From political fundraisers to speaking events on women and the economy, during the recess congressional leaders have been crisscrossing the country, raising money, and in some cases discussing strategy with colleagues for the coming fiscal fights when lawmakers return next month.
Here’s a look at what top Republicans and Democrats in both chambers have been up to since they left town earlier this month.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Not having to worry about reelection this recess, Reid headlined a pair of environment-focused conferences this summer, including one at Lake Tahoe along with former Vice President Al Gore. He’s given interviews to Nevada-based news organizations and grabbed headlines around the country for expressing his opinion on baseball. The Baseball Hall of Fame, Reid said, should end a ban on disgraced slugger and former Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose and let him enter the hall. While touting the benefits of a green economy, Reid also attended fundraisers in Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Sun reported.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
The Republican leader faces threats from both ends of the political spectrum and has been in Kentucky, attending events and deflecting his image as a Washington insider. His likely Democratic challenger in 2014, Alison Lundergan Grimes, is earning positive coverage in the Kentucky press after a halting start to her campaign, and tea-party challenger Matt Bevin has been slamming McConnell for his lukewarm response to a conservative effort to make defunding Obamacare a condition of keeping the government running. McConnell’s campaign hit a speed bump when a recording surfaced this summer in which campaign manager Jesse Benton, whose January conversation had been secretly recorded, said he was “holding my nose” while working for McConnell, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. But McConnell seemed to take it in stride, posing for a photo with Benton. In the picture, Benton holds his nose and a smiling McConnell, arm flung around Benton, is pointing at the aide.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
The assistant majority leader riled conservatives this summer with a series of letters concerning “stand your ground” laws. Durbin wrote organizations asking them to disclose whether they were members of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a self-described think tank that helped author such laws, and whether those organizations backed the laws. Conservatives complain that the letters amount to political intimidation. The Chicago Tribune suggested Durbin was compiling an “enemies list.” Durbin said the paper and his detractors were wrong and that he is concerned with a lack of transparency surrounding the issue. He plans to hold a hearing on the laws in September.
Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas
Running for reelection next year, Cornyn attended meetings in “every area of Texas” and met with 260,000 residents, according to the Dallas Morning News. Despite this and the fact that Texas is a reliably Republican stronghold, Cornyn became a political target briefly this summer when he irked the conservative group FreedomWorks. Cornyn declined an invitation to an event, and in his place, the group featured a cardboard cutout of the state’s senior senator, according to reports. Cornyn has a conservative voting record, but as Sen. Ted Cruz demonstrated when he beat establishment incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in last cycle’s GOP primary, that’s not always enough to fend off the party’s more conservative wing.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio
The 12-term congressman waded into the internal GOP debate over whether to use the threat of a possible government shutdown as a method to repeal Obamacare this month. Boehner reminded Republicans in a conference call, Reuters reported, of the poor outcome for the GOP after the shutdown in the ‘90s. Some lawmakers, like Oklahoma’s Tom Cole, sided with Boehner, but others like Tim Huelskamp of Kansas disagreed with the speaker and pointed to a divide in the party, according to Reuters. Part of Boehner’s summer agenda has been helping raise money for colleagues. He attended a fundraiser for Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, who is the target of a turbocharged primary challenger, according to The Oregonian. Bryan Smith has won the backing of the Club for Growth, an influential conservative group. But August has not been all strategy and fundraising for the speaker. Earlier this month, he played golf with Donald Trump and Ari Emanuel (brother of Rahm, the former White House chief of staff and current Chicago mayor) in Bedminster, N.J., according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “We had a good time,” Trump said, according to the paper. “He played well, I played well, we all played well.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
The Democratic leader traveled to Massachusetts on Friday to attend an event on women and economic issues with Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass. The East Coast swing was part of a Democratic push to focus on an agenda called “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds, The Boston Globe reported. Pelosi attended the event despite the possibility that an ethics investigation could be opened against Tierney. Pelosi attended a similar event, also focused on women, in Albuquerque, N.M., with Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.
Cantor, along with Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., spoke at an exclusive and private conservative event hosted by the Koch brothers near Albuquerque, N.M., according to reports. Discussion touched on McConnell’s GOP primary, as well as that of Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Politico reported. Cantor, like Boehner, also shared his view on the coming debate over how to fund the government. Cantor suggested that the gambit, backed in the Senate by Mike Lee, R-Utah, Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Marco Rubio, R-Fla, among others, would likely fail. “In order to avoid a government shutdown, we need 60 votes in the Senate and 218 votes in the House to pass a continuing resolution,” he explained. “To get 60 votes in the Senate, you need at least 14 Democrats to join Republicans and pass a CR that defunds Obamacare. Right now, I am not aware of a single Democrat in the Senate who would join us. If and when defunding has 60 votes in the Senate, we will absolutely deliver more than 218 votes in the House,” Cantor said, according to National Review. Cantor also led a 28-member delegation to Israel earlier this month, meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres.
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
Hoyer spoke Saturday at the rally preceding the “National Action to Realize the Dream March” to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington. Hoyer also led a group of 37 Democratic lawmakers to Israel and the West Bank, according to the Southern Maryland News.
What We're Following See More »
As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."
President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.
In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."
"A Senate bill to gut Obamacare would increase the number of uninsured people by 32 million and double premiums on Obamacare's exchanges by 2026, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The analysis is of a bill that passed Congress in 2015 that would repeal Obamacare's taxes and some of the mandates. Republicans intend to leave Obamacare in place for two years while a replacement is crafted and implemented."