Outlook: House GOP Tries to Get Back on Track After Farm Bill Collapse

The calendar is stacked as bills on “right to try,” the defense authorization and Dodd-Frank reform await lawmakers.

Speaker Paul Ryan, joined from left by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, praises the work of Conaway's panel on the farm bill which the House begins debate on today, during a news conference Wednesday.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Daniel Newhauser
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Daniel Newhauser
May 20, 2018, 8 p.m.

After the embarrassing failure of their partisan farm bill, House Republicans will try to get their legislative calendar back on track this week by passing a sweeping defense authorization and sending a pair of Senate-passed bills to the president’s desk.

The chamber will vote on the Senate-passed “right to try” bill, which would make it easier for sick patients to get access to experimental drugs—a major priority for the Trump administration. They will also vote to approve a Senate-passed measure to rewrite parts of the Dodd-Frank financial-regulation overhaul. The measure, originally sponsored by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo, would exempt some smaller lending institutions from regulations on loans, mortgages, and financial trades.

Finally, the House will debate the bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act, which passed out of the Armed Services Committee on a 60-1 vote this month. The measure raises the military budget to $716 billion, including a 2.6 percent pay raise for troops and billions of dollars for aviation, Army, and equipment modernization and upgrades.

The Senate, meanwhile, will take up the House-passed, $51 billion bill that will expand private-care options for veterans. The VA Mission Act includes $5.2 billion for the Choice program in order to avert a looming budget crisis. On Monday evening, the Senate will vote to advance the nomination of Dana Baiocco to be a commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Here’s what else is on tap this week:

DEFENSE AND FOREIGN POLICY

It’s set to be a marathon week for those tracking the annual National Defense Authorization Act. The Senate Armed Services Committee will consider its version this week, with each subcommittee meeting to mark up their authorization before the full committee gathers. Several closed markups will take place Monday and Tuesday, along with an open markup in the personnel subcommittee Tuesday. Then on Wednesday and Thursday—and possibly even Friday—lawmakers are scheduled to meet for the full closed-committee markup.

The House Armed Services Committee this month held a nearly 15-hour debate on its version, which passed and was sent to the House floor. The House will take up the bill and deal with amendments this week.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will kick off the week Monday with a speech on Iran policy at the conservative Heritage Foundation. State Department officials say Pompeo will lay out the administration’s strategy for dealing with Tehran in the wake of President Trump’s decision to quit the Iran nuclear deal.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Pompeo will head to the Hill to testify before the House and Senate foreign affairs panels, respectively, on the fiscal 2019 State Department budget request.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade will look at the geopolitics of U.S. oil-and-gas competitiveness at a hearing Tuesday as the Middle East and North Africa subcommittee focuses on Lebanon and Iraq after their elections. On Wednesday, the subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere will hear from U.S. officials on combating transnational criminal threats in the region.

On Wednesday, the House Homeland Security Committee will meet for a hearing on the threat ISIS poses as the terrorist group continues to lose large swaths of territory.

Off the Hill, Reps. Ted Lieu and Steve Russell on Tuesday will discuss North Korea policy and what role Congress should play at the U.S. Institute of Peace. The next day, the Atlantic Council hosts a conversation with Kay Bailey Hutchison, permanent representative of the U.S. to NATO, and others to discuss July’s 2018 NATO Brussels Summit.

On Thursday, John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, will deliver a keynote address on the release of SIGAR’s report, “Stabilization: Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan.”

ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT

A fiscal 2019 spending bill for the Energy Department will go for markup in the Senate this week as part of the first portion of appropriations bills in the upper chamber. Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the DOE appropriations subcommittee, will take that on Tuesday, after the House marked up its bill last week.

The House bill would bump up DOE funding for energy and nuclear-weapons programs, but Republicans tacked on controversial riders and the bill passed largely along a party-line vote. A repeal of the Obama-era Clean Water Rule, known colloquially as the Waters of the United States rule, is included.

The Environmental Protection Agency is going through the motions of rescinding and replacing that rule, which aimed to expand EPA authority to regulate bodies of water nationwide.

House appropriators also included nearly $270 million to resume licensing procedures for a permanent nuclear-waste storage site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The House passed a landmark Yucca Mountain bill this month. The Senate text hasn’t been released, but Alexander has signaled that he intends to follow suit on Yucca funding.

The House Appropriations Committee will also mark up its EPA and Interior Department bill, historically one of the most contentious spending bills, Tuesday. The Trump administration has called for dramatic cuts to the EPA, but lawmakers have so far rebuffed those pleas.

Meanwhile, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is moving full steam ahead on legislation to retool port and inland-waterway policy. The legislation, known as the Water Resources Development Act, is set for markup this week, according to Chairman John Barrasso.

Lawmakers aim to pass new WRDA legislation every two years. The bill, which has received two committee hearings in the past two weeks, appears poised to gain bipartisan support in the Senate.

HEALTH

The White House released details last week of proposed regulations that would force organizations like Planned Parenthood to have physical and financial separation between their abortion services and federally funded family-planning services.

Following this move, President Trump is expected to speak Tuesday at the Campaign for Life Gala, where Kellyanne Conway will receive the Susan B. Anthony List’s 2018 Distinguished Leader Award. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise will also deliver remarks.

Meanwhile, House lawmakers will vote on the Senate right-to-try bill that aims to give terminally ill patients speedier access to experimental drugs. “It is time for the House to do what Senate Democrats won’t and send a right-to-try bill to the President’s desk, bringing hope to terminally ill patients across the country,” said House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden following the announcement. The House Rules Committee will consider this measure Monday.

On Tuesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will have a hearing on addressing shortages and improving care in the health care workforce. The following day, the committee will vote on the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act, which aims to strengthen preparedness and response capabilities.

The Senate Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Food and Drug Administration budget will have a markup on the agency’s appropriations bill for 2019 on Tuesday. The full committee will hold a markup on this bill on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee health subcommittee will look at reauthorizing the Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education Program for five years. And Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider a slew of opioid-related legislation, including the Using Data to Prevent Opioid Diversion Act and the Opioid Quota Reform Act.

TAXES

House and Senate leadership say they plan to move appropriations bills this year. To that end, the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government is calling in Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter for a Tuesday hearing on funding.

In an March omnibus funding bill, Congress gave the IRS an extra $320 million to help implement last year’s tax law, marking the first funding boost for the agency in years. The agency is now planning to hire an additional 1,700 workers to roll out the new rules.

President Trump’s permanent pick to lead the IRS, California tax lawyer Charles Rettig, is still waiting for a confirmation hearing in the Senate Finance Committee. Chairman Orrin Hatch said last week he’s “hopeful” it will take place within the next two weeks, though they were still processing background information.

The House is gearing up to vote on the Senate-passed rollback of Dodd-Frank banking rules, but it’s unclear when it will take place.

Early reports indicated a vote early this week, and that may still happen, but with the failure of the House’s farm bill last week, the schedule for a Dodd-Frank bill may be in flux. House Deputy Whip Tom Cole said Thursday that a vote would come “pretty soon,” but he didn’t know if it would be this week.

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling has struck a deal in which the House will vote on the Senate-passed banking legislation, and in exchange, the Senate will also take up a package of separate, House-passed banking bills.

TECHNOLOGY

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Greg Walden doesn’t want Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to be the last tech titan to testify before Congress, and he’s making a major push to draw other big names to the Hill for a reckoning on data privacy.

“Trust me, it’s much easier to testify at a congressional hearing before your company gets caught up in a scandal,” he wrote in a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed last week calling for Silicon Valley leaders to come before the committee to help lawmakers grapple with the question of whether the tech industry can self-regulate or if the federal government needs to intercede.

Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey visited Washington later in the week, meeting with Walden and other lawmakers on issues including online privacy, net neutrality, and Russian activities on the social platform. Dorsey stopped by Congress one day after Senate Democrats, along with three Republicans, pushed through a resolution seeking to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s order rescinding net-neutrality rules.

The repeal is set to go into effect June 11. It’s a long shot that the resolution would pass the House and be signed by Trump so that the FCC’s net-neutrality rules would be reinstated.

This week on the Hill, both the House Financial Services Committee and Senate Banking Committee are set Tuesday to mark up bills revamping the reach of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which conducts reviews of foreign deals for national security risks.

That same day, the Senate Commerce Committee will mark up several bills including the Rural Reasonable and Comparable Wireless Access Act, which would direct the FCC to determine if mobile, data, and broadband services in rural areas are reasonably comparable to those in cities.

And lawmakers in the House Energy and Commerce’s subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection will convene an Internet of Things panel on a bill calling for the Secretary of Commerce to conduct a study on the state of the internet-connected-devices industry. Also Tuesday, the House Science subcommittee on Research and Technology and subcommittee on Energy hosts a hearing on empowering veterans through technology.

On Thursday, the Senate banking committee will gather for a hearing on cybersecurity risks to the financial-services industry.

WHITE HOUSE

President Trump starts his week Monday swearing in the newly confirmed CIA director, Gina Haspel. Later in the day, he will honor NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. before having dinner with selected governors to discuss immigration. On Tuesday, he will meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in preparation for his upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. He will then speak at the antiabortion group Susan B. Anthony List’s annual Campaign for Life Gala.

On Thursday, he will present the Medal of Honor to retired Navy Seal Britt K. Slabinski for his valor during a 14-hour 2002 battle in Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan. He will also meet with the superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy on the eve of his trip Friday to Annapolis to deliver the commencement address there.

Alex Rogers, Brian Dabbs, Erin Durkin, Casey Wooten and George E. Condon Jr. contributed to this article.
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