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Volume XII, Number 179

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This Week in Congress – June 15, 2015

This week the Senate is focused on national security issues.   It will attempt to complete work on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and begin consideration of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 defense appropriations bill.  On the other side of the Capitol, the House is expected to take action on a number of health care-related bills, even while Congress and the President await the Supreme Court’s impending ruling in King v. Burwell, regarding subsidies for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

The Senate is scheduled to return on Monday, with votes expected on two non-controversial nominations.  Following these votes, the Senate will resume consideration of the NDAA.  Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed a  motion on Thursday to invoke cloture and cut off debate on the bill.  The cloture vote is expected on Tuesday morning.  Needing the support of 60 senators in order to be successful, the cloture vote is not guaranteed to pass easily on Tuesday, because Senate Democrats have pledged to block the bill over the inclusion of funds for Department of Defense activities that exceed the spending limits established by the 2011 sequester.  The NDAA provides an additional $38 billion in funding for the Pentagon through the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, an account for war-related expenses which is exempt from discretionary caps. Democrats call the move a budgeting gimmick and have tried unsuccessfully to alter the spending framework.  Last Tuesday the Senate rejected (46-51) an amendment offered by Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI) to block the additional $38 billion in OCO funding until Congress lifts the sequester.  If cloture is invoked on Tuesday, the Senate will have 30 hours to complete work on the NDAA.   The amendment process moving forward is unclear, because more than 100 amendments have been filed to the bill, but bill managers do not seem to have an agreement in place on the amendments that will be considered.  Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) indicated to reporters last week that the Senate will consider at least two amendments following the cloture vote on Tuesday.

The debate over defense funding and sequestration levels will continue after work on the NDAA is wrapped up.  Consideration of the FY 2016 Defense Appropriations bill is expected to be the next bill on the Senate agenda.  On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the $576 billion defense spending bill.  While only three Democratic committee members opposed the bill at the markup, Democratic leaders have pledged to block any vote to begin considering the 2016 defense appropriations bill on the floor as long as it contains the OCO funds for the Department of Defense, while the other appropriations bills are capped at sequester levels.  Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid last week told reporters that a government shutdown is already looming if congressional Republicans do not negotiate a new budget framework for FY 2016 that lifts the spending caps.  President Obama has also threatened to veto the appropriations bills at their current levels.  So far, Republican leadership has not indicated a willingness to agree to a budget summit, but neither chamber would have the necessary votes to overcome a presidential veto on any of the appropriations bills.

Consideration of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act in the Senate is also possible later this week.  Majority Leader McConnell tried unsuccessfully to attach the measure as an amendment to the NDAA last week, but his effort was met with resistance from Senate Democrats who want to take up the bill independently and offer amendments.  The legislation would encourage greater sharing of cyber-threat information between the private sector and government by offering companies expanded liability protections.  The measure has bipartisan support, especially in light of the recent high-profile data breaches, and similar legislation passed the House of Representatives in April.

The House will return on Monday and consider several bills naming post offices and other federal facilities, along with a resolution calling on Iran to release the Americans it is holding.  The main legislative work starts on Tuesday, when the House tackles the Intelligence Authorization Act, which authorizes a variety of intelligence, cybersecurity, and anti-terrorism programs.  The legislation had been scheduled for last week but was displaced by Friday’s vote on the so-called “fast-track” trade legislation.  That legislation too is likely to return to the House floor early this week.  On Friday, two of the three elements of the bill were approved by the House in separate votes.  A third component of the bill, however, to reauthorize the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, was defeated.  Under the rule, however, all three elements of the bill had to be approved for the entire package to get adopted.  After the defeat of the TAA portion of the package, the Majority Leader moved to reconsider that vote, and the House is likely to take up that motion early in the week.

The House will spend the remainder of the week on healthcare-related legislation, including measures that would repeal two contentious provisions of the Affordable Care Act.  The first four of these health-care related bills will be considered under suspension of the rules.  The bigger debates will follow on the other two bills.  Reported out of the House Ways and Means Committee, the first bill would repeal the 2.3% excise tax on medical device manufacturers that was included in the Affordable Care Act as a revenue source to help pay for the law’s implementation.  A second bill would repeal the controversial  Independent Payment Advisory Board, a panel which makes recommendations on Medicare cuts. Other legislation up for consideration from the House Ways and Means Committee include proposals requiring more transparency at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and promoting improvements to the Medicare Advantage program for seniors.

The House may also consider H. Con. Res. 55, a resolution directing the President to remove any U.S. troops deployed to Syria or Iraq after August 7, 2014, other than those troops required to protect U.S. facilities and personnel, from those two nations.  If it does come to the floor, the resolution is likely to prompt heated and partisan debate.

Appropriations mark-ups for FY 2016 continue in the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, even though there is uncertainty about spending levels and the process moving forward. The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to markup its Interior and Environment spending bill on Tuesday.  Two Senate Appropriations subcommittees will consider their Interior and Environment and Homeland Security bills.  The House of Representatives has passed 6 of the 12 annual appropriations bills, while the Senate has yet to consider a single appropriations bill on the floor.  The full Senate Appropriations Committee has approved 5 of the 12 annual bills.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee meets on Tuesday for a hearing on the recent data breach at the Office of Personnel and Management that exposed the personal information of millions of active and retired federal employees.  The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations also meets on Tuesday for a hearing on global cybersecurity and cyber threats.

The surface transportation authorization and Highway Trust Fund financing remain at the forefront of congressional priorities because the current short-term surface transportation authorization adopted just prior to Memorial Day expires in July.  The House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss long-term financing for the Highway Trust Fund, while the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on Thursday on the challenges of highway funding, with former Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood appearing before the committee as a witness.

A full schedule of congressional hearings for this week is included below:

Monday, June 15, 2015

Senate Committees

Iran Sanctions
Senate Foreign Relations
Full Committee Closed Briefing
5 p.m., S-116 Capitol Bldg.

TSA and Postal Service Nominations
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Full Committee Markup
5:30 p.m., S-216 Capitol Bldg.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015 

House Committees

Fiscal 2016 Appropriations: Interior-Environment
House Appropriations
Full Committee Markup
10:15 a.m., 2359 Rayburn Bldg.

Child Nutrition Assistance Rules and Regulations
House Education and the Workforce
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 2175 Rayburn Bldg.

EPA’s Proposed Ozone Rule and Manufacturing Impact
House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade; House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Energy and Power
Committee Joint Hearing
10:15 a.m., 2322 Rayburn Bldg.

Mental Health Legislation
House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Health
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Bldg.

Global Cybersecurity Issues
House Financial Services – Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 2128 Rayburn Bldg.

U.S. Interests at the United Nations
House Foreign Affairs
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 2172 Rayburn Bldg.

TSA Aviation Workforce Vetting
House Homeland Security – Subcommittee on Transportation Security
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 311 Cannon Bldg.

Federal Lands Bills
House Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Federal Lands
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 1324 Longworth Bldg.

Arctic Resources
House Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources
Subcommittee Oversight Hearing
10:30 a.m., 1334 Longworth Bldg.

OPM Data Breach
House Oversight and Government Reform
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 2154 Rayburn Bldg.

Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act
House Education and the Workforce – Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2175 Rayburn Bldg.

Public Safety Broadband Network Update
House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Communications and Technology
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2322 Rayburn Bldg.

Business Development and Investment
House Financial Services – Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2128 Rayburn Bldg.

Fiscal 2016 Europe and Eurasia Budget Request
House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2172 Rayburn Bldg.

Merger and Acquisition Regulatory Legislation
House Judiciary – Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2141 Rayburn Bldg.

International Shipping Competition
House Oversight and Government Reform – Subcommittee on Government Operations
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2154 Rayburn Bldg.

Genetically Engineered Human DNA
House Science, Space and Technology – Subcommittee on Research and Technology
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2318 Rayburn Bldg.

Federal Government Real Estate Investment
House Transportation and Infrastructure – Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management
Subcommittee Hearing
1 p.m., 2167 Rayburn Bldg.

Drug Interdiction in the Western Hemisphere
House Transportation and Infrastructure – Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2253 Rayburn Bldg.

SSA Disability Benefits Management
House Ways and Means – Subcommittee on Social Security
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., B-318 Rayburn Bldg.

Senate Committees 

Fiscal 2016 Appropriations: Homeland Security
Senate Appropriations – Subcommittee on Homeland Security
Subcommittee Markup
10:30 a.m., 138 Dirksen Bldg.

Energy Department Nominations
Senate Energy and Natural Resources
Full Committee Confirmation Hearing
10 a.m., 366 Dirksen Bldg.

Electronic Health Record User Experience
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 430 Dirksen Bldg.

Federal Real Property Overhaul
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 342 Dirksen Bldg.

Fiscal 2016 Appropriations: Interior-Environment
Senate Appropriations – Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies
Subcommittee Markup
2:30 p.m., 124 Dirksen Bldg.

Asia-Pacific Region Trade Issues
Senate Foreign Relations – Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy
Subcommittee Hearing
2:30 p.m., 419 Dirksen Bldg.

Native American Economic Issues
Senate Indian Affairs
Full Committee Panel Discussion
2:45 p.m., 216 Hart Bldg.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

House Committees

Smithsonian Institution Assessment
House Administration
Full Committee Hearing
10:30 a.m., 1310 Longworth Bldg.

Fiscal 2016 Appropriations: Labor-HHS-Education
House Appropriations – Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies
Subcommittee Markup
9 a.m., 2358-C Rayburn Bldg.

Fiscal 2016 Appropriations: Financial Services
House Appropriations
Full Committee Markup
10 a.m., 2359 Rayburn Bldg.

Middle East Policy
House Armed Services
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 2118 Rayburn Bldg.

Balanced Budget Issues
House Budget
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 210 Cannon Bldg.

Financial Advice Access
House Education and the Workforce – Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 2175 Rayburn Bldg.

Financial Stability Oversight Council Report
House Financial Services
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 2128 Rayburn Bldg.

Syria and Chemical Weapons
House Foreign Affairs
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 2172 Rayburn Bldg.

Tribal Land Legislation
House Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs
Subcommittee Hearing
11 a.m., 1324 Longworth Bldg.

Drones and Commerce
House Oversight and Government Reform
Full Committee Hearing
9 a.m., 2154 Rayburn Bldg.

Energy Innovation Hubs
House Science, Space and Technology – Subcommittee on Energy
Subcommittee Oversight Hearing
10:30 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Bldg.

Small Business and Crude Oil Issues
House Small Business
Full Committee Hearing
11 a.m., 2360 Rayburn Bldg.

Highway Trust Fund Financing
House Ways and Means
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 1100 Longworth Bldg.

U.S. Navy Surface Combatant Capacity
House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2212 Rayburn Bldg.

International Monetary Fund Assessment
House Financial Services – Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2128 Rayburn Bldg.

China’s Economic and Military Growth
House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2200 Rayburn Bldg.

Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act
House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2172 Rayburn Bldg.

Immigration Policy Executive Actions
House Oversight and Government Reform – Subcommittee on National Security; House Oversight and Government Reform – Subcommittee on Health Care, Benefits and Administrative Rules
Subcommittees Joint Hearing
2 p.m., 2154 Rayburn Bldg.

Senate Committees 

Federal Government Fiscal Challenges
Senate Budget
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 608 Dirksen Bldg.

Consumer Product Safety Commission
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation – Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security
Subcommittee Oversight Hearing
10 a.m., 253 Russell Bldg.

Coal Ash Disposal Rule
Senate Environment and Public Works
Full Committee Oversight Hearing
9:30 a.m., 406 Dirksen Bldg.

Higher Education Reauthorization
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 430 Dirksen Bldg.

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

USAID Administrator Nomination
Senate Foreign Relations
Full Committee Confirmation Hearing
2 p.m., 419 Dirksen Bldg.

GSA Inspector General
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Full Committee Confirmation Hearing
2 p.m., 342 Dirksen Bldg.

Capital Access Issues
Senate Indian Affairs
Full Committee Oversight Hearing
2:15 p.m., 628 Dirksen Bldg.

Joint Committees 

Federal Credit Programs
Joint Economic
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 216 Hart Bldg.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

House Committees 

Optimized Fleet Response Plan
House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Readiness
Subcommittee Hearing
8 a.m., 2118 Rayburn Bldg.

Biotechnology Food Labeling Standards
House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Health
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Bldg.

Cuba Property Rights Outlook
House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 2172 Rayburn Bldg.

Rapid DNA Act
House Judiciary – Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations
Subcommittee Hearing
9 a.m., 2141 Rayburn Bldg.

Senate Committees 

Renewable Fuel Standard Program Management
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs – Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management
Subcommittee Hearing
9:30 a.m., 342 Dirksen Bldg.

Future of Highway Funding
Senate Finance
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 215 Dirksen Bldg.

Water Related Measures
Senate Energy and Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Water and Power
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 366 Dirksen Bldg.

 

 

 

© 2022 Covington & Burling LLPNational Law Review, Volume V, Number 166
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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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