This week: House GOP plots path forward
© Greg Nash

House Republicans are grappling with the future of their caucus amid intense jockeying following Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanRepublicans are strongly positioned to win Congress in November Don't let them fool you — Republicans love regulation, too Senate harassment bill runs into opposition from House MORE’s decision to retire at the end of the term.

The Wisconsin Republican decided to endorse House Majority Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyIvanka Trump to campaign for Devin Nunes in California Republicans are strongly positioned to win Congress in November Election fears recede for House Republicans MORE (R-Calif.) as his successor, calling him the “right man for the job.”

Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) also said he would not run against McCarthy, which means the GOP is likely to avoid a potential fight from within Ryan’s own leadership team.

But the race is hardly a closed deal.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsGOP nearing end game on immigration votes White House lawyer’s presence at FBI meetings sets off alarm bells for Dems Centrists on cusp of forcing immigration votes as petition grows MORE (R-N.C.) said Friday the powerful conservative group has the votes to stop contenders from reaching the 218 needed to secure the position.

And Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanCentrists on cusp of forcing immigration votes as petition grows Jim Jordan as Speaker is change America needs to move forward Hannity endorses Jim Jordan for Speaker MORE (R-Ohio), a founding member of the caucus, threw a curveball into the race late last week when he signaled he was interested in succeeding Ryan.

"I'm not announcing anything other than — there isn't a Speaker’s race — but if and when there is, like I've said, colleagues have encouraged me to consider it and I'm open to that,” he told reporters Friday.

It would be nearly impossible for the Ohio Republican to garner the 218 votes needed to become Speaker.

But, with the House Freedom Caucus holding a block of 25 to 30 votes, the powerful group could leverage their support in return for a lower leadership post or better committee positions.

McCarthy hasn’t officially declared his intention to run and needs to lock down the votes to succeed Ryan. He reportedly discussed wanting to be Speaker with Trump, who has not offered an endorsement in the burgeoning race.

Republicans are expected to hold their leadership elections after the November midterm.

But Ryan is facing doubts from within his own caucus about if he can hang onto the Speaker’s office through the end of the year, though few GOP lawmakers are publicly calling on him to step down early.

He pushed back against those rumors, saying he can continue to be effective despite his looming retirement.

“We’ve all discussed this and we think the smart thing to do is to actually stay an intact leadership team,” Ryan said during an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Syria

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: Meetings on potential North Korea summit going 'very well' Freed American 'overwhelmed with gratitude' after being released from Venezuela Ivanka Trump to campaign for Devin Nunes in California MORE's military strikes in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians is reigniting Congress’s war debate. 

Trump announced late Friday during a televised address at the White House that he had ordered "precision strikes" on targets in Syria associated with the government of Bashar Assad. The strikes targeted three sites near the capital of Damascus and in Homs, roughly 100 miles north.

Democrats, joined by some libertarian-minded GOP lawmakers, declared Trump’s actions “illegal,” noting they hadn't been specifically sanctioned by Congress.

“President Trump's strikes are illegal. He does not have authorization to take military action against Syria, and he should remember his own views during the last administration when he warned Obama that he could not strike Syria without congressional permission,” said Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyFive takeaways on the canceled Trump summit with Kim Dem senator: I support 'real' Second Amendment, not 'imaginary' one Frustrated Trump wants action on border wall, immigration MORE (D-Conn.).

Rep. Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieTrump has exposed Democratic hypocrisy on prison reform Hillicon Valley: House Dems release Russia-linked Facebook ads | Bill would block feds from mandating encryption 'back doors' | AT&T hired Cohen for advice on Time Warner merger | FCC hands down record robocall fine | White House launches AI panel Congress can level the playing field for small farmers MORE (R-Ky.) added in a tweet that “I haven’t read France’s or Britain’s 'Constitution,' but I’ve read ours and no where in it is Presidential authority to strike Syria.”

Most Republicans, including members of leadership, however, believe Trump already has legal authority without Congress passing additional legislation.

“I support this effort and believe the president has the full authority to take these actions,” said Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSenate harassment bill runs into opposition from House Senate approves new sexual harassment policy for Congress Senators introduce bill to overhaul sexual harassment policy MORE (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership.

Trump said during a White House address that the U.S. would “sustain” pressure on Syria until the Assad government “stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.” But Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisPentagon approves hundreds more National Guard troops to support border agents Overnight Defense: Trump now says Kim summit could still happen June 12 | Details emerge on Senate defense bill | Trump tells Navy grads 'they are respecting us again' Hillicon Valley: Sweeping new data rules take effect | Facebook, Google already hit with complaints | Schumer slams reported ZTE deal | Senators look to save cyber post | Dem wants answers about Trump's phone security MORE later said no additional strikes against Syria were planned, telling reporters “this is a one-time shot.”

Though a group of senators is expected to roll out a new authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) this week, it’s expected to address combating terrorist groups and not the Syrian government.

Republican senators also called on the administration to update Congress on its long-term strategy.

"Moving forward, it is vitally important that the Trump administration honors the Constitution by working with Congress on further military action. The United States is not at war with the people of Syria and I anticipate that the Administration will quickly present their long-term intentions to the American people,” GOP Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordSenate panel targets Turkey's participation in F-35 program Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA McConnell not yet ready to change rules for Trump nominees MORE (Okla.) said in a statement.

Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungDems win nail-biter in charity congressional soccer game Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA International trade: Big business for small businesses MORE (R-Ind.) added that “I look forward to receiving a full briefing on this latest military action and the administration's broader strategy in Syria."

In the wake of the strikes, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is slated to hold a hearing Wednesday on the country's policy on the Middle East.

“The administration is justified to take limited action in coordination with our allies to hold Assad accountable for the use of chemical weapons,” Chairman Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall Royce2018 midterms: The blue wave or a red dawn? Steyer-backed group launches 0,000 voter outreach campaign in California Election analyst moves four House seats toward GOP MORE (R-Calif.) said in a statement.

“Next week, this committee will convene a hearing regarding U.S. policy for the region, and the administration needs to begin fully explaining its strategy for the months ahead. Military force cannot be the only means of responding to these atrocities. The U.S. must leverage strong diplomacy and serious financial pressure.”

Mueller

The Senate Judiciary Committee has added legislation limiting Trump’s ability to fire special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE to its agenda for a Thursday business meeting.

The bill, from Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerTrump has exposed Democratic hypocrisy on prison reform Progressive rise is good news for Sanders, Warren Clinton backs Georgia governor hopeful on eve of primary MORE (D-N.J.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamRetired English teacher corrects letter from Trump and sends it back to White House Graham: Trump 'probably' shouldn't call use of FBI informant 'spygate' Graham on canceled summit: Trump thought North Korea was ‘playing him’ MORE (R-S.C.), Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDem senator: Trump Jr. may have given 'false testimony' about meeting with foreign nationals Overnight Finance: House sends Dodd-Frank rollbacks to Trump | What's in the bill | Trump says there is 'no deal' to help ZTE | Panel approves bill to toughen foreign investment reviews Congress, Trump eye new agency to invest in projects overseas MORE (D-Del.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSenate panel targets Turkey's participation in F-35 program Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA Overnight Defense: Over 500 amendments proposed for defense bill | Measures address transgender troops, Yemen war | Trump taps acting VA chief as permanent secretary MORE (R-N.C.), would specify that only a senior Justice Department official can fire Mueller. It would also give him 10 days to have a court review his firing, and, if found to not be for “good cause,” he would be reinstated.

The legislation comes as Trump has lashed out at Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinThere is no justice in undermining the special counsel investigation Schumer: Call off GOP-only 'sham briefing' on FBI informant Bowing to pressure, White House to host bipartisan briefing on Russia investigation MORE following an FBI raid on the offices of the president's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. The raid stemmed from a tip from Mueller’s team and Rosenstein reportedly signed off on the move.

But a committee vote on the legislation is expected to be delayed until next week. Under committee rules, any one member can request a bill be held over when it’s on the agenda for the first time.

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFormer US attorneys urge support for Trump nominee The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Republicans see some daylight in midterm polling Senate panel clears bill to bolster probes of foreign investment deals MORE (D-Calif.) said Democrats could be ready to vote next week, but Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyDem senator: Trump Jr. may have given 'false testimony' about meeting with foreign nationals A second chance for Republicans to reform farm handouts Former US attorneys urge support for Trump nominee MORE (R-Iowa), the committee chairman, noted members on his side of the aisle would likely object.

More than half of Republicans on the committee have said they believe limiting Trump’s ability to fire executive branch officials is unconstitutional or simply not needed because they don’t believe he would ultimately fire Mueller.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said late last week that the administration hasn’t taken a position on the bill.

Taxes

The House Rules Committee is expected to take up three bills aimed at modernizing and revamping the Internal Revenue Service.

If the legislation makes it out of the committee, the Protecting Children from Identity Theft Act — which looks to help prevent identity theft of minors and immigrants — is scheduled for a vote Wednesday.

The 21st Century IRS Act, which would amend the Internal Revenue Code in an attempt to improve cybersecurity protections and update the IRS’s technology, and the Taxpayer First Act, which is designed to help improve the agency’s customer strategy and establish an independent appeals process allowing people to conduct tax disputes, are expected to come to the floor later in the week.

Tribal sovereignty

The Senate will take up legislation to make it harder for labor unions to organize workers at casinos owned and operated by a Native American tribe and located on tribal land.

The bill already cleared the House earlier this year, and Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeTrump on collision course with Congress on ZTE Trump's plan to claw back spending hits wall in Congress Can Jim Jordan become top House Republican? MORE (R-Okla.) had hoped to get it included in last month’s omnibus funding bill.

“It’s been such a contentious issue and tribes have tried really hard to get it through the Senate ... Leadership in both parties are engaged in this issue,” Cole told The Hill at the time.

The Senate will take a procedural vote on the bill Monday at 5:30 p.m., where it will need 60 votes to advance.