Scheduling

This week: Trump heads to Capitol Hill

President Trump will head to Capitol Hill this week to meet with Senate Republicans.

Trump is set to attend the closed-door caucus lunch on Tuesday, the first time in months that he’s attended the Senate GOP meeting.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, said lawmakers will discuss the economy with Trump, as well as recent developments in North Korea.

“Our conference looks forward to discussing the key accomplishments of tax cuts and historic economic growth here at home, and the opportunity for peace on the Korean Peninsula that lies ahead,” he said in a statement.

{mosads}Trump has had an at times rocky relationship with the Senate GOP caucus.

His first caucus lunch in 2016 went off the rails after he got into a heated spat with GOP Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and criticized Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and then-Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).

Trump attended a caucus lunch again in October 2017. A protester threw Russian flags at the president and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as they entered the lunch in a move that ultimately resulted in new restrictions on press access in the Capitol.

The president characterized the meeting as “a love fest with standing ovations and great ideas for USA!”

After that October lunch, Flake, who has been a frequent critic of Trump, announced that he was retiring at the end of his current term.

Tuesday’s meeting comes as McConnell is under growing pressure to cancel, or at least delay, the August recess if the Senate isn’t finished passing government funding bills or caught up on nominations.

More than a dozen GOP senators sent a letter to McConnell late last week urging him to cancel the monthlong recess or keep the Senate in for longer work weeks to avoid passing another mammoth omnibus funding bill.

“We stand ready to work Mondays and Fridays, nights as well as weekends, to ensure the funding process is not used to jam the president with a bad spending deal,” they wrote in the letter.

Trump seized on the idea over the weekend and demanded that any government funding bill include money for border security and the controversial U.S.-Mexico border wall.

“The Senate should get funding done before the August break, or NOT GO HOME,” Trump tweeted. “Wall and Border Security should be included. Also waiting for approval of almost 300 nominations, worst in history. Democrats are doing everything possible to obstruct, all they know how to do. STAY!”

Farm bill

The House is slated to take up a controversial farm bill this week, with lawmakers split over provisions related to sugar subsidies and work requirements for food stamps.

GOP leadership is still working on whipping the measure, with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) telling The Hill Thursday they were just short of the 218 votes needed to send the legislation to the upper chamber.

Passing the bill is a top priority for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), as it contains elements to reform the welfare system.

The five-year legislation authorizes multiple farm, agricultural and food programs that expire at the end of September.

But changes in funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, have sparked infighting among Republicans. This year’s farm bill would impose tougher work requirements on millions of food stamp recipients and shift the program’s funding toward job training.

Moderates are worried the new work requirements are too tough while conservatives are bristling because they believe they don’t go far enough.

Haspel

Acting CIA Director Gina Haspel is continuing to hunt for votes as Republicans race to confirm her to lead the spy agency before the Memorial Day recess.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, which hasn’t publicly announced a time, is expected to vote on her nomination as soon as this week.

Every Republican on the panel, as well as Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), is expected to vote for her in committee, which will give her enough support for her nomination to head to the Senate floor.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the committee, is considered an influential vote and has yet to say if he will support Haspel.

Haspel has homed in on red- and purple-state Democrats as she looks to lock down the vote, as well as bolster what is expected to be a thin margin on the Senate floor.

She met with Democratic Sens. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Tim Kaine (Va.) last week and is scheduled to meet with Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) this week.

Haspel is a CIA veteran but her nomination is considered controversial because of her involvement in the Bush-era “enhanced interrogation” — now widely considered torture — program, running a CIA black site and the destruction of videotapes that show the waterboarding of an al Qaeda suspect.

But she appears likely to be confirmed after Donnelly and Manchin, both up for reelection in states Trump won handedly in 2016, said they would support her.

GOP Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and John McCain (Ariz.) have said they will oppose Haspel. McCain has been absent from Washington for months as he battles brain cancer and has not indicated he will return to the Senate to vote against Haspel’s nomination.

Several other key lawmakers, including GOP Sens. Mike Lee (Utah) and Flake, remain on the fence.

Judicial nominations

The Senate is continuing to grind through Trump’s appeals court picks at a record pace.

Senators confirmed two judicial nominees last week, with four more circuit nominations teed up for this week.

Senators will vote on Michael Scudder and Amy St. Eve to serve on the 7th Circuit on Monday evening.

They’ll then vote on Joel Carson III to be a judge on the 10th Circuit and John Nalbandian to be judge for the 6th Circuit on Tuesday at noon.

The votes will give Trump a total of 21 circuit picks confirmed so far during his tenure. That’s more than former Presidents Obama, George W. Bush, Clinton, Reagan and Carter got confirmed during their first two years.

It also puts Trump on track to break the record for the number of circuit court picks confirmed during a president’s first two years, which is currently held by former President George H.W. Bush, with 22.

Melanie Zanona contributed.

Tags 2018 farm bill Ben Sasse Bill Nelson Cabinet CIA Donald Trump Food Stamps Heidi Heitkamp Jeff Flake Joe Donnelly Joe Manchin John Barrasso John McCain Mark Kirk Mark Warner Mike Conaway Mike Lee Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan Rand Paul Snap Tim Kaine

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