The Week Behind - The 2014 Midterms and Republican Takeover
Republicans in Congress won what many have called a statement election last week, gaining control of the Senate and deepening their control in the House. Republicans, driven by national feelings of economic dissatisfaction and a low presidential approval ratings, picked up seven Senate seats with the possibility of expanding that number to eight after the December Louisiana run-off election. Republicans gained control of seats held by Democrats in North Carolina, Colorado, Iowa, West Virginia, Arkansas, Montana and South Dakota. Republicans now have a margin of control in the House that has not been seen in more than 60 years, during the Truman Administration.
As reported in previous VoteTocracy reports, the midterm results will have a significant impact on committee action in both the Senate and the House. For in-depth VoteTocracy analysis on the new political landscape for House and Senate committees at House Committees and the Midterms and Senate Committees and the Midterms.
Week Behind: Committee Action
While Congress was out last week for the midterm election, several committees had notable activity, including a review of operations within the controversial Export-Import Bank.
House Ethics Committee
The committee on Oct. 29 announced it would extend its review into Rep. Paul Broun, R-GA., who is retiring at the end of the 113th Congress. The committee as well as the Office of Congressional Ethics are investigating whether Broun broke the law when he used official congressional office funds to pay a communications consultant working on his political campaign.
House Oversight and Government Reform:
On Nov. 7, the committee issued a subpoena to the Export-Import Bank for documents related to the bank’s operations. The subpoena specifically directs the Ex-Im Bank to provide unredacted transcripts from meetings of the bank’s board of directors and audit committee since Jan. 1, 2012.
The Week Ahead - Start of the 2014 Lame Duck Session
What is the Lame Duck Session?
The term “lame duck” refers to politicians who are on their way out of office. When lawmakers return next week after the mid-term elections, they will have a short window to complete must-pass bills and advance any remaining legislative priorities.
It’s no secret that the 113th Congress has achieved remarkably less than in previous years, and expectations are fairly low that their remaining weeks will hold much excitement compared to prior lame-duck Congresses. For example, in 2010, the lame-duck Congress passed a number of heavy hitting bills: a tax bill that extended tax cuts and unemployment benefits and lowered the payroll tax; an unemployment benefits bill; a major food safety bill; a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell;” a 9/11 responders health bill; a bill to approve a nuclear arms treaty with Russia; and a short-term government funding resolution. In 2012, the lame-duck Congress brought the country to the edge of the Fiscal Cliff and a government shutdown by passing a spending bill late on New Year’s Eve.
This year, both parties are anxious to avoid a last-minute funding bill, and there is little appetite for major bipartisan bills beyond what must be done. With the Republicans taking control of the Senate they will be sure to wait until 2015 to move on most major legislative agenda items. Major issues like tax reform, immigration, and possibly ISIS will be pushed to the 114th Congress. Other issues that were expected to be key topics during the lame-duck session have already been extended, such as the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, which was extended to June 30.
Still, there are a handful of bills that Congress will be forced to address by the end of December, and some say the weeks of the lame-duck session could be more productive than the previous 22 months combined.
The 2015 Continuing Appropriations Resolution expires on December 11, so lawmakers will again debate federal funding; reauthorization for funding attacks against ISIS; and Internet Tax Freedom legislation will be of key concern. In addition, Congress will have to consider appropriations and authorizations, a number of tax extensions, and renewal of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act.
See VoteTocracy’s forecast for the months ahead: Bills on Deck for the Lame-Duck Session.
Week Ahead: Committee Action
Both the House and Senate will convene Wednesday, November 12 for an abbreviated, three-day workweek. Lawmakers will hold significant hearings on funding for ISIS and the response to Ebola as well as several nomination meetings. The breakdown is below.
House Armed Services Committee
The committee will hold two hearings on Nov. 13. The “Administration’s Strategy and Military Campaign against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)” will feature testimony from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing on the Defense Department’s excess property program supporting law enforcement agencies.
House Financial Services Committee
THe House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on November 13 on the Islamist State’s Financing. According to Chairman Jeb Hensarling:
“The enormous wealth of the Islamic State, at least compared to other terrorist groups, compounds its brutality and enhances its capabilities to attack Americans and our interests,” said Chairman Hensarling. “The Financial Services Committee will conduct rigorous oversight of the Obama Administration’s efforts to disrupt the Islamic State’s financing network and examine the adequacy of international banking policies to combat the new challenges that the Islamic State and groups like it present.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee
The Committee will hold a November 13 hearing, Combating Ebola in West Africa: The International Response. Witnesses will include Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development and Bisa Williams, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of African Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. Also scheduled to testify are three witnesses from the U.S. Department of Defense: Major General Nadja Y. West who is the Joint Staff Surgeon , Michael D. Lumpkin , the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict , and Major General James Lariviere, US Marine Corps Deputy Director for Politico-Military Affairs for Africa at the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
House Veterans’ Affairs Committee
The full Committee will hold a November 13 hearing, Assessing the Implementation of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, which will discuss the recently passed H.R.3230 – Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 the House and Senate passed H.R.320 after Committee leaders from both Chambers were able to come to an agreement on reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs by amending and then passing a House bill that had previously passed in 2013 which includes many provisions from a related Senate bill, S.2450. H.R.3230 includes many reforms including giving the VA Secretary greater ability to fire and discipline senior executive employees.
Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
The full committee will hold a nomination hearing on Thursday, November 13, to consider the nominations of Lourdes Maria Castro Ramirez, of California, to be an Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; and Therese W. McMillan, of California, to be Federal Transit Administrator, U.S. Department of Transportation.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee
The committee will hold a hearing on November 12, which will be closed to the public, titled Countering the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the Iraq and Syria. Witnesses will include two witnesses from the U.S. Department of Defense: the Honorable Christine Wormuth, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and Vice Admiral Frank Craig Pandolfe who is the Director for Strategic Plans and Policy with the US Joint Chiefs of Staff (J5). The J5 develops basic military policy and planning for command activities involving relations with other U.S. combatant commands, allied and international military organizations. Also scheduled to testify is Former General John R. Allen who is the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global of the Coalition to Counter ISIL at the U.S. Department of State.
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
The committee will hold a business meeting in the evening on Nov. 12. Lawmakers will consider the nominations of two candidates for Homeland Security positions and for an appointment to the Board of Governors. The panel will also consider several postal facility naming bills.
Senate Judiciary Committee
The committee will hold a Nominations and an Executive Business Meeting on November 13. The Nominations Hearing will discuss yet unannounced federal nominations. The Executive Business Meeting will examine S.2520, The FOIA Improvement Act of 2014 and H.R.1447, The Death in Custody Reporting Act of 2013. S.2520 is a bill to offer improvements to Freedom of Information Act or FOIA procedures, this legislation is the result of a bipartisan effort among Judiciary Committee leaders Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and members Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI). This legislation has a good chance of being reported out of Committee. H.R.1447 previously passed House consideration on December 13, 2013 and reauthorizes the Death in Custody Reporting Act of 2000, which expired in 2006, to require regular reports on deaths occurring in law enforcement custody at the state and local levels, and expands the scope of the reporting requirement to include federal facilities.
Senate Indian Affairs Committee
The Committee will hold a November 12 hearing to consider the Presidential nomination of Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri to be Chair of the National Indian Gaming Commission for a three year term.