This week: Round 2 of House impeachment inquiry hearings
© Greg Nash

The House is gearing up for a second week of public impeachment hearings before lawmakers leave town for a weeklong Thanksgiving recess. 

The House Intelligence Committee is set to have three days of public hearings, with a total of eight witnesses expected to testify before the panel. 

On Tuesday morning, Lt. Col. Alexander VindmanAlexander VindmanVindman says he doesn't regret testimony against Trump Esper: If my replacement is 'a real yes man' then 'God help us' Ukrainian president whose call with Trump sparked impeachment congratulates Biden MORE, the leading Ukraine expert on the White House National Security Council, and Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Pence, are slated to appear before the committee. Former special envoy to Ukraine 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 and Timothy Morrison, a Ukraine and Russia expert on the National Security Council, are expected to appear later in the day. 

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On Wednesday, Gordon SondlandGordon SondlandGOP chairman vows to protect whistleblowers following Vindman retirement over 'bullying' Top Democrat slams Trump's new EU envoy: Not 'a political donor's part-time job' Trump names new EU envoy, filling post left vacant by impeachment witness Sondland MORE, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union; Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian affairs; and diplomat David Hale are scheduled to appear. 

And on Thursday, Fiona Hill, a former top National Security Council staffer who covered Europe and Russia, will testify. 

Much of the spotlight heading into the second round of hearings has focused on Sondland, a Trump donor whom the president has tried to distance himself from in recent days.

Morrison, during his closed-door deposition, said Sondland had met with a top Ukrainian representative on Sept. 1, when he relayed the message that the release of U.S. military aid to the besieged country hinged on Kyiv opening the investigations President TrumpDonald TrumpEx-Trump lawyer Cohen to pen forward for impeachment book Murkowski says it would be 'appropriate' to bar Trump from holding office again Man known as 'QAnon Shaman' asks Trump for pardon after storming Capitol MORE sought. 

State Department official David Holmes testified over the weekend that he overheard a July phone conversation between Trump and Sondland in which the president sought an update on "the investigation" and Sondland delivered the news Trump wanted, according to the opening remarks obtained by The Hill.

"So, he’s gonna do the investigation?" Trump asked, according to Holmes's testimony.

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"He’s gonna do it," Sondland replied.

Sondland first emerged as a prime point of interest for lawmakers after he revised his closed-door testimony before it was released by the committee to say the president’s dealings with Ukraine likely amounted to a quid pro quo.

Trump and GOP lawmakers have lashed out at the impeachment inquiry, arguing that officials are largely relying on secondhand information and that Democrats have blocked some GOP witnesses.

Republicans have also blasted the process being conducted, with Rep. Lee ZeldinLee ZeldinREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Rep. Lee Zeldin fends off Democratic opponent in New York Caring for our seniors during and after coronavirus MORE (R-N.Y.) arguing no public hearings should take place before the rest of the transcripts from the closed-door depositions are released. 

“There are a lot of people who worked in the Trump Administration who have very countering views to that and they've not been allowed to come forward. So it's nice that some people can say one thing about a thirdhand information phone call, there's something else that other people can counter that with, and they haven't been allowed to come forward,” House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseScalise labels Capitol rioting 'domestic terrorism' Tensions flare between House Republicans, Capitol Police over metal detectors Trump, House GOP relationship suddenly deteriorates MORE (R-La.) said during an interview on Fox News on Sunday. 

Asked about public hearings during a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Trump replied, "Are you talking about the witch hunt?" 

"Is that what you mean? Is that what you’re talking about? I hear it’s a joke. I haven’t watched. I haven’t watched for one minute because I’ve been with the president, which is much more important, as far as I’m concerned," he added. 

Democratic leadership has opened the door to Trump testifying as part of the inquiry if he wanted to counter the constant string of news coming out of the House investigation. 

“The president could come right before the committee and talk, speak all the truth that he wants if he wants to take the oath of office, or he could do it in writing,” House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump seeks to freeze .4 billion of programs in final week of presidency Dozens on FBI's terrorist watchlist were in DC day of Capitol riot Porter loses seat on House panel overseeing financial sector MORE (D-Calif.) said during an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “He has every opportunity to present his case.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerNikki Haley unveils PAC ahead of possible 2024 White House bid Trump calls for 'NO violence' amid concerns of threats around inauguration Amazon cites death threats in push to keep Parler offline MORE (D-N.Y.) backed Pelosi up during a press conference in New York, saying that Trump and “those around him” should testify under oath. 

"When Donald Trump refuses to come to the committee, now that Speaker Pelosi has invited him, when he doesn’t let all the people around him come before the committee, you gotta to ask the question, what is he hiding? Why is he afraid to confront what these people have said?" he added. 

Democrats have floated holding a vote on the articles of impeachment before Christmas, after the initial target date of Thanksgiving slipped. That would set up a Senate trial to start at the end of December or early January. 

But Pelosi wouldn’t commit to wrapping up the House’s impeachment inquiry this year, raising the prospect that it could bleed into 2020. 

Asked on “Face the Nation” if the House’s inquiry would wrap by the end of the year, Pelosi responded: “I have no idea.” 

“It is self-evident that we have open hearings for the next week. I don't know if there are any beyond that ... and then when we come back, maybe a decision or maybe they have more hearings.”

Government funding

Lawmakers are expected to pass a short-term spending bill this week ahead of Thursday’s deadline to prevent the second shutdown of the year. 

The government is currently funded through Thursday, but congressional leadership has signed off on an additional continuing resolution (CR) through Dec. 20. 

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The short-term spending bill, which as of Sunday evening had not been released by appropriators, is expected to go through the House first, before being sent to the Senate ahead of Thursday’s deadline. 

Given the tight time frame, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump seeks to freeze .4 billion of programs in final week of presidency McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Murkowski blasts Trump's election claims, calls House impeachment appropriate MORE (R-Ky.) will need consent from every senator to let the spending bill skip over procedural hurdles. 

Eric Ueland, the White House director of legislative affairs, has said the administration would support the stopgap bill, as long as it doesn’t place new restrictions on Trump’s priorities. The bill is expected to be a “clean” CR, meaning it would only extend fiscal 2019 spending levels through Dec. 20. 

The vote on the CR comes after Pelosi, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyTrump seeks to freeze .4 billion of programs in final week of presidency This week: Trump's grip on Hill allies faces test Trump signs .3T relief, spending package MORE (D-N.Y.), Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Overnight Defense: Trump impeached for second time | National Guard at Capitol now armed, swelling to 20K troops for inauguration | Alabama chosen for Space Command home Space Command to be located in Alabama MORE (R-Ala.) and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinTreasury Department sanctions inner circle of Russian agent Derkach for election interference Sanders defends push to impeach Trump: Insurrection won't be tolerated Ben Carson dismisses 25th Amendment talk: 'As a nation we need to heal' MORE met late last week to discuss the larger fiscal 2020 bills. 

Though the 2020 fiscal year started on Oct. 1, the House and Senate have not worked out a final deal on any of the 12 fiscal 2020 appropriations bills. Lawmakers are currently divided over spending for Trump’s border wall as well as the top-line spending figures for each of the 12 bills, known as 302(b)s. 

Negotiators are hoping to have a deal on the top-line figures by Wednesday. If they’re successful, it would amount to a breakthrough after months of being deadlocked despite the two-year budget agreement. 

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In a sign of potential progress, Democrats made a new offer to Republicans last week 

"We're talking about the 302(b)s and we're talking about the allocations for all of the subcommittees," Lowey said after the meeting. 

Shelby, meanwhile, called it the “best meeting we've had in months."  

Workplace violence

The House is slated to take up legislation that would require the Department of Labor to “address workplace violence in the health care and social service sectors.”

The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act — introduced by Rep. Joe CourtneyJoseph (Joe) D. CourtneySouth Carolina Republican tests positive for coronavirus hours after speaking on House floor Rep. Rick Allen tests positive for COVID-19 Connecticut Democrat diagnosed with COVID-19 MORE (D-Conn.) — calls for the Labor Department to promote safety and health standards and employers in those sectors to develop plans to protect against and investigate instances of violence risks and hazards. It would also push for training and education to be available for workers and implement record keeping requirements. 

"This bipartisan bill directs the occupational safety and health administration to issue a standard requiring health care and social service employers to write and implement a workplace violence prevention plan to prevent and protect employees from violent incidents at work," House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump impeached again; now what? The Hill's 12:30 Report: House moves toward second impeachment Hoyer: MAGA stands for 'Make America Grieve Again' MORE (D-Md.) said on the floor on Friday. 

Nominations

The Senate will take up a slate of nominations before lawmakers head out of town for the weeklong Thanksgiving recess. 

McConnell has teed up votes on three nominations: Robert Luck’s and Barbara Lagoa’s nominations to be judges on the 11th Circuit, as well as Adrian Zuckerman to be the U.S. ambassador to Romania.

The Senate is set to hold a procedural vote on Luck’s nomination on Monday evening.