This week: Senate tries to avoid landmines on massive spending bill
© Greg Nash

Senators will work this week to navigate a package of spending bills that are normally a political lightning rod across the Senate floor.

Senators are working on their third spending package of the fiscal year that combines funding for the departments of Defense, Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor and Education.

The bill marks the Senate’s toughest funding bill to date after the last two packages passed with overwhelming majorities. The Senate hasn’t approved funding for HHS or the departments of Labor or Education, outside of an omnibus, since 2007.

The package, which accounts for 60 percent of government appropriations, will tie together stand-alone bills that normally devolve into partisan infighting.

The legislation is expected to attract hundreds of amendments on controversial issues from family detention to abortion.

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: Trump pushes to speed up 5G rollout | Judge hits Roger Stone with full gag order | Google ends forced arbitration | Advertisers leave YouTube after report on pedophile ring Warner questions health care groups on cybersecurity Cohen to testify before Senate Intel on Tuesday MORE (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, announced on Friday that he would try to attach an amendment to the bill reining in President TrumpDonald John TrumpAverage tax refunds down double-digits, IRS data shows White House warns Maduro as Venezuela orders partial closure of border with Colombia Trump administration directs 1,000 more troops to Mexican border MORE’s ability to revoke security clearances.

“I will be introducing an amendment next week to block the President from punishing and intimidating his critics by arbitrarily revoking security clearances. Stay tuned,” he tweeted.

Warner is expected to unveil additional details about the amendment on Monday. The amendment comes after the White House announced it was revoking the security clearance of former CIA Director and frequent Trump critic John Brennan.

But how many controversial amendments, if any, will get a vote on the floor as part of the Senate’s debate remains unclear.

Senate leadership has prided itself on returning to “regular order” on spending legislation as they try to avoid passing another omnibus, which would roll the 12 individual bills into one. Trump threatened to veto another omnibus after Congress cleared a similar bill in March.

Sens. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbySenate plots to avoid fall shutdown brawl How the border deal came together Winners and losers in the border security deal MORE (R-Ala.) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate plots to avoid fall shutdown brawl Booker wins 2020 endorsement of every New Jersey Democrat in Congress The Hill's Morning Report - Can Bernie recapture 2016 magic? MORE (D-Vt.), the top two members on the Appropriations Committee, reached a deal to avoid attaching controversial amendments, which would risk sinking bipartisan support, to the funding bills.

“The process has so far been productive and bipartisan in the Senate. Both sides have worked to avoid poison pill riders. That has meant steady progress,” Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDon’t look for House GOP to defy Trump on border wall GOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win MORE (D-N.Y.) said last week from the Senate floor.

Congress has until Sept. 30 to pass funding legislation and keep the government open.

Though the House is out of town until after Labor Day, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKids confront Feinstein over Green New Deal Trump selects Kelly Craft for United Nations ambassador Union leader says Green New Deal would make infrastructure bill ‘absolutely impossible’ MORE (R-Ky.) has said he wants to get nine out of the 12 funding bills to the president’s desk before the September deadline.

Lawmakers are expected to need to pass a short-term continuing resolution to fund at least part of the government, including the Department of Homeland Security.

Kavanaugh

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is stepping up his charm offensive on Capitol Hill ahead of a confirmation hearing next month.

After largely meeting, so far, with senators who either support him or are viewed as likely to support him, Kavanaugh will meet this week with two top Democrats who are expected to use the one-on-one sit downs to pressure him to support releasing documents from his time working for President George W. Bush.

Kavanaugh is expected to met first with Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinKids confront Feinstein over Green New Deal Feinstein says she thinks Biden will run after meeting with him Trump judicial nominee Neomi Rao seeks to clarify past remarks on date rape MORE (D-Calif.) on Monday. Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, is facing pressure from the left to take a hard line against Kavanaugh.

Her opponent in November, state Sen. Kevin de León, has accused the 85-year-old senator of “playing polite, country-club politics” as she and other Democrats demand documents from Kavanaugh’s three-year period as staff secretary.

Feinstein, Leahy and Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinKids confront Feinstein over Green New Deal Senate plots to avoid fall shutdown brawl Overnight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run MORE (D-Ill.) sent a letter to Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report - What to watch for as Mueller’s probe winds down Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Drug pricing fight centers on insulin | Florida governor working with Trump to import cheaper drugs | Dems blast proposed ObamaCare changes Drug pricing fight centers on insulin MORE (R-Iowa), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, urging him to request Kavanaugh’s staff secretary documents over concerns that Kavanaugh mislead the committee in 2006 about any work on the Bush administration’s detainee and post-Sept. 11 terrorism policies.

But Grassley shot back in a letter on Saturday that Democrats were trying a “political stunt” and that he would not reopen negotiations on documents tied to the three years as staff secretary.

Kavanaugh will then meet with Schumer on Tuesday.

Schumer told reporters late last week that he would press Kavanaugh on supporting the release of all the documents from his White House tenure.

"I am going to meet with him next week and I'll ask him about these documents and what he intends to do about it," Schumer told reporters.

Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillPoll: 33% of Kentucky voters approve of McConnell McCaskill: Lindsey Graham 'has lost his mind' Trey Gowdy joins Fox News as a contributor MORE (D-Mo.), a red-state Democrat running for reelection in a state won in 2016 by Trump, is also expected to meet with Kavanaugh on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe Hill's Morning Report — Emergency declaration to test GOP loyalty to Trump Don’t look for House GOP to defy Trump on border wall Senate Dems to introduce resolution blocking Trump's emergency declaration MORE (Alaska), one of two GOP senators who have yet to meet with Kavanaugh, told reporters that she would sit down with him this week.

Sanctions

Senators are holding hearings this week as part of their effort to figure out what, if any, new sanctions they should slap on Russia.

Sens. Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoNew push to open banks to marijuana industry Private insurance plays a critical part in home mortgage ecosystem On The Money: Lawmakers race to pass border deal | Trump rips 'stingy' Democrats, but says shutdown would be 'terrible' | Battle over contractor back pay | Banking panel kicks off data security talks MORE (R-Idaho) and Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger RNC votes to give Trump 'undivided support' ahead of 2020 Sen. Risch has unique chance to guide Trump on foreign policy MORE (R-Tenn.) — the chairmen of the Banking and Foreign Relations committees, respectively — announced late last month that they would hold a slate of hearings on the current sanctions regime and the broader U.S.-Russia relationship.

The Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday at 10 a.m. on the impact of the U.S. financial penalties and “potential for next steps.” Officials from the Treasury, State and Homeland Security departments are scheduled to testify.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday to examine the U.S.-Russia relationship, with officials from the Treasury and State departments testifying.

Despite growing concern on Capitol Hill that Russia will try to meddle in the 2018 midterm election, where control of Congress hangs in the balance, Republicans have been skeptical that passing new sanctions legislation would result in a change of behavior from Moscow.