Week Back Week Ahead In Congress: Monday, January 19, 2015

Erin Carson, Lead Analyst Tuesday January 20th 2015

The Week Behind in Congress

On January 12, President Obama signed  H.R. 26 - the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2015 , which had lapsed on December 31 after the previous Congress failed to pass the legislaition. The House passed the FY 2015 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act last week- complete with the controversial amendment limiting the President's Executive Order on immigration; the Senate focused on the cloture vote to move the Keystone XL pipeline approval bill to the Senate floor. 

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

House Floor Action

The House passed  H.R. 240 - the FY 2015 Homeland Security Appropriations bill , providing funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through September 30, 2015. The passage of the bill, which provides $39.7 billion in discretionary funding to DHS, marked the last of the 12 annual funding bills to be approved by the House, and it will now move to the Senate for consideration. According to the House Appropriations Committee, the bill: “prioritizes frontline security – including all operational, counterterrorism, and threat-targeting activities, and essential tactical equipment – and saves taxpayer dollars by reducing overhead costs and cutting funds for lower-priority programs.”  Moving forward, the bill will face pushback from Democrats in the Senate and from the White House over several controversial amendments that would limit the President’s recent actions on immigration and to require DHS to enforce current immigration laws.

The House also passed  H.R. 37, the Promoting Job Creation and Reducing Small Business Burdens Act by a bipartisan vote of 271-154. According to the House Financial Services Committee, the package includes 11 measures “that reduce regulatory burdens and make it easier for small businesses to access job-creating capital.” The House had previously failed to pass the bill under suspension of the rules on January 7.

Finally, the House passed  H.R. 185, the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2015, which supporters say will boost transparency and streamline the rulemaking process by adding a number of new compliance requirements to the rulemaking process. The Administration issued a veto threat on the bill.

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

H.R. 185 - Regulatory Accountability Act of 2015

H.R. 37 - Promoting Job Creation and Reducing Small Business Burdens Act     

H.R. 240 - Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2015

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

H. Con. Res. 4 - Authorizes the use of Emancipation Hall in the Capitol Visitor Center for a ceremony to present the Congressional Gold Medal to the First Special Service Force, in recognition of its superior service during World War II             

H.R. 203 - Clay Hunt SAV Act, a bill to improve Veterans mental health care.       

H.R. 33 - Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act

Senate Floor Action

On January 12, the Senate voted to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to S.1. - a bill to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline by a vote of 63-32, three votes more than necessary to move the bill forward. Floor debate will begin next week.

Week Behind - House Committee Action

Agriculture  The House Agriculture Committee held its organizational meeting on January 16, 2015, setting its rules and oversight plan for the 114th Congress.

Appropriations – Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY ) made the following statement after the House’s passage of the FY Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Bill:

“With the addition of critical amendments aimed at curtailing the President’s recent executive actions, the House has answered the calls of the American people to enforce our current immigration laws, secure our borders, and strengthen the security of our homeland,” Chairman Rogers continued. “Nearly halfway into the fiscal year, I now call on the Senate to pass this bill and the President to sign it; the security of this nation is far too important to operate under the uncertainty and the outdated funding levels of an ongoing continuing resolution.”

Armed Services – The Armed Services Committee held its organizational meeting on January 14, 2015, settings it rules and oversight plan for the 114th Congress. On January 15, Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) made the following statement regarding the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay:

"Once again the President is releasing terrorists into the world with little regard to the likelihood that they will re-enter the fight, or for the risk to our forces already in harm’s way.  The Administration may claim that safeguards are in place or that the track record of re-engagement is negligible; but those of us who read intelligence reports regularly have reason to be skeptical.  Let me be clear, these GTMO detainees put Americans at risk, and the American people are right to be concerned.  

"Action is needed to return sanity to this process. Senator Ayotte’s recent proposal is worthy of careful consideration.  The status quo of cutting terrorists loose with little assurance that they will not take up arms or plot and plan against us is more than foolish -- it’s dangerous. The President’s actions increase the risk to both our military and Americans everywhere."  

Education and the Workforce – On January 14, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) issued the following statementsupporting a ruling from a district judge that redefined companion care under the Fair Labor Standards Act:

“Congress created a broad exemption to help seniors and individuals with disabilities access affordable in-home care, and that policy has stood for decades under both Republican and Democrat administrations. Today’s judicial decision is welcome news for millions of families that rely on companionship services, and we urge the administration to accept the court’s ruling.”

On January 15, Chairman Kline stated regarding the President’s call for legislation mandating paid sick leave:

“Working families are being squeezed and the answer isn’t more government. The president has shown time and again his only response to the challenges facing working families is to impose more mandates on workplaces. It should be clear to the president by now his approach isn’t working and the American people deserve better.

“Two years ago, the House passed legislation to give workers the opportunity to choose paid time off for working overtime hours. This new flexibility would help working moms and dads take paid time off to care for a sick child, visit an aging relative, or attend a child’s sporting event. Instead of supporting this effort, the Obama administration threatened to veto the bill, and it died in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

“Our country desperately needs commonsense, pro-growth reforms that will create new jobs, raise wages, and help workers meet the needs of their families. These are the priorities shared by most Americans, and I am confident they will remain the priorities of this Congress in the months ahead.”

Energy and Commerce – On January 12, FERC Commissioners submitted a response to the E&C Committee’s request for clarification on FERC’s involvement in the EPA’s Clean Power Plan Proposal. FERC Commissioners responded to seven questions on:

1) personal involvement with EPA in developing the proposal;

2) the nature and subject matter of those meetings;

3) conclusions on the quality and impact of FERC’s involvement with EPA in ensuring the rules “do not unduly burden electric reliability;”

4) whether FERC staff had access to EPA documents;

5) whether the commissioners anticipate future involvement with EPA before any future rulemakings are made final;

6) a plan for future inter-agency interactions; and

7) a “personal opinion” on “whether FERC acted adequately to protect electric reliability.”

Financial Services – The Committee issued a press release after the House passed H.R. 37, the Promoting Job Creation and Reducing Small Business Burdens Act, quoting the following bipartisan support committee members:

“It is clear that smart regulations allow the private sector to innovate and create more jobs while protecting taxpayers and consumers. However, it is equally clear that one-size-fits-all regulations hurt the economy by treating small and medium sized companies as if they are large, multinational corporations. No Main Street small business, manufacturer, farmer or rancher caused the financial crisis. Yet they are subject to thousands of new pages of regulations that were supposedly designed for big Wall Street firms. That’s not fair.” - Sponsor  Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA)

“It is time to do what everybody claims they want to do, and that is work on a bipartisan basis. All of these bills passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities and now because of this almost religious zeal for the Dodd-Frank brand, some of my Democratic colleagues have decided they were for it before they were against it.” - Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX)

“The provisions in this bill have passed Congress overwhelmingly in years past. Only now has it become distorted and mischaracterized for political purposes. I will continue to stand firm in supporting improvements to financial regulations that will protect consumers and help businesses create jobs. That’s why I voted for this bill.” - Rep. John Carney  (D-DE)

Foreign Affairs - On January 13, officials from the U.S. Department of the State, Department of the Treasury and Department of Homeland Security briefed the Committee on The North Korean Threat: Nuclear, Missiles and Cyber. The briefing comes in the aftermath of the cyber-attack on Sony in late 2014 as a response to a Sony film The Interview, which the Administration investigated and attributed to North Korean origins.  

Homeland Security – On January 17, Committee Chairman McCaul (R-TX), along with 14 other Republican co-sponsors, introduced the widely publicized bill H.R. 399, the Secure Our Borders Act. Chairman McCaul's office also released a press video about the bill. 

Natural Resources – On January 13, Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) announced its subcommittee members, the creation of a new Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and a move to place the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) under exclusive jurisdiction of the Full Committee. He stated:

“Over the next two years, the House Natural Resources Committee will pursue an active legislative agenda and provide aggressive oversight of the Obama Administration… Given the increased need for congressional oversight of the Executive Branch’s actions and regulations, I am also pleased to announce the formation of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. This restructuring will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of committee operations.”

Oversight and Government Reform – On January 15, Chairman Jason Chaffetz announced its committee members for the 114th Congress.

Rules - On January 13, Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX), issued the following statement on the passage of H.R. 185 - the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2015:

“Today the House passed a bill to reduce harmful regulatory burdens that restrict economic growth and contribute to unemployment.  By cutting red tape and making it easier for businesses to create good-paying jobs, the Regulatory Accountability Act provides relief to families and unleashes the American economy.  Each dollar that is spent complying with rules from Washington is a dollar that businesses cannot spend on new employees, higher wages, innovation, expansion, and investment.”

Transportation and Infrastructure – Returning House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Bill Shuster (R-PA) announced the names of subcommittee chairs in a press release.  Speaking about the upcoming session Shuster stated:

“Last Congress, the Committee was able to work together to accomplish a number of our policy and legislative goals to help strengthen America’s infrastructure and bolster the Nation’s competitiveness,” Shuster said.  “A great deal of our success was attributable to our committee’s excellent leadership team.  With the return of five of our subcommittee chairmen and Full Committee Vice Chairman, and the addition of a proven leader to lead our Highways and Transit Subcommittee, I am confident we will be able to continue effectively addressing the needs of our transportation system.”

 Ways and Means – The committee held its first substantive meeting on January 13,  Moving America Forward: With a Focus on Economic Growth.  The hearing focused on job creation and featured testimony from the following: Martin Feldstein, The George F. Baker Professor of Economics at Harvard and President Emeritus of the National Bureau of Economic Research; Douglas Holtz-Eakin, President, American Action Forum; and Simon Johnson, Ronald A. Kurtz (1954) Professor of Entrepreneurship at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Week Behind - Senate Committee Action

Environment and Public Works – On January 14, Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) released the following statement on the EPA’s plans to cut methane emissions from oil and gas production:

“The EPA has once again announced plans to impose a mandate designed to stifle our domestic energy industries despite the successful voluntary steps made by U.S. oil and gas companies to reduce methane emissions.

“This EPA mandate from the Obama Administration will not only increase the cost to do business in America, but it will ultimately limit our nation’s ability to become fully energy independent. This will impact everyday Americans, from the cost to heat their homes to the reliability of consistent electricity to keep the family business competitively operating.

“Furthermore, the announcement made today does not provide sufficient benefits to justify the cost, given methane emissions are substantially lower than what EPA has previously suggested. The Obama Administration is unwilling to streamline existing regulatory hurdles on pipeline infrastructure as a means to reduce emissions, and instead is expanding its inefficient and complicated bureaucracy.  With my colleagues, I will work towards limiting the red tape on our energy infrastructure and work towards common-sense solutions that allow America to responsibly develop and consume our natural resources.”

Ranking Member Barbara Boxer (D-CA) also released a statement on the EPA methane rule, stating:

"The President's plan will require the oil and gas industry to reduce methane leaks, which is a potent source of climate pollution. Congress can support this effort by passing the bipartisan Murphy-Collins Super Pollutants Act, which identifies practical steps that will aid in reducing methane emissions. By cutting industrial methane pollution, we can protect our children and future generations from the worst impacts of climate change."

Foreign Relations –  Last week chairmanship of the Committee changed hands from Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) to Senator Bob Corker (R-TN).  The Committee had planned to hold a hearing titled The National Interest: Articulating The Case For American Leadership In The World on January 13, with testimony from former U.S. Secretary of State, Henry A. Kissinger, but the hearing was postponed indefinitely. 

 Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs – Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) replaced Carper (D-DE) as Chairman of the Committee last week. 

Intelligence – Last week Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) took over as Chairman of the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, which was previously held by Diane Feinstein (D-CA). 

Small Business and Entrepreneurship –On January 15 the committee held its first substantive hearing of the 114th Congressional session to discuss the Affordable Care Act at a hearing titled: The Effects of the Affordable Care Act on Small Businesses and How Congress is Exempted From the Law .  The hearing featured testimony from: Hedy Hebert, Partner, Benefits Consulting; Brenda Little, Healthcare Administrator, Jean Simpson Personnel Services, Inc.; Debbie Martin, Immediate Past President, North Shreveport Business Association; David Scruggs, COO, Piggly Wiggly and Save-A-Lot Grocery Stores.

Week Ahead in Congress

Energy will continue to be a key theme next week in Congress, with the Senate scheduled to begin debate on the 55-plus amendments that have already been added to S.1 - the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, and the House to debate a bill that would expedite the permitting for natural gas pipelines. In committees, foreign relations get considerable play next week, with the Senate Armed Services hearing testimony from two former U.S. National Security Advisors on the U.S. National Security Strategy, and the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee holding two hearings related to sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program.

Bills on the House Floor

As of January 18, the following bills are scheduled to be considered in the House next week under full rules of debate:

H.R. 36 - Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a bill to reform federal abortion rules.

H.R. 161 - Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act

The House will also consider the following bills next week under suspension of the rules:

H.Res.__ - Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives condemning the recent terrorist attacks in Paris that resulted in the deaths of seventeen innocent persons and offering condolences to those personally affected by this cowardly act

Bills on the Senate Floor

The Senate is scheduled to resume consideration of S.1 - the Keystone XL Pipeline Act.  

Week Ahead - House Committee Action

Armed Services – On Tuesday, Jan. 20, Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) will state the Committee’s 2015 agenda during remarks to the American Enterprise Institute.

Energy and Commerce – On January 21, the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a hearing entitled Protecting the Internet and Consumers through Congressional Action to discuss draft legislation that would “enact clear rules of the road for the Internet to protect consumers and innovation.” Witnesses will include officials from Etsy, Amazon, the Wireless Association, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the Minority Media and Telecom Council, and the National Hispanic Media Coalition.

Also on January 21, the Subcommittee on Health begin a two-day hearing entitled, a Permanent Solution to the SGR: the Time is Now, to “find a permanent solution to the flawed SGR formula.” The Subcommittee website notes that “members will discuss how to bring SGR reform to the president’s desk before the current patch expires at the end of March 2015.”

On January 22, the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy will hold a hearing on EPA’s 2014 Final Rule: Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities that will examine EPA’s recently issued rule regulating the disposal of coal ash and discuss the need for legislation to provide the clarity that job-creators need. Witnesses will include officials from the EPA and “other stakeholders” who have yet to be announced.

Financial Services – On January 21, the full committee will hold a markup hearing to adopt the committee’s organizational plan for the 114th Congress.  

Foreign Affairs - The full Committee will hold an organizational meeting on January 21. 

Judiciary– The Judiciary Committee will hold its first meeting on January 21 when they hold a markup and organizational meeting to setting  rules and an oversight plan for the 114th Congress. During the hearing the committee will ratify both full committee rules for the year and subcommittee assignments, as well as consider the following anti-human traffiking legislation:

H.R.350 - To direct the Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking to identify strategies to prevent children from becoming victims of trafficking and review trafficking prevention efforts, to protect and assist in the recovery of victims of trafficking, and for other purposes, a bill protect children from human trafficking.

H.R.159 - Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act of 2015,  a bill to help prevent trafficking.

H.R.181 - Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, a bill to help protect trafficking victims through the judicial process.

H.R.285 - To amend title 18, United States Code, to provide a penalty for knowingly selling advertising that offers certain commercial sex acts

Rules - The Committee on Rules will meet Tuesday, January 20, 2015 at 2:00 PM in H-313 The Capitol on the following measures:

H.R. 36—Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

H.R. 161–Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act

Science, Space, and Technology Committee –On January 21 the full committee will meet for the Adoption of Committee Rules and Approval of Oversight Plan .  The full committee will also hold its first substantive hearing on January 21 at a hearing titled: Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research and Development . Witnesses for the hearing include: Dr. Ed Waggoner, Director, Integrated Systems Research Program, Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, NASA; James Williams, Manager, UAS Integration Office, Aviation Safety Organization, FAA; Dr. John Lauber, Co-Chair, Committee on Autonomy Research for Civil Aviation, National Research Council; Mr. Brian Wynne, CEO and President, Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI); Colin Guinn, CRO, 3D Robotics, Small UAV Coalition Member; and Dr. John R. Hansman, T. Wilson Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Transportation and Infrastructure –The committee will hold its first hearing on January 21 where the full committee will meet to discuss FAA Reauthorization: Reforming and Streamlining the FAA’s Regulatory Certification Processes.  The hearing will feature testimony from the following: Ray Conner, President and CEO, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, The Boeing Company;  Aaron Hilkemann, President and CEO, Duncan Aviation; Chris Hart, Acting Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board; Dorenda Baker, Director, Aircraft Certification Service, Federal Aviation Administration; and Dr. Gerald Dillingham, Director of Civil Aviation Issues, Government Accountability Office.

Veterans’ Affairs Committee – On January 21 the committee will hold an organizational meeting of the full committee, committee rules and leadership will be ratified during the meeting.  The full committee will also hold its first substantive meeting on January 21 “Building a Better VA: Assessing Ongoing Major Construction Management Problems within the Department”. The hearing will feature testimony from: Sloan D. Gibson, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Mr. Dennis Milsten, Associate Executive Director, Office of Programs and Plans, Office of Construction and Facilities Management U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Lloyd C. Caldwell, P.E. Director of Military Programs, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers;  David Wise, Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues, U.S. Government Accountability Office; Roscoe Butler, Deputy Director for Healthcare, Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division,The American Legion; and Ray Kelley, Director, National Legislative Service, Veterans of Foreign Wars. A number of official submissions for the record are also expected for the hearing.  

The Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs (DAMA) will hold a January 22 hearing titled: Veterans’ Dilemma: Navigating the Appeals System for Veterans Claims. Witnesses for this hearing have not been announced.

Ways and Means – The Committee will hold its organizational meeting on January 21, during this meeting the full committee wlil consider the Committee’s Rules and the committee’s Oversight Plan for the 114th Congress.  

Week Ahead - Senate Committee Action

Armed Services – On January 21, the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on Global Challenges and U.S. National Security Policy. The panel will hear from two former U.S. National Security Advisors - Brent Scowcroft, currently the President of the Scowcroft Group; and Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, currently Counselor and Trustee for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – On January 20, the full committee will hold a hearing on Perspectives on the Strategic Necessity of Iran Sanctions, with the witnesses including Mark Dubowitz, Director, Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance Foundation for the Defense of Democracies; and Dr. Patrick Clawson, Director of Research, Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

On January 22, the full committee will hold a markup of the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015.

Finance – Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) will announce the committee’s 2015 agenda on January 20, 2015 at the U.S. Chamber Headquarters. According to the Finance Committee’s press release:, Chairman Hatch will outline “a bold, growth-oriented committee agenda aimed at achieving bipartisan, job-creating initiatives such as reforming the tax code and enacting trade promotion authority (TPA). Hatch will highlight his plan to strike away at Obamacare’s devastating taxes and mandates while working towards the ultimate goal of repealing and replacing the law in its entirety.  The chairman will also discuss the committee’s plan to address the nation’s entitlement programs – the biggest driver of our long-term debt – and the committee’s pension and oversight agenda.”

Foreign Relations – The Committee will hold a hearing on January 21 titled Iran Nuclear Negotiations: Status of Talks and the Role of Congress. Deputy Secretary Of State Antony J. Blinken and Under Secretary For Terrorism And Financial Intelligence
at the Department of the Treasury, David S. Cohen, are scheduled to testify.

Health, Education, Labor and Pensions – On January 21, the full committee will hold a hearing entitled Fixing No Child Left Behind: Testing and Accountability. On January 22, the full committee will hold a hearing entitled Examining Job-Based Health Insurance and Defining Full-Time Work.

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs – The Committee will hold a Business meeting on January 22. 

Judiciary Committee- On January 21 the full committee will hold a nominations hearing, the following nominations will be considered:

Michelle K. Lee, to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office

Daniel Henry Marti, to be Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, Executive Office of the President

Alfred H. Bennett, to be a United States District Judge for the Southern District of Texas

George C. Hanks, Jr., to be a United States District Judge for the Southern District of Texas

Jose Rolando Olvera, Jr., to be a United States District Judge for the Southern District of Texas

Jill N. Parrish, to be a United States District Judge for the District of Utah

The committee will also hold its first executive business meeting to organize the committee for the year, adopt rules and subcommittee assignments.

Veterans’ Affairs -The committee will hold its first business meeting on January 21 to formally organize the committee and consider the House passed H.R. 203(as passed the House), Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act or the Clay Hunt SAV Act.