By Fawn Johnson
September 16, 2016 at 3:31 pm ET
The only barrier standing between senators and a pre-election recess involves Planned Parenthood. Senate negotiators have thus far failed to reach a deal on funding for the Zika virus that is meant to be included in a continuing resolution to fund the government past Sept. 30.
The next official step in the Senate will be a procedural vote on Monday on a different spending bill that is intended to be the legislative vehicle for the emerging deal. For weeks, the plan among Senate leaders was to pass a short-term CR through Dec. 9 that includes Zika funding and adjourn, leaving the House to determine how to send the measure to the president. Many House Republicans oppose the short-term CR, and conventional wisdom dictates that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will need to rely on Democrats to pass the Senate measure.
But first, Senate Democrats and Republicans need to come up with a deal. This week, lawmakers will continue to discuss how to provide Zika funding in a way that is palatable to both parties. The central issue is what to do about Planned Parenthood affiliates, which would not receive funding under a House-passed bill that includes extra money for Zika. That measure has now failed in the Senate three times.
Democrats won’t accept legislation that denies extra money for Planned Parenthood affiliates, but they have not said what else they would be willing to accept in a potential tradeoff. Democrats also oppose provisions, passed by the House, to partially offset the Zika money and allow the Confederate flag to be flown on federal grounds.
Under one theoretical scenario, Democrats could allow the offsets to remain in place if Republicans cede the Confederate flag and Planned Parenthood language. Both Republican and Democratic leaders have hedged when presented with that idea, saying they don’t want to make their internal negotiations public.
Other issues are creeping into the CR conversations as talks drag on, but they are not likely to stop the bill from going forward if a Zika deal gels. Some Republicans want to add language barring the transition of internet domain name management to an international, nongovernment body. Democrats oppose that idea.
Appropriators also are bandying about additional money to fund the opioid crisis.
The House, meanwhile, is slated to vote on tax legislation that is part of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s “innovation agenda.” The bill would allow employees at startups who own stock in their companies to defer paying taxes on those investments. It passed the House Ways and Means Committee on a voice vote.
The House will also consider legislation related to the U.S.’s recent payments to Iran. One bill would require the Treasury Department to make public the estimated “funds and assets” held by senior Iranian political or military leaders. The other would outright prohibit direct or indirect payments to Iran.
In addition to figuring out Zika, negotiators will also attempt to add new opioid funding to the stopgap spending bill, and if so, how much. There is widespread to desire to at least prorate new opioid spending levels already approved by Congress until an omnibus spending bill is passed at the end of the year.
The first hearing on EpiPen price increases will be held by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday. Heather Bresch, the CEO of Mylan Pharmaceuticals, the company that makes the EpiPen, will testify. A Food and Drug Administration official will testify as well. Bresch is the daughter of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), a topic sure to come up in the hearing.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Tuesday will hold a hearing on laboratory testing in the age of precision medicine. The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on the FDA’s role in the generic drug marketplace.
The House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee covering antitrust and commercial law will hold a hearing on Wednesday on the state of competition in the market of addictive medication. An official from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America will testify as will a representative from the Generic Pharmaceutical Association.
The $185 million fraud enforcement action against Wells Fargo & Co. is taking center stage in both House and Senate committees that oversee banking. The Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing on the case Tuesday, at which the bank’s chief executive, John Stumpf, will testify. Also on the panel are Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray, Comptroller of the Currency Tom Curry and Los Angeles prosecutor James Clark.
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said Friday his committee will hold a hearing on the matter later in the month. The committee also opened a formal investigation into Wells Fargo’s fraudulent activities, which include more than 1 million unauthorized accounts for the bank’s customers.
The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday about allegations of misconduct and the articles of impeachment of Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen. The hearing was scheduled after House Freedom Caucus members reached a deal with Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). As part of the agreement, the House will not hold a vote on the impeachment until after the November election, if at all. However, nothing would preclude a member from once again bringing to the floor a privileged motion to hold such a vote.
The Financial Stability Oversight Council will meet Thursday to discuss its fiscal year 2017 budget and other issues. FSOC’s annual report will be the subject of a House Financial Services Committee hearing the same day.
The Financial Services Committee will hold two hearings Wednesday on housing vouchers and corporate governance, and it will hold a hearing Thursday on accounting, auditing and municipal securities regulation.
In addition to the House votes regarding the Iran payments, there are a few hearings on the topic. The Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on the U.S.’s cash payment to Iran. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will discuss improper payments on Thursday.
On Thursday, the Financial Services Committee will also hold a hearing on the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s inspection process. The panel’s subcommittee on monetary policy and trade will also hold a hearing on the Financial Stability Board on Friday.
The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on Social Security solvency.
Supporters of funds for the water infrastructure in Flint, Mich., will look for a path forward this week, after the Senate passed a bill, the Water Resources Development Act, which included the funding.
The House’s WRDA bill is not on the schedule for the coming week, and it doesn’t include Flint funds. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) told reporters he would like to see the funds included in a final conference report reconciling the two WRDA bills. But he is also open to including money for Flint in a continuing resolution or legislation responding to the severe floods in Louisiana.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will testify to the Senate Agriculture Committee about the “state of the farm economy” on Wednesday.
The House Science Committee and Oversight Committee will hold a joint subcommittee hearing on Wednesday on “misconduct and intimidation of scientists” by the Department of Energy. Two department officials will testify.
The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality’s final guidance on greenhouse gases and climate change, which the agency released in August. Also on Wednesday, the committee’s oversight subcommittee will hold a hearing on the federal government’s management of wolves.
On Thursday, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee will hold a hearing on greenhouse gas emissions standards for vehicles.
A House Oversight subcommittee will hold a hearing on “mismanagement and misconduct at the National Park Service” on Thursday.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday on FEMA’s “limited role” in land-use development decisions.
As part of the stopgap spending bill, Republicans are hoping to include language to delay or halt the U.S. government from transitioning its control over the internet domain naming system to a privatized group of global stakeholders.
“We’re trying to get language approved in the CR that would at least delay it,” Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters Thursday.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is set to relinquish its control over the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority after their contract with the body expires on Sep. 30. NTIA has run the body that oversees the domain names used by internet service providers to traffic data globally for 18 years.
Several members of the GOP, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, have expressed concern that the handover of power will result in countries such as Russia, China, and Iran being able to take control and potentially censor parts of the internet.
Officials told Cruz at a Senate subcommittee on Wednesday that IANA’s functions don’t allow whoever controls the body to have any say over internet censorship.
Democrats are in favor of the transition moving forward smoothly, which means Republicans will have a hard time getting the delay language into the spending bill. Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) summed up the Democrats’ views on the matter.
“Can Ted Cruz and the Republicans dream up any more obscure, irrelevant issues to stop the business of the American government? … I couldn’t believe it when they told me this may stop the CR. They can’t even explain it.”
The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a meeting on much less contentious issue Wednesday — legislation aimed at combating ticket bots, programs that can automatically scoop up thousands of online tickets to sell at high prices.
The committee will meet to mark up the BOTS Act, a measure that would empower the Federal Trade Commission to punish entities using ticket bots. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), a committee member, sponsors the measure that has the support of fellow committee members Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and the committee’s top Democrat, Bill Nelson of Florida.
The House passed a similar version of the bill on a voice vote Monday.
The House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee is meeting Thursday to discuss modernizing the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
The panel is meeting about an update to the law designed to regulate how entities can make automated robocalls after top Democrats on the subcommittee wrote to the chairman of the full committee, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), calling on him to convene a hearing to “update and rewrite” the 25-year-old law.