The House floor may erupt with debate over LGBT issues again this week, just days after Democrats decried Republican arm-twisting that sank an amendment affirming a White House order extending antidiscrimination protections to federal contractors’ LGBT employees.
Democrats may propose a similar amendment to the energy and water appropriations bill, which is set for floor consideration. Meanwhile, the bill may also provide a venue for Democrats to target the display of the Confederate flag and the possession of firearms on land controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as funding for the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
The politically sensitive topics have come to the fore as Republicans’ dedication to an open appropriations process has allowed Democrats to bring forth amendments that present battleground-district Republicans with a tough vote.
Last week, during consideration of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill, Democrats won a vote on an amendment banning the display of Confederate flags on some battleground memorials. Then a chaotic scene broke out on the House floor, when proponents appeared to have the votes on the LGBT contractors’ amendment but Republicans held the floor open to convince a few of their members to change their votes.
This week offers similar possibilities for Democrats. During the committee markup of the energy and water bill, Democrats also attempted to attach an amendment giving federal aid to Flint. It did not pass, and Republicans said the debate would be better suited for the Interior appropriations bill, which handles Environmental Protection Agency funding. Nevertheless, Democrats may try again to funnel funds to Flint.
After striking a deal with the White House and congressional Democrats, House Republicans are likely to proceed with a bill to help ease Puerto Rico out of debt. The measure had been stalled over multiple concerns about social policy and the federal review board it would implement, but the bill released last week looks to have enough support to pass.
Here’s what else is on tap this week:
The Senate expects to consider its major defense-policy bill after the House passed its $610 billion version last week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that the chamber will pass its bill before the Memorial Day break.
But even if the Senate acts on schedule, the measures from the two chambers are far apart and will take time to reconcile. The House wants to dip into a wartime account to boost defense spending by an extra $18 billion, which would fully deplete military campaign funds by spring 2017. The plan has drawn a veto threat from the White House; President Obama blocked Congress’s first attempt at a National Defense Authorization Act last year in part because Congress used a similar budget gimmick to avert across-the-board budget cuts passed into law in 2011.
While the Senate’s legislation doesn’t use the House’s money-raising ploy, Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain has said he will seek to raise billions for the military through an amendment on the floor. But Democrats would likely ask for a similar increase in nondefense programs in return for their support.
There are other controversial differences between the chambers to sort out, including whether young adult women should be required to sign up for a military draft. House Republicans stripped that proposal from their bill before it passed. But last week, McConnell agreed with his chamber’s committee, saying that even though he doesn’t anticipate the country returning to a draft, women should be required to register for the Selective Service.
“Given where we are today, with women in the military performing virtually all kinds of functions, I personally think it would be appropriate for them to register just like men do,” McConnell said.
The House and Senate are both poised to vote on a long-awaited update to a 1976 law regulating chemicals in consumer products, one that has left the government largely powerless to test and restrict toxic substances. The bipartisan update to the Toxic Substances Control Act comes after years of negotiation that found conservatives like Sens. David Vitter and James Inhofe siding with liberals like Sens. Tom Udall and Barbara Boxer on a final bill, although some House Democrats say they’re still not happy with the finished product and could vote against it on the floor.
Donald Trump is expected to outline his energy platform in a speech to the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck, North Dakota on Thursday. Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota was tapped by Trump to advise him on energy policy and last week presented him with a white paper outlining a push for getting rid of the Clean Power Plan and leveling tax incentives for different power sources.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Tuesday will dig into the implementation of the EPA’s Waters of the United States rule, which Republicans have decried as a regulatory overreach.
Two senators focused on reforming the mental-health system—which, at the beginning of the year, was considered one of the big-ticket legislative items that could pass in a contentious election year—are hosting a Senate Mental Health Summit this Thursday. Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy and Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy have invited health experts, providers, and advocates to speak at different sessions focused on provider perspective, the price of inaction, and more.
On the other side of the Capitol, the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will hold a hearing Tuesday to look into how to combat improper payments and ineligible providers for Medicare and Medicaid. On Wednesday, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will convene a hearing titled, “Science of Zika: The DNA of an Epidemic.”
On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Committee will mark up the Helping Hospitals Improve Patient Care Act. On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee will hold a hearing to examine the Health and Human Services Department’s cybersecurity.
The House Judiciary Committee will vote this week on its latest proposal to overhaul criminal-justice policy. The newly unveiled, bipartisan “Due Process Act”, which the committee will mark up Wednesday, is designed to curb abuses of federal civil-asset-forfeiture programs.
“While asset forfeiture is a useful law enforcement tool, abuses of it clearly show that reform is needed now to better protect Americans from having their property wrongfully seized,” said Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte.
The bill would increase the government’s burden of proof in asset-forfeiture cases and expand procedural protections in several ways, including offering provisions to ensure counsel and the right to attorneys’ fees in successful cases against the government.
The bill is the latest of several criminal-justice-reform measures to move through the committee, with more to come. Bills advanced thus far have focused on topics including the revision of sentencing laws for nonviolent drug offenders and cutting inmates’ recidivism risk. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said he wants to move criminal-justice reform through the House this year, but has not yet announced when legislation might come to the floor or in what form.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote on legislation Thursday that would require the government to obtain a warrant to seize emails and other online communications. A version of the bill, which would amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, passed the House unanimously last month, but Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has suggested he is looking to make changes to ensure the bill doesn’t hamper investigations by civil enforcement agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday to examine a plan to turn over control of the Internet’s address system to the international community. The proposal, which was submitted to the Commerce Department for review in March, would end the U.S. government’s contractual authority over the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, an international nonprofit group that manages important technical functions of the internet. But Sen. Ted Cruz and other Republicans have warned the proposal could allow authoritarian regimes like China or Russia to seize power and censor internet content.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on trade will hold a hearing Tuesday to review 17 bills that would affect the Federal Trade Commission’s authority. Some of the bills would curtail the FTC’s power, while others would address issues including abuses in the funeral industry, online hotel-booking scams, and business contracts that bar negative online reviews.
The House Small Business Committee will hold hearings on Tuesday and Thursday to examine taxation of “on-demand” or “sharing economy” workers. The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday to examine how the Homeland Security Department is helping states prepare for cyberattacks.
A week after the Senate passed the spending bill with little drama, the House Appropriations Committee will mark up its fiscal 2017 appropriations bill for the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. The $58.2 billion measure contains a rider meant to adjust rules regarding how many hours per week commercial truck drivers can work without rest, which safety advocates and some Democrats have said would put drowsy drivers on the road. (The Senate bill also dealt with the hours-of-service rule, but set a different limit.)
And the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s subpanel on highways and transit will have its hands full, to put it mildly, when it holds a Tuesday hearing on the safety and reliability of the D.C. metro system.
President Obama spends this week far from Washington, visiting Vietnam and Japan and attending the annual G7 summit. Monday will see him in Hanoi, meeting with Vietnam’s president and prime minister. On Tuesday, he will talk about human rights and give a speech before moving on to Ho Chi Minh City. On Wednesday, there’s a town-hall meeting there before he flies to Japan. The G7 summit opens on Kashiko Island on Thursday. On Friday, he will become the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, where the first atomic bomb struck on Aug. 6, 1945, killing thousands instantly and an estimated 140,000 by the end of that year. After the Hiroshima visit, Obama then returns to Washington.
Daniel Newhauser, Alex Rogers, Jason Plautz, Rachel Roubein, Brendan Sasso, and George E. Condon Jr. contributed
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