Both the House and the Senate will return Monday and stay in session through Thursday.
LAST WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The House came back to work last Tuesday, and passed two bills under Suspension of the Rules.
On Wednesday, the House passed two bills – H.R. 4061, the Financial Stability Oversight Council Improvement Act, by a vote of 297-121; and H.R. 4293, the Stress Test Improvement Act, by a vote of 245-174.
On Thursday, the House took up H.J.Res. 2, proposing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. It failed, by a vote of 233-184 – remember, constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority to pass. The six Republicans who voted “no” were Justin Amash, Andy Biggs, Carlos Curbelo, Louis Gohmert, Paul Gosar, and Thomas Massie.
On Friday, the House passed H.R. 4790, the Volcker Rule Regulatory Harmonization Act, by a vote of 300-104.
And then they were done.
THIS WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The House will meet for its first votes on Monday at 6:30 PM. At that time, the House is scheduled to consider six bills under Suspension of the Rules.
On Tuesday, they’re scheduled to consider another ten bills under Suspension of the Rules. Then the House will consider H.R. 5192, the Protecting Children from Identity Theft Act.
On Wednesday and Thursday, they’ll consider H.R. 5444, the Taxpayer First Act, and H.R. 5445, the 21st Century IRS Act.
The last vote of the week will be held no later than 3 PM on Thursday.
LAST WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate came back to work last Monday and voted to invoke cloture on the nomination of Claria Bloom to be U.S. District Judge for the Eastern and Western Districts of Kentucky. On Tuesday, the Senate voted by 96-1 to confirm her to that position.
Later Tuesday, the Senate voted to invoke cloture on the nomination of John Ring to be a member of the National Labor Relations Board. On Wednesday, the Senate voted to confirm him to that position, by a vote of 50-48.
Later Wednesday, the Senate voted to invoke cloture on the nomination of Patrick Pizzella to be Deputy Secretary of Labor. On Thursday, the Senate voted by 50-48 to confirm him to that position.
Later Thursday, the Senate voted to invoke cloture on the nomination of Andrew Wheeler to be Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Later that day, the Senate voted to confirm him to that position, by a vote of 74-24.
Then the Senate voted to invoke cloture on the nomination of John Broomes to be U.S. District Judge for the District of Kansas. And then later Thursday, the Senate voted to invoke cloture on the nomination of Rebecca Grady Jennings to be U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Kentucky. And then, even later Thursday, the Senate confirmed both of them to their positions by voice vote.
And then they were done.
THIS WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate will come back to work Monday, and will hold a roll call vote at 5:30 PM on the motion to invoke cloture on the motion to concur in the House amendment to S. 140, Tribal Labor Sovereignty.
I expect the rest of the week will be filled with more votes on confirmations.
THE COMEY BOOK:
Former FBI Director James Comey’s book comes out on Tuesday, and he’s been sitting for interviews for the last several days and will be for the next several weeks.
So far, I think two interesting things have come out of his press tour:
First, Comey acknowledged in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that aired last night that when he first informed President-elect Trump as to the existence of the allegations that have come to be known as the “Steele Dossier,” he failed to disclose to the President-elect that the so-called investigative file was actually opposition research paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Even Stephanopoulos seems to think Comey should have disclosed that salient fact. It’s quite possible, if not likely, that Trump’s reaction to certain allegations might have been very different if he had believed them to be the product of his opponent’s opposition research, rather than an investigative file the FBI deemed credible enough to tell the president-elect about it.
Second, Comey also acknowledged that he made the decision to inform Congress of his decision to reopen the Clinton email investigation because he believed she was going to win the presidency, and he feared her presidency would be tainted if it came out later that he had reopened the investigation but had withheld that information prior to the election. In other words, he’s now acknowledging that he allowed political considerations to influence his treatment of Hillary Clinton – he treated Hillary Clinton differently than he would have treated Hillary Smith, if Ms. Smith had been under investigation for the same offenses.
On Friday, Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz released his report on the allegations against former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. The report says that McCabe authorized the release of information to a reporter when he shouldn’t have, and then lied about it on no fewer than four occasions – three times under oath, to investigators, and once to his boss, FBI Director James Comey. I’ve included a link to the report itself in the Suggested Reading.
Last Wednesday morning, Speaker Paul Ryan announced that this would be his last term in Congress. He refused to give up the job early, though, and pushed back hard against those who said he should vacate the position now. His argument? Not any legislative work he had yet to accomplish. Instead, he focused on his fundraising successes and argued it would be stupid to take House Republicans’ best fundraiser off the field before the crucial midterm elections.
Attention immediately shifted to speculation about his successor. The Number Two Man in the House GOP leadership, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, is the clear front-runner. For 24 hours after Ryan’s announcement, Number Three Man Steve Scalise – the Majority Whip – held to an odd locution, where he said he would not run against McCarthy, but he went to great lengths to avoid formally endorsing him. Apparently, Scalise remembers McCarthy’s aborted run for the Speakership in the fall of 2015, when John Boehner vacated the job and McCarthy attempted a run but couldn’t put together 218 votes. Scalise clearly was banking on McCarthy having the same problem this time around, and, while he said he wouldn’t challenge McCarthy for the job, he also didn’t want to rule out the possibility of taking the Speakership if McCarthy couldn’t get to 218 again.
But that ended Friday, when Speaker Ryan said in an interview that the entire leadership team was on the same page, backing McCarthy. Scalise, in fact, was NOT on the same page, but by the end of the day, he had had his office issue a statement saying that when McCarthy officially announced a campaign for Speaker, Scalise would back him.
Something else happened Friday – House Freedom Caucus founder and former chairman Jim Jordan revealed that he was contemplating his own run for Speaker. It’s doubtful he could win the 218 votes necessary to rise to the Speakership, but his potential candidacy may be more about winning promises from McCarthy than it is about winning the Speakership.
Members of the House Freedom Caucus are, for the most part, kept off the key committees. They could bargain for committee assignments, or committee chairmanships – Jordan has the seniority necessary to serve as chairman of Oversight and Government Reform, for instance. Or they could demand more fund-raising and campaign assistance from the National Republican Congressional Committee, or even bargain for seats on the Republican Steering Committee, the ultimate “Insiders Committee” that recommends members for committee openings and committee chairmanships.
At this point, there are two things to keep in mind:
First, the timing of the leadership election may affect its outcome, and will certainly affect its conduct. The sooner this election takes place, the better it is for McCarthy – his opponents would have less time to grow their ranks and coordinate their strategy.
Second, it makes a big difference whether this is an election for Speaker, or for Minority Leader. If it’s a race for Speaker – that is, if it takes place after the November elections, and Republicans have held their majority in the House – then the House Freedom Caucus would have a great deal of leverage, because they control at least enough votes to deny anyone the Speakership if the GOP is in the majority. That makes them a force to be reckoned with. But if the race is a race for Minority Leader, the influence of the Freedom Caucus is greatly reduced, because then all that’s necessary to win is to gain the votes of a majority of the House GOP Conference, and the House Freedom Caucus does not have enough votes to guarantee it can block someone from winning a majority of the House Republican Conference.
JENNY BETH MARTIN/TEA PARTY PATRIOTS: