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.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

And that is where we pick up with NPR's Kelsey Snell, who has been following the testimony all day. She's on Capitol Hill. Hi, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

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 1:39 a.m. ET Tuesday

Congressional negotiators have reached what they are calling "an agreement in principle" on a border-security spending agreement. Details of the agreement have not yet been released. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., says the full details will be released when the drafting of the bill is complete — a process that could be finished on Tuesday, at the earliest.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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."

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Last night, President Trump stood for the first time in a House controlled by Democrats and touted his record. He boasted about a strong economy, and he warned Democrats not to get in the 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.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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 4:15 p.m. ET

President Trump abruptly halted spending talks at the White House on Wednesday, after congressional Democrats again rejected his demand for a $5.7 billion border wall.

On Twitter, Trump dismissed the negotiations as a "total waste of time," as a partial government shutdown stretched into its 19th day. He added, "I said bye-bye, nothing else works!"

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.

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