This week: Time running out for Congress to avoid shutdown
© Greg Nash

Time is running out for Congress to avert a government shutdown amid fragile bipartisan negotiations for an immigration deal.

Current government funding runs out after Friday, meaning lawmakers have only four days to figure out how to avoid a damaging shutdown.

GOP leaders said they expect to pass another short-term patch, known as a continuing resolution (CR), which would be the fourth since September.

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But corralling the votes for yet another CR will be difficult, given the reluctance among both Republicans and Democrats to support it without conditions.

GOP defense hawks are loath to vote for another CR without a long-term budget deal in place for the Pentagon. Before the holidays, many of them initially refused to vote for a short-term funding bill.

Lawmakers from states ravaged by recent natural disasters are also pushing for federal aid that was sidelined last month.

And on the Democratic side, lawmakers don’t want to help GOP leaders keep the government open without an agreement that ensures protections for certain young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Those immigrants could soon be at risk of deportation after the Trump administration announced it would phase out the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that granted them temporary work permits.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAt indoor rally, Pence says election runs through Wisconsin Juan Williams: Breaking down the debates Peterson faces fight of his career in deep-red Minnesota district MORE (R-Wis.) downplayed the chances of a shutdown, saying at a WisPolitics event on Friday, “I don’t think there will be” a lapse in funding. He said negotiators are making “progress” on a bipartisan budget deal establishing spending outlines.

Ryan reiterated that the immigration deal would be kept separate from the government spending patch despite Democratic demands, but emphasized that he wants to see a solution for DACA.

“I want to get it resolved, too,” Ryan said, saying Democrats are linking DACA to government spending negotiations because “it’s about the only leverage they have.”

President TrumpDonald John TrumpHR McMaster says president's policy to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is 'unwise' Cast of 'Parks and Rec' reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response MORE isn’t making it easier for lawmakers to reach an immigration deal. He has drawn criticism from both parties after The Washington Post reported he expressed preference for immigrants from Norway over impoverished “shithole countries” like Haiti.

The remark was made at a meeting with lawmakers where Trump also rejected a bipartisan Senate proposal for an immigration deal. He said in a tweet on Friday that it was an “outlandish proposal.”

The proposal, backed by six senators, is expected to pair the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act with changes to family-based immigration and the State Department’s Diversity Visa Lottery program, as well as reportedly $2.7 billion in border security funding.

The changes to “chain migration” are expected to focus only on the DACA population and their family members, not the larger immigrant population, as some GOP members have called for. Senators have also discussed shuffling some of the diversity visas toward Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients.

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinMcConnell focuses on confirming judicial nominees with COVID-19 talks stalled Senate Republicans signal openness to working with Biden Top GOP senator calls for Biden to release list of possible Supreme Court picks MORE (D-Ill.) on Friday said he was calling his colleagues “begging” them to support the legislation, and Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeRepublican former Michigan governor says he's voting for Biden Maybe they just don't like cowboys: The president is successful, some just don't like his style Bush endorsing Biden? Don't hold your breath MORE (R-Ariz.) indicated late last week that they had already picked up supporters.

Senators are expected to unveil their bill this week and make the argument that it is the only bipartisan proposal that has come forward after months of negotiations and jockeying on Capitol Hill.

But it’s unclear how far the legislation will go without Trump’s support. Senate GOP leaders reiterated last week that they would only give a bill a floor vote if the president indicates he’ll support it.

“It would take something that the president would sign. ... We're going to have more than a signal, we're going to have a very clear message that this is something he can support,” Sen. John CornynJohn CornynAirline job cuts loom in battleground states Senate Republicans signal openness to working with Biden Hillicon Valley: DOJ indicts Chinese, Malaysian hackers accused of targeting over 100 organizations | GOP senators raise concerns over Oracle-TikTok deal | QAnon awareness jumps in new poll MORE (R-Texas) told reporters after Thursday’s White House meeting.

Marc Short, the White House’s director of legislative affairs, pointed to the inclusion of the DREAM Act, as well as the limited changes to “chain migration,” as two sticking points for the White House.

Foreign surveillance

The Senate is expected to easily clear an extension of a controversial National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance program after a suspense-filled showdown in the House last week.

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) allows the NSA to collect texts and emails of foreigners abroad without an individualized warrant, even when they communicate with Americans in the U.S.

Senators voted 66-26 on Thursday to take up the House-passed legislation, with an initial procedural vote scheduled for Tuesday evening.

A group of privacy-minded senators, led by Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSecond GOP senator to quarantine after exposure to coronavirus GOP senator to quarantine after coronavirus exposure The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by National Industries for the Blind - Trump seeks to flip 'Rage' narrative; Dems block COVID-19 bill MORE (R-Ky.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenGOP senator blocks Schumer resolution aimed at Biden probe as tensions run high Republican Senators raise concerns over Oracle-TikTok deal Hillicon Valley: TikTok, Oracle seek Trump's approval as clock winds down | Hackers arrested for allegedly defacing U.S. websites after death of Iranian general | 400K people register to vote on Snapchat MORE (D-Ore.), are making an 11th hour bid to try to get their colleagues to either demand the ability to amend the legislation or reject the House bill altogether.

“This legislation is a significant step backward and does nothing substantive to protect the Fourth Amendment rights of innocent Americans,” Paul and Wyden, as well as Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeMcConnell shores up GOP support for coronavirus package McConnell tries to unify GOP Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump MORE (R-Utah) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyBattle over timing complicates Democratic shutdown strategy Hillicon Valley: Russia 'amplifying' concerns around mail-in voting to undermine election | Facebook and Twitter take steps to limit Trump remarks on voting | Facebook to block political ads ahead of election Top Democrats press Trump to sanction Russian individuals over 2020 election interference efforts MORE (D-Vt.), wrote in a letter on Friday.

They added that the bill “allows an end-run on the Constitution by permitting information collected without a warrant to be used against Americans in domestic criminal investigations.”

Paul is also threatening to filibuster the bill, though with senators expected to end debate on Monday night, he’ll only be able to delay a final vote for up to 30 hours.

The low-drama action in the Senate on the surveillance bill comes after Trump sparked a frenzy on Capitol Hill hours before the House vote saying the law had been used to “badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign.”

The president later walked back the tweet.

Impeachment and censure efforts

This week is expected to feature efforts in the House to censure and impeach Trump over his comments describing Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “shithole countries.”

Rep. Al GreenAlexander (Al) N. GreenThe Memo: Trump's race tactics fall flat Trump administration ending support for 7 Texas testing sites as coronavirus cases spike The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Miami mayor worries about suicide and domestic violence rise; Trump-governor debate intensifies MORE (D-Texas), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), announced that he will force another vote on impeachment this week following the outcry over Trump’s remarks.

Green forced a House floor vote last month on articles of impeachment, which state that Trump has “brought disrepute, contempt, ridicule and disgrace on the presidency” and “sown discord among the people of the United States.”

The effort failed due to opposition from Republicans and most Democrats. A total of 58 Democrats voted in support of impeachment, despite reluctance among their leadership at this point to endorse the push.

“Congressional condemnation of racist bigotry is not enough. In Congress, talk is cheap-it’s how we vote that counts. Next week, I will again bring a resolution to impeach @realDonaldTrump. I will put my vote where my mouth is,” Green tweeted on Friday.

Other Democrats, meanwhile, are pushing to censure Trump. Censure is not at the same level as impeachment, but still a rarely used tool to rebuke a president.

The Senate has only ever voted once to censure a president: Andrew Jackson in 1834 over his move to dismantle the Bank of the United States. Only a handful of times in history has the House moved to censure or rebuke a sitting president, like John Tyler in 1842 for abuse of powers and James Buchanan in 1860 for the handling of Navy contracts.

CBC Chairman Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondRep. Cedric Richmond set to join House Ways and Means Committee Biden campaign ratchets up courting of Black voters, specifically Black men Buttigieg, former officials added to Biden's transition team MORE (D-La.) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, plan to unveil a censure resolution this week.

“This censure resolution is important because America is a beacon of hope. We have to show the world that this president does not represent the real feelings of most of the American people which is part of the reason why he lost the popular vote,” Richmond and Nadler said in a statement, taking a swipe at Trump for receiving fewer votes in 2016 than Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: FBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden | Treasury Dept. sanctions Iranian government-backed hackers The Hill's Campaign Report: Arizona shifts towards Biden | Biden prepares for drive-in town hall | New Biden ad targets Latino voters FBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden MORE.

Sexual harassment

House Administration Committee leaders and other lawmakers of both parties are aiming to release legislation as soon as this week to overhaul Capitol Hill’s system for reporting sexual harassment.

The House Administration Committee plans to advance the bill to the floor as quickly as possible, where it is likely to receive wide bipartisan support.

The legislation is expected to address protections for staffers who file harassment claims, increased transparency for payment of awards and settlements and require lawmakers accused of sexual harassment to personally pay for settlements.

House Administration Committee Chairman Gregg HarperGregory (Gregg) Livingston HarperCongress sends bill overhauling sexual harassment policy to Trump's desk Dems cry foul in undecided N.C. race Mississippi New Members 2019 MORE (R-Miss.), ranking Democrat Robert Brady (Pa.) and Reps. Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockLive coverage: House holds third day of public impeachment hearings Gun debate raises stakes in battle for Virginia legislature Progressives face steep odds in ousting incumbent Democrats MORE (R-Va.), Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierOvernight Defense: House to vote on military justice bill spurred by Vanessa Guillén death | Biden courts veterans after Trump's military controversies House to vote on 'I Am Vanessa Guillén' bill Overnight Defense: Trump's battle with Pentagon poses risks in November | Lawmakers launch Fort Hood probe | Military members can't opt out of tax deferral MORE (D-Calif.) and Bradley ByrneBradley Roberts ByrneBottom line Jerry Carl wins GOP Alabama runoff to replace Rep. Bradley Byrne Jeff Sessions loses comeback bid in Alabama runoff MORE (R-Ala.) have been involved in crafting the changes.

The legislation would come after both the House and Senate adopted policies late last year requiring members and staff to undergo annual sexual harassment awareness training.

One current lawmaker decided not to seek reelection this year after coming under scrutiny for the $84,000 settlement made to a former female staffer who accused him of sexual harassment. Rep. Blake FarentholdRandolph (Blake) Blake FarentholdThe biggest political upsets of the decade Members spar over sexual harassment training deadline Female Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations MORE (R-Texas) said last year he would take out a personal loan to reimburse taxpayers for the settlement.

But at the advice of legal counsel, Farenthold decided to hold off on writing a check until it’s clear what changes Congress will make to its sexual harassment prevention policies.

The House Ethics Committee is currently reviewing the settlement, as well as allegations that Farenthold made “inappropriate statements” to staff, required congressional aides to perform campaign work and made false statements to the panel.

Abortion

The House will vote on a bill this week to impose criminal penalties on doctors who don't provide proper medical care to infants who survive abortions.

House GOP leaders are timing the vote with Friday’s annual March for Life, where demonstrators rally to the Supreme Court to protest the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will be delivering remarks at this year’s March for Life, as will other GOP lawmakers and Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski (Ill.).

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnDemocrats smell blood with new DHS whistleblower complaint Hillicon Valley: Election officials prepare for new Russian interference battle | 'Markeyverse' of online fans helps take down a Kennedy | GOP senators unveil bill to update tech liability protections GOP senators unveil new bill to update tech liability protections MORE (R-Tenn.), would allow sentences of up to five years in prison for doctors who don’t provide care to infants who survive abortions.

But the bill wasn’t Blackburn’s from the start. Ex-Rep. Trent FranksHarold (Trent) Trent FranksArizona New Members 2019 Cook shifts 8 House races toward Dems Freedom Caucus members see openings in leadership MORE (R-Ariz.), an abortion foe, originally introduced the bill last year.

Franks resigned in scandal in December following revelations that he asked female staffers to serve as surrogates for his baby. Blackburn reintroduced the bill in her name after Franks resigned to ensure it had a sponsor still serving in Congress.

It’s not the first time Blackburn has been on clean-up duty for Franks. In 2013, Blackburn was assigned to manage floor debate on a bill Franks authored to ban late-term abortions after he suggested that the number of pregnancies resulting from rape is “very low.”