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Impeachment threatens derailment of congressional agenda

The decision by House Democrats to move forward with an impeachment inquiry against President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE in the wake of a whistleblower complaint is threatening to derail a packed fall agenda.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiClub for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout Governors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight 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 ShelbySpending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Trump, Pelosi barrel toward final border wall showdown On The Money: Push for student loan forgiveness puts Biden in tight spot | Trump is wild card as shutdown fears grow | Mnuchin asks Fed to return 5 billion in unspent COVID emergency funds 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 CornynCornyn says election outcome 'becoming increasingly clear': report Top GOP senator: Biden should be getting intel briefings GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results 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 McConnellMcConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge Biden and reproductive health rights Biden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls MORE (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerProtect America's houses of worship in year-end appropriations package Club for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout Inequality of student loan debt underscores possible Biden policy shift 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 GiulianiKrebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  Trump campaign loses appeal over Pennsylvania race Krebs: I'm 'most upset' I didn't get to say goodbye to my team MORE pressured Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Biden transition adds new members to coronavirus task force 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 MurphyRepublicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Biden decides on pick for secretary of State 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) ManchinMajor unions back Fudge for Agriculture secretary Voters split on eliminating the filibuster: poll OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight MORE (D-W.Va.) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyAppeals court rules NSA's bulk phone data collection illegal Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel GOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy 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 BarrBill BarrNew DOJ rule could allow executions by electrocution, firing squad Clyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Five federal inmates scheduled for execution before Inauguration Day 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.”