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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 RyanPelosi calls on Ryan to bring long-term Violence Against Women Act to floor Juan Williams: America warms up to socialism Jordan hits campaign trail amid bid for Speaker 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 TrumpOver 100 lawmakers consistently voted against chemical safeguards: study CNN's Anderson Cooper unloads on Trump Jr. for spreading 'idiotic' conspiracy theories about him Cohn: Jamie Dimon would be 'phenomenal' president 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 DurbinTop Senate Dem: Public hearing is ‘only way to go’ for Kavanaugh accuser Durbin calls for delay in Kavanaugh vote Dems engage in last-ditch effort to block Kavanaugh MORE (D-Ill.) on Friday said he was calling his colleagues “begging” them to support the legislation, and Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGrassley agrees to second Kavanaugh hearing after GOP members revolt Murkowski echoes calls for Kavanaugh, accuser to testify Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday 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 CornynKavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow Grassley: Kavanaugh accuser 'deserves to be heard' in 'appropriate' manner 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 PaulSome employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump says Dems inflated Puerto Rico death toll | House cancels Friday votes | Florence starts to hit coast The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Facing major hurricane, Trump is tested MORE (R-Ky.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSome employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report Hillicon Valley: North Korean IT firm hit with sanctions | Zuckerberg says Facebook better prepared for midterms | Big win for privacy advocates in Europe | Bezos launches B fund to help children, homeless Hillicon Valley: Trump signs off on sanctions for election meddlers | Russian hacker pleads guilty over botnet | Reddit bans QAnon forum | FCC delays review of T-Mobile, Sprint merger | EU approves controversial copyright law 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 LeeOvernight Health Care: Opioid legislation passes overwhelmingly | DOJ backs Cigna-Express Scripts merger | Senate passes ban on pharmacy gag clauses US military intervention in Venezuela would be a major mistake The Hill's 12:30 Report — Obama jumps into midterm fight with speech blasting Trump | Trump wants DOJ to probe anonymous writer | Day four of Kavanaugh hearing MORE (R-Utah) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate Dems sue Archives to try to force release of Kavanaugh documents Dems engage in last-ditch effort to block Kavanaugh Democrats should end their hypocrisy when it comes to Kavanaugh and the judiciary 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. GreenImpeachment will be at the top of Democrats' agenda if they take the House majority Panetta: Dems shouldn't get ahead of themselves on impeachment Pence on Dems impeaching Trump: ‘I take them at their word’ 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 RichmondState Department: Allegations of racism 'disgusting and false' Congressional Black Caucus says Kavanaugh would weaken Voting Rights Act protections Democrats move to limit role of superdelegates in presidential nominations 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 ClintonTrump to declassify controversial text messages, documents related to Russia probe Hypocrisy in Kavanaugh case enough to set off alarms in DC Clinton: Hard to ignore 'racial subtext of virtually everything Trump says' 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 HarperGOP lawmakers urge improvements to cyber vulnerabilities resource Bipartisan leaders of House panel press drug companies on opioid crisis Republican chairman wants FTC to review mergers of drug price negotiators MORE (R-Miss.), ranking Democrat Robert Brady (Pa.) and Reps. Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockVirginia reps urge Trump to declare federal emergency ahead of Hurricane Florence The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — 2020 hopefuls lead the charge against Kavanaugh Trump retweets GOP Senate candidate upset by federal pay freeze MORE (R-Va.), Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierDems demand answers on Pentagon not recognizing Pride Month Overnight Defense: VA pick breezes through confirmation hearing | House votes to move on defense bill negotiations | Senate bill would set 'stringent' oversight on North Korea talks Overnight Defense: Defense spending bill amendments target hot-button issues | Space Force already facing hurdles | Senators voice 'deep' concerns at using military lawyers on immigration cases MORE (D-Calif.) and Bradley ByrneBradley Roberts ByrneFive GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus House votes to overhaul fishery management law The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Expensive and brutal: Inside the Supreme Court fight ahead 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 FarentholdAP Analysis: 25 state lawmakers running in 2018 have been accused of sexual misconduct Ex-lawmakers see tough job market with trade groups Republican wins right to replace Farenthold in Congress 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 BlackburnKavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates Poll: Democrat Bredesen leads GOP's Blackburn by 5 points in Tennessee Senate race Dems gain momentum 50 days before midterms 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 FranksFreedom Caucus members see openings in leadership AP Analysis: 25 state lawmakers running in 2018 have been accused of sexual misconduct Jordan weathering political storm, but headwinds remain 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.”