Although the looming Friday deadline for government funding remains central to congressional discussions this week, both chambers are carrying on with business as usual in their floor action today. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is expected to lay the House Message for conference on the tax reform bill before the Senate, triggering 10 hours of debate. Votes on the motions to instruct conferees and to go to conference with the House are expected during today’s Senate session. Behind the scenes, Republican lawmakers are already starting to negotiate a reconciled version between the chambers’ two bills, with the primary point of contention being over the elimination of the state and local tax (SALT) deduction and any provisions that would soften the impact of that move.
In the House, lawmakers will consider a controversial bill (H.R. 38) that would ease the ability for individuals in certain states to carry concealed weapons by requiring each state recognize concealed carry permits from every other state. The bill has faced sharp opposition from gun control advocates, while proponents of the bill suggest that it would enable responsible gun owners to respond to shooting incidents. Predictably, support for the measure has split along party lines and it was advanced after a contentious markup on a 19-11 party-line vote last week.
President Trump will make a major foreign policy speech today, where he is expected to announce that the U.S. intends to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and will aim to move the American embassy there. For all intents and purposes, Jerusalem is currently divided between the Israeli western side and the Palestinian eastern side, which has led the international community to house their Israeli embassies in Tel Aviv in order to avoid antagonizing those opposed to Israeli control of the city. Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the U.S. embassy has long been considered by pro-Israel advocates, but previous presidents have avoided the move over fears that it could spark violent protests in the Middle East and undermine the fragile peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.