The House returns to session after the long August recess this week with government funding and a potential impeachment inquiry top of mind — two matters that are expected to dominate the lower chamber throughout September.
On government funding, leaders are aiming to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government’s lights on beyond Sept. 30, but the particulars of a stopgap bill remain unknown. Congress has roughly three weeks to come to a consensus before the end-of-the-month shutdown deadline.
As lawmakers mull a continuing resolution, both chambers this week will move ahead with the formal appropriations process. The House is slated to take up a bill to fund the Department of Defense, and the Senate is scheduled to consider a “minibus” that contains three appropriations bills.
Aside from government funding, conversations in the House this week will also be focused on a potential impeachment inquiry into President Biden. Conservatives are pushing for an inquiry and Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has suggested that a vote could take place this fall, but some moderates are voicing concerns with going down that path.
And in the Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is hosting a forum on artificial intelligence that will feature Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, X owner Elon Musk and Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google parent company Alphabet, among others.
Congress looks toward continuing resolution as shutdown deadline approaches
A main focus on Capitol Hill this week will be crafting a continuing resolution to avoid a shutdown and keep the government open past Sept. 30.
Leaders of both parties and chambers have said Congress will have to pass a short-term stopgap bill before the end of the month, but the specifics of such a measure remain in question as conservatives in the House lay out demands on spending levels and policy provisions for the stopgap.
The House Freedom Caucus last month said it will not support a continuing resolution unless it addresses the situation at the southern border, “weaponization” at the Department of Justice and “woke policies” at the Pentagon.
The Republican Study Committee, which includes 175 members, said it wanted to make sure a continuing resolution included “high priority conservative policies” and funded the government at levels in line with the Limit, Save, Grow Act — spending cuts and policy reform legislation House Republicans passed over the summer amid the debt limit showdown.
And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has said she will not vote to fund the government unless the House begins an impeachment inquiry into President Biden.
Questions are also looming about the length of a continuing resolution. McCarthy has said he does not want a stopgap bill that pushes up against the holidays, but has not yet indicated how long the measure would keep the government funded for.
Asked last month about the length of a continuing resolution, McCarthy told Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures” in an interview “I want to make sure we’re able to set this where it’s not by a holiday, that it’s just enough time that, if we can do more of our work now, that we could be in conference with the Senate.”
And there is the question of whether or not the continuing resolution will include any funding from the $40 billion supplemental the White House unveiled last month. The supplemental includes disaster funding and $24 billion to support Ukraine — a provision that is a point of controversy in the House GOP conference as some Republicans look to cut off aid to Kyiv.
Senate leaders from both parties want to pass the full supplemental this month, but McCarthy is reportedly looking at potentially breaking it up. Punchbowl News and Bloomberg reported last week that McCarthy is considering attaching the disaster funding to a continuing resolution, then pairing the Ukraine money with border policies in a separate package.
It remains unclear, however, if hardline conservatives will accept that game plan.
Schumer, for his part, is urging bipartisanship as Congress works to keep the lights on in Washington beyond Sept. 30.
“When the House gavels back into session next week, time will be short for both parties in both chambers to unite around a plan to keep the government open beyond Sept. 30th. There’s only one way, one way, that this will happen: through bipartisanship. Neither party can afford to go at it alone if we want to avoid a shutdown,” Schumer said on the Senate floor last week.
House, Senate to consider appropriations bills
The House and Senate are slated to consider appropriations bills this week as both chambers continue the formal appropriations process with the goal of passing all 12 measures by the end of the year.
Both chambers, however, marked their legislation up at different levels, setting the scene for a House vs. Senate clash later in the year. The Senate marked up its legislation at spending levels in line with the debt limit deal President Biden and McCarthy struck earlier in the year, but the House — amid pressure from the right flank — went ahead with levels far lower.
In the House, lawmakers are scheduled to consider a measure to fund the Department of Defense. If passed, it will be the second appropriations bill the House has cleared. The chamber approved one measure before breaking for recess, but GOP leadership had to punt a vote on another bill amid internal disagreements over spending levels and a provision pertaining to an abortion pill.
Some conservatives, however, have signaled that they will not support any appropriations bills unless they review the total spending across all 12 measures — a request they have been making for months.
On the other side of the Capitol, senators this week will begin consideration of a “minibus” that includes legislation to fund Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies; Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies; and Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies.
Schumer said he plans to hold the first vote on the package early this week. Full consideration of the minibus, however, is expected to take at least two weeks of floor time.
The clock is ticking for the formal appropriations process: if lawmakers do not pass all 12 bills by Jan. 1, a one percent cut will be enacted across the board.
House returns amid pressure to open impeachment inquiry
Attention this week will be focused on McCarthy and his comments on a potential impeachment inquiry into Biden.
Over August recess, McCarthy told Fox Business the House could “move forward with impeachment inquiry when we come back into session” — which is this week. In a subsequent interview, he said an impeachment inquiry would be a “natural step forward.”
But a handful of moderates have expressed hesitation about opening an impeachment inquiry, sparking questions about whether or not the House will go down that path. House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.), for his part, recently said that the votes are there to launch an inquiry.
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), who considers herself a centrist, spoke about the difficult spot a vote on an impeachment inquiry could put moderates in.
“An impeachment inquiry does put at risk certain seats in certain states, especially where they are swing districts,” Mace told Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures” in an interview. “We are making our members who are in those districts walk the plank if we force them down an impeachment vote, which is why I have been saying, no matter what the evidence shows, show all of it.”
Conservatives, on the other hand, have been pushing for the House to go down the path of an impeachment inquiry — and some appear to be getting antsy.
Last week, for example, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) floated the idea of forcing votes on impeachment. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) forced a vote on a resolution to impeach Biden in June, but the House voted to refer the measure to a pair of committees — which avoided a vote on impeaching the president.
Adding to the pressure, Gaetz said that if McCarthy “stands in our way” on impeachment “he may not have the job long.”
Senate to hold AI forum featuring top executives
Schumer on Wednesday will hold his first “Insight Forum” about artificial intelligence, a gathering he dubbed “one of the most important conversations of the year.”
The forum comes as lawmakers look into regulation of artificial intelligence, particularly after OpenAI’s ChatGPT tool became increasingly popular.
Confirmed guests of Wednesday’s forum include Zuckerberg, Musk, Pichai, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
Schumer last week said the gathering will provide “a much-needed conversation” about artificial intelligence.
“It will be a meeting unlike any other that we have seen in the Senate in a very long time, perhaps ever: a coming together of top voices in business, civil rights, defense, research, labor, the arts, all together, in one room, having a much-needed conversation about how Congress can tackle AI,” Schumer said on the Senate floor last week.
“Both parties recognize that AI is something we can’t ignore, but we need a lot of help understanding the best way forward,” he added.
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