After a longer than usual summer break, lawmakers in the Congress return to work on Tuesday here in Washington, D.C., and while both parties will talk a lot about ticking off some items on the legislative agenda before November, the elections will hang over just about everything that happens on Capitol Hill, and even at the White House.
Here are five things that might happen in D.C. in coming weeks:
1. Congress won’t be here too long. – Even though lawmakers have been out of session since July, the official schedule for the House of Representatives shows only 16 days where the House is at work before the elections – all of that, during this month of September. If you’re going to get a bill on the floor for a vote, or hold a hearing that has election overtones, you have to do that in the next four weeks, before September 30. After that, lawmakers will head home, trying to preserve their own jobs and make sure their party wins the White House.
2. Republicans will zero in on Hillary Clinton.– Whether it is questions about the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton, her private email server, Benghazi – or whatever the subject is, the GOP can drive those issues here on Capitol Hill and help out Donald Trump by opening a new front in the campaign for President. Look for hearings with the FBI Director and others later this month, as we’ll see how effective the Republicans are in driving some of the news about the campaign from Capitol Hill. Here is a link to one GOP letter that went out on Tuesday about Clinton.
3. Democrats can also make mischief. – While Republicans are in charge of both the House and Senate, look for Democrats to not only make some noise off the floor about the campaign, but also try to force votes – or at least get Republicans on the record – on some items of the Trump agenda. The Senate might be a logical place for that to happen, as Democrats could try to force votes on Trump’s Muslim ban, or any other campaign trail idea from the GOP nominee. None of it may really matter in the context of the race for President, but anything is possible here on Capitol Hill before lawmakers head back home to campaign.
4. Wavering Republicans may also take heat. – The return of Congress to Washington, D.C. should also mean a revival of press stories about Republicans who aren’t sold on Donald Trump. We saw over Labor Day weekend how criticism from one GOP Senator, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), drew a public rebuke from Trump, and drove some of the political news of the day. So, while the GOP can certainly try to make life difficult for Hillary Clinton, one should expect quotes and comments from GOP lawmakers and consultants that may not flatter their party’s nominee.
5. Don’t forget President Obama. – Not only can Republicans drive the news about November, but the White House can too. While Mr. Obama is out of the country right now, he is scheduled to hit the campaign trail next week for Hillary Clinton. This President has not hesitated to reach out and tweak Trump, and we’ll see whether he is going to turn up that volume in the weeks ahead. Also, the President could play a role in any battles with the GOP in Congress over Zika funding, a possible government shutdown and more, which could further impact the news of the day involving the race for President. Watch to see how often Mr. Obama decides to insert himself into the Clinton-Trump race.