Kelsey Snell | KUER 90.1

Kelsey Snell

Kelsey Snell is a congressional reporter for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says the path to GOP success in 2020 is running "to be the firewall that saves the country from socialism."

McConnell told reporters Thursday that he is advising all Republican Senate candidates to run on offense by casting themselves as the only alternative to Democrats who want to drive the country to the left.

The Senate voted largely along party lines to change its debate rules — a move that will speed up the confirmation process for some lower-level judicial and agency nominees.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., used a complex procedural maneuver, known as the nuclear option, to cut debate for lower-level nominees from 30 hours to two hours. The change does not apply to Cabinet-level nominees, federal appeals judges, members of some boards and commissions or the Supreme Court. It also does not change the 60-vote requirement to advance legislation.

There are few things Democrats and Republicans in Congress usually agree on, but one of them is rushing federal money to victims of natural disasters.

That sentiment crumbled this week when the Senate failed to advance two separate disaster funding bills. Both included bipartisan funding to help relieve damage across the country from flooding, wildfires, tornadoes and hurricanes. But a fight over assistance for Puerto Rico has derailed getting a deal on the entire package.

For Democrats, one of the keys to winning control of the House of Representatives last year was convincing voters in formerly Republican districts that there's more than one way to be a Democrat.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., was one of dozens of new members who ousted Republicans, in part on a pledge to buck party leaders and work across the aisle. Spanberger spent her first three months in office following through on that promise — she voted against Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the House and split from Democrats on a number of procedural votes.

House Democrats wanted this to be a week of celebration centered on the passage of their signature bill to overhaul campaign finance, ethics and voting laws. Instead, leaders spent the week working to quell internal divisions and struggling to refocus attention on the party's legislative achievements.

Updated at 9:14 p.m. ET

President Trump will support a border security funding compromise, averting a partial government shutdown early Saturday — but he also will declare a national emergency in order to build the wall he has pushed for along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Spending negotiators may have reached an agreement on an outline to avoid a government shutdown, but the final legislation is still incomplete less than three days before the Friday deadline.

Updated at 4:15 p.m. ET

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is joining other top Democrats in warning that the road to releasing President Trump's tax returns may be slower than activists are hoping.

Pelosi told reporters on Thursday that she knows "there's this impatience" to see the full picture of Trump's finances but Democrats have to proceed carefully. "It's not a question of just sending a letter," Pelosi said. "You have to do it in a very careful way."

Democrats officially took control of the House of Representatives one month ago with a promise of moving quickly on a fresh agenda centered on protecting health care and making Washington work better.

After a week of tit for tat with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, amid a monthlong government shutdown, the White House is now moving ahead with plans for the president's State of the Union address, proceeding as if it were happening as originally planned next week.

White House officials are aiming for the speech to occur before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, Jan. 29. But it is far from guaranteed. The House must pass a resolution to call a joint session with the Senate before the president can come speak.

Democrats won control of the House of Representatives in November in part by promising to work across the aisle and get things done. Now the newly elected freshmen must decide how they will use their newfound power in the face of the longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history.

Updated at 5:15 p.m. ET

The White House is working to identify federal dollars that could be redirected to construct a border wall, if President Trump invokes his emergency powers to do so.

Updated at 10:38 p.m. ET

Democrats again rejected President Trump's demand for a wall on the Southern border following an Oval Office address Tuesday night in which Trump insisted the wall is the only solution to an influx of migration from Mexico and Central America.

Updated at 3:46 p.m. ET

Nancy Pelosi is again speaker of the House, as Democrats retook control of the chamber for the first time in eight years, bringing divided government back to Washington.

The first woman to hold the position, Pelosi is now the first person to reclaim the speaker's gavel in more than six decades.

The California Democrat was elected with 220 votes over California Republican Kevin McCarthy, the new minority leader.

Updated at 4:57 p.m. ET

Six days into a partial government shutdown, congressional Democrats and President Trump are showing no signs of reaching a deal to reopen the government. Instead, it appears the shutdown could last until 2019.

The president has only a few more days to advance any spending agreement with the help of full GOP control in Washington. Democrats take control of the House on Jan. 3, giving them significant new leverage over future spending talks.

Updated at 7:20 p.m. ET

Congressional negotiators have reached an agreement to overhaul the system for handling accusations of sexual misconduct against members, including a requirement that members pay out of pocket for some settlements and court judgments.

Congress voted to delay the threat of a partial government shutdown until Dec. 21 as lawmakers try to avoid political sniping in the midst of the public mourning for former President George H.W. Bush.

The main sticking point in the spending negotiations is President Trump's demand for $5 billion for construction of a wall along the Southwest border between the United States and Mexico.

Congressional leaders are planning to delay a spending fight until after the memorial ceremonies for former President George H.W. Bush are completed.

House leaders are drafting a bill to postpone a potential government shutdown from midnight on Friday night to the end of the day on Dec. 21.

Updated at 5:15 p.m. ET

House Republicans elected top leaders Wednesday to oversee their transformation from an ideologically diverse majority power to an increasingly conservative minority in the next session of Congress.

Updated at 2:37 p.m. ET

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., offered an olive branch to President Trump and congressional Republicans, just hours after Democrats took back control of the House of Representatives.

The congressional leader said that the new Democratic House majority will seek bipartisanship with Republicans, a comment that echoed what Trump himself had conveyed in his own postelection press conference.

House Democrats are promising to start 2019 with a familiar pledge: They want to drain the swamp.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who plans to run for speaker, announced Tuesday that Democrats plan to use their majority in the House to act as a check on President Trump and on corruption in Washington.

Updated at 8:52 p.m. ET

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has a message for Republican voters who are celebrating the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh: Get to the polls in November if you want more conservatives sitting on judicial benches.

Updated at 8:41 p.m. ET

Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court cleared a key procedural hurdle in the Senate on Friday, and his confirmation now seems all but certain, after a key swing vote, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, declared her support in a speech on the Senate floor.

Moments after Collins completed her remarks, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., announced in a statement that he too will support the nomination when it comes up for a final vote.

That final vote is expected as soon as Saturday.

Updated at 7:51 a.m. ET on Thursday

The FBI's highly anticipated supplemental background check on Brett Kavanaugh was sent to the White House and Capitol Hill overnight, with senators set to review the report on Thursday in the final chapter of what has become a deeply acrimonious confirmation battle.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced the planned arrival of the report on Wednesday night and said all senators would get a chance to review it ahead of the next procedural milestones in the chamber.

Updated at 6:10 p.m. ET

The House voted 361-61 to approve a spending bill to avoid a shutdown threat until early December. President Trump has said he plans to sign the legislation.

The legislation also includes a full year of funding for the Departments of Defense, Labor and Health and Human Services and a short-term extension of the Violence Against Women Act; but it has no new money for Trump's proposed wall with Mexico.

Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her more than 30 years ago, will testify Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Attorneys for Ford reached an agreement with committee staff on Sunday after days of negotiations over the conditions and details of her appearance. The terms of their agreement provide that Kavanaugh will also appear before the committee, but he will not be in the room while Ford is speaking or being questioned.

Updated at 8:20 p.m. ET

Attorneys for Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a high school party in the 1980s, have begun discussing terms of her appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week.

"She wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety," Debra Katz, Ford's lawyer says in an email to committee aides first reported in the New York Times and confirmed by NPR.

Updated at 11 p.m. ET

The Senate Judiciary Committee will move forward with a hearing scheduled for Monday on sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, despite a request for further investigation from his accuser.

House and Senate negotiators have agreed to a plan to avoid a shutdown fight weeks before the midterm elections in November.

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