The Supreme Court, Russia And Health Care Take Center Stage On Capitol Hill Today

The political week begins with two major hearings on Capital Hill today.

The Senate Judiciary Committee begins its hearing on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the US Supreme Court.

The hearing starts at 11am eastern with Gorsuch being formally introduced by both Senators, Michael Bennet (D) and Cory Gardner (R), from his home state of Colorado. They will be followed by Neal Katyal who served as acting Solicitor General during the Obama administration.

Gorsuch will then be questioned by the panel’s 11 Republican and 9 Democratic members. You can see a full list of witness who will testify in favor and opposition to the nomination following Gorsuch’s testimony here.

Baring a shocking development today, it’s a near certainty that Gorsuch will be reported out of the committee with a favorable recommendation. Every Republican member has either spoken favorably of Gorsuch or outright committed to voting for him. The question will be whether he receives any Democratic support on the committee.

Should his nomination go to the floor as expected, he certainly has the necessary 50 votes for confirmation (you can see the Decision Desk HQ whip count here). The question will be if the Democrats decide to filibuster (unlike other presidential nominations, Supreme Court nominations still require 60 vote to break a filibuster) and if a sufficient number of Democrats break ranks to get to the 60 vote threshold.

Activists group are urging Democratic Senators to use all the tools at their disposal, including a filibuster, to oppose Grosuch’s confirmation.

Even with that mounting pressure, enough Democrats have already said they favor giving Gorsuch an “up or down vote” to break a filibuster but that’s yet to be tested on the floor.

Across the capital building at 10am eastern, the House Intelligence Committee will hold a rare public hearing. The committee will hear testimony from FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency head Admiral Mike Rogers on Russian efforts to affect US elections.

Other topics expected to be covered inlude President Donald Trump’s allegation that the Obama administration wire tapped him during the campaign and whether or not there is an ongoing investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence figures.

News outlets have reported that the FBI and the Justice Department are conducting probes into the allegations surrounding Russia, the 2016 elections and the Trump team. But Comey has yet to admit to this publicly on Capitol Hill.

His silence – predicated on his insistence that he never comments on ongoing investigations – has irked members of both parties and invited bipartisan charges that Comey is stonewalling Congress.

 

The third major hearing today will be the House Rules Committee scheduled meeting for 5pm to deal with the process for consideration of the GOP’s ObamaCare replacement plan. It’s this committee which will decide how much time will be allocated for debate and which, if any, amendments will be allowed to reach the House floor.

House Speaker Paul Ryan hopes to have the bill before the House this week.

“I think Thursday is most likely the day to bring it forward,” the Wisconsin Republican told “Fox News Sunday.” “We are still having conversations with our members. We are making fine-tuning improvements to the bill to reflect people’s concerns, to reflect people’s improvements.”

As he has said since introducing the bill earlier this month, Ryan expressed confidence Sunday about having the requisite 218 votes in the GOP-controlled House to send the bill to the GOP-controlled Senate.

“I feel very good about it, actually,” Ryan said. “It’s exactly where we want to be.”