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.