'Lame-duck' Congress returns, facing
budget, Mueller, border wall issues
Send a link to a friend
[November 13, 2018]
By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Congress
returns on Tuesday for a post-election "lame-duck" session, facing a
funding deadline to prevent a partial government shutdown, as well as
demands for protections for Special Counsel Robert Mueller and money for
a proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Those issues, plus leadership contests among both Democrats and
Republicans, promise to dominate the brief session of Congress wedged in
between last week's congressional elections and the start of the
2019-2020 Congress in January.
In the elections, voters ended the Republicans' majority control of the
House of Representatives and gave it to the Democrats, while leaving the
Senate in Republican hands. But nothing will actually change until
For now, Republicans will retain their dominance in both chambers,
although Democrats are already ramping up challenges to their partisan
rivals and Republican President Donald Trump.
"This election cycle really was about delivering a check to this
administration, and it would be quite disappointing if we do not do that
for the people,” Democratic Representative-elect Ilhan Omar of Minnesota
told a news conference in Washington.
The main legislative project for the lame-duck session will be a
spending bill, said aides and lawmakers. Passage is needed to keep the
Department of Homeland Security and some other agencies operating beyond
Dec. 7, when the money runs out.
As is often the case, some lawmakers hope to attach other measures to
this "must-do" spending bill.
For instance, Democrats and some Republicans want to attach legislation
to prevent Trump from impeding or ending the work of Mueller, who is
leading an inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential
election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to help
The Republican president repeatedly has characterized the Mueller
investigation as a "witch hunt" and has denied that he or his associates
colluded with Russia. Moscow has said it did not interfere in the
Democrats and some Republicans worry that Trump is maneuvering to fire
or significantly restrain the special counsel.
Trump last week forced out Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replaced
him with Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general in charge of
overseeing Mueller. [nL2N1XI0EF] Whitaker has described Mueller's probe
as being too wide-ranging.
[to top of second column]
Special Counsel Robert Mueller departs after briefing the U.S. House
Intelligence Committee on his investigation of potential collusion
between Russia and the Trump campaign on Capitol Hill in Washington,
U.S., June 20, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein -/File Photo
Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal has told Reuters that he is
considering legal action over the Whitaker appointment. On Monday,
an aide said Blumenthal's staff was still looking at how a legal
challenge could be brought against Trump.
The Justice Department said on Monday night that Whitaker would
consult with ethics officials about any matters that could require
him to recuse himself. [nL2N1XO01V]
On another front, Trump has threatened to let some federal agency
funding lapse unless Congress provides more than $20 billion for a
U.S.-Mexico border wall. He made construction of the wall a key
Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and House must also choose
new leaders, with Nancy Pelosi, the Democrats' leader for the past
16 years, making a strong bid to become House speaker in a
closed-door Nov. 28 party leadership election.
Pelosi made history from 2007 to 2011 as the first woman speaker, a
powerful position second in the line of emergency presidential
succession after the vice president.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell,
David Morgan and Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Peter Cooney)
[© 2018 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2018 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Thompson Reuters is solely responsible for this content.