Weekly Washington Outlook – September 8, 2014

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What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

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House of Representatives:

House members return Monday afternoon from their “summer vacation” to consider twenty-one uncontroversial bills under suspension of the rules. The majority of these are naming postal facilities. Others on the calendar include:

1) H.R. 2495 – American Super Computing Leadership Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Randy Hultgren / Science Committee)

2) H.R. 5309 – Tsunami Warning, Education, and Research Act of 2014 (Sponsored by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici / Science Committee)

3) H.R. 744 – Stopping Tax Offenders and Prosecuting Identity Theft Act of 2014 (Sponsored by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz / Judiciary Committee)

4) H.R. 3109 – To amend the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to exempt certain Alaskan Native articles from prohibitions against sale of items containing nonedible migratory bird parts (Sponsored by Rep. Don Young / Natural Resources Committee)

5) H.R. 4283 – To amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to maintain or replace certain facilities and structures for commercial recreation services at Smith Gulch in Idaho (Sponsored by Rep. Mike Simpson / Natural Resources Committee)

6) H.J.Res. 120 – Approving the location of a memorial to commemorate the more than 5,000 slaves and free Black persons who fought for independence in the American Revolution(Sponsored by Rep. G.K. Butterfield / Natural Resources Committee)

7) H.R. 4527 – To remove a use restriction on land formerly a part of Acadia National Park that was transferred to the town of Tremont, Maine (Sponsored by Rep. Michael Michaud / Natural Resources Committee)

8) H.R. 4751 – To make technical corrections to Public Law 110‐229 to reflect the renaming of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial (Sponsored by Rep. Derek Kilmer / Natural Resources Committee)

On Tuesday and the balance of the week, the House will continue to vote on bills under suspension of the rules, including:

1) H.R. 5057 – EPS Service Parts Act of 2014, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Cory Gardner / Energy and Commerce Committee)

2) S. 276 – A bill to reinstate and extend the deadline for commencement of construction of a hydroelectric project involving the American Falls Reservoir (Sponsored by Sen. James Risch / Energy and Commerce Committee)

3) H.R. 5161 – E-LABEL Act (Sponsored by Rep. Bob Latta / Energy and Commerce Committee)

4) H.R. 4067 – To provide for the extension of the enforcement instruction on supervision requirements for outpatient therapeutic services in critical access and small rural hospitals through 2014(Sponsored by Rep. Lynn Jenkins / Energy and Commerce Committee)

5) H.R. 4701 – Vector-Borne Disease Research Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Chris Gibson / Energy and Commerce Committee)

6) H.R. 4290 – Wakefield Act of 2014 (Sponsored by Rep. Jim Matheson / Energy and Commerce Committee)

7) H.R. 3670 – Anti-Spoofing Act of 2013 (Sponsored by Rep. Grace Meng / Energy and Commerce Committee)

8) H.R. 669 – Sudden Unexpected Death Data Enhancement and Awareness Act (Sponsored by Rep. Frank Pallone / Energy and Commerce Committee)

In addition to possible consideration of a continuing resolution, the House has scheduled votes on the following legislation:

H.R. 5078 – Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Steve Southerland / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)

H.Res. 644 – Condemning and disapproving of the Obama administration’s failure to comply with the lawful statutory requirement to notify Congress before releasing the Taliban 5 (Subject to a Rule)(Sponsored by Rep. Scott Rigell / Armed Services Committee)

H.R. 3522 – Employee Health Care Protection Act of 2013 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Bill Cassidy / Energy and Commerce Committee / Ways and Means Committee)

Senate:

The Senate returns Monday evening and has scheduled confirmation votes on several executive and judicial nominees. After those votes, the Senate will take a procedural vote to advance S.J.Res. 19, a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections. If the Senate does not move this amendment forward, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will either move to bring up any of the following:

  • A bill sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 (S. 2223)
  • A bill sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to allow students to refinance their loans at lower rates by enacting the “Buffet Rule” to levy higher taxes on investment-based income (S. 2432)
  • A bill sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to overturn the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision exempting closely-held religious corporations from providing contraception to employees (S. 2578).

All three measures have previously been blocked and bringing them back is part of a legislative strategy to advance a Democratic agenda before the mid-terms.

White House:

On Monday, the president will attend meetings at the White House with Treasury Secretary Lew and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. On Tuesday, he will meet at the White House with the “Big Four:” Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker Boehner (R-Ohio), and House Minority Leader Pelosi (D-Calif.). On Wednesday evening, the president will address the nation on the situation on his foreign policy and the situation with the Islamic State. On Thursday, President Obama, the Vice President, the First Lady, and White House staff will gather on the South Lawn of the White House to observe a moment of silence to mark the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The president and first lady will then travel to the Pentagon Memorial to attend the September 11th Observance Ceremony. On Friday, the president will deliver remarks at an AmeriCorps Pledge ceremony on the South Lawn to mark the 20th anniversary of the national service program. Joining him will be President Clinton, who established the program and swore in the first class in 1994.  In the evening, President Obama will travel to Baltimore to attend a DSCC event.

Next Week and Beyond:

Appropriations – Now that Congress has returned from its five-week recess, the first order of business is passing a spending resolution to keep the government open beyond September 30. Despite speculation earlier this summer that members would try to force a shutdown over immigration-related policy riders, House and Senate Leadership have made clear that this stopgap measure will not have anything controversial that would prevent its passage. There is a clear desire to take care of this must-pass legislation as quickly and quietly as possible to allow members to return to their districts to campaign. While exact details of the continuing resolution remain are not yet known, signs indicate it will extend current spending levels through mid-December.

Immigration – In response to concerns from vulnerable Senate Democrats up for re-election this cycle, the White House announced over the weekend its intention to delay announcing its plan for administrative relief until after the mid-term elections.

Campaign Finance – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to schedule a vote on S.J. Res. 19, a constitutional amendment that would set limits on campaign contributions. The amendment is a legislative response to the Citizens United and McCutcheon Supreme Court cases that removed such limits. This vote is largely symbolic as the House is unlikely to bring the measure up. If it were to pass both Houses of Congress, three-fourths of state legislatures would then need to ratify the resolution.

Healthcare – The House will vote this week on a healthcare messaging bill. H.R. 3522 would allow health insurers to sell the plans offered in 2013, before new standards in coverage took effect under Affordable Care Act (ACA). The measure is sponsored by Congressman Bill Cassidy (R-La.), running for Senate in a tight contest against Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). Elsewhere, the House Ways and Means Committee’s Health Subcommittee will hold a hearing Wednesday on ACA implementation.

Education – Little is expected on education in Congress in September. The Senate may vote on a bill from Senator Warren allowing students to refinance their loans, but this is not likely to advance. Elsewhere, the House Education and Workforce Committee’s K-12 Subcommittee will hold a hearing Wednesday on Department of Education oversight. The Senate Special Committee on Aging will also meet Wednesday, but will focus on senior citizen’s student loan debt.

Tax – Treasury Secretary Lew will speak on Monday at the Urban Institute on the need to restructure the corporate tax system. He is not expected to announce a new plan to stem corporate inversions. On the Hill, Senator Schumer (D-N.Y.) released a draft bill aimed at making inversions less attractive by limiting future interest deductions to companies that reincorporate abroad. As drafted, the bill would be retroactive to any inversion after 1994.

Banking – The Senate Banking Committee will hear from Mary Jo White, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Timothy Massad, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, on Tuesday. The three will testify on the Dodd-Frank Act’s effectiveness at regulating the financial sector.

Law Enforcement – As a response to the situation in Ferguson, Mo., the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday on the militarization of local police. The hearing will address federal programs providing military-grade equipment to law enforcement.

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