Impeachment threatens derailment of congressional agenda

The decision by House Democrats to move forward with an impeachment inquiry against President TrumpDonald John TrumpPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax MORE in the wake of a whistleblower complaint is threatening to derail a packed fall agenda.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump Democrats open door to repealing ObamaCare tax in spending talks Sunday talk shows: Lawmakers gear up ahead of Monday's House Judiciary hearing MORE’s (D-Calif.) move on Tuesday to formally begin an inquiry came after a frenzy on Capitol Hill, where a whistleblower complaint reportedly linked to President Trump’s actions quickly overshadowed high-profile legislative battles.

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Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyDemocrats open door to repealing ObamaCare tax in spending talks On The Money: Economy adds 266K jobs in strong November | Lawmakers sprint to avoid shutdown | Appropriators to hold crucial talks this weekend | Trump asks Supreme Court to halt Deutsche Bank subpoenas Appropriators face crucial weekend to reach deal MORE (R-Ala.), who was a member of the upper chamber during the then-President Clinton impeachment trials, warned that an impeachment inquiry would become the “order of the day,” likely having a trickle-down effect on a long to-do list awaiting Congress before the end of the year. 

“It could. Everything. If they were to go down that road, it would sure take priority,” Shelby said, asked if an impeachment inquiry would grind the legislative agenda to a halt. “If they were to go down that road, it would be the order of the day.” 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynHillicon Valley: FTC rules Cambridge Analytica engaged in 'deceptive practices' | NATO researchers warn social media failing to remove fake accounts | Sanders calls for breaking up Comcast, Verizon Bipartisan senators call on FERC to protect against Huawei threats Giffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick MORE (Texas), a member of the GOP leadership, warned that the impeachment inquiry would “suck all the oxygen out of this place.” 

“It’s clear to me that the Democrats’ disdain for the president exceeds their desire to do things like prescription drugs … or a highway bill or pass trade agreements like the [United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement]. This is going to make it almost impossible for us to do those things,” Cornyn added. 

Congress is set to leave town for a two-week recess on Thursday. When they return they’ll face a Nov. 21 deadline to fund the government — an uphill fight given that the Senate hasn’t yet passed a single fiscal 2020 spending bill. 

They also have a looming end-of-the-year fight on surveillance reforms, as well as negotiations over potential prescription drug legislation, and Republicans are growing increasingly antsy about the chances of passing Trump’s trade deal with Mexico and Canada. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden: 'No party should have too much power' Overnight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills MORE (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law | Michigan governor seeks to pause Medicaid work requirements | New front in fight over Medicaid block grants House, Senate Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law Why a second Trump term and a Democratic Congress could be a nightmare scenario for the GOP MORE (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday faced multiple impeachment-related questions during their respective weekly press conferences — even before Pelosi formally announced the impeachment inquiry. 

McConnell tried to shut down a question about what the Senate would do if the House sends over articles of impeachment, calling it “quite premature.” 

“Wait a minute. What we have here is an allegation related to Ukrainian aid by a whistleblower. That’s about all we know now. … I’m not going to address all of these various hypotheticals that have been aired,” he said.

But previewing the likely months-long fight that will loom over any legislation, the president on Tuesday fired off a string of tweets targeting House Democrats. 

“They never even saw the transcript of the call. A total Witch Hunt!” Trump wrote. “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!”

The decision to move forward with an impeachment inquiry against Trump comes amid reports that the president and his personal lawyer Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiTrump: Giuliani to deliver report on Ukraine trip to Congress, Barr Trump denies report that he still uses personal cell phone for calls Giuliani draws attention with latest trip to Ukraine MORE pressured Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump Warren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Trump: Giuliani to deliver report on Ukraine trip to Congress, Barr MORE and his son Hunter Biden.

Trump indicated over the weekend that he had brought up Biden during the call, but has denied allegations that he threatened to withhold aid to Ukraine unless they investigated the issue. 

Trump on Tuesday agreed to release the transcript of his call, something congressional Republicans had urged him to do. But that did not slow momentum for impeachment that had been building for days.

The days-long swirl over the whistleblower complaint has already claimed one legislative agenda item. Senators involved with negotiating a potential deal on background checks for gun sales with the Trump administration say they’ve largely gotten radio silence from the White House since last week. 

“Unsurprisingly, we haven’t heard anything from the White House since Wednesday night. I think they’ve been consumed by this crisis over the weekend, so it would not be shocking to me if we didn’t hear anything on any other issue besides this one,” said Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyHere are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump Democratic senator says he knows 'handful' of GOP colleagues considering vote to remove Trump Both sides have reason to want speedy Trump impeachment trial MORE (D-Conn.).

When a reporter noted that Congress is about to leave for two weeks, he added, “I think some other issues have gotten in the way of our background checks negotiations. ... My feeling is they don’t have a lot of room to move legislative business this week.” 

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Murphy and Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinStatesmen seek bipartisan solutions to big challenges Both sides have reason to want speedy Trump impeachment trial No one wins with pro-abortion litmus test MORE (D-W.Va.) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns MORE (R-Pa.) have been locked in talks for weeks with the White House to try to get an agreement in the wake of a recent spate of mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso and Odessa, Texas. 

Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrTrump: Giuliani to deliver report on Ukraine trip to Congress, Barr 'Project Guardian' is the effective gun law change we need Supreme Court denies Trump request to immediately resume federal executions MORE met with Republicans about a potential proposal to expand background checks last week, and also huddled with Murphy, Manchin and Toomey last week. 

White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland, who was at the Senate GOP lunch on Tuesday, said talks were ongoing with lawmakers, but said they didn’t view the two-week recess as a make-or-break deadline for the chances of getting a deal. 

“We continue to be engaged with the Hill. We’re still working to try to explore if there are paths forward,” Ueland told reporters. “It’s not so much a question of whether or not they’re physically here.” 

Manchin said on Tuesday he had not heard from the White House since last week. 

Asked how the whistleblower scandal was impacting gun negotiations, Manchin responded, “Things have been kind of quiet.”