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Road ahead: Impeachment articles and spending bills top the agenda

Senators will continue voting on confirming nominations, including for the Ninth Circuit

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has asked the Judiciary Committee to move ahead with drafting articles of impeachment. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi has asked the Judiciary Committee to move ahead with drafting articles of impeachment. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House is barreling toward a vote on articles of impeachment, possibly before the holiday recess.

House Judiciary Democrats stayed in Washington over the weekend for impeachment strategy sessions, and a Monday hearing will set the scene for the scope of articles of impeachment.

“The facts are uncontested: The President abused his power for his own personal, political benefit at the expense of our national security, by withholding military aid and a crucial Oval Office meeting in exchange for an announcement of an investigation into his political rival,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week in announcing she was asking the committee process to move forward.

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The House Judiciary panel meets first thing Monday to hear presentations from Intelligence and Judiciary committee counsels from both parties on their impeachment inquiry report. The Intelligence panel led the Ukraine investigation, and the Judiciary Committee is now tasked with drafting articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

The White House signaled in a Friday letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler that it won’t participate in his committee’s remaining impeachment hearings. 

Judiciary members have said the articles could be introduced and marked up as early as this week, setting up a possible floor vote in the final days before lawmakers leave town for the year. All the while, appropriators will be moving ahead with trying to wrap up fiscal 2020 spending bills before the end of next week.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will make a play to take some of the attention away from its House counterpart this week, with Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina having called a Wednesday hearing with Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

The focus of the hearing will be on the anticipated release of an IG report on the use of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act authorities by the FBI and the DOJ in connection with investigations of the 2016 presidential election.

At issue is whether the FBI acted appropriately in applying for a warrant from the FISA court to monitor the communications of Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to the 2016 Trump campaign. Supporters of the president have contended that using material from the opposition research document known as the “Steele dossier” was improper.

Confirmations continue

With the House continuing to move toward articles of impeachment, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will continue to fill the Senate floor with presidential nominations.

The Kentucky Republican has moved to limit debate on two nominees to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals: Patrick J. Bumatay and Lawrence VanDyke. Democrats are expected to widely oppose both nominees, though they should be on track for confirmation.

“Mr. VanDyke has been nominated to fill a Nevada seat on the 9th Circuit, even though he’s not a Nevadan,” Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said in a floor speech, expressing opposition. “He didn’t grow up in my state; he doesn’t appear to own property there; he doesn’t seem to have family ties; and he was only an active member of the Nevada State Bar for two years.”

Likewise, Bumatay has been nominated for a California-based seat despite opposition from the state’s Democratic senators.

The president’s nomination of medical executive and doctor Stephen Hahn to lead the Food and Drug Administration is also set for confirmation vote. The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 18-5 last week to advance the nomination to the Senate floor.

Also on the list for confirmation John J. Sullivan, Trump’s choice to be ambassador to Russia. Sullivan has been a key deputy to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Spending and more

The impeachment discussions are sure to overshadow the House’s must-pass business. Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey told reporters Friday she expected the House would begin voting on spending packages this week.

[Appropriators seek to wrap up talks this weekend]

“We still have until the 20th, so there are two weeks. That’s a lifetime in appropriations,” the New York Democrat said. 

Separately, House and Senate negotiators from the Armed Services committees appear to have reached a deal on the delayed defense authorization bill.

The House is also set to vote this week on a drug pricing overhaul measure that has been among the legislative priorities of chamber Democrats. The bill would save the government money by basing Medicare reimbursements for some of the most expensive prescription drugs on lower prices paid in other wealthy countries.

Pelosi highlighted the drug-pricing legislation at a news conference Thursday that came after she announced the plan for drafting articles of impeachment.

“It is the most transformative legislation to affect Medicare since Medicare’s founding. It helps all people,” the California Democrat said. “American seniors and families won’t have to pay more for medicines.”

Some House committees not intimately involved in the impeachment process have hearings scheduled for the week as well. The health subcommittee of Energy and Commerce has a hearing Tuesday morning looking at possible paths forward for universal health coverage, where there will undoubtedly be discussion about “Medicare for All” proposals like those being discussed on the campaign trail.

Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.

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