WASHINGTON – 2018 was an eventful year on Capitol Hill.
Below are seven of the most memorable events:
Retirement of House Speaker Paul Ryan: At a news conference on April 11, Ryan (R-Wis.), announced that he would not seek re-election to Congress. Ryan, 48, said his decision was not motivated by political factors but by a desire to spend more time with his family. Ryan has served in Congress since 1999. He reluctantly assumed the speakership in October 2015 following the resignation of Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Then-FBI Agent Peter Strzok testifies: At a 11-hour hearing on July 12 before a joint panel of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Strzok answered pointed questions from Republican lawmakers about text messages exchanged between he and former FBI attorney Lisa Page that were highly critical of President Donald Trump. The agents, who were both married, were dating at the time the messages were exchanged. Strzok told the committee that the political sentiment espoused in the texts did not affect decisions made in the FBI’s investigation into potential collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Strzok angered Republicans by refusing to answer many of their questions on the grounds that doing so could compromise ongoing investigations. Just a month later, on Aug. 13, Strzok’s lawyer confirmed to reporters that the veteran FBI agent had been fired.
Death of Sen. John McCain: McCain (R-Ariz.) died on Aug. 25 of complications related to brain cancer at age 81. He served in the Senate for than three decades and was the Republican nominee for president in 2008. McCain, a decorated Vietnam Veteran and former prisoner of war, was known for his independent streak. He was a fierce critic of President Donald Trump. In 2017 McCain cast the decisive vote to defeat an Obamacare repeal measure. McCain, who was widely admired on both sides of the aisle, was given the honor of lying in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. After a funeral at Washington National Cathedral, he was buried at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, Md.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings: The hearings began on Sep. 4 with Senate Judiciary Democrats moving to adjourn the hearing while Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) delivered his opening statement. The motion was made over a dispute about access to documents related to Kavanaugh’s tenure as staff secretary in the administration of President George W. Bush. The hearings were scheduled to end later that week. Then a letter surfaced in which California psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford accused Kavanaugh of having tried to sexually assault her more than three decades earlier. Soon other women came forward with similar accusations. Kavanaugh adamantly denied all the allegations. Both he and Ford testified before the committee on Sep. 27. Upwards of 1,000 protesters were arrested throughout the confirmation process on disorderly conduct charges. The Senate ultimately confirmed Kavanaugh in a 51-49 vote on Oct. 6.
Democrats win control of the House: Democrats won control of the House Representatives in the midterm elections on Nov. 6. Democrats will have at least 235 House seats when the 116th Congress convenes on Jan. 3, 2019. Republicans will have at least 199 seats. The GOP has controlled the House since 2011. The incoming freshman class will include a record number of women and minority lawmakers.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi nominated speaker-designate: At a closed-door caucus meeting on Nov. 28, Democrats nominated Pelosi (D-Calif.) to serve as speaker in the 116th Congress. Pelosi received 203 votes. She will need 218 votes to be elected speaker in January. However, the threshold can be lowered if members vote “present” instead of “no.” Pelosi, 78, has served in Congress since 1987. She served as speaker from 2007-11. Some Democrats have called on Pelosi to step aside and let younger members take the reigns of party leadership, but she has insisted she the best person for the job.
Former President George H.W. Bush lies in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda: Bush died on Nov. 30 at age 94. He was eulogized by congressional leaders in a ceremony on Dec. 3 at the Capitol. Bush then lay in state in the Rotunda for nearly two days. Thousands came from across the country to pay their respects. Legislative activity was largely suspended though Congress passed a two-week funding extension to prevent a partial government shutdown while the nation mourned.