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This Week in Congress – April 27, 2105

This week the U.S. House of Representatives aims to work through the first two appropriations bills of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 process before adjourning for a one-week recess, while the U.S. Senate will consider legislation related to the Administration’s international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

The Senate returns on Monday afternoon, with a vote expected at 5:30 p.m. on the nomination of Dava J. Newman to be Deputy Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).  Following this vote, Senators will resume consideration of the Iran Nuclear Review Act.  Ensuring that Congress will play a role in any international agreement made with Iran regarding its nuclear program, the legislation would require the president to submit any such agreement to Congress within five days of its conclusion and would prohibit the Administration from lifting any sanctions on Iran for a set amount of time while Members review the agreement.  During this period, Congress could approve, disapprove or take no action on the agreement.  Passage of a joint resolution of disapproval (which would be subject to a presidential veto) within the review period would block the President from implementing relief from U.S. sanctions.  Language in the initial draft of the bill had allowed Congress to reject the Iran deal entirely, not just to reject the lifting of sanctions.  The modified language was unanimously supported in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 14, and the White House signaled its intent to sign the bill, so long as there are no major changes made.  Contentious debate is expected during floor consideration this week, as several Republicans Senators have announced their intent to toughen up the bill by offering amendments, such as language requiring the nuclear agreement to be considered a treaty, needing the support of 67 senators, or requiring Obama to certify that Iran is not supporting terrorism anywhere in the world.  The amendment process could put the bipartisan, veto-proof margin of support in jeopardy: Democratic co-sponsors and supporters of the bill have pledged to withdraw their support should the language become overly partisan.  It is unclear at this point how many amendments will be voted on during Senate consideration.

On the other side of the Capitol, the House of Representatives is scheduled to return on Tuesday.  It will start the week with four bills to name post offices and other federal buildings and three bills reported by the Natural Resources Committee.  On Wednesday, the House will begin floor deliberations on the first two of the 12 annual appropriations bills: the Energy and Water and the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending bills.

The House may also consider the joint budget resolution being conferenced between the House and Senate, according to Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.  House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) have been negotiating the differences between their chambers’ two budget resolutions, which will set the budget rules and the spending limits for the Appropriations Committees to follow in funding federal agencies for FY 2016, which begins on October 1.  Also listed for potential floor consideration is H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act, a bill to prevent implementation of the so-called “Waters of the United States” regulation that would bring within the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers a much wider array of property than under current regulation.

Until a joint budget resolution is passed, the House Appropriations Committee has been using the framework passed by the full House to move forward on its FY2016 spending measures, which allocates $493.5 billion in discretionary non-defense spending for the coming year, and $523 billion for defense spending.

The Energy and Water bill would provide $35.4 billion in funding for the activities of the Department of Energy, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, and other agency functions in FY 2016, which is a $1.2 billion increase over current funding levels, but still less than the amount requested by the Obama Administration in its FY 2016 budget request.  The White House criticized the funding measure for what it called “misplaced priorities” in a letter to the committee from Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan but stopped short of issuing a veto threat over the legislation.  House Republicans included small increases in fossil fuel and nuclear programs, while reducing amounts provided for renewable energy research and energy efficiency programs, which are priorities for President Obama.  The funding bill  also contains partisan policy riders, including language barring changes to the definition of “fill material”, a provision to block President Obama’s National Ocean Policy, a provision to block a proposal to define the scope of the Clean Water Act, and a provision that would allow guns on Army Corps of Engineer lands.

The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill provides $76.6 billion in discretionary funding  for FY 2016, which is $4.6 billion greater than the amount provided in FY 2015, but is still less than the amount requested by the Obama Administration in its FY 2016 budget request.  More than $7 billion is provided for military construction and family housing programs, Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), and the NATO Security Investment Program.  An additional $48.6 billion is allocated to VA medical care and $286 million for electronic health records systems.  Like the Energy and Water appropriations bill, Democrats on the Appropriations Committee and the Obama Administration have criticized the bill, saying that the funding does not go far enough.  Objections have also been raised to provisions of the bill related to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which prohibit the use of funds to “construct, renovate or expand” prisons in the United States or its territories, and language that prevents the transfer of prisoners from the Guantanamo facility to U.S. mainland prisons.

Both chambers will continue working through the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act this week.  The House Armed Services Committee has scheduled a full committee markup on Wednesday after its subcommittees marked up their respective portions last week.  The Senate Armed Services subcommittees will be holding public deliberations throughout the week, though the full committee voted 17-9 last Thursday to keep its eventual markup behind closed doors, as has been customary over the last several years.

Also of note this week, the House Judiciary Committee is expected to mark up legislation on Thursday to reform and extend the expiring provisions of the FISA Amendments Act; legislation must be enacted before both chambers break for Memorial Day because the current authorities, which came to widespread public attention through the Snowden leaks, expire on June 1.  House Judiciary will also hold a full committee hearing on U.S. copyright law on Wednesday morning, while its Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security will review immigration policy and birthright citizenship in a hearing later Wednesday afternoon.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will review airspace security in Washington, D.C., following last week’s incident in which a Florida man was arrested after flying into the District’s restricted airspace, landing his gyrocopter on the west front of the U.S. Capitol Building.  The U.S. military failed to intercept the aircraft and press reports indicate that the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which protect the airspace around the nation’s capital, never detected the gyrocopter.  The event has raised questions among members of Congress about the security of the Capitol building and Washington D.C.

A joint hearing of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade and the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Health Care, Benefits and Administrative Rules will focus on the Export-Import Bank on Thursday.  The charter for the federal export credit agency is set to expire in June unless renewed by affirmative congressional action.

A detailed schedule of congressional hearings for the week is included below:

Tuesday, April 28, 2015 

Senate Committees

U.S. Security Policy in Europe
Senate Armed Services
Full Committee Hearing
9:30 a.m., G-50 Dirksen Bldg.

The State of the Insurance Industry and Insurance Regulation
Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 538 Dirksen Bldg.

U.S. Coast Guard Resource Priorities
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation – Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 253 Russell Bldg.

Quadrennial Energy Review
Senate Energy and Natural Resources
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 366 Dirksen Bldg.

Medicare Audit and Appeals Issues
Senate Finance
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 215 Dirksen Bldg.

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

Judicial Review in Federal Regulatory Process
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 342 Dirksen Bldg.

Homeland Security Oversight
Senate Judiciary
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 226 Dirksen Bldg.

FAA Reauthorization: Safety Issues
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation – Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security
Subcommittee Hearing
|2:30 p.m., 253 Russell Bldg.

Biometric Use at Ports of Entry
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Full Committee Panel Discussion
2:30 p.m., 342 Dirksen Bldg.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

House Committees

Public and Outside Witness Hearing
House Appropriations – Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies
Subcommittee Hearing
8:30 a.m., 2358-C Rayburn Bldg.

Fiscal 2016 Appropriations: Transportation-HUD
House Appropriations – Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies
Subcommittee Markup
9:30 a.m., 2358A Rayburn Bldg.

Fiscal 2016 Defense Authorization Markup
House Armed Services
Full Committee Markup
10 a.m., 2118 Rayburn Bldg.

The Impact of International Regulatory Standards on the Competitiveness of U.S. Insurers
House Financial Services – Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., HVC-210 Capitol Visitor Center

Copyright Review Issues
House Judiciary
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 2141 Rayburn Bldg.

D.C. Airspace Security
House Oversight and Government Reform
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 2154 Rayburn Bldg.

National Forests and Forest Management Issues
House Agriculture – Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry
Subcommittee Hearing
1:30 p.m., 1300 Longworth Bldg.

Multi-Employer Pension System Revisions
House Education and the Workforce – Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions
Subcommittee Hearing
1 p.m., 2175 Rayburn Bldg.

Legislative Proposals to Enhance Capital Formation and Reduce Regulatory Burdens
House Financial Services – Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., HVC-210 Capitol Visitor Center

ISIS Assessment
House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2172 Rayburn Bldg.

Western Balkans Development
House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2200 Rayburn Bldg.

The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act
House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2255 Rayburn Bldg.

U.S. Citizenship Issues – Birthright Citizenship: Is it the Right Policy for America?
House Judiciary – Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security
Subcommittee Hearing
1 p.m., 2237 Rayburn Bldg.

H.R. 1927, the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2015
House Judiciary – Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice
Subcommittee Hearing
3 p.m., 2141 Rayburn Bldg.

Oversight Hearing on “Zero Accountability: The Consequences of Politically Driven Science”
House Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations
Subcommittee Oversight Hearing
2 p.m., 1334 Longworth Bldg.

Tracking Aid to Afghanistan
House Oversight and Government Reform – Subcommittee on National Security
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2247 Rayburn Bldg.

Encryption Technology Policy Issues
House Oversight and Government Reform – Subcommittee on Information Technology
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2154 Rayburn Bldg.

EPA Ozone Standards Proposal
House Science, Space and Technology – Subcommittee on Environment
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2318 Rayburn Bldg.

Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Outlook
House Transportation and Infrastructure – Subcommittee on Highways and Transit
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2167 Rayburn Bldg.

Senate Committees

Fiscal 2016 Appropriations: Defense
Senate Appropriations – Subcommittee on Defense
Subcommittee Hearing
9 a.m., 192 Dirksen Bldg.

Exploring Opportunities for Private Investment in Public Infrastructure
Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs – Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development
Subcommittee Hearing
9:30 a.m., 538 Dirksen Bldg.

Offshore Drilling Challenges
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation
Full Committee Hearing
9:30 a.m., 253 Russell Bldg.

Homeland Security Fiscal 2016 Budget
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Full Committee Hearing
9 a.m., 342 Dirksen Bldg.

King vs. Burwell Supreme Court Case
Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship
Full Committee Hearing
9:30 a.m., 428A Russell Bldg.

Fiscal 2016 Defense Authorization: Military Space Programs
Senate Armed Services – Subcommittee on Strategic Forces
Subcommittee Hearing
2:30 p.m., 222 Russell Bldg.

Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2015
Senate Indian Affairs
Full Committee Hearing
2:30 p.m., 628 Dirksen Bldg.

Veterans Health Administration
Senate Veterans’ Affairs
Full Committee Hearing
2:30 p.m., 418 Russell Bldg.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

House Committees

Improving College Access and Completion for Low-Income and First-Generation Students
House Education and the Workforce – Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 2175 Rayburn Bldg.

21st Century Cures Bill
House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Health
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Bldg.

Strategic Petroleum Reserve Review
House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Energy and Power
Subcommittee Hearing
10:15 a.m., 2322 Rayburn Bldg.

Bangladesh Political and Religious Issues
House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2255 Rayburn Bldg.

Aid to Central America
House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2172 Rayburn Bldg.

Women Veteran Health Care Issues
House Veterans’ Affairs
Full Committee Hearing
10:30 a.m., 334 Cannon Bldg.

FCC Reauthorization: Improving Commission Transparency
House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Communications and Technology
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2322 Rayburn Bldg.

Regional Impact of U.S. Policy Towards Iraq and Syria
House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2172 Rayburn Bldg.

Airport Access Control Measures
House Homeland Security – Subcommittee on Transportation Security
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 311 Cannon Bldg.

Examining the Export-Import Bank’s Mandates
House Financial Services Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade and House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Health Care, Benefits and Administrative Rules
Joint Committees Hearing
1 p.m., 2154 Rayburn Bldg.

Next Steps for Welfare Reform: Ideas to Improve Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to Help More Families Find Work and Escape Poverty
House Ways and Means – Human Resources Subcommittee
Subcommittee Hearing
3 p.m., 1100 Longworth Bldg.

Senate Committees

Fiscal 2016 Defense Authorization: European Command
Senate Armed Services
Full Committee Hearing
9:30 a.m., G50 Dirksen Bldg.

Energy Efficiency Legislation
Senate Energy and Natural Resources
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 366 Dirksen Bldg.

Hydraulic Fracturing Rule
Senate Energy and Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining
Subcommittee Hearing
2:30 p.m., 366 Dirksen Bldg.

Friday, May 1, 2015

House Committees

Railroad Retirement Board Management Issues
House Oversight and Government Reform – Subcommittee on Government Operations
Subcommittee Hearing
9:30 a.m., 2154 Rayburn Bldg.

© 2022 Covington & Burling LLPNational Law Review, Volume V, Number 117
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About this Author

Richard Hertling, Covington, public policy lawyer
Of Counsel

Richard Hertling provides regulatory and legislative advice and guidance and lobbying to a diverse set of clients in a range of industries. He joined the firm after more than 27 years of federal government service that included senior positions in both Houses of Congress and the Justice Department, during which he was respected for developing strategic and tactical approaches to advance legislation. He brings those same skills to bear for clients with complex policy challenges.

While holding senior positions on Capitol Hill and at the Department of Justice, Mr....

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