Congress Returns From Break to Find a Vacuum, Crisis and Clinton

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 6.47.00 AMCARL HULSE

Monday, October 19, 2015


Good Monday morning. Congress, away for the holiday, missed all the action last week during the Democratic debate. But members will make up for it in their return as they face warnings from the Treasury secretary, a leadership race that mirrors the will-he-or-wont-he of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.spresidential deliberations, and infighting in the House committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, which this week will play host to a special, if not quite friendly, guest. 

Members of Congress begin returning from a holiday break on Monday to try to find a new House speaker, head off a fiscal crisis threatening the economy, and grill Hillary Rodham Clinton in her long-awaited appearance before the special House committee on Benghazi.

That lineup should keep them occupied.

The scramble by House Republicans to replace Speaker John A. Boehner has essentially been suspended with the House out for Columbus Day and Representative Paul D. Ryan back home in Wisconsin pondering whether he will seek the post. With the House coming back to town, Mr. Ryan will come under renewed pressure to announce his plans and to either jump into the race or let other candidates waiting for his decision to pursue the job if he is not interested.
Pressure is also building on the House and Senate to increase the federal debt limit so that the government can continue to pay its bills. The Treasury has warned that if Congress doesn’t act, it will be unable to meet all its obligations after Nov. 3. House Republicans intend to take up a bill that would require the government to keep paying interest on its debt and providing Social Security benefits, but Democrats and the White House consider that unworkable and are demanding a straightforward increase in the debt ceiling.
Outside the speaker chaos, the marquee event of the week will come on Thursday, when Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate and former secretary of state, is set to appear before the Benghazi panel even as its own credibility and objectivity is coming under increasing attack.
The appearance is important for Mrs. Clinton to see if she can settle questions about both her handling of the security at the compound in Benghazi as well as her use of an email system outside the control of the State Department. But Thursday’s showdown is just as important for the panel as it tries to recapture respectability.