Outlook: Dems Call for Full Release of Mueller Report

The Senate takes up the Green New Deal resolution.

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
March 24, 2019, 8 p.m.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has completed his investigation into Russian interference into the 2016 election in favor of President Trump. And lawmakers want to know every word of Mueller's final report.

“Congress requires the full report and the underlying documents so that the Committees can proceed with their independent work, including oversight and legislating to address any issues the Mueller report may raise,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement on Sunday. “The American people have a right to know.”

Democrats are clamoring for the full release of the report, which found no evidence Trump or his associates purposefully colluded with the Russian government’s documented efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Mueller said his report “does not exonerate” Trump on the question of obstruction of justice, but Attorney General William Barr said he and outgoing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded that the “investigation is not sufficient to establish” such a charge.

Barr said in a letter Sunday to the judiciary committees of both chambers that he “as quickly as possible” would “release as much of the Special Counsel report as I can consistent with” Department of Justice policies and applicable law.

Congressional committees will also continue to investigate the Trump administration, picking up where Mueller left off. Chairman Jerrold Nadler said Sunday that the House Judiciary Committee “will be calling Attorney General Barr in to testify … in the near future.”

“I appreciate the Attorney General’s … goal of producing as much information as possible, consistent with the law. I look forward to reviewing that information," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The rest of Congress’ business remains on the calendar. The House will take a historic vote this week to override Trump’s first-ever veto, of a resolution terminating his emergency order to finance a border wall.

The measure is expected to fall short of the two-thirds threshold needed to override a veto, as only 13 Republicans joined Democrats to pass the measure in the House last month. Even if it does somehow pass, the Senate is not expected to have enough votes to override a veto either.

Meanwhile, the Senate is expected to vote down a comprehensive solution to averting the worst effects of climate change, before immediately turning to a stopgap measure meant to pick up the pieces of its devastation. McConnell before the recess teed up a procedural vote on the Green New Deal, a nonbinding resolution laying out Democrats’ ambitious agenda to curb the effects of climate change. Following its expected failure, the Senate will consider a House-passed relief package sponsored by Senate Republicans providing $13.6 billion to recover from last year’s hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters.

The Senate kicks off the week Monday with a procedural vote on Bridget Bade’s nomination to sit on the 9th Circuit. Bade, a magistrate judge for the District of Arizona and former assistant U.S. attorney in Phoenix, successfully passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee last month with the support of all Republicans and some senior Democrats. Then on Thursday, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee will consider Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s full nomination for the job he has performed since Ryan Zinke stepped down.

After the veto-override vote, the House will turn its attention to gender-equality issues. The body will vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, a measure that would update the Equal Pay Act to try to narrow the gender pay gap. Later in the week, the House will vote on a resolution disapproving of Trump’s decision to bar transgender people from serving in the military.

The Senate Commerce Aviation and Space Subcommittee will also hold an oversight hearing on Wednesday with testimony from federal transportation officials in light of recent Boeing 737 Max aircraft crashes.

Here’s what else is on tap this week:

DEFENSE AND FOREIGN POLICY

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford testify Tuesday to the House Armed Services Committee on the Pentagon’s 2020 budget request. Democrats are likely to focus on Trump’s decision to divert funding for the construction of a border wall. Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller recently warned in a leaked letter that the diversion of funds is causing “unacceptable risk" to combat readiness. The Pentagon has not released a definitive list of projects that would be defunded.

Shanahan is also embroiled in a scandal of his own, which Democrats may seize on. The Pentagon inspector general launched an investigation Wednesday into whether Shanahan promoted his former employer of three decades, Boeing, over companies competing for government contracts. Shanahan has recused himself from any matters involving the company since entering government, and has pledged to cooperate with the investigation.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, another hearing primed for controversy. Pompeo has not testified to the House since May of last year, when the chamber was still in Republican control.

The purported purpose of the hearing, the State Department’s 2020 budget request, is also likely to generate fireworks. As in prior budget requests, Trump has called for dramatic cuts to the international-affairs budget that Congress is unlikely to authorize.

Before the Pompeo hearing, the committee holds four hearings Tuesday on the Trump administration’s proposal to alter regulations on firearms exports, corruption in South America, U.S.–Africa relations, and the U.S.–Europe relationship.

The Armed Services Committee holds its more routine policy hearings after Shanahan’s testimony on Tuesday morning. Later that afternoon, the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee hears testimony from Navy officials on the 2020 budget. On Wednesday, Commander Adm. Philip Davidson of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command testifies on activity in the region, and the Military Personnel Subcommittee hears testimony on compensation and duty status for reservists.

The Strategic Forces Subcommittee holds a hearing Thursday on the Pentagon’s nuclear policy in fiscal 2020, and the Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee gets an update on the Pentagon’s 2020 budget request for science and technology programs.

In the Senate, the most notable witness is Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who testifies Thursday on the Energy Department’s atomic-energy defense programs.

His testimony is part of a busy week for the Senate Armed Services Committee, which holds five hearings. Members will hear Tuesday from Army Secretary Mark Esper and Chief of Staff Mark Milley on the Army’s 2020 budget and the Future Years Defense Program, and from cyberspace-industry experts on the defense industrial base. Top Navy officials testify Wednesday to the Seapower Subcommittee on the Navy’s shipbuilding plans and the 2020 budget, and Air Force officials speak to the Strategic Forces Subcommittee on the space program.

The Foreign Relations Committee holds hearings Tuesday on Russia's involvement in the long-simmering Ukraine conflict, and on U.S. policy toward North Korea.

And the committee considers three nominees on Wednesday, including two top positions in the understaffed State Department: Brigadier Gen. David Stilwell to be assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and Robert Destro to be assistant secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT

Many Democrats are already signaling they’ll vote “present” on the controversial Green New Deal resolution, a maneuver they deployed last Congress on a Medicare-for-all vote, and one that’s gotten the OK from backers of action on climate change. Meanwhile, Republicans are feverishly highlighting the specific proposals in the resolution. Speaking on the Senate floor earlier this month, McConnell called the Green New Deal “garden-variety 20th-century socialism.”

When the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds its confirmation hearing Thursday for Acting Interior Secretary Bernhardt, Democrats, who have called for the Interior Department to release more information about its anticipated offshore-drilling plan, are expected to highlight Bernhardt’s work as an energy-industry lobbyist.

In the House, the Natural Resources Committee will hear from Interior officials Wednesday on the 2020 budget.

The same day, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Water and Power Subcommittee holds a hearing on the Colorado River drought contingency plan, which states are pushing for Congress to implement. The House Natural Resources Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee will meet on the same issue Thursday morning. That subcommittee also meets Tuesday for a legislative hearing regarding several bills on wildlife conservation.

On Tuesday afternoon, the House Natural Resources Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee will discuss the need to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain. The subcommittee also holds a hearing Thursday on abandoned-mine reclamation.

On Thursday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will meet to examine the federal response to the risks associated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

HEALTH

The Trump administration’s goal to promote work requirements in Medicaid hangs in the balance as D.C. District Court Judge James Boasberg is expected this week to issue a decision around the legality of Kentucky’s and Arkansas’s work requirements. Arkansas has received a lot of attention over the implementation of its program since more than 18,000 beneficiaries were disenrolled from the system in 2018 due to noncompliance with the new requirements.

On Tuesday, the House Budget Committee will be looking at the Health and Human Services Department's 2020 budget.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will also hold a hearing on the implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act to improve the exchange of electronic health information. The hearing will focus on two recent rules issued by HHS to define information blocking and to give patients more control over their records.

On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee agriculture and Food and Drug Administration subcommittee will have a hearing on the FDA’s 2020 budget with outgoing Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

TAXES & TRADE

As filing season enters its final month, some taxpayers are still left wondering what will become of the 30-some expired tax breaks known as extenders.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and ranking member Ron Wyden recently introduced legislation renewing the extenders for the 2018 and 2019 tax years, but in an interview with Vox last week, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats will expect concessions to move an extenders bill, pointing to environmental and infrastructure issues as possible points of compromise.

The House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee is holding a hearing Tuesday on creating and enforcing trade rules to benefit American workers.

The next day, the full committee will examine the 2017 tax law, one of a series of hearings looking at the impact of the GOP's overhaul.

No Senate Finance Committee hearings are scheduled for this week.

On trade, Trump told the Fox Business Network in an interview aired Friday that a deal with China is getting “very close.” Chinese officials have said f are set to hold meetings in China March 28 and 29, Reuters reported Thursday. A meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping has been postponed from March until at least April, however.

The Trump administration received a Commerce Department report weeks ago on whether it can impose national security tariffs on auto imports, but hasn’t released the document or announced a decision on whether to move forward with the tariffs. Some trade analysts have said that the administration may be waiting until a deal with China is finalized before announcing a decision.

In his Fox Business interview, Trump said the auto and auto-part imports do not pose a security risk. That, however, is likely not an indication of whether he will move forward with the tariffs.

“What poses a security risk is our balance sheet,” he said. “We need a strong balance sheet; otherwise you don’t have national security.”

TECHNOLOGY

As the Senate looks to wrap up negotiations over draft data-privacy legislation, lawmakers want to hear from some industry players other than Facebook, Google, and the rest of the major tech platforms.

On Tuesday, the Senate Commerce Manufacturing, Trade, and Consumer Protection Subcommittee will meet for a hearing on how a federal privacy law would impact small businesses. Senators will hear from several business representatives, including from the real-estate industry and the start-up community. While most of the discussion around data privacy in Washington has centered on the misuse of personal data by Silicon Valley, experts have warned that small businesses could be hurt by compliance costs imposed via strict privacy rules. Sen. Jerry Moran, the subcommittee's chairman, recently suggested those rules could be tweaked to accommodate small businesses.

The House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee meets Tuesday to mark up the Save the Internet Act, the Democratic House's push to restore the net-neutrality protections repealed by the Trump administration's Federal Communications Commission in 2017. If prior hearings on the legislation are any indication, the markup is almost certain to end in a party-line vote. Republican lawmakers have attacked the Democrats for the way they went about drafting the legislation, and are almost universally opposed to the bill's provision that internet service providers be placed back under the utility-style regulatory structure of Title II of the Communications Act.

The Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection Subcommittee meets Thursday to discuss ways to enhance vehicle technology to prevent drunk driving. While ignition interlock devices are likely to take up a significant amount of the committee’s bandwidth, expect at least a few members to raise the benefits of self-driving vehicles as a way to cut down on drunk-driving accidents.

The Federal Trade Commission is taking a two-day look at how its enforcement priorities on issues such as privacy, information-sharing, antitrust, and artificial intelligence stack up against a fast-changing international regulatory framework on technology. Starting Monday, the FTC will hear from a slew of tech experts on the impact of different approaches to tech regulation and how commissioners can work with foreign regulators and smooth over disputes on data-sharing, antitrust, and other hot-button tech topics.

The hearings continue the commission’s months-long review of its antitrust and privacy policies in light of new concerns surrounding the pervasive influence of big tech in the American economy.

The Senate Armed Services Cybersecurity Subcommittee is scheduled to examine the cybersecurity responsibilities of the defense industrial base on Tuesday. Recent reports have suggested an extensive hacking campaign by the Chinese government against American arms manufacturers, and lawmakers are likely to grill industry representatives on the protections they’ve put in place to guard sensitive technological secrets from such attacks.

The House Judiciary Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet Subcommittee meets Wednesday for a hearing on the lack of diversity in patents and inventorship and its effect on innovation in the U.S.

WHITE HOUSE

President Trump starts the week focused on the politics of a close ally and ends it tending to his own politics. On Monday morning, he will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is locked in a close reelection battle back home and hopes for a boost from Trump, who is very popular in Israel. Trump closes the day by welcoming to the White House the reigning Stanley Cup champions of the National Hockey League, the Washington Capitals. On Tuesday, he will have dinner with Netanyahu. On Wednesday, he will present the Medal of Honor posthumously to Army Staff Sgt. Travis W. Atkins, who sacrificed his own life in Iraq in 2007 when he threw himself on an insurgent just as he was detonating a bomb strapped to his body; his action saved the lives of three other American soldiers. On Thursday, the president will go to Grand Rapids, Michigan, for one of his large political rallies designed to help him win a second term.

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