WASHINGTON–As Congress returns from Thanksgiving break, lawmakers face a busy week with an expected Senate vote on tax legislation, a visit from President Donald Trump and continued headlines over allegations of sexual assault.
Trump will make the short trip on Tuesday to Capitol Hill to address Senate Republicans at their weekly policy lunch, where he’ll address the tax bill and other items on the fall legislative agenda.
This will mark his third appearance before Republicans at the Capitol in a little over a month.
Trump will meet later Tuesday with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders at the White House, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican; House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican; Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat; and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat.
The meeting comes as lawmakers face fast-approaching deadlines to pass an omnibus spending bill to keep the government open and, separately, to raise the debt ceiling. Congress was set to address both fiscal issues with long-term deals in September, but Trump bucked his own party and sided with Democratic leaders to extend the deadlines just until the end of this year.
Just hours before lawmakers left town for the Thanksgiving recess, a woman went public November 16 alleging she had been sexually harassed by Sen. Al Franken in 2006, before he was elected to office. Later, another woman accused the Minnesota Democrat of inappropriately touching her in 2010, when he was in his first term. Franken, who has since issued multiple apologies through his office, has yet to go before reporters, although he is expected to speak to the media on Sunday, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Reports later emerged of another lawmaker, Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, facing allegations of sexual harassment. The House Ethics Committee announced Tuesday that it would launch an investigation, and Conyers’ lawyers say he will address all the allegations at some point this week.
A third lawmaker, Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, is in the headlines as a potential victim of “revenge porn” after a sexually explicit photo of him was posted on social media. The congressman apologized last week for not using “better judgment” while separated from his wife and in consensual relationships with women. It’s unclear who posted the photo, but an unnamed woman told The Washington Post that Barton had sent her lewd photos, videos and messages when they had two sexual encounters over the course of five years.
Separately, a number of key hearings are taking place this week. The Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday morning on the nomination of Jerome Powell to be chairman of the Federal Reserve.
The Health Committee will meet Wednesday on the nomination of Alex Azar to be secretary of the Health and Human Services Department after Tom Price stepped down earlier this year amid a controversy over using private planes for official travel.
The House Intelligence Committee will hear from former Blackwater chief Erik Prince on Thursday as the committee continues its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Prince’s interview, as posted by the committee, is described as “open in a closed space” — meaning that his testimony will be taken privately but a transcript of the proceedings will be released later, as the committee did with former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page.
The Joint Economic Committee will hear from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on Wednesday about the US economic outlook.