Floor action will be relatively limited today as House lawmakers reconvene following last week’s in-district work period and the Senate moves through consideration of a sub-Cabinet nomination to the Department of Transportation (DOT). A final up-or-down vote is expected on Jeffrey Rosen’s nomination to be Deputy Secretary of Transportation after cloture was invoked yesterday by a 52-42 vote. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has also filed cloture on the next nomination in the Senate’s pipeline, namely former Iowa governor Terry Branstad for Ambassador to China.
The Week in Review
With the House in a week-long district work period, floor action was overshadowed by the shock announcement on Tuesday night that President Trump fired Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey. The news set off a firestorm in Washington as lawmakers from both parties were concerned over the timing and reasoning of the firing, and whether it would impact the ongoing investigation of ties between Russia and the Trump Administration. However, most Republicans rejected calls for a special prosecutor, and beyond headlines, it is unclear whether Comey’s dismissal will have any tangible impact on Capitol Hill.
Congress returns to full strength this week as the House will reconvene tomorrow following its brief in-district work period last week. In recognition of National Police Week, the House’s docket features a series of bills on criminal justice, including two measures scheduled to be considered pursuant to a rule later this week. One of those measures (H.R. 1039) would allow probation officers to arrest individuals without a warrant if there is probable cause to believe that the individual forcibly assaulted or obstructed a probation officer in the performance of their duties. The other bill (H.R. 115) to hit the House floor would expand federal statute on death penalty determinations to include the killing or attempted killing of law enforcement and public safety officers. Both measures passed with some bipartisan support out of the House Judiciary Committee last month.
The Senate completed its legislative business for the week yesterday by approving Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer by a wide bipartisan margin. Next week, the upper chamber has two sub-Cabinet level nominations to consider, Jeffrey Rosen to be Deputy Secretary of Transportation and Rachel Bland to be Associate Attorney General. Roll call votes on those nominations could come as early as Monday evening.
The fallout from President Trump’s firing of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey has yet to settle as further details continue to emerge about the reasoning behind President Trump’s decision to dismiss the longtime prosecutor. Multiple media outlets have reported that Comey had requested additional resources for the Bureau’s Russia probe shortly before his dismissal and that the President was upset with the conduct of that investigation. While many Republicans have offered concerns on the timing and reasoning behind the firing, most have backed President Trump and rejected calls for additional steps, such as the appointment of an independent prosecutor or commission.
President Trump fired Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey last night, setting off a firestorm in Washington amid suggestions that the President dismissed Comey over his role in investigating the White House’s ties to Russia and the country’s interference in the 2016 election. The FBI post is generally considered non-partisan, with the only previous firing occurring in 1993, when then President Bill Clinton ousted William Sessions as Director after he refused to step down over alleged ethical violations. In his written notice to Comey, President Trump cited letters from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that outlined various grievances against the FBI Director, most notably his decision to publicly reveal elements of the Bureau’s investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s email server and treatment of classified material. However, both the President and Attorney General have previously offered support for Comey’s decision to go public, and his actions are generally viewed as having benefitted the Trump campaign. Deputy Director Andrew McCabe will act as Acting Director of the Bureau until a replacement is named and confirmed by the Senate.
The comedian Jerry Seinfeld has a bit about how our allegiances to our local sports teams is nothing more than rooting for laundry, and the same might be said for our politics as well. This past week, President Donald Trump and the House Republican conference was able to cobble together a 217-213 win on their collective efforts to repeal Obamacare, however in doing so, was forced to utilize many of the same techniques that voters cite when criticizing Washington, DC, and which Republicans regularly repudiated when they were in the minority. Perhaps, as Seinfeld wryly noted, we are not in love with the players – just the uniforms they wear.
The Senate is set to finish consideration of Scott Gottlieb to be Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after a successful cloture vote yesterday on a margin of 57-41. Gottlieb, a physician and former venture capitalist, was briefly the deputy commissioner of the FDA during the George W. Bush Administration and has also served as a senior adviser to the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). However, his record of public service is relatively short and Democrats have taken issue with his ties to pharmaceutical companies. Nevertheless, unanimous support from Republicans and the approval of some moderate Democrats means that his final confirmation vote will undoubtedly be successful.
After one of the busiest periods in the 115th Congress last week, this week features less dramatic legislative work as the Senate works to confirm additional presidential nominees and consider the last congressional disapprovals of administrative rules advanced by the Obama Administration. The House is away from Washington for a weeklong in-district work period.