For House members, this is the last week in Washington before recess
The Senate currently has plans to stay two weeks into August
Both chambers have a lot to do before they get out of town
While many Americans across the country enjoy the traditional summer respite, there’s no slowing down for members of Congress who face another packed week of hearings, meetings, votes and negotiations.
Even with the additional two weeks Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell added to the schedule, delaying the start of his chamber’s recess, the Senate and the House have their share of several hot button issues – including health care, Russia, the border wall and sanctions – to address in the coming days.
The House is expected to wrap up work by Friday. House Speaker Paul Ryan and GOP leaders have said they will only call members back into town if the Senate is able to pass a health care bill and the House needs to take it up. They have vowed to give 72 hours’ notice in the event they schedule votes over the recess.
Here’s what’s on the agenda on Capitol Hill this week:
Russia probe talks to Kushner, Trump Jr. meetings TBD
President Donald Trump’s family will be in the spotlight as Congress’ investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 elections continue to meet with witnesses and hold hearings.
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is scheduled to be interviewed by Senate intelligence committee staffers behind closed doors Monday and speak with the House intelligence committee members Tuesday.
Just before the start of the weekend, the leaders of the Senate judiciary committee announced Friday that they cut a deal with Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort to avoid being subpoenaed for a high-profile public hearing this week, with the two men agreeing to provide records to the panel and to be privately interviewed ahead of any public session.
In a joint statement, judiciary committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and top Democrat Dianne Feinstein said, “(W)e will not issue subpoenas for them tonight requiring their presence at Wednesday’s hearing but reserve the right to do so in the future.”
Sources familiar with the matter say no date has been set for his and Manafort’s private interviews with the committee. Both the Senate and House probes continue to push ahead and additional witnesses could appear.
Health care up in the air
The Senate is expected to vote Tuesday on the procedural motion to bring up the House passed Obamacare repeal legislation, but as of this weekend there continues to be confusion on what exactly senators are going to be asked to vote if that passes.
As it currently stands, Senate leaders do not appear to have the votes to advance their health care plans. After McConnell’s strategy on his revised bill fell apart last week, a White House session with Republicans with the President urging a vote forced members back to the negotiating table.
If the GOP is unable to get onto the health care bill, there could be a movement to clear some nominations for executive branch appointments.
If health care remains at an impasse, congressional observers will be on the lookout to see whether McConnell sticks with plan and keeps senators in town for votes on issues other than health care.
House focuses on defense bill, border wall
For House members, this is the last week in Washington before a five-week summer recess, and they are struggling with two major items they hoped to complete this month – a broad government funding bill and a budget that sets up a major overhaul of the tax code.
Without agreement on the spending measure, House Republican leaders have instead scheduled a vote on a scaled down security-focused bill, that will include money for the next fiscal year for the military, veterans, energy programs and the border wall that Trump promised he would build during the 2016 campaign. Leaders expect dozens of amendments on a range of issues, and a final vote will likely happen Friday. The measure is expected to pass on a mostly party line vote.
House GOP leaders hoped to approve a budget resolution, which is crucial to their effort to pass major tax reform legislation this year. The leadership’s plan was approved by the budget committee last week, but there are no plans for a floor vote yet because of continued splits inside the Republican conference on the size of the mandatory spending cuts.
Congressional negotiators reached a deal over the weekend to hit Russia with fresh sanctions and give the legislative branch new veto power to block any easing of those sanctions – an agreement that could send a new bill to Trump’s desk before the end of the month.
The House will vote Tuesday on the bill that would include new sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea, according to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s schedule, and the Senate is likely to take it up after that, although Senate leaders haven’t yet specified their timing.
New White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that Trump was still considering the bill. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told ABC on Sunday the administration was on board with toughening sanctions against Russia.
“The administration is supportive of being tough on Russia, particularly in putting these sanctions in place,” Sanders told ABC’s this week.
Trump has not publicly said how he feels about the sanctions package, but did tweet about Russia on Sunday.
“As the phony Russian Witch Hunt continues, two groups are laughing at this excuse for a lost election taking hold, Democrats and Russians!” he tweeted.
Democrats look ahead to 2018
House and Senate Democrats will gather Monday for an event in Berryville, Virginia, where they’re set to release their economic agenda heading into the 2018 midterm elections.
Their priorities, which they’ll campaign on for the next year and a half, consist of three objectives: lower costs for everyday expenses, raise wages and improve job training.
After their devastating presidential election loss last year, Democrats have been soul-searching for a message to help resurrect the party in the Trump era. And the title of the agenda – “Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future” – invokes memory of the post-depression New Deal launched by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
CNN’s Tom LoBianco, Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb contributed to this report.