This week: Trump delivers State of the Union amid immigration fight
© Getty Images

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMichelle Obama says not always easy to live up to "we go high" Georgia certifies elections results in bitterly fought governor's race Trump defends border deployment amid fresh scrutiny MORE will deliver his State of the Union address this week as debate rages in Congress over immigration policy.

Later in the week, Trump and Vice President Pence are expected to address the joint House and Senate GOP retreat at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia.

The retreat will give Republicans a chance to figure out their agenda for the rest of the year. As of now, Republicans aren’t all on the same page when it comes to immigration and other issues.

ADVERTISEMENT

The White House released a framework which calls for granting a pathway to citizenship for nearly two million young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children in exchange for $25 billion for Trump’s promised wall along the Mexican border and other security measures.

Trump is also calling for other policies that would significantly reduce legal immigration, including limiting family migration and eliminating the diversity visa lottery.

The White House framework is facing opposition from both conservatives and liberals. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Trump is using young immigrants as “a tool to tear apart our legal immigration system and adopt the wish list that anti-immigration hard-liners have advocated for for years.”

But conservatives are resistant to granting a path to citizenship for immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingDems must wield power against the powerful to win back rural America Iowa governor: Steve King needs to decide if he wants to represent ‘the values of the 4th District’ Conservative magazine posts recording of King using derogatory language against immigrants MORE (R-Iowa), arguably the fiercest immigration hawk in the House, panned what he described as an “amnesty deal.”

“Illegals have No Right to be here & have ALL violated our laws,” King wrote on Twitter.

Senators are trying to jump-start their negotiations on reaching an immigration deal, with less than two weeks before a Feb. 8 deadline, when the current government spending bill expires.

Sens. John CornynJohn CornynTrump’s backing may not be enough on criminal justice reform Congress should ban life without parole sentences for children  Senate GOP discussing Mueller vote MORE (R-Texas) and Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinOvernight Health Care — Presented by The Partnership for Safe Medicines — GOP lawmaker pushes back on Trump drug pricing plan | Pfizer to raise prices on 41 drugs next year | Grassley opts for Finance gavel McConnell: Criminal justice bill unlikely this year Trump’s backing may not be enough on criminal justice reform MORE (D-Ill.) have been tapped to draft the Senate bill and are expected to meet for the first time this week.

“Sen. Durbin and I agreed to basically be a facilitator to get ideas on a bipartisan basis from the senators there and try to compile a consensus piece of legislation that we could then present to the majority leader ... that would be the starting place for the legislative process,” Cornyn said late last week.

A bipartisan group, led by GOP Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMcConnell, Flake clash over protecting Mueller probe Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Border deployment 'peaked' at 5,800 troops | Trump sanctions 17 Saudis over Khashoggi killing | Senators offer bill to press Trump on Saudis | Paul effort to block Bahrain arms sale fails Senators introduce bill to respond to Khashoggi killing MORE (Maine), is continuing to hold their own discussions as they come up with ideas to pitch Cornyn and Durbin, while also working to avoid another shutdown next week.

Trump and a bipartisan group of lawmakers agreed to include “four pillars” as part of any deal: A fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a border security package, changes to family-based immigration and eliminating the diversity visa lottery program.

But some senators are floating a narrower deal, arguing Congress won’t be able to come to a consensus on a broader piece of legislation before early March.

That proposal, which came up during a closed-door meeting late last week, would pair protections for DACA recipients with border security. But it excludes key priorities for both parties, including leaving out Democrats’ demand for a path to citizenship or the changes to family-based immigration that conservatives want.

The Trump administration announced last year that it would end the DACA program, which allows immigrants brought into the country illegally as children to work and go to school. The decision set up a March 5 deadline for Congress to pass legislation or risk the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants.

But the Senate is expected to start debate on its proposal early next month as part of a deal reached to end a three-day government shutdown.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSunday shows preview: New members preview agendas after Democratic House takeover Trump set to have close ally Graham in powerful chairmanship As Democrats gear up to challenge Trump in 2020, the key political divide will be metropolitan versus rural MORE (R-Ky.) has promised that if senators can’t reach a larger agreement, and the government remains open, he will bring a bill to the floor.

It’s unclear what underlying bill the GOP leader intends to bring up, but he has promised a “fair” and “level playing field” for both parties.

“Sen. McConnell has been scrupulous about not making any commitments on what that bill is ... I think he’s waiting to see what gains traction,” Cornyn said.

Though most Republican senators have remained silent on Trump’s immigration framework, several offered their support for the proposal as a starting point for the Senate’s debate.

"I look forward to working with my colleagues to turn the framework into legislation that can pass both the House and the Senate with widespread support,” said Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonTrump set to have close ally Graham in powerful chairmanship McConnell: Criminal justice bill unlikely this year Cotton opposes Trump-backed criminal justice bill MORE (R-Ark.).

A group of GOP senators, including Cotton and Sens. David Perdue (Ga.), Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTrump set to have close ally Graham in powerful chairmanship Overnight Health Care — Presented by The Partnership for Safe Medicines — GOP lawmaker pushes back on Trump drug pricing plan | Pfizer to raise prices on 41 drugs next year | Grassley opts for Finance gavel McConnell: Criminal justice bill unlikely this year MORE (Iowa), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSunday shows preview: New members preview agendas after Democratic House takeover Expert says Senate will be up for grabs in 2020 The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — White House to 'temporarily reinstate' Acosta's press pass after judge issues order | Graham to take over Judiciary panel | Hand recount for Florida Senate race MORE (N.C.) and James LankfordJames Paul LankfordHouse GOP to force members to give up leadership positions if running for higher office The Hill's Morning Report — Split decision: Dems take House, GOP retains Senate majority Midterm vote to set cyber agenda MORE (Okla.), have been in close consultation with Trump and the White House on immigration.

 

State of the Union protests

Trump will be greeted with an array of protests when he arrives in the House chamber Tuesday night.

Female lawmakers plan to wear black in solidarity with sexual misconduct victims, similar to how Hollywood actresses dressed for the Golden Globes awards ceremony earlier this month.

Some lawmakers are also bringing guests associated with the “Me Too” movement highlighting sexual harassment in the workplace. Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierFemale House Dems urge Senate to delay Kavanaugh testimony for FBI investigation Election Countdown: Kavanaugh allegations put GOP in tough spot | Republicans start to pull plug on candidates | Dems get early start in Iowa | O'Rourke defends Cruz after protesters interrupt dinner | Why Biden is the Democrat GOP most fears Dems see Kavanaugh saga as playing to their advantage MORE (D-Calif.), for example, invited Travis Moore, who spearheaded a letter from more than 1,500 former congressional staffers calling for sexual harassment policy reforms on Capitol Hill.

Scores of other Democrats are bringing young immigrants benefitting from a program Trump is ended as their guests. At least one GOP lawmaker, centrist Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloFlorida New Members 2019 3 ways House Dems can fight climate change when sweeping policy is off the table Defeated Republicans mocked by Trump fire back at president MORE (R-Fla.), is making the same gesture.

Other lawmakers are going for more unconventional guests. Rep. Mark PocanMark William PocanThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Democratic race for Speaker turns nasty McConnell pens editorial calling for bipartisanship after Dems take House Colorado's first black congressman-elect says midterms signal positive future MORE (D-Wis.) is bringing Randy Bryce, a Democrat who has drawn national attention for his long-shot campaign against Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanCalif. congresswoman-elect bumps into Pelosi at airport How this year’s freshmen can save the Congress — and themselves Democrat Katie Porter unseats GOP's Mimi Walters MORE (R-Wis.) for reelection this year.

And Rep. Jim BridenstineJames (Jim) Frederick BridenstineOklahoma New Members 2019 How will the 2018 midterms affect NASA space policy? Cruz vs O’Rourke race puts NASA’s future on the Texas ballot MORE (R-Okla.), the nominee for NASA administrator, will bring Bill Nye “The Science Guy” as his State of the Union guest.

A handful of Democrats plan to skip the event altogether. At least five lawmakers plan to boycott the address, most of whom announced their intentions after Trump reportedly described Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “shithole countries” during a meeting in the Oval Office.

Rep. Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.) will deliver the Democratic Party response to Trump’s address. In addition, Virginia state Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D) will deliver the party's Spanish-language response.

 

Defense spending

The House is expected to consider legislation this week to fund the Pentagon through September, amid slow action on bipartisan budget talks.

Shortly before the three-day government shutdown earlier this month, House GOP leaders had pledged to hold a vote on a full-year Pentagon spending bill to court defense hawks and Freedom Caucus members as they sought their support for yet another stopgap measure.

The House already passed a full-year Defense Department funding measure in 2017, but the Senate never took it up.

“It is past time that this essential, must-pass Department of Defense funding bill is enacted into law. Congress must act responsibly and quickly to get these dollars out the door and where they are needed as soon as possible,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney Procter FrelinghuysenOvernight Energy: Trump to nominate Wheeler as EPA chief | House votes to remove protections for gray wolves | Lawmakers aim to pass disaster funds for California fires Lawmakers say California will eventually get emergency funding for fire relief New Jersey New Members 2019 MORE (R-N.J.) said in a statement.

Democrats have been holding out on finalizing a budget deal as they push for Republicans to consider legislation to protect certain young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. As a result, since September, Congress has enacted four stopgap measures to keep the government funded.

At least one more stopgap spending bill is expected after current funding expires on Feb. 8.

 

Abortion

The Senate is gearing up for a brief showdown over abortion.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) teed up a procedural vote on a 20-week abortion ban, after the House passed similar legislation last year.

The legislation, from GOP Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSunday shows preview: New members preview agendas after Democratic House takeover Trump set to have close ally Graham in powerful chairmanship On The Money: Why the tax law failed to save the GOP majority | Grassley opts for Finance gavel, setting Graham up for Judiciary | Trump says China eager for trade deal | Facebook reeling after damning NYT report MORE (S.C.), would make it illegal for any person to perform or attempt an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with the possible penalty of five years in prison, fines or both.

But the legislation is expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed to overcome Monday’s hurdle. Republicans have a narrow 51-seat majority and the bill has 45 co-sponsors—all Republicans.

The vote comes after President Trump urged the Senate to take up the abortion ban legislation.

"I call upon the Senate to pass this important law and send it to my desk for signing," Trump said in his address to the March for Life, an annual march against abortion in Washington, D.C.

McConnell said last year that he would bring the bill up for a vote, but didn't specify when.

A similar bill failed on a 54-42 vote in 2015, when Republicans had a larger majority. At the time, three Democratic senators supported the legislation.

The legislation includes exceptions for rape if the woman received medical treatment or counseling at least 48 hours before the abortion or if she reported the rape to law enforcement.

It also includes an exception for pregnancies that result from rape or incest against a minor if it was reported to social services or law enforcement.

 

Nassar sentencing fallout

The House is expected to consider legislation on Monday to make athletic organizations report sexual abuse allegations faster and establish policies to prevent misconduct from occurring in the first place.

The vote comes less than a week after former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing more than 150 young female athletes. A total of 156 victims gave testimony describing how Nassar sexually assaulted them while they sought treatment for sports injuries.

“The crimes committed against these young women are atrocious and rattle us all to the core. The fact that it went unreported to law enforcement is intolerable — and it’s a huge wake-up call,” Ryan said while announcing the vote.

The House and Senate each passed versions of the legislation last year. The final bicameral version will have to clear the Senate following the House vote before reaching Trump’s desk.

The bill would require reporting of sexual abuse to law enforcement within 24 hours and mandate amateur sports organizations to establish “reasonable procedures” to limit one-on-one interactions between young athletes and adults who aren’t their legal guardians, unless they are an “observable and interruptible distance from another adult.”

The House Energy and Commerce Committee announced Friday that it is seeking information from the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming, USA Taekwondo and Michigan State University on their roles in tracking abuse of athletes.

“These organizations must have mechanisms in place to ensure complete oversight and prevent such abuses from occurring,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenGOP lawmaker pushes back on Trump drug pricing proposal Dems to ramp up oversight of Trump tech regulators Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump insists GOP will 'totally' protect people with pre-existing conditions | Landmark opioid bill signed into law | Report finds agencies blindsided by 'zero tolerance' policy MORE (R-Ore.) said.

 

Nominations

The Senate is poised to confirm a judicial nominee who did not win the approval of their home state senator.

Senators are expected to start debate over David Stras’s nomination to be an appellate judge on the 8th Circuit on Monday evening.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said last year he would move forward with Stras’s nomination even though then-Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenMinnesota New Members 2019 Meet the lawyer Democrats call when it's recount time Gillibrand sidesteps question on possible Clinton 2020 run MORE (D-Minn.) refused to return his “blue slip” on the nomination.

The “blue-slip” rule — a precedent upheld by Senate tradition — has historically allowed a home-state senator to stop a lower-court nominee by refusing to return a sheet of paper, known as a blue slip, to the Judiciary Committee.

But how strictly the precedent is upheld is decided by the Judiciary Committee chairman and enforcement has fluctuated depending on who controls the panel.

Franken threw Stras’s nomination into limbo, and sparked a likely showdown over blue slips, in early September when he refused to turn in the paper because he was “concerned that if confirmed to the federal bench, Justice Stras would be a deeply conservative jurist.”