This week: House to vote on Turkey sanctions bill
© Aaron Schwartz

The House is set to take up additional sanctions against Turkey this week in response to Ankara’s invasion of northern Syria. 

The vote comes in the wake of a cease-fire agreement, under which the Trump administration agreed to drop its own recent sanctions. 

But lawmakers have been weighing how to respond to President TrumpDonald John TrumpCDC updates website to remove dosage guidance on drug touted by Trump Trump says he'd like economy to reopen 'with a big bang' but acknowledges it may be limited Graham backs Trump, vows no money for WHO in next funding bill MORE’s decision to pull back troops in northern Syria, and Ankara’s subsequent invasion.  

ADVERTISEMENT

The legislation, spearheaded by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelHillicon Valley: Facebook reports huge spike in usage during pandemic | Democrats push for mail-in voting funds in coronavirus stimulus | Trump delays deadline to acquire REAL ID Lawmakers urge EU to sanction Putin associate for election interference Democrats press Pompeo to help Americans stranded abroad amid coronavirus MORE (D-N.Y.) and the panel's top Republican, Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulGraham asks colleagues to support call for China to close wet markets China sees chance to expand global influence amid pandemic Hillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike MORE (Texas), would sanction officials involved in Ankara’s offensive and banks involved in the defense sector until Turkey ends its military operations in Syria.

The bill would also mandate the White House to put additional sanctions on Turkey for its purchase of Russian made S-400 missile systems and prohibit American arms exports to the Turkish military, among other things.

“This bipartisan legislation, cosponsored by the chair and ranking member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, provides a strong, targeted response to the crisis caused by Turkey's invasion of Northern Syria,” House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerProcedural politics: What just happened with the coronavirus bill? DC argues it is shortchanged by coronavirus relief bill Lysol, disinfecting wipes and face masks mark coronavirus vote in House MORE (D-Md.) said last week, announcing the vote. 

The bill is being taken up under a suspension of House rules, meaning it will require two-thirds support to pass. The chamber already passed a resolution formally opposing Trump’s Syria policy, in a 354-60 vote. 

It’s unclear what, if any, legislation will be taken up in the Senate, where Syria-related legislation has run into partisan land mines

Sens. Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischTensions boil over on Senate floor amid coronavirus debate  Overnight Defense: Pentagon confirms Iran behind recent rocket attack | Esper says 'all options on the table' | Military restricts service member travel over coronavirus Graham warns of 'aggressive' response to Iran-backed rocket attack that killed US troops MORE (R-Idaho) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham backs Trump, vows no money for WHO in next funding bill UN biodiversity chief calls for international ban of 'wet markets' Graham asks colleagues to support call for China to close wet markets MORE (R-S.C.) have both introduced their own sanctions bills. 

Graham told reporters that he was still gathering co-sponsors for his legislation with Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocrats struggle to keep up with Trump messaging on coronavirus Pentagon gets heat over protecting service members from coronavirus Overnight Defense: Lawmakers call for probe into aircraft carrier captain's firing | Sailors cheer ousted commander | Hospital ship to ease screening process for patients MORE (D-Md.), as well as aiming to work with House lawmakers to come up with a bicameral bill. 

“What I’d like to do is sit down with House colleagues and find a set of sanctions that are bicameral and bipartisan and move forward and let Turkey know that if you ethnically cleanse the Kurds … we’ll come down like a ton of bricks,” Graham said. 

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers outline proposals for virtual voting Overnight Health Care: Trump calls report on hospital shortages 'another fake dossier' | Trump weighs freezing funding to WHO | NY sees another 731 deaths | States battle for supplies | McConnell, Schumer headed for clash Phase-four virus relief hits a wall MORE (R-Ky.) has poured cold water on sanctions legislation, questioning if they are the right response to a member of NATO. 

“I caution us against developing a reflex to use sanctions as our tool of first, last, and only resort in implementing our foreign policy,” McConnell said about sanctions last week. 

“Sanctions may play an important role in this process, and I am open to the Senate considering them. But we need to think extremely carefully before we employ the same tools against a democratic NATO ally that we would against the worst rogue states,” he added. 

McConnell has introduced his own resolution urging Trump to halt the pullback of U.S. forces and warning that a “precipitous withdrawal” would “create vacuums.” It also urges Trump to rescind his invitation for the Turkish president to visit the White House next month and opposes Turkey’s military action. 

But Democrats have panned the resolution, further complicating the chances that the Senate is able to pass any legislation. 

“To come up with his own partisan resolution that will never see the light of day in the House, one wonders … does he care more about protecting President Trump than protecting America?” Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerHealth care workers account for 20 percent of Iowa coronavirus cases Pressure mounts on Congress for quick action with next coronavirus bill Schumer names coronavirus czar candidates in plea to White House MORE (D-N.Y.) told reporters, referring to McConnell. 

Government funding

The Senate is continuing work on its first fiscal 2020 appropriations package. 

McConnell has teed up votes on three amendments to the bill for Monday evening, including on a proposal from Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand Paul volunteering at hospital after negative coronavirus test Georgia governor says he didn't know asymptomatic people could spread coronavirus McConnell: Impeachment distracted government from coronavirus threat MORE (R-Ky.) to reduce spending by 2 percent. 

The Senate spending package merges the funding bills for agriculture; interior; transportation and housing and urban development; and commerce, science and justice. 

McConnell hasn’t yet moved to wrap up debate on the bill, which is expected to pass the Senate. Once the chamber finishes work on the domestic spending package, Republicans want to move to a second spending measure that would combine a mammoth defense bill and funding for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). 

HHS is considered a top priority for Democrats, but merging it with defense means it’s unlikely to be taken up. Democrats have balked at moving defense spending without a larger agreement on top-line spending figures for each of the 12 individual appropriations bills, known as 302(b)s. 

“We need to have bipartisan support on the 302(b)s, the allocations to the various agencies, to move forward on bills like Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, military construction, and defense. That negotiation, to succeed, must be bipartisan, that’s what the history of this chamber shows, that’s what common sense and logic shows,” Schumer said. 

Lawmakers have until Nov. 21 to either pass each of the 12 appropriations bills or another continuing resolution (CR), which would extend funding at fiscal 2019 levels. 

The House has already passed 10 out of the 12 spending bills. Once the Senate passes its version of the legislation, they’ll need to go to conference to work out their differences. 

But House Democrats don’t want to move a final appropriations bill until a deal has been worked out on each of the bills. Separating the bills, they warn, could pave the way for a repeat of 2018, when Congress had funded roughly 70 percent of the government, while the rest was impacted by a 35-day partial government shutdown. 

Lawmakers are already publicly discussing needing another CR to prevent a shutdown next month. The options for a stopgap bill have ranged from lasting into December or even into the first quarter of 2020. 

“Unless a miracle happens around here with the House and Senate, we will have to put forth another CR,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyGraham backs Trump, vows no money for WHO in next funding bill Five things being discussed for a new coronavirus relief bill Infrastructure bill gains new steam as coronavirus worsens MORE (R-Ala.) told reporters last week

Shelby added that rumors of a longer CR into February or March were “probably in the ballpark." 

Impeachment inquiry

The House is slated to press on with its impeachment inquiry, with former deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman subpoenaed to testify on Monday.

It remains unclear whether Kupperman will appear, with the former official — a key witness in the probe — having filed a lawsuit in federal court on Friday asking a judge to rule on whether he can testify before the committees after the president invoked “constitutional immunity."

National Security Council Director for European Affairs Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is scheduled to testify on Tuesday. Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Kathryn Wheelbarger, as well as State Department officials Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson, have been called to appear before the committees on Wednesday. 

On Thursday, National Security Council official Tim Morrison is slated to appear before the panels. Morrison would be the first White House official slated to testify. 

“If subpoenaed, Mr. Morrison plans to appear for his deposition,” Morrison’s attorney, Barbara Van Gelder, said in a statement, while declining to preview what he will say in his upcoming testimony.

House Republicans successfully delayed a deposition after storming the sensitive compartmented information facility last Wednesday in protest of the way Democrats have conducted the impeachment process. It’s unclear whether GOP lawmakers will take action to interrupt future depositions. 

Health care

Senate Democrats are expected to force a vote this week on a Trump administration rule that loosens ObamaCare waiver restrictions.

Democrats are trying to roll back a rule that makes it easier for insurance plans to qualify for waivers from ObamaCare’s requirements.

Democrats are able to force a vote on the Trump administration guidance under the Congressional Review Act.

The resolution, backed by every senator who caucuses with the Democrats, needs a simple majority to pass, meaning Democrats would need to pick up four GOP senators.

It’s the latest effort by Senate Democrats to try to undo Trump-era regulations. They previously failed to nix a rule aimed at preventing blue states from circumventing the GOP tax law's $10,000 cap on the state and local tax deduction, as well as failing to prevent implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s power plant rule. 

Armenian genocide

The House is slated to take up a nonbinding resolution — spearheaded by Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHillicon Valley: Schiff presses intel chief on staff changes | Warren offers plan to secure elections | Twitter's Jack Dorsey to donate B to coronavirus fight | WhatsApp takes steps to counter virus misinformation Schiff calls on DNI Grenell to explain intelligence community changes READ: Schiff plans to investigate Trump firing intel watchdog MORE (D-Calif.) and Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) — recognizing the Ottoman Empire's genocide against the Armenian people and rejecting any efforts to enlist the U.S. government in denying it took place. 

"Genocide is not a relic of the past, but an ever present threat. Its denial is not only a continuing injury to the survivors, but makes its repetition against another people more likely,” Schiff, the co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, said in a statement after its introduction. 

“It is therefore all the more pressing that the Congress recognize the historical fact of the Armenian Genocide and make clear that we will never be an accomplice to denial." 

Bilirakis echoed Schiff sentiments, arguing Congress needs to take a stand against genocide.  

“Genocide must not be denied. It must be acknowledged for what it is—a scourge on humanity. Official recognition of the Armenian Genocide would represent a courageous new chapter in American foreign policy. With the bold leadership of the current Administration, it is time for the United States to take a stand against Turkish genocide denial,” the Florida Republican said in a statement.

The administration stopped short of recognizing the 1915 Armenian genocide earlier this year, having released a statement in April calling it “one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century.”

Environment bills 

The House is scheduled to take up three environmental bills this week. 

The Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act — led by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) — aims to ban uranium mining around the Grand Canyon. The bill passed out of committee in July. 

The Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act — spearheaded by New Mexico Democrats Sens. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallSenate Democrats propose ,000 hazard-pay plan for essential workers Democrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus Democratic senators ask Pompeo to provide coronavirus aid to Palestinian territories MORE and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichDemocrats call for pollution reduction requirements in any aid for airlines, cruises Coronavirus takes toll on Capitol Hill GOP chairman cancels Hunter Biden-related subpoena vote MORE and U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Luján and Deb HaalandDebra HaalandPressure mounts for national parks closure amid coronavirus We must demand our government decrease emissions from federal public lands Asian Pacific American Caucus vice chair 'shocked and dismayed' GOP leader referred to 'Chinese coronavirus' MORE— would “withdraw the federal lands around Chaco Canyon from further mineral development.” 

"The greater Chaco region is a New Mexico treasure. Many Tribes in New Mexico can trace their ancestry and culture to Chaco, and consider these sites sacred,” Haaland said in a statement. 

“But even as archeologists are making exciting new discoveries about this region – and even as Tribes and the American public speak out in overwhelming support of protecting this precious landscape – Chaco is being threatened by expanding energy development, including recently proposed leasing inside this long-standing buffer zone.”

And the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act — a bipartisan bill led by Sens. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetHillicon Valley: Coronavirus tracking sparks surveillance concerns | Target delivery workers plan Tuesday walkout | Federal agency expedites mail-in voting funds to states | YouTube cracks down on 5G conspiracy videos Why being connected really matters for students Democratic senator criticizes Zoom's security and privacy policies MORE (D-Colo.) and Reps. Joe NeguseJoseph (Joe) NeguseTrump administration restricts travel from Nigeria and five other countries Judiciary members battle over whether GOP treated fairly in impeachment hearings Sunday talk shows: Lawmakers gear up ahead of Monday's House Judiciary hearing MORE (D-Colo.) —  aims to designate “certain wilderness areas, recreation management areas, and conservation areas in the State of Colorado, and for other purposes.” The bill looks to conserve roughly 400,000 acres of public land.