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Congress returns to avoid government shutdown and assess impeachment inquiry

After months of struggling to reach agreement on just about anything in a divided Congress, lawmakers are returning to Capitol Hill to try to avoid a government shutdown, even as House Republicans consider whether to pursue an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

A short-term funding measure to keep government offices fully functioning will dominate the September agenda, alongside emergency funding for Ukraine, federal disaster funds and the survey. led by Republicans on Hunter Biden’s overseas business dealings.

Congress is running out of time to act. The House is due to meet only 11 days before the end of the government’s fiscal year on September 30, leaving little room for manoeuvre. And the deal will unfold as two top Republicans, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, tackle health issues.

The president and congressional leaders, including Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, are focused on passing a month-long funding measure, known as the Continuing Resolution, to maintain government offices in business while legislators refine a budget. It’s a step Congress routinely takes to avoid shutdowns, but McCarthy faces resistance within his own Republican ranks, including from some hardline conservatives who openly embrace the idea of ​​a shutdown. of the government.

“Honestly, it’s a big mess,” McConnell said at an event in Kentucky last week.

Here are the top questions as lawmakers return from August recess:

Keeping Government Open

When Biden and McCarthy struck a deal to suspend the country’s debt ceiling in June, it included provisions on major spending. But under pressure from the House Freedom Caucus, House Republicans advanced spending bills that fell short of the deal.

Republicans have also tried to equip their spending programs with conservative political victories. For example, House Republicans added provisions blocking coverage of abortion, transgender care and diversity initiatives to a July defense package, turning what was traditionally a bipartisan effort into a hotly contested bill.

But Democrats control the Senate and will certainly reject most Conservative proposals. Senators craft their spending bills on a bipartisan basis in an effort to avoid unrelated political fights.

Leading lawmakers in both chambers are now turning to an interim funding plan, a typical strategy to give lawmakers time to polish a long-term deal.

The House Freedom Caucus has already released a list of demands it wants to include in the continuing resolution. But they are a right-wing wish list that would never be presented to the Senate.

Conservative opposition means McCarthy will almost certainly have to win significant Democratic support to pass a funding bill – but such an approach risks sparking a new round of clashes with the same Tories who in the past have threatened to oust him from the presidency.

Democrats are already preparing the blame for the House Republican party.

“The last thing the American people deserve is for extremist members of the House to trigger a government shutdown that hurts our economy, undermines our disaster preparedness, and forces our troops to work without guaranteed pay,” he said. White House spokesman Andrew Bates.

In a letter to colleagues on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote that the goal when the Senate returns on Tuesday will be to “defund the government and keep Republican extremists in the House out of impose the shutdown of the government”.

That leaves McCarthy desperate to secure the votes needed to keep government offices operating and avoid a political blowback. As he tries to persuade Republicans to accept a temporary solution, McCarthy argued that a government shutdown would also end Republican investigations into the Biden administration.

“If we shut down, the whole government will – investigations and everything – it will hurt the American public,” the speaker said on Fox News last week.

Impeachment inquiry

Since winning the majority in the House, Republicans have launched a series of investigations into the Biden administration, with a view to impeach the president or members of his cabinet. They are now focusing on the president’s son, Hunter Biden, and his overseas business dealings, including with Ukrainian gas company Burisma.

The investigations did not produce evidence that President Biden took official action on behalf of his son or his business associates, but McCarthy called the impeachment a “natural step forward” for the investigations.

A House-led impeachment inquiry would be a first step toward passing articles of impeachment. It’s not yet clear what that might look like, particularly because the speaker doesn’t appear to have the Republican Party votes lined up to support an impeachment inquiry.

Moderate Republicans have so far been reluctant to send the House on a full impeachment hunt.

But Donald Trump, who is once again running to challenge Biden, urges them to move forward quickly.

“I don’t know how a Republican couldn’t do that,” Trump said in an interview on Real America’s Voice. “I think a Republican would get elected and immediately lose no matter what district they’re in.”

Ukraine and disaster financing

The White House has requested more than $40 billion in emergency funding, including $13 billion in military aid to Ukraine, $8 billion in humanitarian support for the nation and $12 billion to replenish funds US federal disasters in the country.

The request for a massive injection of cash comes as kyiv launches a counter-offensive against the Russian invasion. But support for Ukraine is waning among Republicans, especially as Trump has repeatedly voiced his skepticism of the war.

Nearly 70 Republicans voted in July in favor of a failed bid to end military aid to Ukraine, though many members remain strongly supportive of the war effort.

It’s also unclear whether the White House’s request for additional U.S. disaster funding, which also includes funds to bolster law enforcement and curb drug trafficking across the U.S. southern border, will be tied to Ukraine funding or an ongoing budget resolution. Disaster funding has broad support in the House, but could be cut short if combined with other funding proposals.

Legislation pending

The Senate is expected to spend most of September focusing on government funding and confirming Biden’s nominees, which means major policy legislation will have to wait. But Schumer laid out some priorities for the remaining months of the year in the letter to his colleagues.

Schumer said the Senate would work on legislation to reduce drug costs, address rail safety and provide disaster relief after floods in Vermont, fires in Hawaii and a hurricane in Florida.

Senators will also continue to consider whether legislation is needed to combat artificial intelligence. Schumer convened what he calls an “AI analytics forum” Sept. 13 in the Senate with tech industry leaders including Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk of Meta, the CEO of X and Tesla, as well as than former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates.

Health problems

Senate Republicans will return next week to new questions about the health of their leader, McConnell.

McConnell, 81, is facing questions about his ability to remain the Senate’s top Republican after freezing twice at press conferences in the past two months since his fall and concussion in March. At the event in Kentucky last week, he was silent for about 30 seconds as he answered a question from a reporter.

Dr. Brian Monahan, the Capitol’s attending physician, said Thursday that McConnell was cleared to work. But whether McConnell — the longest-serving party leader in Senate history — can go on to become Republican leader has sparked intense speculation about who will eventually replace him.

Meanwhile, the health of California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, 90, has visibly deteriorated in recent months after being hospitalized with shingles earlier this year. She suffered a fall at her home in San Francisco in August and went to hospital for tests.

And in the House, Rep. Steve Scalise, the Republican No. 2, revealed last week that he had been diagnosed with a form of blood cancer known as multiple myeloma and was undergoing treatment.

Scalise, 57, said he would continue to serve and described the cancer as “very treatable”.

USA voanews

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