Week Back Week Ahead In Congress: Monday January 5, 2015

Erin Carson, Lead Analyst Thursday January 8th 2015

The House was on recess the week of December 29 to January 2, and convened for the start of the 114th Congress on January 6, 2015, when the majority of the week’s activity was made public.

The Week Ahead in Congress

Congress convened for the 114th Session on January 6 and after voting in leadership, which included re-electing John Boehner (R-OH) House Speaker, the House approved a series of subtle but controversial budget scoring changes.  These changes included one which will allow the inclusion of Treasury Department estimates in the bill scoring process.  This change will most likely affect tax legislation. Supporters hope it will lower the estimated cost of many proposed cuts and breaks.  This change has been long sought after by Republicans and is opposed my most Democrats who say such estimates are often wishful thinking.  Some other partisan rules adopted will change the way the Congress considers independent board advice for changes to Medicare, social security and the Affordable Care Act; many of these changes drew the ire of the AARP. However, there was wide bipartisan support for one rule change that requires independent experts testifying before Congress to disclose any funds given by foreign governments to their institutions prior to submitting testimony.

The leading legislation for the week ahead in both the House and Senate will be consideration of several of the three Keystone XL pipeline bills introduced this week -- all of which are versions of legislation previously passed during the 113th Congress. President Obama’s Press Secretary already indicated in a January 6 press briefing that the President would veto a Keystone XL bill - at least in its current form, since the measure would circumvent the Department of State review process and the Nebraska Court ruling on the pipeline’s final route. Still, the official veto threat, which was issued on January 7, has so far not deterred congressional Republicans, who will be holding markup hearings and scheduling votes on the bills this week. Senate Republicans would need 67 votes to achieve a veto-proof majority; as of January 7, Republican leaders  estimate they can secure about 63. The Senate vote is scheduled for Friday, January 9.

Bills on the House Floor

The following bills will be considered in the House next week under full rules of debate:

H.R. 30 – Save American Workers Act of 2015 - a bill to alter certain Affordable Care Act provisions related to the employee mandate.

H.R. 3 – Keystone XL Pipeline Act - a bill to authorize the Keystone XL Pipeline project. 

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

H.R. ___ – Hire More Heroes Act of 2015, a bill to promote veteran hiring and job training.

H.R. ___ – Low-Dose Radiation Research Act of 2015, a bill to reauthorize a radiation study.

H.R. ___ – National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act Reauthorization of 2015, is a bill to reauthorize and restructure an existing NOAA program to study wind and its impact.

H.R. ___ – Tsunami Warning, Education, and Research Act of 2015, is a bill to create a research program related to tsunamis and the U.S.

Bills on the Senate Floor

The Senate is scheduled to vote on S. 1 - A bill to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, on Friday, January 9, 2015.

House Committee Action

Armed Services – The House Armed Services will hold an organizational meeting on January 13, 2015.

Energy and Commerce – The Energy and Commerce Committee will hold an organizational meeting on January 9 to discuss the Committee rules and jurisdiction, and to appoint subcommittee Chairs and Ranking Members to Subcommittees. 

Science, Space, and Technology Committee – Returning Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) announced the slate of Republican members to 114th Committee. Smith spoke about the goals and work the 114th committee will focus on and undertake: 

“In the next Congress, the Science Committee will build on its record of success to promote policies and pass legislation that shape America’s future. The Committee’s goal is to make scientific research stronger and more relevant to our nation and its people. 

“We will continue to advocate for transparency and accountability at our federal science agencies. And we will promote principles that hardworking Americans overwhelmingly support, such as ensuring that environmental regulations at the EPA are based on publicly available data. And the National Science Foundation should provide a public explanation for how taxpayer-funded research grants are in the national interest.

“The Committee will also continue to seek bipartisan policy solutions that support our nation’s space program, encourage energy independence, expand scientific education, fund basic research, and advance the development of new technologies. These are areas that will strengthen our economy and raise every American’s standard of living. I look forward to working with my new colleagues who bring diverse talents and a wealth of expertise to this Committee."

Small Business –  Incoming Chair Steve Chabot (R-OH) spoke about House passage of the Committee supported H.R. 22, the Hire More Heroes Act in a press release:

“The Hire More Heroes Act marks the first of many solutions that the new American Congress will produce to help our small businesses grow and create jobs,” said Chabot. “Small businesses are responsible for the majority of new opportunities in America and make our communities more vibrant and strong.

“As incoming Chairman of the Small Business Committee, my goal each day is to make life better for America’s small businesses, so that they can continue to innovate and create jobs. The bill passed by the House today is an important step toward that goal and towards the new American Congress’s commitment to produce positive solutions for our communities.”

Veterans’ Affairs Committee –  The committee announced its first two hearings of the 114th session, on January 13th the full committee will hold a business meeting to formally organize the committee, the full committee is also scheduled to hold its first mark-up on January 27.

Ways and Means –  New Chair Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced that he will oversee his first committee meeting on Tuesday January 13.  The hearing titled Moving America Forward: With a Focus on Economic Growth, will focus on the state of the U.S. economy and policies that can promote job creation and economic growth. 

Senate Committee Action

Energy and Natural Resources – The full committee is scheduled to have a business meeting on the Keystone XL Pipeline legislation on January 8. A full committee hearing on the measure was scheduled for January 7 with testimony from the CEO of the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, the Vice President of the Center for American Progress, and a Director at the Laborers' International Union of North America, but that hearing has been canceled.