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Capitol Hill Update: January 15, 2018

01/15/2018

Schedule:

The House and Senate are in session this week.

House:

The House comes back in on Tuesday this week. Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and is a federal holiday. There are a couple of big storylines this week. Obviously, the biggest one is funding the federal government. The current continuing resolution runs through Friday, January 19.

Until recently, it appeared that a bipartisan deal was in the works to pass a government spending bill through September 30, one that would bust the spending caps for the fourth time, as well as address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. Now, another short-term continuing resolution (CR) is almost certainly what Congress will pass before it adjourns on Friday. House members are expected to be back in their districts next week. Unless that recess is postponed, expect at least a two-week CR.

Assuming Congress does pass another short-term spending bill, it'll be the fourth of the fiscal year. Here are the previous three for those keeping score at home:

  • H.R. 601: The first continuing resolution for FY 2018. It became law on September 8, 2017 and funded the federal government through Friday, December 8, 2017.

  • H.J.Res. 123: This was the second continuing resolution for FY 2018. It also included a special rule for unused dollars for states experiencing funding shortfalls related to the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The bill, which became law on December 8, funded the federal government through Friday, December 22, 2017.

  • H.R. 1370: This is the most recent continuing resolution for FY 2018. The bill was hardly the measure of fiscal responsibility, as it waived the budget caps on defense spending and delayed those for nondefense discretionary spending. It also extended funding for CHIP. The bill funds the federal government through Friday, January 19, 2018. It became law on December 22, 2017.

Not only could this week be a train wreck for Congress, fiscal conservatives and open government advocates who have successfully limited earmarks are staring down the House bringing them back. The House Rules Committee will meet Tuesday at 10:30 am for a hearing entitled, "Article I: Effective Oversight and the Power of the Purse." The Rules and Administration Subcommittee will have a separate hearing Wednesday morning, where it will hear testimony from members.

Most floor action this week will come by way of the suspension calendar, with 11 bills slated for consideration under suspension of the rules. Later this week, the House will also consider the Home Mortgage Disclosure Adjustment Act, H.R. 2954; the World Bank Accountability Act, H.R. 3326; and the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, H.R. 4712.

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

Senate:

Like the House, the Senate is observing Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday. The chamber will reconvene on Tuesday and consider the FISA Amendment Reauthorization Act, S. 139. The bill passed the House on Thursday by a vote of 256 to 164. An amendment, the USA RIGHTS Act, offered by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) was rejected by a vote of 183 to 233.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had pledged to filibuster the bill. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) tweeted that the USA RIGHTS Act was "essential for [his] vote." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) managed to bypass a talking filibuster on the motion to proceed, which was approved on a 68 to 27 vote.

The concern now is that Leader McConnell is blocking amendments that would improve the bill. The tactic is known as "filling the amendment tree" or "filling the tree." Because the majority leader is recognized first for amendments, he or she can offer enough amendments to block other amendments from being offered by other senators. This is what's happening here. Sens. Paul and Lee planned to introduce the USA RIGHTS Act and the USA Liberty Act, respectively. The tactic Leader McConnell is using would effectively prevent them from doing so.

Any CR passed by the House will head over to the Senate for approval. The CR is likely to pass the House. The Senate, however, is an entirely different story. Without a deal on DACA, it's unlikely that enough Democrats will vote for the bill to get the required 60 votes to bypass a filibuster, meaning the 19th "government shutdown" since 1976. (As an aside, the government doesn't really shut down.) It's possible that a few Republicans could vote against the spending bill because of the absence of an agreement on DACA.

On Sunday, President Trump blamed Democrats for the lack of an agreement on DACA, tweeting that the policy "is probably dead because the Democrats don’t really want it, they just want to talk and take desperately needed money away from our [m]ilitary."

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