AG Barr takes temperature of Senate GOP on gun background checks
But there's still confusion about what President Donald Trump will ultimately support

Attorney General William Barr spent a second day on Capitol Hill speaking with Congressional members about gun legislation. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Attorney General William Barr continued to take the temperature of Republican senators on expanding background checks Wednesday after a working document started circulating publicly.

“As the president has made clear he’s interested in exploring meaningful solutions that will actually protect people, make people safer,” the attorney general said. “And I’m up here just kicking around some ideas, getting perspectives, so I can be in a better position to advise the president. The president has made no decision yet on these issues.”

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.

Trump chastises ally Lindsey Graham, teases Thursday ‘announcement’ on Iran
POTUS: ‘Ask Lindsey how did going into the Middle East, how did that work out?’

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., holds a press conference in the Capitol on March 25. He and President Trump are feuding over Iran. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump on Wednesday teased an “announcement” on Iran over its alleged missile strikes on Saudi oil facilities and chastised a leading Senate ally over the volatile matter.

Since the weekend attack took 6 percent of the world’s oil supply offline, the president has indicated his team sees Iran as responsible, tweeted that he has the U.S. military “locked and loaded,” but also said he does not want a shooting conflict with Tehran.

Smithsonian has almost $1 billion in outstanding maintenance, committee told
Buildings with outstanding repair needs include the Castle and the National Air and Space Museum

Cathy L. Helm, inspector general of the Smithsonian Institute, testifies before the House Administration Committee on Oversight of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington on Wednesday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

The Smithsonian Institution has almost $1 billion in outstanding maintenance needs across the more than 600 facilities it oversees, an issue that concerned lawmakers at Wednesday’s House Administration Committee hearing and one that the recently appointed head of the museum complex pledged to address.

Prominent Smithsonian buildings in need of deferred maintenance — maintenance and repairs that were not performed when they should have been — include the Smithsonian Institution Building, known as the Castle, the Arts and Industries Building and the National Air and Space Museum. The $937 million backlog for fiscal 2017 is an assessment of every building it oversees, according to to Cathy Helm, inspector general for the Smithsonian Institution.

Highlighting UAW ties, Cory Booker unveils labor plan as GM workers strike
Booker’s grandfather was a union rep in Detroit and worked on an assembly line during World War II

Sen. Cory Booker is unveiling a labor policy plan amid a UAW-GM strike. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As a General Motors strike continues for a third day, presidential hopeful Sen. Cory Booker is rolling out his labor policy plan.

As part of the unveiling, the Democrat from New Jersey is embracing his family’s history with organized labor, and in particular, the United Auto Workers.

‘Beckmesser’ earns Rep. Chris Pappas the spelling bee title
But competition at National Press Club also turned on spelling cocktails

New Hampshire Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas, left, holds the belt he won as the 2019 National Press Club Spelling Bee champion after defeating the press team’s champ, Eric Geller of Politico. (Herb Jackson/CQ Roll Call)

If you want to win the National Press Club’s Press vs. Politicians Spelling Bee, here’s a tip: Drinking might help.

Not necessarily drinking during the competition, although that certainly happens in the audience (and got official pronouncer Jacques Bailly  more laughs for the “dad jokes” in the use-the-word-in-a-sentence part of the questioning). There’s also a bar at the VIP reception for contestants and sponsors before the competition, and it’s up to them whether to partake before going on stage.

Trump taps State Department’s top hostage negotiator to replace Bolton as national security adviser
Robert C. O’Brien served under Bolton when he was U.N. ambassador

Robert C. O’Brien was sent by President Donald Trump to Sweden in August to try to negotiate the release of rapper A$AP Rocky, who had been arrested on assault charges. (Michael Campanella/Getty Images file photo)

President Donald Trump announced Wednesday he has selected Robert C. O’Brien to replace John Bolton as national security adviser.

“I have worked long & hard with Robert. He will do a great job!” Trump tweeted from California, where he is holding fundraising events.

As background checks talks stall, Trump casts Beto O’Rourke as scapegoat
POTUS: Candidate’s debate remark ‘Convinced many that Dems just want to take your guns away’

Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks during a town hall event in Alexandria, Va., in April. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

If Washington fails to enact legislation to strengthen federal firearms background checks or otherwise deal with mass shootings, President Donald Trump suggests the blame will fall on a former House Democrat who wants his job.

With talks toward a measure that could pass a Democratic-controlled House and a GOP-run Senate showing no tangible signs of progress, Trump has vacillated from supporting beefed-up background checks to endorsing a amorphous plan focused on mental health issues he says is the root cause of mass gun massacres.

Senate panel wants probe into nuclear weapons glitches
Panel is concerned that problems might reflect fundamental oversight shortcomings that have broader implications

An Air Force F-16C carries a B61-12 bomb on a test flight at Nellis AFB, Nev. Problems with commercially manufactured electrical components have caused months of delays. (Staff Sgt. Brandi Hansen/U.S. Air Force photo)

The Senate Appropriations Committee wants to order the Energy Department to launch an investigation into technical problems that have recently plagued U.S. nuclear weapons programs.

The committee’s mandate is buried deep inside the report accompanying the $48.9 billion Energy-Water spending bill that the committee approved on Sept. 12.

Democratic debate moderators haven’t done American voters any favors
Three debates in, candidates and media seem averse to discussing economy, jobs and growth

Moderators at the next Democratic debate should go deeper on extreme policies such as Elizabeth Warren’s assault on capitalism and Bernie Sanders’ socialist health care proposal, Winston writes. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

OPINION — The first three Democratic presidential debates — five, if you count the double features in June and July — are, thankfully, in the political rearview mirror. It turns out that despite the hours and hours spent debating, and then the hours and hours talking about the debates, and then the inevitable polls trying to pick winners and losers, the political landscape hasn’t changed much. 

A Sept. 13-15 Morning Consult poll of Democratic primary voters done after the latest debate found Joe Biden still in the lead at 32 percent. Bernie Sanders was in second place at 20 percent with Elizabeth Warren closing in at 18 percent. Everybody else huddled at the bottom with 6 percent or less. The more things change, it seems, the more they stay the same.

Health care group backs Democrats with seven-figure ad campaign
Effort boosts freshmen who flipped red districts

Iowa Rep. Abby Finkenauer is among the 10 beneficiaries of a seven-figure ad campaign by the Democrat-aligned group Protect Our Care. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A Democrat-aligned group focused on health care is seeking to give 10 vulnerable House members an early political boost through a new $2 million ad campaign.

Protect Our Care plans to launch a digital ad campaign Wednesday to promote the work by 10 Democratic freshmen on health care issues, touting votes to protect preexisting condition protections.

Esper brings China focus as Defense secretary
Plan to seek savings in Pentagon operations could face roadblocks

In search of savings, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper is looking at spending by organization that provide back-office services to the Pentagon. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Like every new Defense secretary, Mark T. Esper says he wants to make the Pentagon more efficient. He will get some results, but not many and not quickly, experts say.

Esper, now a few months into the job, wants to save money to spend it on preparing for war against China, and to a lesser extent Russia.

Greta Thunberg goes to Washington, an epicenter of climate inaction
Teen climate activist testifies Wednesday at joint House hearing

Greta Thunberg, center right, sits with fellow youth climate activists at a Tuesday press conference on Capitol Hill to discuss climate change. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

The Swedish teenager who has become a symbol for a young generation worried about climate change is in Washington this week to help change minds — a hard thing to do in a capital locked in partisan combat.

Greta Thunberg, who famously traveled to the U.S. last month in a sailboat so as to avert the carbon emissions of an airliner, is making the political rounds in Washington, appearing at a student protests outside the White House last week, and a news conference with Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday.

Congress responds to an Olympic cry for help with oversight hammer
Sens. Moran and Blumenthal want legislative action this fall

Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman, a survivor of sexual abuse by Larry Nassar, here at a July 2018 press conference on Capitol Hill, is among the abuse victims seeking action to protect future athletes. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

With less than a year before the world gathers to ignite the Olympic flame in Tokyo for the 2020 summer games, two senators are pushing legislation that would provide the most significant congressional oversight in a generation of the board governing U.S. participation.

Spurred by numerous allegations from Olympic athletes of sexual abuse, a bill by Sens. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, and Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, would make it easier for Congress to effectively fire members of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, or to decertify a governing body like USA Gymnastics in response to future scandals.

Corey Lewandowski teases Senate run as he testifies before Judiciary Committee
Former Trump campaign manager appeared to relish spotlight in impeachment hearing

Corey Lewandowski, the former campaign manager for President Donald Trump, tweeted a link to a potential campaign website during the first break in his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Frustrating the Democrats and proving loyalty to President Donald Trump: That’s just good politics for a Republican.

At least that’s what former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski appeared to be banking on Tuesday as he testified before the House Judiciary Committee and continued to tease a possible bid for Senate from New Hampshire.