This week: House GOP plots path forward
© Greg Nash

House Republicans are grappling with the future of their caucus amid intense jockeying following Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThree-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate Krystal Ball touts Sanders odds in Texas Republicans pour cold water on Trump's term limit idea MORE’s decision to retire at the end of the term.

The Wisconsin Republican decided to endorse House Majority Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyBudowsky: Donald, Boris, Bibi — The right in retreat Hoyer calls on GOP leader to denounce 'despicable' ad attacking Ocasio-Cortez The Hill's Morning Report - Trump eyes narrowly focused response to Iran attacks MORE (R-Calif.) as his successor, calling him the “right man for the job.”

Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) also said he would not run against McCarthy, which means the GOP is likely to avoid a potential fight from within Ryan’s own leadership team.

But the race is hardly a closed deal.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan GOP struggles with retirement wave Lewandowski, Democrats tangle at testy hearing MORE (R-N.C.) said Friday the powerful conservative group has the votes to stop contenders from reaching the 218 needed to secure the position.

And Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel Jordan Trump slams Democrats as 'shameful' after Lewandowski hearing Meadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader House Republicans want details on Democrats' trips to Mexico MORE (R-Ohio), a founding member of the caucus, threw a curveball into the race late last week when he signaled he was interested in succeeding Ryan.

"I'm not announcing anything other than — there isn't a Speaker’s race — but if and when there is, like I've said, colleagues have encouraged me to consider it and I'm open to that,” he told reporters Friday.

It would be nearly impossible for the Ohio Republican to garner the 218 votes needed to become Speaker.

But, with the House Freedom Caucus holding a block of 25 to 30 votes, the powerful group could leverage their support in return for a lower leadership post or better committee positions.

McCarthy hasn’t officially declared his intention to run and needs to lock down the votes to succeed Ryan. He reportedly discussed wanting to be Speaker with Trump, who has not offered an endorsement in the burgeoning race.

Republicans are expected to hold their leadership elections after the November midterm.

But Ryan is facing doubts from within his own caucus about if he can hang onto the Speaker’s office through the end of the year, though few GOP lawmakers are publicly calling on him to step down early.

He pushed back against those rumors, saying he can continue to be effective despite his looming retirement.

“We’ve all discussed this and we think the smart thing to do is to actually stay an intact leadership team,” Ryan said during an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press.”


President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report MORE's military strikes in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians is reigniting Congress’s war debate. 

Trump announced late Friday during a televised address at the White House that he had ordered "precision strikes" on targets in Syria associated with the government of Bashar Assad. The strikes targeted three sites near the capital of Damascus and in Homs, roughly 100 miles north.

Democrats, joined by some libertarian-minded GOP lawmakers, declared Trump’s actions “illegal,” noting they hadn't been specifically sanctioned by Congress.

“President Trump's strikes are illegal. He does not have authorization to take military action against Syria, and he should remember his own views during the last administration when he warned Obama that he could not strike Syria without congressional permission,” said Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan Trump administration floats background check proposal to Senate GOP Senate confirms two Treasury nominees over Democratic objections MORE (D-Conn.).

Rep. Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieScalise blasts Democratic legislation on gun reforms Airports already have plenty of infrastructure funding Overnight Defense: House votes to block Trump arms sales to Saudis, setting up likely veto | US officially kicks Turkey out of F-35 program | Pentagon sending 2,100 more troops to border MORE (R-Ky.) added in a tweet that “I haven’t read France’s or Britain’s 'Constitution,' but I’ve read ours and no where in it is Presidential authority to strike Syria.”

Most Republicans, including members of leadership, however, believe Trump already has legal authority without Congress passing additional legislation.

“I support this effort and believe the president has the full authority to take these actions,” said Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan The Hill's Morning Report - Can Trump save GOP in North Carolina special election? MORE (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership.

Trump said during a White House address that the U.S. would “sustain” pressure on Syria until the Assad government “stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.” But Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico Trump needs a national security adviser who 'speaks softly' US could deploy 150 troops to Syria: report MORE later said no additional strikes against Syria were planned, telling reporters “this is a one-time shot.”

Though a group of senators is expected to roll out a new authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) this week, it’s expected to address combating terrorist groups and not the Syrian government.

Republican senators also called on the administration to update Congress on its long-term strategy.

"Moving forward, it is vitally important that the Trump administration honors the Constitution by working with Congress on further military action. The United States is not at war with the people of Syria and I anticipate that the Administration will quickly present their long-term intentions to the American people,” GOP Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordDemocrats press for action on election security GOP group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' Manufacturing group leads coalition to urge Congress to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank MORE (Okla.) said in a statement.

Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungSenators pressure Trump to help end humanitarian crisis in Kashmir Congress set for chaotic fall sprint Overnight Defense: Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi arms sales | Two US troops killed in Afghanistan | Senators tee up nominations, budget deal ahead of recess MORE (R-Ind.) added that “I look forward to receiving a full briefing on this latest military action and the administration's broader strategy in Syria."

In the wake of the strikes, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is slated to hold a hearing Wednesday on the country's policy on the Middle East.

“The administration is justified to take limited action in coordination with our allies to hold Assad accountable for the use of chemical weapons,” Chairman Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceMystery surrounds elusive sanctions on Russia Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp House panel advances bill to protect elections from foreign interference MORE (R-Calif.) said in a statement.

“Next week, this committee will convene a hearing regarding U.S. policy for the region, and the administration needs to begin fully explaining its strategy for the months ahead. Military force cannot be the only means of responding to these atrocities. The U.S. must leverage strong diplomacy and serious financial pressure.”


The Senate Judiciary Committee has added legislation limiting Trump’s ability to fire special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerLewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation MORE to its agenda for a Thursday business meeting.

The bill, from Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBiden lead shrinks, Sanders and Warren close gap: poll Media and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity CNN announces details for LGBTQ town hall MORE (D-N.J.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan Overnight Defense: Trump says he has 'many options' on Iran | Hostage negotiator chosen for national security adviser | Senate Dems block funding bill | Documents show Pentagon spent at least 4K at Trump's Scotland resort GOP's Kennedy sends warning shot to Trump nominee Menashi MORE (R-S.C.), Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsMedia and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity Bill to return B in unredeemed bonds advances Grassley: Kavanaugh classmate didn't contact Senate panel MORE (D-Del.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisTillis trails Democratic Senate challenger by 2 points: poll Kavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE (R-N.C.), would specify that only a senior Justice Department official can fire Mueller. It would also give him 10 days to have a court review his firing, and, if found to not be for “good cause,” he would be reinstated.

The legislation comes as Trump has lashed out at Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinLewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Nadler's House committee holds a faux hearing in search of a false crime House Democrats seeking Sessions's testimony in impeachment probe MORE following an FBI raid on the offices of the president's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. The raid stemmed from a tip from Mueller’s team and Rosenstein reportedly signed off on the move.

But a committee vote on the legislation is expected to be delayed until next week. Under committee rules, any one member can request a bill be held over when it’s on the agenda for the first time.

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGOP's Kennedy sends warning shot to Trump nominee Menashi Democratic senators quietly hope Biden wins over rivals Grassley: Kavanaugh classmate didn't contact Senate panel MORE (D-Calif.) said Democrats could be ready to vote next week, but Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan NRA says Trump administration memo a 'non-starter' Barr fails to persuade Cruz on expanded background checks MORE (R-Iowa), the committee chairman, noted members on his side of the aisle would likely object.

More than half of Republicans on the committee have said they believe limiting Trump’s ability to fire executive branch officials is unconstitutional or simply not needed because they don’t believe he would ultimately fire Mueller.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said late last week that the administration hasn’t taken a position on the bill.


The House Rules Committee is expected to take up three bills aimed at modernizing and revamping the Internal Revenue Service.

If the legislation makes it out of the committee, the Protecting Children from Identity Theft Act — which looks to help prevent identity theft of minors and immigrants — is scheduled for a vote Wednesday.

The 21st Century IRS Act, which would amend the Internal Revenue Code in an attempt to improve cybersecurity protections and update the IRS’s technology, and the Taxpayer First Act, which is designed to help improve the agency’s customer strategy and establish an independent appeals process allowing people to conduct tax disputes, are expected to come to the floor later in the week.

Tribal sovereignty

The Senate will take up legislation to make it harder for labor unions to organize workers at casinos owned and operated by a Native American tribe and located on tribal land.

The bill already cleared the House earlier this year, and Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeSenate spending talks go off the rails as soon as they begin Social determinants of health — health care isn't just bugs and bacteria Republicans suffer whiplash from Trump's erratic week MORE (R-Okla.) had hoped to get it included in last month’s omnibus funding bill.

“It’s been such a contentious issue and tribes have tried really hard to get it through the Senate ... Leadership in both parties are engaged in this issue,” Cole told The Hill at the time.

The Senate will take a procedural vote on the bill Monday at 5:30 p.m., where it will need 60 votes to advance.