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Capitol Hill Update: February 24, 2020

02/24/2020

Schedule:

The House and Senate are in session this week.

House:

The House returns tomorrow and will be in session through Friday. There are 13 bills coming to the floor under suspension of the rules. We expect that suspensions will be considered Tuesday and Wednesday, but they may carry into Thursday and Friday. (More on that in a moment.) It’s possible other suspensions could be added.

  • H.R. 2227, Gold Star Spouses and Spouses of Injured Servicemembers Leasing Relief Expansion Act
  • H.R. 4852, GIVE Act
  • H.R. 4613, VA Reporting Transparency Act
  • H.R. 561, Protecting Business Opportunities for Veterans Act
  • H.R. 3749, Legal Services for Homeless Veterans Act
  • H.R. 35, Emmett Till Antilynching Act
  • H.R. 560, Northern Mariana Islands Relief Act
  • H.R. 2427, Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network Reauthorization Act
  • H.R. 473, To authorize the Every Word We Utter Monument to establish a commemorative work in the District of Columbia and its environs, and for other purposes
  • H.R. 2490, To amend the National Trails System Act to direct the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study on the feasibility of designating the Chief Standing Bear National Historic Trail, and for other purposes,
  • H.R. 2819, Gold Star Mothers Families National Monument Extension Act,
  • H.R. 3399, To amend the Nutria Eradication and Control Act of 2003 to include California in the program, and for other purposes
  • H.R. 1492, Yucca House National Monument Expansion Act

Interestingly, as of this morning, there were no rule bills on the schedule and no meeting was on the schedule for the House Rules Committee. Obviously, this could change. One rumor floating around is that the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act, H.R. 2339, will be on the floor this week. For those who are unfamiliar with H.R. 2339, it would devastate the e-cigarette and vaping industry. The bill would outright ban online sales of flavored vaping products, and ban the flavors themselves. H.R. 2339 would also require graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging. Compelled speech by the federal government is a violation of the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has upheld this principle time and time again, stating that the government has no right to tell people what they must say. The Constitution does not cease to bind U.S. lawmakers merely because they are making law with regard to American businesses.

The solution to cutting tobacco use is to allow for healthier alternatives to gain greater market share, not to force tobacco companies to scare their customers. H.R. 2339 is also an infringement on freedom of choice. It would ban all characterizing flavors of tobacco, including menthol. Such provisions go beyond mere public safety concerns and give away the true intention of the legislation: to control even the minuscule aspects of everyday life in America. Congress should have no role in determining which flavor cigarettes are acceptable. People will still have access to traditional, combustible cigarettes, of course, which is their choice, but those who want to ween themselves off cigarettes, this method of harm reduction will be taken away. The message from House Democrats with H.R. 2339 is clear...quit, or die.

The Senate-passed Iran War Powers Resolution, S.J.Res. 68, may also come up soon, if not this week.

On Wednesday at 2:30 pm, the House Judiciary Committee will consider the USA FREEDOM Act Reauthorization Act, the text of which is not yet available. The USA FREEDOM Act is the surveillance law that Congress passed in June 2015 that “reformed” certain surveillance authorities of the USA PATRIOT Act. We don’t know much about the bill, but we do know it falls far short of the reforms in the Safeguarding Americans' Private Records Act, H.R. 5675, which sponsored by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio). FreedomWorks fully supports H.R. 5675. In case you missed, Davidson had a great piece over at FoxNews.com last week on this very issue. There have also been rumors floating around about a clean, eight-month reauthorization of the expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. Find out more about where FreedomWorks stands on surveillance reform here.

The committee schedule for the week can be found here.

Senate:

The Senate returns today at 3:00 pm and will be in session, presumably, through Thursday. Today, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) will deliver George Washington’s farewell address on the Senate floor. At 5:30 pm, the Senate will vote on the cloture motion for Robert Anthony Molloy to serve as a judge for the District Court of the Virgin Islands. Three other nominees are on the floor this week.

  • Silvia Carreno-Coll to serve as a judge on the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico
  • Katharine MacGregor to as the Deputy Secretary of the Interior
  • Travis Greaves to serve as a judge on the United States Tax Court for a term of fifteen years

At some point this week, the Senate will vote on motions to proceed to the Pain Capable Unborn Child Act, S. 3275, and the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, S. 311. The motion to proceed simply allows the Senate to begin consideration of the measure, or to “get on the bill.” These don’t appear to be votes on cloture motions for the motions to proceed, so only a simple majority is required. Republicans may have enough votes for a simple majority threshold to begin debate on the measures. If, however, these are cloture motions for the motion to proceed, 60 votes will be needed, and Republicans don’t have enough votes. Regardless, there aren’t 60 votes for cloture to limit debate and eventually take a final vote on either bill.

The committee schedule for the week can be found here.