This week: Congress returns for first time since mass shootings

Lawmakers will return to Washington this week for the first time since nearly 40 people were killed in mass shootings in Odessa and El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. 

Congress is set to quickly wade into the controversial debate over gun reforms amid a wave of new calls for action in the wake of the shootings. 

Lawmakers, dispersed across the country since late July, have thrown out a myriad of potential legislative responses, but so far nothing has emerged that could pass both chambers and win President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump endorses former White House physician Ronny Jackson for Congress Newly released emails reveal officials' panic over loss of credibility after Trump's Dorian claims Lindsey Graham thanks Trump, bemoans 'never-ending bull----' at South Carolina rally  MORE’s signature. 

Democrats are expected to double down on Monday on their demand for the Senate to take up the House-passed universal background checks bill. Democrats have seized on reports that the suspect in the Odessa shooting purchased his gun through a private sale, allowing him to bypass a background check.

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“There are bills ready to go that will reduce deadly mass shootings. As the Senate reconvenes tomorrow, we must vote on them. Enough is enough. We can’t wait any longer. President Trump and Senate Republicans need to stand up to the NRA [National Rifle Association] and take action to save lives,” Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTim Kaine endorses Joe Biden ahead of Super Tuesday The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by Facebook — Washington, Wall Street on edge about coronavirus California lawmakers mark Day of Remembrance for Japanese internment MORE (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, tweeted on Sunday. 

Sens. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOcasio-Cortez knocks Pence: 'Utterly irresponsible to put him in charge of US coronavirus response' Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response Schumer: Trump coronavirus response marked by 'towering and dangerous incompetence' MORE (D-Conn.), Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns MORE (R-Pa.) and 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.) have been negotiating with the White House and talking to their colleagues to try to find a deal on expanding background checks. 

The Senate previously rejected a 2013 proposal from Toomey and Manchin that would have expanded background checks to all commercial sales. 

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSchumer urges GOP to oppose Trump's intel pick Education Department changing eligibility for hundreds of rural school districts receiving aid: report Experts sound alarm over online scams against the elderly MORE (Maine) — one of the two Republican senators still in the Senate who supported the bill — said she wants the Senate to take up a gun reforms package this month. That deal, she said, could include expanding background checks, incentivizing “red flag” laws and cracking down on straw purchasers, who buy a gun for someone else. 

“I believe that we do need to have a package of gun safety legislation brought to the floor. I'd like to see it brought to the floor along with the appropriations bills this month. I have conveyed that to Sen. McConnell,” Collins told Maine Public Radio in an interview. 

House Democrats are also expected to vote on a package of gun-related legislation this week in the Judiciary Committee, including banning high-capacity magazines and incentivizing states to create “red flag” laws that allow family members or law enforcement to get court orders to temporarily block someone from owning a gun. 

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The committee was initially expected to return to Washington last week, but the vote was delayed because of Hurricane Dorian. 

“There is more that we can and must do to address the gun violence epidemic. We will not sit idly by. I call on my Senate colleagues to join us in this effort by swiftly passing gun safety bills the House has already passed and also by acting on the additional bills we will be considering,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerThis week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime Congress set for clash over surveillance reforms Trump adviser presses House investigators to make Bezos testify MORE (D-N.Y.) said when he announced the committee votes. 

But gun reform legislation still faces an uphill path through Congress, where Republicans are wary of getting out in front of Trump and getting wires crossed with the gun lobby. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by Facebook — Washington, Wall Street on edge about coronavirus Overnight 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 MORE (R-Ky.) said that he would give legislation a vote if Trump has said he will support it. 

“If the president is in favor of a number of things that he has discussed openly and publicly and I know that if we pass it, it will become law, I'll put it on the floor,” McConnell told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. 

But Trump has yet to lay out specifically what he would back. He’s said the White House will offer a package, but has yet to provide details about what will be included. 

In the meantime he’s talked up several ideas. He initially said he thought background checks needed to be strengthened, but focused after the shooting in west Texas on mental health as a solution. 

“It would be wonderful to say — to say 'eliminate,' but we want to substantially reduce the violent crime — and actually, in any form. Any of its evil forms. This includes strong measures to keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous and deranged individuals, and substantial reforms to our nation's broken mental health system,” Trump said earlier this month. 

He also appeared to dismiss the usefulness of background checks in preventing recent mass shootings, saying that “as strong as you make your background checks, they would not have stopped any of it.”

Impeachment

The House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on Wednesday on a resolution defining the procedures for its probe into the Trump administration as Democrats on the panel consider moving forward on articles of impeachment against the president.

The procedural vote would set the rules for hearings, which could include allowing staff to question witnesses and allowing certain evidence to be presented in closed-door meetings, The Associated Press reports. The vote comes as Democrats continue to ramp up their investigations into the administration."The Judiciary Committee's investigation will be broadening out," Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinProgressive group leader describes why Warren would be better than Sanders House Democrats launch probe into NIH and FBI suspecting Chinese Americans of espionage Barr to testify before House Judiciary panel MORE (D-Md.) told CNN. "It is not all about Russian interference in the 2016 election and the president's efforts to cover up his role in it."

The language of the resolution is expected to be released on Monday, Politico first reported.

Talk of impeachment has proven to be a polarizing topic within the Democratic caucus, with leading voices including Nadler, but with Democratic leadership and moderate Democrats in swing districts expressing hesitation to move forward in fear it could hurt them in the 2020 election.

Government funding

The Senate will start work on its fiscal 2020 government funding bills, after keeping its appropriations process in limbo for most of the year. 

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyRepublicans growing nervous about 2020 economy Congress eyes billion to billion to combat coronavirus On The Money: Stocks plummet into correction over fears of coronavirus spreading | GOP resistance to Fed pick Shelton eases | Sanders offers bill to limit tax breaks for retiring executives MORE (R-Ala.) has scheduled votes for Thursday on four appropriations bills: defense; labor, health and human services and education; energy and water development; and state and foreign operations. 

The four votes will mark the first four fiscal 2020 appropriations bills the committee has taken up. The House has passed 10 of its 12 appropriations bills. 

The late start comes weeks before the Oct. 1 deadline to either pass all 12 funding bills or approve a short-term continuing resolution (CR) in order to avoid the second shutdown of the year. 

Senate Republicans are hoping to get at least one package to Trump’s desk before Oct. 1. But House Democrats are moving forward with a short-term CR for all 12 bills. House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerBiden, Klobuchar to address AIPAC via video Lawmakers dedicate Oversight room to Cummings, unveil plaque Vulnerable Democrats brace for Sanders atop ticket MORE (D-Md.) said Democrats will vote on a CR on the House floor next week. 

Leadership hasn’t announced how long the CR will last, but a House Democratic aide told The Hill that Nov. 22 is the most likely end date, putting another fiscal cliff up against the Thanksgiving recess. 

Lawmakers will be returning to Washington days after Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas and caused flooding and tornados along the North Carolina coast. Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisGOP senator presses Pentagon on protecting service members from coronavirus Chamber looks to support Democratic allies in 2020 The Hill's Campaign Report: What to watch for in Nevada MORE (R-N.C.) said during an interview with Fox News’s "Sunday Morning Futures" that he would be returning to D.C. on Monday “to make sure we secure the funds necessary to help North Carolina recover.”

Environment 

The House is slated to take up multiple bills this week, all aimed at tamping down offshore drilling.

The Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act, spearheaded by Rep. Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamBill banning menthol in cigarettes divides Democrats, with some seeing racial bias Overnight Energy: New Interior rule would limit scientific studies agency can consider | Panel battles over tree-planting bill | Trump to resume coal leases on public lands Tim Scott: Sanders would be toughest challenger for Trump MORE (D-S.C), the Protecting and Securing Florida’s Coastline Act of 2019 led by Rep. Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis RooneyOvernight Energy: Trump issues rule replacing Obama-era waterway protections | Pelosi slams new rule as 'an outrageous assault' | Trump water policy exposes sharp divides 2 Democrats say they voted against war powers resolution 'because it merely restated existing law' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi plans to send impeachment articles next week MORE (R-Fla.) and the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act introduced by Rep. Jared HuffmanJared William HuffmanOvernight Energy: New Interior rule would limit scientific studies agency can consider | Panel battles over tree-planting bill | Trump to resume coal leases on public lands Panel battles over tree-planting legislation Overnight Energy: EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water | Trump budget calls for slashing funds for climate science centers | House Dems urge banks not to fund drilling in Arctic refuge MORE (D-Calif.) will all see a vote on the floor. 

“The House will take up three bills that will block oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, and in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. These bills will help protect our environment and the economies of coastal communities that rely on tourism, outdoor recreation, and fishing,” Hoyer said in a "Dear Colleague" letter last week. 

House GOP Retreat

House Republicans are slated to hold their retreat in Baltimore, where they are expected to discuss the agenda for the rest of the year, after it was rescheduled earlier this year due to the government shutdown. Trump is expected to attend the event on Thursday.

The president’s decision to attend the retreat comes in the wake of him attacking the city earlier this year after sparring with Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsLawmakers dedicate Oversight room to Cummings, unveil plaque Oversight Committee room to be dedicated to late Rep. Elijah Cummings House wants documents on McEntee's security clearances MORE (D-Md.), referring to Baltimore as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”

Following Trump’s criticisms, Cummings said he hopes the president spends some time in his district.

“The president is welcome in our district, to go through the 7th Congressional District, and he will see strong people who get up and they go out to work on the early bus,” the Maryland Democrat said at an event last month.

According to the Baltimore Sun, multiple protests are expected to take place outside the event. 

Nominations

The Senate will take a procedural vote on Monday evening on Kelly Craft’s nomination to be the representative of the United States to the United Nations General Assembly. The Senate confirmed Craft to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations before the recess. 

McConnell has also teed up votes on Elizabeth Darling's nomination to be the commissioner on children, youth, and families for the Department of Health and Human Services, Stephen Akard to be director of the Office of Foreign Missions, Dale Cabaniss to be director of the Office of Personnel Management.

The Senate is also expected to take up the nominations of Michelle Bowman to be a member of the Federal Reserve Board, Thomas Feddo to be assistant secretary of the Treasury for Investment Security and Jennifer Nordquist to be United States executive director of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.