Will Lawmakers Stop Federal Medical Marijuana Raids?

House takes on VA scandal, appropriations—and whether to ban federal interference with state medical-marijuana laws.

Chairman of the Congressional Steel Caucus Congressman Tim Murphy, R-PA, listens to testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, March 25, 2014, on the state of US steel trade, energy, and currency policies. 
National Journal
Billy House
May 27, 2014, 6:46 p.m.

With the Sen­ate on re­cess this week, the fo­cus will be on the House, where mem­bers will re­turn Wed­nes­day pre­pared to vote on the 2015 Na­tion­al In­tel­li­gence Au­thor­iz­a­tion Act.

Mean­while, the House Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs Com­mit­tee will con­tin­ue to keep pres­sure on the Vet­er­ans Af­fairs De­part­ment in a hear­ing Wed­nes­day de­signed to probe in­to re­ports of pre­vent­able deaths. The com­mit­tee has already is­sued two sub­poen­as to VA of­fi­cials.

But it’s a battle over med­ic­al marijuana that could spark the most in­tense de­bate, when the House takes up the third of 12 an­nu­al ap­pro­pri­ations bills for the new fisc­al year be­gin­ning Oct. 1. An amend­ment be­ing offered by Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Dana Rohra­bach­er of Cali­for­nia and oth­er law­makers would pro­hib­it agen­cies from us­ing any of the $51.2 bil­lion in dis­cre­tion­ary spend­ing con­tained in the Com­merce, Sci­ence, Justice, and Re­lated Agen­cies spend­ing bill to pur­sue marijuana-re­lated pro­sec­u­tions in states where the drug is leg­al.

Such amend­ments have failed in the past. But now, more than half the states — 26 and the Dis­trict of Columbia — have some form of med­ic­al-marijuana law on their books.

In­deed, a wide range of amend­ments are ex­pec­ted, from is­sues sur­round­ing the Guantanamo Bay de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity to pro­hib­it­ing fund­ing for a Bur­eau of Al­co­hol, To­bacco, Fire­arms, and Ex­plos­ives re­port­ing re­quire­ment on mul­tiple-rifle sales in bor­der states.

Oth­er ac­tion in the House will in­clude:

- A full House Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee hear­ing Thursday to mark up the fisc­al 2015 Ag­ri­cul­ture ap­pro­pri­ations bill, an­ti­cip­ated to bring some tense battles over child nu­tri­tion pro­grams and oth­er is­sues.

-A House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee markup on Thursday for the North Korea Sanc­tions En­force­ment Act of 2015.

-A House Small Busi­ness Com­mit­tee hear­ing Thursday on a re­cent En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency rule ex­pand­ing U.S. wa­ters sub­ject to reg­u­la­tion un­der the Clean Wa­ter Act.

-A House Home­land Se­cur­ity Ap­pro­pri­ations Sub­com­mit­tee hear­ing on Wed­nes­day to mark up the 2015 Home­land Se­cur­ity spend­ing bill.

-A brief­ing Thursday on the En­ergy and Com­merce Over­sight and In­vest­ig­a­tions Sub­com­mit­tee’s re­cent re­port about fed­er­al pro­grams ad­dress­ing severe men­tal ill­ness.

BUDGET

Slow Ride

Thursday’s full House Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee markup of the fisc­al 2015 Ag­ri­cul­ture ap­pro­pri­ations bill is ex­pec­ted to have law­makers ar­guing.

Demo­crats, led by Rep. Rosa De­Lauro of Con­necti­c­ut, already are ac­cus­ing Re­pub­lic­ans of us­ing the ap­pro­pri­ations pro­cess to weak­en child-nu­tri­tion pro­grams. One ac­cus­a­tion is that pro­vi­sions in­cor­por­ated dur­ing a sub­com­mit­tee markup would roll back school nu­tri­tion stand­ards, lead­ing the way for less whole grains and more so­di­um in school meals. The le­gis­la­tion, they say, would also cir­cum­vent the USDA/In­sti­tute of Medi­cine pro­cess to de­term­ine the ap­pro­pri­ate food pack­age for the Wo­men, In­fants, and Chil­dren nu­tri­tion pro­gram.

If the Com­merce, Sci­ence, Justice, and Re­lated Agen­cies spend­ing bill is ap­proved by the House as ex­pec­ted, it will mark the third spend­ing bill com­pleted by the House. The Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee also has already marked up its 2015 Trans­port­a­tion and Hous­ing and Urb­an De­vel­op­ment bill.

But there is rising con­cern over the pace of the House and Sen­ate ac­tion on the spend­ing bills. The House has passed only its least-con­tro­ver­sial meas­ures, and the Sen­ate has not yet passed any spend­ing bills. There is grow­ing doubt that ac­tion on all 12 in­di­vidu­al meas­ures can get done in time as law­makers fo­cus more on reelec­tion.

In­creas­ingly, dis­cus­sion is centered on the pro­spect that a con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion will be needed to keep some agen­cies and pro­grams fun­ded in­to the new fisc­al year at cur­rent levels, and that some spend­ing bills will have to be ad­dressed after the Nov. 4 elec­tion in a lame-duck ses­sion.

Last week, Minor­ity Whip Steny Hoy­er tried to ques­tion Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor about wheth­er all of the fisc­al 2015 spend­ing bills will, in fact, be primed for House floor ac­tion with­in the 31 le­gis­lat­ive days re­main­ing be­fore Con­gress takes its Au­gust break.

Can­tor hedged. “The [Ap­pro­pri­ations] Com­mit­tee’s cer­tainly ex­pressed its de­sire, as our con­fer­ence has, as our speak­er has, to move all 12 ap­pro­pri­ations bills,” Can­tor said.

DE­FENSE

VA Probed

While the VA scan­dal sim­mers, the House Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs Com­mit­tee is con­tinu­ing to over­see a range of oth­er vet­er­ans’ is­sues.

The pan­el plans to hold two sub­com­mit­tee hear­ings Thursday on vet­er­ans’ is­sues: one on in­ad­equate ser­vice for visu­ally im­paired vets and an­oth­er eval­u­at­ing the VA’s per­form­ance in help­ing vets trans­ition out of the mil­it­ary.

The House is also ex­pec­ted to take up the in­tel­li­gence au­thor­iz­a­tion bill this week, which au­thor­izes clas­si­fied ap­pro­pri­ations for cov­ert activ­it­ies at the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency, the CIA, and the FBI.

The Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee is re­group­ing from its work on the Na­tion­al De­fense Au­thor­iz­a­tion Act and has no com­mit­tee activ­ity planned.

EN­ERGY AND EN­VIR­ON­MENT

Cli­mate Hear­ing

The House Sci­ence Com­mit­tee will tackle glob­al warm­ing this week, with a deep dive on Thursday in­to the meth­od­o­logy be­hind the United Na­tions In­ter­gov­ern­ment­al Pan­el on Cli­mate Change as­sess­ment.

But don’t ex­pect calls for ac­tion on cli­mate. Re­pub­lic­an Chair­man Lamar Smith of Texas is a noted cli­mate-change skep­tic and fre­quently at­tacks the sci­ence un­der­pin­ning EPA reg­u­la­tions.

The hear­ing will fea­ture testi­mony from Ro­ger Pielke, a seni­or re­search sci­ent­ist at the Co­oper­at­ive In­sti­tute for Re­search in En­vir­on­ment­al Sci­ences. Pielke has drawn fire from the en­vir­on­ment­al com­munity and cli­mate sci­ent­ists alike for voicing cri­ti­cism of the U.N. cli­mate re­port.

The House Small Busi­ness Com­mit­tee’s hear­ing on U.S. wa­ters will fo­cus on how a broad­er read­ing of the Clean Wa­ter Act will af­fect the con­struc­tion and ag­ri­cul­ture sec­tors; the hear­ing will in­clude testi­mony from the Na­tion­al Stone, Sand, and Gravel As­so­ci­ation. Con­ser­vat­ives and in­dustry groups have ex­pressed con­cern that fed­er­al jur­is­dic­tion over streams and tem­por­ary wa­ter­ways can mean more reg­u­la­tion that will slow com­merce.

A House En­ergy and Com­merce sub­com­mit­tee will put the spot­light Fri­day on the En­ergy De­part­ment’s green-tech­no­logy loan pro­gram, which has been a mag­net for GOP cri­ti­cism in re­cent years. Peter Dav­id­son, who heads the En­ergy De­part­ment’s Loan Pro­grams Of­fice, will testi­fy. The pro­gram re­cently in­vited ap­plic­a­tions for a new round of loan guar­an­tees fo­cused on, among oth­er things, in­teg­rat­ing re­new­able en­ergy in­to power grids.

HEALTH CARE

Psy­cho­logy Ex­am

Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania, a clin­ic­al psy­cho­lo­gist, will be ac­com­pan­ied by a hand­ful of ex­perts as the En­ergy and Com­merce Over­sight and In­vest­ig­a­tions Sub­com­mit­tee dis­cusses the find­ings of its re­port on fed­er­al pro­grams ad­dress­ing men­tal health.

Ac­cord­ing to the com­mit­tee, its in­vest­ig­a­tion un­der­scores the need to im­prove train­ing on men­tal health is­sues for law en­force­ment and emer­gency ser­vices per­son­nel.

The re­port fol­lows a year­long in­vest­ig­a­tion re­view­ing men­tal health re­sources and pro­grams across the fed­er­al spec­trum. The com­mit­tee’s in­vest­ig­a­tion began in Janu­ary 2013, fol­low­ing the school shoot­ing in New­town, Conn.

WHITE HOUSE

De­fense Fo­cus

The ma­jor event in Pres­id­ent Obama’s week will come Wed­nes­day at the U.S. Mil­it­ary Academy. He re­turns to West Point, the site of his ma­jor 2009 speech on Afgh­anistan and Pakistan, to de­liv­er a com­mence­ment ad­dress that will be a full-throated de­fense of his em­battled for­eign policy.

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