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Capitol Hill Update: February 5, 2018

02/05/2018

Schedule:

The House and Senate are in session this week.

House:

The House is looking at another short week. Last week, House and Senate Republicans had their joint conference in West Virginia, which began on Wednesday. Theoretically, this week will be another shortened one in the House, with House Democrats' own off-site conference. But there is one big hurdle to get through this week: another government funding bill.

The House will reconvene on Monday, with votes expected at 6:30 pm. There are nine bills on the suspension calendar, including the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act, H.R. 4547, and the Ukraine Cybersecurity Cooperation Act, H.R. 1997.

Other legislative items for the week are the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, H.R. 772, and the Mortgage Choice Act, H.R. 1153.

Sponsored by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act would relax the Food and Drug Administration's menu-labeling rule, which requires restaurants with 20 locations or more to disclose nutritional information, such as calories of each item on the menu. The rule comes with a $1 billion price tag.

The current continuing resolution (CR) expires at the end of Thursday. House Republican leadership plans to bring a spending bill to the floor, either Tuesday or Wednesday. The current CR expires on Thursday, February 8. The speculation is that the next CR is likely to fund the government through late March, assuming that there isn't a long-term deal on spending caps before then. 

Like the House, the Senate will have to pass a spending bill before the February 8 deadline. There doesn't appear to be many hurdles in the Senate to passage. Of course, there will be Democratic senators who vote against the CR, but the three-day government shutdown in January was a tactical error by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and it's one that isn't likely to be repeated.

There were discussions between party leaders in Congress on a spending deal that would have busted the spending caps by at least $230 billion, and as much as $300 billion, over two years, once again undermining the Budget Control Act of 2011. Those negotiations had been sidetracked by other issues like DACA, and it seemed possible that there wouldn't be a deal on the spending caps for the remainder of this fiscal year.

On Saturday, Politico reported that negotiators are close to a deal that would bust the spending caps "by roughly $300 billion over two years — more than the three previous budget deals combined ." The so-called "offsets" are little more than gimmicks, which include reclassifying some discretionary spending to mandatory spending and selling oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. 

A wrinkle in the spending bill could be the debt limit. Although the Congressional Budget Office originally believed that extraordinary measures used by the Treasury Department would be exhausted in late March, the agency now believes the measures will run out in the first half of March. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has urged Congress to act.

According to the House committee calendar, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) is expected to meet on Monday at 5:00 pm. It's likely that the committee will vote on the release of the minority's memo rebutting the Republican memo released on Friday

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

Senate:

The Senate will reconvene on Monday at 3:00 pm. Around 5:30 pm, senators will vote on the confirmation of Andrei Iancu to serve as undersecretary of commerce for intellectual property and director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Like the House, the Senate will have to pass a spending bill before the February 8 deadline. There doesn't appear to be many hurdles in the Senate to passage. Of course, there will be Democratic senators who vote against the CR, but the three-day government shutdown in January was a tactical error by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and it's one that isn't likely to be repeated.

One of the notable pieces of news that came out of the House and Senate Republican retreat last week was filibuster reform. House Republicans pressed there Senate colleagues on reform, such as lowering the threshold on appropriations bills to 51 votes. Some House conservatives want to completely eliminate the filibuster or return to the traditional talking filibuster.

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