The decision by House Democrats to move forward with an impeachment inquiry against President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE in the wake of a whistleblower complaint is threatening to derail a packed fall agenda.
Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names Black lawmakers unveil bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol Pelosi: Georgia primary ‘disgrace’ could preview an election debacle in November MORE’s (D-Calif.) move on Tuesday to formally begin an inquiry came after a frenzy on Capitol Hill, where a whistleblower complaint reportedly linked to President Trump’s actions quickly overshadowed high-profile legislative battles.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyHouse pushes back schedule to pass spending bills Top Republican says Trump greenlit budget fix for VA health care GOP senators not tested for coronavirus before lunch with Trump MORE (R-Ala.), who was a member of the upper chamber during the then-President Clinton impeachment trials, warned that an impeachment inquiry would become the “order of the day,” likely having a trickle-down effect on a long to-do list awaiting Congress before the end of the year.
“It could. Everything. If they were to go down that road, it would sure take priority,” Shelby said, asked if an impeachment inquiry would grind the legislative agenda to a halt. “If they were to go down that road, it would be the order of the day.”
Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate headed for late night vote amid standoff over lands bill Koch-backed group launches ad campaign to support four vulnerable GOP senators Tim Scott to introduce GOP police reform bill next week MORE (Texas), a member of the GOP leadership, warned that the impeachment inquiry would “suck all the oxygen out of this place.”
“It’s clear to me that the Democrats’ disdain for the president exceeds their desire to do things like prescription drugs … or a highway bill or pass trade agreements like the [United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement]. This is going to make it almost impossible for us to do those things,” Cornyn added.
Congress is set to leave town for a two-week recess on Thursday. When they return they’ll face a Nov. 21 deadline to fund the government — an uphill fight given that the Senate hasn’t yet passed a single fiscal 2020 spending bill.
They also have a looming end-of-the-year fight on surveillance reforms, as well as negotiations over potential prescription drug legislation, and Republicans are growing increasingly antsy about the chances of passing Trump’s trade deal with Mexico and Canada.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote GOP senator to try to reverse requirement that Pentagon remove Confederate names from bases No, ‘blue states’ do not bail out ‘red states’ MORE (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerOvernight Health Care: US showing signs of retreat in battle against COVID-19 | Regeneron begins clinical trials of potential coronavirus antibody treatment | CMS warns nursing homes against seizing residents’ stimulus checks Schumer requests briefing with White House coronavirus task force as cases rise Schumer on Trump’s tweet about 75-year-old protester: He ‘should go back to hiding in the bunker’ MORE (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday faced multiple impeachment-related questions during their respective weekly press conferences — even before Pelosi formally announced the impeachment inquiry.
McConnell tried to shut down a question about what the Senate would do if the House sends over articles of impeachment, calling it “quite premature.”
“Wait a minute. What we have here is an allegation related to Ukrainian aid by a whistleblower. That’s about all we know now. … I’m not going to address all of these various hypotheticals that have been aired,” he said.
But previewing the likely months-long fight that will loom over any legislation, the president on Tuesday fired off a string of tweets targeting House Democrats.
“They never even saw the transcript of the call. A total Witch Hunt!” Trump wrote. “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!”
The decision to move forward with an impeachment inquiry against Trump comes amid reports that the president and his personal lawyer Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiSunday shows preview: Protests against George Floyd’s death, police brutality rock the nation for a second week Piers Morgan, Rudy Giuliani in furious debate over Trump: ‘You sound completely barking mad’ Rudy Giuliani calls on Cuomo to remove Bill de Blasio MORE pressured Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Trump finalizing executive order calling on police to use ‘force with compassion’ The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook MORE and his son Hunter Biden.
Trump indicated over the weekend that he had brought up Biden during the call, but has denied allegations that he threatened to withhold aid to Ukraine unless they investigated the issue.
Trump on Tuesday agreed to release the transcript of his call, something congressional Republicans had urged him to do. But that did not slow momentum for impeachment that had been building for days.
The days-long swirl over the whistleblower complaint has already claimed one legislative agenda item. Senators involved with negotiating a potential deal on background checks for gun sales with the Trump administration say they’ve largely gotten radio silence from the White House since last week.
“Unsurprisingly, we haven’t heard anything from the White House since Wednesday night. I think they’ve been consumed by this crisis over the weekend, so it would not be shocking to me if we didn’t hear anything on any other issue besides this one,” said Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyState, city education officials press Congress for more COVID-19 funds The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump takes victory lap in morning news conference Pelosi demands Trump clarify deployment of unidentified law enforcement in DC MORE (D-Conn.).
When a reporter noted that Congress is about to leave for two weeks, he added, “I think some other issues have gotten in the way of our background checks negotiations. … My feeling is they don’t have a lot of room to move legislative business this week.”
Murphy and Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump administration seeks to use global aid for nuclear projects Shelley Moore Capito wins Senate primary West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice wins GOP gubernatorial primary MORE (D-W.Va.) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyGOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy NSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general MORE (R-Pa.) have been locked in talks for weeks with the White House to try to get an agreement in the wake of a recent spate of mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso and Odessa, Texas.
Attorney General William BarrBill BarrMilley discussed resigning from post after Trump photo-op: report OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Joint Chiefs chairman says he regrets participating in Trump photo-op | GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op | Senate panel approves 0B defense policy bill Trump finalizing executive order calling on police to use ‘force with compassion’ MORE met with Republicans about a potential proposal to expand background checks last week, and also huddled with Murphy, Manchin and Toomey last week.
White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland, who was at the Senate GOP lunch on Tuesday, said talks were ongoing with lawmakers, but said they didn’t view the two-week recess as a make-or-break deadline for the chances of getting a deal.
“We continue to be engaged with the Hill. We’re still working to try to explore if there are paths forward,” Ueland told reporters. “It’s not so much a question of whether or not they’re physically here.”
Manchin said on Tuesday he had not heard from the White House since last week.
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Asked how the whistleblower scandal was impacting gun negotiations, Manchin responded, “Things have been kind of quiet.”