This week: Senate tees off net neutrality showdown
© Greg Nash

The Senate is heading for a showdown over the future of the internet with Democrats preparing to force a vote as soon as this week.

Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeySenate Dems petition Saudi king to release dissidents, US citizen The Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison Hillicon Valley: Google takes heat at privacy hearing | 2020 Dems to debate 'monopoly power' | GOP rips net neutrality bill | Warren throws down gauntlet over big tech | New scrutiny for Trump over AT&T merger MORE (D-Mass.) is expected to file a discharge petition on Wednesday — the first step to getting a vote on restoring the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) net neutrality regulations.  

Democrats haven’t yet said if they will also force the vote this week. Under Senate rules, the resolution is subject to up to 10 hours of debate after senators overcome an initial hurdle to bring it up on the floor.

“We’re in the homestretch in the fight to save net neutrality,” Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 Why we need to build gateway now Campaign to draft Democratic challenger to McConnell starts raising funds MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a statement last week. “Soon, the American people will know which side their member of Congress is on: fighting for big corporations and ISPs or defending small business owners, entrepreneurs, middle-class families and every-day consumers.”

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Democrats have a 60-day window to force a vote under the Congressional Review Act, setting up a hard June 12th deadline.

They appear to have the simple majority they need to win the net neutrality fight on the Senate floor.

With Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump steps up attacks on McCain Trump: 'I was never a fan of John McCain and I never will be' Santorum: Trump should 'send emails to a therapist' instead of tweeting MORE (R-Ariz.) absent as he battles brain cancer, the GOP majority is effectively capped at 50 votes. GOP Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care: CDC pushes for expanding HIV testing, treatment | Dem group launches ads attacking Trump on Medicare, Medicaid cuts | Hospitals, insurers spar over surprise bills | O'Rourke under pressure from left on Medicare for all Dem group launches ads attacking Trump's 'hypocrisy on Medicare and Medicaid cuts' Juan Williams: Don't rule out impeaching Trump MORE (Maine) has said she will vote to restore the FCC regulations, which would result in a 50-49 vote in favor.

If McCain returns, Democrats would need to pick up an additional Republican senator in order to be successful in the Senate. They are continuing to hunt for an additional GOP vote with Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) viewed as the likeliest potential pickup.

The FCC rules mandated that internet service providers treat all traffic equally.

Even if Democrats are able to get their resolution through the Senate, they face an uphill battle in the House, where they would need to pick up the votes of 25 Republicans.

Chaplain controversy

House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan joins board of Fox Corporation Bottom Line Paul Ryan says Trump will win reelection because of 'record of accomplishment' MORE (R-Wis.) is slated to meet with Chaplain Patrick Conroy early this week in the wake of the Jesuit priest rescinding his resignation on May 3. Ryan said he requested Conroy step down, arguing he didn’t believe member’s pastoral needs were being met.

“I have accepted Father Conroy’s letter and decided that he will remain in his position as Chaplain of the House,” Ryan said in a statement Thursday. “My original decision was made in what I believed to be the best interest of this institution.”

Conroy, who was asked by Ryan’s chief of staff, Jonathan Burks, to step down in April, said he suspects Ryan wanted to oust him over a prayer during the tax-reform debate. Burks disputes Conroy's recollection of their discussion.

Ryan’s decision to attempt to oust the pastor sparked bipartisan outrage, with Democrats pushing for an investigation into the motives behind the Wisconsin Republican’s decision.

Nuclear Waste Policy

The House is expected to vote on the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2018 on Thursday.

The legislation — spearheaded by Rep. John ShimkusJohn Mondy ShimkusA conservative climate plan will build on personal responsibility while reducing emissions Congress just proved there is hope for honest discussion on climate Dems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants MORE (R-Ill.) — aims to reform the country’s nuclear waste management policy by making changes to the nuclear waste fund, strengthening the organizational structure at the Department of Energy (DOE) by allowing the Senate to appoint a director to run the program and allowing the DOE to contract with outside entities to store spent nuclear fuel.
 
Auto-loan guidance
 
The House is scheduled to vote on Tuesday to repeal the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) guidance on auto-loan finance. 
 
The CFPB’s guidance sought to eliminate “dealer markups,” the additional interest added by an auto-dealer to a third-party loan as extra compensation. The bureau sought to kill the practice over concerns that black and Latino customers were often charged higher rates than whites with identical credit profiles.
 
Assuming the House passes the measure, the CFPB auto-lending guidance will likely be the first informal regulation to be repealed by Congress through the Congressional Review Act.
 
Car dealers, business groups and Republicans on Capitol Hill have called the concerns about discrimination unfounded. 
 
The Senate repealed the decree on auto-loan financing last month.

CIA nominee

CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel is heading to Capitol Hill where she’s expected to face a grilling over her nomination to lead the spy agency.

Haspel is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, marking a high-profile public showdown for an official whose career at the spy agency is largely veiled in secrecy.

The White House is launching a full-court charm offensive to win over crucial senators whose support Haspel will need to ultimately be confirmed, including drafting a 27-page document providing talking points meant to combat criticism of Haspel.

They’ve also touted endorsements from former intelligence community officials who are critical of the Trump administration, including former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperDem rips Clapper: He 'needs to stop making excuses for lying to the American people' Hillicon Valley: Senators urge Trump to bar Huawei products from electric grid | Ex-security officials condemn Trump emergency declaration | New malicious cyber tool found | Facebook faces questions on treatment of moderators Overnight Defense: White House eyes budget maneuver to boost defense spending | Trump heads to Hanoi for second summit with Kim | Former national security officials rebuke Trump on emergency declaration MORE.

Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, acknowledged that they are expecting a “close” vote once Haspel’s nomination reaches the full Senate later this month.

With GOP Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrio of NFL players intern on Capitol Hill as part of league program Trump keeps tight grip on GOP GOP moves to rein in president's emergency powers MORE (Ky.) currently opposed to her nomination, Haspel will need to win over at least one Democratic senator in order to lock down the simple majority needed to be confirmed. So far, none have indicated they will vote for her.

Democratic Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate Dems petition Saudi king to release dissidents, US citizen Klobuchar: ObamaCare a 'missed opportunity' to address drug costs Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — FDA issues proposal to limit sales of flavored e-cigs | Trump health chief gets grilling | Divisions emerge over House drug pricing bills | Dems launch investigation into short-term health plans MORE (Ore.), Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichDems introduce bill requiring disclosure of guest logs from White House, Trump properties Senate Dems seek to turn tables on GOP in climate change fight Senate Dems introduce bill demanding report on Khashoggi killing MORE (N.M.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 Senate Dems petition Saudi king to release dissidents, US citizen Court-packing becomes new litmus test on left MORE (Calif.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisGOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 CNN to host town hall with Cory Booker in South Carolina O'Rourke sees 'a lot of wisdom' in abolishing Electoral College MORE (Calif.) — who make up more than half of the Democrats on the Intelligence Committee — sent a letter late last week to Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsOvernight Defense: Pentagon lists construction projects at risk from emergency declaration | Officials deny report on leaving 1,000 troops in Syria | Spy budget request nears B Trump administration requests nearly B for spy budget Dems request probe into spa owner suspected of trying to sell access to Trump MORE, the director of national intelligence, requesting that any information tied to Haspel’s involvement in “enhanced interrogation” techniques — now widely referred to as torture — be declassified before her hearing.

Haspel is expected to face a heated fight because of her role overseeing a CIA black site and the destruction of video tapes documenting the waterboarding of an al Qaeda suspect.

The Washington Post and Reuters reported over the weekend that Haspel moved to withdraw her nomination late last week rather than put the agency under a harsh microscope.

Officials told The Post that they weren’t sure until Saturday afternoon that Haspel would stick with the nomination.  

Judicial nominations

Senate Republicans are expected to continue their breakneck pace for confirming Trump’s judicial picks this week.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 The Hill's Morning Report - Dems contemplate big election and court reforms Court-packing becomes new litmus test on left MORE (R-Ky.) teed up votes on six circuit court picks: Kurt Engelhardt to be on the 5th Circuit,  Michael Brennan to be on the 7th Circuit, Joel Carson to be on the 10th Circuit, John Nalbandian to be on the 6th Circuit, Michael Scudder to be on the 7th Circuit and Amy St. Eve to be on the 7th Circuit.

The six nominees, if they are all confirmed, will give Trump a total of 21 circuit judges confirmed so far during his administration.

That will put him above the number former Presidents Obama, George W. Bush, Clinton, Reagan and Carter got during their first two years. It will also put them just behind — and likely to surpass — the current record held by former President George H.W. Bush, who got 22 appeals judges confirmed during his first two years.

Key GOP primaries

Republicans are barreling toward the finish line in two contentious Senate GOP primary fights.

Voters will go to the polls on Tuesday in both Indiana and West Virginia, where wealthy outsiders appear to have a last-minute boost of momentum.

Republicans have launched an 11th hour campaign to try to stop ex-coal CEO Don Blankenship from making a successful comeback, after a spate of polling last month showed him in third place behind Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Rep. Evan JenkinsEvan Hollin JenkinsWest Virginia New Members 2019 Republican Carol Miller holds off Democrat in West Virginia House race Trump to fundraise for 3 Republicans running for open seats: report MORE (R-W.Va.) in West Virginia.

But Greg Thomas, a spokesman and adviser for Blankenship, told The Hill on Sunday that their own internal polling shows them in the lead after a nationally televised Fox News debate.

Meanwhile, voters in Indiana will pick between wealthy outsider Mike Braun, and Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita in the state’s GOP primary. Public polling in the race has been sparse but a Gravis poll released last month found Braun leading with 26 percent of the vote, compared to 16 percent for Rokita and 13 percent for Messer.