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Capitol Hill Update, 14 March, 2016
The House and Senate are both in session this week. The Senate will be out of town for the Easter and Passover recess from March 19 to April 3, and the House will similarly recess from March 24 to April 11.
House Republicans continue to struggle to advance a budget resolution, as House leadership is urging conservatives to accept the higher levels of spending created by the Obama-Boehner deal last year.
On Tuesday, the House is scheduled to vote on H.R. 3797, the Satisfying Energy Needs and Saving the Environment (SENSE) Act. Sponsored by Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA-12), this bill would ease excessive Environmental Protection Agency regulations on coal plants that burn coal mining byproducts.
On Wednesday, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 4596, the Small Business Broadband Deployment Act. Sponsored by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR-2), this bill carves out a small business exemption from the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) new broadband internet transparency requirements. While these transparency requirements are certainly burdensome on small businesses in particular, better policy would be to exempt all businesses by reversing the FCC’s Title II takeover of the internet.
The House will also likely pass H.R. 4721, a short-term extension of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which would otherwise expire on March 31. The FAA is in dire need of modernization and reform, and the majority of its tasks would be better handled by the private sector.
The Senate voted Monday evening to confirm John B. King as Secretary of Education. King has been serving as interim secretary since Arne Duncan stepped down early this year. King is as bad on policy in most respects as Duncan was – an ardent supporter of the Common Core standards and heavy-handed federal control of education. Because of the rules changes made by Senator Reid as Majority Leader last year, only a simple majority was needed to confirm King.
The Senate will likely join the House in passing a short-term reauthorization of the FAA as well.
New Bill to Watch
Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA-5) has introduced the Unauthorized Spending Accountability (USA) Act, H.R. 4730. Currently over $300 billion worth of programs are being funded even though they are technically unauthorized (expired). Congress has not done its job in overseeing these “zombie programs” and adjusting (or ending) their funding as necessary. The USA Act would force Congress to do its job by attaching sunset dates to all discretionary programs, and enacting automatic spending cuts to programs that remain unauthorized. FreedomWorks has joined a coalition of fiscally conservative groups in endorsing this thoughtful legislation.