with an assist from Andrew Desiderio
CONGRESS IS BACK, TELL A FRIEND — Lawmakers return to Washington today facing a jam-packed legislative agenda and a laundry list of head-spinning headlines from over the congressional recess. But there are only around 40 legislative days left before the end of this year. As action heats back up on Capitol Hill this month, here are the top five storylines to watch:
1.) GUN CONTROL: Top on lawmakers’ to-do list is addressing the string of mass shootings that left dozens of people dead over the August recess. On the House side, the Judiciary Committee will mark up a trio of gun control bills this week, while the Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on domestic terrorism later this month. And Democratic leaders are still demanding a Senate vote on the House’s universal background checks bill, per NYT’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has repeatedly said he would only put a measure on the floor if it has Trump’s full support.
And right now, no one on Capitol Hill seems to know where Trump stands — even as the White House prepares to unveil a package of gun proposals as soon as this week. In fact, Senate Republicans are practically begging the White House for some more guidance on the issue. “The president needs to step up here and set some guidelines on what he will do,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “If the president would let us know what he’d sign if it got on his desk, we’d be much more likely to do that.”
2.) SHUTDOWN: Lawmakers need to pass legislation to avoid a government shutdown before the end of the month. The House is planning to pass a stopgap spending bill next week that will likely fund the government through mid-November, but it’s unclear whether the Senate GOP would be willing to accept the measure.
Democrats are digging in on their refusal to fund Trump’s border wall after the president circumvented Congress – and even dangled pardons to aides – in order to deliver on his unfulfilled campaign promise. But Democrats still need Trump’s signature for any spending legislation, meaning fractures could emerge in the Democratic caucus over just how far to take their fight with the president, report Sarah and Heather.
3.) IMPEACHMENT: The clock is running out on impeachment, so pro-impeachment Democrats will hit the ground running when they return to Washington. The House Judiciary Committee will vote Wednesday to formalize their impeachment probe, scooped Kyle, Heather and Bres. And Democrats are deepening their Trump probes to include hush money payments to porn stars, promises of presidential pardons and government spending at Trump-owned properties — including highly unusual military spending at Trump’s Scottish resort, as first reported by POLITICO’s Natasha Bertrand and Bryan Bender. (More on all of this later.)
But the key question is whether Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be swayed. The California Democrat reminded Democrats during a private conference call over the recess that the public isn’t there yet on impeachment. And while more Democrats slowly jumped on the impeachment bandwagon over recess, only nine so-called “front-liners” (two of whom represent Trump won districts) have called to remove Trump from office. One possible solution? Let the Judiciary Committee vote on articles of impeachment, but never bring the divisive issue to the floor, according to the NYT’s Nicholas Fandos.
4.) TRADE WAR: Up until this point, consumers have largely been shielded from Trump’s trade war with China. But customers have started to feel the impacts of the tit-for-tat between the world’s two largest economies, thanks to a new round of tariffs that took effect at the beginning of this month effecting electronics, shoes, diapers, dairy, meat and more.
That could ratchet up pressure on the Senate GOP to stand up to Trump, especially if the economy takes a major hit before the 2020 election. (Keep an eye on GOP Sen. Pat Toomey, who backs legislation to rein in the president’s tariff authority.) Meanwhile, Congress still needs to approve Trump’s new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico – but Democrats are demanding stronger labor and environmental protections.
5.) GOP RETIREMENTS: The GOP saw a parade of retirements over the break, with Reps. Bill Flores of Texas and Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin becoming the latest members to announce their exits last week. And more Republicans are expected to follow suit, after lawmakers spent weeks back home with their families and constituents.
The retirements suggest that the GOP is growing pessimistic about their chances of winning back the House next year, write The Hill’s Scott Wong and Mike Lillis. That’s because Republicans — two-thirds of whom have never served in the minority — would rather call it quits than roam the political wilderness. This morning, Trump called for ending term limits for GOP committee chairs, which is another factor fueling some of the retirements.
NOT ON THE AGENDA? … “Why the most pro-marijuana Congress ever won’t deal with weed,” by Paul Demko and Natalie Fertig: https://politi.co/2m6t8uf.
Related reads: “Congress returns to McConnell’s legislative ‘graveyard,’” by The AP’s Lisa Mascaro: http://bit.ly/2kAjK1y; and “The Congress To-Do List: Federal Funding, Trump Probes and USMCA,” via Erik Wasson and Billy House of Bloomberg: https://bloom.bg/2k5dKO0.
HAPPY MONDAY! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this September 9, where your host is ready to dive back into this congressional work period like Andrew Yang jumping into his crowd of supporters.
FRIDAY’S MOST CLICKED: The big winner was the National Journal’s report on the growing support among moderate Democrats for an assault weapons ban.
TRUMP’S TALIBAN TALKS — Trump’s now scuttled plans to secretly engage in peace talks with the Taliban at Camp David — announced via a stunning tweet over weekend — has infuriated both sides of the aisle. Democrats slammed the president for seeking a grand, made-for-TV moment to deliver on an unfilled campaign promise. “The whole thing doesn’t quite make sense and it’s just another example of the president treating foreign policy like it’s some kind of game show. This isn’t a game show, these are terrorists,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Several Republicans, meanwhile, hammered Trump for inviting the Taliban on American soil, especially on the eve of 9/11. “Camp David is where America’s leaders met to plan our response after al Qaeda, supported by the Taliban, killed 3000 Americans on 9/11. No member of the Taliban should set foot there. Ever,” tweeted Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), a member of GOP leadership and daughter of Dick Cheney, who was vice president during the Sept. 11 attacks. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), an Air Force veteran who served in Afghanistan, also chimed in: “Never should leaders of a terrorist organization that has not renounced 9/11 and continues in evil be allowed in our great country. Never. Full stop.” More from Laura King and Shashank Bengali of The Los Angeles Times: https://lat.ms/2m6upBx.
Related: “How Trump’s Plan to Secretly Meet With the Taliban Came Together, and Fell Apart,” by NYT’s Peter Baker, Mujib Mashal and Michael Crowley: https://nyti.ms/2m1LPz3.
BALTIMORE, BUCKLE UP … “Trump to visit Baltimore Thursday, a city he called a ‘rodent infested mess,’ by WaPo’s Rachael Bade: https://wapo.st/2kbya8g.
PRIMARY PROBLEMS — Normally, the GOP hates primary battles and all the messy drama that comes along with a family feud. But this cycle, Republicans see an opportunity to cut a few bad apples from the family tree. Retiring Rep. Paul Mitchell of Michigan, the sophomore class representative in GOP leadership, has decided to back a primary challenge to embattled Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who has been condemned by both parties (and kicked off his committees) for making racist remarks. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 Republican in the House, even called on King to resign last month.
The conservative Club for Growth, meanwhile, is actively interviewing primary challengers to indicted Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), who are both slated to go on trial early next year. And former GOP Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer publicly encouraged a primary challenge to freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Kansas), who has been dogged by rumors that he is poised to resign under scandal. The increasing willingness by the party brass to play in primaries underscores the growing anxiety in the GOP about having these embattled Republicans stay on the ticket. “We either clean House, or Democrats take those seats,” said GOP strategist Liz Mair. The story from your Huddle host: https://politi.co/2lYzPhM.
Related: “SC’s Mark Sanford officially launches long-shot bid to take down Donald Trump,” by McClatchy’s Emma Dumain: http://bit.ly/2lE09xM; and “Trump heads to N.C. for House special election — and 2020 test run,” from Steven Shepard: https://politi.co/2kzyqhr.
ALL IN THE FAMILY — Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) come from opposite sides of the political spectrum — and the country. But one thing they have in common? They both hail from political dynasties and are considering making the leap to the Senate, reports WaPo.
Kennedy, however, would have to challenge Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), which could ruffle some feathers in the party (as Cheney learned when she briefly tried to launch a primary bid in the Senate in 2014). But a new Suffolk/Globe poll shows Kennedy leading Markey in a primary matchup, which could push the congressman to make the jump. Paul Kane with more: https://wapo.st/2kCigUm.
Related: “Sen. Ed Markey’s Reelection Bid Gets Key Backing From Progressive Rep. Ro Khanna,” by The Huffington Post’s Daniel Marans: http://bit.ly/2m0lqBJ; and “Rep. Roger Marshall announces senate bid,” from Travis Heying of The Wichita Eagle: http://bit.ly/2lLGVGc.
WEEKLY OVERSIGHT WATCH — After a summer break that featured constituents across the country grilling their representatives over impeachment, House Democrats plan to more clearly define and formalize their impeachment investigation of the president. Some lawmakers struggled this summer to distinguish between a formal impeachment inquiry — which usually requires a vote on the House floor — and what Jerry Nadler and the Judiciary Committee have said on television and in court filings.
Democrats hope that that will change this week. NYT’s Nick Fandos got a draft copy of a three-page resolution the committee will soon consider, representing the panel’s first vote on the substance of its expanded impeachment probe. We’re told the exact language of the resolution remains in flux, and that a full committee vote is likely to happen on Wednesday. Republicans are expected to protest the move, contending it’s moot without a full House vote.
WHAT ELSE? … POLITICO’s Natasha Bertrand and Bryan Bender report that the Air Force has ordered an investigation of official stays at Trump-owned resorts, which comes as they revealed yet another overnight stay at Trump’s Turnberry resort in Scotland by at least a dozen Air Force crew members in September 2018. And it’s been the subject of a House Oversight Committee investigation since April — one that the Pentagon, Democrats say, hasn’t yet complied with.
This story will be central to Democrats’ claims in recent days that Trump is improperly profiting off his presidency, steering money to his business empire in violation of the Constitutions’ Emoluments clause. Even before the Turnberry stay was revealed, Democrats had already ramped up their rhetoric on the president’s “corruption,” with Pelosi accusing Trump of violating the Constitution.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS… The Justice Department is due to submit, by Friday, a reply to the House Judiciary Committee’s bid to obtain Mueller’s grand-jury materials. Those documents are also expected to be addressed in the committee’s resolution this week outlining its impeachment probe.
Vik Ath has been promoted to deputy press secretary and speechwriter for Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.). He previously served as a development officer at Young America’s Foundation and as a regional director for the Ted Cruz Presidential Campaign in 2016.
The House gavels in at 2 p.m., with first and last votes expected at 6:30 p.m. Today’s agenda: http://bit.ly/2lL6047.
The Senate meets at 3 p.m. to resume consideration of Kelly Kraft’s nomination to be U.S. representative to the United Nations. At 5:30 p.m., senators will vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the Kraft nomination.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) holds a news conference to announce the introduction of the Overdraft Protection Act of 2019 to crack down on unfair overdraft fees at 2 p.m. in HC-8.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House and Senate Democrats hold a news conference to demand a Senate vote on the House-passed Background Checks Act at 3:00 p.m. in the LBJ Room (S-211).
FRIDAY’S WINNER: Derin Oduye was the first person to correctly guess that Rutherford B. Hayes was the first president to have a typewriter and a telephone installed in the White House.
TODAY’S QUESTION: From yours truly: What is the largest statue in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall – and how big is it? First person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your best guess my way: [email protected]
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