Legislators are returning to Capitol Hill to attempt to avert a government shutdown, while House Republicans consider whether to move forward with an impeachment investigation of President Joe Biden.
A short-term financing measure to keep government offices fully operational, emergency funding for Ukraine, federal disaster funds, and a Republican-led investigation into Hunter Biden’s international business dealings will dominate the September agenda.
Congress is running out of time to act. Before the government’s fiscal year concludes on September 30, the House is scheduled to meet for only 11 days, leaving little space for maneuver. And the negotiations will continue while two prominent Republicans, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell and Louisiana Representative Steve Scalise, grapple with health issues.
The president and congressional leaders, including Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, are focusing on the passage of a months-long financing measure, known as a continuing resolution, to keep government offices operational while legislators negotiate a budget. It’s a step Congress routinely takes to avoid stoppages, but McCarthy faces resistance from within his own Republican ranks, including from some hardline conservatives who explicitly embrace the notion of a government shutdown.
Last week, McConnell said at an event in Kentucky, “It’s a pretty big mess.”
As legislators return from the August recess, the following are the most pressing concerns:
KEEPING THE GOVERNMENT OPEN
When Biden and McCarthy reached an agreement in June to suspend the nation’s debt ceiling, it included provisions for overall expenditure levels. However, under pressure from the House Freedom Caucus, Republicans in the House have advanced spending measures that reduce expenditure below the agreement.
Additionally, Republicans have attempted to cram their spending bills with conservative policy victories. For instance, House Republicans added provisions prohibiting abortion coverage, transgender care, and diversity initiatives to a traditionally bipartisan defense package in July, transforming it into a fiercely contested measure.
However, Democrats control the Senate and will deny the vast majority of conservative proposals. In an effort to avoid unrelated policy disputes, senators are constructing their funding measures in a bipartisan manner.
Legislative leaders in both chambers are currently pursuing an interim funding measure, a typical tactic to buy them time to negotiate a long-term agreement.
The Freedom Caucus of the House has already published a list of demands for the continuing resolution. However, they amount to a wish list from the right that would never pass the Senate.
McCarthy will almost surely need significant Democratic support to pass a funding measure due to opposition from conservatives; however, such an approach risks a new round of conflict with the same conservatives who previously threatened to oust him from the speakership.
Democrats are already preparing to blame House Republicans.
“The last thing the American people deserve is for extreme House members to trigger a government shutdown that hurts our economy, undermines our disaster preparedness, and forces our troops to work without guaranteed pay,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote in a letter to his colleagues on Friday that when the Senate returns on Tuesday, the focus will be on “funding the government and preventing House Republican extremists from forcing a government shutdown.”
McCarthy is now frantic for votes to maintain government operations and avert political fallout. McCarthy has argued, in an effort to convince Republicans to accept a temporary fix, that a government closure would also suspend Republican investigations into the Biden administration.
The speaker said last week on Fox News, “If we shut down, the entire government shuts down — investigations and everything else — it hurts the American people.”
Since gaining the majority in the House, Republicans have launched a series of investigations into the Biden administration in an effort to impeach the president or members of his Cabinet. They have now zeroed in on Hunter Biden, the president’s son, and his international business dealings, including those with Ukrainian gas company Burisma.
The investigations have not yielded evidence that President Biden took official action on behalf of his son or business associates, but McCarthy has referred to impeachment as a “natural step forward” for the investigations.
An impeachment investigation by the House would be the first stage in introducing impeachment articles. It is currently unclear what this may entail, particularly given that the speaker does not appear to have the votes necessary to support an impeachment investigation. To date, moderate Republicans have opposed sending the House on a full-scale impeachment investigation.
But Donald Trump, who is once again running against Biden, is pressuring them to move swiftly.
Trump stated during an interview with Real America’s Voice, “I don’t know how a Republican could not do it.” I believe a Republican would face a primary and lose immediately, regardless of the district.
Ukraine and Disaster Relief Finance
The White House has requested more than $40 billion in emergency funding, which includes $13 billion in military aid for Ukraine, $8 billion in humanitarian assistance for the country, and $12 billion to replenish federal disaster relief funds in the United States.
Kyiv is launching a counteroffensive against the Russian invasion when it requests the enormous infusion of funds. However, Republican support for Ukraine is waning, particularly in light of Trump’s repeated war skepticism.
Nearly 70 Republicans voted for an abortive effort to discontinue military aid to Ukraine in July, though strong support for the war effort remains among many members.
In addition, it is unclear whether the White House’s supplemental request for U.S. disaster funding, which includes funds to bolster enforcement and reduce drug trafficking at the southern U.S. border, will be attached to Ukraine funding or a continuing budget resolution. The House has broad support for disaster funding, but it could be derailed if combined with other funding proposals.
The Senate is anticipated to devote the majority of September to funding the government and confirming Biden’s nominees, delaying the passage of significant policy legislation. In a letter to his colleagues, Schumer enumerated his priorities for the remaining months of the year.
Schumer stated that the Senate would work on legislation to reduce drug prices, improve rail safety, and provide disaster relief following the flooding in Vermont, the fires in Hawaii, and the hurricane in Florida.
Senators will also continue to examine whether legislation is needed to address artificial intelligence. Schumer has convened what he refers to as a “AI insight forum” on September 13 in the Senate with tech industry executives, including Mark Zuckerberg of Meta, Elon Musk, CEO of X and Tesla, and former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates.
Next week, Senate Republicans will return to queries regarding the health of their leader, McConnell.
Since falling and suffering a concussion in March, McConnell, 81, has froze up twice during news conferences in the last two months, raising concerns about his capacity to continue as the top Senate Republican. During the event in Kentucky last week, he remained mute for approximately 30 seconds while responding to a reporter’s query.
Dr. Brian Monahan, the attending physician at the Capitol, declared McConnell fit to work on Thursday. The question of whether or not McConnell, the longest-serving party leader in Senate history, can continue as Republican leader has prompted intense speculation regarding his eventual successor.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-California) health has visibly deteriorated in recent months since she was hospitalized for shingles earlier this year. In August, she fell at her residence in San Francisco and visited the hospital for diagnostics.
Rep. Steve Scalise, the second-ranking Republican in the House, disclosed last week that he is undergoing treatment for multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer.
Scalise, age 57, stated that he will continue to serve and that the illness is “very treatable.”
Source: ABC News