The House and Senate are in session for three weeks before breaking for midterm elections. There are several outstanding legislative items that face significant hurdles before Election Day - 57 days away.
This week the House will consider 16 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Expediting Disaster Recovery Act (HR 5774), which after the declaration of a major disaster, authorizes the President to direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide the federal assistance necessary to meet unmet needs as a result of such disaster. The House also will vote on the Wildfire Recovery Act (HR 1066), which authorizes FEMA to use funds appropriated for disaster relief to increase the federal cost share from the current 75 percent up to 100 percent for fire management assistance grants, at the agency’s discretion. The Senate will vote on several circuit court nominations.
The federal government is funded through September 30 at midnight. Over the next few weeks, Congress must finalize a stop-gap government funding package, known as a continuing resolution (CR). The latest negotiations between House and Senate leadership will extend government funding through December 16. Current discussion centers around permitting reform, an agreement originating from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) negotiations between Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). This agreement was the tipping point for passage of the IRA and now takes center stage in negotiations around the CR. However, more than 70 House progressives wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) expressing their concerns over permitting reform and urging the Speaker not to include the measure in a CR. The letter says legislation added to change permitting “attempts to short-circuit or undermine the law in the name of “reform” must be opposed.” Many believe the addition of the permitting reform, an issue crucial to Senator Manchin, would potentially threaten a shutdown of the federal government. Senator Manchin has called for a “pragmatic proposal,” while fellow Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) said he would vote against the funding bill. If Majority Leader Schumer chooses to forego securing all 50 Democrat votes, he would need to get help from Senate Republicans, a move that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says would likely only come with a “real permitting reform bill” authored by Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).
The White House is still hopeful that a CR will include $47 billion in funding for Ukraine, COVID-19, monkeypox, and disaster relief outlined in its request. Republicans still maintain that the White House can use funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to meet any needs for testing and future vaccine development. Plans to attach House-passed same-sex marriage codification to the government funding bill remain in the air as Senator Schumer considers adding the legislation to make good on his promise to force a vote on the matter. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) serves as the lead Republican on the same-sex marriage legislation and is working alongside Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) to craft a “religious liberty” amendment to recruit more Republican votes. The Senate will begin floor action on a CR next week. What will be included in the final CR remains uncertain, but there is little appetite to force a government shutdown, especially right before the midterm elections.
Congress announced Phase III of its reopening plan, including allowing tours of both floors in the House and Senate. The decision is another step toward normalcy following the pandemic, which shut down public access to the Capitol. Chief among the issues to fully reopening the Capitol were staffing concerns for Capitol Police.
For the remainder of the week, the House and Senate will hold several hearings, including a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee nomination hearing for “Shailen P. Bhatt to be Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration of the Department of Transportation.” The House Committee on Agriculture will hold a hearing on “A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: Broadband,” and a Small Business Subcommittee hearing on “Supporting Youth Apprenticeship, Entrepreneurship, and Workforce Development.” Tomorrow, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island will hold their primary elections.