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 TrumpWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Wife blames Trump, lack of masks for husband's coronavirus death in obit: 'May Karma find you all' Trump authorizes reduced funding for National Guard coronavirus response through 2020 MORE’s decision to pull back troops in northern Syria, and Ankara’s subsequent invasion.  

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The legislation, spearheaded by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelUSAID appointee alleges 'rampant anti-Christian sentiment' at agency Democrats subpoena top aides to Pompeo Obama announces first wave of 2020 endorsements MORE (D-N.Y.) and the panel's top Republican, Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulHouse Republicans introduce legislation to give states 0 million for elections Hillicon Valley: Democrats request counterintelligence briefing | New pressure for election funding | Republicans urge retaliation against Chinese hackers House Republicans urge Trump to take action against Chinese hackers targeting coronavirus research 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 HoyerThis week: Negotiators hunt for coronavirus deal as August break looms The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Fauci gives his COVID-19 vaccine estimate Congress rightfully rejects dangerous effort to cut defense budget by 10 percent 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 RischSenators blast Turkey's move to convert Hagia Sophia back into a mosque Progressive group backs Democratic challenger to Sen. Risch Republicans start bracing for shutdown fight in run-up to election MORE (R-Idaho) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamObama announces first wave of 2020 endorsements Trump putting TikTok ban on hold for 45 days: report This week: Negotiators hunt for coronavirus deal as August break looms 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 HollenOvernight Defense: Guardsman to testify Lafayette Square clearing was 'unprovoked escalation' | Dems push for controversial Pentagon nominee to withdraw | Watchdog says Pentagon not considering climate change risks to contractors Democrats urge controversial Pentagon policy nominee to withdraw VOA visa decision could hobble Venezuela coverage 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 McConnellProfessional sports players associations come out against coronavirus liability protections Democratic leaders report 'some progress' in talks with White House Top GOP senator urges agencies to protect renters, banks amid coronavirus aid negotiations 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 SchumerChuck SchumerMeadows: 'I'm not optimistic there will be a solution in the very near term' on coronavirus package Biden calls on Trump, Congress to enact an emergency housing program Senators press Postal Service over complaints of slow delivery 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 PaulMultiple lawmakers self-quarantine after exposure to Gohmert Gohmert tests positive for COVID-19 Republican senators revolt over coronavirus proposal 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 Shelby33K laptops meant for Alabama distance learning are stuck in customs, could be held until October Senate GOP opens door to smaller coronavirus deal as talks lag Overnight Defense: Senate GOP coronavirus bill includes .4B for Pentagon | US, Australia focus on China in key meeting 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 SchiffHouse Intelligence panel opens probe into DHS's involvement in response to protests Democrats exit briefing saying they fear elections under foreign threat Nunes declines to answer if he received information from Ukraine lawmaker meant to damage Biden 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 UdallGOP lawmaker says he will oppose any attempts to delay election Trump raises idea of delaying election Cook Political Report shifts several Senate races toward Democrats MORE and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichOVERNIGHT ENERGY: 20 states sue over Trump rule limiting states from blocking pipeline projects | House Democrats add 'forever chemicals' provisions to defense bill after spiking big amendment | Lawmakers seek extension for tribes to spend stimulus money Lawmakers seek extension for tribes to spend stimulus money following Treasury delays The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Rodney Davis says most important thing White House can do on COVID-19 is give consistent messaging; US new cases surpass 50k for first time MORE and U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Luján and Deb HaalandDebra HaalandOne way we can honor John Lewis' legacy: Amend the 13th Amendment Native American lawmaker: 'Redskins' name change 'should have been made a long time ago' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Internal watchdog probing Park Police actions toward Lafayette Square protesters | Democrats detail their .5T green infrastructure plan | Green groups challenge Trump water rules rollback 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 BennetHow Congress is preventing a Medicare bankruptcy during COVID-19 Tom Cotton rips NY Times for Chinese scientist op-ed criticizing US coronavirus response Our national forests need protection — and Congress can help MORE (D-Colo.) and Reps. Joe NeguseJoseph (Joe) NeguseThe feds should not spend taxpayer dollars in states that have legalized weed Our national forests need protection — and Congress can help Hillicon Valley: FBI, DHS to accuse China of hacking virus researchers | Warren warns of COVID-19 threats to elections | Musk reopening California Tesla factory against state orders 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.