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Congress returns to work after a 2-week break with many items on the schedule

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

They're back. Congress, that is. Lawmakers left 2 weeks ago, after a middle-of-the-night session, to pass a federal budget for the current fiscal year. That monthslong budget fight put other major issues on the back burner that will be center stage this week. That includes a Senate impeachment trial of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and the ongoing debate over aid to Israel, Ukraine and other allies. NPR's congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales joins me now with more. Good morning.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So both the Senate impeachment trial and foreign aid effort could take up a lot of oxygen on the Hill this week. Let's start with Secretary Mayorkas. What can we expect there?

GRISALES: Right. As you may recall, the Republican-controlled House impeached Mayorkas by just one vote in mid-February, but to trigger the next step in this process, a trial, the articles of impeachment must be sent to the Democratic-led Senate, and House Speaker Mike Johnson delayed that move. He said his plan was to transmit those articles after the 2024 budget was resolved. And now that Congress has wrapped up their extended recess and they come back this week, Johnson is now planning to do that on Wednesday. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he expects the trial to begin Thursday, and while he hasn't detailed how that will look, after the trial begins, many expect it will die quickly, with very quick effort to get that done and wrapped up.

FADEL: And meanwhile, Congress is now facing a slew of new dynamics on another issue that stalled in February, and that's military aid to Israel, Ukraine, other foreign allies. Where does that stand?

GRISALES: Right. So nearly two months ago, the Senate passed their $95 billion foreign aid package, but this was before Schumer and others expressed growing concern for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's aggressive role in the war with Hamas, and in turn, Gaza. And as we saw, there were mass demonstrations in Israel this weekend protesting Netanyahu's approach, and this follows the killing of seven aid workers with the D.C.-based World Central Kitchen, which is led by chef Jose Andres. Now Democrats are growing more vocal about their concerns surrounding Netanyahu and potential aid, so they're facing this prospect of reconsidering how to provide this military assistance to Israel and what the next steps there would look like. So perhaps it could be conditions-based.

FADEL: Over in the House, Speaker Mike Johnson is facing the threat of a vote to kick him out of the job after just six months. What's going on there?

GRISALES: Right. As we know, Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene took the initial procedural steps towards a motion to vacate. That is, to force Johnson out over his plans to call up aid to Ukraine. And so this is something that has not yet happened on the floor, but, of course, Greene has raised this concern. And this was just before the House left for its recess, so we're unclear if she will try to take the next step. Though she continues to make this threat.

FADEL: Could that disrupt other things the House needs to do?

GRISALES: It remains to be a cloud over Johnson as he tries to navigate this and a pretty long to-do list with a very tight majority that includes an upcoming deadline to extend authority for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which remains quite controversial, and aid to rebuild the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which collapsed in Baltimore, as well as a slew of more budget proposals for the new fiscal year.

FADEL: NPR's congressional correspondent, Claudia Grisales. Thank you.

GRISALES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.
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