Week Back Week Ahead In Congress: Monday February 16, 2015

Erin Carson, Lead Analyst Monday February 16th 2015

The House and Senate remained at a standstill last week on pushing through an appropriations package for the Department of Homeland Security, which will be shut down if a bill is not passed by February 28. Democrats are asking the House to send over a new, "clean" funding bill that does not include the controversial provisions to block President Obama's immigration policies. Republicans, who control both chambers, are bearing the blame over the looming shut down, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has so far been insistent that Senate Democrats are blocking a bills passage by filibustering the bill already passed by the House. Both chambers are on recess until the week of February 23. 

The House passed the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act last week, sending it to the President Obama for certain veto. The lower chamber also passed as a Tax Relief bill that would allow small businesses to immediately deduct capital investment instead of using a depreciation mechanism; as well as a number of other non-controversial bills. The Senate unanimously passed a restitution bill for victims of child pornography. 

The full report on the week’s activity is provided below.

House Floor Action

The following bills were approved in the House after full debate:

S. 1 :  Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act, passed the House by a vote of 270 to 142 on Wednesday, February 11. The legislation, which would bypass State Department review to would approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, is expected to be vetoed by President Obama next week.

H.R. 636: America’s Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2015, passed the House by a vote of 272 to 142 on Friday February 13.  This legislation provides some additional tax breaks for qualifying small businesses.

H.R. 644: Fighting Hunger Incentive Act of 2015, passed by a vote of 279 to 137 on Friday February 13.  This legislation provides certain tax incentives to qualifying individuals who donate food items to charity.

Earlier in the week, the House passed the following bills by voice vote under suspension of the rules:

H.R. 810: National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2015

H.R. 710: Essential Transportation Worker Identification Credential Assessment Act

H.R. 719: TSA Office of Inspection Accountability Act of 2015

H.R. 720: Gerardo Hernandez Airport Security Act of 2015  

H.R. 431: To award a Congressional Gold Medal to the Foot Soldiers who participated in Bloody Sunday, Turnaround Tuesday, or the final Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March in March of 1965, which served as a catalyst for the Voting Rights Act of 1965 

Senate Floor Action

The Senate passed one bill last week: S.295 - Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act of 2015, passed 98-0.

Senators also  confirmed Ashton B. Carter as Secretary of Defense and Michael Botticelli as Director of National Drug Control Policy.

Week Behind - House Committee Action

Agriculture  On February 11, the full committee held a hearing on the State of the Rural Economy. On February 12, the  full committee held a business meetingto consider the Budget Views and Estimates Letter of the Committee on Agriculture for the agencies and programs under jurisdiction of the Committee for FY 2016 .

Appropriations – The House Appropriations Committee held six hearings last week. On February 11, the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies held a Budget Hearing on the Indian Health Service; the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies held a Budget Hearing on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission; the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs held anOversight Hearing on “Funding to Prevent, Prepare for, and Respond to the Ebola Virus Outbreak; and the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development held a Budget Hearing on the Army Corps of Engineers, Civil Works.

On Thursday, February 12, the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development held a Budget Hearing on the Bureau of Reclamation.

On Friday, February 13, the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies held Budget Hearing on the Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General.

Armed Services –On February 11, the full committee held a hearing on the FY 16 Budget Request, entitled “A View from Outside Experts: Alternative Budgets and Strategic Choices.” Also on February 11, the Subcommittee on Military Personnel held a hearing on Final Recommendations from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission. On February 12, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing entitled“Update on Detainee Transfers from GTMO.” Finally, on February 13, the full committee will hold a hearing entitled, “What is the State of Islamic Extremism: Key Trends, Challenges, and Implications for U.S. Policy.”

Education and the Workforce – On February 12, the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing entitled, “How Emerging Technology Affects Student Privacy.

Energy and Commerce – The E&C Committee held three hearings last week and marked up a series of bipartisan bills. On Wednesday, February 11, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations reviewed a Government Accountability Office report on the failures of the federal mental health system in a hearing entitled “Why Greater HHS Leadership is Needed.” Also on February 11, the Subcommittee on Health held a hearing entitled “Examining ICD-10 Implementation,” a coding system to be used by health care providers for reimbursement and other functions. On Wednesday, the Subcommittee on Energy and Power examined the FY 2016 Department of Energy Budget.

On Wednesday, the full committee held a markup hearing on the following bills:

H.R. 471, the Ensuring Patient Access to Effective Drug Enforcement Act, authored by full committee Vice Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA), Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), and Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA)

H.R. 639, the Improving Regulatory Transparency for New Medical Therapies Act, authored by Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA), Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Gene Green (D-TX), and full committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ).

H.R. 648, the Trauma Systems and Regionalization of Emergency Care Reauthorization Act, authored by Rep. Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX) and Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Gene Green (D-TX).

H.R. 647, the Access to Life-Saving Trauma Care for All Americans Act, also authored by Reps. Burgess and Green.  The bill reauthorizes language from the Public Health Service Act to fund trauma care centers. This funding is set to expire in fiscal year 2015.

H.R. 734, The FCC Consolidated Reporting Act of 2015, authored by Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), and Ranking Member Anna Eshoo (D-CA). The legislation reduces the reporting workload and increases efficiency at the FCC.

H.R. 212, the Drinking Water Protection Act, authored by Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH).

Financial Services – On February 11, the full committee held a hearing entitled “The Future of Housing IN America: Oversight of the Federal Housing Administration.”

Foreign Affairs - Last week the Committee held four hearings:

- The Growing Strategic Threat of ISIS to discuss the terrorist group and the President’s request for authorization to use military force;

- The Syrian Humanitarian Crisis: Four Years Later and No End in Sight to discuss the conflict in Syria and resulting migration and humanitarian concerns;

- Azerbaijan: US Energy, Security, and Human Rights Interests

- State Sponsor of Terror: The Global Threat of Iran to discuss the threat of nuclear capability in Iran.

Homeland Security – On February 11, the full committee held a hearing titled: Countering Violent Islamist Extremism: The Urgent Threat of Foreign Fighters and Homegrown Terror with testimony from senior officials in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Department of Justice, US Department of Homeland Security and the US Department of the State. On February 12, the full committee held a hearing titled: Emerging Threats and Technologies to Protect the Homeland, which included a review of efforts at the US Department of Homeland Security to detect and combat cyber crime.

Judiciary– On February 11 the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations will held a hearing, Federal Asset Forfeiture: Uses and Reforms, witnesses at the hearing included:  Kenneth A. Blanco, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, United States Department of Justice; Keith Henderson, Prosecuting Attorney, Floyd County, Indiana; Darpana Sheth, Attorney, Institute for Justice; and David Smith, Attorney, Smith & Zimmerman, PLLC.

The Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security also held a February 11 hearing, Interior Immigration Enforcement Legislation to consider several pieces of draft legislation:

H.R.____, to improve immigration law enforcement within the interior of the United States, and for other purposes;

H.R.____, to modify the treatment of unaccompanied alien children who are in Federal custody by reason of their immigration status, and for other purposes; and,

H.R.____, to amend the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008.

On February 12 the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law will held a hearing Consumers Shortchanged? Oversight of the Justice Department’s Mortgage Lending Settlements and the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet will hold a hearing  Examining Recent Supreme Court Cases in the Patent Arena .  Finally, on February 13 the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice will held a hearing  Oversight of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

Oversight and Government Reform – On February 11 the full committee met for a hearing, GAO’s High Risk Report: 25 Years of Problematic Practices, to discuss the Government Accountability Office.  The hearing included testimony from the following witnesses: John J. MacWilliams, Senior Advisor to the Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy; Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General, U.S. Government Accountability Office; Robert M. Lightfoot, Jr., Associate Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration; Shantanu Agrawal, M.D., Deputy Administrator and Director, Center for Program Integrity, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; Alan F. Estevez, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, U.S. Department of Defense; and John Koskinen, Commissioner, Internal Revenue Service.

On February 12 the full committee met for a hearing, U.S. Secret Service: Identifying Steps to Restore the Protective Agency, to discuss recent issues surrounding the U.S. Secret Service, witnesses included: Thomas J. Perrelli, U.S. Secret Service Protective Mission Panel; Mark Filip, U.S. Secret Service Protective Mission Panel; Danielle C. Gray, U.S. Secret Service Protective Mission Panel; and Joseph W. Hagin, U.S. Secret Service Protective Mission Panel.

Also on February 12 the National Security Subcommittee held a hearing, The President’s Executive Actions on Immigration and Their Impact on Federal and State Elections, to discuss President Obama’s recent executive order to grant deferred action status to many illegal aliens.  Witnesses for the hearing included: Kris W. Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State; Jon A. Husted, Ohio Secretary of State; Matthew Dunlap, Maine Secretary of State; and Hans A. von Spakovsky, Senior Legal Fellow, Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, The Heritage Foundation. Finally, on February 13 the Government Operations Subcommittee met to discuss D.C. Metro: Is There a Safety Gap?

Science, Space, and Technology – On February 12 the Subcommittee on Research and Technology and Subcommittee on Oversight held a joint hearing - Can Americans Trust the Privacy and Security of their Information on HealthCare.gov?  Witnesses: Michelle De Mooy, Deputy Director, Consumer Privacy, Center for Democracy and Technology and Morgan Wright, Principal, Morgan Wright, LLC will testify at the hearing. 

On February 12 the Subcommittee on Environment and Subcommittee on Oversight held a joint hearing - Bridging the Gap: America’s Weather Satellites and Weather Forecasting with testimony from the following witnesses: David Powner, Director, Information Technology Management Issues, Government Accountability Office; Dr. Stephen Volz, Assistant Administrator, National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Services, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Steven Clarke, Director, Joint Agency Satellite Division, National Aeronautics and Space Administration; and Dr. Alexander McDonald, President, American Meteorological Society; Director, Earth System Research Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and Chief Science Advisor, Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Small Business – On February 12 the committee held a hearing, Contracting and the Industrial Base, to examine barriers in utilizing small businesses to support the industrial base, the following individuals provided testimony at the hearing: Randall D. (Randy) Gibson, President, Whitesell-Green, Inc; James P. Hoffman, PE, President, Summer Consultants Inc; John McNerney, General Counsel, Mechanical Contractors Association of America; and Andrew Hunter, Director, Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group and Senior Fellow, Center for Strategic.

Transportation and Infrastructure – On February 11 the committee held a roundtable to discuss Taxpayer Savings Opportunities in Washington, DC Area Federal Leases, also on February 11 the full committee met to discuss the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill.  The full committee met on February 12 to consider H.R. 749 – Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015, which the committee approved by voice vote.

Veterans’ Affairs – On February 10 the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations met for a hearing to Examine the Waste and Abuse Associated with VA’s Management of Land-Use Agreements.  The hearing featured testimony from the following witnesses: Janet P. Murphy, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Health, Operations and Management, Veterans Health Administration; Stephen Lord, Managing Director, Forensic Audits and Investigative Service, U.S. Government Accountability Office; and Edward Lilley, Assistant Director for Healthcare, National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division, The American Legion.

On February 11 the full committee met to discuss the Department of Veterans Affairs FY 2016 budget request, the full committee will also meet to Designate Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-09) and Congressman Tim Walz (MN-01) to HVAC Subcommittees.

On February 12 the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity reviewed President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request for the Department of Labor’s Veteran Employment and Training Service (VETS) with the help of the following witnesses: Teresa W. Gerton, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, U.S. Department of Labor; Davy G. Leghorn, Assistant Director, The Veteran Education and Employment Commission, The American Legion; Rick Weidman, Executive Director, Government Affairs, Vietnam Veterans of America; and Paul R. Varela, Assistant National Legislative Director, Disabled American Veterans.

Also on February 12 the full committee met to discuss pending legislation: H.R. 280, H.R. 294, H.R. 216, H.R. 189.

Ways and Means – The committee will held four hearings during the upcoming week, all on February 11.  The Subcommittee on Oversight and Human Resources held organization meetings.  The Subcommittee on Oversight held its first substantive meeting following their organizational meeting to discuss Protecting Small Businesses from IRS Abuse.  The Human Resources Subcommittee held its first hearing following their organizational meeting. The hearing is the first in a series titled: Moving America’s Families Forward.

Week Behind - Senate Committee Action

Armed Services –On February 10, the committee held a hearing on Global Challenges and U.S. National Security Strategy. On February 11, the committee held two hearings on the Situation in Afghanistan - one closed and one open to the public. Also on February 11, the committee held a closed Briefing on World-wide Nuclear Capabilities, and a hearing on Retirement and Compensation Proposals of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission.

Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – On February 10, the committee held a hearing on Regulatory Relief for Community Banks and Credit Unions. On February 12, the committee held a hearing on Regulatory Relief for Community Banks and Credit Unions.

Budget  On February 11, the committee held a hearing entitled, The Coming Crisis: Social Security Disability Trust Fund Insolvency.”

Commerce, Science, and Transportation – On February 10 the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security held a hearing titled Keeping Goods Moving to discuss the U.S. supply chain, particularly the importance of efficiently functioning U.S. ports. On February 11 the full committee held a hearing titled: The Connected World: Examining the Internet of Things. The hearing focused on how devices – from home heating systems controlled by users online, to wearable devices that track health and activity with the help of Internet-based analytics -- will be made smarter and more dynamic through Internet technologies.  The following witnesses provided testimony at the hearing: Michael Abbott, General Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; Justin Brookman, Director, Consumer Privacy Project, Center for Democracy & Technology; Douglas Davis, Vice President and General Manager, Internet of Things Group, Intel; Lance Donny, Chief Executive Officer, OnFarm, Adam Thierer, Senior Research Fellow Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Energy and Natural Resources – On February 12, the full committee considered the Department of Energy’s FY 2016 Budget, with testimony of DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz.

Environment and Public Works – On February 11, the full committee held an oversight hearing entitled Examining EPA’s Proposed Carbon Dioxide Emissions Rules from New, Modified, and Existing Power Plants.

Finance –  Foreign Relations – On February 11 the Committee held a hearing titled: Ending Modern Day Slavery: The Role of US Leadership with testimony from Sarah Sewell, Under Secretary Of State For Civilian Security, Democracy, And Human Rights at the U. Department of State.  Also, the Committee held a top secret hearing titled: Update on Iran Nuclear Negotiations to brief Congress on the progress of the administration’s negotiations with Iran.

Health, Education, Labor and Pensions – On February 10, the full committee held a hearing entitled, The Re-emergence of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases: Exploring the Public Health Successes and Challenges. On February 11, the full committee held a hearing entitled, “Ambushed: How the NLRB’s New Election Rule Harms Employers & Employees.

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs – On February 11 the full Committee held a hearing titled: Risky Business: Examining GAO's 2015 List of High Risk Government Programs. The independent, non-partisan, agency prepares a high-risk list every two years to highlight federal agencies and program areas that are vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse.  

Intelligence – Last week, the Committee turned one of their regularly scheduled closed briefings into a hearing open to the public titled: Intelligence Matters, as a part of the larger debate in Congress around the authorization of use of force for the President.

Judiciary Committee-  On February 12 the committee met for an Executive Business Session to consider a number judicial nominations the following legislation:S. 178, Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 and S. 166, Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act of 2015.

Indian Affairs Committee - On February 11 the committee held a listening session to discuss the President’s FY 2016 budget request regarding Indian programs.

Week Ahead in Congress

Congress is on recess the week of February 16 - February 20.