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 MarkeyThis week: Kavanaugh nomination thrown into further chaos Overnight Defense: Mattis dismisses talk he may be leaving | Polish president floats 'Fort Trump' | Dem bill would ban low-yield nukes Dems introduce bill to ban low-yield nukes 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 SchumerTrump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump slams Sessions in exclusive Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation 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 McCainCongress must use bipartisan oversight as the gold standard The Hill's Morning Report — Ford, Kavanaugh to testify Thursday as another accuser comes forward Trump hits McCain on ObamaCare vote MORE (R-Ariz.) absent as he battles brain cancer, the GOP majority is effectively capped at 50 votes. GOP Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsRosenstein faces Trump showdown Kavanaugh: I'm asking for a 'fair process' Collins: Second Kavanaugh accuser should speak with Senate panel under oath  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 RyanDems fight to protect Mueller amid Rosenstein rumors Jordan wants Rosenstein to testify before House Judiciary Committee Kamala Harris calls for Senate to protect Mueller probe as Rosenstein faces potential dismissal 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 ShimkusRepublicans mull new punishments for dissident lawmakers New EPA chief draws sharp contrast to Pruitt Unending Pruitt controversies leave Republicans frustrated 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 ClapperNational security leaders: Trump's Iran strategy could spark war FBI memos detail ‘partisan axes,’ secret conflicts behind the Russia election meddling assessment Foreign hackers a legitimate concern for ballot machines, says cybersecurity expert 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 PaulA Senator Gary Johnson could be good not just for Libertarians, but for the Senate too Conservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Senate approves 4B spending bill 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 WydenDems offer resolution to force vote to overturn IRS guidance limiting donor disclosure Hillicon Valley: NYT says Rosenstein wanted to wear wire on Trump | Twitter bug shared some private messages | Vendor put remote-access software on voting machines | Paypal cuts ties with Infowars | Google warned senators about foreign hacks Overnight Health Care: Opioids package nears finish line | Measure to help drug companies draws ire | Maryland ObamaCare rates to drop MORE (Ore.), Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichA Senator Gary Johnson could be good not just for Libertarians, but for the Senate too Election Countdown: What to watch in final primaries | Dems launch M ad buy for Senate races | Senate seats most likely to flip | Trump slump worries GOP | Koch network's new super PAC Rand Paul endorses Gary Johnson's Senate bid MORE (N.M.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinHere's what the judiciary committee should ask Christine Blasey Ford Kavanaugh to address sexual misconduct allegations on Fox News Monday Kavanaugh accuser Ford to Grassley: 'My fear will not hold me back from testifying' MORE (Calif.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisCelebrities, lawmakers wear black to support Kavanaugh’s accuser Dems fight to protect Mueller amid Rosenstein rumors Kamala Harris calls for Senate to protect Mueller probe as Rosenstein faces potential dismissal 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 — Presented by Raytheon — Trump returns to UN praising Kim | Iran in crosshairs later this week | US warns Russia on missile defense in Syria Haspel delivers first public remarks as Trump’s CIA chief Dem lawmakers slam Trump’s declassification of Russia documents as ‘brazen abuse of power’ 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 McConnellFord's lawyer: Hearing doesn't appear to be designed for 'fair', 'respectful' treatment GOP opens door to holding Kavanaugh committee vote this week Press: Judge Kavanaugh must withdraw 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 JenkinsMore than 50 Dem House challengers outraise GOP incumbents Key Republican says House taking targeted approach to combating opioid epidemic Dem candidate denies W.Va. is racist for rejecting Obama 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.