House Starts What Could Be a Bellwether Week

HHS Secretary Sebelius
National Journal
Billy House
Oct. 20, 2013, 10:07 a.m.

The Sen­ate is out on re­cess, but the House re­turns to ses­sion Tues­day for the start of what could be a bell­weth­er week to gauge the polit­ic­al tone in Wash­ing­ton for the rest of the year.

Much of the at­ten­tion is already shift­ing to fo­cus on the form­al start of ne­go­ti­ations in the joint House-Sen­ate budget con­fer­ence. And the ac­tion will pick up in com­mit­tees and on the floor as well.

A vote could come as early as Thursday on the first Wa­ter Re­sources De­vel­op­ment Act since 2007, a sweep­ing bill to au­thor­ize fund­ing for im­prove­ments to ports, wa­ter­ways, and pro­jects tied to flood pro­tec­tion, drink­ing wa­ter, dams, and en­vir­on­ment­al res­tor­a­tion.

Also on this week’s agenda:

  • The En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee plans to hold a full com­mit­tee hear­ing Thursday re­gard­ing the rocky first few weeks of the Af­ford­able Care Act im­ple­ment­a­tion.
  • The Home­land Se­cur­ity Com­mit­tee is set for a full com­mit­tee markup on six bills, in­clud­ing a “Trans­port­a­tion Se­cur­ity Ac­quis­i­tion Re­form Act” and a “Home­land Se­cur­ity Cy­ber­se­cur­ity Boots-on-the-Ground Act.”
  • The House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee has set a hear­ing for Thursday to look in­to Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency pro­grams.
  • The Small Busi­ness In­vest­ig­a­tions, Over­sight, and Reg­u­la­tions Sub­com­mit­tee has sched­uled a hear­ing Thursday on the “Reg­u­lat­ory Land­scape: Bur­dens on Small Fin­an­cial In­sti­tu­tions.”
  • The Armed Ser­vices Seapower and Pro­jec­tion Forces Sub­com­mit­tee will hold a hear­ing Wed­nes­day on “An In­de­pend­ent As­sess­ment of the Navy’s 30-year Ship­build­ing Plan.”
  • An­oth­er Armed Ser­vices sub­com­mit­tee, Tac­tic­al Air and Land Forces, is hold­ing a hear­ing Wed­nes­day on the im­pacts of the con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion and se­quest­ra­tion on de­fense ac­quis­i­tion and mod­ern­iz­a­tion.

The fu­ture of the across-the-board se­quest­ra­tion cuts is ex­pec­ted to be a primary fo­cus of the up­com­ing budget talks.

BUDGET and FIN­ANCE

Find­ing Com­prom­ise

Last week’s deal to ex­tend the debt ceil­ing through Feb. 7 also re­star­ted fund­ing for gov­ern­ment agen­cies, but only through Jan. 15. However, it also called for a bi­par­tis­an, bicam­er­al budget con­fer­ence to get to work on find­ing com­prom­ise on a longer-term spend­ing plan, at least one to last through the end of the cur­rent fisc­al year on Sept. 30.

The new pan­el’s as­sign­ment is a tough one, giv­en the wide dif­fer­ences in the budgets passed sep­ar­ately by the two cham­bers. Those ex­tend not just to the re­spect­ive levels of pro­posed spend­ing, but to the treat­ment of en­ti­tle­ment pro­grams, the fu­ture of the se­quester cuts, and the pro­spect for taxes or oth­er new rev­en­ues.

The con­fer­ees are due to is­sue a re­port on or around Dec. 13. They will be led by Sen­ate Budget Com­mit­tee Chair­wo­man Patty Mur­ray, D-Wash., along with House Budget Chair­man Paul Ry­an, R-Wis., who did not even vote in fa­vor of the deal that sets this all in mo­tion. This week, as the Sen­ate is out, staffs are pre­par­ing for next week’s not-yet-sched­uled first of­fi­cial meet­ings, and con­fer­ees are talk­ing by phone, if not in per­son.

For now, ques­tions abound over re­l­at­ively simple mat­ters like wheth­er their de­lib­er­a­tions will be pub­lic — or even per­haps tele­vised. House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi, D-Cal­if., is among those already call­ing for live cov­er­age.

“If that table is closed down, if you are ex­cluded from that, if there isn’t live cov­er­age,” said Pelosi last week, “then it is hard to see how a product can come out of it that we can present to our mem­bers to say it was an hon­est de­bate.

“And you know what is con­tin­gent upon it, of course, is re­open­ing gov­ern­ment in Janu­ary and lift­ing the debt ceil­ing in Feb­ru­ary,” she said.

DE­FENSE

Spot­light on NSA

As the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s on­line and phone sur­veil­lance pro­grams con­tin­ue to get scru­tiny with new rev­el­a­tions — in­clud­ing that the agency is col­lect­ing hun­dreds of mil­lions of on­line con­tacts and “bud­dies” from in­stant mes­saging ser­vices — the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee is hold­ing a hear­ing on Thursday to look in­to Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency activ­it­ies.

Sep­ar­ately, as the re­cent deal to al­le­vi­ate the gov­ern­ment shut­down and lift the debt ceil­ing did not re­move se­quest­ra­tion, a House Armed Ser­vices sub­com­mit­tee is hold­ing a hear­ing on the im­pacts of a con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion and se­quest­ra­tion on de­fense ac­quis­i­tion and mod­ern­iz­a­tion.

De­fense and mil­it­ary of­fi­cials from the Army, Navy, Mar­ine Corps, and Air Force will be testi­fy­ing on Wed­nes­day.

EN­ERGY and EN­VIR­ON­MENT

Wa­ter Re­sources Re­form

Bi­par­tis­an­ship is show­ing its green roots in Con­gress in some ways, as the House will vote this week on a re­l­at­ively easy lift — the Wa­ter Re­sources Re­form and De­vel­op­ment Act.

It’s not an eye-pop­per like, say, a po­ten­tial debt de­fault, but it is im­port­ant to busi­ness groups like the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce. It is a bi­par­tis­an bill to re­work the man­ner in which wa­ter, dam, and port-in­fra­struc­ture pro­jects are pro­cessed through the Army Corps of En­gin­eers.

The floor de­bate will likely fo­cus on en­vir­on­ment­al is­sues. The Na­tion­al Wild­life Fed­er­a­tion claims it “guts the na­tion’s bed­rock en­vir­on­ment­al laws.”

The Sen­ate has already passed its wa­ter re­sources bill, at a price tag the Con­gres­sion­al Budget Of­fice has scored at about $12.5 bil­lion in spend­ing over the next 10 years that needs $135 mil­lion in off­sets. CBO had not yet scored the House bill as of Fri­day.

But House Trans­port­a­tion and In­fra­struc­ture Com­mit­tee Chair­man Bill Shuster, R-Pa., has sought to point out that while, in his view, the House bill au­thor­izes about $8 bil­lion in pro­jects and $2 bil­lion in modi­fic­a­tions, the bill should also be cred­ited for deau­thor­iz­ing about $12 bil­lion in pro­jects. He also un­der­scores that it has no ear­marks.

Sen­ate En­vir­on­ment and Pub­lic Works Chair­wo­man Bar­bara Box­er, D-Cal­if., says she looks for­ward to a con­fer­ence com­mit­tee to work out the dif­fer­ences between the two cham­bers’ ver­sions of the le­gis­la­tion.

HEALTH CARE

Obama­care Hear­ing

The House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee will hold a full com­mit­tee hear­ing on Thursday re­gard­ing the rocky first few weeks of the Af­ford­able Care Act’s im­ple­ment­a­tion. Com­mit­tee lead­ers have sent let­ters to the ad­min­is­tra­tion and to IT con­tract­ors re­gard­ing the tech­nic­al prob­lems, and have re­ques­ted that the ad­min­is­tra­tion re­lease en­roll­ment fig­ures. Thus far, ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials do not plan to testi­fy, and com­mit­tee lead­ers sent a let­ter to Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­ret­ary Kath­leen Se­beli­us ur­ging her to re­con­sider.

The Part­ner­ship for Safe Medi­cines will hold its an­nu­al In­ter­change Con­fer­ence on Thursday to ad­dress pre­scrip­tion-drug safety and coun­ter­feit medi­cines. In re­lated news, nu­mer­ous pub­lic-health and ad­vocacy or­gan­iz­a­tions have sent let­ters press­ing the Sen­ate to hurry to pass the bi­par­tis­an Drug Qual­ity and Se­cur­ity Act on drug com­pound­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion se­cur­ity that passed with bi­par­tis­an sup­port in the House a few weeks ago. A Sen­ate vote is ex­pec­ted after next week.

The Food and Drug Ad­min­sitra­tion will hold meet­ings of the Cel­lu­lar, Tis­sue, and Gene Ther­apies Ad­vis­ory Com­mit­tee on Tues­day and Wed­nes­day, and of the An­ti­vir­al Drugs Ad­vis­ory Com­mit­tee Thursday and Fri­day, to re­view new drug ap­plic­a­tions. The agency will hold its third an­nu­al FDA Health Pro­fes­sion­al Or­gan­iz­a­tions con­fer­ence Thursday to fur­ther its pub­lic-health mis­sion.

WHITE HOUSE

Back to Busi­ness

The pres­id­ent moves off a shut­down-in­spired, crisis-dom­in­ated sched­ule this week to something closer to nor­mal. That means a health care event on Monday, a for­eign vis­it­or on Wed­nes­day and an out-of-town fun­draiser on Fri­day. The for­eign vis­it­or is Pakistani Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif. The fun­draiser, for the Demo­crat­ic House cam­paign com­mit­tee, is in New York.

Clare Foran, Fawn Johnson, Sophie Novack, Sara Sorcher and George E. Condon Jr. contributed to this article.
What We're Following See More »
FILING DEADLINE IS JUNE 24
McConnell Urging Rubio to Run for Reelection
50 minutes ago
THE LATEST

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: "One of the things that I’m hoping, I and my colleagues have been trying to convince Senator Marco Rubio to run again in Florida. He had indicated he was not going to, but we’re all hoping that he’ll reconsider, because poll data indicates that he is the one who can win for us. He would not only save a terrific senator for the Senate, but help save the majority. ... Well, I hope so. We’re all lobbying hard for him to run again."

Source:
LEAKER SHOULD STILL STAND TRIAL
Holder: Snowden Performed a Public Service
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

Former Attorney General Eric Holder said that NSA leaker Edward Snowden "actually performed a public service by raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made" by releasing information about government surveillance. Holder, a guest on David Axelrod's "Axe Files" podcast, also said Snowden endangered American interests and should face consequences for his actions. 

Source:
LOOKING FOR A CALIFORNIA COMEBACK
Bernie Hits Game 7
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

Sen. Bernie Sanders, needing an improbable comeback to take the nomination from Hillary Clinton, showed up to the Warriors' Game 7 in Oakland during a break in California campaigning. "Let's turn this thing around," he told the San Francisco Chronicle's Joe Garofoli.

Source:
BACKING OUT ON BERNIE
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
3 days ago
THE LATEST

Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

AKNOWLEDGING THE INEVITABLE
UAW: Time to Unite Behind Hillary
4 days ago
THE DETAILS

"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.

Source:
×