Weekly Legislative Update
 Week of July 5, 2016
Congressional Outlook

Week of July 5th

The House and Senate are in session this week. Both chambers have a laundry list of items that will see votes in the final two weeks before Congress breaks for an extended summer recess on July 15. The only must-pass bill is a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, which must be approved on or before July 15 to keep the agency running. Both chambers are expected to vote on an extension through December 2017 the week of July 11.
This week the Senate plans to consider bills on "sanctuary cities," genetically modified foods, and defense appropriations. First up are two bills on sanctuary cities, which are cities that have policies that do not prosecute people solely for being an illegal alien. The two bills are not expected to meet the 60-vote threshold needed to advance. The first bill, offered by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), would bar congressional funding from cities that block local law enforcement from helping federal immigration officials prosecute undocumented immigrants. The second, offered by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), would increase mandatory minimum prison sentences for some undocumented immigrants who repeatedly cross the border into the U.S. illegally. After consideration of the sanctuary cities bills, next on the agenda is a measure that would standardize labeling for genetically modified foods, which has bipartisan support but may still fall short of the 60-vote threshold needed to advance. Last on the agenda is consideration of the defense appropriations bill, which is likely to advance.
On Tuesday, the House plans to vote on a mental health bill, offered by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), which would, among other things, authorize grants to help with suicide prevention programs and early intervention for children with mental illnesses, and create a new Assistant Secretary within the Department of Health and Human Services to oversee mental health and substance abuse programs. The bill is expected to pass. This week the House also plans to vote on several anti-terrorism measures, including a proposal that would require a 3-day hold on gun purchases by anyone currently being investigated as a terrorist, or who has been investigated in the past five years, and requires the Department of Justice to show probable cause that the buyer will commit an act of terrorism before it can block a gun sale. House Speak Paul Ryan (R-WI) promised a vote on gun legislation after Democratic Members held a 26-hour sit-in on June 22-23 demanding votes on gun control. Democrats say the proposal does not go far enough. The House may also consider the Financial Services spending bill; the fifth appropriations bill to be considered on the floor. 
Week in Review

Senate Appropriations Completes Work on Spending Bills
Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee cleared its 12th and final annual appropriations bill, for the State Department and Foreign Operations, at the earliest point since 1988. The Senate now has nine spending bills to approve on the floor. So far, the three bills that have been approved on the floor include Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD), Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA), and Energy and Water (E&W). The E&W bill cleared the full Senate in May, breaking a 40-year record to become the earliest stand-alone appropriations bill approved by the full chamber.
The compressed legislative schedule due to the extended summer recess to accommodate the national party conventions makes it likely that Congress will have to approve a stopgap measure this fall, especially because of partisan issues that have killed several House spending bills. The House Appropriations Committee has approved ten spending bills so far and has two subcommittee markups planned this week for the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education bill and the State Department and Foreign Operations bill. The chamber has considered four bills on the floor so far, two of which were rejected (Defense and E&W), and will likely consider the Financial Services spending bill this week.
Senate Passes Brownfields Reauthorization
On June 27, the Senate unanimously approved S. 1479, the "Brownfields Utilization, Investment and Local Development Act," which reauthorizes the brownfields program through FY 2018 at long-standing funding levels of $250 million per year. The bill would expand eligibility for grants to nonprofit groups, limited liability corporations and limited partnerships, would boost general funding limits for remediation grants to $500,000, and would require EPA to give consideration to brownfield sites near federally designated floodplains. A separate reauthorization measure in the House (H.R. 4463) is still awaiting committee action.
Senate Blocks MilCon-VA Bill, Zika Funding
Last week, the Senate blocked a motion to proceed on the MilCon-VA spending bill, which includes $1.1 billion in Zika funding, due to Democratic opposition to several "poison pill" provisions. Republican leadership said last week they will bring up the same proposal again sometime after the July 4 recess but Democrats continue to express their opposition. It is unclear when the legislation will be considered and if any Zika package will be approved before the summer recess. Read more...  

House Readies Interior-Environment Spending Bill for Floor Vote
The House Rules Committee is preparing its $32.1B Interior-Environment spending bill (H.R. 5538) for floor votes the week of July 11, the committee said in a June 30 statement. The committee plans to offer a rule with a structured amendment process that allows the committee to decide which amendments get votes as opposed to allowing any member to offer an amendment. Lawmakers have until July 7 to submit amendments to the committee. Rules Committee action typically tees up floor consideration for legislation; however, it is unclear whether Republican leadership is committed to floor action on the bill, Matt Sparks, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), said last week.
The House Appropriations Committee approved the bill on June 15 with a 31 to 18 vote, and adopted over 30 policy riders contained in the draft bill. Some of the riders would: prevent sage grouse and lesser prairie chicken from being listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act; prohibit funding for the Clean Water Rule (also known as Waters of the U.S. or WOTUS); require an additional 90 days to comment on the proposed Bureau of Land Management's Land Use Planning Rule (also known as Planning 2.0); and specific California-related drought relief provisions introduced by Rep. David Valadao (R-CA). The inclusion of many riders in the bill has drawn opposition and criticism from Democrats, which will likely cause issues when the bill comes to the floor.

Inhofe "Confident" WRDA Bill Can Be Done Before August Recess, No Official Word From Leadership
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said last week he is "confident" the Senate WRDA bill (S. 2848) can be considered before the summer recess. There has been no official word from Senate leadership that WRDA will get floor time over the next two weeks, however, Sen. Inhofe said he's made a pitch to leadership that the bill is "ready to go" and "won't take long." He also pushed for WRDA on the floor last week, again asking for a floor vote before Congress breaks for recess on July 15.

Congressional Schedule

Tuesday, July 5
  • House Rules Committee meets to formulate a rule on H.R.4361, the "Federal Information Systems Safeguards Act of 2016" and H.R.5611, the "Homeland Safety and Security Act."
Wednesday, July 6
  • House Budget Committee hearing on "Alternative Approaches to Federal Budgeting."
  • House Agriculture Committee hearing on "Past, Present, and Future of SNAP: Evaluating Error Rates and Anti-Fraud Measures to Enhance Program Integrity."
  • House-Senate Conference Committee meeting on S.524, the "Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016."
  • House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources hearing on H.R.5577, the "Innovation in Offshore Leasing Act," to amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to authorize the secretary of the Interior to conduct offshore oil and gas lease sales through Internet-based live lease sales.
  • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power hearing on "A Review of EPA's Regulatory Activity during the Obama Administration: Energy and Industrial Sectors."
  • House Oversight and Government Reform hearing on "Firearms and Munitions at Risk: Examining Inadequate Safeguards."
  • House Judiciary Subcommittee on Executive Overreach Task Force meeting on "The Federal Government on Autopilot: Mandatory Spending and the Entitlement Crisis."
  • Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Investigations hearing on "ISIS Online: Countering Terrorist Radicalization & Recruitment On the Internet & Social Media."
  • House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law hearing on "Assessing the Obama Years: OIRA (Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs) and Regulatory Impacts on Jobs, Wages and Economic Recovery."
Thursday, July 7
  • House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies markup of the FY 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill.
  • House Budget Committee hearing on "An Introduction to Regulatory Budgeting."
  • House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing on "State Perspectives on BLM's Draft Planning 2. Rule."
  • House Agriculture Committee hearing on "Agriculture and National Security: On-the-Ground Experiences of Former Military Leaders."
  • House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Environment hearing on "Examining the Nation's Current and Next Generation Weather Satellite Programs."
  • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy hearing on "Federal, State, and Local Agreements and Associated Benefits for Spent Nuclear Fuel Disposal."
  • House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight hearing on "Defying the Constitution: The Administration's Unlawful Funding of the Cost Sharing Reduction Program."
  • House Science, Space and Technology Committee markup of the "Solar Fuels Innovation Act", the "Electricity Storage Innovation Act", and the "National Institute of Standards and Technology Campus Security Act."
Friday, July 8
  • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Oversight and Investigations hearing on "The ACA's Cost Sharing Reduction Program: Ramifications of the Administration's Decision on the Source of Funding for the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Program."