5 Significant Events to Watch on Capitol Hill This Week
From the Supreme Court’s new term to the House budget and a long-awaited pro-life bill, many events converge this week in the nation’s capital.
In the wake of events in Las Vegas, much of the nation’s attention will turn away from Washington, D.C., this week. Yet even as people seek to understand how this deadly shooting occurred, leaders on Capitol Hill face several urgent priorities in the days ahead.
Key events will shape how our nation responds to significant justice issues and world events. Note that these events are subject to change, particularly with wild cards such as ongoing relief efforts in Puerto Rico, threats from North Korea, the Mueller investigation and response to the shooting tragedy.
1. U.S. Supreme Court Opens Its New Term
On Monday morning, the Supreme Court began its new term — which will last through the end of June 2018. The nine justices will face a variety of high-profile cases, some already on the docket. Others are yet to be granted cert, that is, a lower court opinion to be reviewed by the nation’s highest court.
Many cases involve issues that concern every American. In Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, baker Jack Phillips will contend that he serves gay clients often in his business. He believes that being forced by the state to design, create and sell custom cakes for same-sex wedding ceremonies goes against his First Amendment rights.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear Gill v. Whitford. The Wisconsin case challenges how states draw up the lines of Congressional voting districts. These borders affect the balance of power in Congress. The issue is known as “gerrymandering,” and both political parties have exploited it in the past.
The House is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban most abortions after the 20th week of development in the womb.
Other major cases involve immigration policy, local police seizing cell phone records, onerous EPA regulations and whether public unions can force nonmembers to pay annual dues. Many will be watching the court’s newest member, Justice Neil Gorsuch. Will his voice impact oral arguments and how the Supreme Court rules?
2. Significant Pro-Life Bill Gets House Vote
This week, the pro-life movement hopes that four years of speaking up for lives in the womb will bear fruit with a new law. The House is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban most abortions after the 20th week of development in the womb. The bill penalizes abortion providers who would attempt to offer these services.
Pro-life advocates’ campaign on this bill includes a House vote in the previous Congress and a letter of support signed by now-President Donald Trump. Last time around, the bill failed in the Senate.
Former nurse Jill Stanek, now with the Susan B. Anthony List, says lives are at stake with this bill. “Current policy results in the direct, calculable loss of more than 15,000 babies per year who are older than 20 weeks,” she said. As to the science behind the bill, primary House sponsor Congressman Trent Franks cites research from the Charlotte Lozier Institute.
“There’s no debate about that,” Franks said at a Capitol Hill event. “No one, except someone who’s just a demagogue or a liar or a complete moron — forgive me, we always have to include all the possibilities — will truly debate that a child feels pain beginning at the fifth month.”
3. Governor Sam Brownback Faces Senate Confirmation Hearing
On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will consider the nomination of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback to a key State Department post. Two months ago, the Trump Administration announced Brownback as the pick for Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.
The purpose of this role, which reports directly to the Secretary of State, is to assess human rights crises and publicly advocate on behalf of persecuted faith groups worldwide. Brownback is respected widely for his work on behalf of oppressed minorities during his 15 years in Congress.
Rabbi David Saperstein, who held the position under President Obama, praised the choice of Brownback for the role. “He has a long track record of support for religious freedom issues,” said Saperstein. “It’s an issue he knows, he knows well and cares deeply about.”
A decade ago as a U.S. Senator, Brownback was a key sponsor of the law which created the role. In a surprising alliance with then-Senator Hillary Clinton, Brownback also led efforts to combat human trafficking.
4. U.S. House Slated to Pass Federal Budget
On Thursday and Friday, the House is expected to debate and consider H. Con. Res 71 which establishes the FY 2018 budget. The vote represents the next step in a complex process by which Congress sets federal spending levels.
Conservatives expressed regret when President Donald Trump brokered the budget deal with Democratic leaders last month. He agreed to sign into law a debt ceiling increase, sustaining public funding for the next three months and providing $15 billion for disaster relief. On the other side, critics emphasize how the budget increases military spending while foreign aid and other “soft power” funds are cut.
Following a year of planning and mobilization, several national Christian groups will converge this weekend on the National Mall.
The budget appears to be on its way to passage, as even the conservative House Freedom Caucus has now endorsed it. The House bill is linked to tax reform efforts, as new analysis explains. “The budget is crucial for Republicans because it will unlock a special process allowing them to pass a tax bill through the Senate with a simple majority,” states The Hill.
5. Prayer Gathering on the National Mall Begins Friday
Following a year of planning and mobilization, several national Christian groups will converge this weekend on the National Mall. The gathering called Awaken the Dawn will extend into Monday, with public prayer, worship and brief talks from leaders.
Diverse Christian leaders will front specific sessions. Jason Hershey, whose group has hosted a 24/7 worship tent in D.C. since 2012, will speak Friday alongside Lou Engle who has led stadium prayer gatherings for decades. Heidi Baker, whose Iris Global team serves thousands of orphans in Mozambique, will address the gathering both Friday and Sunday.
The prayer event reflects “a new Jesus movement, a Holy Spirit Woodstock,” said David Bradshaw, who leads the ministry Awaken the Dawn. “We want to throw the biggest celebration of Jesus’ worth on this National Mall.” Saturday evening will be led by One Voice Student Missions, known for a focus on evangelism in high schools. Popular author and former pastor Francis Chan will deliver keynote remarks.
On Sunday, the Bethel Music team from Redding, California, will headline an evening with evangelist Todd White, worship artist Lindy Conant, St. Louis pastor Jonathan Tremaine Thomas and others. In a testament to how worship undergirds the event, music artists involved released a compilation called “Awaken the Dawn: Volume 1.” At press time, it ranks as the fourth top-selling Christian album on iTunes.
To cap it off, prayers on Columbus Day will have specific focus on women’s voices. Among the leaders will be author Lisa Bevere, Beni Johnson of Bethel Church and Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. The event comes twenty years after Promise Keepers hosted one million Christian men on the National Mall in 1997.