Week Back Week Ahead In Congress: Monday, February 23, 2015

Erin Carson, Lead Analyst Monday February 23rd 2015

The Week Behind in Congress

The House and Senate were both out last week.

Week Ahead in Congress

The Senate is expected to re-consider proceeding with H.R. 240 - the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2015 next week. Congress is nearing its deadline – lawmakers must pass an appropriations bill by February 27 or funding for the agency will expire. The bill was previously stalled in a series of failed provisional votes for cloture earlier this month. Senate Republicans are expected to support a short-term extension, but it is not yet clear if there will not be enough support in the House, where a number of Republicans insist that a bill include a provision to block the President's immigration policies. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has previously stated that the Republican-controlled Congress would not allow government shutdowns, such as the wildly unpopular shutdown that Republicans were held accountable for in 2013.

In committees, analysis of the President's FY2016 proposed budget will continue to be a primary focus over the next two weeks as more panels focus on sections of the proposed budget that applies to their work. The House Budget Committee will also hold its "Members Day" hearing on February 27, at which members of the House of Representatives to testify before the Committee on their suggested policies and priorities for the Fiscal Year 2016 budget. 

Bills on the House Floor

Items that may be considered under suspension of the rules:

H.R. 212 - Drinking Water Protection Act, as amended

H.R. 734 - Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act of 2015

H.R. 1020 - STEM Education Act of 2015, a bill to improve and strengthen STEM education efforts

S. 227 - Strengthening Education through Research Act

Items that may be considered pursuant to a rule:

H.R. 5 - Student Success Act

H.R. 529 - To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to improve 529 plans.    

Bills on the Senate Floor

The Senate will vote Monday on whether to proceed with H.R. 240 - the Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2015

House Committee Action

Agriculture – On February 25, the full committee will hold a public hearing reviewing the SNAP program. On February 26, the Subcommittee on Nutrition will hold another separate hearing to review the SNAP program.

Appropriations – Appropriations Subcommittees will hold hearings nine hearings on Wednesday, February 26:

Military Construction - Quality of Life in the Military Budget Hearing;

Financial Services - IRS Oversight Hearing;

Labor, HHS - Secretary of Health and Human Services;

Agriculture - Secretary of Agriculture;

CJS - Department of Justice, Department of Commerce, and NASA Oversight Hearing;

Interior - Secretary of the Interior;

Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development - Secretary of Housing and Urban Development;

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs - Secretary of State;

Legislative Branch - House of Representatives, Government Accountability Office, and Capitol Police

Subcommittees will then hold a number of budget-related hearings and one oversight hearing on Thursday and Friday:

 Budget Hearing - Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Armed Services – On Thursday, February 6, the full committee will hold a hearing entitled, Outside Perspectives on the President’s Proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Budget – The full committee will hold a Members Day budget hearing on February 25, 2015. The Members’ Day hearing is designed to allow members of the House of Representatives to testify before the Committee on their suggested policies and priorities for the Fiscal Year 2016 budget.

Education and the Workforce – On Thursday, February 26, the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, Joint with the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions will hold a hearing entitled, “The Blacklisting Executive Order: Rewriting Federal Labor Policies Through Executive Fiat”. The hearing will address President Obama’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order, also known as blacklisting. Opponents of the Executive Order say it will disrupt the federal procurement process and require administrative and reporting burdens on contractors.

Energy and Commerce – The Energy and Commerce Committee published a week ahead agenda that includes multiple budgetary oversight hearings with testimony from senior Administration Officials.  

On Wednesday, February 25, the Subcommittee on Energy and Power and the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy will hold a joint hearing on the Fiscal Year 2016 EPA budget. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will testify.  Also on Wednesday, the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will discuss the implications of President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet and what it means for the future of online innovation in a hearing entitled, The Uncertain Future of the Internet.

On Thursday, February 26, the Subcommittee on Health will examine the Health and Human Services budget, with testimony from HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell. The hearing will address the budget, the second open enrollment period for the president’s health care law, the status of the backend of the exchanges, and the administration’s planning for the upcoming Supreme Court decision in the case of King v. Burwell. Also on Thursday, the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade will hear from stakeholders and experts in a hearing entitled Patent Demand Letter Practices and Solutions.  According to the committee, abusive patent demand letters and poor practices have been a costly problem, especially for small businesses around the nation. The committee is working to draft legislation to protect consumers and legitimate patent holders from abuse.

On Friday, February 27, the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy will examine Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) issues related to small and rural drinking water utilities. According to the committee, many smaller and rural communities face significant challenges in replacing, maintaining, or upgrading aging and obsolete drinking water infrastructure, and as regulations become more stringent, these communities may need to upgrade basic drinking water systems with more sophisticated or expensive equipment to achieve regulatory compliance.

Financial Services – On February 25, the full committee will hold a hearing entitled Monetary Policy and the State of the Economy. On Thursday, February 26, the full committee will hold the second of its two-part series on the future of housing in America.

Foreign Affairs - The committee is scheduled to mark up H.R. 757, North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act of 2015  on February 27. In addition, four hearings are scheduled for next week:

Advancing U.S. Interests in a Troubled World: The FY 2016 Foreign Affairs Budget on February 25 with Secretary of State John F. Kerry scheduled to testify to the full Committee about the Obama Administration's foreign policy spending priorities for the next year.

The President’s New Cuba Policy and U.S. National Security on February 26 to discuss how normalizing relations with Cuba will impact US national security, given ties with Cuba and countries like China, North Korea, Iran and Russia.

The Shame of Iranian Human Rightson February 26 to discuss Iran's history of human rights violations.

Across the Other Pond: U.S. Opportunities and Challenges in the Asia Pacificon February 26 to discuss major regional economic priorities and security concerns. 

Homeland Security – On February 25 the full Committee will hold a hearing entitled: Examining the President’s Cybersecurity Information Sharing Proposal.  On February 26 the Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency will hold another hearing, Assessing DHS’s Performance: Watchdog Recommendations to Improve Homeland Security.  On February 26 the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence will hold a hearing entitled: Addressing Remaining Gaps in Federal, State, and Local Information Sharing.

Intelligence – The committee will hold three hearings that will be closed to the public next week: on February 24, the closed hearing will discuss Ongoing Intelligence Activities;  on February 25, the closed hearing will discuss World Wide Threats, and;  on February 26, the closed hearing will be consist of a National Security Advisor Overview. 

Judiciary– On Wednesday February 25 the full committee will meet to discuss The Unconstitutionality of Obama's Executive Actions on Immigration, with testimony from the following witnesses: Adam Laxalt, Attorney General of Nevada; Josh Blackman, South Texas College of Law; Elizabeth Price Foley, Florida International University College of Law; and Stephen H. Legomsky, Washington University School of Law.

The committee has three hearings scheduled for Thursday, February 26.  The Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations will hold a hearing: ISIL in America: Domestic Terror and Radicalization; and the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law will hold a hearing to examine H.R.870, the Puerto Rico Chapter 9 Uniformity Act of 2015.  The full committee will also meet to discuss The U.S. Copyright Office: Its Functions and Resources.  The following are listed as witnesses for the hearing: Keith Kupferschmid, General Counsel, Software & Information Industry Association; Lisa Dunner, Partner, Dunner Law PLLC; Nancy Mertzel, Partner, Schoeman Updike Kaufman & Stern LLP; and Bob Brauneis, Professor, George Washington University Law School.

The Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice will hold a Friday, February 27 hearing The State of Class Action Ten Years After the Enactment of the Class Action Fairness Act  with witnesses: Andrew J. Pincus, Partner, Mayer Brown; John Parker Sweeney, President, DRI - The Voice of the Defense Bar; Patricia H. Moore, Professor of Law, St. Thomas University School of Law; and Jessica D. Miller, Partner, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.

Oversight and Government Reform – The Transportation and Public Assistance Subcommittee will hold a Wednesday, February 25 hearing: Preventing Another MH370: Setting International Standards for Airline Flight Tracking to focus on airline flight tracking and safety.

Science, Space, and Technology Committee – The full committee will meet on Wednesday, February 25 for An Overview of the Budget Proposal for the Department of Energy for Fiscal Year 2016 .  Similarly Subcommittee on Research and Technology Hearing - An Overview of the Budget Proposals for the National Science Foundation and National Institute of Standards and Technology for Fiscal Year 2016.   

Finally, the Subcommittee on Space Hearing will meet on Friday, February 27 for a hearing: The Commercial Crew Program: Challenges and Opportunitiesfeaturing testimony from: Bill Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); Vice Admiral Joseph Dyer, USN (Ret.), Chairman, Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); John Mulholland, Vice President and Program Manager, Commercial Programs, The Boeing Company; and Dr. Garret Reisman, Director, Crew Operations, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation.

Small Business – The full committee will meet on Wednesday, February 25 to discuss the FY 2016 budget in a hearing titled: The SBA Budget for FY 2016: Does it Meet the Needs of America's Small Businesses?  The hearing will feature testimony from Maria Contreras-Sweet, Administrator, United States Small. 

Transportation and Infrastructure – The Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation will meet on Wednesday, February 25 to discuss President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request for Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Programs.  While no witness list has been announced, representatives from the Administration will likely testify.

Veterans’ Affairs Committee – The full committee will hold its annual hearings with their Senate counterparts to hear from certain veteran groups about their goals for the upcoming year. First, on Tuesday, February 24 for the Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees to receive the Legislative Presentation of the Disabled American Veterans and then on Wednesday, February 25 for the Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees to receive the Legislative Presentation of The American Legion.

Ways and Means – The Subcommittee on Social Security will hold its organizational meeting on Wednesday, February 25 followed by the first hearing of the subcommittee: Maintaining the Disability Insurance Trust Fund’s Solvency. The hearing will focus on the financial status of the Disability Insurance (DI) and Old Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Funds, and the available legislative options to ensure full DI benefits continue to be paid.

Senate Committee Action

Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry – On February 24, the full committee will consider The Agricultural Act of 2014 implementation after one year and Farm Credit Administration pending nominations.

Armed Services – On February 25, the Subcommittee on Personnel will hold a hearing entitled, Healthcare Recommendations of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission. Lawmakers will  receive testimony on the healthcare recommendations of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission. Also on February 25, the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces will hold hold a hearing on Regional Nuclear Dynamics. The panel will hear testimony from Dr. Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr, President Center For Strategic And Budgetary Assessments; Dr. Matthew Kroenig, Associate Professor Of Government And Foreign Service Field Chair International Relations; Dr. George Perkovich, Vice President For Studies Carnegie Endowment For International Peace; and Dr. Ashley Tellis, Senior Associate Carnegie Endowment For International Peace.

Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – On February 25, the Committee will hold an Executive Session to mark up S. 527, a bill to award a Congressional Gold MEdal to the foot soldiers who participated in Bloody Sunday, Turnaround Sunday, or in the final Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March of 1965, which served as a catalyst for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Budget – On February 25, the full committee will hold a hearing entitled, The Coming Crisis: America’s Dangerous Debt. The panel will hear testimony from Dr. Laurence Kotlikoff of Boston University, and Mr. Evan Feinberg, from Generation Opportunity.

Commerce, Science, and Transportation – The Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness will hold a Tuesday, February 24 hearing U.S. Human Exploration Goals and Commercial Space Competitiveness.  Former NASA astronauts including Buzz Aldrin, and leaders in the commercial space industry will provide their testimony.  The hearing will examine the United States’ goals in human space exploration, including the role of the commercial space industry and its contributions to U.S. global competitiveness.  The full committee will meet on Wednesday, February 25 for the hearing: Preserving the Multistakeholder Model of Internet Governance.  The hearing will focus on concerns that the loss of U.S. involvement over the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) could empower foreign powers – acting through intergovernmental institutions or other surrogates – to gain increased control over critical Internet functions.

Energy and Natural Resources – On February 25, the full committee will hold a budget hearing on the Department of Interior’s FY 2016 Budget, with testimony from the Interior Secretary. On February 26, the full committee will examine the Forest Service’s FY 2016 Budget with testimony from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Foreign Relations – On February 24, the full committee will hold a Review of Resources, Priorities and Programs in the FY 2016 State Department Budget Request with Secretary of State John F. Kerry scheduled to testify.

Health, Education, Labor and Pensions – On February 24, the full committee will hold a hearing entitled, Recalibrating Regulation of Colleges and Universities: A Report from the Task Force on Government Regulation of HIgher Education. On February 26, the full committee will hold a hearing entitled, Medical and Public Health Preparedness and Response: Are we Ready for Future Threats?

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs – On February 24, the full committee will hold a hearing entitled,

On February 24 the full Committee will hold a hearing on Improving the Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Independence of Inspectors General.  The Inspector General of several federal agencies are scheduled to testify, including the Department of Justice, the Department of the State, the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration. This hearing follows the Committee’s review, earlier this month, of federal agencies and program areas that are vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse titled: Risky Business: Examining GAO's 2015 List of High Risk Government Programs. On February 25, the full committee will also hold a hearing titled Toward a 21st-Century Regulatory System

Intelligence – The committee will hold two Intelligence Matters briefings next week that will be closed to the public.

Judiciary Committee - The full committee will meet on Tuesday, February 24 for a hearing: Human Trafficking in the United States: Protecting the Victims, to discuss human trafficking and possibly related legislation.  The full committee will also meet on Thursday, February 26 for an Executive Meeting to consider a number of pending nominations and to consider two anti-human trafficking bills: S.178, Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 and S. 166, Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act of 2015.

Small Business and Entrepreneurship – The committee held a field hearing last week.  On Friday, February 20 the committee held a hearing: How Innovative Education Systems Better Prepare Students to Enter the Workforce at the Delta Community College in Monroe, LA.  The purpose of this field hearing is to discuss ways to modernize and improve this nation’s education and K-12 systems in order for students to be in the best possible position for employment upon graduation.

Veterans’ Affairs - The full committee will hold its annual hearings with their House counter parts to hear from certain veteran groups about their goals for the upcoming year. First, on Tuesday, February 24 for the Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees to receive the Legislative Presentation of the Disabled American Veterans and then on Wednesday, February 25 for the Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees to receive the Legislative Presentation of The American Legion.  The full committee will also meet on Thursday, February 26 to discuss the Budget for Veterans' Programs and Fiscal Year 2017 Advance Appropriations Request.