This week in Congress: Gun debate takes back seat to banking bill

Bill includes provisions to loosen bank regulation

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WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Senate will not formally debate gun legislation this week despite calls to action from lawmakers on both sides in the aftermath of the deadly Parkland, Florida, mass shooting, but informal talks over a possible path are expected to intensify and should be a major focus on Capitol Hill.

Despite the broad push to quickly pass gun legislation, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate will move to other business while negotiations continue on what if anything can be done on.

"We'd love to do that at some point," the Kentucky Republican said about the still undefined gun legislation. "I'm hoping there is a way forward."

Instead, McConnell is planning a debate and votes on a bill that would provide the most significant changes yet to the 2010 Dodd-Frank regulatory law, which passed under President Barack Obama after the 2008 financial crisis.

The bill includes provisions that would loosen regulations placed on smaller and mid-size banks, easing their ability to lend money. Supporters of the plan believe that smaller community banks should not be confined to the same rules as the mega-banks of Wall Street.

The bipartisan bill, authored by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo, an Idaho Republican, already has the 60 votes needed to pass in the Senate, but Republican leaders must make sure they won't lose anyone if any changes were to be made to the bill before the vote.

Why the gun debate stalled

Part of the problem for lawmakers to address gun violence is that President Donald Trump hasn't made clear which of the leading gun measures he will support. He seemed to embrace several Democratic-led reforms at a public meeting with bipartisan lawmakers last week but later huddled privately with top officials of the National Rifle Association who left the session believing Trump would not back any gun control measures.

Following the NRA meeting, the President called Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, to reiterate his support for Cornyn's proposal, which would improve federal background checks by incentivizing better reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System -- a bill known as "Fix NICS." The plan, which is narrower in scope than other gun-related proposals, may be the one measure under consideration that can pass the House and Senate.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia told CNN on Sunday that he believes Trump would support a more comprehensive bill from him and GOP Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania to expand background checks on gun sales.

"I really believe he would," Manchin said on CNN's "State of the Union. "In my heart of hearts I believe that."

That measure however is a revival of a bill that failed in 2013, and it's unclear if the Manchin-Toomey plan could garner 60 votes this time.

In the House, Democrats are expected to push House Speaker Paul Ryan to take up gun control measures next week, and could try to use procedural tactics on the House floor to keep up the public pressure. But Ryan continued to say he and other GOP leaders will await any action from the Senate on the issue before moving anything.

Trump's tariff battle

In trade news, Republican senators expressed serious concerns for the President's announcement last week to impose tariffs on steels and aluminum, citing fears of retaliation.

Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, said in a statement, "Make no mistake: If the President goes through with this, it will kill American jobs -- that's what every trade war ultimately does. So much losing." Cornyn echoed concerns about retaliation and "unintended consequences," while Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin called for "fair and reciprocal trade," and reiterated his support of NAFTA, saying it is "extremely important to us as is keeping globally competitive steel and aluminum products, making those available to our workers."

Trump is expected to make a formal announcement about the tariffs this week. Many of the free-trade Republicans who are concerned about the fallout of the tariffs, are holding out hope Trump changes his mind before that happens.

Security clearances

The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold an open hearing -- including both industry and Executive Branch officials -- to address "complexities in the security clearance process for both government and industry."

While the timing of the hearing could raise some eyebrows in light of the security clearance issues that have plagued the White House, sources tell CNN that the hearing has been in the works for months, though questions about White House adviser Jared Kushner's clearance are expected.

Other events around the Hill

On Monday, former "Daily Show" host and First Responder advocate Jon Stewart will hold a news conference on Capitol Hill to "to call on OMB Director Mick Mulvaney to withdraw his ill-thought out proposal to separate the World Trade Center Health Program from National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health direction." He will be joined by members of the New York congressional delegation.

The House of Representatives is voting on legislation to reauthorize the Federal Communications Commission and could also take up a bill renewing intelligence programs.

Members of the President's Cabinet head to the Capitol on Tuesday -- Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Labor Secretary Alex Acosta will testify before their respective House Appropriations subcommittees for their departments' annual budget hearings.

Director of National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, a former US senator from Indiana, will appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee to testify on Worldwide Threats.

On Wednesday, Kevin Hassett, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors will appear before the Joint Economic Committee on to testify on the Economic Report of the President.

Finally, the House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing to examine "Artificial Intelligence and the Federal Government."

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