This week: Congress moves toward bill to avoid shutdown

Congress is eyeing a short-term spending bill this week to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1 and potentially make an early getaway from Washington.

The Senate will likely make the first move on a short-term appropriations bill, also known as a continuing resolution (CR). 

Over in the House, conservatives in the meantime are expected to force a vote this week on impeaching Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen in defiance of GOP leaders.

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Senate leadership is hoping to take up a short-term spending bill this week that would fund the government through Dec. 9. The move would pave the way to clear the legislation weeks before the Oct. 1 deadline and avoid a last-minute fight two months before Election Day.

Congressional leaders are expected to meet with Obama at the White House on Monday to discuss the path forward on a CR. 

House Republicans have not yet finalized a plan for how they’ll keep the government funded past the end of this month. But GOP lawmakers, with the exception of the most hard-line conservatives, emerged from a closed-door meeting on Friday in favor of a plan to pass a CR into December and pass smaller packages of appropriations bills in the lame-duck session to avoid an all-encompassing omnibus bill.

Democrats, however, are already laying down their own goalposts for the government funding bill. Reid told reporters that his party would demand parity on defense and non-defense spending and that Republicans drop "vexatious riders."

"I'm hopeful they understand the predicament they've created. They can't close the government again," he added. 

Democratic Sens. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayBold, bipartisan action on child care will win plenty of friends GOP seeks health care reboot after 2018 losses Democrats demand answers on Trump short-term insurance plans MORE (Wash.) and Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonFlorida lawmaker diagnosed with pancreatic cancer Rick Scott threw party at Florida governor’s mansion after DeSantis and family had moved in: report Restoration of voting rights by felons marks shift in Florida MORE (Fla.), separately, warned that their caucus would reject a CR that included the current Planned Parenthood restrictions on Zika money. 

With lawmakers facing a compressed timeline the issue is being wrapped into the current government funding talks, and Senate leadership indicated last week that they are working toward a deal on fighting the Zika virus. 

A growing number of Senate Republicans — including Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRubio slams NY Times for 'absurd criticism' of Bolton over Iran Rubio knocks Democrats over meaning of 'compromise': It 'means when 3 or 4 Reps vote with the Dems' Will 2019 be the year we finally stand up to China? MORE, who is running for reelection in Florida—have backed dropping the fight over the family planning organization, arguing it's the fastest way to get legislation cleared through Congress. 

But the Senate GOP plan is already getting pushback from conservative outside groups, who want a longer spending bill in order to skip having an end-of-the-year "lame duck" session. 

Michael Needham, the chief executive officer for the conservative Heritage Action, called setting up lawmakers to pass another spending bill in December "a brazen and deliberate attempt to avoid the will of the American people." 

But Democrats and the White House, have pledged to reject any spending bill that stretches into 2017, making it unlikely that a longer CR could survive Congress. 

Passing the spending bill ahead of schedule could also allow senators to leave Washington early and head back to the campaign trail where Senate Republicans are defending 24 seats. Such a move would come with lawmakers just returning from a seven-week summer recess last week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRomney calls on Steve King to resign after comments on white supremacy Don't underestimate the power of nationwide outrage born from financial desperation Top Dem introduces short-term spending bills to reopen government MORE (R-Ky.) is in danger of being demoted to minority leader in the next Congress, with Democrats only needing to net five seats—or four if they retain the White House—to regain the majority. 

IRS commissioner impeachment

One way or another, the House is expected to vote this week on a resolution calling for the impeachment of the IRS commissioner.

Rep. John FlemingJohn Calvin FlemingOvernight Energy: Watchdog opens investigation into Interior chief | Judge halts Pruitt truck pollution rule decision | Winners, losers in EPA, Interior spending bill amendments Five GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus Coast Guard suspends search for missing Ohio plane MORE (R-La.), a Senate candidate, plans to issue notice of his “privileged” resolution on Tuesday, which under House rules will require legislative action within two days.

The measure could be brought up in three possible ways: a motion to table it, a motion to refer it to the House Judiciary Committee, or a vote on the resolution’s content to impeach Koskinen.

House GOP leaders are wary of voting to impeach Koskinen, given that the chamber has only voted one time in history to impeach a Cabinet-level official: Secretary of War William Belknap in 1876.

Conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus believe Koskinen deserves impeachment because they think he wasn’t forthcoming enough with documents during the congressional investigation over the agency’s scrutiny of conservative nonprofits in 2012.

Despite leadership’s reluctance over the last several months, Freedom Caucus members are using House rules to their advantage and plowing ahead with the resolution.

Koskinen became the IRS commissioner after the controversy became public. He met with lawmakers in the Republican Study Committee and centrist Tuesday Group last week to make the case that any impeachment process should be done through the committee process, rather than a unilateral vote on the House floor.

Senate Republicans have indicated they won’t bring up the resolution in their chamber.

Guantanamo Bay transfers, VA reform

The House is expected to vote this week on legislation to prohibit any more transfers of prisoners currently housed at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

The vote on Rep. Jackie Walorski’s (R-Ind.) bill comes a month after the Obama administration announced that it would transfer 15 detainees to the United Arab Emirates. 

President Obama expressed optimism last week that he’d still be able to fulfill a campaign promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison before he leaves office in January. Sixty-one prisoners remain at the facility, with 20 approved for transfers but awaiting countries to accept them.

His efforts to reduce the prison’s population have been stymied throughout his presidency because Congress has repeatedly passed annual defense authorizations that prohibit Guantanamo Bay prison transfers to the U.S.

In addition, the House plans to take up House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller’s (R-Fla.) bill to ensure employees at the VA can be demoted or fired for misconduct. 

Among other provisions, the measure would give the VA secretary authority to reduce senior executives’ pensions if they are convicted of felonies that affected their job performance. The length of the firing process for rank-and-file VA workers would be reduced from more than a year to a maximum of 77 days.

Water infrastructure

The Senate is expected to wrap up its work on the Water Resources Development ACT (WRDA) early this week, starting with a procedural vote on Monday evening as the bill's sponsors continue to work out an agreement on amendments. 

The $9.4 billion bill authorizes U.S. waterway projects, and includes $220 million for Flint, Mich., and other cities with emergency drinking water problems. 

Overall, the legislation identifies $4.5 billion worth of water-related infrastructure projects and authorizes $4.9 billion for drinking and clean water infrastructure over five years.

The floor action comes after the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee approved the WRDA bill by a 19-1 vote in April, fulfilling a promise from committee leaders to return to a two-year cycle of authorizing projects under the measure.