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December deadlines: Things are a little different around Capitol Hill before the Christmas cutoff



December deadlines: Things are a little different around Capitol Hill before the Christmas cutoff

Every December seemingly has a deadline on Capitol Hill.

To impeach the President.

To fund the government.

To avoid the fiscal cliff.

To raise the debt ceiling.


To approve a payroll tax cut.

To pass tax reform.

To allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

To pass Obamacare.

To undo Obamacare.


But things are a little different around Capitol Hill this December.


There’s no single, sweeping issue that is consuming Congress. Sure, there are lots of things to do. In fact, big things — which we’ll outline shortly. But the feeling this Christmas at the Capitol is different. No government shutdown is looming (talk to us about that in January and February). And while Congress has faced concrete deadlines before, there is no absolute, drop-dead date to complete anything.

Except there is a cutoff point. It’s the same as every other year: December 25th.

The U.S. Capitol (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc)


Lawmakers have three weeks to handle lots of things.

But it’s unclear if they’ll crank through them. And that’s why there’s the potential for Congress to linger in Washington and maybe — just maybe — still slam into the December 25th deadline.

Let’s start with impeachment.

No, the House is not going to impeach President Biden before Christmas. You might remember that December is kind of “impeachment month” on Capitol Hill. The House impeached President Clinton on Dec. 19, 1998, for obstructing justice and lying after his affair with Monica Lewinsky. The House impeached former President Trump — the first time — on Dec. 18, 2019, for abusing his power and obstructing justice as it pertained to Ukraine.

Notice a pattern?


While those votes were actual resolutions to impeach the President, House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., is just pushing a plan to formalize an impeachment inquiry. FOX is told the goal is to pass the impeachment probe resolution next week.


House Republicans have nibbled around the edges of impeachment for months. But the House never adopted a measure officially authorizing impeachment.

“Now we’re being stonewalled by the White House because they’re preventing at least two to three DOJ witnesses from coming forward,” said Johnson on FOX. “So a formal impeachment inquiry vote on the floor will allow us to take it to the next necessary step. And I think it’s something we have to do at this juncture.”

Plus, Johnson needs to notch a political and legislative win.


Johnson hasn’t had much to crow about since he first clasped the Speaker’s gavel in October. He quickly passed a bill to boost Israel in its fight against Hamas. But since then, Johnson has presided over a House majority that encountered multiple stumbles in efforts to pass their own spending bills. The highlight of Johnson’s short tenure may have been the expulsion of former Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y. — which Johnson and other GOP leaders opposed.

House Speaker Mike Johnson

The continuing resolution proposed by newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., passed both chambers of Congress to avert a government shutdown. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

But impeachment could boost the GOP — especially as Congress stares at the possibility of dual government shutdowns over the winter.

“If it goes to the floor, we’re going to pass it. There’s no question,” said House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., about an impeachment inquiry vote.

It’s about the math.

Republicans can only lose three votes on their side and prevail and still open an impeachment investigation. For months, moderates resisted an impeachment vote. Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., initiated an impeachment inquiry — without an official vote — because he never had the votes. Moreover, McCarthy needed to do something to move the needle on his side of the aisle when GOP spending bills began stalling on the floor and conservatives grew restless over his debt ceiling pact with President Biden.


But votes to potentially launch an impeachment inquiry began to fall into place over the past few weeks. House Republicans believe things changed over Thanksgiving — after lawmakers were marooned in Washington for nearly 11 consecutive weeks since late summer.

“They met people in Walmart and people on Main Street, and they’re like, ‘What in the world did the Bidens do to receive millions and millions of dollars from our enemies around the world? And did they not pay taxes on it?’ So they heard from their constituents,” said House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky.

Democrats accuse Republicans of a political diversion ahead of an election year.


“This is all part of a phony effort by extreme MAGA Republicans to distract the American people because they have no track record of accomplishment,” said House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.


But impeachment isn’t what is most vexing to many on Capitol Hill this December.

Major issues loom over passing the annual defense policy bill. But it faces a dispute over declassifying some information related to Unidentified Aeriel Phenomena (UAPs). Renewing the foreign surveillance counter-terrorism program known as “FISA.” And then there is the big one: President Biden’s international aid package for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan. The status of that bill is much harder to read because there’s no hard deadline — except Christmas. And the end of the year. And then when the focus pivots in January to averting a government shutdown.

To some, it would be hard to see Congress leaving town before the holiday without addressing Israel and Ukraine. Republicans insist that Democrats attach a robust border security plan to the package. However, Republicans aren’t even in agreement on what those border provisions might look like. But, if the plan blows up, Republicans hope to blame Democrats who are getting hammered politically for not tackling the border.

White House Budget Director Shalanda Young sent an urgent letter to lawmakers Monday, saying Congress was about to “kneecap” Ukraine by not passing the aid.

Talks over the border went sideways in recent days, perhaps scuttling the supplemental spending plan.


And if Congress doesn’t pass the international aid bill?

Director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget Shalanda Young speaks at the daily press briefing at the White House in September. Young spoke about the government shutdown and outlined the effects on the U.S. economy. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images/File)

“You can bet Vladimir Putin is watching. Hamas is watching. Iran, President Xi, North Korea, all of our adversaries. They’re watching closely,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “If Congress fails to defend democracy in its hour of need because of border policies inspired by Donald Trump or Stephen Miller, the judgment of history will be harsh indeed.”

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., lashed his colleagues across the aisle.

“Democrats appear to be hell-bent on exhausting every half-baked idea before they get serious about actually fixing our border,” said McConnell. “Senate Republicans know that national security begins with border security. And we’ve made it crystal clear that in order to pass the Senate, any measure we take up in the coming days must include serious policy changes designed to get the Biden Administration’s border crisis under control.”

So it’s unclear if the fight over the border and the international aid package could keep Congress here close to Christmas this year — entering the special legislative pantheon of five-alarm fires which have screwed up other holiday seasons on Capitol Hill.


But things are a little different around the Capitol this December.

And even if Congress abandons Washington without finishing everything, no one will be celebrating.

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Nevada's secretary of state says lawyers who fill poll worker gap should earn continuing education credits



Nevada's secretary of state says lawyers who fill poll worker gap should earn continuing education credits
  • Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar in Nevada seeks to address the shortage of poll workers by offering continuing education credits for lawyers who volunteer to fill the gap.
  • Several states have adopted policies allowing poll working duties to count toward maintaining law licenses, with hopes for further expansion.
  • Aguilar said he seeks to strengthen the pipeline of election workers with legal expertise.

With Nevada counties struggling to find poll workers in a pivotal election year, the top election official in the Western swing state is taking a page from his counterparts elsewhere and is asking the legal community to help fill the gap.

Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar wants lawyers who volunteer at the polls to be able to earn continuing education credits to fulfill annual requirements set by the State Bar of Nevada.

It’s a signal of how lawyers are increasingly seen as ideal candidates for stepping in as poll workers, as the positions have grown harder to fill as once-obscure county election departments have been thrust into the spotlight.


Aguilar likens it to how doctors and nurses stepped up during the pandemic.

Nevada Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar speaks at the old Assembly Chambers on May 30, 2023, in Carson City, Nev. With Nevada counties struggling to find poll workers in a pivotal election year, Aguilar is taking a page from his counterparts elsewhere and is asking the legal community to help fill the gap. (AP Photo/Tom R. Smedes, File)


“Everybody needed medical care during the time of COVID. … And this is a time when we need poll workers,” Aguilar told The Associated Press. “That legal community can stand up and protect the Constitution.”

From swing states like Michigan to conservative strongholds like Tennessee and Iowa, election officials have been tapping lawyers and law students as they struggle to fill poll worker spots — a challenge that has become more difficult amid changing procedures and hostility stemming from former President Donald Trump’s claims of a stolen election in 2020.


Other recruiting campaigns have focused on veterans and librarians. In 2020, LeBron James helped spearhead an initiative to help turnout in critical swing states and combat Black voter suppression, in no small part by recruiting poll workers.

Poll workers are on the front lines of increasingly contentious environments — ushering people in, answering technical questions and using a handful of training hours to essentially act as guides for a process where disagreements and misinformation can stir up strong emotions.


Since 2020, eight states have adopted policies to allow poll working duties to count toward credits needed to maintain a law license, and national advocates hope more are on the way.

After pitching the idea at a conference earlier this month, a group of bar association presidents now is tailoring the initiative to individual county election offices, rather than blanket approval from the bar associations for entire states.

“Lawyers are careful, and I respect that. I’m one of them, and it takes a while to process,” said Jason Kaune, chair of the American Bar Association’s standing committee on election law, of getting the initiative approved by state bar associations. “This is just a quicker way to get some real results on the ground.”

For Aguilar, his proposal in Nevada — where turnover has ravaged local election departments since 2020 — is part of a wider plan to protect election workers, whom he refers to as “heroes of democracy.”

Since defeating a Republican election denier in the 2022 midterms, Aguilar has sought to create a better environment for election employees. Last year, he pushed a bill signed by Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo that made it a felony to harass, intimidate or use force on election workers performing their duties in Nevada.


Aguilar also hopes that this latest initiative will strengthen the pipeline of full-time election workers with those already well-versed in the law.

Aguilar had hoped the State Bar of Nevada would have implemented his proposal before Nevada’s Feb. 6 presidential preference primary, but the secretary of state’s office has yet to make a formal request for the association to consider, per the State Bar.

During Nevada’s first-in-the-West presidential preference primaries, many election departments scrambled to find poll workers up until the last minute — particularly in rural areas.

In the state’s two most populous counties — Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, and Washoe County, which includes Reno — all poll worker slots were fully staffed by the start of early voting, according to county and state election offices. But they’ll need more before the June primary and November general elections.

In rural Douglas County, officials recruited 46 poll workers — far short of the 120 needed, clerk-treasurer Amy Burgans said. Lyon County also came up short with 32 of 45 poll workers needed, clerk-treasurer Staci Lindberg said.


Nevada’s concentrated educational landscape could make it difficult for lawyers and law students to spread across many of the state’s far-flung counties, which are some of the largest yet least populated in the country. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas is home to the state’s only law school.

And of the 12,000 attorneys licensed to practice law in Nevada, half are in Clark County, about 14% are in Washoe County and just under 3% are located in the state’s rural counties outside the state capital, according to data from the State Bar of Nevada.

Burgans said she doesn’t know if any lawyers in Douglas County — which borders a large chunk of Lake Tahoe — would take up the offer to earn credit by working at the polls. “But I will tell you that anything that Secretary Aguilar can do to assist us is appreciated by me and the clerks across the state,” she said.

Poll workers have been particularly difficult to find in Douglas County, partly because it has an abundance of part-time residents and there was widespread confusion recently over a state-run primary happening two days before a Nevada GOP-run caucus.

Burgans also noted there’s some fear around becoming an election worker.


For the first time, she had to set up training after letters containing fentanyl were mailed to election officials in several states including Nevada. With a background in law enforcement, Burgans also set up active shooter training. Like election officials across the state, she received emails and calls from voters frustrated about dueling Republican nominating processes earlier this month but said there had been no direct threats.


Humboldt County Clerk Tami Rae Spero said the impact of legal education credits for working the polls could be “minimal.” Still, she appreciates the effort and said it could be a steppingstone for similar programs that could better reach her county with its population of just over 17,000. One option might be offering community college or high school credits, she said.

Aguilar is more optimistic that the program can reach all corners of the state.

“I think there are some people who are pretty driven by the mission and understand the importance of poll workers and understand the process of democracy,” he said. “So they’ll make extraordinary efforts to make sure that happens.”


Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

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Democratic Party chair Rusty Hicks assailed as outsider in bid for North Coast Assembly seat



Democratic Party chair Rusty Hicks assailed as outsider in bid for North Coast Assembly seat

At first glance, the Sonoma County Democratic Party’s 36th annual Crab Feed seemed the political schmoozefest it has been for nearly four decades.

For $70, Sonoma County residents could “bump elbows with elected officials” over a North Coast meal of Dungeness crab, salad and pasta served with locally produced red and white wines. But Democratic discord simmered beneath the pleasantries at the Feb. 23 decapod dinner.

The intraparty squabble involves who will replace Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg), who is retiring from his North Coast seat two years before most people expected. The shocking November announcement that Wood wouldn’t seek reelection for his final term after 10 years in the statehouse sent candidates scrambling to prop up campaigns with only a few months to raise money and support before Tuesday’s primary.

In his bid for State Assembly, Santa Rosa Councilmember Chris Rogers has emphasized his leadership in helping guide the region through drought, wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic.


(Josh Edelson / For The Times)

Three top candidates quickly emerged: California Democratic Party Chair Rusty Hicks, Healdsburg City Councilmember and nonprofit executive Ariel Kelley as well as former Santa Rosa mayor and current Councilmember Chris Rogers.

Disagreement among local Democratic leaders over who should represent Assembly District 2 — a left-leaning, geographically diverse region stretching from Santa Rosa to the Oregon border — has transformed the race into one of the most expensive and divisive in local history.

The Democratic trio are competing for a top-two placement in the March 5 primary, likely alongside the only Republican in the race who conceivably has enough GOP votes in the district to send him to the November general election. A majority of the district’s voters are registered Democrats, so the Democratic candidate who makes it through the primary has a good chance of winning in November.


The district spans five counties — part of Sonoma plus all of Mendocino, Trinity, Humboldt and Del Norte — a roughly seven-hour drive from top to bottom. It takes in 307,000 voters, many of them working-class, across its rural geography. Many residents contend with a shortage of affordable housing, well-paying jobs and limited healthcare access. The region faces growing environmental threats, including deadly wildfires exacerbated by climate change.

The intensive jockeying among candidates to gain traction with voters was evident at the crab event.

“Vote Chris Rogers” buttons competed with “ARIEL” stickers, while Hicks sponsored a table prominently positioned at the front of the hall, where he sat across from Wood and Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas (D-Hollister).

A campaign pin has "Vote Chris Rogers for State Assembly" written on it.

A supporter wears a pin advocating Chris Rogers for State Assembly at a crab-eating event in Santa Rosa.

(Josh Edelson / For The Times)


Much of the political brouhaha revolves around Hicks, 44, who moved to the region from Los Angeles only a few years ago — a blip in time by some local standards — but who brings with him considerable funding and clout. He is endorsed by outgoing Assemblymember Wood, Gov. Gavin Newsom, U.S. Sen. Laphonza Butler, veterans groups and a long list of powerful statewide labor organizations, among others.

Hicks is proving a formidable candidate. He’s a Texas native and Afghanistan War veteran who was president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor before being elected Democratic Party chair in 2019. His reputation as a skilled strategist and even-keeled leader in the labor movement helped him dominate that race as the party looked to correct course in the aftermath of an internal sexual misconduct scandal.

His campaign messaging centers on safeguarding district jobs, creating more affordable housing options and expanding access to healthcare in a region with few medical clinics. He has also emphasized environmental preservation, an issue that resonates in a region home to towering redwoods and vast state and national parkland.

“I’m running because I’ve got a long track record of delivering real results for real people,” Hicks said.

A man smiles while talking with other people.

Rusty Hicks, chair of the California Democratic Party and a longtime Los Angeles labor leader, says he and his wife moved to Humboldt County in 2021, after falling in love with the area. Opponents to his Assembly bid question his North Coast credentials.

(Josh Edelson / For The Times)


His opponents describe him in a different light.

Skeptics accuse Hicks of carpetbagging his way from Los Angeles to Humboldt County with ambitions to run for office, and have blasted his long list of donations from Southern California and Sacramento as evidence that he lacks connections to the people he wants to represent.

He’s also faced criticism for maintaining his influential position as party chair while campaigning for Assembly. Hicks said he has suspended his pay and benefits during the race and pledged to step down if elected.

Hicks said he and his wife bought their home in Arcata in Humboldt County in 2021 after falling in love with the North Coast while he was running for party chair. His campaign, he said, is “funded by individuals and workers and the unions that represent them,” a coalition that many backing his candidacy say no Democrat should be criticized for.


Hicks faces a strong opponent in Kelley, 41, a former mayor of Healdsburg, whose endorsements include local government officials and statewide groups dedicated to electing more women to office and expanding access to safe abortion services.

A political action committee supporting Kelley — largely funded by her sister, who poured at least $200,000 into the PAC — has sponsored ads accusing Hicks of covering up sexual harassment in the Democratic Party, an allegation he and his proponents angrily deny. His campaign sent local TV stations cease-and-desist letters warning them against continuing to run ads that Hicks maintains are “patently false.”

Hicks has clapped back with criticism of Kelley’s investments in the oil industry and questioned her connections to a local developer who recently donated $50,000 to the political action committee.

“It’s unfortunate when some candidates and their supporters conclude that they can no longer talk about their own record or run on their own record and decide to lie about mine,” Hicks said.

Kelley said she doesn’t communicate with the PAC or her sister about its strategy, and agrees the negative campaigning is unhelpful. She said her father died last year and left her a trust that held investments “in a number of industries,” and that she plans to divest from those in oil and gas.

A woman holds a hand over her heart at a crab-eating event.

Ariel Kelley, a former mayor of Healdsburg, is one of the Democratic candidates for a North Coast Assembly seat. She is endorsed by local government officials and statewide groups dedicated to electing more women to office.

(Josh Edelson / For The Times)

She’s called the attacks “completely baseless” and a distraction from real issues facing district voters, such as the need for paid family leave for rural families, ensuring access to reproductive healthcare, improving housing affordability and reducing homelessness.

“I’m really focused on just talking about my record of delivering. Because it’s a very strong record of delivering for this community, on homelessness, on wildfire prevention, on housing, healthcare access,” she said.

Rogers, 36, who has also mounted a fierce campaign, has called for his opponents to end the “mud-slinging,” even as he’s expressed many of the same concerns about Hicks’ fundraising strategies.


Raised in Sonoma County, Rogers worked for a decade as an aide to congressional and state legislators in the district before launching his career in local politics. He contends he is most qualified to represent the district after steering the region through emergency after emergency as Santa Rosa’s mayor and during his time on the City Council, including the COVID-19 pandemic, a drought, flooding and devastating wildfires.

Rogers is endorsed by Senate President Pro Tem Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), whom he worked for as a legislative staffer, and a long list of city and county officials, a local firefighters group and environmental organizations. He said he’s focused on mitigating climate change, protecting local healthcare facilities from closing and addressing a critical narrowing of access to homeowners insurance in Northern California communities.

“I have that experience. Not just understanding the perspective, but how to translate needs in the district into legislative action,” Rogers said.

Yurok Tribe Vice Chair Frankie Myers, 43, is also running as a Democrat, hoping to become the second Native American elected to the California statehouse. Myers has received support from tribal communities throughout the state.

He’s tried, with limited success, to break through the bickering with his message about elevating tribal issues and the importance of environmental stewardship and universal healthcare.


“I’m learning it is a privilege running for state Legislature. It has a lot of barriers for low-income people, people from historically disadvantaged communities,” he said. “We’ve only had one single elected Native American in the state Legislature in the history of this state. And now having campaigned, there’s some realizations I’m coming to about why that is.”

A man smiles while speaking to a woman at an event.

Frankie Myers, vice chair of the Yurok Tribe, is hoping to be the second Native American elected to the California Legislature.

(Josh Edelson / For The Times)

A fifth Democrat, Mendocino County Supervisor Ted Williams, hasn’t raised money and is in effect using his campaign to encourage candidates to focus on rural issues. A sixth Democratic candidate, Cynthia Click, has withdrawn from the race, though her name will appear on the ballot.

Michael Greer, the one Republican running for the seat, has focused his campaign on bread-and-butter issues familiar to many California families, including public safety, the rising numbers of people living homeless and spiraling housing costs, along with North Coast-specific concerns similar to those raised by the other candidates.


“As one vote, as one Republican, can I change the votes on all these things?” Greer said of his potential effect in the Democratic-led Assembly. “No. But I can be loud enough to make sure that the rural areas are heard.”

People mingle at an event.

Santa Rosa’s 36th annual Crab Feed gave voters a chance to meet leading candidates in the bid to represent residents in the geographically diverse Assembly District 2, which spans California’s North Coast.

(Josh Edelson / For The Times)

Wood said many of the candidates are using overly broad rhetoric to describe the district’s challenges and seem unfamiliar with the progress he’s made in addressing specific policy areas during his decade in Sacramento. The real challenge, he said, will be building on his successes to fine-tune those policies.

“It’s a hugely challenging district,” Wood said. “So you have to really commit to spending the time to learn it and to respect it to be able to help solve some of the problems that we face.”


Wood was quick to endorse Hicks’ bid for Assembly, saying he was confident the party chair would be a “workhorse” for the district.

“I respect anybody who wants to run here, but I think the depth and breadth of his experience and the things he’s done and his life experience make him the best candidate,” Wood said.

Wood noted, however, that he’s been surprised and disappointed by the negative campaigning.

“This is not what we’re used to on the North Coast,” he said. “I don’t like it, and I don’t think voters really like it either.”

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Clinton-era treasurer honored in Ohio hometown for 30th anniversary of inauguration



Clinton-era treasurer honored in Ohio hometown for 30th anniversary of inauguration

A history-making, record-setting former U.S. treasurer is being celebrated in her Ohio city this week as she marks the 30th anniversary of her swearing-in ceremony.

Democrat Mary Ellen Withrow, 93, plans six appearances Thursday and Friday around Marion, about 50 miles north of Columbus, to mark the occasion. The city is also home to a museum collection of her memorabilia.


Withrow was nominated by former President Bill Clinton and sworn in March 1, 1994.

Then-Treasurer Mary Ellen Withrow personally signs a redesigned $50 bill in San Diego, on Oct. 31, 1997. (AP Photo/Michael Poche, File)


The first person to serve as a local, state and federal treasurer, Withrow served in her Washington role until 2001. She has her signature on more U.S. currency than any other person, setting a mark recognized by the Guinness World Records.

The anniversary festivities include an appearance on WGH Talk radio Thursday to discuss her life and career, as well as appearances Thursday and Friday at four area middle and high schools, including Elgin, on whose school board she got her start in politics in 1969.

Withrow plans to deliver her original acceptance speech at a celebratory reception Friday at the Kingston Residence that is open to the public.

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