This week: Congress faces what could be biggest news week of 2018
© Greg Nash

Congress is set return to Washington to face what might be the busiest news week of 2018.

Much of the action will take place off of the House and Senate chamber floors, where lawmakers are expected to be grilled by reporters about the fallout from the Group of Seven (G-7) meeting, while keeping a wary eye on President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want to use 'adversary' to describe Russia Comey urges Americans to vote for Democrats in midterms Roby wins Alabama GOP runoff, overcoming blowback from Trump criticism MORE's historic talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill's legislative front-burner is the looming showdown among House Republicans over immigration.

House GOP leadership has just until Tuesday to produce legislative text on an immigration bill that can garner 218 votes before centrists move forward with their efforts to force votes on four immigration bills.

Negotiators left a meeting in House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanSenate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Kelly lobbied Republicans to rebuke Trump after Putin press conference: report Lobbying world MORE’s (R-Wis.) office Friday without a deal, telling reporters that discussions would continue over the weekend. Lawmakers expressed frustration as they left Capitol Hill, with Rep. Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamKoch group pushes DACA fix on Capitol Hill House GOP reverses, cancels vote on Dem bill to abolish ICE House GOP leaders fail to find compromise immigration fix MORE (R-Calif.) accusing conservatives of increasing their demands at the eleventh hour.

“I’m disappointed that more issues continue to get added when we’re trying to close out,” told reporters Friday.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsFreedom Caucus lawmakers call on DOJ to probe Rosenstein allegations House GOP questions FBI lawyer for second day Five GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus MORE (R-N.C.) noted that new, unexpected challenges emerged during the course of negotiations Friday.

“I originally thought that border security would actually be easier, and I think at the end of the day it will,” he said. “But I think now that we’re getting down to the fine points of what border security means, it’s going to require some further debate.”

In addition to border security, a divide remains over whether there should be a special pathway to citizenship for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

If an agreement isn’t reached ahead of the moderates’ June 12 deadline, several key holdouts are expected to sign the discharge petition.

While the chances of an agreement being reached by Tuesday look slim, lawmakers said if moderates reach the 218 signatures needed for their discharge petition it won’t hinder negotiations.

If lawmakers are able to lock down enough support for the discharge petition, that could trigger floor action either later this month. Or leadership could use a procedural loophole canceling Monday votes, which could push the immigration fight to next month.


Lawmakers will regroup in Washington on Monday amid the fallout from Trump’s growing war of words with longtime U.S. allies.

The rhetorical firefight around the G-7 summit over the weekend comes as lawmakers were already publicly fretting about the White House’s trade positions, with Republicans worried Trump’s use of tariffs could roil the economy months before a midterm election.

Trump refused to endorse a joint communique signed with the other G-7 countries and lashed out, in particular, at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, calling him “meek and mild” and “very dishonest [and] weak.”

Peter Navarro, the White House National Trade Council director, further escalated the situation on Sunday when he criticized Trudeau by saying there is a "special place in hell" for any leader who engages in bad faith diplomacy with Trump.

GOP Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainPence, Pompeo urged Trump to clarify Russia remarks: report GOP lawmaker renews call for Trump to release tax returns after Putin summit House conservatives criticize media, not Trump, for Putin furor MORE (Ariz.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeKelly lobbied Republicans to rebuke Trump after Putin press conference: report Senate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash Flake to Trump: 'Fake news' didn't side with Putin, you did MORE (Ariz.) lashed out at the White House’s rhetoric.

“To our allies: bipartisan majorities of Americans remain pro-free trade, pro-globalization & supportive of alliances based on 70 years of shared values. Americans stand with you, even if our president doesn’t,” McCain said in a tweet on Saturday.

“Fellow Republicans, this is not who we are. This cannot be our party,” Flake said in his own tweet on Sunday, reacting specifically to Navarro’s comments.

Republicans are also likely to be quizzed around the Capitol about Trump’s suggestion, made late last week, that Russia should be allowed back into the G-7.

But what, if anything, GOP lawmakers will do to counter Trump’s rhetoric on trade is unclear. Leadership has shown no inclination to pick a fight the president as they head toward the November election and have remained silent over the weekend.

Roughly a dozen senators, led by Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSenate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Senate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash Trump seeks to quell Russia furor MORE (R-Tenn.), wanted to get a vote this week on legislation that would require congressional approval for tariffs enacted for national security reasons.

Corker had hoped to attach the bill as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual defense policy bill currently being debated by the Senate.

But the legislation faces major roadblocks with Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Defense: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | GOP looks to reassure NATO | Mattis open to meeting Russian counterpart Senate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash House passes bipartisan bill to boost business investment MORE (R-Ky.) calling it an “exercise in futility.”

Several Republicans are warning they don’t want to undermine the president when he’s in the middle of negotiations. Others argue the bill should go through the Finance Committee, or that, as currently written, it would violate a “blue slip” rule that says all revenue legislation has to start in the House.

Given the mounting GOP opposition, a significant number of votes would be needed from Democrats, many of whom are giving the bill a lukewarm reception.

“We always want input and I think we should do our job. On the other hand, I want to make sure the president is able to do his job too, so it’s going to be a balance,” said Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSenate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Morrisey accuses Manchin of 'lying' to Trump, attacks ‘liberal’ record The Hill's Morning Report — Trump, Putin meet under cloud of Mueller’s Russia indictments MORE (D-W.Va.), who is running for reelection in a state Trump won handedly in 2016.

Corker indicated late last week that he still wants a vote on his bill as part of the NDAA.

“Did I hear him say that he didn't feel like we should do anything that the president might not like?” Corker asked, responding to criticism from Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash McConnell: Russians are not our friends Russians' indictment casts shadow ahead of Trump-Putin summit MORE (R-Texas). He added with a shrug: “I don’t know. I was elected to the Senate.”

Defense policy bill

The Senate is poised to wrap up its work on the NDAA this week, but first it needs to break a stalemate on amendments.

In addition to Corker’s amendment, hundreds of proposals are currently bottlenecked as senators try to work out what, if anything, will get a stand-alone vote.

Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeNew EPA chief draws sharp contrast to Pruitt Senate takes symbolic shot at Trump tariffs Senate moves to start negotiations on defense policy bill MORE (R-Okla.) tried to bring up amendments late last week but was blocked by Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Nation editor: Reaction by most of the media to Trump-Putin press conference 'is like mob violence' Lewandowski: Trump-Putin meeting advances goal of world peace Rand Paul to travel to Russia after downplaying election meddling MORE (R-Ky.).

“I’m not really blocking anything other than I think we should have an open amendment process. I do have a very important amendment … that we ought to consider a vote [on],” Paul said.

Paul wants a vote on his amendment that would prevent the indefinite detention of Americans captured within the United States.

Paul noted that he doesn’t always know who is blocking his request for a vote, but suggested reporters talk to McCain, who is in Arizona battling brain cancer, or Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamKelly lobbied Republicans to rebuke Trump after Putin press conference: report Senate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash Trump stuns the world at Putin summit MORE (R-S.C.).

Graham, separately, confirmed that he is blocking Paul from getting a vote on his indefinite detention amendment, adding that he’s blocked the Kentucky Republican from getting a vote on a similar amendment to the NDAA for years.

“There’s a process around here. We have committees for a reason,” said Graham. “We’re not going to let the Judiciary Committee’s jurisdiction be taken over simply because Rand Paul is mad.”

The legislative standstill has become routine in recent years for the NDAA, a policy bill that acts as a lightning rod for controversial amendments because of its must-pass status.

In addition to tariffs, a bipartisan group has introduced an amendment to the NDAA that would restore the Commerce Department’s penalties on Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea, after the Trump administration announced late last week it had reached a deal to lift the the penalties.

Sens. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordHillicon Valley: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | Sparks fly at hearing on social media | First House Republican backs net neutrality bill | Meet the DNC's cyber guru | Sinclair defiant after merger setback Koch group pushes DACA fix on Capitol Hill Juan Williams: Putin wins as GOP spins MORE (R-Okla.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSenate Dems protest vote on controversial court pick Hillicon Valley: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | Sparks fly at hearing on social media | First House Republican backs net neutrality bill | Meet the DNC's cyber guru | Sinclair defiant after merger setback Booker seizes on Kavanaugh confirmation fight MORE (D-Minn.) are also trying to use the defense bill to pass legislation aimed at securing U.S. election systems from cyberattacks.

North Korea summit

Lawmakers are keeping a close eye on the summit in Singapore with Trump and Kim, with both parties laying down early goal posts for the talks.

Republicans are largely supportive of the meeting, while skeptical that North Korea will agree to a deal considered palatable to the United States. McConnell, speaking in Kentucky late last month, warned Trump against getting “snookered.”

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchOn The Money: Fed chief lays out risks of trade war | Senate floats new Russia sanctions amid Trump backlash | House passes bill to boost business investment Hatch threatens legislative action to rein in Trump tariffs GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki MORE (R-Utah) wrote in a Fox News op-ed that North Korea must both hand over its nuclear weapons and end human rights abuses.

“Kim must understand that de-weaponization is not enough. If North Korea intends on being an ally of the United States, it must not only give up its tools of destruction but also work with us to build a world of peace and stability,” Hatch wrote.

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, released a letter outlining what they view as a good deal, including that North Korea must permanently dismantle and remove its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons; permanently end its enrichment of uranium and plutonium for military purposes, and commit to “robust compliance inspections.”

Graham said on Sunday that he was pleased with the Democratic letter, but urged his colleagues to also support the use of military force if diplomacy fails.

“So here’s my question for my Democratic colleagues: If diplomacy fails, will you support my efforts to authorize the use of military force as a last resort to convince North Korea and China things will be different this time?” Graham asked during an interview with ABC News’s “This Week.”

Trump and Kim arrived in Singapore over the weekend in advance of the highly anticipated talks. They are set to meet on Tuesday, when Trump will become the first American president to sit down with a North Korean leader.

U.S. and North Korean officials are expected to meet on Monday to finalize preparations for Tuesday's meeting. Trump is separately expected to meet with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday.

Trump has sought to downplay expectations for the talks, arguing it could take more than one meeting to reach a deal.

GOP senators separately told CNN that the Trump administration has pledged that any agreement will be submitted to the Senate, where it would be ratified as a treaty — a move that would require it to get bipartisan support.

IG report on FBI

The Justice Department’s inspector general is expected to release on Thursday a long-awaited report into the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonOvernight Defense: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | GOP looks to reassure NATO | Mattis open to meeting Russian counterpart Dem pollster: GOP women have a more difficult time winning primary races than Dems Mellman: (Mis)interpreting elections MORE’s private email server.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz told Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate GOP poised to break record on Trump's court picks This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation Kavanaugh paper chase heats up MORE (R-Iowa) in a letter that his office is planning to release the highly anticipated report on June 14.

The report is expected to detail broad allegations of misconduct by FBI and Justice Department (DOJ) officials in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

The inspector general's investigation has focused on former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyComey urges Americans to vote for Democrats in midterms Trump calls Brennan ‘a very bad person’ after Putin criticism Buck Wild: 'Is President Trump paranoid or is the Deep State out to get him?' MORE's various statements and letters regarding the Clinton probe, as well as the unauthorized disclosure of nonpublic information by DOJ employees.

ABC News reported that the report is expected to fault Comey, accusing him of defying authority at times during his tenure as the nation's top FBI official. It's also expected to criticize former Attorney General Loretta Lynch for her handling of the Clinton email investigation.

Horowitz is then expected to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 18. The House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees will hold a joint hearing on the report the next day.


The House is slated to vote on more than 20 bills aimed at fighting the opioid crisis this week.

The bills range from requiring federal agencies to provide education materials to pharmacists to legislation permitting testing of alternatives to opioids for pain treatment.

“The opioid epidemic has no boundaries—it has brought harrowing losses to our communities and has cut short too many futures. We are resolute in the fight against this scourge, and with this new initiative to better educate young people about the realities and dangers of opioids, more lives can be saved,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement.

“The measures the House will begin considering next week continue our work to prevent and treat these destructive addictions,” he added.