As House Republicans begin releasing their prospective post-election agenda, this week will test whether they can finish out this year’s legislative workload.
After a few fits and starts, legislation aimed at averting default amid Puerto Rico’s debt crisis finally looks to come to the House floor. The House will also try to resume the appropriations process after an uncontroversial spending bill was voted down.
In both cases, amendments could be problematic. Although both Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have endorsed the Puerto Rico bill, there remain peripheral concerns that could sink the bill. The bill’s fate hinges on whether the Rules Committee will allow, or whether the House would approve, certain amendments that would fundamentally alter the sensitive bipartisan agreement that allowed the bill to pass the Natural Resources Committee.
Meanwhile, the House looks to revive the appropriations process with the low-budget legislative-branch appropriations bill. But recent floor debates have shown no bill too uncontroversial to fail. The Energy and Water spending bill, for instance, failed late last month after Democrats successfully attached to it an amendment affirming an executive order that federal contractors cannot discriminate against LGBT workers. While the legislative-branch bill offers fewer opportunities for poison-pill amendments, issues touching on LGBT rights and congressional-staff paychecks could still make the bill difficult to pass.
Here’s what else is on tap:
The Senate will consider its annual major defense policy bill this week after failing to finish its work before the Memorial Day break. The $610 billion package proposes significant acquisition and personnel reforms, including cutting hundreds of staffers from the president’s 400-person National Security Council. There will also be an intense fight over spending, as Democrats object to the House Republicans’ use of a wartime account to boost their bill by about $18 billion.
Senate Republicans are expected to offer an amendment to increase spending by a similar amount, but Democrats will object, seeking parity for nondefense programs. The White House has threatened to veto the House’s bill since it drains the nation’s designated war fund by the end of April. Other high-profile debates include whether Congress should require women to register for the draft.
ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
The Senate Environment and Public Works will explore the impact of the Supreme Court’s stay on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which has left states and utilities in limbo about how to plan for the emission rules. The Thursday hearing will include testimony from legal experts, state environment agencies and utilities.
A subpanel of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee holds a hearing Wednesday on new technology for private-sector weather forecasting, building on an effort by the committee to leverage private data to supplement government weather forecasts.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hear from the Energy Department and other government agencies on the impact the fall in oil prices has had on energy security in the Americas.
The Senate will unveil its appropriations bill this week for critical health programs, such as the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and combatting the opioid epidemic. Labor, Health, and Human Services’ Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee marks up the bill Tuesday morning and it heads to full committee Thursday.
Funding the NIH has broad bipartisan support since the agency is charged with overseeing projects that could lead to major medical breakthroughs, such as Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot and the Precision Medicine Initiative. Yet there has been contention around which pot of government funds the money should come from.
Additionally, there’s been a call for more funds to fight the opioid epidemic, particularly since a $600 million emergency supplemental failed to be tacked onto the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. Advocates have been working to ensure money is allocated in the appropriations process.
Also in the Senate, the GOP is hotlining the Mental Health Reform Act to solicit feedback on the bill, and moving on a final product could come as soon as this work period, according to a GOP Senate aide. It hasn’t been hotlined on the Democratic side, according to a Democratic congressional aide. On the House side, a discussion draft is circulating for members to provide feedback on. “Chairman Upton is committed to advancing the Murphy bill and this latest draft reflects significant progress toward delivering meaningful and needed reforms for countless families in crisis,” an Energy and Commerce Committee spokesperson wrote in an email. “We look forward to receiving both Member and stakeholder feedback in the coming days so we can push forward to the full committee markup this month.”
On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on synthetic drugs.
Across the Capitol, the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee will hold a hearing on Wednesday to solicit lawmakers’ proposals to improve Medicare.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on legislation Thursday that would require the government to obtain a warrant to seize emails and other online communications. Although the bill has broad support, the committee postponed a vote last month to try to work out agreements on a slew of amendments. A version of the bill, which would amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, passed the House unanimously last month.
Six months after Congress passed a much-needed five-year transportation bill, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx will report to Congress on its implementation at a Wednesday hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee.
The high point of President Obama’s schedule this week comes Tuesday, when he welcomes Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the White House, the day before the prime minister addresses a Joint Meeting of Congress. This is Modi’s fourth visit to the United States since his election in 2014. He is scheduled for a working lunch with the president. On Monday, the president will honor the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. On Wednesday, he will travel to New York City for raise money for the Democratic National Committee and the party’s Senate campaign committee. On Thursday, he will host an LGBT Pride Reception at the White House.
Daniel Newhauser, Alex Rogers, Jason Plautz, Rachel Roubein, Brendan Sasso, and George E. Condon Jr. contributed.