This week: Trump, Dems set to meet amid funding fight
© Greg Nash

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE is poised to sit down this week with Democratic leadership after Congress punted the partial government funding deadline to Dec. 21.

House Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame 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 Top Democrats say postmaster confirmed changes to mail service amid delays MORE (Calif.) and Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Trump backs plan to give airlines another billion in aid MORE (N.Y.) on Tuesday will head to the White House, where they are expected to discuss the funding fight and a stalemate over the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Both sides have dug in on their demands over border funding, escalating the chances of a partial shutdown over the holidays.

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Schumer, during a floor speech late last week, warned that a “Trump temper tantrum” will be to blame if congressional leadership and the White House can’t reach a deal by the deadline.

“If President Trump wants to throw a temper tantrum and shutdown the government over Christmas over the wall, that’s his decision,” he said.

Democratic leadership is lining up behind the position that Congress should pass a package that wraps together six of the seven unresolved appropriations bills and then pass a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

“Left to their own devices the appropriators can come to a good conclusion, and then have a CR only for Homeland Security as we go forward. And that's pretty much where our position is now,” Pelosi told reporters last week.

Pressed if a CR, which would give the administration $1.3 billion, would include money for the wall, Pelosi said it would be for “border security” and noted that the bill included funding for “fencing.”

Democrats are under pressure from progressives to not give any funding for the border wall before they take back over the House in January, where they’ll have more leverage to force Trump and congressional Republicans to negotiate.

The Senate’s Department of Homeland Security bill includes $1.6 billion for the border, including roughly 65 miles of pedestrian fencing. Schumer has floated the Senate agreement as an alternative to a CR that could get 60 votes.

In an apparent response to progressive criticism, Schumer stressed in a floor speech on Thursday that the funding can’t be used for Trump’s “30-foot tall concrete border wall.”

“It can only be used for fencing, using technology currently deployed at the border and only where the experts say fencing is appropriate and makes sense as a security feature,” he added.

But Republicans warn that Trump would veto a bill that included only $1.6 billion and have dismissed the Democratic offer of using a stopgap bill to kick the wall fight deep into 2019.

“I don’t think that’s acceptable. I can’t imagine the president would accept that,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSkepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal Republicans uncomfortably playing defense Negotiators hit gas on coronavirus talks as frustration mounts MORE (Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican.

Republicans are trying to find a way to give Trump $5 billion for the border, including floating dividing the total out over two years. That plan would give the White House roughly $900 million over the Senate’s DHS bill for the 2019 fiscal year, but has been rejected by Senate Democrats who view $1.6 billion as their ceiling for negotiations.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks Overnight Health Care: Ohio governor tests positive for COVID-19 ahead of Trump's visit | US shows signs of coronavirus peak, but difficult days lie ahead | Trump: COVID-19 vaccine may be ready 'right around' Election Day MORE (R-Ky.) predicted at a Wall Street Journal event last week that Washington would ultimately be able to avoid a partial shutdown but that Trump, Schumer and Pelosi needed to get together and decide what they could accept.

“In the end he and Schumer and Pelosi have to decide what they're going to do here, because even though this is a Republican government the Democrats are not irrelevant,” McConnell said.

Trump has increased public pressure on Democrats ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, urging them in both tweets and public appearances to approve border wall funding.

During a stop in Missouri he urged Congress to pass the “life-saving border wall,” arguing that it’s needed “more than ever.”

“Illegal immigration is a threat to the well-being of every American community, threatening innocent families, overwhelming public resources and draining the federal treasury. Congress must fully fund border security in the year-ending funding bill. We have to get this done,” Trump added. 

Yemen

The Senate is poised to offer a significant rebuke to President Trump as it weighs a measure aimed at ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen.

The Senate is expected to take a vote to formally begin debate on the resolution this week, though leadership hasn’t formally announced when it will be scheduled. Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTennessee primary battle turns nasty for Republicans Cheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama MORE (R-Tenn.) said he believed the next procedural vote would happen Wednesday.

The resolution — spearheaded by Sens. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight 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 Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire MORE (D-Conn.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersOn 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 Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure Sanders offers bill to tax billionaires' wealth gains during pandemic MORE (I-Vt.) and 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 (R-Utah) — would require Trump to withdraw any troops in or “affecting” Yemen within 30 days. Because it’s being brought to the floor under the War Powers Act it only needs a simple majority to pass, and both supporters and opponents expect it to pass.

But first, senators will need to vote to begin debate on the bill and then have a second vote requiring that any amendments be “germane,” a requirement that would keep any changes on-topic and limited in scope.

Without an agreement, senators will face an unwieldy vote-a-rama, where any lawmaker can force a vote on any issue. Members worry the precedent would impact how future war powers debates are held on the Senate floor and potentially encourage lawmakers to misuse the military resolutions as a vehicle for getting unrelated votes.

Corker warned that allowing amendments on any topic would set a “bad precedent” for future debates.

“Think about all the places we’re engaged, [like] all throughout North Africa — so any senator at any time could bring up any of those countries and all of the sudden you’re doing this again,” he said.

Murphy added that lawmakers should help preserve future war powers debates by “not allowing the amendments to get too far afield.”

If senators are able to get a deal to limit amendments, that’s expected to block two separate proposals from being brought up on the floor as part of the debate. One, a resolution from 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 (R-S.C.), would name Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as “complicit” in Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi’s death.

Corker floated that if they could get the wording in the resolution right, McConnell could agree to bring a sense of the Senate resolution straight to the floor for a vote.

The second proposal, from Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezVOA visa decision could hobble Venezuela coverage Bottom line Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads MORE (D-N.J.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungRepublicans dismiss Trump proposal to delay election Senate GOP posts M quarter haul as candidates, Trump struggle A renewed emphasis on research and development funding is needed from the government MORE (R-Ind.), would require sanctions within 30 days on anyone involved in Khashoggi’s death, including “any official of the government of Saudi Arabia or member of the royal family” determined to be involved.

It would also suspend U.S. weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and prohibit the U.S. military from refueling Saudi coalition aircraft.

Corker is hoping to mark up the bill this week in the Foreign Relations Committee. But the meeting hasn’t yet been publicly announced and Menendez indicated last week he hadn’t yet agreed to the meeting.

Even if the panel advances the Menendez-Young measure, it’s uncertain whether it would be able to get approval on the Senate floor before the end of the year.

“So where does it go from there — is there a spending bill it can be attached to?” Corker asked. “Is there something else that you might attach it to to make it law?”

Farm bill

The House could potentially take up the final version of the conferenced farm bill in coming days — one week later than initially planned due to the passing of former President George H.W. Bush. The final conference report could be introduced as soon as Monday.

The tentative vote scheduling comes after months of closed-door negotiations between chambers, with disputes over changes to work requirements in the food stamps program. Congress allowed the farm bill to lapse in September, but with funding for numerous programs expiring this month, face increased pressure to pass legislation. The final agreement reportedly does not include the House welfare-reform language, coming as a blow to conservatives who had pushed the provisions that passed the lower chamber.

Democrats were vocal about their opposition to the changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, arguing the Senate-passed version did not include the revisions and is detrimental to the safety net relied upon by low-income earners.

“We’re pleased to announce that we’ve reached an agreement in principle on the 2018 Farm Bill. We are working to finalize legal and report language as well as [Congressional Budget Office] scores, but we still have more work to do," Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsMcConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill The Hill's Campaign Report: COVID-19 puts conventions in flux  The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Virus bill unlikely to pass this week MORE (R-Kan.) and Rep. Mike ConawayKenneth (Mike) Michael ConawayLive coverage: Democrats, Republicans seek to win PR battle in final House impeachment hearing Laughter erupts at hearing after Democrat fires back: Trump 'has 5 Pinocchios on a daily basis' Live coverage: Schiff closes with speech highlighting claims of Trump's corruption MORE (R-Texas) and Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowACLU calls on Congress to approve COVID-19 testing for immigrants Senators press IRS chief on stimulus check pitfalls Democrats warn Biden against releasing SCOTUS list MORE (D-Mich.) and Collin PetersonCollin Clark PetersonHouse approves statehood for DC in 232-180 vote House to pass sweeping police reform legislation From farmers to grocery store clerks, thank you to all of our food system MORE (D-Minn.), the chairmen and ranking members, respectively, of the Senate and House Agriculture committees, said in a joint statement last week.

The measure is also expected to include a provision supported by McConnell that would legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity.

Google hearing

Google CEO Sundar Pichai is slated to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, where he'll be grilled on "potential bias" and "the need for greater transparency regarding the filtering practices."

Pichai's appearance on Capitol Hill comes as conservatives have accused tech giants, including Facebook and Twitter, of anti-conservative bias.

"For months, House Republicans have called for greater transparency and openness from Google. Company CEO Sundar Pichai met with House Republicans in September to answer some of our questions," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyJudge throws out House GOP lawsuit over proxy voting Republicans fear disaster in November Gaetz set to endorse primary opponent of fellow Florida GOP lawmaker MORE (R-Calif.) said in a statement when the hearing was first announced.

"Mr. Pichai’s scheduled appearance in front of the House Judiciary Committee is another important step to restoring public trust in Google and all the companies that shape the Internet."

The hearing was initially scheduled for last week but was postponed after Bush's death.

Nominations

The Senate is expected to hold a procedural vote on Justin Muzinich’s nomination to be deputy secretary at the Department of Treasury on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

The Finance Committee approved the nomination in August but Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns Tensions flare as GOP's Biden probe ramps up  MORE (D-Ore.) warned at the time that he was going to put a hold on the nomination, preventing leadership from moving it quickly across the floor.

Muzinich, who has served as a counselor to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, has earned GOP praise because of his work on the party’s 2017 tax bill.

But he was passed out of committee along party lines. And Wyden accused him of being unable to answer straightforward questions including if Treasury had a role in preventing foreign governments from interfering in U.S. elections.