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Capitol Hill Update: April 23, 2018

04/23/2018

Schedule:

The House and Senate are in session this week.

House:

The House comes back on Tuesday, with legislative business beginning at 2:00 pm. The first and only vote series is at 6:30 pm. There are six bills on the suspension calendar. On Wednesday at 10:30 am, the House and Senate will enter into a joint meeting to hear President Macron.

Three bills are on the floor during the remainder of the week. The FAA Reauthorization Act, H.R. 4, would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through FY 2023. Unfortunately, the bill does not include the air traffic control modernization plan from the 21st Century AIRR Act, H.R. 2997. Legislation, H.R. 3144, that relates to the governance of the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS). Both H.R. 4 and H.R. 3144 are subject to a rule. The Music Modernization Act, H.R. 5447, will be brought to the floor on suspension.

The House Judiciary Committee will begin the markup of the Prison Reform and Redemption Act, H.R. 3356, on Wednesday, April 23. The work may also spill into Thursday. There is a manager’s amendment, which we’ve seen and support. There are not any sentencing reforms. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), is supportive of those reforms, as is FreedomWorks. Unfortunately, the Department of Justice would oppose most sentencing reforms. There’s no word on when the bill may hit the House floor. Given what we’ve heard, the bill may be a candidate for the suspension calendar.

The full committee schedule can be found here.

Senate:

The Senate will reconvene on Monday at 3:00 pm to consider the nomination of Stuart Kyle Duncan to serve as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Politico recently noted that “Leader” Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will emphasize judicial appointments for the remainder of the year in case Republicans lose control of the Senate this fall.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will consider the nomination of CIA Director Mike Pompeo to serve as secretary of state. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has said he would vote against Pompeo’s confirmation. However, the president is lobbying him to vote for Pompeo. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) is the first Democrat to say she will vote for Pompeo.

A bipartisan resolution sponsored by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) was rolled out last week to repeal and replace the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for the use of military force (AUMF) with something much worse. This 20-page AUMF would explicitly name five groups that the executive is authorized to continue to fight, without geographic restrictions or a sunset clause. The absence of these restrictions is not even the worst of it.

Another provision allows the administration to unilaterally designate who we are fighting with beyond the named five groups, only requiring notice to Congress within 48 hours after expanding military operations beyond those outlined in the AUMF. It also puts in place a four-year congressional review of the AUMF to restrict or expand the already-existing military operations.

The after-the-fact "checks" included in this AUMF subject to Congress’ disapproval of unilateral executive military action taken prior to consulting Congress are entirely inconsistent with Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which requires Congress’ approval of the use of military force. As James Madison wrote, the Constitution wisely "confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department." Giving the executive department the first say on this question simply does not comport with the original intent of the clause.

The proposal has already received serious backlash from conservatives off of Capitol Hill, as well as from the tried and true strict constitutionalists in the Senate. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) expressed his opposition to the resolution last Thursday. “Having reviewed the proposed bill text from my colleagues, I am not supportive of this attempt at writing a new AUMF,” Sen. Lee said on Twitter. Sen. Paul, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been consistently opposed to measures like this one. He can be expected to put up a fight on this resolution, which its sponsor intends to mark up in his committee in the coming weeks.

Sen. Paul plans to introduce a budget resolution (text here) that would repeal the Bipartisan Budget Act and reduce spending by 1 percent over the next five years, otherwise known as the “penny plan.” After the five years of spending reductions, the budget would grow by 1 percent annually.

The budget includes reconciliation instructions to increase contribution limits to health savings accounts (HSAs) and allow consumers who use these accounts to pay their health insurance premiums out of them. It also includes budget process reforms, including raising the waiver threshold for budget points of order and makes spending in the budget enforceable for ten years.

Because Sen. Paul’s budget resolution is privileged, it will receive a vote on the floor, either a vote to table or for passage. Separately, Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) introduced the One Percent Spending Reduction Act, H.R. 5572, last week. The bill would cut 1 percent of non-interest spending over five years and cap spending at 18 percent of gross domestic product. FreedomWorks’ letter of support for the One Percent Spending Reduction Act is here.

The full committee schedule can be found here.