Last week’s shooting at a congressional baseball practice brought a rare reprieve from Washington’s toxic political climate. It’s now an open question whether that reprieve can hold with Congress set to return to highly charged issues like health care, federal spending and its investigations into Russia’s election meddling.
In the Senate this week, Republicans are scrambling for health care votes. In the House, they’re seeking to hash out a deal to get their fledgling appropriations process moving. And the congressional Russia probes in both chambers are moving full speed ahead with major hearings, as President Donald Trump continues lashing out at investigators.
It all comes amid the backdrop of last week’s shooting, which injured multiple people and has left House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) in “serious condition” at MedStar Washington Hospital Center following a series of surgeries.
The shooting was a gut check for Republicans and Democrats alike, who came together for bipartisan displays of unity and are now vowing to tone down what they described as a culture of vitriolic rhetoric.
Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois, who was on the practice field in Alexandria on Wednesday during the shooting, held up a piece of shrapnel that he had later found in his baseball bag.
“This is the reminder that all of us have that we have to take a step back in this country, we have to tone down this rhetoric, and we’ve got to come together as a nation, as Americans, and say enough is enough,” said Davis, a Republican.
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, speaking later on the same show, echoed that sentiment. “I do think the language, the rhetoric, on both sides has gotten out of control,” said the Minnesota senator.
But there are already signs that Capitol Hill is returning to business as usual, with Democrats preparing to escalate their attacks on the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare. Some Democrats are mulling whether to protest the health care effort by objecting to GOP committee hearings or using their procedural leverage to shut down routine Senate business.
“I believe Democrats should do everything they can to oppose that legislation in any way that we can,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Sunday on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”
The Obamacare repeal effort continues to face major obstacles, with Republicans this week set to continue working to shore up support as they seek to craft a bill by month’s end that can get the 50 votes required for passage.
An impasse remains between conservatives who want to roll back an expansion of Medicaid and dismantle other key aspects of Obamacare — and more centrist members who are concerned about kicking millions of Americans off their Medicaid plans with nowhere else to go and weakening protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
Partisan sparring is also expected to resume this week over the investigations into Russia’s election meddling, which are looking into whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
The investigations by the House and Senate intelligence committees are continuing to schedule interviews with key witnesses and are set this week to hold two major hearings, both dealing with the U.S. election security.
The House panel on Wednesday is hosting former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who is expected to face questions about vulnerabilities in U.S. election systems. Also Wednesday, the Senate panel is hosting several Homeland Security and FBI officials to discuss the same issue — a session that follows a Bloomberg report last week that Russian hackers hit voter databases and software systems in 39 states.
The hearings come as Trump continues his Twitter attacks on the people conducting the Russia investigations, writing last week that he is “being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director!” — a likely reference to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Some of the president’s surrogates have also begun attacking the man overseeing the FBI’s Russia investigation, special counsel Robert Mueller.
“They’re essentially engaging in a scorched earth litigation strategy that is beginning with trying to discredit the prosecutor,” Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence panel, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a member of the Senate Intelligence panel, vowed on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the investigations would not be impeded by Trump’s tweets.
“This is going to move forward,” Rubio said. “We’re going to get the full truth out there. And I repeat, I believe that is the best thing that can happen for the president, for this administration, is for everything to come out. And I believe that it will.”
Also this week, the Senate is expected to confirm at least three Trump administration nominees, including Brock Long as FEMA administrator and Sigal Mandelker to be undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence. Mandelker’s confirmation vote could draw protests from some Democrats, who’ve sought to use her nomination to extract documents from the administration requested as part of the Senate’s Russia investigation.
And in the House, Republican leaders are looking to resolve a budget feud that’s threatening to derail their agenda.
Their efforts to pass a budget plan for fiscal 2018 have stalled because of a battle between Republican defense hawks, who want a big boost for the Pentagon, and appropriators who are unwilling to stomach the dramatic cuts to domestic programs that would be required to offset the military boost.
The impasse has held up the House’s appropriations process, already months behind schedule.