This week: House GOP caught in immigration limbo
© Anna Moneymaker

House Republicans are scrambling to resuscitate their immigration plan after President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoe Arpaio loses bid for his old position as sheriff Trump brushes off view that Russia denigrating Biden: 'Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have' Trump tees up executive orders on economy but won't sign yet MORE sparked chaos on Capitol Hill by sending mixed signals about what he supports.

The fate of two immigration bills House GOP leadership planned to vote on this week remain unknown following confusion on Capitol Hill Friday.

The weekly schedule indicates that immigration and border security legislation could be added, but neither the bill by Rep. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlattePress: Trump's final presidential pardon: himself USCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction Immigrant advocacy groups shouldn't be opposing Trump's raids MORE (R-Va.) nor the compromise bill have a definitive date to come to the floor.

The House GOP’s game plan was derailed after Trump said he would not sign the more moderate compromise legislation during an appearance on "Fox & Friends."

ADVERTISEMENT

Republicans, caught flat-footed, immediately hit the breaks, signaling they wanted to get on the same page as Trump. 

"We want to get clarity on the president’s position on this bill,” chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenryPatrick Timothy McHenryCheney battle raises questions about House GOP's future Hillicon Valley: Democrats request counterintelligence briefing | New pressure for election funding | Republicans urge retaliation against Chinese hackers House Republicans urge Trump to take action against Chinese hackers targeting coronavirus research MORE (R-N.C.) said late last week. “Republicans are not going to take on immigration without the support and endorsement of President Trump.”

The White House then walked back Trump's comments, saying he misspoke thinking he was being asked about the discharge petition.

“The President fully supports both the Goodlatte bill and the House leadership bill,”  Raj Shah, White House principal deputy press secretary, said in a statement Friday. “In this morning's interview, he was commenting on the discharge petition in the House, and not the new package. He would sign either the Goodlatte or the leadership bills.”

Negotiators of the compromise bill noted at the end of the week there was still work to be done on the legislation, with both conservatives and moderates taking issue with certain provisions.

The compromise measure would stick to the four main pillars demanded by Trump. It creates a new merit-based visa program for so-called Dreamers, provides $25 billion for border security, ends the diversity visa lottery program and limits family-based migration.

It also includes a trigger mechanism to halt the new visas if Congress denies funding for the border wall and ends the “catch and release” immigration loopholes.

Conservatives, meanwhile, have expressed concern that it lacks provisions to address E-verify, the guest worker program and "sanctuary cities."

Trump is slated to meet with House Republicans Tuesday to discuss legislation to protect Dreamers and increase border security. The closed-door discussion could be crucial in determining the path forward for House GOP leadership.

But neither of the proposals currently have a lock on 218 Republican-only votes. Democrats have warned they won’t support either and that the only way to get an immigration bill out of the House is with bipartisan support.

House GOP leadership initially promised to bring the two bills up for a vote as a way to stave off a discharge petition from centrists that would force a freewheeling immigration debate on the House floor.

Inspector general report

Congress will dig into a watchdog report on the FBI during the lead-up to the 2016 election, setting up an explosive two days on Capitol Hill.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a long-anticipated report late last week on the FBI’s handling of the high-profile probe into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocratic convention lineup to include Ocasio-Cortez, Clinton, Warren: reports Trump brushes off view that Russia denigrating Biden: 'Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have' Kanye West 'not denying' his campaign seeks to damage Biden MORE’s use of a private email server while serving as secretary of State.

Horowitz hammered former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyTrump: Yates either lying or grossly incompetent Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing Trump knocks Sally Yates ahead of congressional testimony MORE for poor judgment during the 2016 election, but found no evidence to show his key decisions in the investigation were improperly influenced by political bias.

Republicans immediately seized on text messages included in the report between Peter Strzok, a top FBI investigator on the Clinton investigation and the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, seemingly reassuring lawyer Lisa Page that Trump would not become president.

When Page asked, in a text message, if Trump would ever become president, Strzok responded that he would not because “we’ll stop it.”

Democrats, meanwhile, argued that report shows that Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation benefited Trump’s presidential campaign.

The first hearing will take place Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. In addition to Horowitz, Grassley announced late last week that FBI Director Christopher Wray will also testify.

Wray defended the FBI in the wake of the report. He said while he was “disappointed” by the findings, they do not impugn “the integrity of our workforce as a whole, or the FBI as an institution.”

Horowitz will then cross the Capitol on Tuesday to testify before a joint hearing between the House Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

ZTE deal

The Senate is poised to approve legislation blocking Trump’s deal to save Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE.

Senators are expected to pass a mammoth defense policy bill on Monday, which includes a provision keeping the Commerce Department penalties against ZTE in place.

It would also ban government agencies from buying or leasing telecommunications equipment and services from Chinese telecom firms Huawei and ZTE and ban the government from providing loans to or subsidizing either company.

The White House is pledging it will try to get the ban removed during a conference committee, where senators will need to merge their version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with one passed earlier this year by the House.

The administration will work with Congress to ensure the final NDAA conference report respects the separation of powers,” said Hogan Gidley, a deputy press secretary for the White House.

The administration announced a deal earlier this month to lift penalties against ZTE in exchange for the company paying a $1 billion fine and placing a U.S.-selected compliance team within the firm.

Defense bill

The Senate is expected to pass a mammoth defense policy bill on Monday evening.

The move comes after votes on hundreds of amendments to the legislation hit a wall amid bickering between Senate Republicans. Under the chamber’s rules, any one senator can block another senator from getting a vote unless Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCoronavirus talks collapse as negotiators fail to reach deal Pelosi, Schumer say White House declined T coronavirus deal COVID-19 bill limiting liability would strike the wrong balance MORE (R-Ky.) wants to eat up days of floor time.

GOP senators lashed out at each other on the Senate floor last week as they tried, but failed, to get votes on their own proposals. GOP Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus New polls show tight races for Graham, McConnell Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing MORE (S.C.) is blocking Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump-backed Hagerty wins Tennessee GOP Senate primary Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus MORE (R-Ky.) from getting a vote on an indefinite detention proposal. In return, Paul and GOP Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOvernight Defense: Air Force general officially becomes first African American service chief | Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure | State Department's special envoy for Iran is departing the Trump administration Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure Trump signs major conservation bill into law MORE (Utah) blocked votes on other amendments.

Republicans also blocked GOP Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTennessee primary battle turns nasty for Republicans Cheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama MORE (Tenn.) from getting a vote on his legislation to require congressional approval for tariffs implemented in the name of national security. Corker lashed out at his colleagues, saying they are afraid to “poke the bear,” and that the relationship between leadership and Trump is becoming “cult-like.”

Those frustrations also boiled over during a closed-door lunch, when Lee lamented the lack of amendment votes and Corker brought up his inability to get a vote on his tariff proposal.

Graham, who reportedly blasted both of them during the lunch, acknowledged after the caucus meeting that he “ran a little hot” and had to apologize for his remarks.

The NDAA — named after Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' Mark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Prominent conservatives question Jerry Falwell Jr. vacation photo MORE (R-Ariz.), who chairs the Armed Services Committee but is battling brain cancer in Arizona — cleared the Armed Services Committee late last month.

The wide-ranging legislation includes roughly $716 billion in spending, including $617.6 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget and $21.6 billion for defense-related programs of the Energy Department.

It would also include roughly $68.5 billion for a war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations account, and another $8.2 billion in defense-related spending outside the jurisdiction of the NDAA.

Rescissions

Senate Republicans are expected to bring Trump’s plan to claw back spending up for a vote this week, even as they appear short on votes.

Congress has until Friday if they want to approve the $15 billion rescissions package by a simple majority, allowing them to avoid a Democratic filibuster.

With McCain absent from Washington, GOP leadership has no room for error if they want to be able to pass the legislation.

But several GOP senators — including Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyWary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire MORE (R-Ala.), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee — said late last week that they are still evaluating the bill or have concerns.

That could leave them needing the support of Democrats if they want to get the package, which passed the House earlier this month, to Trump’s desk.

No Democratic senator has stepped forward to say they would support the legislation. Democrats have distanced themselves from the bill because it, in part, targets accounts related to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Nearly half of the $14.6 billion in roadblocks comes from unobligated funds within CHIP. Opponents argue the cuts could lead to a loss of coverage if enrollment is higher than expected.

If the Senate passes the rescissions bill, it will be the largest single presidential rescission request to pass since 1974, when the current budgetary process was put in place.

Appropriations

The full Senate will start its work on funding the government as lawmakers look to avoid passing another omnibus bill later this year.

McConnell teed up a “minibus” — a combination of individual appropriations bills — before the Senate left late last week. The legislation merges appropriations for the energy and water, legislative branch, and military construction and veterans affairs bills.

The Senate is expected to take an initial vote on proceeding to the appropriations legislation on Monday evening.

The House passed its first three spending bills, also packed together as a “mini-bus,” earlier this month. After the Senate passes its legislation, it will need to merge its bill with the House proposal.

Congress has until the end of September to pass government funding legislation and avoid another shutdown.

Republicans are eager to avoid passing a mammoth omnibus bill after Trump threatened to veto the legislation passed in March. Though he ultimately backed down, he warned at the time that he would not sign a similar bill.

Opioids

After passing dozens of bills to alleviate the opioid crisis last week, the lower chamber is expected to take up additional bills aimed at tackling the crisis in coming days.

The House is on track to pass more than 50 bills by the end of the week.

While Democrats have said the bills don’t do enough, with Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PallonePharma execs say FDA will not lower standards for coronavirus vaccine Dem chairmen urge CMS to prevent nursing homes from seizing stimulus payments Federal watchdog finds cybersecurity vulnerabilities in FCC systems MORE (D-N.J.) alleging it “really doesn’t do a lot,” Republicans said they are committed to passing legislation to combat the epidemic.

“We’re going to legislate and evaluate. We’re not done,” Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHillicon Valley: Trump backs potential Microsoft, TikTok deal, sets September deadline | House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing | Facebook labels manipulated Pelosi video Top House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing Pelosi huddles with chairmen on surprise billing but deal elusive MORE (R-Ore.) told The Hill on Friday. “There will be more opportunities coming because we want to get it right. We’ll need to come back. That’s part of being good legislators.”