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 RyanPelosi slated to deliver remarks during panel hearing on poverty Indiana GOP Rep. Brooks says she won't seek reelection Indiana GOP Rep. Brooks says she won't seek reelection MORE’s decision to retire at the end of the term.

The Wisconsin Republican decided to endorse House Majority Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyCongressional leaders, White House officials to meet Wednesday on spending Congressional leaders, White House officials to meet Wednesday on spending The Congressional Award — a beacon of hope  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 MeadowsRep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump Rep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump House Oversight votes to hold Barr, Ross in contempt 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 JordanCummings requests interview with Census official over new allegations on citizenship question Cummings requests interview with Census official over new allegations on citizenship question House Oversight Republicans release parts of Kobach, Trump officials' testimony on census citizenship question 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.”

Syria

President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senator introduces bill to hold online platforms liable for political bias Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally 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 MurphyOvernight Defense: Shanahan exit shocks Washington | Pentagon left rudderless | Lawmakers want answers on Mideast troop deployment | Senate could vote on Saudi arms deal this week | Pompeo says Trump doesn't want war with Iran Senators demand Trump explain decision to deploy troops amid Iran tensions Senators demand Trump explain decision to deploy troops amid Iran tensions MORE (D-Conn.).

Rep. Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieThis week: Democrats move funding bills as caps deal remains elusive This week: Democrats move funding bills as caps deal remains elusive House conservative's procedural protest met with bipartisan gripes 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 BluntDemocrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills Democrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills Senate Democrats to try to force additional election security votes 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 MattisShanahan drama shocks Capitol Hill, leaving Pentagon rudderless Top nuclear official quietly left Pentagon in April Top nuclear official quietly left Pentagon in April 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 LankfordHillicon Valley: Facebook unveils new cryptocurrency | Waters wants company to halt plans | Democrats look to force votes on election security | Advertisers partner with tech giants on 'digital safety' | House GOP unveils cyber agenda Democrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills Democrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills MORE (Okla.) said in a statement.

Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungOvernight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Senators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission 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 RoyceK Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers Former GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lawmakers propose banning shark fin trade 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.”

Mueller

The Senate Judiciary Committee has added legislation limiting Trump’s ability to fire special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE to its agenda for a Thursday business meeting.

The bill, from Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerWarren introduces universal child care legislation Warren introduces universal child care legislation Booker responds to Trump's mass deportation threat: 'This is not who we are' MORE (D-N.J.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOvernight Defense: Shanahan exit shocks Washington | Pentagon left rudderless | Lawmakers want answers on Mideast troop deployment | Senate could vote on Saudi arms deal this week | Pompeo says Trump doesn't want war with Iran Shanahan drama shocks Capitol Hill, leaving Pentagon rudderless Shanahan drama shocks Capitol Hill, leaving Pentagon rudderless MORE (R-S.C.), Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSenators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission Senate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion Senate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion MORE (D-Del.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisKoch political arm endorses Colorado Sen. Gardner Koch political arm endorses Colorado Sen. Gardner Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments 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 RosensteinTrump blasts Mueller, decries 'witch hunt' at 2020 launch Trump blasts Mueller, decries 'witch hunt' at 2020 launch Trump: I didn't fire Mueller since firings 'didn't work out too well' for Nixon 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 FeinsteinDemocrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills Democrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills Hillicon Valley: GOP senator wants one agency to run tech probes | Huawei expects to lose B in sales from US ban | Self-driving car bill faces tough road ahead | Elon Musk tweets that he 'deleted' his Twitter account MORE (D-Calif.) said Democrats could be ready to vote next week, but Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOn The Money: Trade chief defends Trump tariffs before skeptical Congress | Kudlow denies plan to demote Fed chief | Waters asks Facebook to halt cryptocurrency project On The Money: Trade chief defends Trump tariffs before skeptical Congress | Kudlow denies plan to demote Fed chief | Waters asks Facebook to halt cryptocurrency project Trade chief defends Trump tariffs before skeptical Congress 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.

Taxes

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 ColeEx-GOP lawmaker says Trump 'illegitimate president,' should be impeached Ex-GOP lawmaker pens op-ed calling for Trump to be impeached House panel approves language revoking 2001 war authority as Iran tensions spike 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.