Congress week ahead: Washington watching Alabama

Shelby: The Republican party can do better
Shelby: The Republican party can do better

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    Shelby: The Republican party can do better

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Story highlights

  • Even with Congress in session, all eyes will be on Alabama on Tuesday
  • The GOP tax bill's conference committee is expected to have its first public meeting

(CNN)Congress has given themselves a little more breathing room to get through their 2017 to-do list, passing a continuing resolution Thursday on a spending bill that gives them two more weeks to get a final budget to the President's desk.

Budget negotiations will continue behind the scenes, and although no resolution is expected this week, those involved want a clear outline for the final deal locked in before lawmakers go home for the weekend.
Here's what else to keep an eye on this week:

    Will Roy Moore join the Senate?

    All eyes will be on Alabama on Tuesday as the state's voters decide between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones for Alabama's Senate seat. Should Jones win, it will shave Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's slim majority even closer, with a 51-49 split in the upper chamber. Should Roy Moore prevail, McConnell has said he believes Moore "would immediately have an issue with the Ethics Committee."
    Moore's would-be partner from Alabama, Sen. Richard Shelby, said Sunday that though he wants a Republican elected to the chamber, he did not vote for Moore in the special election.
    "I'd rather see the Republican win, but I'd rather see a Republican write-in," Shelby told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union." "I couldn't vote for Roy Moore. I didn't vote for Roy Moore."

    Tax reform

    The conference committee is expected to have its first public meeting early in the week. As of now, leadership sources still say the vote on the conference report is expected on either December 18 or 19 in the House, and a day later in the Senate. That could be sped up, though at this point, it's not clear how that could happen.

    Sexual harassment

    Resignation watch continues for Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas, with the House Ethics Committee saying it has received information over the last two weeks about his alleged conduct and it is establishing a subcommittee to continue the investigation.
    Rep. Ruben Kihuen of Nevada faces sexual harassment questions of his own, with both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee calling for his resignation. Kihuen has flatly refused to resign, and is expected to announce this week whether he will run for re-election.

    Key votes and hearings

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed cloture on three circuit court judges -- Leonard Grasz for the 8th Circuit, Don. R. Willett for the 5th Circuit and James C. Ho for the 5th Circuit Court -- in what has been a rapid-pace filling of judicial slots during the Trump administration.
    Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is scheduled to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of the Trump campaign. He is expected to face questions over potential bias in the investigation after Peter Strzok, who previously led the FBI's investigation into the Clinton email server, and was removed from Mueller's team after sending text messages that could be interpreted as showing political bias against Trump.
    On Tuesday, a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee will examine ways to protect North Korean refugees; the House Financial Services committee will clear the decks of their to-do with the markup of fifteen different bills; and the Senate Commerce Subcommittee will hold a hearing to examine artificial intelligence and "what practices should be in place to ensure proper use of this technology."
    On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hear from former administration officials on the strategic, political and legal considerations for the use of force.
    And on Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee will receive testimony on the US policy and strategy in the Middle East.