The Week Behind in Congress
Both chambers continued moving through energy bills last week, passing both the Senate version of the Keystone XL approval bill and the House version of a bill to facilitate Liquefied Natural Gas exports. The Keystone measure, which consumed the entire week in the Senate, will move on to the House for quick passage before meeting the anticipated President’s veto. The LNG bill might have a better chance with the President if it can survive the Senate.
The Senate Judiciary Committee spent two full days interviewing President Obama's Attorney General nominee U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch and related witnesses. While some thought the hearings might become highly partisan, the National Jounal reports that: " committee members, including Holder's fiercest critics, seemed convinced that Lynch could be an acceptable alternative to the current attorney general. By the end of Wednesday's hearing, Lynch and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, who said he didn't expect to agree with Lynch on every issue, were cracking jokes. At the start of this hearing, GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah praised Lynch's nomination." Hatch went on to state that "I'm going to be a strong supporter of her nomination," he said. "And I believe she's not only qualified but exceptionally well qualified, and a very good person."
The House Intelligence Committee adopted a new subcommittee structure to improve their oversight function of the relevant agencies and departments. The four new subcommittees are as follows: (1) CIA Subcommittee, (2) Department of Defense Intelligence and Overhead Architecture Subcommittee, (3) Emerging Threats Subcommittee: Chairman Rooney and Ranking Member Quigley; and (4) NSA and Cybersecurity Subcommittee.
Members of the House Homeland Security Committee were eager to move forward H.R. 399, the Secure Our Borders First Act, which was marked up and amended by the Committee the prior week. The highly publicized bill is expected to bring out partisan tensions and challenges to the President’s authority to pass executive actions on immigration issues. Senators McCaul and Goodlatte said in a joint press release: “As chairmen of the House Homeland Security and Judiciary Committees, we join our colleagues to secure our borders and ensure our immigration laws are not unilaterally ignored by President Obama and future presidents.”
The breakdown of the week’s activity is provided below.
Week Behind - House Floor Action
The House passed the H.R. 351 - the LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act after full debate. The bill would facilitate Liquefied Natural Gas exports through an expedited approval process at the Department of Energy. The Senate held a hearing on the companion bill, S. 33, on Wednesday and is poised to consider its bill in the coming weeks. Both measures have a degree of bipartisan support, and, provided a package could survive policy or messaging riders in the Senate amendment process, it could pass both chambers and the White House.
The House also considered and passed a number of human trafficking bills last week under suspension of the rules:
H.R. 469 - Strengthening Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act of 2015
H.R. 514 - Human Trafficking Prioritization Act
H.R. 515 - International Megan’s Law to Prevent Demand for Child Sex Trafficking
H.R. 357 - Human Trafficking Prevention Act
H.R. 468: Enhancing Services for Runaway and Homeless Victims of Youth Trafficking Act of 2015
H.R. 398 - Trafficking Awareness Training for Health Care Act of 2015
H.R. 460 - Human Trafficking Detection Act of 2015
H.R. 350 - Human Trafficking Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery Act of 2015
H.R. 285: SAVE Act of 2015
Week Behind - Senate Floor Action
The Senate passed - S.1. - a bill to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, which consumed the majority of floor activity all week. After failing to invoke cloture and proceed to a vote on January 26, the Senate continued to debate amendments Tuesday and Wednesday, voting on an additional 17 amendments and failing all of them. The Senate held the final vote on the bill on January 29, passing the measure by a vote of 62-35, five votes shy of a veto-proof majority. The bill will now go to the House of Representatives, which will aim to expedite the bill’s passage, and then move on to the President. President Obama previously issued a veto threat on the measure. Other than Keystone, the Senate actively endorsed football teams, Catholic schools, mentoring, the liberation of Auschwitz, and human rights awareness through a handful of simple resolutions.
In addition to Keystone, the Senate also passed xx Simple Resolutions last week. As Simple Resolutions, this is their final status:
S.Res. 41: A resolution congratulating the North Dakota State University football team for winning the 2014 National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Football Championship Subdivision title.
S. Res. 35, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz extermination camp in Nazi-occupied Poland
S. Res. 59, raising awareness and encouraging prevention of stalking by designating January 2015 as ``National Stalking Awareness Month''.
S. Res. 60, supporting the goals and ideals of observing the National Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Month from January 1 through February 1, 2015, to raise awareness of, and opposition to, modern slavery.
S.Res. 58, a resolution recognizing January 2015 as "National Mentoring Month".
Week Behind - House Committee Action
Appropriations – On Wed., January 28, the full committee held their organizational meeting for 2015.
Energy and Commerce – On Tuesday, the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade held a hearing on data security legislation, entitled What are the Elements of Sound Data Breach Legislation? Members heard from witnesses to help determine what components should be included in a legislative solution. Also on Tuesday, the Subcommittee on Health held a hearing entitled Examining Public Health Legislation to Help Patients and Local Communities that will review a number of bipartisan bills to strengthen public health that were introduced – and for many, passed – during the 113th Congress: The Ensuring Patient Access to Effective Drug Enforcement Act, The Improving Regulatory Transparency for New Medical Therapies Act, The Veteran Emergency Medical Technician Support Act, The Trauma Systems and Regionalization of Emergency Care Reauthorization Act, A bill to reauthorize language from the Public Health Service Act to fund trauma care centers, and The National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting (NASPER) Reauthorization Act.
Financial Services – On January 27, the full committee held a hearing entitled “Sustainable Housing Finance: An Update from the Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.”
Foreign Affairs - The Committee held three hearings on January 27:
(1) a hearing titled Iran Nuclear Negotiations After the Second Extension: Where Are They Going? with testimony from Fellows from: the Council on Foreign Relations; the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and; the Brookings Institution. The administration and many in Congress disagree on tactics around US engagement with Iran, as was evidenced in President Obama's State of the Union speech. The Administration is weary that their ongoing talks with Iran about the country's nuclear capabilities will be undermined by Congressional actions around sanctions against Iran.
(2) another hearing titled: The Evolution of Terrorist Propaganda: The Paris Attack and Social Media, to discuss how to counter terrorists' use of social media to recruit people and fund their activities.
(3) a hearing titled Nigeria on the Brink? to discuss the difficult issues faced by Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, including continued violence from Boko Haram (a muslim extremist terrorist group known for bombings and kidnappings of young girls), inter-ethnic tensions particularly in light of upcoming elections, and the effects of price volatility oil prices (their major industry).
Homeland Security – The H.R. 399, the Secure Our Borders First Act, was marked up and amended by the Committee last week. The highly publicized bill is expected to bring out partisan tensions and challenges to the President’s authority to pass executive actions on immigration issues. In addition, H.R. 460, the Human Trafficking Detection Act was passed in the House by voice vote on January 27 and moved on to the Senate for consideration.
Intelligence – The Committee announced a restructuring in a January 28 press release. Chairman Nunes said: “The Intelligence Committee has adopted a new subcommittee structure designed to enhance oversight of the relevant agencies and departments.” Ranking Member Schiff said: “In order to improve oversight of our nation’s intelligence community, the Committee is adopting a new agency-specific subcommittee structure.”The committee will now comprise these four subcommittees:
(1) CIA Subcommittee: Chairman LoBiondo and Ranking Member Swalwell
(2) Department of Defense Intelligence and Overhead Architecture Subcommittee: Chairman Heck and Ranking Member Sewell
(3) Emerging Threats Subcommittee: Chairman Rooney and Ranking Member Quigley
(4) NSA and Cybersecurity Subcommittee: Chairman Westmoreland and Ranking Member Himes
Judiciary– On January 27 the full committee held a markup to consider H.R.527, the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2015, after a number of failed attempts to amend the legislation during the mark up the legislation was reported favorably by a vote of 19-8.
Natural Resources – On January 28, the full committee held an organizational meeting to consider Committee Rules and the Committee Oversight Plan for the 114th Congress, and to appoint Committee Staff.
Oversight and Government Reform – On January 27 the full committee held an organizational meeting to consider committee rules and an oversight plan.
Rules - The Rules Committee considered H.R. 399—Secure Our Borders First Act of 2015; and H.R. 351—LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act.
Science, Space, and Technology Committee – On January 27 the committee will hold an organizational meeting to formally adopt rules and an oversight plan for the coming year. On January 27 the Subcommittee on Research and Technology held a hearing titled The Expanding Cyber Threat and on January 28 the Subcommittee on Energy held a hearing titled: Supercomputing and American Technology Leadership.
Transportation and Infrastructure – On January 27 the committee held an organizational meeting to formally adopt rules and an oversight plan for the coming year. On January 27 the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management held a hearing: Rebuilding After the Storm: Lessening Impacts and Speeding Recovery to discuss dealing with natural disasters. Witnesses included: W. Craig Fugate, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency; Francis X. McCarthy, Analyst in Emergency Management Policy, Congressional Research Service; R. David Paulison, Former Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency; Bryan Koon, Director, Florida Division of Emergency Management; on behalf of the National Emergency Management Association; and Brian Fennessy, Assistant Fire Chief for Emergency Operations, San Diego Fire-Rescue Department; on behalf of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
Veterans’ Affairs Committee – On January 27 the full committee met to consider several pieces of legislation that focus on Department of Veterans Affairs, however no action was taken.
On January 27 the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity held a hearing titled: A Review of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), and on January 28 the Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing titled: Examining the Quality and Cost of VA Health Care.
Ways and Means – On January 27 the full committee held a hearing, U.S. Trade Policy Agenda, the hearing will feature U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.
Week Back - Senate Committee Action
Armed Services – On January 27 the Committee held a hearing on Global Challenges and U.S. National Security Strategy. On January 28 the Committee held a hearing on the Impact of the Budget Control Act of 2011 and Sequestration on National Security. On January 29, the Committee held a hearing on Global Challenges and the U.S. National Security Strategy.
Commerce, Science, and Transportation –On January 28 the full committee held a hearing titled: Freight Rail Transportation: Enhancing Safety, Efficiency, and Commerce, the hearing will focus on challenges facing our nation’s freight rail network created by higher demand, rules and regulations, and infrastructure needs. On January 29 the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security held a hearing, Improving the Performance of our Transportation Networks: Stakeholder Perspectives, with witnesses: Jim Mullen, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Werner Enterprises; Lance Fritz, President and Chief Operating Office, Union Pacific Railroad; Douglas Means, Executive Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer, Cabela’s; and Ed Rendell, Co-Chair, Building America’s Future.
Energy and Natural Resources – On January 29, the full committee held a hearing on LNG Export Legislation with witnesses from the Department of Energy and industry. Notably, the DOE testified that while the Administration found the legislation “unnecessary,” the Agency would “be able to comply” with the Senate measure if it passed. The Senate bill would require the DOE to process LNG export facility applications 45 days after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)’s environmental review.
Foreign Relations – On January 29, the Committee held a closed/top secret hearing to discuss The Campaign Against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Also, two hearings that were scheduled for last week were postponed to a future date TBD: (1) a hearing titledThe National Interest: Articulating The Case For American Leadership In The World with Former U.S. Secretary of State, the Honorable Henry A. Kissinger, scheduled to testify, and; (2) a closed/top secret hearing titled an Update on Iran Nuclear Negotiations with testimony from senior officials from the U.S. Department of the State and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions – The full committee held three hearings last week. On January 27, the committee held a hearing entitled Fixing No Child Left Behind: Supporting Teachers and School Leaders; On January 28, the committee held a hearing on S.192, Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2015, and S. ______, Strengthening Education Through Research Act; and on January 29 a hearing entitled Employer Wellness Programs: Better Health Outcomes and Lower Costs.
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs – On January 28, the Committee held a hearing titled Protecting America from Cyber Attacks: The Importance of Information Sharing to discuss cybersecurity threats to U.S. businesses and other organizations and potential approaches to mitigate those threats. Witnesses included representatives from American Express, Microsoft Corporation, March & McLennan Companies, Fire Eye and the Center for Democracy and Technology.
Judiciary Committee- On January 28 and 29 the committee held two days of hearings to consider the nomination of U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch to the role of Attorney General.
Small Business and Entrepreneurship – On January 28 the full committee held its organizational meeting to consider an original resolution authorizing expenditures by the committee during the 114th Congress, as well as new committee rules.
Veterans’ Affairs - On January 28 the committee held its organization meeting to consider an original resolution authorizing expenditures by the committee during the 114th Congress, as well as new committee rules.
Indian Affairs Committee - On January 28 the committee will held its organizational meeting to consider an original resolution authorizing expenditures by the committee during the 114th Congress, as well as new committee rules. The committee also held a second hearing on January 28 titled: Oversight Hearing on "Indian Country Priorities for the 114th Congress.
Week Ahead in Congress
The House will take up a number of business and medical bills next week, including a political measure to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The Senate will vote on the FY 2015 Department of Homeland Security bill, which includes a controversial provision to limit the President's Executive Order on immigration. Senate Democrats have vowed to block the bill.
A full report on the upcoming week's activity is below.
Week Ahead - Bills on the House Floor
Items that may be considered pursuant to a rule:
H.R. 50 Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act of 2015
H.R. 527 Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2015
H.R. 596 To repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and health care-related provisions in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, and for other purposes.
Items that may be considered under suspension of the rules
H.R. 361 Medical Preparedness Allowable Use Act
H.R. 615 Department of Homeland Security Interoperable Communications Act
H.R. 623 Social Media Working Group Act of 2015
Week Ahead - Bills on the Senate Floor
On Monday , the Senate will begin consideration of H.R. 203, Clay Hunt SAV Act with a scheduled vote for passage at 5:30 p.m.
On Tuesday, the Senate will vote on whether proceed to a final vote on H.R. 240, making appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015.
House Committee Action
Armed Services – On February 3, the full committee will hold a hearing entitled ``World Wide Threats.'' On February 3, the Subcommittee on Military Personnel will hold a hearing entitled ``Wounded Warrior Program Update.” On February 4, the full committee will hold a hearing entitled ``Final Recommendations from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission.''
Budget – On February 4, the full committee will hold a hearing entitled, “The President's Fiscal Year 2016 Budget.''
Education and the Workforce – On February 4, the Full Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Expanding Opportunity in America's Schools and Workplaces.”
Energy and Commerce – On February 3 the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing entitled “Examining the U.S. Public Health Response to Seasonal Influenza.'' On February 5 the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy will hold a hearing on H.R. 212, the the Drinking Water Protection Act.''
Financial Services – On February 4, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing entitled, ``Exploring Alleged Ethical and Legal Violations at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.”'
Foreign Affairs - The Committee plans to hold two hearings next week to discuss their concerns on normalizing relations with Cuba: one hearing on February 4 titled Cuba: Assessing the Administration’s Sudden Shift and another on February 5 titled Human Rights in Cuba: A Squandered Opportunity. According to Chair Ed Royce, "This hearing will provide an opportunity for the Committee to press State, Treasury, and Commerce Department officials for the many missing details of its entire normalization plan.” In addition the Committee will hold a hearing on February 3 titled The Strategic Importance of the Western Hemisphere: Defining U.S. Interests in the Region, and another hearing on February 4 titled The Palestinian Authority’s International Criminal Court Gambit: A True Partner for Peace?
Homeland Security – On February 3 the Committee will hold a hearing titled A Review of Access Control Measures at Our Nation’s Airports. Panelists will include senior officials from the Transportation Security Administration at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Counterterrorism Division at the U.S. Department of Justice.
Judiciary– On February 3 the full committee will hold a hearing Examining the Adequacy and Enforcement of Our Nation’s Immigration Laws featuring testimony from the following witnesses: Paul Babeu, Sheriff of Pinal County, Florence, Arizona; Jessica Vaughan, Director of Policy Studies, Center for Immigration Studies; and Jan C. Ting, Professor of Law, Temple University Beasley School of Law. On February 4 the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security will hold a hearing to discuss draft legislation: H.R. _____, the “Legal Workforce Act” and the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law will hold a hearing to consider H.R. 526, the “Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2015”.
Oversight and Government Reform – On February 3 the full committee will hold a hearing titled: Inspectors General: Independence, Access and Authority with testimony from: Michael E. Horowitz, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Justice; Arthur A. Elkins, Jr., Inspector General, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and Kathy A. Buller, Inspector General, U.S. Peace Corps.
Rules - On February 3 the full committee will consider H.R. 50, the ``Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act of 2015''; and H.R. 527, the ``Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2015.''
Science, Space, and Technology Committee – On February 3 the Subcommittee on Oversight and Subcommittee on Research and Technology Joint will hold a joint hearing titled: NSF’s Oversight of the NEON Project and Other Major Research Facilities Developed Under Cooperative Agreements.
Transportation and Infrastructure – On February 3 the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials will hold a hearing titled: How the Changing Energy Markets Will Affect U.S. Transportation. On February 4 the Full Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing to discuss the Impacts of the Proposed Waters of the United States Rule on State and Local Governments. The hearing will have two panels of witnesses: Gina McCarthy, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army, for Civil Works; E. Scott Pruitt, Attorney General, State of Oklahoma; Adam H. Putnam, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; Sallie Clark, Commissioner, District 3, El Paso County, CO; on behalf of the National Association of Counties; Timothy Mauck, Commissioner, District 1, Clear Creek County, CO; and Lemuel M. Srolovic, Bureau Chief, Environmental Protection Bureau, Office of New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.
Ways and Means – On February 3 the committee will hold a hearing to discuss the President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Proposal, the hearing will feature Jacob J. Lew from the U.S. Department of Treasury.
Senate Committee Action
Armed Services – On February 3, the full committee will hold hearings to examine the findings of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission. On February 4 the full committee will hold hearings to examine the nomination of Ashton B. Carter, of Massachusetts, to be Secretary of Defense. On February 5 the full committee will hold hearings to examine the Guantanamo detention facility and the future of United States detention policy.
Budget – On February 3 the full committee will hold hearings to examine the President's proposed budget request for fiscal year 2016.
Commerce, Science, and Transportation – On February 4 the full committee will hold a hearing, Building a More Secure Cyber Future: Examining Private Sector Experience with the NIST Framework, to examine potential next steps for the public and private sectors, and for Congress, on the issue of cybersecurity, as well as progress by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in implementing its February 2014, “Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity. On February 4 the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard will hold a hearing, The Impacts of Vessel Discharge Regulations on our Shipping and Fishing Industries to focus on existing regulations governing ballast water discharge and other discharges incidental to the normal operation of vessels.
Energy and Natural Resources – On February 4 the full committee will hold a joint hearing with the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to examine impacts of the proposed waters of the United States rule on state and local governments. On February 12 the Committee will consider the Department of Energy’s FY 2016 Budget Proposal
Environment and Public Works – On February 4, the Committee will hold a House-Senate Joint Hearing on State & Local Impacts of Administration’s Proposed Expansion of Waters Regulation.
Finance – The committee will hold hearings to examine the Internal Revenue Service Operations and the President's proposed budget request for fiscal year 2016; and again the full Committee will a separate set of hearings to examine the President's proposed budget request for fiscal year 2016.
Foreign Relations – The Committee will hold a hearing on February 3 titled Understanding The Impact of U.S. Policy Changes On Human Rights And Democracy In Cuba with testimony from the senior officials that the U.S. Department of the State and Cuban Christian Liberation Movement. The Committee will hold another hearing on February 4 titled Ending Modern Slavery: What is the Best Way Forward?
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions – On February 3, the committee will hold hearings to examine No Child Left Behind, focusing on innovation to meet the needs of students. On February 5, the full committee will hold hearings to examine the ``joint employer'' standard and business ownership.
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs – On February 4 the Committee will hold a hearing titled Deferred Action on Immigration: Implications and Unanswered Questions. According to a joint press release from Chairman Johnson (R-WI) and Ranking Member Carper (D-DE), the purpose of the hearing “will be to examine the logistical, financial and national security implications of the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) expansion and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) programs, announced in November 2014.”
Intelligence – No activity to note.
Judiciary Committee- On February 4 the committee will hold an Executive Business Meeting to discuss yet disclosed committee business.
Indian Affairs Committee - On February 4 the full committee will meet for an oversight hearing to discuss "Loan Leveraging in Indian Country." The full committee will also meet on February 4 to consider committee legislation.