The Coming Week: Last Chance for Legislating Before Conventions

(Rob Kunzig/Morning Consult)

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Republican leaders will try to complete work on several pressing issues with Congress set to recess until September at the end of the week.

It is unclear whether the killing of five police officers in Dallas, Texas — as well as the fatal shootings by police of two black men in Louisiana and Minnesota — will disrupt their plans. Both House Republican and Democratic leaders urged against politicizing the Dallas attack on Friday. Before the Dallas attack, House Democrats were continuing their push for votes on gun-control measures.

In Cleveland, the power of the “Stop Trump” movement will be revealed when the RNC Rules and Platform committees are slated to finalize the policy platform and rules for the Republican National Convention. Trump had hoped to ease intraparty tensions in recent visits with House and Senate Republicans. But at least one of the gatherings did not go as planned, with the New York businessman criticizing three Republican senators who have refused to support his candidacy.

On Capitol Hill, the only “must-pass” item on tap in the coming week is a 14-month reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration.

A bipartisan compromise was announced earlier in the week, but it still has to go through both chambers before FAA funding expires on July 15. The House will likely vote first and send the measure to the Senate early in the week. The Senate will then have little time to vote and send the bill to President Obama.

The FAA measure includes provisions to alleviate long lines at airports by increasing the bomb-sniffing dog teams at security checkpoints and expanding the TSA PreCheck program.

House GOP leaders are also trying to muster support for a counterterrorism package that includes provisions to prevent terrorists from buying guns, but it is unlikely to see a vote in the near future because it is opposed by virtually all Democrats and many Republicans — for different reasons.

In the Senate, GOP leaders will try to move ahead with the appropriations process, which could prove a difficult task. Senate Democrats are threatening to oppose all upcoming spending bills unless Republicans vow to abide by the terms of last fall’s budget agreement and exclude so-called “poison pill” provisions.

The Senate is slated to vote for a second time Tuesday to begin debate on a $575 million defense spending bill. While Democrats support the underlying bill, they rejected the first motion to advance the bill on Thursday over their broader objections to the appropriations process as a whole.

Another spending measure will see a vote before the RNC convention. It would fund military construction and veterans affairs agencies, and it includes funding to fight the Zika virus.

The Zika portion is opposed by Democrats because of “poison pill” provisions, including one that would bar funding from some health centers, including Planned Parenthood, and another that would allow the Confederate flag to be flown on some federal grounds.
The Senate will also vote to send bipartisan legislation to Obama to confront the nation’s opioid epidemic. The House passed the final bill on Friday in a 408-5 vote.

The next vote in the Senate will occur on Tuesday. The House votes Monday at 6:30 p.m. on uncontroversial bills.

HEALTH

If Senate Democrats follow the lead of their House counterparts, the opioid bill will easily pass, despite their objections over its lack of dedicated funding. Republicans say that although they support more funding, it needs to come through the appropriations process.

The Senate also is slated to vote again on funding to fight the Zika virus, according to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), although it’s not clear when in the coming week. The chamber voted before July Fourth on a House-passed conference report, which the Democrats railed against as full of poison pills. It failed along party lines.

“The leader said multiple times that we’ll give Democrats another opportunity to end their filibuster before we leave for the break,” said Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell.

The Senate has only one week left to strike a deal on a medical innovation package before recess. Negotiations continue over how to pay for additional funding for the National Institutes of Health.

The Finance Committee will hold a trio of health care hearings. The first is on Tuesday and examines the Stark Law, a law governing Medicare physicians’ referrals. On Wednesday it will hear from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt about the new system for paying doctors under Medicare, and on Thursday the health subcommittee will discuss Alzheimer’s disease.

In the House, the Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on rising premiums under the Affordable Care Act. Rounding out the list of random committee hearings before a long summer recess, the Energy and Commerce Committee’s health subcommittee will examine the nation’s trauma system on Tuesday, and the commerce, manufacturing and trade subcommittee will discuss health care apps on Wednesday.

Caitlin Owens

FINANCE

A flurry of congressional hearings and markups on financial issues is on tap for the coming week as lawmakers prepare for the major party nominating conventions and the seven-week recess that follows.

Leading off the week, the House Financial Services Committee will continue its examination of Chairman Jeb Hensarling’s legislation to replace the Dodd-Frank Act with a conservative alternative.

On Tuesday, the full committee will hear testimony from experts on Hensarling’s discussion draft, which is sure to draw heavy criticism from Democrats on the committee. It’s also possible the hearing will shed light on slight differences of opinion among Republicans that could lead to changes to the discussion draft. Hensarling has said he wants the bill to pass the House this year.

The committee will also convene on Wednesday for a hearing about practices at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Hensarling invited HUD Secretary Julián Castro, a possible running mate for likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, to answer questions on nonperforming loan sales that have incensed conservatives.

A full committee markup is also slated for Wednesday afternoon with legislation to be determined.

On Thursday, a Financial Services subcommittee will look into the Financial Stability Oversight Council’s designation of systemically important financial institutions.

Otherwise, members of Congress will likely spend their last week in Washington before the recess focused on oversight of financial regulatory agencies.

On Wednesday, the House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s proposed regulation on automated trading. On the same day, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will look into the application process at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The Senate Banking Committee will meet on Thursday to discuss the financial risks posed by China.

Ryan Rainey

ENERGY

Lawmakers will have plenty of work to do on energy and environmental issues during the summer’s final week of appropriations deliberation. On Monday, the House Rules Committee will hold a meeting on the EPA-Interior appropriations bill, to which lawmakers have offered more than 100 amendments, setting up House floor votes for the days that follow.

The amendments cover a wide range of controversial topics. One would defund the administration’s well-control safety rule for offshore drilling, and another would entirely defund the EPA’s criminal enforcement division. Another amendment continues the Confederate flag debate by banning them in federal cemeteries.

The full House Appropriations Committee will vote on the state and foreign operations spending bill on Tuesday. The bill currently prohibits the State Department from sending any money to the Green Climate Fund, which is a key draw for developing countries to participate in the Paris climate agreement. Senate Democrats, however, managed to eliminate similar language from their chamber’s appropriations bill.

The Senate Appropriations subcommittee on energy and water development will hold a hearing on Wednesday reviewing the funding justification for a new nuclear cruise missile.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration will hold its annual conference on Monday and Tuesday. Some of the keynote speakers include Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), and John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The House Natural Resources Committee will have a busy week. On Tuesday, hearings will cover California’s water issues, the Mancos Shale formation, and a bill by Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) aiming to improve Native American health resources. On Wednesday, a subcommittee will discuss a bill by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) on renewable energy development on public lands. On Thursday, a subcommittee will hold an oversight hearing on federal loan-guaranteed solar energy projects on federal lands.

Former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden will speak at a Bloomberg discussion Tuesday on cybersecurity threats to the electric grid. Energy Department Deputy Secretary Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall will also be on the panel, among others.

On Tuesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on a bipartisan bill on identifying vulnerabilities in the nation’s energy infrastructure. It will also hold a meeting that day on 44 bills on specific public lands issues.

Arctic issues will stay in the spotlight as the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee holds a hearing on Tuesday on the Coast Guard’s capabilities in that region.

Jack Fitzpatrick

TECH

The Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission will both be scrutinized this week as the House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee and House Judiciary Committee convene oversight hearings.

All five FCC commissioners will testify in the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Tuesday, and Republicans will seek to grill FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and his colleagues on the “mismanagement” of the federal phone and internet subsidy program Lifeline, according to a the committee.

Members will also press for information on the agency’s broadband privacy proposal, its cable set-top box proposal, and the transparency of its rulemaking process.

“The FCC continues to push the limits of congressional patience, grab jurisdiction from other agencies, and leave the marketplace bewildered and confused,” Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said in a statement announcing the hearing.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch will also be in the House on Tuesday, where she will answer the questions of the House Judiciary Committee on a plethora of issues. While the decision not to press charges against Hillary Clinton for her private email server is likely to take a prominent role, Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) hinted that lawmakers will also ask for further information on encryption and its effect on the DOJ’s work.

Committee members will ask questions on topics “ranging from recent terrorist attacks in Orlando and San Bernardino to technological advances and their impact on law enforcement activities,” Goodlatte said in a statement earlier this week.

The Federal Communications Commission will meet Thursday to vote on a proposal to open up vast amounts of spectrum in high-frequency airwave bands to help accommodate the development of 5G technology.

Chairman Wheeler unveiled his ambitions in a speech in June, telling an audience at the National Press Club that he wanted to put the United States in the position to be a world leader in building and rolling out the new 5G network.

The proposal would open up airwaves in bands above the 24 GHz band. These airwaves were previously deemed untenable for building a network, but thanks to technological advances engineers have found ways to make spectrum in these bands useful. They are thought to be potentially vital for beefing up networks in areas with high population densities.

The FCC will also vote on a proposal to guide transitions to next-generation communications internet-protocol based technology.

Amir Nasr

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