This week: Trump makes first address to Congress

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This week will feature a scene few on Capitol Hill at last year’s State of the Union could imagine: President Trump delivering a joint address to Congress.

Trump’s 9 p.m. address on Tuesday technically won’t be a State of the Union, but it’s customary for new presidents to give a speech before Congress in their first months of taking office.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the theme of Trump’s address will be “renewal of the American spirit.” He’s expected to discuss border security and defense, along with economic agenda items like tax reform and overhauling the healthcare system.

{mosads}Unlike Trump’s inauguration, there aren’t any Democrats so far planning to boycott his joint address in protest. 

But many Democratic lawmakers are putting people in front of Trump who they say would be negatively impacted by his policies. They’re bringing guests who have made a “positive impact” on their communities despite facing discrimination.

Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), who’s leading the push, invited a Muslim critical care doctor from Pakistan. At least three House Democrats plan to bring young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have work permits under the Obama-era program shielding them from deportation.

And Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) is bringing a Chicago immigration attorney who works with mostly Middle Eastern clients and is herself a child of refugees from Gaza.

“If he looks up during the speech,” Gutierrez said, “I want Trump to see the face of a woman, the face of a Muslim, and the face of someone whose family has enriched and contributed to this country despite starting out as refugees.”

It’s also possible Trump won’t get the usual enthusiastic bipartisan greeting as he walks down the center aisle of the House chamber to the dais.

Typically, members of both parties stake out seats hours ahead of the 9 p.m. address to ensure they can be seen on primetime TV shaking the president’s hand. Some Democrats are hoping no one from their party scrambles to get in a shot with Trump.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will take an opening shot at Trump’s speech on Monday. The two top Democrats are holding a joint press conference being billed as a “prebuttal” at the National Press Club.  


GOP plans to bury resolution demanding probe of Trump conflicts

The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday will consider a resolution by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) that would demand the Justice Department hand over documents to Congress regarding President Trump’s business conflicts of interest and possible ties to Russia.

Nadler earlier this month invoked a rarely used procedure to introduce the measure, known as a resolution of inquiry, that would automatically trigger a House floor vote if it’s not considered in committee within 14 legislative days.

Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are expected to reject the resolution and prevent it from reaching the House floor. But it could be a tough vote for GOP members of the panel like Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, who faced a raucous crowd at a recent district town hall demanding he more aggressively investigate the Trump administration. 


Senators to vote on Ross, Zinke

The Senate will continue grinding through its weeks-long consideration of Trump’s nominees. 

Senators are expected to take a final vote on Wilbur Ross’s nomination to be Commerce secretary at 7 p.m. Monday after the former banker overcame an initial procedural hurdle in a 66-31 vote before lawmakers left town. 

Ross’s nomination has been largely uncontroversial though Democrats are raising fresh concerns about whether he has ties to Russia. 

In a letter obtained by McClatchy, they questioned Ross’s relationship with Viktor Vekselberg, a shareholder at a bank where Ross still sits on the board. 

Vekselberg is friends with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and was formerly one of the directors of the Russian state-controlled oil giant Rosneft.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) separately sent Ross a letter on Friday asking him to answer nearly a dozen questions on his “Russian banking ties.” 

“The United States Senate and the American public deserve to know the full extent of your connections with Russia and your knowledge of any ties between the Trump Administration, Trump Campaign, or Trump Organization and the Bank of Cyprus,” Booker wrote in the letter. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sidestepped a question during a pre-recess press conference about if he thought Democrats would try to make an 11th-hour effort to oppose Ross. 

“I have no idea what they will do with individual nominees. But I think, you know, the best way to sum up their approach to this — did you all notice that the Democratic leader voted against the Secretary of Transportation?,” he asked reporters. 

Elaine Chao, Trump’s Transportation secretary, is McConnell’s wife. Six Democrats, including Schumer, voted against her nomination. 

Senators are also expected to take an initial vote on Rep. Ryan Zinke’s nomination to be Interior secretary on Monday night. If Democrats drag out the full 30 hours of debate a final vote on his nomination could be delayed until Wednesday. 

McConnell has teed up votes on two additional Trump nominees: Ben Carson to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to be Energy secretary. 

He told reporters that after the Senate finishes up its current tranche of nominee votes it will turn back to undoing Obama-era regulations. 

“When we finish the Cabinet, we’ll go back to Congressional Review Act actions here in the Senate. The House is sending more over on a weekly basis,” he said. 

The House, meanwhile, is forging ahead with considering legislation to scale back regulations for the fourth consecutive week in session.

Lawmakers will vote on three bills to overhaul the review of pending regulations, along with a measure to overturn a Labor Department rule regarding employers’ obligations to maintains records of work-related injuries.

Tags Chuck Schumer Jason Chaffetz Luis Gutierrez Mitch McConnell

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