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Capitol Hill Update: December 3, 2018

12/03/2018

Schedule:

The House and Senate are in session this week.

Honoring 41:

President George H.W. Bush will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda between at 5:00 pm on Monday and 7:00 am on Wednesday. The Capitol Rotunda will open at 7:30 pm on Monday. Visitors will enter through the Capitol Visitors Center (CVC) and may begin lining up to enter on Monday afternoon on First Street, between Constitution Avenue and Independence Avenue, or on Second Street, between East Capitol Street and Independence Avenue. No photography or video will be allowed in the Capitol during this time. The U.S. Capitol Police has more information here. He will be laid to rest on Thursday at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas.

House:

Originally, the House was supposed to be back in session on Tuesday. We got a schedule announcement with the change of plans. The House will now be in session today to consider resolutions related to President Bush lying in state on Tuesday. No votes are expected. These resolutions will be voiced out of the chamber. With a December 7 deadline to fund the government, both chambers will have to be in session and voting later this week. The only question is how much other work they will do.

In anticipation of at least some votes being taken this week other than government funding, here’s the suspension calendar for the week. We aren't exactly sure when votes will be taken on these, and it’s entirely possible that some or all of them could be carried over to next week.

  • H.R. 5513, Big Bear Land Exchange Act
  • H.R. 3008, George W. Bush Childhood Home Study Act
  • H.R. 6118, To direct the Secretary of the Interior to annually designate at least one city in the United States as an American World War II Heritage City, and for other purposes
  • H.R. 6665, Offshore Wind for Territories Act
  • H.Res. 792, Urging the Secretary of the Interior to recognize the historical significance of Roberto Clemente’s place of death near Piñones in Loíza, Puerto Rico, by adding it to the National Register of Historic Places
  • S. 245, Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2017 (Sponsored by Sen. John Hoeven / Natural Resources Committee)
  • S. 825, Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium Land Transfer Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski / Natural Resources Committee)
  • S. 2511, CENOTE Act of 2018, as amended (Sponsored by Sen. Roger F. Wicker / Natural Resources Committee)
  • H.R. 6893, Secret Service Overtime Pay Extension Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Steve Russell / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)
  • House Amendment to S. 2248, Veterans Benefit and Transition Act of 2018 (Sponsored by Rep. Phil Roe / Veterans Affairs Committee)
  • H.Res. 1165, Condemning the Assad regime and its backers for their continued support of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria
  • H.Res. 1091, Calling on the Government of Burma to release Burmese journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo sentenced to seven years imprisonment after investigating attacks against civilians by Burma’s military and security forces, and for other purposes
  • H.Res. 1157, Reaffirming the strong commitment of the United States to the countries and territories of the Pacific Islands region
  • H.Res. 1149, Recognizing that the United States-Republic of Korea alliance serves as a linchpin of regional stability and bilateral security, and exemplifies the broad and deep military, diplomatic, economic, and cultural ties shared between the United States and the Republic of Korea

The current continuing resolution (CR) expires on Friday, December 7. We're hearing rumblings that Congress will pass a short-term CR to push off a government funding debate until at least next week or, possibly, the week after. Although both chambers are scheduled to be in session next week, through December 14, it was likely that they would adjourn on Friday, if a spending bill was passed and signed into law. If it’s a two-week CR, it would mean that Congress would be in session during the week of December 17.

Five of the 12 appropriations bills for FY 2019 have passed Congress and been signed into law. Those appropriations bills are Defense and Labor-HHS-Education, which were included in H.R. 6157, and Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and MilCon-VA, which were included in H.R. 5895. These give appropriations bills represent more than $950.5 billion of discretionary spending, or around 74 percent of all FY 2019 discretionary spending. That figure is compared to budget figures passed in H.R. 1892, the two-year budget agreement passed in February. Below is what Congress has left to pass.

  • Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration
  • Commerce, Justice, and Science
  • Financial Services and General Government
  • Homeland Security
  • Interior and Environment
  • State and Foreign Operations
  • Transportation and Housing and Urban Development

House and Senate conferees have come to an agreement on the final text of the conference report for the Farm Bill, H.R. 2. All indications are that this will be miserable for conservatives. The work requirements for food stamp recipients, a provision passed in the House version, was stripped out in conference. There’s a provision included, championed by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-Texas), that would make cousins, nieces, and nephews of farmers eligible for up to $125,000 per year in subsidies regardless of whether or not they’ve spent any time on a farm. It seems Chairman Conaway and the rest of the conferees are content to just dole out free money at the expense of taxpayers. It also continues and expands a series of unconstitutional, wasteful subsidy programs. Instead of hastily introducing and passing this conference report within the space of a week should pass a one-year extension and re-address it next year.

On Friday, the House Republican Conference approved the recommendations for committee ranking members for the 116th Congress. The recommendations were made by the House Republican Steering Committee. Most ranking members, or “rankers,” as they’re sometimes called, previously chaired the committee.

  • Administration: Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.)
  • Agriculture: Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas)
  • Appropriations: Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas)
  • Armed Services: Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas)
  • Budget: Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.)
  • Education and the Workforce: Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.)
  • Energy and Commerce: Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.)
  • Financial Services: Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.)
  • Foreign Affairs: Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas)
  • Homeland Security: Rep. Mike Rogers
  • Intelligence: Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)
  • Judiciary: Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.)
  • Natural Resources: Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah)
  • Oversight and Government Reform: Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)
  • Science, Space, and Technology: Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.)
  • Small Business: Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio)
  • Transportation and Infrastructure: Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.)
  • Veterans’ Affairs: Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.)
  • Ways and Means: Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas)

We’re told that the ranking member appointments for Rules, Ethics, and the Joint Economic Committee will be made soon.

James Comey, the former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has reached a deal to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. The closed-door hearing will be held on Friday. A transcript will be made available after. Comey had refused subpoenas to appear before the Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees and filed a motion to prevent being compelled to testify. He will now withdraw the motion ahead of his appearance. In a release, Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said, “I was disappointed that Mr. Comey filed a motion to quash the subpoena sent to him to appear for our investigation. Mr. Comey chose to file a motion to quash despite clear Supreme Court precedent setting forth Congress’ authority to issue subpoenas compelling testimony before its committees. There was no need to use baseless litigation in an attempt to run out the clock on this Congress, and I am glad that it was withdrawn.”

The committee schedule for the week can be found here.

Senate:

Like the House, the agenda for the week in the Senate has changed. Right now, the Senate is tentatively scheduled to convene at 3:00 pm. There won’t be votes in the upper chamber until Wednesday afternoon. When the Senate does begin the week’s business, senators will consider the nomination of Bernard McNamee to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed cloture on McNamee's nomination on Thursday.

Other nominees on the floor: The Senate invoked cloture on Thursday on the nominations of Jonathan Kobes to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and Kathy Kraninger to serve as the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Both Kobes and Kraninger should be confirmed by narrow margins.

We’re hearing rumors that Senate Democrats may try to force a vote on S.J.Res. 64, a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act, to nullifying the Department of the Treasury and Internal Revenue Service rule eliminating Schedule B. S.J.Res. 64 was introduced by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and has 34 cosponsors, all of whom are Democrats or caucus with Democrats. Schedule B is an IRS form on which nonprofits list donors. Although this information is supposed to be private, there are examples of donors being leaked to the media.

There are other potential items on the calendar for this week, including S.J.Res. 54, the war powers resolution to withdraw the United States from involvement in Yemen.

The committee schedule for the week can be found here.