This week: Lawmakers return as Amash fallout looms
© Greg Nash

Lawmakers are returning to Washington this week amid the fallout of Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashThe Memo: Fears of violence grow amid Trump race storm Top Missouri newspaper condemns GOP's 'shameful silence' on Trump's 'racism' Amash responds to 'Send her back' chants at Trump rally: 'This is how history's worst episodes begin' MORE’s (Mich.) decision to leave the Republican Party. 

With a relatively quiet legislative week, much of the focus is likely to be on Amash, whose decision last week roiled members of Congress. 

Amash’s July 4 op-ed in The Washington Post announcing he was leaving the party reignited backlash from Republicans, which initially sparked after he said he believed the lower chamber should begin impeachment proceedings against President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' MORE in May. 


"Today, I am declaring my independence and leaving the Republican Party," Amash wrote in the Washington Post opinion piece. "No matter your circumstance, I’m asking you to join me in rejecting the partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us. I’m asking you to believe that we can do better than this two-party system — and to work toward it. If we continue to take America for granted, we will lose it."

Amash’s decision has already sparked days of political fallout, but Congress's return from the July 4th recess is prompting additional questions, including the future of his membership in the House Republican Conference and his committee assignments.

House Republican Conference Vice Chairman Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerThe Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants GOP rattled by Trump rally EU official in Canada says he feels 'at home' there because no one was shouting 'send him back' MORE (N.C.) has been the first high-profile member of GOP leadership to call for the Michigan lawmaker to no longer conference with the GOP. 

“Amash left the @freedomcaucus now he’s leaving the @GOP. The @HouseGOP never left @justinamash - we simply ran out of space for his ego. However, we should make sure he leaves Conference and his committee,” Walker tweeted following Amash’s announcement of his decision to leave the GOP. 

A two-thirds vote within the House GOP conference would be required to expel him from conferencing with the party. House Republicans are likely to meet as a caucus on Wednesday for the first time since Amash’s announcement. 

It remains unclear what will happen to his committee assignments in the wake of his decision. 

“I anticipate I may be kicked off [the House Oversight and Reform Committee]. … I've tried to make changes from within. … I have colleagues trying every day, but they are not speaking out the same way. I hope they will speak out,” he told CNN on Sunday. 

President Trump praised his decision to exit the Republican party, blasting him as one of the “dumbest & most disloyal men in Congress.”

“Great news for the Republican Party as one of the dumbest & most disloyal men in Congress is ‘quitting’ the Party. No Collusion, No Obstruction! Knew he couldn’t get the nomination to run again in the Great State of Michigan. Already being challenged for his seat. A total loser!” he tweeted. 

Amash’s decision to exit the party while in office is highly unusual. 

"Amash is the first Republican House member in 20 years to leave the GOP," Antoine Yoshinaka, a political science professor at the New York State University at Buffalo, told USA Today.

The publication also notes that Amash is the third Republican lawmaker to leave the party since 2000, along with then-GOP Sens. Arlen Specter (Pa.) and Jim Jeffords (Vt.). 

Amash’s decision to leave the party paves the way for Republicans, including the National Republican Campaign Committee, to back a GOP challenger to try to unseat him next year.

Top Republicans had already stated that they expected a well-funded primary challenge against the Michigan libertarian after his impeachment remarks earlier this year. 

But Amash said Sunday that "high-level" Republican officials have praised his remarks on impeachment, and that he isn’t concerned about facing a pro-Trump challenger in the race for his seat. 

"When I go back to my district people are coming up to me and saying, 'Thank you for what you're doing,'" he said during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union. "People want open, honest representation. They want people to come to Congress and work with integrity."

Amash has also not ruled out launching a presidential bid against Trump in 2020.

"I still wouldn't rule anything like that out. I believe that I have to use my skills, my public influence, where it serves the country best. And I believe I have to defend the Constitution in whichever way works best," he told CNN.

The potential bid has some within the GOP concerned it could hurt the president’s chances of winning key states.

"I worry about the impact that an Amash candidacy has on Michigan. Beyond Michigan, I don't know that Justin would necessarily draw more votes from the Republican side than he would the Democrat side. I mean, remember, Justin's a guy who's been pretty consistently opposed to pro-Israel policy,” Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzMatt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' Matt Gaetz hints prosecutor won't press charges against threatening caller for political reasons Hillicon Valley: Twitter says Trump 'go back' tweet didn't violate rules | Unions back protests targeting Amazon 'Prime Day' | Mnuchin voices 'serious concerns' about Facebook crypto project | Congress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid MORE (R-Fla.) told The Hill in an interview in June.  

Health care

Democrats are going on offense as ObamaCare faces a lawsuit, backed by the Trump administration, seeking to overturn the entire health care law. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTop Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Lawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens Trump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US MORE (D-N.Y.) will hold a press call on Monday to discuss the lawsuit and the larger GOP efforts to dismantle ObamaCare, a key Democratic message during the 2018 elections. 

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform will also hold a hearing Wednesday on the administration’s stance on Texas v. United States, including the decision to back striking down the entire 2010 Affordable Care Act. 

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans will hear arguments on Tuesday on the lawsuit to nix the law, a lawsuit which is backed by the Trump administration. 

Though legal experts say the lawsuit is unlikely to ultimately succeed, the outcome isn’t guaranteed, and Democrats are using it to argue Republicans are a threat to the 20 million people who rely on ObamaCare for health insurance.

Defense authorization

The House is poised to take up a massive defense bill that could allow Democrats to push back on elements of Trump’s defense and foreign policy. 

The $733 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provides funding and broad policy guidelines for the Pentagon for the 2020 fiscal year, which starts in October. 

The House bill prohibits Pentagon funding from being used on the border wall, makes changes to the emergency authority Trump invoked to dip into Pentagon coffers for the wall and modifies the authority Trump has used to deploy U.S. troops to the border.

House Democrats are also expected to incorporate an amendment that would prevent Trump from taking military action against Iran without congressional approval. The Senate rejected a similar amendment in a 50-40 vote before the July 4th recess. 

Once the House passes its bill it will need to be reconciled with the Senate legislation, which passed that chamber last month. While the Senate’s bill was largely bipartisan, the House Armed Services Committee passed its bill largely along party lines. 

Mueller fallout

The House will dig in further this week into the findings of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign. 

The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Friday morning entitled “Constitutional Processes for Addressing Presidential Misconduct.” 

Mueller, in his final report, did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice, saying he was precluded from doing so by a Justice Department opinion that says a sitting president cannot be indicted. Instead, he outlined 10 “episodes” of possible obstructive behavior regarding ongoing probes into Russia's election meddling.

The hearing comes as more House Democrats are clamoring for House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump telling aides to look at potential spending cuts if he wins reelection: report Budget talks between White House, Pelosi spill into weekend Trump says he won't watch Mueller testimony MORE (D-Calif.) to start impeachment proceedings against Trump. 

Friday’s hearing will come about a week before Mueller is scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees on July 17. 

“Pursuant to subpoenas issued by the House Judiciary and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence tonight, Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III has agreed to testify before both Committees on July 17 in open session,” Rep. Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerTrump knocks Mueller after deal struck for him to testify House Democrats request briefing on Epstein, Acosta Nadler apologized after repeatedly calling Hope Hicks 'Ms. Lewandowski' at hearing MORE (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Judiciary panel, and Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffCourt filings show Trump, Cohen contacts amid hush money payments House passes annual intelligence bill Judge finds Stone violated gag order, blocks him from using social media MORE (D-Calif.), the chairman of the Intelligence panel, said in a joint statement late last week. 

In addition to the Judiciary Committee hearing, the House Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on efforts to counter Russia’s disinformation and influence efforts. 

Circuit nomination

The Senate will take up another of President Trump’s circuit court nominations, setting up a clash over the Ninth Circuit. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch Funding a strong defense of our nation's democratic process can't wait The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants MORE (R-Ky.) set up a cloture vote for Monday evening on Daniel Bress’s nomination to be an appeals judge for the Ninth Circuit, despite opposition from both Sens. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTop Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Democrats warm to idea of studying reparations Hillicon Valley: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency plan | Trump vows to 'take a look' at Google's ties to China | Google denies working with China's military | Tech execs on defensive at antitrust hearing | Bill would bar business with Huawei MORE (D-Calif.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisWhat to expect when Mueller testifies: Not much Biden compares Trump to George Wallace CNN Democratic debate drawing finishes third in cable news ratings race MORE (D-Calif.).

Republicans have prioritized circuit court picks and have viewed the Ninth Circuit as a perennial annoyance, arguing that it’s too large and too liberal. 

With only a simple majority needed for confirmation and Republicans holding a 53-47 Senate majority, Bress is expected to be confirmed, even though neither Feinstein nor Harris returned their blue slip for him. 

Feinstein and Harris said in a statement last month that Bress was a Washington, D.C., lawyer and not involved in California's legal community. 

“He attended law school and clerked for two federal judges on the East Coast. Apart from being admitted to practice in California, he’s not involved in any of the state’s legal or civic organizations and hasn’t been a member of the California legal community,” the two said in a statement.  

The "blue-slip" rule — a precedent upheld by Senate tradition — has historically allowed a home-state senator to stop a lower-court nominee by refusing to return the blue slip to the Judiciary Committee. How strictly the precedent is upheld is decided by the committee chairman, and enforcement has varied depending on who wields the gavel.

Though Republicans say they will honor blue slips for lower-court district nominees, whose rulings can be overruled by circuit courts, they have moved several circuit nominations over the objection of Democratic home-state senators.