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What Could Happen on Capitol Hill in May

Angel Padilla - 05/03/2018


We’ll be honest with you—Congress isn’t going to do a lot of real work for the rest the year. Summers are usually slow on Capitol Hill no matter what, but during election years the legislative gears grind to a near halt as Members of Congress (MoCs) try to avoid hard votes and spend as much time in their home state/district as they can to bolster their reelection chances.

Despite that, there will be some items on the legislative agenda when MoCs return from recess on May 6. Here’s our monthly update on what could move on Capitol Hill:

Gina Haspel: The Senate Must Not Confirm a Torturer

  • What’s the issue: Mike Pompeo’s confirmation as Trump’s new Secretary of State on April 26 cleared the way for the Senate to consider Gina Haspel’s nomination to be the new head of the CIA. We’ve been talking about this for weeks, but it bears repeating: Gina Haspel personally helped torture detainees in a secret CIA-run prison during the Bush administration. She then made sure the video evidence was destroyed. She is utterly unfit to lead the CIA.
  • What to expect: Few senators have taken public positions on Haspel’s nomination so far, but the vote is going to be tight. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has said he’ll vote no on her confirmation (though he said the same about Pompeo before switching to “yes” at the last moment), which means if Democrats stick together she will not be confirmed.
  • Bottom line: Gina Haspel is a dangerous choice to lead the CIA. You can find everything you’ll need to pressure your Senator at, including a call script, an event map, shareable social media graphics, and more!

Farm Bill: Republicans Want to Cut Food Assistance

  • What’s the issue: The Farm Bill was last passed in 2013, and it must be reauthorized every five years. It’s a $100 billion legislative package that covers everything from farm subsidies and agricultural programs to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps). Typically, it is a bipartisan exercise—but in April, Republicans passed a partisan bill out of committee that takes away food assistance from people (over two million people could be kicked out of the program) and instead funds unproven, unscalable job training programs that will leave people hungry.
  • What to expect: The House is expected to vote on the Farm Bill the week of May 14; it will probably pass with few or no Democratic votes. The Senate will take it up after that; it’s likely they will start from scratch with their own version.
  • Bottom line: Only a few months after voting to give trillions in tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations, House Republicans are back to make life worse for families who rely on federal food assistance. The House vote in mid-May will only be the start of this fight; we’ll keep you updated as it goes forward.

Net Neutrality: Hail Mary for The Free and Open Internet

  • What’s the issue: Senate Democrats will introduce their Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to protect net neutrality on May 9th, with a vote coming a few days later (likely May 14, 15, or 16). The resolution needs the support of a majority of Senators to pass, and right now there are 50 (all 49 Democrats plus Susan Collins) who say they will vote for it.
  • What to expect: If Senator McCain isn’t able to make it back to Washington for this vote, the resolution will likely pass—but the only way we can be certain is if one more Republican Senator signs on. Right now, it looks like John Kennedy from Louisiana is the most likely to get on board, so if he’s your Senator you can use our call script to tell him to protect the free and open internet.
  • Bottom line: We won’t sugarcoat it: this is an uphill battle. Even though this resolution is likely to pass the Senate, it almost certainly won’t pass the House, and even if it did Trump would probably veto it. That’s why we need to keep working to build the blue wave in November—the only way to protect the internet, our health care, and more from Trump is to take back power.

Iran Deal: Trump’s March to War

  • What’s the issue: The U.S. is in a deal with Iran and five other nations that blocks Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon in exchange for limited sanctions relief. By May 12, Trump will have to decide whether to unilaterally reimpose some sanctions and thus pave the way to pull out the deal. He is widely expected to do this, which will take away verifiable protections against a nuclear Iran, and taking us closer to a military conflict with Iran—something new National Security Advisor John Bolton has wanted for a long time.
  • What to expect: It seems likely that Trump will pull us out of the Iran deal. German Chancellor Merkel and French President Macron have recently visited Trump and urged him to stay in the deal, but Trump has signaled multiple times that he would like to pull out of the deal, starting with the May sanctions deadline.
  • Bottom line: There is unfortunately not much that we can do to stop Trump from doing this. However, we can continue to oppose the war cabinet that he’s assembling, and urge Members of Congress to vehemently oppose authorizing any new wars, whether against Iran or otherwise.