations shows both the former speaker’s influence among the outside groups and that she hasn’t yet sealed her success despite her public pronouncements that she will be speaker in the 116th Congress.

In addition to the outside groups, Pelosi’s campaign team sent an email to supporters Thursday asking the public to sign on to an online campaign in support of her bid. “Let Nancy know you’ve got her back. Add your name,” the petition, at pelosiforcongress.org, reads.

“If she had it locked up, she wouldn’t be doing all this,” the longtime Democratic operative said.

A spokesman for Pelosi did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the role of the outside groups in her speaker campaign.

Still, it’s unclear whether the show of support from outside activists for Pelosi will make a difference — and should she fail to take the gavel whether they’d experience obstacles in building ties to whomever does become speaker.

Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, an Ohio Democrat considering a challenge to Pelosi, said she, too, is hearing from outside interests on her side, if only privately.

“I can’t even sleep my phone is going off so much, not just from people within this institution but people outside of this institution who are excited about the possibility of change and new leadership,” Fudge said. “I mean, I’m hearing it from lobbyists, from labor, from tons and tons of people.”

Even with the unusual volume of support from liberal groups for Pelosi, corporate organizations have yet to break their tradition of staying out of leadership fights. Blair Latoff Holmes, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said, “no, we do not weigh in on leadership elections.” And prominent lobbyists for business interests said their clients were not speaking out on the matter.

Pelosi is still the front-runner for the job, despite facing vocal opposition from a collection of her colleagues as well as pledges from newly elected Democrats who vowed not to vote for her as Speaker.

Jason Pye, vice president of legislative affairs for the conservative group FreedomWorks, said his group has no regrets about backing Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan to lead House Republicans in the next Congress, even though Jordan lost to California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who is the current No. 2 in House GOP leadership.

“It’s a matter of taking a stand on principle,” Pye said, adding that he expects Pelosi will ultimately pull it off. Given the swell of outside groups coming to her side, though, “that tells me maybe this isn’t set in stone,” he added.

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.

Watch: Pelosi Talks Midterm ‘Wave,’ Says She Has Votes for Speakership

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Forty years ago Sunday, a young Jackie Speier was shot and left for dead on an airstrip in Guyana, after helping her boss — Rep. Leo Ryan — rescue 25 cult members from a deadly cult commune known as Jonestown. Ryan was shot and killed that day, shortly before more than 900 members of the commune died of a mass suicide and murder.

Speier, who has been a member of Congress from California since 2008, joined Roll Call to listen to recently uncovered audio of an interview her former boss conducted with a cult escapee, just months before Ryan was killed in the so-called Jonestown massacre.

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Heard on the Hill

Word on the Hill: What’s Buzzing on Capitol Hill?

By Alex Gangitano

Vice President Mike Pence is getting bipartisan backing for pressing Aung San Suu Kyi over the imprisonment of two Reuters journalists in Myanmar.

Pence met with the state counsellor of the country, also known as Burma, in connection with his trip to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, which has taken him countries across Asia, as well as Australia.

“As co-chairs of the Senate Human Rights Caucus, we have repeatedly condemned the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s Rakhine State and called on the Government of Burma to release Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo,” said Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Chris Coons, D-Del. “We applaud Vice President Pence for affirming the United States’ commitment to a free and independent press and delivering a strong criticism of the treatment of the Rohingya during his meeting with Burmese State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi at the ASEAN Summit on Wednesday.”

The senators continued: “The Government of Burma should take immediate steps to improve conditions for the Rohingya and other ethnic and religious minorities in Burma, including providing a pathway to citizenship for the Rohingya.”

Tillis and Coons expressed a commitment to assist displaced Rohingya refugees now in Bangladesh. The development of democracy in Myanmar has been among the most-watched developments in foreign policy in the Senate.

That’s largely because of the long time interest in the country coming from current Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Senior administration officials told reporters traveling with Pence that the vice president specifically asked Suu Kyi to pardon the Reuters journalists, apparently going even beyond what he had said to Suu Kyi in public.

At the top of the Wednesday meeting with Suu Kyi, Pence said, “Let me also say that, in America, we believe in our democratic institutions and ideals, including a free and independent press. And the arrest and jailing of two journalists last fall was deeply troubling to millions of Americans, and I look forward to speaking with you about the premium that we place on a free and independent press.”

“Let me urge all our nations to do more to address the plight of the Rohingya. More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled their homeland because of the slaughter and persecution by Myanmar’s security forces and vigilantes. This is a humanitarian crisis, but we must also beware the potential radicalization of refugees,” Pence also said this week at an East Asia Summit Plenary Session in Singapore.

Watch Also: Ai Weiwei Discusses Refugee Crisis

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Democrats’ draft proposals for overhauling the House rules would return at least some so-called regular order processes to the lower chamber by ensuring major bills go through committee before hitting the floor. 

The requirement that all bills being brought to the floor under a rule must have gone through a committee hearing and markup is just one of several notable changes Democrats are floating to House rules now that they’ll be in the majority. 

Incoming Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern presented the draft proposals, a list of which was obtained by Roll Call, to the Democratic Caucus Thursday afternoon.

Some of the notable proposals include:


One proposal not included on the list is a restoration of earmarks.

Since the 2010 earmark ban Republicans implemented was included only in their intraparty rules, Democrats technically do not need to use the rules package to restore them. They can just start using them again. 

However, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who’s expected to be majority leader next Congress, has suggested that language be added to the rules package outlining the parameters under which earmarks could be used and providing guidelines for ensuring they are transparent. 

Watch: Pelosi Talks Midterm ‘Wave,’ Says She Has Votes for Speakership

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Rep. Ruben Kihuen harassed women who worked with him and violated the House’s official code of conduct, according to a House Ethics Committee report released Thursday. 

“Kihuen made persistent and unwanted advances towards women who were required to interact with him as part of their professional responsibilities,” the report says. The advances included kissing, grabbing and comments about underwear.

The release comes after a nine-month inquiry by an investigative subcommittee empaneled in Dec. 2017. 

The Nevada Democrat refused to resign following allegations of harassment by women who worked for and with him, even after top Democrats called on him to step down. But Kihuen decided not to seek re-election, making the announcement a day after the Ethics Committee launched its investigation.

At the time, he disputed the allegations against him, but said they “would be a distraction from a fair and thorough discussion of the issues in a re-election campaign.” 

Three women testified before the investigative subcommittee that Kihuen made unwanted physical and verbal advances toward them between 2013 and 2017. The report details Kihuen’s actions toward a D.C. “firm employee,” a campaign staffer and a Nevada lobbyist.

The committee found that while serving as a member of the House, Kihuen repeatedly kissed the firm employee’s cheek, touched her shoulders and back and commented on her physique. He also inquired about her relationship status and asked if she lived alone. Kihuen insinuated that he would help the D.C. firm employee with her career in exchange for a romantic relationship, according to the Ethics report.

The campaign staffer testified that Kihuen made unwanted advances toward her by touching her thigh while they were driving back from a meeting and by grabbing the back of her thigh as she stood up to check her computer. She told the committee that Kihuen would tell her “you look really good,” and “I would take you out if you didn’t work for me,” by suggesting that the two of them should get a room as they arrived at a hotel for a meeting, and by asking her if she ever cheated on her boyfriend.

The female lobbyist, who worked with Kihuen in Nevada between 2013 and 2015, testified that he slid his hand under her dress and onto her thigh, grabbed her buttocks, asked her to sit on his lap, inquired what color her panties were and suggested that she would look good naked. The report also says the lobbyist testified that he sent messages suggesting — through emojis — that they make a sex tape together.

Screen Shot 2018-11-16 at 3.17.37 PM

The subcommittee’s full report includes over 100 pages of text messages, chats and emails between Kihuen and the women, along with the women discussing Kihuen’s behavior with other people.

While the investigative subcommittee chose not to “address whether any of Representative Kihuen’s behavior prior to being sworn in as a Member of the House” fell within the panel’s jurisdiction, the full House Ethics Committee asserted in the report that it has jurisdiction over “misconduct relating to a successful campaign for election to the House.”

The full Ethics panel decided that Kihuen’s behavior toward the campaign staffer, coupled with his actions when he was serving in the House, warrants “reproval.”

Reproval by the Ethics Committee is “intended to be a clear public statement of rebuke of a Member’s conduct issued by a body of that Member’s peers acting … on behalf of the House of Representatives.”

House Rule XXIII, clauses 1 and 2, states that “a Member … of the House shall behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House” and “shall adhere to the spirit and the letter of the Rules of the House.”

Roll Call Reporters Discuss Covering Sexual Harassment on the Hill in the #MeToo Era


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The midterms have come and gone and it’s back to the Hill for members new and old. The lame duck sessions in the House and Senate gaveled in Tuesday while new member orientation kicked off its first week.

The chambers, along with orientation, recess next week for the Thanksgiving holiday and will start up sessions again the week of Nov. 26.

Here's the entire week in photos:

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The House Ethics Committee found Rep. Mark Meadows failed to take “prompt and decisive action” to handle alleged sexual harassment in his congressional office, according to a Friday report.

The committee also found Meadows violated House rules by failing to take action to ensure his office was not engaging in discrimination.

The House Ethics Committee is requiring Meadows to reimburse the U.S. Treasury for the amount paid to a Meadows staffer who was removed from his role due to allegations of harassment, $40,625.02.

A group of employees in Meadows’ Washington office reported in October 2014 to the deputy chief of staff at the time that Kenny West had acted inappropriately toward them. Meadows continued to pay West his full-time salary after he was moved to a part-time advisory role. The Code of Official Conduct for House members says that members may not “retain an employee who does not perform duties for the employing office commensurate with the compensation the employee receives.”

The Ethics Committee found that when West was demoted to senior adviser, his pay remained the same. The report says that the committee found “little evidence of official work that he completed during that time.”

“To cut off all contact between Mr. West and most of his female employees, caused another potential problem. An environment where only male staff have access to the Chief of Staff risks unequal treatment of employees based solely on sex,” the report said.

The committee found that Meadows did not know about West’s behavior until several of his female staff made complaints to him in Oct. 2014. Meadows arranged for an independent investigation through the Office of House Employment Counsel, or the Office of Compliance.

“After that independent review was complete, he ignored its findings and the recommendation by the independent investigator to terminate Mr. West’s employment,” according to the Ethics Committee report.

“While Representative Meadows took some important immediate steps – restricting Mr. West from the congressional offices and prohibiting him from contacting most of the female employees – those steps were essentially all he did to prevent and correct the alleged sexual harassment for nearly six months,” says the report.

Meadows was approached by GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy, who told him that the measures he took to separate West from the female staff were not working. The speaker’s office got involved in the spring of 2015, which prompted Meadows to remove West from his supervisory role.

“There is no place in any congressional office for looking up skirts, or down shirts; staring at a woman’s chest; unwanted touching; or making sexual comments, even if subtle or in jest. The fact that Mr. West supervised the women he did these things to makes his behavior even more unacceptable,” says the report.

“Making sure my team feels safe and secure in our office is the highest priority for me and I’m truly sorry for any stress this situation caused them. I thank the Ethics Committee for their work in resolving this, and my office will remain committed to serving western North Carolinians every day to the best of our ability,” said Meadows in a statement Friday afternoon.

Meadows intends to pay back the severance as the committee requested, according to an aide.

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Why Nancy Pelosi Won't Back Down

By Shawn Zeller

A group of Senate Democrats want the private prison industry to explain whether it is complying with federal standards for housing at ICE immigration detention centers.

Led by Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the senators have written to CoreCivic and GEO group about their housing practices following reports from the inspector general at the Homeland Security Department.

“These reports and the results of the OIG investigations indicate that the perverse profit incentive at the core of the private prison business model has resulted in GEO Group and CoreCivic boosting profits by cutting costs on expenditures including food, health care, and sufficient pay and training for guards and prison staff,” the senators wrote.

The senators want answers by the end of the month.

The signatories on Warren’s letters included a bunch of other potential 2020 presidential hopefuls such as Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Among the requests are for the prison operators to turn over any waivers that may have been granted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for noncompliance with relevant standards.

“In their review, OIG found that detainees in immigration detention facilities do not have access to basic necessities or prompt and adequate medical care,” the senators wrote.

Specifically, they cite a report about disturbing findings on the frequency of suicide attempts at a GEO Group-operated ICE facility in Adelanto, California.

“The report found that in 15 out of approximately 20 cells examined inspectors saw nooses fashioned from twisted bedsheets hanging from vents,” they said. “A detainee quoted in the report explained that detainees use braided bedsheets to attempt to commit suicide.”

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The new House GOP leadership team gave no indication Wednesday it would reconsider its cozy relationship with President Donald Trump, despite losses in dozens of suburban districts in the midterms last week.

Newly elected House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California acknowledged at a press conference Wednesday that winning back the American suburbs will be a “challenge” in 2020 but said multiple times at the press conference that “history was against” the GOP keeping control of both chambers of Congress in a midterm election with a first-term Republican president in the Oval Office.

McCarthy declined to assign blame for any midterm losses to the president and his bombastic immigration-centric rhetoric. Instead, he attributed Democratic gains to millions of dollars in outside spending from billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others.

The new House GOP standard-bearer, who will serve out the lame duck session as majority leader, indicated Republicans would actively protect Trump by countering Democratic efforts to execute oversight over the Trump administration.

Democrats want to “disrupt” and “impeach,” McCarthy said. Democratic leaders and prospective House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler have not suggested at any point before or since the midterms that they plan to pursue articles of impeachment.

Nadler and Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Elijah Cummings have, however, already made clear that their top priority will be to protect special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election — including possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russia.

Democrats have a laundry list of other matters they want to investigate — the president’s tax returns, possible violations of the Emoluments Clause, internal administration communications that led to the immigrant family separation policy at the U.S. border — but have said they know they will need to be methodical and prioritize.

The new Republican leaders panned the notion of Democratic House oversight over the administration.

Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, who will remain the House Republican whip after a unanimous voice vote in his favor Wednesday, said “people in this country don’t want an obstructive Congress.”

McCarthy agreed.

“If their agenda is simply investigations and impeachment ... we’ll be there to defend the American public,” he said.

McCarthy and Scalise were flanked at the press conference by new Republican conference chairwoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who will fill the position her father held three decades ago; conference vice chairman Mark Walker of North Carolina; conference secretary Jason Smith of Missouri; and policy committee chairman Gary Palmer of Alabama, the first conservative House Freedom Caucus member to hold a leadership position.

The new National Republican Congressional Committee chairman, Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, did not attend the press conference.

Walker branded the House GOP as the party of the future, noting the average age of the likely top three leaders on the Democratic side are a combined average of 78 years old. The average age of the new GOP leaders is 52.

“We’re all about new ideas,” Walker said.

The new leaders have not had a chance to discuss how they will extend an olive branch to the Freedom Caucus and other supporters of its founder, Jim Jordan, who lost the race for minority leader to McCarthy, 159 votes to 43.

McCarthy thanked Jordan for running, suggesting it was good for members to have options to weigh for new leadership.

Trump has told confidants that he wants Jordan, a fierce and skillful defender of the president on the cable news circuit, to be appointed ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee to repel possible impeachment proceedings against him, Politico reported Wednesday. That appointment does not, for now, appear likely, as Republican Reps. Steve Chabot of Ohio and Doug Collins of Georgia prepare to court steering committee votes for the post.

A spot has opened up for Jordan, though, to lead Republicans in the Oversight Committee. The current GOP chairman, South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, is retiring in January.

“I think Jim is an incredibly talented guy,” Palmer said. “I think he will [be the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee] one day. He’s that talented,” Palmer said.

He declined to say whether “one day” meant in the new Congress in January or further in the future.

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President Donald Trump on Saturday said he can twist enough House Republican arms to give Nancy Pelosi the necessary votes to become speaker.

The California Democrat publicly says she has ample support within her own caucus to secure the gavel. But all indications are a floor vote could be close, meaning Republicans could opt — for a list of reasons — to put her over the top.

For Trump, making Pelosi speaker would give him the sense that she owes him legislatively and also ensure that his top campaign-trail foil, who remains intensely unpopular with Republican voters, remains in the headlines through his re-election bid.

[Awkward Moments from Donald Trump's Veterans Day Do-Over]

“I can get Nancy Pelosi as many votes as she wants in order for her to be Speaker of the House,” he tweeted Saturday morning ahead of a trip to California to visit with people affected by wildfires.

He again wrote that Pelosi “deserves this victory, she has earned it — but there are those in her party who are trying to take it away.”

Ultimately, Trump predicted Pelosi “will win!”

I can get Nancy Pelosi as many votes as she wants in order for her to be Speaker of the House. She deserves this victory, she has earned it - but there are those in her party who are trying to take it away. She will win! @TomReedCongress

He reiterated his promise to assist Pelosi as he left the White House for California, saying he could get her however many GOP votes she needs, whether it was 100 or 10.

Pelosi said Thursday she intends to win the speakership with Democratic votes and would not accept help from help from Republicans.

“Oh please, no,” she said. “Never. Never. Never.”

Trump told reporters Saturday that his legal team would submit written answers to questions posed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

“They’re all done,” he said of his responses, which he claimed Friday to have written himself.

He also said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will brief him on Air Force One about the agency’s findings about whether Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Trump again said he has been told the crown prince was not involved in the assassination, despite reports the CIA has concluded the de facto Saudi ruler gave the green-light to lure Khashoggi to Turkey and then kill him.

Asked about a New York Times report that he is concerned over Vice President Mike Pence’s loyalty, Trump replied: “No, I don’t question his loyalty at all. … It was a phony story. I doubt they had any sources. … He’s been a trooper.”

Mike Pence is 100 percent,” the president said several times.

Trump said he is not close to picking a nominee for attorney general, but is close to announcing a UN ambassador pick.

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.Watch: Pelosi Talks Midterm ‘Wave,’ Says She Has Votes for Speakership

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House Republicans on Thursday will consider changes to their internal conference rules, with several amendments targeting the process for selecting committee leaders. 

The biggest proposed change comes from Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher, who wants committee members to be able to choose their own chairmen or ranking members. 

His amendment would exclude the Rules, Budget and House Administration committees — the heads of which are appointed by the Republican leader — from the member-selection process. 

Under the conference’s current rules, the Republican Steering Committee, a panel composed primarily of leadership and regional representatives, nominates committee leaders and the full conference ratifies those recommendations. 

If Gallagher’s amendment were adopted, the Steering Committee would still be in charge of assigning members to committees. 

Also Watch: Senate Republicans Talk Leadership Team and Special Counsel Protections

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, who’s a proponent of allowing committee members to select their leaders, has an alternative amendment should Gallagher’s fail. Meadows’ proposal would at least reduce leadership’s influence in selecting committee leaders. 

The North Carolina Republican wants to get rid of an existing rule that would allow the Republican leader’s vote to count as four votes and his deputy’s to count as two votes, so that their combined votes are equal to all other Steering members’ votes.

Meadows also has two other amendments. One would strike an existing rule that allows members who are appointed to the Rules Committee to reserve their seniority on one standing committee they had to leave to join Rules. The other would ensure that if the GOP leader convenes a panel to consider conference rules changes, the members he appoints would be “broadly representative of the diverse perspectives within the Republican Conference.”

Texas Rep. Pete Olson is offering an amendment to prevent committee leaders who reach their three-term limit (an existing conference rule that no one is proposing to change) from leading any of that panel’s subcommittees during the following three Congresses.

Many Republican committee leaders often retire from Congress after reaching their term limits, as five of them did for that reason this cycle. (Three chairmen who were not term-limited retired too). But Olson’s amendment would likely force even more into that decision and thus seems unlikely to be adopted.

Olson does provide a grandfather clause in his amendment that would allow any former committee leader who held subcommittee chairmanships this Congress to continue on in those roles for up to two more terms. 

In amendment that is blatantly self-serving, Alaska Rep. Don Young is offering an amendment to allow the dean of the House to serve on the Republican Steering Committee when the dean is a GOP member. Young is the dean, the title ascribed to the longest-serving House member. 

The final amendment comes from New York Rep. Elise Stefanik and would require members of elected leadership who decide to run for higher office like governor or senator to vacate their leadership positions after announcing. 

It's unclear whether Stefanik’s amendment is meant to target a member of the leadership team the conference elected Wednesday. But it could seen as an insurance policy against Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney — who was elected conference chairwoman for the next Congress — using the leadership post as a platform to run against Sen. Michael B. Enzi for his Senate seat again. 

Enzi is up for re-election in 2020. Cheney challenged him when he last ran in 2014 — she was not in Congress at the time — but ultimately dropped out of the race, citing family health issues.

Noticeably absent from the amendment offerings were controversial ones that arose two years ago over restoring earmarks.

At the time House Republicans, who banned earmarks after they won the House majority in 2010, appeared poised to provide a limited restoration of what proponents like to call congressional directed spending. But Speaker Paul D. Ryan urged the members to drop the proposal for further debate, promising a vote in the following months that never happened. 

The reason GOP earmark proponents aren’t offering new amendments this year is likely because they’re not in the majority so wouldn’t have much power on their own to use them anyway. Plus, Democrats seem likely to lift the earmark ban as part of the House rules package for the 116th Congress. 

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Florida’s Senate race is proceeding from a machine recount to a hand recount, the Secretary of State announced Thursday.

It’s the latest development in the drawn-out race between Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and his Republican opponent, Gov. Rick Scott, whose margin remains under the 0.25 of a percentage point that automatically triggers a hand recount. 

Canvassing boards in each county will have three days to examine “overvotes” and “undervotes” to try to determine how voters intended to vote. Overvotes are when the machine detects too many votes for the same office, and undervotes are when the machines don’t pick up any vote for a particular office. A Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times estimate found there could be anywhere between 35,000 and 118,000 of these ballots.

Democrats are seeking a hand recount of all ballots in Palm Beach County because of problems with the county's vote-counting machines. 

Scott’s campaign claims that his lead grew by 865 votes during the machine recount. That would make his margin about 13,400 votes, according to his campaign. Nelson’s campaign believes the margin remains around 12,600.

Scott’s campaign, which has made multiple unfounded allegations of voter fraud in the week since Election Day, is calling on Florida to “move forward.”

But Nelson’s campaign remains optimistic about its chances to win the race and believes more votes need to be counted. 

“It has never been our position that there was going to be one silver bullet that would change the margin in this race,” Nelson recount attorney Marc Elias said on a call with reporters Thursday evening. 

Besides the hand recount, Elias believes Nelson can pick up votes from voters “curing” what’s known as signature mismatches. That refers to mail-in or provisional ballots that were rejected because the signatures on them did not match the signatures state officials had on record. A district court on Thursday extended the deadline for voters who were belatedly notified of a signature irregularity to correct their signatures on those ballots.

Elias also sees opportunity for Nelson to pick up votes from a pending lawsuit that would allow the counting of mail-in ballots that were cast by Election Day but not delivered in time. 

Watch: Bill Nelson Makes a Statement on Florida’s Senate Race Recount

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Chuck Grassley Opts for Finance Chairmanship

By Roll Call Staff