This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry
© Greg Nash

The House Intelligence Committee is set to host its first public hearings after weeks of closed-door proceedings — marking an escalation of the probe into President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' Trump confirms 2018 US cyberattack on Russian troll farm Trump tweets his support for Goya Foods amid boycott MORE’s interactions with Ukraine. 

The hearings will mark the first time the public, and most members of the House, will be able to watch the impeachment inquiry. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are holding the hearings in the Ways and Means Committee room with the anticipation that millions will be tuning in to the proceedings. 

“You want to have as big of a blockbuster coming out of the gate as possible,” one senior Democratic aide close to the impeachment probe told The Hill. “The benefit of these guys is they can tell the totality of events; they can tell the whole story.”

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First, on Wednesday, George Kent, a senior State Department official, and William Taylor, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, are slated to testify before the panel. Then, on Friday, Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine who was ousted for being insufficiently loyal to Trump, is scheduled to appear. 

The House passed a resolution along party lines in late October establishing the ground rules for the public phase of the inquiry, where lawmakers are looking into whether Trump tied Ukraine aid to the country opening up an investigation into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump commutes Roger Stone's sentence Hillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok House Democrat warns about 'inaccurate' polls: Trump voters 'fundamentally undercounted' MORE and his son, Hunter Biden. 

Under the resolution, staff counsels from both parties are given 45 minutes per side to question witnesses. Lawmakers will each get five minutes to ask questions. 

Though the public hearings won’t start until Wednesday, lawmakers are already jostling over witnesses and using the Sunday talk shows to serve opening salvos. 

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDemocrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' Trump commutes Roger Stone's sentence Supreme Court rulings reignite Trump oversight wars in Congress MORE (D-Calif.) turned down a request over the weekend from Republicans to have Hunter Biden and the whistleblower whose complaint helped drive the inquiry testify. 

"The impeachment inquiry ... has gathered an ever-growing body of evidence — from witnesses and documents, including the President's own words in his July 25 call record — that not only confirms, but far exceeds, the initial information in the whistleblower's complaint," Schiff said. "The whistleblower's testimony is therefore redundant and unnecessary.” 

He added that he also wouldn’t let lawmakers use the public hearings to carry out "sham" investigations into the Biden family. 

House Intelligence Committee Republicans had requested several witnesses including Hunter Biden and his business partner Devin Archer, the whistleblower and former Democratic National Committee staffer Alexandra Chalupa. They also requested that Tim Morrison and former ambassador Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerGOP senators request details on Hunter Biden's travel for probe Yovanovitch retires from State Department: reports Live coverage: Senators enter second day of questions in impeachment trial MORE, who both provided closed-door depositions, testify publicly. 

Schiff had previously pointed to the parameters of the inquiry as guidance to Republicans for how Democrats would decide if a witness was relevant. 

Those parameters include questions about if Trump tried to get a foreign government to investigate a potential 2020 rival, if the president tried to use the government to apply pressure on Ukraine to “advance the President’s personal political interests” and if Trump or his administration tried to “obstruct, suppress or cover-up information to conceal” evidence of such actions. 

Top Republicans have blasted the process and parameters laid out by Democrats. 

“Setting aside the absurdity of these restrictions—note that the Democrats won't even be able to stay within their own parameters.  The first two witnesses they're calling have never even talked to POTUS. They have zero firsthand knowledge. How can they speak to his motive?” Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Miami pauses reopenings as COVID-19 infections rise, schools nationally plot return Overnight Health Care: Trump downplaying of COVID-19 sparks new criticism of response Trump downplaying sparks new criticism of COVID-19 response MORE (R-N.C.) tweeted on Thursday. 

He added on Saturday, after Schiff’s answer on witnesses, that if Democrats “are denying GOP impeachment witnesses to prevent a ‘sham process,' they’re certainly too late—because that’s exactly what these last 6 weeks of House Democrat’s attempted impeachment have been. A sham.” 

Ahead of the hearings, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthySupreme Court rulings reignite Trump oversight wars in Congress The Hill's Campaign Report: Florida's coronavirus surge raises questions about GOP convention McCarthy calls NY requests for Trump tax returns political MORE (R-Calif.) announced that House Oversight and Reform Committee ranking member Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanNadler: Barr dealings with Berman came 'awfully close to bribery' How conservative conspiracy theories are deepening America's political divide GOP-Trump fractures on masks open up MORE (R-Ohio) — who has played a leading role during the closed-door hearings and proven to be one of Trump’s top defenders in the lower chamber — will temporarily replace Rep. Rick CrawfordRick CrawfordRepublicans score procedural victory on Democrats' infrastructure bill The case for renewed US engagement in Latin America Arkansas program that places unemployed guards, reservists in agriculture jobs can be a model for nation MORE (R-Ark.) on the House Intelligence Committee.

The move comes as the GOP looks to strengthen its defense as Democrats bring witnesses they feel provide the most damning testimonies forward as they look to conclude impeachment proceedings before the end of the year. 

The transcript of Taylor’s deposition shows he expressed concerns over an alleged back-door foreign policy channel led by Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiNadler: Barr dealings with Berman came 'awfully close to bribery' READ: Ousted Manhattan US Attorney Berman testifies Barr 'repeatedly urged' him to resign Ousted Manhattan US Attorney Berman to testify before House next week MORE, the president’s personal lawyer, used to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political opponent. 

Meanwhile, Kent testified he believed Giuliani was working with corrupt foreign officials and media figures to smear Yovanovitch in an attempt to have her removed from her post.  And the transcript of Yovanovitch’s deposition shows she told members of the investigative committees she felt threatened after seeing that the president criticized her during the July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

GOP lawmakers in the lower chamber have vehemently defended the president against allegations he acted improperly or that there was a quid pro quo, stating that the witnesses did not have first-hand access to the information and arguing the partial transcript of the call vindicates Trump. 

Export-Import Bank

The House is expected to take up legislation to reauthorize the  Export-Import Bank, which aims to aid the export of American goods and services, this week, House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerMexico's president uses US visit to tout ties with Trump Amy Kennedy wins NJ primary to face GOP's Van Drew House Democrat calls for 'real adult discussion' on lawmaker pay MORE (D-Md.) said in a "Dear Colleague" letter sent to the caucus. Congress faces a Nov. 21 deadline before its current funding expires.

“This legislation will help ensure a level playing field for American businesses that are competing in a global economy,” Hoyer wrote. 

The legislation slated to come to the floor would reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank for 10 years.

Equal Rights Amendment

The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to mark up legislation to eliminate the deadline for ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. 

“It is now highly likely that if we eliminate the deadline, Virginia will ratify and become the 38th state, and then the E.R.A. can go into effect as a constitutional amendment,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerNadler: Barr dealings with Berman came 'awfully close to bribery' Nadler wins Democratic primary Voters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November MORE (D-N.Y.) told The New York Times. “So it’s time to do it.”

The markup comes following Democrats’ sweeping election victory in Virginia. Democrats say they have the votes to ratify the ERA in the state legislature. It would make Virginia the 38th state, meeting the three-fourths of the states needed for ratification. 

The panel previously held its first hearing on the ERA in 36 years in April.

Critics have argued that it could expand access to abortion and that women already have protection under the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause.

Appropriations

Top members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees are scheduled to meet this week as they try to break a stalemate on fiscal 2020 negotiations. 

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbySenate panel to vote on controversial Trump Fed pick Shelton Finger-pointing, gridlock spark frustration in Senate Democrats sidestep budget deal by seeking 0B in emergency spending MORE (R-Ala.) and House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyHouse Democrats push for resuming aid to Palestinians in spending bill House panel approves bill funding WHO, paring back abortion restrictions Democrats sidestep budget deal by seeking 0B in emergency spending MORE (D-N.Y.), as well as Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyFinger-pointing, gridlock spark frustration in Senate Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse MORE (D-Vt.) and Rep. Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerHouse panel approves bill funding WHO, paring back abortion restrictions On The Money: Deficit rises to record .7 trillion amid pandemic: CBO | Democrats sidestep budget deal by seeking 0B in emergency spending | House panel advances spending bill with funding boost to IRS House panel advances spending bill with funding boost to IRS MORE (R-Texas), the ranking members of the committees, will meet on Tuesday. 

The conference comes after Shelby, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok Ernst: Renaming Confederate bases is the 'right thing to do' despite 'heck' from GOP Advocacy groups pressure Senate to reconvene and boost election funding MORE (R-Ky.) and White House director of legislative affairs Eric Ueland met last week to talk about funding the government. 

Congress has until Nov. 21 to prevent the second shutdown of the year. Leadership is eyeing another short-term patch until mid-December to give them more time to negotiate on full year 2020 bills. 

The Senate has passed four of the fiscal 2020 bills, while the House has passed 10. But the two chambers have reached a deal on none of the 12 appropriations bills because of disagreements over top-line spending figures, known as 302(b)s, and the border wall. 

Nominations

The Senate is keeping its focus on nominations this week after members return to Washington on Tuesday. 

McConnell has teed up votes on two nominations: Chad WolfChad WolfPence addresses 16 new citizens at pre-Independence Day naturalization ceremony Arizona reports record number of new coronavirus cases, deaths DHS deploying new task force to protect monuments ahead of July 4 MORE to be under secretary for strategy, policy and plans at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Steven Menashi to be judge on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Wolf has been serving in the position in an acting capacity. But providing him with Senate confirmation will allow Wolf to become the acting DHS secretary — a post Trump tapped him for earlier this month. 

Wolf would be Trump's fifth acting or Senate-confirmed DHS secretary in less than three years, following Kevin McAleenan, Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenThe Seila Law case: Liberty and political firing Hillicon Valley: Twitter falling short on pledge to verify primary candidates | Barr vows to make surveillance reforms after watchdog report | DHS cyber chief focused on 2020 Sen. Kennedy slams acting DHS secretary for lack of coronavirus answers MORE, Elaine DukeElaine Costanzo DukeChad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary Senate paves way for Trump's next DHS chief Five things to watch at Supreme Court's DACA hearings MORE and John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE.

After Wolf’s nomination, the Senate will turn to Menashi, who cleared the Judiciary Committee last week along party lines.

Menashi has garnered widespread opposition from Democrats and their outside group allies over his writings on the Muslim community and his work in the Trump administration.

Demand Justice, a progressive outside group, is targeting GOP Sens. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDemocrats hope for tidal moment in Georgia with two Senate seats in play Sixth GOP senator unlikely to attend Republican convention Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads MORE (Utah), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSixth GOP senator unlikely to attend Republican convention Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump backs another T stimulus, urges governors to reopen schools MORE (Alaska), Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallySenate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads Lincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad MORE (Ariz.), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerSenate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Finger-pointing, gridlock spark frustration in Senate Lincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad MORE (Colo.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSenate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Lincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic Unity Taskforce unveils party platform recommendations MORE (N.C.) and Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstErnst: Renaming Confederate bases is the 'right thing to do' despite 'heck' from GOP GOP senators voice confidence over uphill Senate battle Lincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad MORE (Iowa) with digital ads ahead of the vote. 

Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, meaning Democrats would need to flip four GOP senators, and hold their own caucus together, in order to sink Menashi’s nomination on the floor. 

So far one Republican, Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMore Republicans should support crisis aid for the Postal Service GOP senators voice confidence over uphill Senate battle Republicans considering an outdoor stadium for Florida convention: report MORE (Maine), has said she’ll oppose the nomination.