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.

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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 WarnerThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Russia attack 'would change the world' SALT change likely to be cut from bill, say Senate Democrats New Mexico Democrat tests positive for COVID-19 breakthrough case 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 TrumpNorth Korea conducts potential 6th missile test in a month Kemp leading Perdue in Georgia gubernatorial primary: poll US ranked 27th least corrupt country in the world 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 ShelbyOn The Money — No SALT, and maybe no deal Fiscal spending deadline nears while lawmakers face pressure to strike deal These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 MORE (R-Ala.) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyFiscal spending deadline nears while lawmakers face pressure to strike deal These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products 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 SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer vows to vote on Biden Supreme Court pick with 'all deliberate speed' Voting rights failed in the Senate — where do we go from here? Forced deadline spurs drastic tactic in Congress 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 McConnellSchumer vows to vote on Biden Supreme Court pick with 'all deliberate speed' It's time for 'Uncle Joe' to take off the gloves against Manchin and Sinema Democrats should ignore Senators Manchin and Sinema 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 FeinsteinOvernight Energy & Environment — Starting from 'scratch' on climate, spending bill Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products Eight senators ask Biden to reverse course on Trump-era solar tariffs 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 DurbinDick DurbinSchumer vows to vote on Biden Supreme Court pick with 'all deliberate speed' Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law Democrats ask for information on specialized Border Patrol teams MORE (D-Ill.) sent a letter to Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleySenate Republicans press federal authorities for information on Texas synagogue hostage-taker Small ranchers say Biden letting them get squeezed These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 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.

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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 McCaskillBiden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid Harry Reid, political pugilist and longtime Senate majority leader, dies On The Trail: Trump-inspired challengers target GOP governors 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 MurkowskiClyburn predicts Supreme Court contender J. Michelle Childs would get GOP votes The names to know as Biden mulls Breyer's replacement Romney participating in fundraiser for Liz Cheney 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.

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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 CrapoThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Alabama GOP gears up for fierce Senate primary clash Senate Republicans call on Biden to lift vaccine mandate for truckers crossing Canadian border MORE (R-Idaho) and Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerRepublicans, ideology, and demise of the state and local tax deduction Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force 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.