This week: Congress faces what could be biggest news week of 2018
© Greg Nash

Congress is set return to Washington to face what might be the busiest news week of 2018.

Much of the action will take place off of the House and Senate chamber floors, where lawmakers are expected to be grilled by reporters about the fallout from the Group of Seven (G-7) meeting, while keeping a wary eye on President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Memo: Biden seeks revival in South Carolina Congress eyes billion to billion to combat coronavirus Sanders makes the case against Biden ahead of SC primary MORE's historic talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill's legislative front-burner is the looming showdown among House Republicans over immigration.

House GOP leadership has just until Tuesday to produce legislative text on an immigration bill that can garner 218 votes before centrists move forward with their efforts to force votes on four immigration bills.


Negotiators left a meeting in House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanGaetz tells CPAC he won't take PAC money Paul Ryan says he disagrees with Romney's impeachment vote Trump doubles down on Neil Cavuto attacks: 'Will he get the same treatment as' Shep Smith? MORE’s (R-Wis.) office Friday without a deal, telling reporters that discussions would continue over the weekend. Lawmakers expressed frustration as they left Capitol Hill, with Rep. Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamEx-Rep. Frelinghuysen joins law and lobby firm Lobbying world Bottom line MORE (R-Calif.) accusing conservatives of increasing their demands at the eleventh hour.

“I’m disappointed that more issues continue to get added when we’re trying to close out,” told reporters Friday.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsSanders, socialism emerge as top targets at CPAC Trump upends controversial surveillance fight House Freedom Caucus chairman endorses Collins's Georgia Senate bid MORE (R-N.C.) noted that new, unexpected challenges emerged during the course of negotiations Friday.

“I originally thought that border security would actually be easier, and I think at the end of the day it will,” he said. “But I think now that we’re getting down to the fine points of what border security means, it’s going to require some further debate.”

In addition to border security, a divide remains over whether there should be a special pathway to citizenship for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

If an agreement isn’t reached ahead of the moderates’ June 12 deadline, several key holdouts are expected to sign the discharge petition.

While the chances of an agreement being reached by Tuesday look slim, lawmakers said if moderates reach the 218 signatures needed for their discharge petition it won’t hinder negotiations.

If lawmakers are able to lock down enough support for the discharge petition, that could trigger floor action either later this month. Or leadership could use a procedural loophole canceling Monday votes, which could push the immigration fight to next month.


Lawmakers will regroup in Washington on Monday amid the fallout from Trump’s growing war of words with longtime U.S. allies.

The rhetorical firefight around the G-7 summit over the weekend comes as lawmakers were already publicly fretting about the White House’s trade positions, with Republicans worried Trump’s use of tariffs could roil the economy months before a midterm election.

Trump refused to endorse a joint communique signed with the other G-7 countries and lashed out, in particular, at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, calling him “meek and mild” and “very dishonest [and] weak.”

Peter Navarro, the White House National Trade Council director, further escalated the situation on Sunday when he criticized Trudeau by saying there is a "special place in hell" for any leader who engages in bad faith diplomacy with Trump.

GOP Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainFox's Britt McHenry confirms brain tumor, says she's got 'amazing medical team' President Trump is weak against Bernie Sanders in foreign affairs Appeals court refuses to throw out Joe Arpaio's guilty verdict after Trump pardon MORE (Ariz.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeAppeals court refuses to throw out Joe Arpaio's guilty verdict after Trump pardon 70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents McSally ties Democratic rival Kelly to Sanders in new ad MORE (Ariz.) lashed out at the White House’s rhetoric.

“To our allies: bipartisan majorities of Americans remain pro-free trade, pro-globalization & supportive of alliances based on 70 years of shared values. Americans stand with you, even if our president doesn’t,” McCain said in a tweet on Saturday.

“Fellow Republicans, this is not who we are. This cannot be our party,” Flake said in his own tweet on Sunday, reacting specifically to Navarro’s comments.

Republicans are also likely to be quizzed around the Capitol about Trump’s suggestion, made late last week, that Russia should be allowed back into the G-7.

But what, if anything, GOP lawmakers will do to counter Trump’s rhetoric on trade is unclear. Leadership has shown no inclination to pick a fight the president as they head toward the November election and have remained silent over the weekend.

Roughly a dozen senators, led by Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerMcConnell, Romney vie for influence over Trump's trial RNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight MORE (R-Tenn.), wanted to get a vote this week on legislation that would require congressional approval for tariffs enacted for national security reasons.

Corker had hoped to attach the bill as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual defense policy bill currently being debated by the Senate.

But the legislation faces major roadblocks with Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Energy: Murkowski, Manchin unveil major energy bill | Lawmakers grill EPA chief over push to slash agency's budget | GOP lawmaker accuses Trump officials of 'playing politics' over Yucca Mountain Lawmakers race to pass emergency coronavirus funding Trump upends controversial surveillance fight MORE (R-Ky.) calling it an “exercise in futility.”

Several Republicans are warning they don’t want to undermine the president when he’s in the middle of negotiations. Others argue the bill should go through the Finance Committee, or that, as currently written, it would violate a “blue slip” rule that says all revenue legislation has to start in the House.

Given the mounting GOP opposition, a significant number of votes would be needed from Democrats, many of whom are giving the bill a lukewarm reception.

“We always want input and I think we should do our job. On the other hand, I want to make sure the president is able to do his job too, so it’s going to be a balance,” said Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Energy: Murkowski, Manchin unveil major energy bill | Lawmakers grill EPA chief over push to slash agency's budget | GOP lawmaker accuses Trump officials of 'playing politics' over Yucca Mountain Murkowski, Manchin introduce major energy legislation The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders takes incoming during intense SC debate MORE (D-W.Va.), who is running for reelection in a state Trump won handedly in 2016.

Corker indicated late last week that he still wants a vote on his bill as part of the NDAA.

“Did I hear him say that he didn't feel like we should do anything that the president might not like?” Corker asked, responding to criticism from Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGOP, Democrats hash out 2020 strategy at dueling retreats Congress eyes killing controversial surveillance program Hillicon Valley: Twitter falling short on pledge to verify primary candidates | Barr vows to make surveillance reforms after watchdog report | DHS cyber chief focused on 2020 MORE (R-Texas). He added with a shrug: “I don’t know. I was elected to the Senate.”

Defense policy bill

The Senate is poised to wrap up its work on the NDAA this week, but first it needs to break a stalemate on amendments.

In addition to Corker’s amendment, hundreds of proposals are currently bottlenecked as senators try to work out what, if anything, will get a stand-alone vote.

Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeBipartisan senators say Pentagon's effort to improve military housing falls short Lobbying World GOP chairman after Africa trip: US military drawdown would have 'real and lasting negative consequences' MORE (R-Okla.) tried to bring up amendments late last week but was blocked by Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulHillicon Valley — Presented by Facebook — Federal court rules tech giants can censor content | Trump upends surveillance fight | Senate passes bill barring federal funds for Huawei equipment Trump upends controversial surveillance fight Former impeachment managers clash over surveillance bill MORE (R-Ky.).

“I’m not really blocking anything other than I think we should have an open amendment process. I do have a very important amendment … that we ought to consider a vote [on],” Paul said.

Paul wants a vote on his amendment that would prevent the indefinite detention of Americans captured within the United States.

Paul noted that he doesn’t always know who is blocking his request for a vote, but suggested reporters talk to McCain, who is in Arizona battling brain cancer, or Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump upends controversial surveillance fight The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump on US coronavirus risks: 'We're very, very ready for this' Surveillance fight emerges as intelligence flashpoint MORE (R-S.C.).

Graham, separately, confirmed that he is blocking Paul from getting a vote on his indefinite detention amendment, adding that he’s blocked the Kentucky Republican from getting a vote on a similar amendment to the NDAA for years.

“There’s a process around here. We have committees for a reason,” said Graham. “We’re not going to let the Judiciary Committee’s jurisdiction be taken over simply because Rand Paul is mad.”

The legislative standstill has become routine in recent years for the NDAA, a policy bill that acts as a lightning rod for controversial amendments because of its must-pass status.

In addition to tariffs, a bipartisan group has introduced an amendment to the NDAA that would restore the Commerce Department’s penalties on Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea, after the Trump administration announced late last week it had reached a deal to lift the the penalties.

Sens. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordThe Hill's Morning Report - Can Sanders be stopped? Senate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle The Hill's Morning Report - Trump defense rests, GOP struggles to bar witnesses MORE (R-Okla.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSanders holds 13-point lead in Fox News poll Centrist Democrats insist Sanders would need delegate majority to win Bloomberg outspends field in Facebook ads ahead of Super Tuesday MORE (D-Minn.) are also trying to use the defense bill to pass legislation aimed at securing U.S. election systems from cyberattacks.

North Korea summit

Lawmakers are keeping a close eye on the summit in Singapore with Trump and Kim, with both parties laying down early goal posts for the talks.

Republicans are largely supportive of the meeting, while skeptical that North Korea will agree to a deal considered palatable to the United States. McConnell, speaking in Kentucky late last month, warned Trump against getting “snookered.”

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump administration backs Oracle in Supreme Court battle against Google Timeline: Trump and Romney's rocky relationship Key Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock MORE (R-Utah) wrote in a Fox News op-ed that North Korea must both hand over its nuclear weapons and end human rights abuses.

“Kim must understand that de-weaponization is not enough. If North Korea intends on being an ally of the United States, it must not only give up its tools of destruction but also work with us to build a world of peace and stability,” Hatch wrote.

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, released a letter outlining what they view as a good deal, including that North Korea must permanently dismantle and remove its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons; permanently end its enrichment of uranium and plutonium for military purposes, and commit to “robust compliance inspections.”

Graham said on Sunday that he was pleased with the Democratic letter, but urged his colleagues to also support the use of military force if diplomacy fails.

“So here’s my question for my Democratic colleagues: If diplomacy fails, will you support my efforts to authorize the use of military force as a last resort to convince North Korea and China things will be different this time?” Graham asked during an interview with ABC News’s “This Week.”

Trump and Kim arrived in Singapore over the weekend in advance of the highly anticipated talks. They are set to meet on Tuesday, when Trump will become the first American president to sit down with a North Korean leader.

U.S. and North Korean officials are expected to meet on Monday to finalize preparations for Tuesday's meeting. Trump is separately expected to meet with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday.

Trump has sought to downplay expectations for the talks, arguing it could take more than one meeting to reach a deal.

GOP senators separately told CNN that the Trump administration has pledged that any agreement will be submitted to the Senate, where it would be ratified as a treaty — a move that would require it to get bipartisan support.

IG report on FBI

The Justice Department’s inspector general is expected to release on Thursday a long-awaited report into the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton to start new podcast Centrist Democrats insist Sanders would need delegate majority to win President Trump is weak against Bernie Sanders in foreign affairs MORE’s private email server.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz told Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — California monitoring 8,400 people for coronavirus | Pence taps career official to coordinate response | Dems insist on guardrails for funding Top Trump advisers discuss GOP need to act on health care at retreat with senators McSally unveils bill to lower drug prices amid tough campaign MORE (R-Iowa) in a letter that his office is planning to release the highly anticipated report on June 14.

The report is expected to detail broad allegations of misconduct by FBI and Justice Department (DOJ) officials in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

The inspector general's investigation has focused on former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeySurveillance fight emerges as intelligence flashpoint Bill Barr is trying his best to be Trump's Roy Cohn Comey responds to Trump with Mariah Carey gif: 'Why are you so obsessed with me?' MORE's various statements and letters regarding the Clinton probe, as well as the unauthorized disclosure of nonpublic information by DOJ employees.

ABC News reported that the report is expected to fault Comey, accusing him of defying authority at times during his tenure as the nation's top FBI official. It's also expected to criticize former Attorney General Loretta Lynch for her handling of the Clinton email investigation.

Horowitz is then expected to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 18. The House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees will hold a joint hearing on the report the next day.


The House is slated to vote on more than 20 bills aimed at fighting the opioid crisis this week.

The bills range from requiring federal agencies to provide education materials to pharmacists to legislation permitting testing of alternatives to opioids for pain treatment.

“The opioid epidemic has no boundaries—it has brought harrowing losses to our communities and has cut short too many futures. We are resolute in the fight against this scourge, and with this new initiative to better educate young people about the realities and dangers of opioids, more lives can be saved,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement.

“The measures the House will begin considering next week continue our work to prevent and treat these destructive addictions,” he added.