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Capitol Hill Update: October 1, 2018

10/01/2018

Schedule:

The Senate is in session. The House is in recess.

Senate:

The Senate will convene at 3:00 pm today. Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination is running in the background while the Senate tends to other business. At 5:30 pm today, the Senate will vote on the cloture motion for the House amendment to the Senate amendment to H.R. 302, which is now the FAA Reauthorization Act. H.R. 302, as amended, passed the House last week through H.Res. 1082. At some point in the coming days, the Senate will take up the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, H.R. 6, the opioids package. The bill, as agreed to by the two chambers, passed the House on Friday.

There was a lot going on in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) started the day by saying publicly that he would vote for Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Originally scheduled for 1:30 pm, the vote was delayed by around 20 minutes or so. Sen. Flake, who had been cornered in a Senate elevator after announcing his vote by a sexual assault victim, was wrestling with the decision, and members of the committee from both sides were lobbying him. Sen. Flake decided to vote for Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination in committee but wanted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to examine the allegations of sexual assault made against Judge Kavanaugh “for up to but not more than a week.” The president directed the FBI to begin the supplemental investigation on Friday. The text of the order hasn’t been released.

Reportedly, the FBI will investigate the claims of two accusers. The claims of the third accuser don’t appear to be part of the supplemental investigation, although the White House has denied that it’s limiting the supplemental investigation. FBI agents will take statements and use a form, FD-302, to summarize or report on these interviews. The FBI doesn’t come to a conclusion on the merits of the accusations, which Judge Kavanaugh pointed out during Thursday’s testimony. The week limit on the supplemental investigation is already subject of criticism, as several Senate Democrats have said that there shouldn’t be arbitrary deadlines set.

Most Senate Democrats had come out against Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination long before the accusations against him became public. Still, the votes of Sens. Flake, Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) are still at play. If the supplemental investigation doesn’t reveal any new information or evidence, many believe it will mean that those on the fence may vote for confirmation.

After the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination with a favorable recommendation by a party-line vote of 11 to 10, the Senate proceeded to the nomination by unanimous consent. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is honoring the week delay for the FBI to conduct the supplemental investigation.

House:

The email sent on Friday simply said, “Members are advised that votes are no longer expected in the House during the weeks of October 1 and October 8, 2018.” There were eight legislative days scheduled in October, but the early recess gives members two extra weeks to campaign before the midterm election on November 6. The House is in recess until Tuesday, November 13. The House will be in pro forma session on Tuesday, October 2 at 12:30 pm. We don’t have the pro forma calendar for the recess, but we assume Tuesday and Fridays are the days the chamber will gavel in before almost immediately gaveling out.

The Protecting Family and Small Business Tax Cuts Act, H.R. 6760, passed the House on Friday by a vote of 220 to 191. The bill would make the individual and pass-through business tax cuts permanent. Ten Republicans, nearly all of whom hail from the Northeast, voted against the bill. Three Democrats -- Reps. Conor Lamb, Jacky Rosen, and Kyrsten Sinema -- voted for the bill. Reps. Rosen and Sinema are running for the Senate in Nevada and Arizona. The Protecting Family and Small Business Tax Cuts Act faces an uncertain future in the Senate. Given that the bill isn’t working through reconciliation, the 60-vote threshold in the upper chamber comes into play.

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