Both the House and Senate were hard at work last week; however, much of their work was overshadowed this week by the aftermath of President Trump firing FBI Director James Comey.
The House passed several bills last week, the most significant of which was the Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act, which identifies specific sanctions against Syria and requires the president to levy sanctions on specific individuals the bill identifies as responsible for or in support of crimes against humanity. Other bills passed by the House pertained to matters of national security, border security, combating antisemitism.
There were talks this week that the House’s Obamacare repeal bill could face a revote, once the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) releases their score of the bill. The American Healthcare Act is a budget reconciliation bill and, to meet reconciliation standards, the CBO must find that the bill will reduce government spending by at least $2 billion. While a revote is unlikely, House leaders have yet to send their healthcare bill to the Senate for consideration.
H.R. 1212, The BRAVE Act, picked up four new cosponsors this week from both sides of the aisle Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Rep. John Rutherford (R-FL). Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), and Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH).
In the Senate last week, a bipartisan group began pushing back against Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ order directing federal prosecutors to charge defendants with the most serious crimes possible. The group reintroduced the Justice Safety Valve Act, which gives judges the ability to impose sentences below the mandatory minimums when appropriate; a companion bill was also introduced in the House.
The Senate also confirmed Jeffrey Rosen to be the Deputy Secretary of Transportation in a vote of 56-42 and Rachel Brand to be the Associate Attorney General in a 52-46 vote.
The drama surrounding the firing of FBI Director James Comey continued last week. On Tuesday, Comey released a memo saying the President asked the former FBI Director to end the investigation into former national security advisor Michael Flynn and his possible ties to Russia during a meeting in February. Several members of Congress expressed their outrage with the President’s actions, a few called for the President’s impeachment. On Wednesday, the Justice Department named a special prosecutor, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, to take over the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties between Russian officials and Trump’s team. The appointment got significant bipartisan praise from lawmakers.
For those of you who just can’t get enough D.C. drama, the Congressional Research Service developed a guide to help you understand the Justice Department naming a special counsel to investigate Russia's alleged involvement in the 2016 presidential election, including any possible involvement of President Donald Trump's campaign in that effort. Read the guide here.