This week: Senate reconvenes as protests roil nation amid pandemic

The Senate will return to Washington, D.C., on Monday after days of protests have swept the country. 

The death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed during the course of an arrest by Minneapolis police, has renewed a national discussion on police violence and lingering racial inequality in the United States. 

Monday will mark the first day senators are back in the nation’s capital since protests started last week, providing, in some cases, their first encounter with reporters, and each other, as they decide what Congress’s and the administration’s response should be. 

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit MORE’s tweets amid the protests, including one that was flagged last week as violating Twitter’s policy for “glorifying violence,” have sparked fierce backlash from Democrats, but largely silence from Republicans as they’ve been spread out around the country. 

Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottDemocrats lead in diversity in new Congress despite GOP gains The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Capital One - Pfizer unveils detailed analysis of COVID-19 vaccine & next steps GOP senators congratulate Harris on Senate floor MORE (R-S.C.), the only black Republican senator, said on Sunday that Trump’s tweets threatening demonstrators and looters with “shooting” and “vicious dogs” are “not constructive,” but said the president has been receptive to his advice in private.

“Those are not constructive tweets, without any question,” Scott said on “Fox News Sunday," adding that he had spoken to Trump in private and told him that "it helps us when you focus on the death, the unjustified, in my opinion, the criminal death of George Floyd.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight MORE (R-Ky.) was asked by reporters in Kentucky on Friday about Trump’s tweet warning that the National Guard would shoot protesters who loot stores and destroy property, but he declined to comment.

Some Democratic senators have proposed legislation in response to Floyd’s death, and videos have put new scrutiny on tactics being used by some police officers during the days-long protests. 

Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzTech CEOs clash with lawmakers in contentious hearing Bitter fight over Barrett fuels calls to nix filibuster, expand court Senate Democrats hold talkathon to protest Barrett's Supreme Court nomination MORE (D-Hawaii) said he would be introducing an amendment to a mammoth defense policy bill to “discontinue the program that transfers military weaponry to local police departments.” 

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Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerSenate Democrats reelect Schumer as leader by acclamation  Hill associations push for more diversity in lawmakers' staffs Sanders celebrates Biden-Harris victory: 'Thank God democracy won out' MORE (D-N.J.) told CNN’s “State of the Union” that he was drafting legislation to include law enforcement reforms, including a national registry for police misconduct and to require departments to report use of force. 

The debate over how Congress can respond will come to a head as the country remains in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, with lawmakers still divided on a potential fifth relief bill. 

The Senate is expected to try to pass legislation that would extend the amount of time businesses have to use loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides funding to businesses with fewer than 500 employees. 

The House passed legislation last week to extend the window from eight to 24 weeks. Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - COVID-19 fears surround Thanksgiving holiday Rubio signals opposition to Biden Cabinet picks Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks MORE (R-Fla.) and Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry On The Money: Biden, Democratic leaders push for lame-duck coronavirus deal | Business groups shudder at Sanders as Labor secretary | Congress could pass retirement bill as soon as this year Top Democrat: Congress could pass retirement bill as soon as this year MORE (D-Md.) had hoped to pass legislation to extend the amount of time to 16 weeks last month, but at least one Senate office objected. 

Congressional leadership remains far apart on a larger coronavirus relief measure. The House isn’t expected to return to Washington, D.C., for votes until the end of the month, unless lawmakers are able to come up with an agreement. 

McConnell told reporters in Kentucky that they would be making a decision on a “phase four” bill in about a month. 

"We're taking a careful look at a fourth and final bill. You can anticipate the decision being made on whether to go forward in about a month. It will be narrowly crafted," McConnell told reporters in Kentucky.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday,  the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on prisons and the coronavirus, and the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on drug manufacturing, as the coronavirus has prompted calls to move the drug supply chain back into the United States. 

On Wednesday, Rubio will hold a hearing on the coronavirus’s impact on small businesses. 

Obama-era probes 

Senate Republicans are set to escalate two investigations into the origins of “Crossfire Hurricane,” the name of the FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign. 

Former Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinTrump turns his ire toward Cabinet members Ex-deputy attorney general says Justice Dept. 'will ignore' Trump's threats against political rivals The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump's erratic tweets upend stimulus talks; COVID-19 spreads in White House MORE will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, marking the first public hearing of Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamClyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight Spokesperson says Tennessee Democrat made 'poor analogy' in saying South Carolina voters have extra chromosome MORE’s (R-S.C.) investigation. 

“Mr. Rosenstein will testify about the new revelations contained in the Horowitz report concerning the FISA warrant applications and other matters,” Graham said in a statement, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. 

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee are set to vote on their first subpoenas related to the investigations. 

Because Republicans control majorities on both committees they’ll be able to issue the subpoenas over what is expected to be blanket opposition from Democrats on both committees. 

Graham announced last month that he would force a vote on the ability to subpoena dozens of officials, including former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyTop Republicans praise Trump's Flynn pardon The new marshmallow media in the Biden era McCabe defends investigation of Trump before Senate committee: We had 'many reasons' MORE and former national security adviser Susan Rice. 

Johnson is also seeking broad subpoena authority for documents from the department of State, the director of national intelligence, the Justice Department inspector general and dozens of officials, many of whom are also on Graham’s subpoena list. 

"I am asking for this authority to ensure the committee has the ability to quickly and efficiently seek compulsory process should it become necessary. We have a great tradition in this country of peaceful and cooperative transitions of power, and the American people deserve to know if any wrongdoing occurred to corrupt the process and sabotage the new administration," Johnson said in a statement.

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He added that they were voting on the authorization "with the hope that subpoenas won’t be necessary."

Democrats have fumed over the probes and warned that Republicans are using their majority to investigate Trump's political enemies, hunt for fodder against presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Obama: Republican Party members believe 'white males are victims' MORE, President Obama's vice president, or inadvertently spread Russian misinformation. 

Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration Voters say Biden should make coronavirus vaccine a priority: poll New York City subway service could be slashed 40 percent, officials warn MORE (D-N.Y.) called for McConnell to cancel the “conspiracy hearings.” 

"They have failed the American people by turning the institutions of the Senate into an extension of the President’s re-election campaign. ... [The] Republican Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold yet another hearing, not on the pandemic, but on baseless conspiracy theories related to the 2016 election. Leader McConnell should instruct these committees to cancel these conspiracy hearings,"  Schumer wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter.

Nominations

On the floor, McConnell has teed up five nominations, including Brian Miller to be the special inspector general for pandemic response. Miller, currently a White House lawyer, was nominated by Trump after he removed then-Pentagon acting Inspector General Glenn Fine from the post. 

In addition to Miller, McConnell has teed up votes on John Badalamenti’s and Drew Tipton’s nominations to be district judges, Victor Mercado’s nomination to be an assistant secretary of Defense and James Anderson’s nomination to be a deputy under secretary of Defense.