Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MI) is planning to establish regular order with an agenda that calls for moving all 12 spending bills – allowing for nearly unlimited amendments in committee and on the Senate floor, and only relying on an omnibus as a last resort.
It has been ten years since Cochran was last Appropriations chairman, and managed to pass all 12 spending bills in 2005. However, he no longer has the benefit of having a Republican in the White House or the widespread use of earmarks.
Meanwhile, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is grappling over how to clear the House version of the $39.7 billion FY15 Department of Homeland Security spending bill (H.R. 240). With riders blocking recent immigration executive actions, leaders will either need to significantly alter the language or strip it out entirely to secure the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster or the two-thirds necessary to override a presidential veto.
If leaders move to pass a clean bill or continuing resolution in advance of its expiration on February 27, they risk angering conservatives by looking like they gave in to the administration.
The Senate will reconvene Monday afternoon to resume consideration of a bill (S. 1) to approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, and is then expected to vote on seven amendments to the measure.
Votes are also possible on motions to end debate on the substitute amendment that senators have been modifying and on the underlying bill. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed the cloture motions Thursday.
The bipartisan amendment process fell apart yesterday evening when Republicans asked Democrats to choose a handful of proposals to bring up for evening votes. Democrats asked for more time, offering Friday morning for action, but McConnell refused.
Earlier in the week, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced an amendment that “climate change is real and is not a hoax” which passed 98-1, with Senator Roger Wicker (R-MI) as the only dissenting vote.
Surprisingly, Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) who is usually an outspoken skeptic of climate change, voted in favor of the amendment. However, he made it clear he doesn’t believe humans are the primary driver of climate change.
On Tuesday Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) announced subcommittee chairmen for the 114th Congress. They are as follows:
- Agriculture: Jerry Moran (R-KS)
- Commerce-Justice-Science: Richard Shelby (R-AL)
- Defense: Thad Cochran (R-MS)
- Energy-Water: Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
- Financial Services: John Boozman (R-AR)
- Homeland Security: John Hoeven (R-ND)
- Interior-Environment: Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
- Labor HHS: Roy Blunt (R-MO)
- Legislative Branch: Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)
- Military Construction-VA: Mark Kirk (R-IL)
- State/Foreign Operations: Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
- Transportation-HUD: Susan Collins (R-ME)
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx spoke at the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Friday, urging Mayors to propose ambitious transportation projects this year in order to incentivize Congress to pass a long-term highway bill.
Long-term highway legislation would provide the funds necessary to complete these sorts of projects, and Foxx hopes that mayors will present these project to put pressure on members to come up with a comprehensive bill.
“The Highway Trust Fund getting topped off is really not going to take us very far but putting more investment in infrastructure so that you can realize your vision will help this country create jobs,” Foxx said.
He also made a pitch for raising the Passenger Facility Charge, a $4.50 fee that passengers pay to board an airplane. The administration wants to raise it to $8.00 to help pay for airport improvements. Foxx said mayors should be “conveying directly to members of Congress how this impacts you.”
Next week, the U.S. and Cuba will continue to hold discussions related to normalizing relations, including plans to open embassies in each country.
President Obama is planning to release his annual budget request to Congress on time this year. In his request, which is scheduled for release on February 2, the President is expected to seek a 7 percent, or $68 billion, increase in funding.
In Congress, the House will likely vote during the week of January 26 on a bill aimed at securing the U.S. border with Mexico.
In the Senate, members will resume consideration of the Keystone XL Pipeline bill.