This Week on the Hill: House Returns Tomorrow to Criminal Justice Bills; Senate to Confirm Agency Posts

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 will start the week by considering two sub-Cabinet level nominations, namely 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 this evening. Floor action for the remainder of the week has yet to be announced, but the upper chamber is likely to continue taking up pending nominations that are currently on the chamber’s Executive Calendar, most notably including former Iowa governor Terry Branstad’s nomination to serve as U.S. Ambassador to China.

Lawmakers are also still grappling with the headlines created by President Trump’s dismissal of Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey last week. Democrats are threatening to block any nominee to take Comey’s place until an independent investigator is appointed to take over the agency’s Russia probe, but Republicans have been reluctant to take that step. President Trump has reportedly started interviewing candidates for Comey’s successor, and a formal nomination could come this week, setting up what is sure to be an extraordinary confirmation hearing.

Aside from floor action, many Senate committees have hearings scheduled this week to consider several of President Trump’s nominations to sub-Cabinet level posts throughout the government. The House Ways and Means Committee has a hearing scheduled on Thursday for its first session on a possible tax reform package that Republicans are hoping will be their next major legislative effort following the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Thursday’s hearing will be the first time congressional Republicans offer detailed thoughts on the plan put forward by the White House – calling for a drastic reduction in corporate and individual tax rates – last month.