Outlook: House Returns to Immigration Fight

Republicans will hold a critical meeting on the issue this week as representatives are also set to take up a batch of appropriations bills.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (left) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Capitol Hill on April 17.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
June 3, 2018, 8 p.m.

The House will vote this week on a package of appropriations bills and try to approve a sweeping water-resources bill, all while Republican leaders seek a solution to their immigration logjam.

The chamber will vote on a so-called minibus, containing the appropriations bills for the Energy and Water, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Legislative Branch subcommittees of the Appropriations Committee. The bills are among the less-controversial spending bills, but there are sure to be some flash points. Democrats, for instance, have objected to the Trump administration’s attempts to expand the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

The House plan for its own funding calls for increases to the Capitol Police security budget, as well as that of the Office of Compliance, which deals with workplace safety and administers the Hill’s anti-harassment training. The package would also substantially increase the Veterans Affairs budget, amid the administration’s attempts to get a handle on the department’s negligence and subpar health care scandals.

On Thursday, House Republicans will hold a private two-hour meeting to figure out a way forward on immigration, which has also been holding up their farm-bill debate. Moderates are threatening to force a vote on several immigration bills over leadership’s objections. Conservatives voted down the farm bill last month out of frustration that leadership had yet to bring a hard-line immigration bill to the House floor.

Just before the Memorial Day recess, the Senate Armed Services committee overwhelmingly passed its annual authorization bill. The $716 billion measure is named this year the “John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act” after its chairman, who is home in Arizona battling brain cancer.

The Senate looks to soon pass that bill, but first it will consider more judicial nominations, starting with a vote on Monday evening to advance the nomination of Robert Earl Wier to be a judge for the Eastern District of Kentucky. After that, members will turn to the nomination of Fernando Rodriguez Jr. to be a judge for the Southern District of Texas and Annemarie Carney Axon to be a judge for the Northern District of Alabama.

Here’s what else is on tap this week:

DEFENSE AND FOREIGN POLICY

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to consider three nominees Tuesday: Georgette Mosbacher to be U.S. ambassador to Poland, Stephen Akard to be director of the Office of Foreign Missions, and Mark Rosen to be U.S. executive director of the International Monetary Fund.

On Thursday, House Foreign Affairs subcommittees are scheduled to hold hearings on advancing U.S. business investment and trade in the Americas and on human rights in Vietnam.

The NDAA, meanwhile, is chugging along following the House passage of its version in late May. The Senate must now pass its version of the annual defense policy bill before some wrangling behind closed doors to reconcile the two kicks off.

ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT

A perennial bill to update and improve U.S. flood control, navigation, and other water infrastructure is likely to hit the House floor this week, according to a GOP leadership aide. The Water Resources Development Act sailed through committee with unanimous support before the Memorial Day recess.

Despite the bipartisan bona fides, a broad range of advocates are criticizing the bill for allegedly failing to tackle a $100 billion Army Corps of Engineers backlog for the infrastructure projects. Still, the House will likely back the legislation resoundingly. A companion bill is awaiting floor time in the Senate, after receiving unanimous support at committee. Those advocates, which include conservative organizations and environmentalist, among others, also fault the Senate legislation for potentially perpetuating the backlog.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday will host the interim U.S. Forest Service chief and a top Interior Department official to examine preparedness for the upcoming wildfire season. Wildfires have increased in intensity and frequency on an annual basis. Analysts and policymakers blame that on warming temperatures and forest-management policy that obstructs clearance of flammable dead vegetation.

Meanwhile, the debate over the seriousness of climate change is likely to resurface on the Senate floor this week if the NDAA makes it there. The House companion, which passed in late May, calls on the Defense Department to consider “energy and climate-resiliency efforts” in master plans for military installations.

In the House, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. Most analysts say rising gas prices are a product, at least partially, of that decision. The Appropriations Committee will also mark up the Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department spending bill on Wednesday, after postponing that legislation in recent weeks.

HEALTH

The progressive health-policy idea of Medicare for All will be tested in California’s 45th District primary Tuesday. Three of the four Democrats running have included it as part of their campaigns, but Dave Min has separated himself from the pack by promoting a buy-in option instead.

“We should explore every possible opportunity to achieve universal healthcare coverage,” his campaign site states. “In the near term, this includes extending Medicare to those 55 and older, allowing all Americans the option to buy into Medicare or some other public option at an affordable price, and expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program.”

Back on Capitol Hill, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar will be testifying in front of members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee on the policies and priorities of the department on Wednesday.

The same day, the House Energy and Commerce Committee health subcommittee will review the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act to reauthorize biodefense programs for five years. The Senate health committee had moved to the floor a similar bill last month.

The House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee will also convene a hearing Wednesday to examine health-spending accounts. “New data shows that Health Savings Accounts continue to grow and are an important tool used by millions of Americans to reduce the ever-increasing burden of high health care costs,” subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam said in a statement.

On Thursday, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee health subcommittee will have a hearing on the potential health effects of burn-pit exposure among veterans. According to the Veterans Affairs Department, burn pits were commonly used at military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan to get rid of waste. The VA’s website says that research does not show evidence of long-term health problems from exposure to burn pits at this time.

TAXES

The Supreme Court is likely to rule this month in South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc., which will decide how states can tax online sales even if the retailer doesn’t have a physical presence in their jurisdiction. The court is set to release decisions each Monday this month, and while it could come as soon as this Monday, justices have yet to rule on other high-profile cases heard before the April 17 oral arguments for Wayfair.

If the court throws out the precedent, the 1992 Quill Corp. vs. North Dakota decision that allows untaxed remote sales, statehouses would have the green light to craft bills to collect sales tax from online retailers. Small sellers are likely to be exempt, such as in the South Dakota law that’s before the Court, however.

Heading into the midterms, GOP leaders continue to tout last year’s tax-code overhaul, with House Speaker Paul Ryan touring Ohio over the recess to help local GOP representatives in their campaign push. Ryan and Rep. Steve Chabot stopped at a facility of Ohio-based grocery chain Kroger to thank the company for sharing some of its tax savings with employees, local media reported.

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady is also pushing the tax law, one of Congress’s few major policy goals passed this session. After a positive jobs report released Friday, Brady said in a statement that the numbers “reflect Republicans goals for tax reform.”

But some conservative groups say that President Trump’s announcement last week that he would impose steel and aluminum tariffs on Mexico, Canada, and the European Union could cut into any gains from last year’s tax law.

“All this success will be greatly undermined by the imposition of new taxes on working Americans,” Freedom Partners Executive Vice President James Davis said in a statement.

This week will be lawmakers’ first chance to move against the tariffs—Brady and other Ways and Means members could vote to take back certain tariff authorities. In a statement, Brady criticized the tariffs, but stopped short of suggesting legislative action against them, instead calling on the White House to come before Congress and explain the decision. Sen. Bob Corker, meanwhile, said Saturday on Twitter that some Republican senators are working together “on ways to push back on the president using authorities in ways never intended and that are damaging to our country and our allies.”

TECHNOLOGY

Capitol Hill may seek to escalate its pushback this week against Trump’s decision to grant Chinese cell phone maker ZTE a reprieve from crippling Commerce Department sanctions. While the president says ZTE should be saved as part of a larger trade deal with China, lawmakers from both parties say the company’s close ties to the Chinese government means it’s too dangerous for the firm to continue operating in the United States.

The House Appropriations Committee already unanimously adopted language maintaining the sanctions in a measure passed out of committee just before last week’s recess. Now movement is likely in the Senate, where lawmakers on both sides of the aisle took to the airwaves during the recess to blast the president’s decision.

Mark Warner, the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the White House should listen to the intelligence agencies when they label the Chinese company a “national security risk.” And Sen. Marco Rubio suggested that a supermajority of lawmakers would be willing to act to overturn Trump’s actions.

Even if they don’t address ZTE directly this week, lawmakers will still be fretting over undue Chinese influence in the American tech industry. The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to meet Wednesday for a hearing on an alleged campaign by the Chinese government to infiltrate American academia and steal valuable intellectual property and trade secrets.

Majority Whip John Cornyn will preside over the hearing. Cornyn is also spearheading a push to reform the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States in order to crack down on Chinese investments in the U.S. tech sphere.

The future of the International Space Station will be up in the air during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing scheduled for Wednesday. The Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness plans to hear from ISS stakeholders on the value that the spaceport provides for the national space program and human exploration of the Solar System.

WHITE HOUSE

This is prep week for Trump as he gets ready for two important summits. He’ll meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday. Trump then goes to Charlevoix, Canada, near Quebec, on Friday for what is certain to be a contentious summit with leaders of what normally are the closest American allies, the other members of the G-7. But with the announcement of Trump’s tariffs, those allies aren’t thinking particularly good thoughts about Washington. From there, the president moves on to Singapore to await North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for their historic summit on Tuesday.

In non-summit business this week, the president will welcome the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles to the White House on Tuesday and the next day he will visit the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a briefing on the upcoming hurricane season.

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