South Korean officials issued a shock announcement last night that President Trump has accepted an invitation to a personal meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The meeting — which was confirmed by President Trump on Twitter — would be the first time a sitting American president has ever negotiated directly with the leadership of the so-called hermit kingdom. Most analysts believe that North Korea is on the verge of becoming a full-fledged nuclear power with the capability of launching inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) at the United States, which may have precipitated the White House accepting the surprising invitation. However, other observers fear that the meeting will not result in any serious effort towards denuclearization and that North Korea is again floating an agreement with the West in order to gain additional time, concessions, and legitimacy. A date and details for the meeting have not yet been set, although the South Korean announcement suggests it will occur by May of this year.
Lawmakers have recessed for the week, but both chambers have a full legislative docket ahead next week. The Senate is looking at another full week of debate and votes on a bipartisan banking regulatory relief package (S. 2155) that was initially introduced on Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has filed cloture for the bill’s substitute amendment — which was introduced Wednesday detailing changes aimed at gaining the support of House Republicans — and a vote is expected at 5:30 p.m. on Monday. Senate negotiators will continue their work over the weekend considering further amendments that may be inserted into the final package, but there is no agreement yet on which, if any, will ultimately be included.
Floor action in the lower chamber next week could include a vote on the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill, as House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has indicated that he would like to bring up the bill ahead of the Mar. 23 deadline. While Republicans are optimistic that the spending bill can pass by the end of next week, Democrats remain skeptical over provisions related to funding for Planned Parenthood and family planning programs. As behind-the-scenes omnibus negotiations continue, the House is also slated to consider five bills in the financial services realm. This includes a bill (H.R. 4601) that seeks to improve the transparency of the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) and improve the Systemically Important Financial Institution (SIFI) designation process.
Next week also features a highly-anticipated special election on Tuesday in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional district. Recent polling shows that Democratic Candidate Conor Lamb, a former Marine veteran and attorney, has narrowed the gap considerably against his Republican opponent Rick Saccone — a Representative in the Pennsylvania State House. A Lamb victory would score a huge upset win for Democrats in a district that President Trump won by 20 points. Both parties view the special election as a chance to show momentum ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.