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 TrumpWith VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world Coronavirus hits defense contractor jobs Wake up America, your country doesn't value your life 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 BidenWith VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world Poll: Trump, Biden in dead heat in 2020 matchup Coronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner 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 SchiffCoronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner Texas man arrested for allegedly threatening Democrats over coronavirus bill Schiff: Remote voting would not compromise national security 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 Airbnb - Senators clinch deal on T stimulus package White House, Senate reach deal on trillion stimulus package The Hill's 12:30 Report: Lawmakers near deal on stimulus 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 McCarthySunday shows preview: Lawmakers, state governors talk coronavirus, stimulus package and resources as pandemic rages on Lysol, disinfecting wipes and face masks mark coronavirus vote in House Trump signs T coronavirus relief package MORE (R-Calif.) announced that House Oversight and Reform Committee ranking member Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanTrump, privacy hawks upend surveillance brawl Top GOP post on Oversight draws stiff competition McConnell, top GOP senators throw support behind surveillance deal as deadline looms 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 CrawfordRichard (Rick) CrawfordPelosi stands firm amid calls to close Capitol This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry House Republicans add Jordan to Intel panel for impeachment probe 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 GiulianiCuomo steps into national spotlight with coronavirus fight Hannity offers to help Cuomo in coronavirus response with radio, television shows The Hill's Campaign Report: Officials in spotlight over coronavirus response 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 HoyerDC argues it is shortchanged by coronavirus relief bill Lysol, disinfecting wipes and face masks mark coronavirus vote in House The Hill's 12:30 Report: House to vote on .2T stimulus after mad dash to Washington 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 NadlerHouse Judiciary Committee postpones hearing with Barr amid coronavirus outbreak House Democrats plead with key committee chairman to allow remote voting amid coronavirus pandemic Pelosi rejects calls to shutter Capitol: 'We are the captains of this ship' 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 ShelbyCoronavirus bill includes more than billion in SNAP funding White House billion emergency request balloons to 2 billion in Senate coronavirus stimulus talks Five sticking points to a T coronavirus deal MORE (R-Ala.) and House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyHouse Democrats unveil coronavirus economic response package Biden rolls out over a dozen congressional endorsements after latest primary wins Trump, Congress struggle for economic deal under coronavirus threat MORE (D-N.Y.), as well as Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyLawmakers brace for more coronavirus legislation after trillion bill Democrats seek to increase supplemental funding bill to 0 billion Five sticking points to a T coronavirus deal MORE (D-Vt.) and Rep. Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the APTA - A huge night for Joe Biden Kay Granger fends off Republican primary challenger in Texas This week: House eyes vote on emergency coronavirus funding 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 McConnellCoronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner Struggling states warn coronavirus stimulus falls short 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 (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 WolfHillicon Valley: Malicious emails spike amid coronavirus | Real ID deadline delayed one year | Trump officials to limit Huawei's chip access Travel industry hails REAL ID extension, says may need to be longer Real ID deadline delayed one year amid coronavirus pandemic 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 NielsenHillicon 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 The 'accidental director' on the front line of the fight for election security 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 Romney7 things to know about the coronavirus stimulus package Scarborough rips Trump for mocking Romney's negative coronavirus test: 'Could have been a death sentence' Trump on Romney's negative coronavirus test: 'I am so happy I can barely speak' MORE (Utah), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGOP senators urge Saudi Arabia to leave OPEC Schumer: Senate should 'explore' remote voting if coronavirus sparks lengthy break Turning the virus into a virtue — for the planet MORE (Alaska), Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyNew bill would withhold pay from Senate until coronavirus stimulus package passes Senate GOP super PAC books more than million in fall ads Politics and the pandemic — Republicans are rightly worried MORE (Ariz.), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerRomney says he tested negative for coronavirus, will remain in quarantine Senate GOP super PAC books more than million in fall ads The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Markets expected to plunge amid partisan squabbling MORE (Colo.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisCampaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus Senate leaving DC until April 20 after coronavirus stimulus vote Senate GOP super PAC books more than million in fall ads MORE (N.C.) and Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstCampaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus Politics and the pandemic — Republicans are rightly worried Ernst calls for public presidential campaign funds to go to masks, protective equipment 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 CollinsGOP presses for swift Ratcliffe confirmation to intel post Campaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus Senate eyes quick exit after vote on coronavirus stimulus package MORE (Maine), has said she’ll oppose the nomination.