Congress

Road Ahead: Budget week, sending a Mueller message, Senate vote on termination resolution

Committees will be particularly busy ahead of St. Patrick's Day recess.

House Democrats want the report of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to be released to Congress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats intend to send a message this week that the full report of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III should be sent to Capitol Hill and released.

So for the second week in a row, a nonbinding resolution will be among the headliners on the House floor. The Rules Committee is scheduled to meet Monday evening on the concurrent resolution introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York, with the backing of other Democratic chairmen.

The Nadler resolution “calls for the public release of any report special counsel Mueller provides to the attorney general, except to the extent the public disclosure of any portion thereof is expressly prohibited by law.”

Unlike former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, William P. Barr, his replacement, is not recused from the Mueller probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential ties to the campaign of President Donald Trump, so it will ultimately be Barr’s call what to release.

The resolution would also express the sense of Congress that the entire report should be transmitted to members of Congress.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, left last week still talking about whether they would try to amend a House-passed resolution to terminate Trump’s declaration of a border security national emergency.

They will need to decide soon. Floor votes on the termination are expected before the Senate leaves at the end of the week for a St. Patrick’s Day recess.

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The immediate Senate floor business for the week is once again confirmation of Trump nominations to federal appeals courts. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has moved to limit debate on the nominations of Paul B. Matey to the 3rd Circuit and Neomi Rao to the D.C. Circuit.

Rao’s nomination has been particularly contentious even by recent standards. She clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas and is administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, an office that has played a key role in the Trump administration’s regulatory rollback; unsurprisingly, she is a favorite of conservatives.

If confirmed, she would step into Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s old job. The D.C. appeals court hears many cases related to federal regulations.

Ahead of Judiciary Committee consideration, Sen. Josh Hawley had asked questions about Rao’s positions on abortion policy, though the Missouri Republican ultimately voted to advance her to the floor.

Hawley’s initial reluctance led to a full-court press from supporters of the Trump judicial agenda, including the Judicial Crisis Network.

Rao has also faced criticism over past writings on sexual assault, and following her confirmation hearing, she wrote to the leaders of the Judiciary Committee to expand on and clarify her current viewpoints.

“Sexual assault in all forms, including date rape, is abhorrent. Responsibility for the rape is with the rapist,” she wrote in the Feb. 11 letter. “I believed that as a college student and continue to believe that today.”

Elsewhere on the judicial nominations front, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham on Friday announced the schedule for a Wednesday hearing on two of Trump’s nominees to the 9th Circuit, keeping up the steady flow of nominees moving through the committee process and for McConnell to schedule on the floor.

With the president’s budget scheduled to be circulated on Capitol Hill, Cabinet secretaries and other senior Trump administration officials will be making the rounds at committee hearings throughout the week.

Russell Vought, who is acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, will be in the hot seat at the House Budget Committee on Tuesday and the Senate panel Wednesday afternoon.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will be at both the Finance Committee and the Ways and Means Committee on Thursday.

Also on the Hill, House Democrats on Tuesday are expected to reintroduce the Dream Act with new language providing protections for Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure recipients. 

California Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard will reintroduce the measure — which provides permanent legal protections and a path to citizenship for so-called Dreamers, undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children — as the Dream and Promise Act of 2019, according to her office. 

And the House effort to honor Sunshine Week goes well beyond Mueller’s report. The chamber will be considering a number of other government transparency measures, including several targeting Russia.

One bipartisan bill, the so-called Vladimir Putin Transparency Act, would require the director of national intelligence to report back to Congress on the wealth of the Russian president and members of his family.

“It is the sense of Congress that the United States should do more to expose the corruption of Vladimir Putin, whose ill-gotten wealth is perhaps the most powerful global symbol of his dishonesty and his persistent efforts to undermine the rule of law and democracy in the Russian Federation,” the amended bill says.

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.