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Capitol Hill Update, 22 July, 2013
House & Senate/Schedule: Both chambers are in session this week, and will remain so until August 2nd.
Legislative Highlight of the Week: Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) has proposed an amendment to the DoD appropriations bill that would withhold funding to NSA surveillance activities being conducted without a judge's warrant. However, the House Rules committee is expected to vote Monday night on a “structured rule” process, which would not allow amendments like Amash’s. This proposal is a simple 4th amendment protection reaffirming that American citizens have the right to due process and the presumption of innocence under the law before being spied upon by their own government.
**UPDATE** Amash's amendment will be brought to the floor of the House, thanks in part to the phone calls of hundreds of FreedomWorks activists. FreedomWorks will issue a Key Vote: YES in favor of Rep. Amash's amendment.
House/Appropriations: The house will vote on the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, H.R. 2397 this week. Sponsored by Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young (R-FL), this bill appropriates $513 billion for defense spending on top of $86 billion in emergency war spending. This amount ignores the sequester cuts, supposedly in exchange for those cuts being applied elsewhere in the budget. In addition, the House is advancing this bill under a rule that does not allow for the open amendment process that leadership had promised for all appropriations bills.
House/Energy: On Thursday the House will vote on the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2013, H.R. 2218. The bill seeks to encourage recovery coal combustion residuals and establish requirements for the proper management and disposal of coal combustion residuals. However, the bill places more burden on coal companies that will in turn hurt our domestic energy sector and economy.
House/Energy: The House will also vote Thursday on the Energy Consumers Relief Act of 2013, H.R. 1582, sponsored by Rep. Bill Cassidy (LA-6). This will require the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to submit a report that details increase in cost, increase in energy prices, and change in employment, that a proposed regulation on energy production, supply, distribution, or use would have. This only applies to regulations that will have an economic effect of $1 billion of more; whereas the current definition of a "major rule" is a regulation have an effect of $100 million or more. Thus, this bill would not provide oversight to a majority of major rules being promulgated, while possibly raising the bar for how significant a regulation has to be before receiving oversight. A weak reform overall.
Senate/Student Loans: Later this week the Senate will vote on its Student Loan Bill, a bipartisan compromise which would artificially reduce interest rates on student loans to below 4% from its current 6.8%, and would also pin the interest rate to federal treasury bond rates. Manipulating interest rates in this way distorts the student loan market and sends false signals that encourage students to take on more debt that they may not be able to afford to pay back. The free market solution would be to take the government out of the business of fixing loan interest rates, but both parties seem primed to pass this market-distorting "solution" instead.
Senate/Appropriations: Both the House and Senate may vote on the Transportation/Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) appropriations bill this week, but may end up taking the vote next week. The Senate version, S.1243, sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (WA), has a $54 billion dollar price tag, a $6 billion increase from last year. This attempts to undo the sequester cuts. As of now, the House version is $44.1 billion.