Monthly Archives: November 2014

Weekly Legislative Report Nov 21, 2014

J.R. Reskovac
Sarah Strup

Appropriations

 

The current continuing resolution (CR) expires on December 11th and Congress will either need to pass an omnibus or another CR by that date in order to keep the government open.

 

Since President Obama’s announcement yesterday to order an executive action on immigration, work to complete FY15 Appropriations bills could be complicated.  To deal with the executive action, most conservatives want to prohibit carrying out the Executive Orders; however, that option would almost certainly result in another government shutdown since the president has specifically said he would veto any such bill.

 

House conservatives are currently rejecting an argument made by appropriators that there is no way to limit the funding for executive action on immigration in a spending bill because the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is largely funded by fees, as opposed to traditional appropriations, and they have not ruled out using short-term spending bills for immigration agencies as another option to delay Obama’s agenda.

 

In the meantime, House and Senate appropriators continue to meet in order to have an omnibus ready to move as early as December 8th.  However, several factors may complicate progress or consideration of the bill, including the administration’s emergency funding requests for Ebola and ISIS, the Executive Order on immigration, and calls for a short-term continuing resolution to permit the Republicans to address the spending bills in the next Congress.

 

If Congress is unable to move an omnibus prior to the December 11th expiration of the CR, it is possible that they could pass another CR extending government operation into the early months of next year.

 

Congressional Affairs

 

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (KY-05) announced yesterday that the Republican Steering Committee approved four new Republican Members to serve on the House Appropriations Committee and 12 Appropriations Subcommittee Chairs (or “Cardinals”) for the 114th Congress.  They are as follows:

New GOP Members:

·         Rep. David Jolly (FL-13)

·         Rep. Scott Rigell (VA-02)

·         Rep. Evan Jenkins (WV-03)

·         Rep. David Young (IA-03)

The Subcommittee Chairs are as follows:

·         Sub. on Agriculture and Rural Development – Chairman Robert Aderholt (AL-04)

·         Sub. on Commerce, Justice, and Science – Chairman John Culberson (TX-07)

·         Sub. Defense – Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11)

·         Sub. on Energy and Water Development – Chairman Mike Simpson (ID-02)

·         Sub. on Financial Services – Chairman Ander Crenshaw (FL-04)

·         Sub. on Homeland Security – Chairman John Carter (TX-31)

·         Sub. on the Interior, Environment – Chairman Ken Calvert (CA-42)

·         Sub. on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education – Chairman Tom Cole (OK-04)

·         Sub. on the Legislative Branch – Chairman Tom Graves (GA-14)

·         Sub. on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs – Chairman Charles Dent (PA-15)

·         Sub. on State, Foreign Operations – Chairwoman Kay Granger (TX-12)

·         Sub. on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development – Chairman Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25)

The committee’s Democrats, meanwhile, aren’t expected to decide who will be granted ranking member positions for each of the 12 panels until January. Democrats use a different system than Republicans do to determine subcommittee chairmanships that is based on a mix of full and subcommittee seniority, more heavily prizing the latter.  Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) on Tuesday was confirmed unanimously by House Democrats for another two-year stint as ranking member on the full committee.

Defense

Leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have still not finished a final defense authorization bill, despite remarks last week that they would be working this week to close a deal.

The informal House-Senate conference committee is led by Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) who are attempting to write a bill that can quickly pass both chambers by the end of the lame duck session, despite the fact that the Senate will not have debated the Senate Armed Services version (S. 2410).  The House passed its bill (H.R. 4435) in May.

Both the House and Senate Armed Services bills would reject the administration’s defense budget blueprint, but the two measures also differ from one another on a number of key issues.

One of the more controversial issues being debated has been about a Pentagon proposal to send 192 Apache helicopters from the Army National Guard to the active Army, enabling the latter to retire Kiowa helicopters and avoid buying many new Apaches.  The House’s authorization bill would prevent the Army from moving any of the Guard’s Apaches, while the Senate Armed Services bill would limit the number of Apaches the Army could transfer to 48 choppers until an independent commission reports back to Congress in early 2016.

If the committees fail to come to an agreement, it would be the first time in more than half a century that Congress would not clear an authorization measure.  No one wants to be the first to break that chain, and that’s the single biggest reason to expect that a final bill will emerge soon.

 

Earmarks

 

Last Friday, House Republicans debated a proposal to restore earmarks in a closed-door caucus, but ultimately decided to keep the moratorium that has been in place since 2011.

 

The proposal was offered by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) that would have reinstated earmarks for states, local governments, or a “public utility or other public entity.”  The caucus debated for 40 minutes before rejecting the amendment.

 

Rogers argued the GOP-led House would be better at allotting earmarks than the administration.  Under current House rules, appropriations bills can include specific line-item spending projects as long as the president includes it in his budget, which many believe gives the President too much spending influence.

 

However, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is staunchly opposed to congressional earmarks and successfully pushed for their outright ban when he became speaker in the 112th Congress.  Earlier this year, Boehner pledged at a press conference that, “As long as I’m speaker, there will be no earmarks.”

 

Energy

 

The Senate on Monday struck down the Keystone XL pipeline bill that passed the House last week after failing to meet the 60 vote threshold.

 

The final vote on the measure was 59-41.  The bill (S. 2280) was sponsored by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) who is facing a runoff election on December 6 against Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) – sponsor of the House version of the bill.  Landrieu’s prospects of winning the runoff were already dim before the vote, which many say all but ensures her defeat.

 

Experts are predicting that this issue is far from over, and that there will likely be another vote on a Keystone Pipeline bill late next year once Republicans take the majority in the Senate.

 

Intelligence

 

On Tuesday, the Senate fell two votes short of the 60 it needed to advance legislation (S. 2685) to overhaul the National Security Agency’s digital surveillance.  All but one Democrat supported the procedural motion sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), but only four Republicans joined them.  As a result, the 18-month-old debate on revamping NSA programs is over for 2014.

 

The next Congress is sure to take up the issue, as the Patriot Act, which authorizes the program, must be renewed by June 2015.

 

Washington Outlook

 

The House and Senate have both adjourned for the Thanksgiving holiday and will return the first week in December.  The next Weekly Legislative Update will cover the week of December 1-5 when Congress returns from recess.