Congress

Road ahead: House to take up Turkey sanctions while Senate turns to appropriations

Election security bill also on House floor amid impeachment inquiry; Cummings’ services Thursday and Friday

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff make their way to the floor Friday for the last House votes of the week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

This week the House will consider a package of sanctions against Turkey and an election security measure, while the Senate will finally bring some fiscal 2020 appropriations bills to the floor.

Meanwhile, the House’s impeachment inquiry marches on, with five witness depositions scheduled for this week. 

Amid all that, many lawmakers are expected to attend a memorial service in Statuary Hall on Thursday for the late Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the House Oversight and Reform chairman who died on Oct. 17. Cummings will lie in state in Statuary Hall that day, with members and family attending the memorial services and then a public viewing.

The following day, many will likely head north to Baltimore for his funeral services — an 8 a.m. viewing and a 10 a.m. service to be held at New Psalmist Baptist Church. No votes are expected in the House either Thursday or Friday.

The Turkey sanctions measure is being brought to the House floor despite last week’s U.S.-Turkey announcement of a 120-hour ceasefire in northern Syria. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the vote in a joint statement last week with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, calling the ceasefire a “sham” and criticizing President Donald Trump for reversing his decision to impose sanctions against Turkey.

“President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan has given up nothing, and President Trump has given him everything,” they said.

The bipartisan sanctions package will “work to reverse the humanitarian disaster that President Trump unleashed in Syria,” Pelosi and Schumer said. “Our servicemembers, our allies and our partners all suffering from the Syrian conflict deserve smart, strong and sane leadership from Washington.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters Friday he does not support Pelosi’s decision to bring the sanctions package to the floor at this time.

“I’d take a pause right now. I would let them do the work. They just came back from a very successful meeting,” McCarthy said, referring to Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to Turkey. “And before we move anything, I think we would have to have a meeting as a whole, to listen to the latest information on the ground.”

The House will also be voting on legislation aimed at limiting foreign interference in U.S. elections. The measure, reported out of the House Administration Committee last week, comes to the floor just a few weeks after a bipartisan report from the Senate Intelligence Committee called on Congress to take action.

The bill, called the Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy, or SHIELD, Act, would require campaigns to report “illicit offers” of election assistance from foreign governments or individuals to both the FBI and the Federal Election Commission. The measure also includes language targeting political advertisements on social media and ensuring that they are subject to the same sponsor disclosure rules as ads on television and radio broadcasts. 

The House will also vote on the Corporate Transparency Act, a bill to require individuals who form corporations or limited liability companies to  disclose the company’s beneficial owners.

Before the House gets to any of those bills, however, there will be a political messaging vote Monday as Republicans plan to offer a privileged motion to censure Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff for his conduct leading the impeachment inquiry. The vote had originally been scheduled for Thursday, but Republicans agreed to delay it after Cummings died that morning.

The House is also expected to vote on a nonbinding resolution opposing Trump’s decision to hold the 2020 G-7 Summit at his Doral, Florida, resort, something critics see as more evidence that the president is violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause.

Senate appropriating?

Nearly three weeks into fiscal 2020, the Senate is finally ready to bring some of its appropriations bills for the year to the floor. The House passed 10 of its 12 fiscal 2020 bills before the August recess.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s strategy is to attempt to move two packages, one containing some of the domestic funding bills with bipartisan support and a defense-related measure that also includes money for opioids treatment and prevention.

To set up the votes, the Kentucky Republican filed cloture last week on motions to proceed to two House-passed spending packages that will serve as shell vehicles for Senate substitutes, the exact contents of which remain to be worked out.

It’s unclear if either Senate package will pass given that the chamber’s Republicans and Democrats have been entangled in disputes over funding levels and whether certain add-on provisions are considered “poison pill” riders.

Prospects for passing the defense package seem especially grim after disagreements over reprogramming authority related to the border wall led to a party-line vote in committee.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats plan to force votes soon to upend two more Trump administration rules, saying in an Oct. 11 memo that the two resolutions introduced under the Congressional Review Act would be on the agenda this month. 

The first is expected to regard limits on state and local tax deductions. The second is on the administration’s rule on short-term insurance plans, which Democrats decry as “junk” insurance. With two weeks remaining in the October session, the Democrats could call up one resolution each week.

Impeachment interviews

The House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees have another full docket of depositions scheduled this week as part of their impeachment inquiry.

First up, on Tuesday, is acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor, who questioned why military aid for Kyiv was held up by the White House.

Two witnesses are scheduled to appear on Wednesday. One is Philip Reeker, acting assistant secretary of European and Eurasian affairs at the State Department, who may have knowledge of the details leading up to the decision to recall Marie Yovanovitch from her post as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. 

The other witness scheduled for Wednesday is Michael Duffey, Office of Management and Budget associate director for national security programs. He could face questions about his knowledge of or his role in approving orders to hold back nearly $400 million in congressionally approved military aid for Ukraine. But its not likely that he'll appear.

OMB acting Director Russell Vought said Monday that he won't be testifying this week as part of the House's impeachment inquiry and that Duffey wouldn't be complying with deposition requests either.

The panels will hear Thursday from Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper, who also may also be able to provide details about the Ukraine aid.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, director of European affairs at the White House National Security Council, is also scheduled for a deposition Thursday. Vindman may be able to shed more light on previous testimony from Fiona Hill, a former NSC adviser on Russia, that staff and career NSC officials were shut out of Ukraine foreign policy decisions.

An official working on the impeachment inquiry said last Friday that the three House committees are in discussions with more potential witnesses to solicit testimony in the coming weeks.

Niels Lesniewski and Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.

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