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. 


President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance Meadows trying to root out suspected White House leakers by feeding them info: Axios Pressley hits DeVos over reopening schools: 'I wouldn't trust you to care for a house plant let alone my child' 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 ScottThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump takes on CDC over schools Finger-pointing, gridlock spark frustration in Senate Tim Scott says he's talking with House Democrats about reviving police reform bill 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 McConnellCongress pulls punches on Russian bounties firestorm Congress under pressure to provide billions for school openings Hillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok 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 SchatzCensus workers prepare to go door-knocking in pandemic Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police 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.” 


Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerIn politics, as in baseball, it ain't over till it's over Democrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads 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 RubioGOP chairman vows to protect whistleblowers following Vindman retirement over 'bullying' Lincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad GOP Miami mayor does not commit to voting for Trump MORE (R-Fla.) and Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinCongress eyes tighter restrictions on next round of small business help Senate passes extension of application deadline for PPP small-business loans 1,700 troops will support Trump 'Salute to America' celebrations July 4: Pentagon 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 RosensteinSupreme Court to hear dispute over Democrats' access to Mueller materials Republicans release newly declassified intelligence document on FBI source Steele GOP's Obama-era probes fuel Senate angst MORE will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, marking the first public hearing of Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham says he will call Mueller to testify before Senate panel about Russia probe Romney blasts Trump's Stone commutation: 'Historic corruption' Lincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad 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 ComeyTrump on possible Roger Stone pardon: 'His prayer may be answered' How conservative conspiracy theories are deepening America's political divide Bolton book sells 780,000 copies in first week, set to surpass 1M copies printed 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.


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 BidenDavis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance Teachers face off against Trump on school reopenings Biden wins Puerto Rico primary MORE, President Obama's vice president, or inadvertently spread Russian misinformation. 

Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' A renewed emphasis on research and development funding is needed from the government Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs 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.


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.