Capitol Hill Update: January 22, 2018


The House and Senate are in session this week. The House was supposed to be in recess, but that changed because of the government shutdown. The Senate was already scheduled to be in session. 


The United States is entering the third day of a government shutdown. The Senate adjourned just before 9:30 pm last night without a deal to reopen the federal government. There was supposed to be a vote around 1:00 am Monday morning on cloture for a continuing resolution that would fund the government through Thursday, February 8. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tried to move up the vote, but Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) objected. Because of the absence of an agreement, Leader McConnell pushed the vote to break a filibuster back to noon on Monday. 

Should the Senate break a filibuster on Monday and fund the government through February 8, roughly three weeks from now, and a deal doesn’t emerge on DACA, Leader McConnell pledged to bring the bill negotiated by the bipartisan group of senators working on the issue. He also pledged an open process through which amendments — like funding for a border wall — could be offered.

"When the Democrat filibuster of the government funding bill ends, when it comes to an end, the serious bipartisan negotiations that have been going on for months now to resolve our unfinished business, military spending, disaster relief, health care, immigration, and border security will continue. It would be my intention to resolve these issues as quickly as possible so that we can move on to other business that’s important to our country," Leader McConnell said on the floor Sunday evening. "However, should these issues not be resolved by the time the funding bill before us expires on February 8, 2018, assuming that the government remains open, it would be my intention to proceed to legislation that would address DACA, border security, and related issues."

Leader McConnell’s statement from the floor was enough to Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on board. In a speech from the floor on Sunday evening, Sen. Flake said he would vote to break the filibuster on Monday. Similarly, in a tweet on Sunday evening, Sen. Graham wrote, "This is a more than reasonable proposal by the Majority Leader." 

With Sens. Flake and Graham on board, there are presumably 52 votes to end a government shutdown. With Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) out due to illness, McConnell needs seven Democrats to break the filibuster on a CR that runs through February 8. Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) are likely to vote no. Looking at the Friday evening vote that led to the shutdown, it’s hard to see where the votes will come from unless Leader Schumer signs off on shorter-term CR. 

To be clear, if Democrats weren’t blocking the cloture motion, the CR would pass, and it would pass with bipartisan support. The vote on Friday night was 50 to 49. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voted no, but he had to procedurally to bring the bill back up should a deal be reached. On Sunday morning, President Trump tweeted, "Republicans should go to 51% (Nuclear Option) and vote on real, long term budget, no C.R.’s!"


Although the House was supposed to be in recess this week, according to the 2018 Calendar released by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the government shutdown has lead to a change of plans. Members are in Washington this week, but the chamber isn’t very active. As of Sunday evening, the only hearing on the calendar is a House Judiciary Committee field hearing on music policy in New York City.

Separately, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) wants to release the memo that allegedly shows abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the reauthorization of which President Trump signed into law last week. The process for the release is underway, but it could take some time. The FBI has complained that Chairman Nunes has not shown the memo to the agency.