This week: First Jan. 6 hearing, House to move on gun legislation
Attention will be focused on the House this week as the select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol holds its first public hearing on Thursday.
The prime-time hearing will mark the first time the panel, which has largely conducted its investigation behind closed doors, will present its findings to the public. Proceedings are set to begin at 8 p.m.
House Democrats are also looking to move a pair of gun control measures this week following the mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas. The legislation would enact “red flag” laws, raise the minimum age for purchasing semi-automatic weapons and ban civilians from using high-capacity magazines and bump stocks, among other actions.
Tuesday marks the first day the House is back in session since the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, which killed 19 students and two adults.
Senators are also awaiting news on the bipartisan gun control negotiations, which have been ongoing for almost a week, to discern what measures have a chance of passing Congress and reaching President Biden.
Also on the Senate side, the lower chamber is poised to turn to toxic burn pits legislation, which passed the House in a largely party-line vote in March.
First Jan. 6 public hearing
The Jan. 6 select committee is set to take its investigation public on Thursday in a prime-time hearing that is promising to present the American people with findings from its nearly yearlong probe.
Thursday’s hearing, the first of eight, marks the culmination of the committee’s probe, which conducted more than 1,000 interviews and obtained upwards of 125,000 records.
“The committee will present previously unseen material documenting January 6th, receive witness testimony, preview additional hearings, and provide the American people a summary of its findings about the coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and prevent the transfer of power,” the committee wrote in a statement last week.
The panel has not yet revealed who is scheduled to appear as a witness at Thursday’s hearing. The congressional investigators have spoken to a number of figures in former President Trump’s orbit, including Ivanka Trump, his daughter; Jared Kushner, his son-in-law; and Donald Trump Jr., his son.
On Thursday, former Attorney General William Barr met with the committee.
Axios reported last week that J. Michael Luttig, a former judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit who advised then-Vice President Pence before the Jan. 6 attack, is expected to testify in the hearings.
Former Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.), an adviser for the Jan. 6 committee, told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that the hearings are “going to be very concise” and “exciting.”
“I think people are going to be absolutely surprised how much was known with multiple groups. And I think that’s what’s going to be exciting to see the committee,” he added.
The investigation drew headlines on Friday when news broke that former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro had been indicted on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with subpoenas from the Jan. 6 select committee.
The development came as the Department of Justice declined to charge former Trump White House officials Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino for defying subpoenas from the Jan. 6 panel,, according to The New York Times.
Republicans are also planning counterprogramming to the slate of hearings, according to Axios.
Trump is scheduled to meet with members of the House Freedom Caucus at the former president’s New Jersey club on Tuesday. Attendees include Reps. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.).
Both Perry and Biggs were issued subpoenas by the committee.
The House Rules Committee is scheduled to take up two pieces of gun legislation on Tuesday in response to the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde.
The first, dubbed the Protecting Our Kids Act, is a package of eight bills that if passed would raise the age for purchasing semi-automatic weapons from 18 to 21 years old, ban civilian use of high-capacity magazines and bump stocks, and require that ghost gun purchases are made in accordance with background check requirements.
The package also calls for prohibiting straw purchase of firearms — when someone who is unable to clear a background check buys a gun through a proxy — and bolstering safe storage of firearms, among other measures.
The House Judiciary Committee advanced the package in a 25-19 party-line vote on Wednesday following an hours-long markup. It now heads to the Senate for consideration.
The package is poised to pass the Democratic-led House but will likely face headwinds in the upper chamber, where at least 10 Republicans are needed to overcome a legislative filibuster.
A coalition of 21 House Democrats, led by Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), penned a letter to House Democratic leadership on Thursday asking that the sweeping package be split into eight individual bills in an effort to maximize GOP support in the Senate.
The House Rules Committee, however, is scheduled to consider the legislation as a single package.
But in a letter to colleagues on Friday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the chamber “will vote on each title as well as on passage of the full bill in order to place Republicans on record on each of these issues relating to gun safety.”
The other piece of legislation, dubbed the Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, seeks to nationalize red flag laws, which would allow courts to order the removal of firearms from individuals deemed a threat to themselves or others.
Nineteen states and Washington, D.C., currently have red flag laws in place. The Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act — sponsored by Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.), whose son was killed by gun violence — would expand the orders nationwide, allowing federal courts to deliver such measures.
It is unclear how much Republican support the red flag law legislation will garner in the Senate. Lawmakers in the upper chamber are currently engaged in negotiations on more limited legislation to curb gun violence.
A bipartisan working group — comprised of Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), among others — held a Zoom call on Tuesday to continue conversations, with the goal of reaching a deal on a basic framework by this week.
Murphy, the lead Democratic negotiator in the Senate, told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that bipartisan negotiations are focusing on mental health funding, school safety measures and “modest but impactful” gun control proposals. Banning assault weapons and comprehensive background checks are not on the table, he added.
Late last month, before the Senate broke for recess, red flag legislation had emerged as a leading option in the upper chamber.
Senate votes on Alex Wagner nomination
The Senate is slated to vote on the nomination of Alex Wagner to serve as assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs. He previously served in a number of positions within the Department of Defense, including chief of staff to the secretary of the Army under the Obama administration.
Biden tapped Wagner to be an assistant secretary of the Air Force on July 29. He is currently serving as the vice president for strategic initiatives at the Aerospace Industries Association.
Senate takes up toxic burn pit legislation
Following Wagner’s nomination vote, the Senate is poised to take up legislation to address toxic burn pits. The bill, dubbed the Honoring our PACT Act, passed the House in a largely party-line vote of 256-174. Thirty-four Republicans bucked their party and joined Democrats in supporting the measure.
The legislation would expand Veterans Affairs (VA) health care eligibility for veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits by creating a presumption of service connection for roughly two dozen cancers and respiratory illnesses, including chronic bronchitis and asthma.
An estimated 3.5 million U.S. service members have been exposed to burn pits, according to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, citing data from the VA. Burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan were at times utilized to incinerate garbage, including human waste, munitions, plastics, jet fuel and paint.
The bill is a top priority for Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.).
Tester and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), ranking member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, announced a deal last month to provide supplemental care to veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.
They said their bill, titled the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act, is “the most comprehensive toxic exposure package the Senate has ever delivered to veterans in this country’s history.”
Biden called on Congress to pass legislation addressing toxic burn pits in his State of the Union address in March. He noted that his late son, Beau Biden, developed a cancer that may have stemmed from the toxic pits.
“We don’t know for sure if a burn pit was the cause of his brain cancer, or the diseases of so many of our troops,” Biden said, referring to his son. “But I’m committed to finding out everything we can.”
“I’m also calling on Congress: pass a law to make sure veterans devastated by toxic exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan finally get the benefits and comprehensive health care they deserve,” he added.
–Updated at 2:45 p.m.