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Capitol Hill Update, 6 July, 2015
House & Senate/Schedule: Both House and Senate are back in session on Tuesday, 7 July, and will remain in session through the long August recess, which begins on 31 July.
House & Senate/Education: Both the House and Senate will be acting this week on bills to reform and reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which was most recently known as No Child Left Behind. The House bill is the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), and the Senate bill is the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177). The bills contain substantial differences, so that even if they both pass a conference will be required to reconcile the two versions.
Both bills contain many reforms that reduce some of the onerous burdens imposed upon states by No Child Left Behind, but still keep in place federal testing requirements and other education programs that take choice and control of education away from states and communities. The one silver lining of these questionable bills is that both contain language that makes it more difficult for the Department of Education to force states use federal money to extort states into implementing Common Core.
House/Health Care: The House will also work this week on H.R. 6, the 21st Century Cures Act. This bill has a lot of good goals, including reducing the FDA’s regulatory drag on developing lifesaving new drugs and devices. But it also increases federal spending on health care research and development (a role that would best be filled by the private sector), and uses mandatory off-budget spending to fund this without breaking the caps on discretionary spending. It funds this new spending now with the promise of long-term mandatory savings later. This continues the disturbing trend of congressional Republicans finding new and creative ways to spend beyond the caps instead of prioritizing spending within them.
House/Spending: On Tuesday, the House will finish voting on the bill to fund the Department of Interior, as well as environmental programs and other agencies (H.R. 2822). This bill would cut spending from the Environmental Protection Agency and block several of its worst regulations, resulting in a modest $246 million spending decrease from last year.