How Second Amendment rights may affect the fate of congressional appropriations bill and the funding process?

Forced votes in the U.S. Senate on firearms issues in the wake of the Orlando nightclub massacre may affect the fate of the underlying appropriations bill and the funding process moving forward.

The Senate returns on Monday to resume consideration of H.R. 2578, the vehicle for the Senate Committee-reported FY 2017 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill. Votes are scheduled on four amendments related to gun control, two Democratic amendments and two competing Republican amendments. Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, have an amendment pending to increase the availability of records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and increase resources for the mental health system. A background check amendment proposed by Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., to close the so-called “gun-show loophole” and require background checks for gun purchases online and at gun shows will also receive a vote.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has proposed an amendment to bar the sale of a gun to any individual on the federal terrorist watch list or any individual who has been on such a list in the past five years. A competing amendment offered by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, would give the Justice Department 72 hours to delay the sale of a gun to any suspected terrorist on the watch list, giving the agency an opportunity to seek an ex parte judicial determination that the prospective purchaser poses a credible threat of terrorism, in which case the court could block the gun sale.

Republicans argue that the Democratic proposals go too far in restricting Second Amendment rights, and Democrats criticize the Republican measures as inadequate. The Cornyn and Feinstein amendments were each considered by the Senate last December, following the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, but both measures failed to achieve the necessary 60 votes for passage. The Feinstein language received 45 votes and the Cornyn proposal had 55 votes in support.

Each of the amendments to be considered on Monday will be subject to the same 60-vote threshold for adoption and each is expected to fail to gain enough support for inclusion in the underlying bill.

However, it is possible Senate Democrats will attempt to filibuster the underlying $56 billion spending bill following these votes. Should they allow a vote on final passage of the CJS appropriations bill this week, it is possible Democrats will continue to force the issue on other appropriations bills considered by the Senate this summer. The fate of the appropriations process, so far successful in the Senate, may hang in the balance.

Several press reports indicate that several other senators are working on a bipartisan proposal to restrict gun sales to suspected terrorists, but a draft has not yet been made available and it is unclear whether such a compromise bill would have enough support to meet the 60-vote threshold that will be required for passage.

Thus the Senate must  overcome the possible derailment of the process from the firearms issues, if it is  to take up  appropriations bills as it aims for the July 15 start of an extended summer recess.

Senate Panel Sends $164M Health, Labor Funding Bill To Floor

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations sent a $164 billion funding bill to the Senate floor that would increase money for health care research; restore year-round grants available to college students and work to fight opioid addiction.

The first bipartisan bill to fund the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in seven years passed the committee by a 29-1 vote.

The Bill would provide $162 billion in base spending, about $270 million less than last year’s amount and $2 billion less than President Barack Obama requested. It also includes $2 billion in cap adjustment funding that aims to prevent waste, fraud, abuse and improper payments in the Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Specifically, the bill would eliminate 18 duplicitous or unnecessary federal programs in addition to the 18 eliminated by last year’s funding bill, and provide $34 billion to the NIH, an increase of $2 billion. In all, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would get $76.9 billion, an increase of $1.4 billion, under the bill. It also would provide $126 million more to combat opioid abuse, an increase of 93 percent.

Those increases come at the expense of other programs, with $117 million cut from after-school programs, $74 million cut from workforce training grants to states and $118 million cut from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nevertheless, earned broad bipartisan support.

Both Republicans and Democrats lauded the restoration of year-round Pell grants for more than 1 million students nationwide, a measure that Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wa., the subcommittee’s ranking member, included in the bill.

The bill would provide students with, on average, an extra $1,650 to help pay for college accrding to the legislative statements.

The bill wouldn’t provide new funding for Affordable Care Act measures, but would continue prohibitions that aim to stop the administration from using discretionary funding to prop up the ACA’s risk corridor program, which collects contributions from insurers with lower risk enrollees and transfers them to those with higher risk ones.

House Passes $51.4B DOJ, Commerce 2016 Funding Bill: threatened presidential veto

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a $51.4 billion bill Wednesday to fund the U.S. departments of Justice and Commerce and a pair of science agencies for 2016, over a presidential veto threat claiming it underfunds key programs.

Lawmakers voted 242-183 to pass H.R. 2578, the fiscal year 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The bill provides just under $51.4 billion in discretionary funding for FY2016, up $1.275 billion, or 2.5 percent, from FY2015 discretionary funding.

The DOJ would get the single biggest chunk, $27.5 billion, up $852 million from the previous year, in line with what Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, chairman of the subcommittee charged with producing the bill, said Tuesday was the committee’s most important priority with limited funding available.

“The money that you’ve got, you want to prioritize, and we have in this subcommittee prioritized the many agencies we have responsibility for,” he said on the House floor. “We’ve approached it with law enforcement number one.” (Credit AP).

Among other boosts in the DOJ budget, the Executive Office for Immigration Review and Office of the Pardon Attorney would get an increase of nearly $75 million, to around $426 million, supporting a request for 55 new immigration judge teams — including a judge and support staff — and new Board of Immigration Appeals attorneys to assist with what the bill’s authors say is a recent “surge in illegal immigration.” (Credit AP).

NASA would receive $18.5 billion, $519 million above the 2015 level, with most of the increase aimed at exploration programs, such as continued development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Space Launch System.

Commerce has been allocated $8.2 billion, $251 million down from 2015 and about $1.6 billion below the budget request put forward by President Barack Obama. Among the agencies under Commerce’s remit, the National Institute of Standards and Technology would get $855 million, about the same as 2015, while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would receive $5.2 billion, down $274 million.

Among other trade agencies, the International Trade Administration was budgeted $472 million, or nearly $35 million less than in 2015 — an amount further snipped by $5 million through an amendment passed Tuesday — and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would get $364.5 million, equal to its 2015 budget.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been allocated just under $3.3 billion, all from anticipated user fees, with a provision that could allow it to also use any additional fees collected. The National Science Foundation would receive $7.4 billion, up $50 million.

Across two full days of debate, lawmakers considered several dozen proposed amendments, adopting a number seeking to block funding for any efforts by the DOJ or Federal Bureau of Investigation to expand certain electronic surveillance programs, as well as one blocking the use of federal funds to hinder state medical marijuana programs.

Despite its overall discretionary funding increase compared to FY2015, the bill comes in more than $660 million short of the administration’s budget request and has been threatened with a veto by the White House.

In a policy statement Monday, the administration argued that the bill “drastically underfunds” a range of important programs, such as research and development investments and programs to increase the use of body cameras by law enforcement.

The ITA, International Trade Commission and U.S. Trade Representative would wrongly feel the pinch, as would NASA, with cuts to its commercial crew program and efforts to proceed towards sending a manned mission to Mars, as well as to its earth science programs meant to help with climate change and respond to extreme weather and natural disasters, the White House said. (Credit AP).

Further, it contains a number of “highly objectionable” nonspending clauses, such as foreign policy restrictions related to Cuba, several of which raise constitutional concerns by “intruding upon the president’s constitutional authority over international diplomacy,” the administration said.The U.S. House of Representatives passed a $51.4 billion bill Wednesday to fund the U.S. departments of Justice and Commerce and a pair of science agencies for 2016, over a presidential veto threat claiming it underfunds key programs.

Lawmakers voted 242-183 to pass H.R. 2578, the fiscal year 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The bill provides just under $51.4 billion in discretionary funding for FY2016, up $1.275 billion, or 2.5 percent, from FY2015 discretionary funding.

The DOJ would get the single biggest chunk, $27.5 billion, up $852 million from the previous year, in line with what Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, chairman of the subcommittee charged with producing the bill, and said Tuesday was the committee’s most important priority with limited funding available.

“The money that you’ve got, you want to prioritize, and we have in this subcommittee prioritized the many agencies we have responsibility for,” he said on the House floor. “We’ve approached it with law enforcement number one.” (Credit AP).

Among other boosts in the DOJ budget, the Executive Office for Immigration Review and Office of the Pardon Attorney would get an increase of nearly $75 million, to around $426 million, supporting a request for 55 new immigration judge teams — including a judge and support staff — and new Board of Immigration Appeals attorneys to assist with what the bill’s authors say is a recent “surge in illegal immigration.” (Credit AP).

NASA would receive $18.5 billion, $519 million above the 2015 level, with most of the increase aimed at exploration programs, such as continued development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Space Launch System.

Commerce has been allocated $8.2 billion, $251 million down from 2015 and about $1.6 billion below the budget request put forward by President Barack Obama. Among the agencies under Commerce’s remit, the National Institute of Standards and Technology would get $855 million, about the same as 2015, while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would receive $5.2 billion, down $274 million.

Among other trade agencies, the International Trade Administration was budgeted $472 million, or nearly $35 million less than in 2015 — an amount further snipped by $5 million through an amendment passed Tuesday — and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would get $364.5 million, equal to its 2015 budget.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been allocated just under $3.3 billion, all from anticipated user fees, with a provision that could allow it to also use any additional fees collected. The National Science Foundation would receive $7.4 billion, up $50 million.

Across two full days of debate, lawmakers considered several dozen proposed amendments, adopting a number seeking to block funding for any efforts by the DOJ or Federal Bureau of Investigation to expand certain electronic surveillance programs, as well as one blocking the use of federal funds to hinder state medical marijuana programs.

Despite its overall discretionary funding increase compared to FY2015, the bill comes in more than $660 million short of the administration’s budget request and has been threatened with a veto by the White House.

In a policy statement Monday, the administration argued that the bill “drastically underfunds” a range of important programs, such as research and development investments and programs to increase the use of body cameras by law enforcement.

The ITA, International Trade Commission and U.S. Trade Representative would wrongly feel the pinch, as would NASA, with cuts to its commercial crew program and efforts to proceed towards sending a manned mission to Mars, as well as to its earth science programs meant to help with climate change and respond to extreme weather and natural disasters, the White House said. (Credit AP).