The House is in for a busy legislative week as it takes up an appropriations package, negotiates a bicameral farm bill, and vote on a financial-services measure.
Lawmakers are expected to vote on a minibus appropriations package, this time funding the Interior Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other government agencies such as the IRS and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Both bills passed committee largely along party lines and will most likely need only Republican votes to pass as a package on the floor.
Though the bills do not cut agencies as steeply as the president's budget had proposed, Democrats object to certain provisions, namely one doing away with the Obama-era Clean Water Rule and another that would bar the IRS from enforcing a rule against churches endorsing political candidates.
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, meanwhile, is likely to file a motion to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein this week, just days after Rosenstein announced indictments against 12 Russian intelligence officers, accusing them of trying to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election.
Meadows has been threatening to initiate impeachment proceedings against Rosenstein for weeks over the deputy attorney general's unwillingness to hand over Justice Department documents relating to the investigation into Russian meddling in the election. The measure could be a long shot, with many Republicans and all Democrats insisting that Rosenstein—and by extension, Special Counsel Robert Mueller—should be allowed to work unimpeded. But if President Trump backs it, House GOP leaders could relent and allow a vote.
This also coincides with Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday in Helsinki. Given the current state of U.S.-Russia relations, and Moscow’s actions on the world stage, plenty of issues may be on the agenda—among them, the Kremlin’s election meddling, annexation of Crimea, and support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Back in Washington, the House and Senate will try to reconcile their farm bills this week. Among the contentious issues are the House's addition of work requirements for people who collect food stamps, which is not in the Senate bill, and Sen. Chuck Grassley's amendment limiting what farms can receive commodity subsidies, which is not in the House bill.
The Grassley amendment is strongly supported by members of the House Freedom Caucus, and Meadows indicated Friday that although they do not have high hopes that work requirements will weather Senate Democrats' objections and make it into the final product, the amendment could sway his group to the support the bill.
Finally, the House will vote on a measure to loosen securities rules in an attempt to allow businesses to more easily gather capital.
Senators this week will continue to review the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. All eyes will be on whether red-state senators that are up for reelection—such as Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin and Joe Donnelly—will join the vast majority, if not totality, of Republicans in supporting the nominee. In the meantime, the Senate will vote Monday evening to advance the nomination of Scott Stump to be assistant secretary of education for career, technical, and adult education.
Here’s what else is on tap this week:
DEFENSE AND FOREIGN POLICY
Trump will meet Putin on Monday in Helsinki on the heels of a grand-jury indictment against 12 Russian military intelligence officers for hacking in the run-up to the 2016 election.
The president said he expects that the summit will be “just a loose meeting.” National Security Adviser John Bolton, meanwhile, has said that “the fact of the summit itself is a deliverable.” But there are looming questions of whether Trump and Putin can come to any agreements when they get together and if Trump will confront the Russian president on the Kremlin’s election meddling.
Along with possible discussions on sanctions, arms control, Crimea, Syria, and military exercises in the Baltics, the two leaders may focus on their shared disdain for international organizations. Putin has long been infuriated by the NATO military alliance and its expansion into former Eastern Bloc countries, and Trump’s visit to Helsinki comes shortly after he sent shockwaves through the NATO summit in Brussels.
Meanwhile, the House and Senate conferees on the National Defense Authorization Act kicked off the conference process last week. Sen. Jim Inhofe—who has been covering for Sen. John McCain while the Senate Armed Services chairman battles brain cancer back home in Arizona—said he expects negotiations to wrap up by July 27. Lawmakers will be debating a number of provisions, most notably a Senate amendment to block Trump’s deal to save Chinese telecom giant ZTE.
On Tuesday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's Subcommittee on National Security gathers for a hearing on U.S.-Israel relations. The Senate Foreign Affairs Committee will have a hearing Wednesday on the nominations of Brian Bulatao to be an undersecretary of State for management and Denise Natali to be an assistant secretary of State for conflict and stabilization operations. That day, the House Foreign Affairs Committee's Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats Subcommittee will hear from outside experts on current developments in Central Asia.
On Thursday, the House Intelligence Committee meets for a hearing on China's threat to U.S. research and innovation in the public and private sectors. The Senate Intelligence Committee meets Tuesday and Thursday for closed briefings.
Sens. Mark Warner and Marco Rubio will speak Monday at the Atlantic Council on the Kremlin’s interference in elections.
ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
More hot-button appropriations legislation for the EPA is set to hit the House floor this week. The bill makes a modest $100 million cut to the EPA, despite the Trump administration’s call for draconian reductions. Still, Democrats unanimously opposed the legislation in committee and will likely do so again on the House floor.
The Rules Committee is taking up the bill, which also includes funding for the Interior Department, on Monday night. Nearly 170 amendments are up for potential floor action. The EPA and Interior Department bill is paired with appropriations legislation for the Financial Services and General Government account, which also passed out of committee on party lines.
Meanwhile, appropriators in both chambers could dig into another controversial appropriations bill for the energy-and-environment world this week. Republicans delayed the first conference committee meeting last week for minibus legislation, which includes legislation for the Energy Department and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That process could potentially kick-start at any time.
The House bill includes funding for licensing at the Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste site, along with a rider to repeal the EPA’s Clean Water Rule, an Obama-era regulation that aimed to expand the agency’s jurisdiction over water regulation. The courts held that rule up and the Trump administration has fought to stall and replace it. Both the Yucca and water provisions will be critical negotiating points during conference.
Meanwhile, the Rules Committee will take up a nonbinding resolution Tuesday to denounce a carbon tax as “detrimental” to the U.S. The resolution says such a tax will hit the poor hardest and stifle American innovation. Many Democrats support a carbon tax, and Republican stalwarts outside of government are rallying behind it, but Republican leadership on Capitol Hill is firmly opposed.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hear testimony Thursday from Mary Bridget Neumayr to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality, which traditionally advises White House strategy on environment policy. The White House withdrew its first pick for that post, Kathleen Hartnett White, in early 2018.
The committee will also hold a hearing Tuesday on draft legislation to overhaul the Endangered Species Act and scale back the reach of federal authority under the statute. Industry groups are applauding the effort, and environmental groups are criticizing it. House Republicans introduced a similar package last week.
A House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee subpanel will hold a hearing Wednesday on U.S. preparedness during hurricane season.
Lawmakers and advocates are keeping an eye on the Health and Human Services Department as the agency continues to reunite children with their parents after they were separated under the zero-tolerance policy at the southern border. House appropriators last week adopted an amendment as part of the HHS spending bill that would require HHS Secretary Alex Azar to provide a plan by Aug. 1 outlining the reunification of all children separated from their families, or his office will be slashed by $100,000 every day that the plan is late.
Meanwhile, insurers are bracing for more turmoil in the Obamacare marketplaces after the Trump administration froze risk-adjustment payments and reduced funding for marketplace navigators within a span of a few days.
Lawmakers on both sides of Congress will be busy this week as key committees take on the issue of rising health costs. On Tuesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will look at eliminating excess spending and improving the quality and value for patients. The House Energy and Commerce Committee's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will look at adopted state laws and policies that improve transparency of health care costs.
The House Ways and Means Committee's Oversight Subcommittee will also hold a hearing on ways that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services can better develop strategies to prevent fraud in Medicare. The Health Subcommittee will examine the need to modernize physician self-referral law to help transition Medicare from fee-for-service to a value-based model.
The House Committee on Education and the Workforce's Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education will take a look at the Summer Food Service Program, which makes sure that meals are provided to low-income children through the summer break, in a hearing Tuesday.
Progress on House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady’s “Tax Reform 2.0” is churning along, with a projected reveal after the August recess.
But the tax-and-trade panel has other issues before it as well, namely the multifront trade war being waged by the Trump administration. Farmers—soybean growers in particular—are in the line of fire from retaliatory tariffs from China, and the committee’s Subcommittee on Trade will hold a hearing July 18 on the tariffs’ impact on agriculture. Expect farm-state lawmakers to sound off on the threat to the agricultural sector, but so far, few GOP members have been willing to talk about meaningful legislative action to curb the president’s tariff authority.
The Senate Finance Committee has already held its confirmation hearing for Charles Rettig, Trump’s pick to lead the IRS. They haven’t voted him out of committee yet, but Hatch has said he wants to advance the nomination soon. Lawmakers are likely to confirm Rettig, who will be tasked with helping implement last year’s sweeping tax-code overhaul.
The House Judiciary Committee is holding another hearing on the alleged bias displayed by top online platforms, and this time the companies will be present to defend themselves. Lawmakers will sit down Tuesday with representatives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter to discuss the firms’ content-filtering practices.
Some Republican lawmakers contend that the online platforms deliberately suppress conservative voices and ideas, something that the companies have vociferously denied in the past. Facebook, Twitter, and Google refused a committee invitation on the topic in April, but the hearing went forward anyway with testimony from Diamond and Silk, two pro-Trump YouTube stars who accused Facebook of incorrectly flagging their page for inappropriate content.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection will hold an oversight hearing for the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday. The FTC has only recently returned to its full complement of five commissioners, and it already faces a number of pressing issues. At the top of that list is a revisiting of the consent decree that Facebook signed with the commission in 2012 over its privacy policies. The FTC is examining whether Facebook’s relationship with Cambridge Analytica violated that decree, and it could impose massive fines on the company.
The committee is also taking yet another stab at the issue of rural broadband, with the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology slated to hold a hearing Tuesday on the economic benefits of expanding internet coverage to rural areas. Last week, the committee passed the ACCESS BROADBAND Act, which would create an office within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to coordinate and streamline federal efforts to increase broadband access across the country.
Trump's schedule this week is dominated by its first day. On Monday, he will meet in Helsinki with Putin before returning to the United States. Once back home, his schedule is fluid with lots of down time to permit him to decompress from a week in Europe.
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