The Week Behind in Congress
Both the House and the Senate returned last week to begin the remaining weeks of the 113th congressional session. Both chambers moved on legislation to advance the Keystone XL pipeline, a critical issue in the Senate runoff race between Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) in Louisiana. The House passed its version of the Keystone legislation last Friday, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised to bring Sen. Landrieu's version to the floor in the coming weeks. President Obama has said he will veto the legislation.
The full report on the week’s activity is provided below.
House Floor Action
The House approved legislation last week that would approve the Keystone XL pipeline by 252-161, with a number of Democrats siding with Republican proponents of the energy project. According to reporting from The Hill, the move could push the President's hand to approve or veto the bill if the Senate approves its version of the measure next week. President Obama has maintained his position that any decision to move forward on the oil pipeline linking Canada with the Gulf Coast must first go through review from the State Department.
The following bills were approved in the House after full debate:
H.R. 5682 - To approve the Keystone XL Pipeline
The House passed two bills already passed by the Senate; these bill now head to the President for final approval:
H.R. 4194 - Government Reports Elimination Act of 2014, which eliminates unnecessary, outdated or duplicative reports several federal agencies are required to produce. The Senate passed an amended version of the bill, which originated in the House, in September. The bill heads to President Obama.
H.R. 1233 - Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments of 2014, which would create new guidelines allowing previous presidents to keep certain records restricted while also streamlining outdated recordkeeping language and making additional changes to improve the federal government’s ability to capture and archive electronic records. The Senate passed the bill, which originated in the House, in September. It now heads to President Obama.
Earlier in the week, the House passed the following bills by voice vote under suspension of the rules:
H.R. 3326 - Trinity County Land Exchange Act of 2014
H.R. 4846 - Arapaho National Forest Boundary Adjustment Act of 2014
H.R. 5167 - To direct the Administrator of General Services, on behalf of the Secretary of the Interior, to convey certain Federal property located in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska to the Olgoonik Corporation, an Alaska Native Corporation established under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act
H.R. 4867 - Economic Development Through Tribal Land Exchange Act
H.R. 5266 - Reauthorizing the National Estuary Programs, a bill to reauthorize already existing programs.
S. 1934 - Clifford P. Hansen Federal Courthouse Conveyance Act, a bill to rename a federal courthouse.
S. 898 - Albuquerque, New Mexico, Federal Land Conveyance Act of 2013, a simple land conveyance bill.
H.R. 5448 - John F. Kennedy Center Reauthorization Act of 2014
Senate Floor Action
The Senate began procedural votes for both H.R.2 American Energy Solutions for Lower Costs and More American Jobs Act and H.R.4 the Jobs for America Act. Both of these bills contain a number of tax extension provisions that include both wide House and Senate support. Tax extension legislation is expected to be a main focus of this lame duck congress.
The Senate also moved to consider S.1086, the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014, and is expected to bring the bull to the Senate floor next week.
Week Behind - Committee Action
House Committee Action
Armed Services – The committee held two hearings on Nov. 13. The “Administration’s Strategy and Military Campaign against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)” featured testimony from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Dempsey told the committee that the military might eventually have to send ground troops to fight the terrorist group.
The Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on the Defense Department’s excess property program supporting law enforcement agencies.
Education and the Workforce – Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) issued a statement after the Department of Education released new waiver guidance, stating, “Our K-12 education system is broken and we’ve learned over the last several years the president’s controversial waiver scheme is not the answer. Instead of changing course, the administration is delivering more arbitrary rules, more regulatory burdens, and more confusion.”
Ethics - The committee on Nov. 10 declined to pursue a full-scale investigation into separate matters involving Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., and Ed Whitfield, R-Ky. The Office of Congressional Ethics was investigating Rush for the possible misuse of campaign funds for his Beloved Community Christian Church in Chicago. Rep. Whitfield, according to a report in Politico, was pushing animal welfare legislation that his wife, a lobbyist for the Humane Society, supports.
Foreign Affairs - The Committee held a hearing titled Combating Ebola in West Africa: The International Response on November 13, and hearing to discuss The Future of Energy in Africa on November 14.
Judiciary– The full committee held a November 13 hearing to consider H.R.5441 and H.R.5683. H.R.5411 is a simple bill to amend the charter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States to reflect the service of women in the Armed Forces of the United States. H.R.5683 is a bill aimed at limiting Presidential power, especially in the case of possible executive action to deal with the current border immigration crisis. The committee also voted to keep a portion of theNovember 19 hearing to examine the recent Secret Service oversight report closed to the public.
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 discussed the recently passed H.R.3230 – Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 the House and Senate 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 was amended to include many provisions from a related Senate bill, S.2450. H.R.3230 includes many VA reforms including giving the VA Secretary greater ability to fire and discipline senior executive employees. The following witnesses provided testimony at the hearing: Sloan Gibson, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; James Tuchschmidt, M.D., M.M., Acting Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Health, Veterans Health Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; and Gregory L. Giddens, Executive Director, Enterprise Program Management Office, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Ways and Means – House Republican Leadership confirmed this week that former Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan (R-WI) will take over the Ways and Means Committee in the 114th Congress, as current leader Rep. David Camp (R-MI) is retiring at the end of the session. Ryan is expected to propose large changes to current the current tax code in the new Congress and Republican strategists do not believe his taking over as chief House tax writer diminishes his chances at a future in national politics including the 2016 Presidential Election. The Ways and Means committee will likely be in the news a lot during the upcoming Congressional session.
Senate Committee Action
Appropriations – On Wednesday, November 12, the full committee held a hearing on the U.S. response to fighting Ebola. The panel heard testimony from Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Anthony S. Fauci, Director at the National Institutes of Health; Jeh Johnson, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Heather Higginbottom, Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of State; and Michael Lumpkin, Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Defense. Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski started the hearing by stating: “We all have questions about our response to the spread of Ebola to date: Did the international community respond quickly enough as Ebola emerged? Did years of austerity and sequester weaken public health infrastructure, vaccine development, or international health capacity?” She asked the witnesses: “I want to know what kind of capabilities $6.2 billion in requested resources can buy? And, what are the consequences if Congress fails to act?”
Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – The full committee held a nomination hearing last week considering nominations for 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.
Commerce, Science, and Transportation – The committee was scheduled to hold a November 13 nominations hearing, but it was postponed.
Energy and Natural Resources – The full committee held a business meeting on November 13 to consider a number of energy, land use, and natural parks bills.
On November 14, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, (R-AK) released a statement on the Department of Energy’s final approval to Freeport LNG in Texas, stating:
“I applaud Secretary Moniz’s efforts to expedite this process. Going into the next Congress, I look forward to working with the secretary and my colleagues on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to provide even greater certainty to DOE’s LNG export application process so that our nation can act before this narrow window of opportunity closes."
Environment and Public Works – On November 13, the full committee held a hearing on the nominations of Virginia T. Lodge and Ronald A. Walter to be Members of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Finance – On November 11, Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, (D-OR) issued a statement after the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced it had found a path forward with China on the Information Technology Agreement (ITA), which eliminates tariffs on certain tech goods, stating: “The original Information Technology Agreement helped grow companies big and small in Oregon by eliminating overseas tariffs on high-tech products almost two decades ago. Today's news of an agreement with China will pave the way for a successful ITA expansion deal, which means more good-paying jobs by opening global markets to Oregon manufacturers and exporters of advanced semiconductors, high tech medical equipment and other products.”
Foreign Relations – The Committee held a hearing on November 12, which was closed to the public, titled Countering the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the Iraq and Syria. Witnesses included 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.
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs – The committee held a business meeting in the evening on Nov. 12, approving the nominations of two candidates for Homeland Security positions and for an appointment to the Board of Governors. The panel also approved several postal facility naming bills.
Judiciary Committee- The committee held both a Nominations and an Executive Business Meeting on November 13. At the Nominations Hearing all but one nomination, David Rivera, of Tennessee, to be United States Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee was held over. The Executive Business Meetingexamind 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). The committee failed to act on the legislation.
Indian Affairs Committee - The committee held 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. The Committee and the Senate will need to approve the nomination before Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri can begin a term as Chair.
Week Ahead in Congress
The focus of the coming weeks will center on avoiding another government shutdown by passing a funding bill by mid-December, clearing presidential nominations, and addressing other legislation with an end-of-year deadline. The following legislation and issues are slated for consideration in the week ahead.
Bills on the House Floor
The following bills will be considered in the House next week under full rules of debate:
H.R. 1422 - EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2013 is a bill to amend the Environmental Research, Development, and Demonstration Authorization Act to revise the process of selecting members of the Science Advisory Board, guidelines for participation in Board advisory activities, and terms of office.
H.R. 4012 - Secret Science Reform Act of 2014 , a bill to prohibit the EPA from using certain data for new EPA rules.
H.R. 4795 - Promoting New Manufacturing Act , requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make public and publish data on preconstruction permits.
The House will also consider the following bills next week under suspension of the rules:
H.R. 3608 - Grand Portage Band Per Capita Adjustment Act
H.R. 5162 - To amend the Act entitled "An Act to allow a certain parcel of land in Rockingham County, Virginia, to be used for a child care center" to remove the use restriction, and for other purposes
H.R. 4049 - Ashland Breakwater Light Transfer Act, as amended
H.R. 5040 - Idaho County Shooting Range Land Conveyance Act
H.R. 5069 - Federal Duck Stamp Act of 2014, as amended
H.R. 5681 - would amend an agreement between the US and two of its allies—the UK and Northern Ireland—to reinforce cooperation especially as it applies to the approved uses of atomic energy for mutual defense purposes. The official purpose of the bill is to provide for the approval of the Amendment to the Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for Cooperation on the Uses of Atomic Energy for Mutual Defense Purposes
H. Res. 754 - Condemning the Government of Iran for its gross human rights violations, was introduced by Chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) on November 14. The Committee also schedule two separate hearings related to the Government of Iran are schedule for the upcoming week that is likely to influence the passage of the resolution. A related bill, H.R. 5709 is intended to codify and strengthen sanctions against Iran was also introduced on November 14, although it is not scheduled to be considered under suspension of the rules.
The House will also consider 8 post-office naming bills next week - (H.R. 5468, H.R. 5331, H.R. 5386, S. 1499, S. 1093, S. 885, S. 1512, H.R. 5124)
Bills on the Senate Floor
The Senate is expected to consider S.1086, the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 next week.
House Committee Action
Energy and Commerce – The Energy and Commerce Committee will hold three hearings next week, including two that look at the response to the Ebola outbreak. On November 18, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing to review Ebola response efforts. Witnesses will include Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Tom Frieden, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dr. Nicole Lurie, and Acting Surgeon General Dr. Boris Lushniak. On November 19, the Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing to explore the development of vaccines, diagnostics, andtreatments in the fight against Ebola. Witnesses will include the Director of the Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, National Institutes of Health, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Also on November 19, the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy will hold a hearing to evaluate harmful algae blooms in drinking wateraddressing the elevated levels of bacteria that were found in the water supply of Toledo, Ohio. Witnesses will include Director of the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water at the U.S. EPA Peter Grevatt, Director of the Ohio EPA Craig Butler, and John Donahue testifying on behalf of the American Water Works Association.
Foreign Affairs - The Committee plans to seven hearings next week. On November 18 the Committee will hold the following four hearings: Fighting Ebola; Iran Nuclear Talks: Negotiating a Bad Deal?; Unaccompanied Alien Children: Pressing the Administration for a Strategy and; Water Sharing Conflicts and the Threat to International Peace. Next week the Committee also plans to hold a hearing titled on Next Steps for US Foreign Policy on Syria and Iraq on November 19, and Examining What a Nuclear Iran Deal Means for Global Security on November 20.
In addition, the Committee will also mark up the following four bills next week:
H.R. 5648, the US-Jordan Defense Cooperation Act of 2014
H.R. 5685, the Rewards for Justice Congressional Notification Act of 2014
H.R. 2901, the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2013, and
H.R. 5206, a bill to allow Foreign Service and other executive agency employees designate beneficiaries of their death benefits.
Homeland Security – The Committee plans to hold two hearings next week: one titled Interoperable Communications: Assessing Progress Since 9/11 on November 18, and another one titled Emergency Preparedness: Are We Ready for a 21st Century Hugo? on November 21.
Intelligence – No activity to note.
Judiciary– The full committee will hold a November 19 hearing to examine oversight of the Secret Service, this hearing will feature testimony from acting Secret Service Director Joseph P. Clancy . Earlier this week a report detailing recent Presidential security lapses caused universal outrage among Congressional leaders. The committee voted on November 13 to keep a portion of this hearing closed to the public. The Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet will hold a November 9 hearing to examine educational copyright issues. The committee will also hold a joint November 18 hearing with the House Government and Oversight Committee to examine the abuse of federal employee telework programs at the U.S. Patent and Trade Office.
Natural Resources – The Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will hold an Oversight Hearing on "Volcano Hazards: Exploring the National Preparation and Response Strategy” on November 19, examining the current state of volcanic hazards in the United States and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Volcano Hazards Program that is designed to address these hazards, alert communities to pending eruptions, and mitigate devastating impacts to communities within the hazard zones. On November 20, the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs will hold an oversight hearing entitled, "Is the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge Being Properly Managed?"
Oversight and Government Reform – The committee will hold a Nov. 18 hearing on abuse of telework by federal employees at the U.S. Patent and Trade Office.
Science, Space, and Technology Committee – The committee will hold a November 19 hearing the examine the role of the White House Chief Technology Officer in the HealthCare.gov website failures. The hearing will feature testimony of Todd Park, former Chief Technology Officer of the United States, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
Transportation and Infrastructure – The full committee will hold a hearing entitled FAA Reauthorization: Issues in Modernizing and Operating the Nation’s Airspace. feating the following witnesses: Calvin Scovel, III, Inspector General, Department of Transportation; Nicholas Calio, President and CEO, Airlines for America; Mark Baker, President and CEO, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association; Captain Lee Moak, President, Air Line Pilots Association; John Engler, President, Business Roundtable; and Paul Rinaldi, President, National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
Veterans’ Affairs Committee – The committee will hold four hearings next week. The full committee will hold a November 18 hearing to examine VA’s Longstanding Information Security Weaknesses Continue to Allow Extensive Data Manipulation. The full Committee will also hold a markup to consider the following legislation:
The Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity will hold a November 19 hearing to examine the Role of the State Approving Agencies in Ensuring Quality Education Programs for Veterans. The Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs will hold a hearing to discuss the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund: Inquiry into the Adequacy of Process in Verifying Eligibility.
Senate Committee Action
Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – On November 19, the full committee will conduct an oversight hearing on the “The Federal Housing Finance Agency: Balancing Stability, Growth, and Affordability in the Mortgage Market.” The witness will be The Honorable Melvin L. Watt, Director, Federal Housing Finance Agency.
On November 21, the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection will conduct a hearing entitled “Improving Financial Institution Supervision: Examining and Addressing Regulatory Capture.” The witnesses will be William C. Dudley, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; Prof. David Beim, Professor of Professional Practice at Columbia Business School; Prof. Robert C. Hockett, Professor of Law at Cornell Law School; and Dr. Norbert J. Michel, Research Fellow in Financial Regulations at the Heritage Foundation.
Budget – On November 12, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) released a statement on providing budget certainty in December, stating: “My Republican colleagues often say they don’t want to kick the can down the road when it comes to the budget—but that’s exactly what a stopgap spending bill this December would mean. Families and businesses want to see us building on the bipartisan budget deal reached last year and working together to provide certainty for our economy, and I hope Republican leadership can continue to push the Tea Party aside to make sure that happens.”
Foreign Relations – The Committee plans to hold a hearing on November 18 titled: Countering ISIL in Iraq and Syria. The hearing will be open to the public and is a follow up to the closed door hearing that was held by the same Committee on November 12, titled Countering the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the Iraq and Syria.
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions – On November 19, the full committee will hold a legislative hearing consider S. 2917, Adding Ebola to the FDA Priority Review Voucher Program Act, and HR. 669, the Sudden Unexpected Death Data Enhancement and Awareness Act. On November 20, the full committee will consider the nomination of Lauren McFerran to serve as a Member of the National Labor Relations Board. The same day, the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging will hold a hearing entitled, “Why Are Some Generic Drugs Skyrocketing In Price?”
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs – The panel has several events scheduled for the week of Nov. 17.
Nov. 18: The committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Earl Gay to be deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management.
Nov. 19: The panel will hold a hearing entitled “Preparedness and Response to Public Health Threats: How Ready Are We?” Panelists include Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nov. 20 and 21: The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations will hold a two-day hearing, “Wall Street Bank Involvement With Physical Commodities.”
From the committee: “After a two-year bipartisan investigation, the subcommittee will hold a hearing examining the extent to which banks and their holding companies own physical commodities like oil, natural gas, aluminum and other industrial metals, as well as own or control businesses like power plants, oil and gas pipelines, and commodity warehouses.”
Judiciary Committee- The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a November 19 hearing to examine the FANS Act and specifically sports broadcast blackouts and antitrust aspects of these blackouts. The committee is also scheduled to hold a November 20 Executive Business meeting to consider the nominations and bills held over from the November 13 meeting. The Committee will consider 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) andSen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI).
Veterans’ Affairs - The Veterans’ Affairs Committee will hold a November 19 hearing to examine mental health and suicide among veterans. This committee will feature two panels and 9 witnesses: Harold Kudler, MD, Chief Consultant for Mental Health Services, Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs; Caitlin Thompson, PhD, Deputy Director, Suicide Prevention; and Dean D. Krahn, MD, Deputy Director, Office of Mental Health Operations; Susan Selke, mother of Clay Hunt, a deceased Marine Corps combat veteran; Valerie Pallotta, mother of Joshua Pallotta, a deceased Vermont National Guard combat veteran; Vincent Vanata, MSgt, USMC (Ret.), Combat Stress Recovery Program, Wounded Warrior Project; Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, MD, COL, USA (Ret.), Chief Clinical Officer, District of Columbia’s Department of Mental Health; and Blayne Smith, Executive Director, Team Red, White and Blue
Indian Affairs Committee - The Committee on Indian Affairs will hold a November 19 oversight hearing entitled "Protecting our Children's Mental Health: Preventing and Addressing Childhood Trauma in Indian Country.