This Week in Congress: Trade, Privacy, Fiscal Year 2017

The Senate will continue working its way through fiscal year 2017 appropriations bills this week, with final consideration of the Energy and Water bill expected on Tuesday. The House will work through a number of legislative items, including several related to trade and business practices. Both chambers are scheduled to adjourn at the end of this week for a one-week district work period.

The Senate is scheduled to return to legislative business on Monday afternoon and resume consideration of the legislative vehicle (H.R. 2028) for the FY 2017 Energy and Water appropriations bill, a $37.5 billion funding measure. A vote is expected Monday evening on an amendment offered by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and votes on at least three other amendments are expected on Tuesday before a vote on final passage. Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., has indicated he expects to wrap up consideration of the bill on Tuesday. Last week, the White House issued a veto threat for the bill, citing “the inclusion of problematic ideological provisions that are beyond the scope of funding legislation,” a reference to policy riders. One of the major concerns behind the veto threat was an amendment offered last week by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., to prevent the Army Corps of Engineers from using any funds to implement its “Waters of the United States” rule, which extends federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act over a wider range of domestic wetlands and waterways. Sen. Hoeven’s amendment failed, however, to receive the 60 votes that were needed for inclusion in the underlying bill. It is unclear if the White House will maintain its opposition to the Energy and Water bill, but in the wake of the failure of the Hoeven amendment, conservative groups are encouraging senators to oppose the bill. Notwithstanding this source of opposition, the legislation is expected to receive bipartisan support and pass the Senate.

Following the adoption of the Energy and Water bill, which is the first FY 2017 appropriations measure on the Senate floor, the chamber is expected to continue with consideration of one of the three other funding bills that have been reported out of the Senate Appropriations Committee over the past two weeks: the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill; the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill; or the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill. The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill is likely next on the Senate agenda, because it was reported out of the Appropriations Committee earlier this month with the Energy and Water Development bill and is considered one of the less controversial of the 12 annual bills.

Press reports indicate that negotiations in the Senate to provide $1 billion in supplemental appropriations to combat the Zika virus in the United States are progressing. Earlier this year, the White House requested $1.8 billion in emergency funding to accelerate the federal response timeline, bolster mosquito control, and support training programs and laboratory capacity to test for the virus. Several congressional Republicans rebuffed this request, suggesting Congress should instead shift unused funds allocated to fight the Ebola virus after that 2014 outbreak in West Africa subsided. Conservatives are also requesting that any allocated funds be offset with cuts elsewhere in the budget. The warmer weather of spring and summer months, and reports of the virus spreading within the U.S., appear to have softened the positions of some Senate Republicans and Appropriations Committee members who are now involved in the funding negotiations, and a bill on that may hit the floor as early as this week. House Republicans are still resisting the request for emergency Zika funds, demanding that the administration provide more specific details on how it plans to spend such funding, although House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., has indicated he expects the House will eventually also pass a Zika-funding measure.

The House of Representatives will return to legislative business on Tuesday, with votes expected on 15 bills under suspension of the rules. Fourteen of these bills cover a variety of topics and come to the floor from the Homeland Security, Oversight and Government Reform; Transportation and Infrastructure; and Financial Services committees. On the 15th, H.R. 1493, the Protect and Preserve Cultural Property Act, the House will vote to approve amendments made to the bill by the Senate; once approved, the bill will head to the president for signature.

On Wednesday, the House will consider an additional four bills under suspension of the rules. Included among these are H.R. 4923, the American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act of 2016, sponsored by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas. The bill would update and reform the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) process by which reductions or temporarily suspensions of tariffs or duties on certain imports are considered. The last MTB expired in 2012, leaving many American manufacturing companies at a disadvantage in the global economy because of the costs related to the importation of covered foreign goods. The bill enjoys broad support among businesses and is expected to pass.

The House will also consider S. 1890, the Defend Trade Secrets Act, under suspension of the rules. This legislation will create a federal civil claim and remedy for trade secret misappropriation. A wide-ranging coalition of companies and businesses supports the passage of this bill, which passed the Senate earlier this month by a vote of 87-0. Once passed by the House, this bill will head to the president, who is expected to sign it.

The Wednesday suspension package also includes H.R. 699, the Email Privacy Act, legislation to update the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The bill enjoys more than 300 cosponsors, and a compromise version was favorably reported on a unanimous vote by the Judiciary Committee two weeks ago. The bill is not expected to get Senate consideration this year, but its approval by the House will likely set the stage for a legislative enactment in 2017. Finally on Wednesday, the House will consider H.R. 4240, the No Fly for Foreign Fighters Act. This bill would require an independent review by the Government Accountability Office of the federal government’s terrorist watchlists to determine whether past weaknesses with them have been addressed or whether additional changes are needed.

Following its heavy schedule of suspension bills, the House will consider three more bills, all coming to the floor under rules.

The House will first tackle H.R. 4498, the Helping Angels Lead Our Startups (HALOS) Act, introduced by Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot, R-Ohio. This bill would require the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to revise its general solicitation regulations to provide carveouts for certain activities related to startup investment and financing pitches.

The House is expected to consider H.J. Res. 88, a disapproval resolution intended to block the U.S. Department of Labor’s controversial “fiduciary” rule. The rule sets new standards for investment advisers with respect to retirement accounts, but Republicans believe the rule is too burdensome and that the costs will ultimately be borne by low- and middle-income Americans, who most need the advice but will be unable to get it.

The House will also vote on H.R. 4901, the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Reauthorization Act. This legislation provides scholarships to students from low-income families in the District of Columbia to attend the school of their choice, including private or charter schools, and provides money to D.C. charter and public schools to improve educational outcomes.

On the hearing front, both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are expected to continue their consideration of FY 2017 funding bills this week. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is scheduled to appear before the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee on Wednesday to discuss the FY 2017 budget request and Department of Defense funding.

Related to defense spending priorities, the full House Armed Services Committee will be holding a markup of its 2017 National Defense Authorization Act for 2017 on Wednesday morning, a $610 billion blueprint for the defense budget for FY 2017, following markups in the committee’s subcommittees last week.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., announced that the committee will be marking up 12 bills, all reported favorably by the Health Subcommittee last week, related to the domestic opioid. The legislation includes measures that range from expanding access to Naloxone (medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose) and providing an exemption from civil liability for trained and certified individuals who administer opioid overdose-reversing drugs, to increasing access to medication-assisted treatment. Chairman Upton has said the full House will consider the legislation during the first or second week of May. Likewise, the House Judiciary Committee is expected to mark up its portion of the opioid-response bill on Wednesday as well, though the committee will not formally notice its markup till Monday. The Senate already passed its version of opioid abuse legislation, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), in March. There is wide support in Congress for advancing legislation to counter the opioid abuse epidemic, and if the bills can be conferenced following successful House passage, to resolve differences between them, it may be one of the few bipartisan measures that can pass both chambers during the remainder of this Congress.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will be marking up its Federal Communications Commission reauthorization bill on Wednesday morning, along with seven other communications bills. The legislation would provide a two-year reauthorization of FCC authority and appropriations and, among other things, reform the agency’s spectrum auction procedure, enhance agency transparency by requiring the FCC to submit various reports and budget estimates to Congress, and require the GAO to provide an analysis of whether the FCC’s current regulatory fee structure correlates to the actual workload of the FCC. Also scheduled for markup is S. 421, Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act, to reform aspects of the FCC’s rulemaking process.

Tax reform continues to be a matter of congressional focus. The Senate Finance Committee is holding a hearing on Tuesday afternoon on navigating business tax reform, with Thomas Barthold, chief of staff for the Joint Committee on Taxation, scheduled to appear as a witness.

The Finance Committee is also holding a Thursday hearing on mental health issues. Like the opioid abuse crisis, many members are eager to advance legislation to assist with mental health reform, but there remain partisan differences over how to pay for reforms and updates. The Thursday hearing is expected to cover the Medicaid Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) Exclusion, which restricts Medicaid reimbursements for care at inpatient mental health treatment centers.

On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will be reviewing U.S.-China relations, likely driven by China’s recent activities in the South China Sea. Deputy Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken is scheduled to provide testimony before the committee.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee meets Thursday to review the release of criminal aliens by the Department of Homeland Security and the impact on public safety. This hearing follows one held two weeks ago by the House Judiciary Committee on the same topic at which families and survivors of violent attacks by criminal aliens testified.


This Week In Congress: Trade And Transportation

The House and Senate are expected to send Trade Promotion Authority legislation to the president this week for signature. The trade legislation is a top priority for President Obama and his administration. Both chambers have a busy week scheduled before they adjourn for the Independence Day recess next week.

The Senate returns today with votes expected on the nominations of Peter Neffenger to be administrator of the Transportation Security Administration at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Daniel Elliott III to be a member of the Surface Transportation Board. Following these votes, the Senate will resume consideration of trade-related legislation, as passed by the House of Representatives last week. The Senate had previously voted to approve jointly Trade Promotion Authority, which grants expedited congressional consideration of trade agreements, and Trade Adjustment Assistance, a program to assist domestic workers whose employment is affected by trade, in May. The rule governing consideration of the bill in the House of Representatives allowed for separate votes on each portion of the bill, and the TAA provision was defeated. As a result, the House last week passed the legislation as individual measures, sending the bills back to the Senate for further consideration. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., filed cloture on H. R. 2146, a bipartisan public-safety retirement bill with the House-passed TPA legislation attached. A cloture vote on the TPA bill is expected as early as Tuesday morning. If 60 votes are achieved on the cloture motion, up to 30 hours of post-cloture debate time would precede a simple majority vote on the “fast-track” trade legislation. Following that vote, the Senate will proceed to a cloture vote on H. R. 1295, the Trade Preferences Extension Act with an amendment adding TAA and the Leveling the Playing Field Act. A third bill, dealing with customs requirements, is also part of the trade package and will be considered by a Senate-House conference committee in order to resolve differences between the two versions of that bill.

Once the Senate has dispensed with the trade legislation, it is unclear what will be next on the agenda. Democrats and Republicans are still locked in a stalemate over the fiscal year 2016 budget framework. Last week, Senate Democrats successfully filibustered consideration of the FY 2016 defense appropriations bill and have pledged to block any other appropriations bills from floor consideration until the spending limits established by the 2011 sequester are raised. With the support of President Obama, Democrats are hoping that their obstruction of the entire appropriations process and threat of a government shutdown will bring Republican leaders to the negotiating table. So far, Republican leadership has not indicated a willingness to agree to a budget summit.

The House returns on Tuesday and tackles 14 suspensions. The bulk of the bills to be considered under suspension of the rules come from the Homeland Security Committee and touch on a variety of issues at the Department of Homeland Security. In addition, to the Homeland Security bills, the House will tackle a handful of other bills. Most prominent among these is the bipartisan revision to the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Following consideration of the suspension bill, the House will take up H.R. 1190, sponsored by Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., to repeal the controversial provision of the Affordable Care Act establishing the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a panel that makes recommendations on Medicare cuts. The legislation had been scheduled for last week but was displaced by reconsideration of the trade bills. The vote to repeal the IPAB comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in the next two weeks in the King v. Burwell case, regarding subsidies for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. If the court strikes down the legality of subsidies for health insurance purchased through federal exchanges, Congress will have to deal with another highly contentious health care debate during July, when highway funding and the Export-Import Bank will also have to be addressed.

The House will then tackle H.R. 2042, the Ratepayer Protection Act, introduced by Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky. This bill would allow for judicial review of any final ruling by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on carbon dioxide regulations for existing power plants, a highly contentious issue focused on the administration’s effort to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

The House will complete the week and head into the Independence Day recess by considering the FY 2016 interior and environment appropriations bill, a $30 billion funding measure that would cut funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by 9 percent and include a number of policy riders aimed at preventing many of the agency’s policies from going into effect. Passed in the House Appropriations Committee on June 16 on a party-line vote, the interior and environment bill has become one of the most controversial of the 12 annual appropriations bills because of the policy riders. Among other things, this bill includes provisions that would bar EPA’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants, amend the designation for automatic Clean Water Act protection, prevent the listing of certain animals under the Endangered Species Act, and block funding for rule regulating hydraulic fracturing on federal lands. These riders are all opposed by congressional Democrats and the administration.

The House schedule also allows for consideration of trade-related legislation that it might need to consider accompanying TPA to the president’s desk for signature.

House and Senate Appropriations Committees continue their work on reporting out FY 2016 spending bills. This week the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development and Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education will mark up their respective bills. The House Appropriations Committee will markup its FY 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education bill on Wednesday.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on evaluating the key components of an international nuclear agreement with Iran on Thursday. President Obama signed into law the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which provides Congress the authority to review of any international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. The deadline for the international negotiations is the end of the month and Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., last week wrote a letter to President Obama expressing concerns over reports of concessions that the United States and its allies are making in those negotiations.

The recent data breach at the Office of Personnel and Management that exposed the personal information of millions of active and retired federal employees remains the subject of congressional scrutiny this week. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government will hold a hearing on OPM data security on Tuesday. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold its second hearing on the data breach on Wednesday.

Also on the hearing agenda this week will be proposals for federal transportation spending. The current short-term surface transportation authorization expires in July, and lawmakers continue to struggle with finding bipartisan agreement on a long-term solution for funding shortfalls for the Highway Trust Fund. Democrats are insisting on a long-term fix (though inclusion of the Export-Import Bank reauthorization may, as noted above, secure Democratic support for another short-term fix). Last week, House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., publicly ruled out any increase in the gas tax as a solution for HTF insolvency. The Senate Finance Committee meets on Thursday to discuss state innovations in funding transportation infrastructure, while the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures will hold a Wednesday hearing on the potential use of revenue from the repatriation of earnings as a source of highway funding.

A full schedule of congressional hearings for this week is included below.

By: Martin J. Milita, Jr. Esq., Sr. Director.

Please feel free to contact the author or your other Duane Morris Government Strategies LLC contact to learn more about this article and what it may mean to you.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

House Committees

GSA Leasing in the Northeast

House Transportation and Infrastructure – Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management

Subcommittee Panel Discussion

June 23, 11 a.m., Conference Rooms A/B, Sixth Floor, Jacob K. Javits Federal Office Building, 26 Federal Plaza, New York, N.Y.

VA Small Business Goals Reporting

House Veterans’ Affairs – Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations; House Small Business – Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight and Regulations

Committee Joint Hearing

4 p.m., 334 Cannon Bldg.

Senate Committees

OPM Data Security Review

Senate Appropriations – Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government

Subcommittee Hearing

10:30 a.m., 124 Dirksen Bldg.

Fiscal 2016 Appropriations: Transportation-HUD

Senate Appropriations – Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies

Subcommittee Markup

10 a.m., 138 Dirksen Bldg.

National Flood Insurance Program

Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs

Full Committee News Conference/Briefing

10 a.m., 538 Dirksen Bldg.

Regulatory Overhaul Costs

Senate Budget; Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

Committee Joint Hearing

10 a.m., G50 Dirksen Bldg.

Takata Air Bag Recall and Vehicle Safety Update

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 253 Russell Bldg.

Carbon Regulation Impact on Energy Costs

Senate Environment and Public Works – Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 406 Dirksen Bldg.

Ambassador Nominations

Senate Foreign Relations

Full Committee Confirmation Hearing

11 a.m., 419 Dirksen Bldg.

Fiscal 2016 Appropriations: Labor-HHS-Education

Senate Appropriations – Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies

Subcommittee Markup

3 p.m., 138 Dirksen Bldg.

American Energy Export Opportunities

Senate Foreign Relations – Subcommittee on Multilateral International Development, Multilateral Institutions and International Economic, Energy and Environmental Policy

Subcommittee Hearing

2:45 p.m., 419 Dirksen Bldg.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

House Committees

U.S. International Food Aid

House Agriculture

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 1300 Longworth Bldg.

Fiscal 2016 Appropriations: Labor-HHS-Education

House Appropriations

Full Committee Markup

10:15 a.m., 2359 Rayburn Bldg.

Child Nutrition Assistance Compliance

House Education and the Workforce – Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education

Subcommittee Hearing

10 a.m., 2175 Rayburn Bldg.

Medicaid Demonstration Project Approval

House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Health

Subcommittee Hearing

10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Bldg.

Syrian Refugee Admission

House Homeland Security – Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence

Subcommittee Hearing

10 a.m., 311 Cannon Bldg.

BLM Wind and Solar Reclamation Bonds

House Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations

Subcommittee Oversight Hearing

10:30 a.m., 1324 Longworth Bldg.

OPM Data Breach

House Oversight and Government Reform

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 2154 Rayburn Bldg.

EPA Clean-Power Plan Analysis

House Science, Space and Technology – Subcommittee on Energy; House Science, Space and Technology – Subcommittee on Environment

Committee Joint Hearing

10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Bldg.

U.S. Train Control Implementation

House Transportation and Infrastructure – Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials

Subcommittee Hearing

10 a.m., 2167 Rayburn Bldg.

Veterans Affairs Legislation

House Veterans’ Affairs – Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 334 Cannon Bldg.

Health Law and Insurance Premiums

House Ways and Means – Subcommittee on Oversight

Subcommittee Hearing

10 a.m., 1100 Longworth Bldg.

Islamic State Assessment

House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 2118 Rayburn Bldg.

U.S. Financial Sector Security

House Financial Services

Full Committee Hearing

2 p.m., 2128 Rayburn Bldg.

Colombia and the FARC

House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere

Subcommittee Hearing

3 p.m., 2172 Rayburn Bldg.

DHS Federal Cybersecurity Efforts

House Homeland Security – Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 311 Cannon Bldg.

Puerto Rico Political and Economic Assessment

House Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs

Subcommittee Oversight Hearing

2 p.m., 1324 Longworth Bldg.

Rural Transportation Issues

House Transportation and Infrastructure – Subcommittee on Highways and Transit

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 2167 Rayburn Bldg.

Repatriation Tax and Highway Funding

House Ways and Means – Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 1100 Longworth Bldg.

Senate Committees

Flood Insurance Management

Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 538 Dirksen Bldg.

Governmental Affairs Measures and Nominations

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

Full Committee Markup

10 a.m., 342 Dirksen Bldg.

Native American Youth Suicide Prevention

Senate Indian Affairs

Full Committee Oversight Hearing

2:15 p.m., 628 Dirksen Bldg.

Work in Retirement

Senate Special Aging

Full Committee Hearing

2:15 p.m., 562 Dirksen Bldg.

Veterans Health Care and Benefits Legislation

Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Full Committee Markup

2:30 p.m., 418 Russell Bldg.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

House Committees

Welfare and Work Issues

House Agriculture – Subcommittee on Nutrition; House Ways and Means – Subcommittee on Human Resources

Committee Joint Hearing

10 a.m., 1100 Longworth Bldg.

Nuclear Deterrence Policy

House Armed Services

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 2118 Rayburn Bldg.

Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications

House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade

Subcommittee Hearing

10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Bldg.

Public Health Bills

House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Health

Subcommittee Hearing

10:15 a.m., 2322 Rayburn Bldg.

CFPB Misconduct Allegations

House Financial Services – Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

Subcommittee Hearing

10 a.m., 2128 Rayburn Bldg.

State Department and Religious Freedom Bills

House Foreign Affairs

Full Committee Markup

10 a.m., 2172 Rayburn Bldg.

Mineral Production Legislation

House Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources

Subcommittee Hearing

10:30 a.m., 1334 Longworth Bldg.

Water Use and Infrastructure Bills

House Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans

Subcommittee Hearing

10 a.m., 1324 Longworth Bldg.

IRS Inspector General Update

House Oversight and Government Reform

Full Committee Hearing

9 a.m., 2154 Rayburn Bldg.

National Science Foundation Employee Ethics Issues

House Science, Space and Technology – Subcommittee on Oversight; House Science, Space and Technology – Subcommittee on Research and Technology

Committee Joint Hearing

10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Bldg.

GSA Proposed Transactional Data Rule

House Small Business – Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce

Subcommittee Hearing

10 a.m., 2360 Rayburn Bldg.

VA Fiscal 2015 Budget Assessment

House Veterans’ Affairs

Full Committee Hearing

10:30 a.m., 334 Cannon Bldg.

Food Labeling Bills

House Agriculture – Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research

Subcommittee Hearing

1:30 p.m., 1300 Longworth Bldg.

Defense Department Nuclear Enterprise Review

House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 2212 Rayburn Bldg.

China and U.S. Universities

House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 2172 Rayburn Bldg.

Criminal Justice Proposals

House Judiciary

Full Committee Panel Discussion

June 25 TBA, TBA

VA Major Lease Procurement

House Oversight and Government Reform – Subcommittee on National Security

Subcommittee Hearing

2 p.m., 2154 Rayburn Bldg.

Veterans Affairs Measures

House Veterans’ Affairs – Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity

Subcommittee Markup

2 p.m., 334 Cannon Bldg.

Senate Committees

COOL and Trade Retaliation

Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., G50 Dirksen Bldg.

Transportation Infrastructure Financing

Senate Finance

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 215 Dirksen Bldg.

Iran Nuclear Agreement

Senate Foreign Relations

Full Committee Hearing

10 a.m., 419 Dirksen Bldg.

Cybersecurity and OPM Data Breach

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

Full Committee Hearing

9:30 a.m., 342 Dirksen Bldg.

Veterans and Economic Opportunity Policy

Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship

Full Committee Hearing

9:30 a.m., 428A Russell Bldg.

Impact of a Greek Default

Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs – Subcommittee on National Security and International Trade and Finance

Subcommittee Hearing

1:30 p.m., 538 Dirksen Bldg.

Friday, June 26, 2015

House Committees

Public Shipyards and Navy Operations

House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Readiness

Subcommittee Hearing

8 a.m., 2212 Rayburn Bldg.

U.S. Space Security

House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Strategic Forces

Subcommittee Hearing

10:30 a.m., 2212 Rayburn Bldg.

Eminent Domain and Property Rights

House Judiciary – Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice

Subcommittee Hearing

9 a.m., 2141 Rayburn Bldg.

Astrobiology Outlook

House Science, Space and Technology

Full Committee Hearing

9 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Bldg.

House Readies Second TPA Vote On Trade Package

Top Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives late Wednesday set in motion an elaborate legislative plan to save a bundle of languishing trade legislation, which could begin with holding its second vote to renew the White House’s Trade Promotion Authority in less than a week.

The House Rules Committee held an emergency meeting on Wednesday to prepare a fresh vote on the bill to renew TPA that could take place as early as Thursday’s legislative session. The lower chamber already approved the measure with a 219-211 vote last week, but the bill was sunk after a failed vote to renew Trade Adjustment Assistance put it out of step with the bill passed by the U.S. Senate.

After several days of scrambling behind the scenes, Capitol Hill leaders now appear to be proceeding on a track that will officially bifurcate the contentious TPA and TAA provisions, even as White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest insisted that President Barack Obama will not sign one piece into law without the other. (Credit Fox News).

“The only legislative strategy that the president will support is a strategy that results in both TPA and TAA coming to his desk,” Earnest told reporters Wednesday. (Credit AP).

Much like the first iteration of the process, the rule approved by the Rules Committee late Wednesday does not allow for any amendments on the floor, meaning that the House could hold a vote on the rule and then swiftly proceed to a vote on the TPA itself.

If the House is able to pass TPA, also known as fast-track, it would then move to the U.S. Senate, where it also enjoys bipartisan support. With TPA on the way to Obama’s desk, the House Democrats that scuttled the package last week by voting down TAA, a worker aid program they would otherwise support, would lose crucial leverage.

But any agreement to shepherd through TPA in this matter would need some measure of Democratic assurance that TAA would not be left behind. This would mean that the Senate would follow up its TPA vote with another TAA vote, possibly combined with a previously passed bill to extend trade preference programs.

That could create problems back in the House, where the TAA is fiercely unpopular among the Republican majority, which would have no incentive to vote to renew the program if fast-track is already ticketed for the White House.

Time is of the essence in this process, as any further delay in approving fast-track will deal a considerable blow to the White House’s efforts to complete the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, a key economic and foreign policy priority for the Obama administration.

Fast-track authority allows Congress to craft U.S. trade negotiating objectives in exchange for voting on completed accords with an up-or-down vote once they are completed. The TPP is nearly finished, but the pact’s major players are withholding their final offers in the most controversial areas until they are certain that the TPP cannot be amended by U.S. lawmakers.

Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb reiterated that point on Wednesday, telling the Australian Broadcasting Corp. in a radio interview that the agreement could be wrapped up in as little as a week once fast-track is in place. (Credit AP).

“You can see the political heat’s rising by the day over there because of the presidential election next year,” Robb said, according to a transcript of the interview posted on his office’s website. “But if it’s not dealt with in the next two or three weeks, I think we’ve got a real problem with the future of the TPP.” (Credit AP).

U.S. Fast-Track Trade Bill Gains Dem Ally As House Vote Looms

The U.S. House of Representatives starts debate over crucial legislation to renew Trade Promotion Authority, with one Democratic lawmaker breaking from his party’s core ranks on Wednesday to back the bill.

Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., is one of just a handful of Democrats in the lower chamber calling for passage of the bill to reinstate TPA, also known as fast-track, which he touted as a benefit both for his constituency and the nation more broadly.

The U.S. Senate comfortably passed the TPA bill on Friday after a fairly even-keeled debate that saw the defeat of a handful of amendments, including a controversial proposal to beef up the legislation’s language on currency manipulation by trading partners.

But the true test has always been in the House; drawn lines on the bill have thus far revealed an uncertain future.

In departing with his fellow Democrats, Larsen said he felt the bill tackled his colleagues’ primary concerns about the White House’s trade agenda, specifically their fears about the effect of massive regional trade pacts on rules governing labor and the environment. (Credit AP).

“In terms of protections for workers and the environment, I strongly believe any trade agreements the U.S. makes with other countries must uphold these core values,” he said. “The 2015 TPA bill puts these values front and center in the administration’s trade negotiations by requiring trading partners to put in place and enforce labor and environmental standards.” (Credit AP).

In exchange for allowing Congress to set negotiating objectives, TPA calls for lawmakers to hold amendment-free votes on trade agreements once they are completed, a provision that has long roiled opponents who feel the process is a subversion of core Democratic values.

But like many of the legislation’s champions, Larsen said that while lawmakers still won’t be able to amend trade agreements on the floor, there are provisions for turning off fast-track protection for deals that aren’t up to snuff in the eyes of Congress. (Credit AP).

“I think there are other mechanisms in the 2015 TPA bill that give Congress necessary oversight to hold the administration accountable,” he said. “TPA contains an off-switch. If Congress is not satisfied the administration is upholding our core values to protect workers and the environment, then members can vote to make an agreement ineligible for TPA.” (Credit AP).

Senate Moves One Step Closer To ‘Fast-Track’ Passage

The U.S. Senate voted Thursday to set an end to debate on a bill to revive the White House’s Trade Promotion Authority, following a hold-up mainly caused by disputes on proposed amendments regarding foreign currency manipulation and Export-Import Bank reauthorization, setting up a possible final vote for Friday.

Senators voted 62-38 on cloture for the bill, H.R.1314 — a previously unrelated House bill used by the Senate as a vehicle for the trade legislation — after a potential delay on the vote failed to come to pass, with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., ending a filibuster regarding the renewal of the NSA’s domestic surveillance program just before midnight on Wednesday.

The bill would restore TPA, or “fast-track” authority, which last expired in 2007, allowing lawmakers to help craft the administration’s trade negotiating objectives in exchange for the White House receiving an amendment-free, up-or-down vote from Congress once any trade deal is struck.

Senators from both parties had voted 65-33 to move forward with formal debate on the bill on May 14, after Democratic lawmakers lifted an ongoing filibuster related to concerns that their other trade priorities would be left behind when party leaders struck a deal for the Senate to also consider other trade legislation alongside the TPA bill.

These other bills, regarding preferential tariff treatment for developing countries and enhancements for the government’s customs and trade remedy enforcement efforts — including controversial language on foreign currency manipulation — easily passed.

As debate on the TPA legislation has continued, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has come in for criticism over the amendment process. More than 200 amendments have been put forward by senators, but only a limited number have been put on the Senate calendar, with just two receiving a vote so far.

These included a proposal to provide $575 million in additional funding for Trade Adjustment Assistance, or TAA, a cluster of federal programs providing benefits to trade-displaced workers that are also up for renewal in the TPA bill. That amendment was rejected, while another requiring the U.S. to consider a potential trade partner’s religious tolerance when negotiating deals passed.

Nine amendments are currently pending, including further proposals regarding currency manipulation, a proposal to eliminate TAA from the bill entirely, and another seeking a waiver of the TPA on any trade deal with an investor-state dispute clause, among others.

Hatch has also moved to put several other proposed amendments on the Senate calendar, while other proposals, such as the disputed clause reauthorizing the U.S. Export-Import Bank, also continue to float around.

The TPA bill has been supported by an unusual coalition of lawmakers from both parties, as well as the White House, which has been steadily pressing for fast-track protection in order to swiftly pass the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership accord. It described the authority in a policy statement as a “vital tool” for the passage of such deals, which the administration argued will “expand economic opportunities,” among other benefits.

Thursday’s cloture vote allows for up to 30 further hours of debate, meaning a vote on final passage will most likely occur on Friday afternoon. Senators are then scheduled to take a week-long recess for Memorial Day, but McConnell has signaled they could also be in over the weekend to take votes on a number of other pending bills.