Lawmakers will stage some slow-going drama this week as the Senate proceeds in its deliberations on gun-control legislation with a series of votes on amendments—many of them likely to usher in their own mini-floor fights, or even filibusters.
At least one vote is slated on a bipartisan proposal to require background checks at gun shows and for Internet sales. Other amendments are in the works on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and mental health.
In fact, it seems Congress is finally getting a breather from fiscal issues this week, with the Senate’s bipartisan “Gang of Eight” expected to unveil its draft immigration-reform bill in preparation for Wednesday’s Judiciary Committee hearing.
But several administration members are scheduled to appear before various committees to talk about President Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget proposal. And with both chambers having already approved their own spending plans for next year, the two Budget committees’ chairs, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., will continue to negotiate how and when to move to a conference committee. Senior aides say they would not rule out—but cannot promise—announcement of a timeline.
Other activities this week will include:
- House floor action on cybersecurity legislation, including the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act sponsored by Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich.
- A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee markup on Tuesday of a GOP bill to take away Obama’s authority to make the final decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project, helping to ensure its approval;
- Capitol Hill appearances by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to testify before the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday and the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee on Thursday about the health portions of Obama’s latest budget (though HHS requests for Affordable Care Act implementation funding may get more attention);
- And a hearing before the Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee on the fungal-meningitis outbreak linked to tainted steroids produced in a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy.
- Away from the Capitol, the Interior Department is expected to release potentially controversial new federal regulations as soon as this week regarding “fracking” for oil and gas on public lands.
Expect continued fallout on the part of both Republicans and Democrats from the president’s fiscal year 2014 budget proposal.
Some Republicans, such as House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., have called it a step in the right direction with its proposal concerning “chained CPI.” Yet the GOP still criticizes the president for not going far enough to balance the budget in the next 10 years and for not proposing structural changes to Medicare and Medicaid.
Meanwhile, Democrats continue to balk at the chained-CPI provision, which would change the cost-of-living calculation for government benefits including Social Security and make them less generous. And labor unions and advocacy groups such as AARP are not planning to just sit back and wait for chained CPI to end up in some small-scale hypothetical budget deal.
Now the ongoing budget wars in Washington will also include internal skirmishes among Democrats.
Mark your calendars: It’s a jam-packed week for the House and Senate Armed Services committees. They will hear from military leaders about the Pentagon’s $526.6 billion budget request for fiscal year 2014, analyzing the needs of all four service branches in a slew of hearings this week.
The House panel will also hear an update on recent developments in Afghanistan as decisions on future troop levels are being made, and the Pentagon’s budget notably left out a firm request for overseas contingency accounts to fund the war until the Obama administration has an update.
The Senate committee Tuesday will also hear about the war effort there from Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Afghan war commander, and more about the budget request as a whole the following day from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey. The two defense leaders will also weigh in on Syria in a second panel that day. Intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael Flynn, will appear before the panel Thursday to testify on the wide range of threats facing the United States, presumably everything from cybersecurity to North Korea to Iran.
House Republicans continue to plug ahead with an energy agenda aimed at making life uncomfortable for Obama. On Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on federal vs. state regulation of oil and gas development, titled “What State Regulators Are Doing Right.”
This article appears in the April 15, 2013 edition of NJ Daily as Slow-Motion Gun Battle Plays Out On Senate Floor.