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Capitol Hill Update: August 20, 2018

08/20/2018

Schedule:

The Senate is in session this week. The House is in recess.

Senate:

The Senate will come back on Monday at 3:00 pm to consider H.R. 6157, the vehicle for appropriations for the Department of Defense, Labor, and Health and Human Services. Roll call votes on two amendments are expected, with votes beginning around 5:30 pm.

We’ve heard that the Senate may be in recess the week of August 27. Excluding weekends, between July 30 and August 17, there were 15 days the Senate could have worked. Through last week, the Congressional Record indicates that the Senate was in pro forma or wasn’t in session for ten days -- August 2, August 3, August 6, August 7, August 8, August 9, August 10, August 14, August 13, and August 17. There were only five days -- July 30, July 31, August 1, August 15, and August 16 -- in which the Senate actually conducted legislative business from the floor. So much for canceling the August recess.

Through August 15, roughly 57 percent of the president’s nominees (529 out of 932) have been confirmed by the Senate. By this point, 76 percent of Obama’s nominees and 78 percent of Bush’s nominees had been confirmed. Senate Democrats have made it difficult to move nominees in a timely manner. According to the White House, 108 nominees have been subject to cloture votes. Only 11 of Obama’s nominees were subject to cloture and four of Bush’s nominees.

The Senate committee schedule for the week can be found here.

House:

The House was in pro forma session on Tuesday and Friday. The House will again be in pro forma on Tuesday at 12:30 pm. As noted before, the House will reconvene on Tuesday, September 4.

We hear a lot about process in the House and a need to return to regular order. Members raise these problems because of backroom deals made on spending bills like the omnibus, which was rolled out only hours before it was voted on and passed by both chambers, and the use of rules to limit or prevent amendments on legislation.

Keep in mind that our data is rough, but we’ve been keeping a running tab of this since the beginning of the Congress. Through July, 63 bills came to the floor under a rule. Thirty-eight bills came to the floor under closed rules, meaning no amendments were allowed. Twenty-five had structured rules.

By our count, 1,952 amendments have been submitted to the House Rules Committee. This includes amendments that were withdrawn. In many instances, amendments are withdrawn because of pressure on the member to do so. Seventeen amendments were adopted in the Rules Committee, and 835 were allowed on the floor. Those who complain about the process in the House have a point. The process really is very closed, preventing members from representing their constituents.

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