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U.S. Senate

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell is running for relection and is joined by 28 other candidates in the Washington primary.
Max Wasserman

Democratic U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell is running for reelection in Washington this year, but she's not alone. Twenty-eight other candidates are vying for the office in an ususally large pool of primary candidates. 

The U.S. Senate could make history this week, but no one is feeling particularly good about it.

"It is depressing; I'm very depressed," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. "We're all arguing against it, but we don't know any other option."

The nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and the GOP blockade against Merrick Garland before him are forcing another showdown over whether to invoke the "nuclear option" and change the rules of the Senate to make it easier for a president to get all of his nominations approved.

Lawmakers from both parties are increasingly convinced that the United States Senate is on a collision course that will permanently change the dynamics of the chamber — and the United States Supreme Court.

There's a growing bipartisan sadness and resignation about next week's showdown over the rules that govern high court nominations. But that doesn't mean there's any serious attempt from either party to avoid it.

By a 57-43 margin, the Republican-led Senate voted Wednesday to repeal an Obama-era regulation designed to block certain mentally ill people from purchasing firearms. The vote, which approves a House resolution passed earlier this month, now sends the measure to the White House for President Trump's signature.

Luther Strange will go from being Alabama's attorney general to being the state's junior senator, as Gov. Robert Bentley says he will appoint Strange to the seat vacated by Sen. Jeff Sessions — who's slated to be sworn in as the new U.S. attorney general Thursday morning.

This post was updated at 1:15 pm ET.

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions says he's not a racist and that he's been unfairly "caricatured."

"You have a Southern name; you come from South Alabama, that sounds worse to some people," Sessions said during the first day of his confirmation hearings to be the next attorney general of the United States.

He forcefully defended his record, saying he "did not" harbor the "racial animosities" of which he's been accused, saying they are "damnably false."

Democratic senators on the Environment and Public Works Committee say Donald Trump's choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency should reveal his connections with energy insiders before his confirmation hearings get underway.

In the letter dated Tuesday, the senators told Scott Pruitt, currently Oklahoma's attorney general, they were concerned about his close ties to energy lobbyists and wanted him to disclose lists of donors who contributed to a nonprofit organization that took funds from a network connected to the Koch brothers.

The last unfinished Senate race of the election is nearly over.

State Treasurer John Neely Kennedy, a Republican, is the clear favorite to become the next Senator from Louisiana, despite an eleventh-hour fundraising surge from his Democratic opponent, Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell.

Aside from the White House race, there's another important battle this November that shouldn't be overlooked — the fight for control of the U.S. Senate.

Within hours of Justice Antonin Scalia's death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell aimed to squash any expectation that President Obama will get to name his successor.

"The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice," he said in a statement. "Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president."

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service / flickr

Alarm over a potentially deadly salmon virus has reached the halls of Congress. The U.S. Senate has approved an amendment that calls for a rapid federal response. Last week, scientists in British Columbia announced they've found the fish-killing virus in wild Pacific Salmon for the first time.

It's the second virus suspected in salmon deaths to be discovered this year.

AP

Washington's Senior US Senator, Patty Murray, has become the first woman ever appointed as chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.

Murray replaces Democratic Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii as the new committee chair.  According to Rob Hotakainen, Staff writer at the Olympian, Akaka is an 86-year-old veteran of World War II and has headed the committee for the last four years.