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.

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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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

For more on the Republican response to President Trump's emergency declaration, we turn to NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell, who's at the Capitol. Hey there, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.

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