This week: Congress awaits Comey testimony
© Greg Nash

Lawmakers are eagerly awaiting former FBI Director James Comey's first public comments since President Trump fired him. 

Congress is clamoring for the former official’s testimony amid a string of bombshell allegations surrounding the surprise decision, including that Trump reportedly asked for Comey's loyalty and questioned if he was the target of the FBI's investigation. 

Lawmakers are engaged in a turf battle as they race to see who will get Comey's first public remarks and the media frenzy that is sure to accompany his appearance before Congress. 

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Three congressional committees—the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senate Judiciary Committee and House Oversight Committee—made offers to have the former FBI director testify publicly as soon as this week. 

The House Oversight Committee asked Comey to testify at a hearing scheduled for Wednesday morning and Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzThe myth of the conservative bestseller Elijah Cummings, Democratic chairman and powerful Trump critic, dies at 68 House Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records MORE (R-Utah) said Sunday on ABC's "This Week" that he expects to speak with Comey on Monday. 

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSenate GOP opens door to smaller coronavirus deal as talks lag Hillicon Valley: Google extending remote work policy through July 2021 | Intel community returns final Russia report to Senate committee after declassification | Study finds election officials vulnerable to cyberattacks Intel community returns final Russia report volume to Senate after declassification review MORE (R-N.C.) and ranking Democrat Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerGOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns Senate Intel panel approves final Russia report, moves toward public release MORE (Va.) announced in a joint statement late Friday that Comey will testify in a public hearing sometime after Memorial Day.

“Director Comey served his country with honor for many years, and he deserves an opportunity to tell his story. Moreover, the American people deserve an opportunity to hear it,” Warner said.

Comey is not expected to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Lawmakers want to use the hearing to dig into Comey’s firing and the investigation into Russia’s election meddling, which also includes potential ties between Trump’s campaign and Moscow. The Washington Post reported on Friday that the investigation also includes a current White House official close to Trump as a “significant person of interest.” 

Comey has a penchant for creating must-watch testimony. He jumped onto the national radar in 2007 after recounting how he raced to the bedside of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to stop the renewal of a controversial surveillance program Comey believed to be illegal. 

He also stunned the Capitol during a House Intelligence Committee hearing earlier this year by publicly revealing the FBI’s investigation of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Lawmakers are hopeful Comey will agree to publicly testify, but Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s decision to name former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special prosecutor for the probe could complicate the committees' ongoing investigations. 

Warner told reporters that he and Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) would try to meet with Mueller as soon as this week to discuss how to coordinate their separate investigations. 

Mueller was given control of the investigation into any coordination between the campaign and Russia but also any other matters that “may arise directly from the investigation” — such as Comey’s dismissal. 

“To those who wonder if the appointment of a Special Counsel will restrict Congress ability to move forward in its investigation I can’t think of one major witness Congress would want to talk to -- that Mueller wouldn’t also want to talk to,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamYates spars with GOP at testy hearing Trump knocks Sally Yates ahead of congressional testimony Republicans uncomfortably playing defense MORE (R-S.C.) said on Friday. 

Healthcare

The Congressional Budget Office is expected to finally release its analysis of the final version of the House GOP’s healthcare overhaul on Wednesday. 

House Republicans faced criticism for rushing a floor vote on the legislation nearly three weeks ago without an updated CBO score estimating how many people would be insured and how much it would cost.

The CBO analysis of the original legislation before the addition of multiple amendments said that the number of people without health insurance would increase by 24 million by 2026.

Since then, the bill has been amended to allow states to apply for waivers from key ObamaCare provisions mandating which services insurance plans must cover and requiring insurers to charge people in a given region the same premiums regardless of a preexisting condition. 

The CBO score will also verify if the updated legislation will adhere to Senate reconciliation procedures, which Republicans are using to bypass a Democratic filibuster. 

The House has not formally sent over the bill to the Senate yet because GOP leaders want to wait and make sure it meets reconciliation rules so they don't need to vote on it again.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDemocratic super PAC quotes Reagan in anti-Trump ad set to air on Fox News: 'Are you better off?' Trump lashes out at Reagan Foundation after fundraising request The Memo: Trump's grip on GOP loosens as polls sink MORE (R-Wis.) downplayed the likelihood that the House would have to vote again on the bill because of the CBO’s results.

"It's just a technical non-issue, is what it is. Just out of an abundance of caution, we’re waiting to send the bill to the Senate for the final CBO score," Ryan told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Friday.

In the meantime, the House will consider a series of bills to help combat human trafficking in the coming days before leaving Thursday for the weeklong Memorial Day recess.

Nominations

The Senate will take up at least two Trump nominations this week. 

Senators will vote Monday night on Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad's nomination to be the ambassador to China. The GOP governor is expected to easily be confirmed after overcoming an initial hurdle late last week in an 86-12 vote. 

Senators are also scheduled to take up John Sullivan’s nomination to be deputy secretary of State. Sullivan, a lawyer and former official in the George W. Bush administration, was cleared out of the Foreign Relations Committee last week. 

If confirmed Sullivan will serve as both deputy secretary of State and deputy secretary of State for Management and Resources. 

The Senate could also take up its first of Trump’s lower-court nominations this week. The Senate Judiciary Committee cleared Amul Thapar’s nomination to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit last week, teeing up the nomination for a vote before the full Senate. 

Democrats are expected to largely oppose Thapar’s nomination because of his support for the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which lifted limitations on political spending in elections. 

But Republicans could confirm Thapar on their own. They have 52 seats in the Senate and under a 2013 decision—led by then Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidKamala 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 McConnell warns Democrats not to change filibuster rule MORE (D-Nev.)—lower-court nominees need only a simple majority.

Thapar was also included on Trump’s list of roughly two-dozen potential picks to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court seat.