For Congress, a new session of compressed chaos

It was extraordinary that nee-Pittsburgh Steelers/Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown could condense so much chaos into a matter of a few weeks, let alone days.

Those calling this the “Antonio Brown saga” are wrong. It hasn’t gone on long enough to be a saga. It doesn’t matter whether Brown was recovering from frostbitten feet in France, scrapping with the league over the type of helmet he was permitted to wear or getting into a heated confrontation with Raiders General Manager Mike Mayock. Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden said late last week he expected Brown to play on Sunday. Then the Raiders planned to fine and suspend Brown. Oakland cut the All-Pro wideout Saturday morning. By nightfall, Brown signed, with of all teams, the New England Patriots.

The compressed chaos rocked the NFL.

But that’s nothing.

Congress regularly crams just as much mayhem into similar timeframes.

GUNS, IMPEACHMENT PUSH, BORDER WALL: WHAT'S IN STORE AS CONGRESS RETURNS FROM RECESS

The House and Senate are now back after a lengthy summer recess.

Consider what all will unfold on Capitol Hill in the coming days.

Democrats are ramping up efforts to push the Senate to vote on House-approved gun measures. The House will follow suit soon prepping additional firearms related legislation dealing with hate crimes and red flag laws. House Democrats are formalizing aspects of their impeachment inquiry. Impeachment will unquestionably dominate Washington as Democrats continue their rope-a-dope strategy with President Trump. The sides must forge an agreement to fund the government by Oct. 1.

The budget accord Congress approved earlier this summer could help avoid a shutdown. But the president’s repeated efforts to bypass Congress and redirect money tagged for other projects to his border wall ignited tempers on both sides. Lawmakers are very protective of their constitutional prerogatives when it comes to federal spending.

The reprogramming of federal funds is a flashpoint. Lawmakers may seek to restrict Mr. Trump from moving money around without their blessing in upcoming appropriations bills. Democrats could draw his ire as they wrestle with impeachment and investigations.

That is the wild card in all of this. Impeachment and inquiries could set the president off, making it hard to come to an accord on the spending bills.

“You know, a shutdown would help him with his base,” observed one House Republican.

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And, don’t forget how inflamed lawmakers are about President Trump inviting Taliban leaders to Camp David for peace talks on the eve of 9/11. The president canceled the conclave over the weekend and now says a deal is essentially dead. But members of both parties were incensed that an American president would even ask Taliban chiefs to visit U.S. soil.

In addition, lawmakers are sure to continue their questioning about stopovers by the U.S. Air Force in Scotland. And we haven’t even gotten down to Sharpie-gate. Members may find it hard to resist putting too fine a point on that imbroglio.

There is a special election for a House seat in North Carolina tomorrow night. Republican Dan Bishop faces Democrat Dan McCready. The seat has been vacant since Jan. 3. Former Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., lost the primary last year. But due to election irregularities, the seat was never filled. Political observers bill a lot of special elections as bellwethers. Many are not.

But this one truly meets the bellwether bar. North Carolina is a swing state. This is a flippable district for Democrats. The outcome of the race could serve as one of the few federal, electoral metrics between now and next year’s primaries.

So much squished into such a short period of time.

That’s just how Congress always rolls. Congress stuffs all of its Washington activity into abbreviated workweeks. Usually late in the day Monday through early afternoon Thursday. It’s hard to see how things wouldn’t be anything but tumultuous.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., returned to the Capitol Monday for the first time after a fall at his home in August where he fractured his shoulder. The Kentucky Republican sported an elevated splint, propping up his left arm as he navigated a warren of reporters in the Ohio Clock Corridor, en route to the floor.

“Well, how was your August,” McConnell facetiously questioned the press corps. When asked how he was doing, McConnell replied “I’m feeling good.”

In his first remarks on the Senate floor in six weeks, McConnell talked about the need to keep the government open and work on appropriations bills. But he did not mention firearms at all.

As McConnell spoke, Dayton, Ohio, Mayor Nan Whaley, a Dem,  joined leading congressional Democrats just steps away in the Senate’s Lyndon Baines Johnson Room for a press conference about guns. Whaley arrived a few minutes late for the presser after meeting at the White House with top aides, including White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, about firearms.

Whaley said she thought the Trump administration was now serious about guns.

“I think it means there is something new in this,” said Whaley “Actions are better than words.”

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Ct., represented Newtown in the House and was a senator-elect when the massacre unfolded at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. Murphy says “it’s good we’re still at the table.” But Murphy has been down this path too many times on guns. He urged caution.

“You have to be very sober-minded with this White House,” said Murphy.

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At the press conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., predicted that Democrats would “make this issue too hot for (McConnell) to handle.” The speaker added that if McConnell doesn’t act, “Republicans in the Senate will have hell to pay.”

A couple of hours later, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., held court with a coterie of reporters to explain Thursday’s meeting to establish guidelines for his panel’s impeachment inquest.

“It has been an impeachment inquiry and it continues to be,” said Nadler,  who also noted that such a probe might not result in actually impeaching President Trump.

But Nadler was direct when asked if he thought the public might interpret his effort as full-blown impeachment effort.

“I don’t think so,” replied Nadler. “What we are doing is clear. It has been very clear. It continues to be very clear.”

Still, some House Democrats aren’t sure what’s going on.

“Reality is only what people say,” mused one influential Democrat.

It’s hard to keep up. Almost like trying to track the Antonio Brown serial. But there’s a difference.

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In the NFL, teams only suit up for one game a week.

The difference on Capitol Hill? This game never ends.