Congress returns Tuesday to a bruising September agenda of must-do items and deepening discord with the White House, leaving the Republican majority’s hopes for advancing its once-ambitious legislative priorities all but out of reach.
Rather than emerging from the monthlong summer break with renewed legislative purpose, Republicans are approaching the weeks ahead, and its rolling crisis deadlines, with unease.
In a matter of days, Congress must approve disaster funding for Hurricane Harvey, raise the debt limit to avoid a devastating federal default and appropriate money to keep the federal government from shutting down after Sept. 30 — even as the FBI widens its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and the White House faces off with North Korea.
Responding to reports that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing from the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement, congressional leaders overseeing trade called on the White House to pursue further discussions instead of pulling out of a pact with an important economic and strategic ally, particularly at a time of heightened tensions in the Korean peninsula.
In a rare bipartisan statement Tuesday, the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees acknowledged that the five-year-old free trade accord with South Korea “has presented frustrations for some important U.S. industries and stakeholders” and that the U.S. should press for compliance.
But the lawmakers said that moving to exit the agreement would be neither effective nor constructive. South Korea, they noted, is America’s seventh largest export market.
Young people currently shielded from deportation and allowed to work legally in the U.S. under the DACA program will begin losing their protection in March unless Congress acts before then, the Trump administration announced Tuesday.
In the meantime, the administration will continue to renew two-year work permits as they expire but will stop accepting new applications for the program.
Russian President Vladimir Putin added an unforgettable phrase to the annals of U.S.-Russian relations on Tuesday when he was asked if he was disappointed in President Trump.
Dismissing the question from a reporter as naive, he said: "He is not my bride, and I am not his bride or groom."
Like Trump, Putin is known for using plain-spoken, and sometimes startling, language. But the marital image was certainly one of the stranger comments to emerge in the wake of one of the tensest diplomatic standoffs between Moscow and Washington since the Cold War.
President Trump spoke Monday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and sought to ratchet up pressure on North Korea following its test of what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb over the weekend, the White House said.
Trump also raised North Korea’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test in a Labor Day call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
He spoke Sunday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
As a candidate, Donald Trump boasted of his lack of government experience and argued his business background qualified him to handle a president’s most august responsibility — handling the nuclear arsenal.
On Sunday, hours after North Korea claimed it had tested its first hydrogen bomb, far more powerful than its previous nuclear tests, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis emerged from a meeting that Trump had just held with his top national security advisors, and raised the specter of nuclear war.
Standing in the White House driveway with Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mattis warned Pyongyang that aggression against the United States or its allies would trigger a unified world response and what he termed the “total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea.”
Before he left office in January, President Obama offered his successor accolades and advice in a private letter that underscored some of his concerns as he passed the baton.
In the letter, published Sunday by CNN, Obama praised President Trump, saying: "Congratulations on a remarkable run. Millions have placed their hopes in you, and all of us, regardless of party, should hope for expanded prosperity and security during your tenure."
Obama went on to urge Trump to "build more ladders of success for every child and family," to "sustain the international order" and to protect "democratic institutions and traditions."