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 RyanVulnerable Republicans include several up-and-coming GOP leaders Trump ally suspends reelection campaign Congress should prohibit members from serving on company boards MORE’s decision to retire at the end of the term.

The Wisconsin Republican decided to endorse House Majority Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyRepublicans have spent .5 million at Trump properties since he took office: report Trump ally suspends reelection campaign Dems seek GOP wipeout in California 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 MeadowsMeadows says FBI made 'right' decision firing Strzok Republicans have spent .5 million at Trump properties since he took office: report Conservative editor: House GOP should not try to impeach Rosenstein 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 JordanRepublicans and Democrats alike face troubling signals from voters Ex-OSU wrestler walks back accusations against Jordan: I don’t know if he 'directly' knew about abuse GOP chairman readies Steele dossier subpoenas 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 TrumpAl Gore: Trump has had 'less of an impact on environment so far than I feared' Trump claims tapes of him saying the 'n-word' don't exist Trump wanted to require staffers to get permission before writing books: report 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 MurphyThe Hill's Morning Report — Signs of trouble for Republicans in House special election Dem senator defends social media platforms deleting content: 'Not the same as government censorship' Right ramps up battle with Facebook after Jones, Infowars pages are struck down MORE (D-Conn.).

Rep. Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieRepublicans win elections by restoring faith of Americans Pelosi blasts Trump administration: Allowing 3D printed guns is a ‘death warrant’ Meadows leaves door open to impeachment vote on Rosenstein 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 BluntGOP senator pushes back on Trump’s attacks on Maxine Waters’s intelligence Pair of DC fundraisers aims to boost McCaskill challenger Kansas City mayoral candidate: Trump is trying to define patriotism 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 MattisOvernight Defense: Trump signs 7B defense policy bill into law | Rips McCain hours after signing bill named after him | Green Beret killed in Afghanistan blast US soldier killed by IED in Afghanistan Trump signs 7B annual defense policy bill into law 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 LankfordHillicon Valley: FBI fires Strzok after anti-Trump tweets | Trump signs defense bill with cyber war policy | Google under scrutiny over location data | Sinclair's troubles may just be beginning | Tech to ease health data access | Netflix CFO to step down House Intel lawmakers introduce bipartisan election security bill Trump officials look to neutralize cyber threats in supply chain MORE (Okla.) said in a statement.

Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungThe scale of the Yemen crisis is unimaginable The Hill's Morning Report — Trump navigates challenges from all sides Tenn. Republicans to go on offense against Dem 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 RoyceDems seek GOP wipeout in California McCarthy joins push asking Trump for more wildfire aid in California White House seeks to clarify Trump criticism of 'Russia hoax' 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 BookerDemocrats embracing socialism is dangerous for America Kavanaugh recommended against Clinton indictment in 1998: report Kavanaugh once said president would likely have to testify before grand jury if subpoenaed: report MORE (D-N.J.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamWhite House staff offered discounts at Trump's NJ golf club: report Graham: DOJ official was 'unethical' in investigating Trump campaign because his wife worked for Fusion GPS Sunday shows preview: Virginia lawmakers talk Charlottesville, anniversary protests MORE (R-S.C.), Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsOn The Money: Senators propose 'crushing' Russia sanctions | Trump calls for food stamp work requirements in farm bill | China tells US to 'chill' on trade | Apple hits trillion in value Let’s honor public service Senate Dem: Talk of revoking security clearances a ‘pure distraction’ MORE (D-Del.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisOrrin Hatch: Partisanship over Kavanaugh nomination 'dumbass' Kavanaugh tells senators Mueller’s appointment was appropriate: report Senators restart talks to fix family separations 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 RosensteinHillicon Valley: FBI fires Strzok after anti-Trump tweets | Trump signs defense bill with cyber war policy | Google under scrutiny over location data | Sinclair's troubles may just be beginning | Tech to ease health data access | Netflix CFO to step down US judge rejects Russian company’s bid to dismiss Mueller charges Falwell Jr.: Sessions and Rosenstein ‘deceived’ Trump into appointing them and should ‘rot’ in jail 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 FeinsteinArchivist rejects Democrats' demand for Kavanaugh documents Senate Judiciary announces Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing Latino legal group slams Kavanaugh MORE (D-Calif.) said Democrats could be ready to vote next week, but Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyArchivist rejects Democrats' demand for Kavanaugh documents Kavanaugh recommended against Clinton indictment in 1998: report Russian meddling on social media happens on both the right and left 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 faces long odds in avoiding big spending bill Paul Ryan would be ‘perfect fit’ to lead AEI, Republicans say This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation 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.