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Human Trafficking Legislation, Iran Nuclear Negotiations, Keystone XL Pipeline: This Week in Congress – March 9, 2015

Members of the House of Representatives are back in their districts this week for a scheduled district work period, while the U.S. Senate is scheduled to begin consideration of  human trafficking legislation.

On Monday afternoon, the Senate returns to consider several nominations.  We anticipate one roll call vote on the confirmation of Daniel Marti to be the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator at the White House, and three voice votes to confirm Michelle Lee to be Director of the Patent and Trademark Office, and Jeffery S. Hall and Dallas P. Tonsager to be members of the Farm Credit Administration Board.

The Senate is then expected to begin consideration of human trafficking legislation.  Majority Leader McConnell had initially announced that the Senate would be taking up a bill regarding Iran’s nuclear program, but he postponed a scheduled Tuesday floor vote due to opposition from nine Democratic and one Independent senators.  Introduced by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) and Ranking Member Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 would give Congress an up-or-down vote on any agreement that the U.S. and other international negotiators are able to strike with Iran on its nuclear program.  Republican leadership had planned on bypassing a Senate Foreign Relations Committee mark-up and bringing the bill directly to the floor.  In response, the bill’s Democratic co-sponsors wrote to Leader McConnell saying that they would oppose voting on the legislation before March 24, the deadline for the international negotiations with Iran.  Chairman Corker responded that he hoped to obtain a veto-proof majority for the bill when it is considered, and Leader McConnell chose to postpone consideration of the bill.

While waiting on the Iran nuclear negotiations, the Senate will move to consider two human trafficking bills that were approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. The Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act, S. 166, is modeled after Minnesota’s “Safe Harbor” law that helps make sure minors sold for sex aren’t prosecuted as defendants but are instead treated as victims.  The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, S. 178, would empower law enforcement to further crack down on human traffickers in communities across the country while bringing about greater restitution and justice for victims.  Both bills were passed in the House of Representatives on January 27, 2015.

This past week, the Senate failed to override the President’ veto on S. 1, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, by a vote of 62-37, with eight Democrats joining all Republicans to override the veto.  Republicans needed a two-thirds majority (67 votes if 100 Senators were present) in order to overcome the veto. This was the first time President Obama has vetoed legislation sent to him by the 114th Congress, with the new Republican majorities in both chambers.  Republicans have indicated they may attempt to attach the legislation to other must-pass bills this year.  Also last week the Senate approved a resolution to undo the National Labor Relations Board’s so-called “ambush elections” rule that is meant to make it easier for unions to win representation elections.  Using the mechanism provided by the Congressional Review Act, the Senate approved the resolution to overturn the new NLRB policy, but not with enough votes to override what will be a certain veto when the measure passes the House.

Democrats are pushing for Republican leadership to schedule a vote on Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s nominee for U.S. Attorney General.  The Senate Judiciary Committee reported out the nomination two weeks ago by a vote of 12-8, with three Republican members voting in favor of the nominee.  This delay has frustrated Senate Democrats, who believe the holdup is due to Ms. Lynch’s support of President Obama’s actions on immigration. On March 5, all 45 Senate Democrats signed a letter calling on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring up the nomination for a vote: “Although a narrow minority of the Senate may want to use Ms. Lynch’s floor vote to protest the immigration enforcement priorities announced last year by the administration, there is simply no credible reason for further delay,” said the letter.  Leader McConnell has not yet indicated when the nomination might be scheduled for a vote.

Last week saw the first step in the eventual debate that will take place this year on raising the debt limit.  The Treasury Department had indicated earlier this year that record tax revenues would give the government enough room to borrow under the existing ceiling until the fall, but in a letter to congressional leaders on Friday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew indicated that the Treasury would begin taking extraordinary measures to keep the government from default but asked “Congress to raise the debt limit as soon as possible.”  Congress will also need to address the payment rate to physicians under Medicare in March, because the current temporary provision that prevents drastic cuts to payment rates to physicians will expire this month.  Another short-term extension is likely, as Congress agrees on the need to fix the problem but has been unable to come to terms on how to pay for the fix.

This week, the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on tax reform, while the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will focus on U.S. foreign policy in Ukraine, regional security in the Middle East, and authorization for the use of force against ISIS.  The Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee will hold a hearing on Tuesday to review the consent decrees that have governed the marketplace for music and songs for decades.  On Thursday, the Aging Committee will hold a hearing on retirement preparedness, an important issue for most Americans and their families.  A list of these and other Senate hearings scheduled for next week is included below:

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Fiscal 2016 Defense Authorization: Navy
Senate Armed Services
Full Committee Hearing
9:30 a.m., G-50 Dirksen Bldg.

Venture Exchanges and Small-Cap Companies
Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs – Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance and Investment
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 538 Dirksen Bldg.

Tax Code Overhaul
Senate Finance
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 215 Dirksen Bldg.

U.S. Policy in Ukraine
Senate Foreign Relations
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 419 Dirksen Bldg.

U.S. Medical Innovation
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 430 Dirksen Bldg.

Music Market Governance
Senate Judiciary – Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 226 Dirksen Bldg.

FY16 and FY17 Veterans Health Administration Budget
Senate Appropriations  – Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs
Subcommittee Hearing
2:30 p.m., Dirksen Bldg.

Fiscal Year 2016 budget request for the CBO and Comptroller General
Senate Appropriations – Legislative Branch Subcommittee
Subcommittee Hearing
3:00 p.m., 138 Dirksen Bldg.

Iran and Regional Security
Senate Armed Services – Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities
Closed Hearing
2:30 p.m., SVC-217 Capitol Visitor Center

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

FY2016 National Nuclear Security Administration Budget Request
Senate Appropriations – Subcommittee on Energy & Water Development
Subcommittee Hearing
9:00 a.m., 138 Dirksen Bldg.

FY 2016 Indian Health Service Budget Request
Senate Appropriations – Interior Subcommittee
Subcommittee Hearing
10:00 a.m., 124 Dirksen Bldg.

Department of Housing and Urban Development FY2016 Budget Request
Senate Appropriations – Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Subcommittee
Subcommittee Hearing
10:00 a.m., 562 Dirksen Bldg.

FY2016 U.S. Army Budget Request
Senate Appropriations – Defense Subcommittee
Subcommittee Hearing
10:30 a.m., 192 Dirksen Bldg.

Fiscal 2016 Defense Authorization: Marine Corps Modernization
Senate Armed Services – Subcommittee on Seapower
Subcommittee Hearing
9:30 a.m., 222 Russell Bldg.

U.S. Public Safety Broadband Network
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 253 Russell Bldg.

Authorization to Use Force Against ISIS
Senate Foreign Relations
Full Committee Hearing
9:30 a.m., 419 Dirksen Bldg.

Protecting Religious Freedom Abroad
Senate Appropriations – State, Foreign Operations and Related Agencies Subcommittee
Subcommittee Hearing
2:00 p.m., 124 Dirksen Bldg.

Fiscal 2016 Defense Authorization: Military Construction and Base Closures
Senate Armed Services – Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support
Subcommittee Hearing
2:30 p.m., 216 Hart Bldg.

Indian Gaming Commission Nomination
Senate Indian Affairs
Full Committee Confirmation Hearing
2:30 p.m., 628 Dirksen Bldg.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

FY2016 budget request for the Secretary of the Senate, the Senate Sergeant at Arms, and the U.S. Capitol Police
Senate Appropriations – Legislative Branch Subcommittee
Subcommittee Hearing
9:45 a.m., 124 Dirksen Bldg.

FY2016 FDA Budget Request
Senate Appropriations – Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee
Subcommittee Hearing
10:00 a.m., 138 Dirksen Bldg.

FY2016 Budget Requests for the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, DEA, and ATF
Senate Appropriations – Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee
Subcommittee Hearing
10:00 a.m., 192 Dirksen Bldg.

Fiscal 2016 Defense Authorization: U.S. Northern and Southern Command
Senate Armed Services
Full Committee Hearing
9:30 a.m., G-50 Dirksen Bldg. (Tentative)

Examining the President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request for NASA
Senate Commerce, Science, Transportation – Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness
Subcommittee Hearing
9:30 a.m., 253 Russell Bldg.

Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015
Senate Energy and Natural Resources
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 366 Dirksen Bldg.

Tax Scam Protection
Senate Finance
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 215 Dirksen Bldg.

Visa Waivers and National Security
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 342 Dirksen Bldg.

Retirement Preparedness
Senate Special Aging
Full Committee Hearing
10:30 a.m., 562 Dirksen Bldg.

Fiscal 2016 Defense Authorization: Missile Defense Programs
Senate Armed Services – Subcommittee on Strategic Forces
Subcommittee Hearing
2:30 p.m., SVC-217 Capitol Visitor Center

This post was written with contributions from Kaitlyn McClure.

© 2020 Covington & Burling LLP


About this Author

Richard Mattick, litigation attorney, Covington
Of Counsel

Richard Mattick advises and represents clients in connection with the resolution of disputes in a variety of fields, with particular emphasis on insurance and contractual disputes, as well as acting for clients in relation to export controls matters. Chambers UK (2018) notes "he is absolutely brilliant and understands the complexity and the fine lines of a policy. We get good solid responses and good support." In 2017, he is "the first man to talk to’" for insurance advice,” "he has a great manner about him, is very practical and also very client service-...

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