This week: House returns for pre-election sprint

The House is returning this week for its final work period before the November election, with a government funding fight looming and uncertainty growing over whether Congress will pass a fifth coronavirus relief bill. 

The House, set to reconvene on Monday, has only 12 working days before they are scheduled to leave Washington, D.C., again until after the election. The Senate is currently scheduled to be in for part of October, though senators have questioned, absent a last-minute COVID-19 bill, if they will stick to their full schedule. 

Before they leave, Congress will need to pass a stopgap funding bill by Sept. 30 in order to prevent an election year government shutdown. Lawmakers are expected to use a continuing resolution (CR), which will continue funding at fiscal year 2020 levels, to keep the government open starting on Oct. 1. 

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinBattle over timing complicates Democratic shutdown strategy Overnight Health Care: McConnell: Chance for coronavirus deal ‘doesn’t look that good right now’ | Fauci disagrees with Trump that US rounding ‘final turn’ on pandemic | NIH director ‘disheartened’ by lack of masks at Trump rally McConnell: Chance for coronavirus deal ‘doesn’t look that good right now’ MORE and House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden marks anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, knocks Trump and McConnell Sunday shows – Trump team defends coronavirus response GOP chair defends Trump messaging on masks: ‘To say that he should have known then what we know now isn’t really fair’ MORE (D-Calif.) have agreed to a “clean” CR, meaning it will not include items either side would view as political poison pills. Because of that informal deal the funding bill is not expected to include coronavirus relief amid a stalemate between congressional Democrats and the White House. 

“We are now looking at anomalies in the rest, and we’ll figure out the timing when we do,” Pelosi said during a weekly press conference.

But they have not agreed yet on a length for the stopgap funding bill. 

Democrats are locked in a behind-the-scenes debate about if they should accept a bill that goes into December, a timeline supported by Republicans, or push for a CR that would go into early next year, when Democrats hope they will have more leverage if they win back the Senate and Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenCrowd aims ‘lock him up’ chant at Obama during Trump rally Biden campaign plans to run ad during every NFL game until Election Day LA mayor condemns protesters shouting ‘death to police’ outside hospital treating ambushed officers MORE wins the White House. 

“We’ve gone back and forth, it’s a split decision in the caucus. If you can tell us what happens Nov. 3 it is a lot easier. … The uncertainty about the presidential election is an element,” Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinBattle over timing complicates Democratic shutdown strategy GOP senators say coronavirus deal dead until after election Senate Democrats introduce bill to sanction Russians over Taliban bounties MORE (Ill.) said when asked about the length of a bill. 

Republicans are lining up behind a stopgap bill that would run into December and force lawmakers to either pass a second year-end CR or try to craft an agreement on larger fiscal 2021 funding bills in a matter of months. 

“We’re advocating a December deal. That’s what the leader wants, that’s what I want; I think Mnuchin is on board on that,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyBattle over timing complicates Democratic shutdown strategy GOP senators say coronavirus deal dead until after election Senate Democrats block GOP relief bill MORE (R-Ala.).

Staff-level talks are ongoing about the details of the CR, including the length, according to lawmakers and aides. But Congress’s work will likely go down to the wire, with neither chamber expected to act this week and Yom Kippur scrambling end-of-the-month votes. 

Coronavirus

Though government funding is the main pre-election deadline staring down Congress, most of the attention, so far, has been on the stalemated talks over a fifth coronavirus relief bill. 

Democrats blocked a roughly $500 billion GOP relief bill last week, in what was largely viewed as a messaging vote given that the legislation could not get the 60 votes to overcome procedural hurdles and ultimately pass the Senate. 

Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSunday shows – Trump team defends coronavirus response Economist Moore calls on Pelosi, Schumer to ‘get a deal done’ amid stimulus stalemate McConnell: Chance for coronavirus deal ‘doesn’t look that good right now’ MORE (N.Y.) urged Democrats to remain united in the weeks-long impasse. Schumer, speaking separately to reporters, argued that Democratic unity could force Republicans back to the negotiating table and end in an agreement that includes Democratic priorities including money for state and local governments and food assistance. 

“Each time McConnell said, it’s our bill or nothing, when it was a bill without any input from Democrats, when the bill was defeated they came back and we actually got some bipartisan stuff done. I would hope they would do that,” Schumer said, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden marks anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, knocks Trump and McConnell Battle over timing complicates Democratic shutdown strategy Economist Moore calls on Pelosi, Schumer to ‘get a deal done’ amid stimulus stalemate MORE (R-Ky.). 

House Democrats passed a $3.4 trillion coronavirus bill back in May, as well as a separate Postal Service bill last month. Schumer and Pelosi offered in early August to drop $1 trillion off their price tag if the White House added the same amount to its $1.1 trillion package, which Senate Republicans unveiled in late July. Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsOvernight Health Care: McConnell: Chance for coronavirus deal ‘doesn’t look that good right now’ | Fauci disagrees with Trump that US rounding ‘final turn’ on pandemic | NIH director ‘disheartened’ by lack of masks at Trump rally Overnight Defense: US marks 19th anniversary of 9/11 attacks | Trump awards Medal of Honor to Army Ranger for hostage rescue mission | Bahrain, Israel normalizing diplomatic ties McConnell: Chance for coronavirus deal ‘doesn’t look that good right now’ MORE rejected that offer. 

Mnuchin, testifying before a House committee earlier this month, indicated they were willing to go as high as $1.5 trillion. But that is still $700 billion less than the lowest offer from Schumer and Pelosi of $2.2 trillion. In addition to deep divisions over the cost of the bill, they have not agreed upon more money for state and local government, how to structure the federal unemployment benefit or McConnell’s red line of liability protections. 

And while Schumer is betting pressure drives Republicans back to the table, GOP senators say it’s up to Democrats, namely Pelosi, to drop some of her demands before negotiations can be restarted. 

Several GOP senators declared the chance for another deal all but dead until after the election after last week’s setback. And McConnell, speaking in Kentucky, cast doubt on if they would be able to get an agreement. 

“I wish I could tell you we were going to get another package but it doesn’t look that good right now,” McConnell said during an event in Kentucky.

COVID-19 resolution 

The House is slated to vote on a resolution condemning “all forms of anti-Asian sentiment as related to COVID-19.”

The measure — spearheaded by Rep. Grace MengGrace MengSan Francisco considers changing local voting age to 16 House to tackle funding, marijuana in September Bowman holds double-digit lead over Engel in NY primary MORE (D-N.Y.) —  notes that the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stated that linking the name of the virus to the geographic location where it originated perpetuates a stigma. 

Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly slammed the president for referring to coronavirus and the “Chinese virus,” arguing it has led to discrimination against Asian Americans. 

“The increased use of anti-Asian rhetoric, particularly from our nation’s leaders such as the President, and their use of terms like ‘Chinese virus,’ ‘Wuhan virus,’ and ‘Kung-flu,’ is not only irresponsible, reckless, and downright disgusting, it threatens the safety of the Asian American community; such language demeans, disparages, and scapegoats Asian Americans,” Meng said in a statement upon its introduction. 

Trump has defended his use of the term, telling reporters in March that it’s “not racist at all. It comes from China; I want to be accurate.”

Subpoena

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonJohnson asks DOJ watchdog to investigate Mueller team phones over erased information Intel panel rebuffs request to share info for GOP’s Obama-era probes McConnell shores up GOP support for coronavirus package MORE (R-Wis.) is holding a vote on Wednesday on authorizing additional subpoenas for his probes into the Obama administration and the Bidens. 

The votes will authorize Johnson to subpoena several officials including former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeSenate panel to vote next week on authorizing subpoenas for Biden, Obama-era probes Strzok: Trump behaving like an authoritarian DOJ kept investigators from completing probe of Trump ties to Russia: report MORE and Justice Department official Bruce Ohr as part of a broad investigation into the transition period between the Obama and Trump administrations, “unmasking” and the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s 2016 election meddling. 

Johnson would also get authorization to issue subpoenas related to Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings. The gas company is tied up in Johnson’s investigation into the Obama-era State Department and Hunter Biden, the son of 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. 

Johnson would get authorization to issue subpoenas “for the attendance and testimony at a deposition with regard to Burisma Holdings and actual or apparent conflicts of interest with U.S.-Ukraine policy,” according to a copy of the committee notice obtained by The Hill. 

In addition to new subpoenas the committee is also scheduled to hold votes to greenlight several depositions for officials Johnson already got the authority to subpoena in June including Jonathan Winer, a former Obama-era State Department official with ties to the controversial opposition research dossier into then-candidate Trump.  

Anti-discrimination legislation

The House is slated to vote on legislation aimed at protecting pregnant women from discrimination in the workplace. 

The bill – introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump campaign tweet of Biden clip as manipulated media | Democrats demand in-person election security briefings resume | Proposed rules to protect power grid raise concerns Democrats demand Ratcliffe resume in-person congressional election security briefings House to tackle funding, marijuana in September MORE (D-N.Y.), Reps. John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoHillicon Valley: Simulated cyberattack success | New bill for election security funding | Amazon could be liable for defective products Lawmakers introduce bill to help election officials address cyber vulnerabilities Congress must deliver aid and empower localities to continue assisting in COVID-19 response MORE (R- N.Y.), Lucy McBathLucia (Lucy) Kay McBathHouse Democrats’ campaign arm reserves .6M in ads in competitive districts Black Lives Matter movement to play elevated role at convention Republicans uncomfortably playing defense MORE (D-Ga.), Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerGOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler advances in Washington primary House votes to curtail Insurrection Act powers Cook shifts 20 House districts toward Democrats MORE (R-WA), and Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottHouse to tackle funding, marijuana in September Congress is on recess while students struggle with food security Pelosi huddles with chairmen on surprise billing but deal elusive MORE (D-Va.) — is modeled similarly to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

It includes language that would bar employers from denying employment opportunities to pregnant women and ensuring minor job modifications can be made to prevent pregnant employees from being unable to serve in their positions. 

“No woman should have to choose between a healthy pregnancy and a paycheck, especially when often a simple fix – a bottle of water during a shift, an extra bathroom break, a chair – will allow women to stay on the job and support their families throughout their pregnancy,” Nadler said in a statement. 

Diversity bills

The House is also slated to take up two bills aimed at helping promote diversity and prevent discrimination in education. 

The Strength in Diversity Act — introduced by Rep. Marcia FudgeMarcia Louise FudgeHouse to tackle funding, marijuana in September Honoring John Lewis’s voting rights legacy Teacher-centric is good, but student-centric is better MORE (D-Ohio) — would establish a federal grant program to support communities in creating and implementing strategies to promote diversity in schools. 

“The Strength in Diversity Act will help promote the desegregation of, and elimination of racial and socioeconomic isolation in, all of our nation’s schools,” Fudge said in a statement. “The bill enables school districts and communities to invest in inclusive public education by supporting effective solutions enforcing the spirit and letter of the decision in Brown v. Board of Education.”

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyBattle over timing complicates Democratic shutdown strategy Germany says Kremlin critic was poisoned with same nerve agent used in UK attack Democrats seek balance in backing protests, condemning violence MORE (D-Conn.) introduced companion legislation in the upper chamber. 

The Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act, led by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), is also slated to be brought to the floor this week. 

The bill includes language to amend Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to allow for “individual civil actions in cases involving disparate impact.” Proponents of the measure argue it is a necessary step in preventing racial inequalities in the public education system. 

Nominations

The Senate is set to vote on several judicial nominations after last week’s setback on the GOP coronavirus bill. 

They’ll start with a procedural vote on Mark Scarsi’s nomination to a district judge on Monday evening. After they wrap up Scarsi on Tuesday, senators will then hold votes on Stanley Blumenfeld, John Holcomb, Todd Robinson, David Dugan, Stephen McGlynn, Iain Johnston and Franklin Valderrama, who are each nominated to be district judges.  

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