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 TrumpProtesters tear down statue of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore 'Independence Day' star Bill Pullman urges Americans to wear a 'freedom mask' in July 4 PSA Protesters burn American flag outside White House after Trump's July Fourth address 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 FeinsteinBottom line Filibuster reform gains steam with Democrats Senate panel votes 21-1 to back Justice IG measure over Graham objections MORE (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, tweeted on Sunday. 

Sens. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyConnecticut senators call for Subway to ban open carry of firearms Democrats optimistic about chances of winning Senate Gridlock mires chances of police reform deal MORE (D-Conn.), Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyGOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy NSA 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 MORE (R-Pa.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump nominee faces Senate hurdles to securing public lands post OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Watchdog accuses Commerce of holding up 'Sharpiegate' report | Climate change erases millennia of cooling: study | Senate nixes proposal limiting Energy Department's control on nuclear agency budget Senate nixes proposal limiting Energy Department's control on nuclear agency budget 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 CollinsCongress eyes tighter restrictions on next round of small business help The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Stagwell President Mark Penn says Trump is losing on fighting the virus; Fauci says U.S. 'going in the wrong direction' in fight against virus GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday 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 NadlerNadler wins Democratic primary Voters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November Clyburn threatens to end in-person coronavirus committee hearings if Republicans won't wear masks 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 McConnellPublic awareness campaigns will protect the public during COVID-19 Democrats: A moment in history, use it wisely 'Comrade' Trump gets 'endorsement' from Putin in new mock ad by Lincoln Project 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 RaskinDemocrats start cracking down on masks for lawmakers Clyburn threatens to end in-person coronavirus committee hearings if Republicans won't wear masks The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Dems, GOP dig in on police reform ahead of House vote 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 ShelbyFights over police reform, COVID-19 delay Senate appropriations markups Trump's push for major infrastructure bill faces GOP opposition Watchdogs express concern to lawmakers about ability to oversee coronavirus relief funds 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 HoyerHouse to vote on removing bust of Supreme Court justice who wrote Dred Scott ruling Black Caucus unveils next steps to combat racism Democrats expect Russian bounties to be addressed in defense bill 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 TillisACLU calls on Congress to approve COVID-19 testing for immigrants Poll: Biden, Trump locked in neck-and-neck battle for North Carolina GOP senator: Russia should be labeled state sponsor of terrorism if intelligence is accurate 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 CunninghamHarrison goes on the attack against Graham in new South Carolina Senate ad Club for Growth unleashes financial juggernaut for 2020 races Focus shifts to House after Senate passes major public lands bill MORE (D-S.C), the Protecting and Securing Florida’s Coastline Act of 2019 led by Rep. Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis RooneyRepublicans boot Francis Rooney from GOP Steering Committee Pelosi extends proxy voting into mid-August What to do about our culture of division and partisanship? MORE (R-Fla.) and the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act introduced by Rep. Jared HuffmanJared William HuffmanHouse members race to prepare for first-ever remote votes Overnight Energy: Biden campaign says he would revoke Keystone XL permit | EPA emails reveal talks between Trump officials, chemical group before 2017 settlement | Tensions emerge on Natural Resources panel over virtual meetings Tensions emerge on Natural Resources panel over virtual meetings 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 CummingsFacial recognition tools under fresh scrutiny amid police protests The sad spectacle of Trump's enablers Democrat Kweisi Mfume wins House primary in Maryland 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.