Washington Brief: Congress Reconvenes for Deadline-Packed September

Top Stories

  • Congress reconvenes today with less than a month to reach legislative agreements that would avoid a government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling. But both issues are being overshadowed by the rising cost of the federal response to Hurricane Harvey. (Bloomberg)
  • Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) declared a state of emergency Monday as chances increased that south Florida could feel the effects of Hurricane Irma, which is now a Category 5 hurricane. (USA Today)
  • President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet today with key players on tax reform, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. (Politico)
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions is scheduled to speak today about President Donald Trump’s plan to delay a decision on the fate of about 800,000 people protected from deportation under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Trump wants Congress to come up with a legislative solution. (The New York Times)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Heritage Foundation event on BRAC 10:30 a.m.
William Julius Wilson, J.D. Vance speak at Brookings Institution event 3:30 p.m.
Atlantic Council discussion on modernizing NAFTA, North American energy sector 9 a.m.
EPA public hearing on mid-term evaluations for greenhouse gas emissions standards 9 a.m.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on U.S.-Turkey relations 10:30 a.m.
Senate Appropriations subcommittee markup of the FY2018 Labor, HHS, Education appropriations bill 11 a.m.
Senate Appropriations subcommittee markup of FY2018 State & Foreign Operations appropriations bill 2 p.m.
CAP event on part-time college students 10 a.m.
Senate Finance Committee hearing on Children’s Health Insurance Program 10 a.m.
House Armed Services Committee hearing on problems with USS Fitzgerald, USS John S. McCain 2 p.m.
Govs. Hickenlooper, Kasich discuss health care proposal at AEI 9:15 a.m.
Brookings Institution event on foreign cyber interference in U.S. elections 10:30 a.m.

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GOP Faces Pileup of Urgent Tasks Topped by Debt Limit Extension
Anna Edgerton, Bloomberg

Republicans return to Washington Tuesday with less than a month to avoid a government shutdown and avert a default on the nation’s debt, tasks that are being overshadowed by the quickly mounting costs of the response to Hurricane Harvey. Lawmakers need to pass a measure by Sept. 30 to fund the government, as well as one raising the debt limit before the end of the month.

North Korea Crisis: Russia’s Putin Warns of ‘Global Catastrophe’
F. Brinley Bruton and Alan Kaytukov, NBC News 

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Tuesday that ramping up the “military hysteria” around North Korea’s escalating nuclear and missile tests could lead to a “global catastrophe.” He also questioned the effectiveness of tightening sanctions, as the U.S. has suggested, saying that they will not change the behavior of Kim Jong Un and his regime.

EPA now requires political aide’s sign-off for agency awards, grant applications
Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post

The Environmental Protection Agency has taken the unusual step of putting a political operative in charge of vetting the hundreds of millions of dollars in grants the EPA distributes annually, assigning final funding decisions to a former Trump campaign aide with little environmental policy experience. In this role, John Konkus reviews every award the agency gives out, along with every grant solicitation before it is issued.

Breaking from tech giants, Democrats consider becoming an antimonopoly party
David Weigel, The Washington Post

A messy, public brawl over a Google critic’s ouster from a Washington think tank has exposed a fissure in Democratic Party politics. On one side there’s a young and growing faction advocating new antimonopoly laws, and on the other a rival faction struggling to defend itself.


Trump’s meeting with tax negotiators kicks off fall reform push
Aaron Lorenzo, Politico

When President Donald Trump sits down Tuesday with tax reform negotiators from his administration and Congress, they’re hoping it will mark the start of a final push to get legislation to Trump’s desk before the year is through. Agreement on a plan to cut taxes for individuals and businesses, along with more fundamental changes to the tax code, would allow the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees to start putting meat on the bone with legislative language.

On DACA, President Trump Has No Easy Path
Glenn Thrush et al., The New York Times

For months, an anxious and uncertain President Trump was caught between opposing camps in the West Wing prodding him to either scrap or salvage an Obama-era program allowing undocumented immigrants brought to the country as minors to remain in the United States. Last week, with a key court deadline looming for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, Mr. Trump, exasperated, asked his aides for “a way out” of a dilemma he created by promising to roll back the program as a presidential candidate, according to two people familiar with the exchange.

Haley: Kim Jong Un ‘begging for war’
Jeremy Herb et al., CNN

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Monday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was “begging for war” as she urged the UN Security Council to adopt the strongest sanctions measures possible to stop Pyongyang’s nuclear program. Speaking at a Security Council emergency meeting, Haley said North Korea’s sixth nuclear test was a clear sign that “the time for half measures” from the UN had to end.

Trump family and associates to be in Russia probe crosshairs
Eric Tucker et al., The Associated Press

A web of President Donald Trump’s family and associates will be back in the crosshairs of congressional committees investigating whether his campaign colluded with Russia, as well as of the high-wattage legal team assembled by special counsel Robert Mueller. As Congress returns from a summer recess, some of the attention will be focused squarely on the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., who will meet privately in the coming weeks with staffers on the Senate judiciary and intelligence committees.

Key Trump Aide’s Departure Rattles President’s Allies
Shannon Pettypiece and Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg

President Donald Trump’s allies are worried that the most damaging of the many recent departures from his White House may be that of Keith Schiller, a little-known former bodyguard who’s one of the president’s closest confidants outside his family. Schiller is leaving the White House soon to return to the private security business, according to three people familiar with his plans, for a job that will pay far more than his $165,000 government salary.


Graham backs Trump ending DACA with 6-month delay
Brandon Carter, The Hill

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Monday that he would support President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program if Trump gives Congress six months to find a legislative solution. “If President Trump chooses to cancel the DACA program and give Congress six months to find a legislative solution, I will be supportive of such a position,” Graham said in a statement.

Senate’s Obamacare fixes would build on heavy lifting by states
Adam Cancryn, Politico

While Congress was busy bickering over repealing the health law, officials in red and blue states worked frantically to soothe anxious insurers, tamp down rate increases and insulate their markets from the ceaseless chaos in Washington. The result is an Obamacare system that’s still vulnerable, but far from the “disaster” President Donald Trump and his top health officials describe.

Everything you need to know about Sen. Menendez’s bribery trial
Sarah Jorgensen and Laura Jarrett, CNN 

It’s a case with allegations spanning seven years, multiple countries, and involving hundreds of thousands of dollars. At the center of it: a sitting US senator.


Harvey Aid Package Adds to Full House Agenda
Lindsey McPherson, Roll Call

As the House returns from its summer recess, Republicans are looking to pass the eight remaining appropriations bills soon, which would complete a GOP omnibus they hope will serve as an opening bid for negotiations with the Senate. The chamber might also take quick action on an initial supplemental appropriations measure to provide money for Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts.

Democratic Soul-Searching in One Pennsylvania House Race
Bridget Bowman, Roll Call

Democrats across the country are doing some soul-searching as Congress returns to the nation’s capital. The crowded Democratic primaries taking shape raise questions about whether more liberal candidates can win in Republican districts.


Hurricane Irma now at Category 5, with 175 mph winds
Doyle Rice, USA Today

“Extremely dangerous” Hurricane Irma strengthened to a Category 5 storm Tuesday morning, the National Hurricane Center said, with sustained winds of 175 mph. The hurricane will blast the northern Caribbean with flooding rain, damaging winds and rough surf over the next few days, AccuWeather warned, bringing life-threatening conditions to the islands.

In Texas, Distrust of Washington Collides With Need for Federal Aid
Richard Fausset, The New York Times

Few places need the federal government right now more than Texas does, as it begins to recover from Hurricane Harvey. Yet there are few states where the federal government is viewed with more resentment, suspicion and scorn.

Cash-strapped states brace for Russian hacking fight
Cory Bennett et al., Politico

The U.S. needs hundreds of millions of dollars to protect future elections from hackers — but neither the states nor Congress is rushing to fill the gap. Instead, a nation still squabbling over the role Russian cyberattacks played in the 2016 presidential campaign is fractured about how to pay for the steps needed to prevent repeats in 2018 and 2020, according to interviews with dozens of state election officials, federal lawmakers, current and former Department of Homeland Security staffers and leading election security experts.

Schwarzenegger’s bipartisan next political act: Terminating gerrymandering
Joe Garofoli, San Fancisco Chronicle 

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a master at marketing, having scaled to the top of three different professions. But these days, the former bodybuilder and movie star is taking on perhaps his biggest sales challenge since he made “Last Action Hero”: He’s trying to get people to care about redistricting, the critical but arcane process of drawing political districts.


Reid Hoffman has billions of dollars and one of the best networks in Silicon Valley. Here’s how he’s using them to take on Trump.
Tony Romm, Recode

It began with a simple card trick. Reid Hoffman had grown tired of listening to Donald Trump trash talk Hillary Clinton and his ever-growing list of political foes.

New MPAA chief Charles Rivkin aims to be a diplomat for Hollywood at an uncertain time
Ryan Faughnder, Los Angeles Times

Upon arriving in Paris as the new U.S. ambassador to France and Monaco in 2009, Charles Rivkin used his show business pedigree to charm President Nicolas Sarkozy with a gift: a framed poster of Rita Hayworth. It was a smooth move for Rivkin, whom President Obama chose for the role after a 20-year career in the entertainment industry, including stints at Jim Henson Co. and “Yo Gabba Gabba” producer WildBrain.

A Message from Freight Rail Works:

In an environment of smart and balanced regulation, America’s private freight railroads deliver for rail customers and consumers. Average freight rail rates are down 45 percent since the industry was partially deregulated. At the same time, railroads have poured more than $630 billion into a network that spurs billions of dollars in annual economic activity. Learn how proposed regulations could undo all of this at FreightRailWorks.org

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Congress’s most important assignment after summer vacation
Editorial Board, The Washington Post

Like so many procrastinating students putting off their summer homework assignments, Congress has postponed much of the United States’ essential business until after the August recess — and left itself only 12 days on the legislative calendar to get it all done now that lawmakers are back in Washington. This legislative backlog could and should have been avoided if Capitol Hill worked under regular order, leavened by a modicum of bipartisanship.

Options for Removing Kim Jong Un
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test on Sunday, detonating a bomb 10 times more powerful than its last test a year ago. The South Korean government says Pyongyang is also preparing its third test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The Russian Company That Is a Danger to Our Security
Jeanne Shaheen, The New York Times

The Kremlin hacked our presidential election, is waging a cyberwar against our NATO allies and is probing opportunities to use similar tactics against democracies worldwide. Why then are federal agencies, local and state governments and millions of Americans unwittingly inviting this threat into their cyber networks and secure spaces?

Let ‘dreamers’ live the American Dream
Leon E. Panetta, The Washington Post

In October 1921, my Italian father arrived in the United States aboard the Providence, one of 1,800 third-class passengers searching for a better life in this country. At Ellis Island, he listed his total assets as $25 and his profession simply as “peasant.”

Research Reports and Polling

President Trump Inc.
Public Citizen 

The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States created an unprecedented situation. Never before had a businessman with a global business empire been elected president. The fact that the president of the United States would have such diverse business holdings, foreign and domestic, would pose enormous risks by itself.

Does Loss of Manufacturing Jobs Lead to Lower Life Ratings?
Jonathan Rothwell, Gallup 

Previous research has shown very little evidence that more intensive import competition from China has been broadly harmful to the economies of metropolitan areas. That’s despite the fact that import competition in a given area is related to a sharper loss of manufacturing jobs.