This week: House jump-starts effort to prevent shutdown

Lawmakers are starting work this week on a short-term spending bill to prevent a government shutdown in roughly two weeks. 

Congress has until Oct. 1 to pass legislation to fund the government and prevent the second funding lapse of the year, after the 35-day partial shutdown that ended in February. 

The House is scheduled to vote on a stopgap continuing resolution (CR) that is expected to fund the government until Nov. 21. The timeline would set up another funding cliff just as lawmakers are expected to leave for the weeklong Thanksgiving recess. 

The CR is expected to go through the Rules Committee on Tuesday and could be on the House floor as soon as Wednesday.

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“The House ... will consider a clean continuing resolution to fund the government past Sept. 30. While the House did its work, and sent 10 appropriation bills to the Senate, funding 96 percent of the government — the first time that has been done in over three decades — I am disappointed that the Senate failed to pass a single appropriation bill. Not one,” House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse approves two-state resolution in implicit rebuke of Trump Overnight Health Care: House to vote next week on drug prices bill | Conway says Trump trying to find 'balance' on youth vaping | US spent trillion on hospitals in 2018 House to vote next week on sweeping bill to lower drug prices MORE (D-Md.), said from the House floor late last week. 

He added that while senators work to get their fiscal 2020 funding bills passed, “a continuing resolution will be necessary to prevent another government shutdown like the one we experienced earlier this year.” 

While the House has passed 10 out of the 12 spending bills, the Senate has passed none as lawmakers waited for Trump and congressional leadership to reach a two-year budget deal that set the top-line spending levels for defense and nondefense funding. 

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed funding for the Pentagon and an energy and water spending bill late last week, marking the first bills to clear the committee so far this year. 

The committee has scheduled votes on three additional bills for this week: transportation and housing and urban development, agriculture, rural development and the Food and Drug Administration, and financial services and general government. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills GOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties MORE (R-Ky.) has said that he expects a CR will be needed to fund at least part of the government after Sept. 30. He has not said if the Senate will accept the House funding bill, or try to amend it once it crosses the Capitol. 

Senators are facing larger problems about how to move significant pieces of their funding legislation amid divisive fights over issues like the U.S.-Mexico border wall and abortion. 

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed the defense bill and a deal that breaks down top-line spending numbers for all of the 12 funding bills along party lines. Neither are expected to get 60 votes on the Senate floor as currently drafted. 

"They've got to realize the mistake they made. They've made a tactical error, and it won't be the first time that a majority party has had to correct itself,” said Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocratic senator says he knows 'handful' of GOP colleagues considering vote to remove Trump Both sides have reason to want speedy Trump impeachment trial Overnight Defense: Trump clashes with Macron at NATO summit | House impeachment report says Trump abused power | Top Dem scolds military leaders on Trump intervention in war crimes cases MORE (D-Conn.). 

The Senate Appropriations Committee punted votes on a funding bill that merged health and human services, labor and education, and a separate measure covering the State Department over concerns that Democrats would try to insert abortion-related language into the bills. 

The committee also still needs to schedule a vote on the veterans affairs and military construction funding bill, which will be considered controversial because of an effort to “back fill” the $3.6 billion the administration previously shifted toward the border wall. 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) bill — which covers lightning rod issues like border barrier funding and Immigration and Customs Enforcement — is considered so controversial that Republicans aren’t sure if they’ll ultimately bring it up in committee. 

Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoGOP senators unveil bill to expand 'opportunity zone' reporting requirements ICE emerges as stumbling block in government funding talks Congress braces for chaotic December MORE (R-W.Va.), a member of the Appropriations Committee and chairwoman of the homeland security subcommittee, said she was concerned “greatly” about the less-than-auspicious start. 

“That remains to be seen,” she said, asked if DHS would get brought up in the committee. “That’s my hope, I would like that … but we’re obviously on rocky soil here.” 

Gun reforms

Lawmakers are waiting to get a sign from President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he will 'temporarily hold off' on declaring Mexican drug cartels as terror organization House Judiciary Committee formally receives impeachment report Artist behind gold toilet offered to Trump sells banana duct-taped to a wall for 0,000 MORE about what potential gun reforms he’ll support after weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations and a briefing from White House staff late last week. 

The White House is expected to announce as soon as this week what the president will back, including whether or not he’ll approve an effort to expand gun background checks. A key group of senators who have been negotiating with Trump initially thought they could get feedback from White House staff late last week but warned that timeline could slip. 

Trump has thrown out a myriad of ideas in the wake of shootings in El Paso and Odessa, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, but provided no hints about where he’ll ultimately come down. 

Trump said late last week that he thought they were making “good progress” on background checks and guns. 

But asked if he thought they would be able to get an agreement, Trump essentially kicked the onus for getting a deal to Democrats. 

“It depends, really, on the Democrats.  It depends on whether or not the Democrats want to take your guns away — because there's a possibility that this is just a ploy to take your guns away — or whether or not it's meaningful,” Trump told reporters at the White House. 

Though poll after poll has found that most Americans support background checks for gun sales, legislation to expand background checks faces stiff political headwinds on Capitol Hill. 

The House passed a universal background check bill earlier this year, with the support of eight Republicans. 

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Judiciary Committee formally receives impeachment report Overnight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law | Michigan governor seeks to pause Medicaid work requirements | New front in fight over Medicaid block grants House, Senate Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law Why a second Trump term and a Democratic Congress could be a nightmare scenario for the GOP MORE (D-N.Y.) said on Sunday that they reiterated to Trump during a phone call that they want him to push McConnell to bring the House bill up for a vote in the Senate. 

“We made it clear to the President that any proposal he endorses that does not include the House-passed universal background checks legislation will not get the job done, as dangerous loopholes will still exist and people who shouldn’t have guns will still have access,” the Democratic leaders said in a joint statement. 

They added that if Trump backs the bill and it passes the Senate “we would both join him for a historic signing ceremony at the Rose Garden.” 

But the House bill is viewed by a non-starter for Senate Republicans, none of whom have signed on as co-sponsors. Senate conservatives are also sending warning signs that Trump could spark a political backlash if he goes too far on an agreement with Democrats. 

The White House described Trump as noncommittal on what he would support during the call with Pelosi and Schumer. 

“The President made no commitments on H.R. 8, but instead indicated his interest in working to find a bipartisan legislative solution on appropriate responses to the issue of mass gun violence. The President reiterated his commitment for his administration to continue work on these issues,” Judson Deere, a spokesman for the White House, said in a statement.

Judiciary probe 

Trump's former campaign manager Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiGeorgia ready for unpredictable Senate race Trump on Harris dropping out of race: 'We will miss you Kamala!' Key takeaways from first public impeachment hearing MORE is slated to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday as part of the panel’s investigation into potential obstruction of justice by the administration. 

Democrats on the committee also subpoenaed White House staff secretary Rob Porter and former deputy White House chief of staff Rick Dearborn for the hearing, titled “Presidential Obstruction of Justice and Abuse of Power.”

The administration has considered invoking executive privilege to prevent Lewandowski from testifying.

Despite Lewandowski being confirmed as a witness, providing a win for Democrats, he has vowed to come out in defense of the president before the committee. 

Some speculate that Lewandowski may use what is projected to be a heated hearing with House Democrats as a way to raise his profile as he mulls a bid for a New Hampshire Senate seat. 

“Corey will use [the hearing] as part of the campaign. He will be confrontational to the Democrats. He will be totally loyal to Trump. And he will be playing to the right wing of the party who need to unite behind him in a primary," Thomas Rath, a former adviser to Republican presidential campaigns and former attorney general of New Hampshire, told Axios.

Nominations

McConnell has teed up work on another slate of Trump nominees as they await the funding bill from the House. 

The Senate is expected to take a procedural vote on Monday on John Rakolta’s nomination to be the ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.

After that the Senate will turn to Kenneth Howery’s nomination to be ambassador to Sweden, Robert Destro to be an assistant secretary of State, Brent McIntosh to be an under secretary at the Treasury Department and Brian Callanan to be the general counsel for the Treasury Department. 

— Niv Elis contributed