This week: Trump visits Capitol Hill amid gun debate
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Lawmakers will address the fallout from Democrats’ House floor sit-in when they return to Washington with few days remaining before leaving for the party conventions this month.

Little time remains to clear the legislative deck before both the House and Senate adjourn at the end of next week until September.

Congress faces a July 15 deadline to reauthorize Federal Aviation Administration programs and pressure to pass an emergency funding bill to combat the Zika virus.


Amid the scramble, Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran MORE is slated to meet with House and Senate Republicans on Thursday precisely two weeks before he’s expected to accept the party’s presidential nomination in Cleveland. Some Republicans, particularly those who face tough reelection fights, have said they plan to skip the convention and might pass on Thursday’s meetings as well.

In the meantime, the House is expected to consider a package of counterterrorism measures this week that includes a provision aimed at preventing terror suspects from buying guns.

Under the provision, the Justice Department can block a gun sale if it obtains a court order within three days agreeing there’s probable cause that the buyer will commit an act of terrorism. Law enforcement would also be notified if someone investigated for terrorism within the last five years tries to purchase a gun.

Democrats say the proposal doesn’t go far enough and warn three days isn’t enough time for law enforcement to get a court order blocking a gun sale.

The provision is supported by the National Rifle Association, which argues that more far-reaching measures could threaten due process rights.

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who led the Democrats’ sit-in, has requested a meeting with Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanWary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker Budowsky: Why I back Kennedy, praise Markey Democratic super PAC quotes Reagan in anti-Trump ad set to air on Fox News: 'Are you better off?' MORE (R-Wis.) to make the case for allowing votes on two amendments to the counterterrorism package.

Democrats want votes on a measure that allows the attorney general to prevent people on the government’s terror watch list from buying guns, as well as a bill to expand background checks to internet and gun show purchases.

In any case, the gun measure under consideration in the House this week is unlikely to go anywhere. The Senate rejected an identical proposal last week authored by Sen. John CornynJohn CornynCOVID-19 bill limiting liability would strike the wrong balance From a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters Skepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal MORE (R-Texas) along party lines, preventing it from attaining the 60 votes necessary to advance.

Republicans remain unswayed by Democrats’ push for more stringent gun control after the shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando last month. Instead, they’ve highlighted the shooter’s suspected sympathies to Islamic State terrorists and the need to more aggressively combat the terror threat.

The legislative package containing the gun measure also includes a provision to authorize a Department of Homeland Security office to counter “radical Islamist terrorism,” which will likely spark a debate over the use of the term.

Another GOP legislative response to mass shootings will also hit the House floor this week: Addressing mental health in the United States.

Lawmakers are expected to take up Rep. Tim Murphy’s (R-Pa.) long-awaited legislation to reform the mental health system. Among other provisions, the bill would authorize grants to help with suicide prevention programs and early intervention for children with mental illnesses. It would also create a new assistant secretary within the Department of Health and Human Services to oversee mental health and substance abuse programs. 

Murphy’s bill is expected to be considered under a fast-track process requiring a two-thirds majority for passage, indicating that the House will approve it easily.

Zika funding

Senators are set to clash again over funding to combat the Zika virus before lawmakers leave town for the summer. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Coronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority Coronavirus talks collapse as negotiators fail to reach deal MORE (R-Ky.) has pledged to make Democrats vote again on the $1.1 billion package, which is attached to a larger military and veterans bill, after they blocked it last week.

With both sides digging in ahead of the second vote, the legislation is once again expected to fail to get the 60 votes needed to move forward. 

Democrats oppose the current deal because of a myriad of policy fights, including how the money was paid for and a provision preventing funding for Planned Parenthood.

Instead, they are demanding that Republicans go back to conference and start over on the current House-Senate compromise. 

"We're going on a seven-week vacation ... and unless the Republicans become sensible, the Zika virus will have no work done," Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidMcConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill Kamala Harris to young Black women at conference: 'I want you to be ambitious' Obama calls filibuster 'Jim Crow relic,' backs new Voting Rights Act bill MORE (D-Nev.) told reporters late last week. "This is really outrageous that we're going to go on vacation while this national emergency is pending."

Both Reid and Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerWhite House officials, Democrats spar over legality, substance of executive orders Schumer declines to say whether Trump executive orders are legal: They don't 'do the job' Schumer: Idea that 0 unemployment benefit keeps workers away from jobs 'belittles the American people' MORE (D-N.Y.), expected to succeed him as Senate Democratic leader, are calling on Republicans to stay in town until they get an agreement on Zika funding. 

The Senate previously passed a separate $1.1 billion agreement —spearheaded by Sens. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayPelosi huddles with chairmen on surprise billing but deal elusive House approves two child care bills aimed at pandemic GOP, Democratic relief packages B apart on vaccine funding MORE (D-Wash.) and Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSkepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal GOP expects Senate to be in session next week without coronavirus deal House Republicans introduce legislation to give states 0 million for elections MORE (R-Mo.). However, that deal was almost immediately rejected by House Republicans because it didn't pay for the Zika spending. 

Sanctuary cities, immigration

The Senate is reviving stalled battles over immigration a day before Trump's visit with Senate Republicans. 

One measure, from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), would limit federal grant money to "sanctuary cities," or jurisdictions that don't comply with federal immigration law. The second bill, from Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOn The Trail: Pence's knives come out Pat Fallon wins GOP nomination in race to succeed DNI Ratcliffe The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Negotiators 'far apart' as talks yield little ahead of deadline MORE  (R-Texas), would create stiffer penalties for undocumented immigrants who reenter the country illegally after being deported. 

The votes follow the one-year anniversary of the death of Kate Steinle, who was shot and killed in San Francisco. The suspect in her slaying is an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times.

Though Republicans have used the killing to try to gain momentum in the fight, they'll face an uphill climb to get the six Democratic votes needed to move forward. 

Democrats blocked legislation from Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterBottom line Bottom line The biggest political upsets of the decade MORE (R-La.) last year that would have increased penalties for some illegal immigrants and cracked down on "sanctuary cities." 

The showdown came after Democrats said it had no chance of becoming law, with Reid calling it the "Donald Trump Act."

Wednesday's procedural votes come as Toomey, who faces a tough reelection bid, has made cracking down on cities that don't comply with immigration law a key issue in his race.

Toomey and Katie McGinty, his Democratic opponent, sparred over Philadelphia's sanctuary city policy earlier this year. 

"The bill stands for the simple proposition that the safety of the American people matters," Toomey added from the Senate floor last week. "That the life of Kate Steinle matters. That protecting our own homeland from violent criminals, including terrorists, that matters." 

It wouldn't be the first time McConnell has brought up legislation important to his incumbent lawmakers. Last year's vote came shortly before Vitter lost his bid to become Louisiana's governor. 

Republicans are defending 24 Senate seats in November, including a handful—like Toomey—who are in states previously won by President Obama. 


The Senate is also scheduled to take a procedural vote on a bill to give the Department of Agriculture two years to create a national mandatory standard for foods that contain GMOs. It also allows companies to put phone numbers or QR codes on labels for consumers who have questions on whether a product contains GMOs. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has raised concerns about the legislation, saying the Agriculture Department rules could conflict with existing FDA regulations.

Democrats temporarily held up the legislation last week amid confusion about whether a House-passed shell bill being used as a vehicle for the GMO measure would negatively impact Planned Parenthood. 

McConnell said he would strip out all of the Planned Parenthood language and replace it with the GMO bill, though Democrats were concerned that even the name — "The Defund Planned Parenthood Act" — would be able to remain in the legislation. 

After approximately 12 minutes of chaos on the Senate floor, senators allowed the proposal to be teed up for a procedural vote. 

The GMO fight comes after Senate Democrats blocked legislation earlier this year that would create a voluntary national standard.