These lawmakers will drive Congress’ biggest battles this month

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FILE PHOTO: House Freedom Caucus Chairman U.S. Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC) speaks to reporters after meeting with his caucus members about their votes on a potential repeal of Obamacare on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo - RTX334X8

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus Chairman, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill on March 23, 2017. File photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan will be pivotal figures on Capitol Hill this month. The two GOP leaders will likely need Democratic help on some of the pressing issues it faces. And of course, McConnell and Ryan will need President Donald Trump to sign any deals.

But who else could prove pivotal on Capitol Hill this month? Here’s a look at some of the key players as Congress takes on a range of issues.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C. The chairman of the House Freedom Caucus will serve as an important temperature gauge for the most conservative members of Congress. Will they support raising the debt ceiling? What level of spending cuts would be enough to get them on board with a spending bill? Meadows is the group’s de facto spokesperson; his public statements will offer one of the best windows into the Freedom Caucus’ thinking — and how they might vote.

Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa. On the other end of the Republican spectrum is moderate Charlie Dent. He is usually a closely-watched centrist whose opinions hold sway in the House. But he is also on this list for another reason: Dent is a subcommittee chairman on the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Dent understands the spending process and may have clout both on and off the committee when it comes to arguing over how to avoid a government shutdown.

Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky. An immediate past chairman of the House Appropriations Committee (he resigned because GOP rules term-limit the job), Rogers is among the most knowledgeable lawmakers in Congress when it comes to government spending. In the past, he has often acted as a stabilizing force in moments of budget-related crisis. While he no longer leads the House spending committee, Rogers still has outsized influence on funding issues.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. Tennessee’s senior senator has taken on the difficult task of trying to stabilize the individual health care markets. As chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Alexander is the sole leading Republican pressing ahead on reforms to the health care system. The committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, will also be a key figure to watch. Murray and Alexander have two of the Senate’s best track records when it comes to forging difficult compromise deals. Many members of both parties hope the two lawmakers will reach a compromise that can get through Congress.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Schumer’s conference of 48 Senate Democrats has been incredibly unified this year in opposing Republicans and Mr. Trump. Now, the question is: If Republicans need Democratic votes later this month on issues like raising the debt ceiling, what will Schumer request in return? Schumer and the Senate Democrats’ likely list of demands could help determine how much gets done in the upper chamber.

Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Ron Johnson, R-Wisc. The three men are all very comfortable being flies in the ointment of Republican leadership when they disagree with how leadership operates. Watch to see if any of them break significantly from compromise deals.

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