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Congress braces for monster sprint


Congress is facing down a rough, frantic week as they juggle multiple priorities with only days until they are set to leave town until late April.

The looming break has lawmakers scrambling to wrap up negotiations on bipartisan legislative priorities, including coronavirus aid and Russia trade legislation, while Democrats will also take steps on Monday, April 4, to allow them to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, by the end of the week.

The full plate could see some items kicked until after Congress returns to Washington, unless all 100 senators agree to speed things up. The House and Senate are expected to leave this week and not return until the week of April 25.

“I think it’s going to be very complicated trying to do anything but the justice,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Republican senator, told The Hill.

Supreme Court

The biggest priority for Senate Democrats this week is to get Jackson confirmed as the first Black, female justice to the Supreme Court before they leave town.

Jackson’s nomination is on a glide path that only multiple absences, for example senators falling ill or contracting coronavirus, could throw a wrench into.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet at 10 a.m. on Monday to debate and vote on whether to advance her nomination to the full Senate.

The committee meeting could drag on for hours, with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) indicating he will let senators on the 22-member committee speak their piece.

The committee vote is expected to deadlock in a 11-11 tie, the first time a Supreme Court nominee has faced a tied committee vote since Justice Clarence Thomas’s nomination.

Democrats will then move on Monday to formally discharge Jackson’s nomination from the committee. It is the first time the Senate has had to do so for a Supreme Court nominee since 1853. To discharge Jackson from committee and make her nomination available for a full Senate vote, Democrats will only need a simple majority to support moving forward.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is then expected to move on Tuesday to set up votes on Jackson’s nomination. Under the Senate rules, the earliest an initial vote will happen is on Thursday, unless senators agree to speed things up.

After that, senators could still force an additional 30 hours of debate, making a final vote on her nomination as late as Friday, if there isn’t an agreement to yield back time and try to hit the Senate’s normal Thursday exit from Washington.

Jackson currently has the votes to be confirmed. All 50 Democrats are expected to support her, though Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) hasn’t yet said how she will vote. Though Sinema has bucked her party on legislation, she’s supported all of Biden’s lower court judicial nominees.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is the only Republican so far that has said she will support Jackson. Assuming all 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus vote yes, that’s enough to let her avoid a history-making tie on the Senate floor.

GOP opposition to Jackson’s nomination has hardened since last week with Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) all saying that they will oppose her. Each voted against Jackson last year for her appeals court seat. Tillis, however, was viewed as a potential sleeper “yes” vote after his tone during Jackson’s hearing last month and Blunt and Burr are retiring, freeing them of potential political repercussions for supporting Jackson.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) are both viewed as potential “yes” votes and haven’t yet said how they will vote on her nomination.

Murkowski previously supported Jackson for her appeals court seat. Romney voted against last year but has said that he’s keeping an open mind and has been critical of some of his colleagues’ attacks on Jackson.

This article originally appeared on TheHill.

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