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Capitol Hill Update: February 25, 2019

02/25/2019

Schedule:

The House and Senate are in session this week.

House:

The House will return today. Legislative business begins at 2:00 pm. Votes are postponed until 6:30 pm. There are a total of eight bills coming to the floor on suspension this week on Monday and Tuesday.

  • H.R. 583, PIRATE Act
  • H.R. 501, Poison Center Network Enhancement Act
  • H.R. 525, Strengthening the Health Care Fraud Prevention Task Force Act
  • H.R. 539, Innovators to Entrepreneurs Act
  • H.R. 425, Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act
  • H.R. 276, Recognizing Achievement in Classified School Employees Act
  • H.R. 1235, MSPB Temporary Term Extension Act
  • S. 47, Natural Resources Management Act

There are three rule bills on the floor this week. The first rule bill is H.J.Res. 46, which would block President Trump’s emergency declaration concerning the southern border. This joint resolution will be considered on Tuesday. The two remaining rule bills -- the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, H.R. 8, and the Enhanced Background Checks Act, H.R. 1112 -- relate to gun control. H.R. 8 will likely be considered on Wednesday, while H.R. 1112 will be likely be considered on Thursday. The House Rules Committee will meet on Monday at 5:00 pm to consider the 46 amendments filed for H.R. 8 and the 13 amendments filed for H.R. 1112 and the rules governing debate H.R. 8, H.R. 1112, and H.J.Res. 46.

H.J.Res. 46 would block the emergency declaration concerning the southern border. Section 202 of the National Emergencies Act, 50 U.S.C. 1622(a)(1), provides Congress with an avenue to terminate an emergency. Given that it has nearly 230 cosponsors, H.J.Res. 46 will almost certainly to pass the House. The joint resolution faces hurdles in the Senate, but only 51 votes are needed for passage. Should the joint resolution pass both chambers, it would be transmitted to the White House for President Trump’s signature or, most likely, veto.

H.R. 8 would require background checks on all handgun purchases and transfers. Currently, background checks are required for the vast majority of gun sales. These are instances in which an individual purchases a firearm from a gun store, which is required to have a Federal Firearms License (FFL) to sell guns. This does include most purchases at gun shows, at which a gun store may sell firearms. Private sales or transfers, such as inherited guns, aren’t subject to a background check but would be should H.R. 8 become law.

H.R. 1112 would extend the waiting period for gun purchases. Under current law, a federally licensed dealer is allowed to proceed with a sale to an individual after three business days if the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) doesn’t flag the applicant. Most who talk about this waiting period fail to mention that there are an additional 90 days after the initial three day period in which an investigation of the delay can be conducted. If there’s cause, ATF may seize the firearm from the individual. H.R. 1112 would extend the waiting period to ten business days. If NICS doesn’t respond to the dealer, the individual would have to petition the FBI’s NICS Section. The dealer may proceed with the sale ten business days after the filing of the petition.

Here’s the kicker. The NICS background check is good for only 30 calendar days. H.R. 1112 doesn’t extend that period. If an individual seeking to purchase the firearm waits too long to submit his or her petition or there are holidays in between, the process has to begin all over again and could end with the same result.

The so-called “For the People Act,” H.R. 1, is scheduled to be marked up by the House Administration Committee on Tuesday at 1:00 pm. Last week, a coalition of more than 30 organizations, including FreedomWorks, sent a letter in opposition to H.R. 1 to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). H.R. 1 is truly one of the worst bills Congress has considered in some time. Find out why here.

The committee schedule for the week is here.

Senate:

The Senate returns today at 3:00 pm. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) will deliver George Washington’s farewell address. This is a tradition that has been done every year in the Senate since 1896. After the conclusion of the speech, the Senate will resume consideration of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, S. 311. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed cloture the motion to proceed before the Senate recessed. Around 5:30 pm, the Senate will vote on the cloture motion on the motion to proceed.

Before the recess, Leader McConnell filed cloture on four nominees. Given the slow pace of the confirmation process for nominees, it’s likely that the consideration of at least a couple of these nominees will spill over to next week. The Senate will consider the nominees in the following order.

  • Eric Miller to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • Michael Desmond to serve as the chief counsel for the Internal Revenue Service and an assistant general counsel in the Department of the Treasury
  • Andrew Wheeler to serve as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
  • John Ryder to serve as a member of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority

The Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) didn’t markup the nomination of Neomi Rao to the D.C. Circuit before the recess. Originally scheduled for February 14, Rao and the other two nominees schedule for markup were held. SJC hasn’t rescheduled the markup.

The committee schedule for the week is here.