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The House and Senate are in session this week.
House: The House will be back in session today. Legislative business begins at 2:00 pm. Votes are postponed until 6:30 pm. There are 14 bills on the suspension calendar for Monday, which are listed below. They are all out of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
The House is also in session on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and will consider three bills on suspension and three bills subject to a rule. The three bills on suspension for the balance of the week are H.R. 5682 (FIRST STEP Act), H.Con.Res. 113 (Authorizing the use of the Capitol Grounds for the Greater Washington Soap Box Derby) and S. 292 (Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research Act). The three bills subject to a rule are S. 2155 (Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act), S. 204 (Trickett Wendler, Frank Mongiello, Jordan McLinn, and Matthew Bellina Right to Try Act), and H.R. 5515 (National Defense Authorization Act). The FIRST STEP Act and all three bills subject to a rule this week are of particular importance to FreedomWorks.
The full committee schedule can be found here.
Prison Reform: The FIRST STEP Act, which is a revised version of the Prison Reform and Redemption Act, will be on the House floor this week for a vote under suspension of the rules. After extensive work by sponsors Reps. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) as well as a bipartisan coalition of outside groups including FreedomWorks, the bill was marked up in the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month where it was reported out by a vote of 25-5, with broad bipartisan support. FreedomWorks’ letter of support for the bill is here.
Anticipating that the bill will receive similar -- and well-deserved -- bipartisan support on the House floor, some senators (namely Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.)) have been trying to influence the vote in the House in order to kill the bill. As prison reform is a legislative priority of President Trump’s this year, an idea which was doubled-down on by the White House event last week, and has long been a priority of Democrats, this opposition is troubling. Nonetheless, a strong vote in the House will more than likely just highlight the hypocrisy of its opponents and strengthen the already-broad support for prison reform and specifically the FIRST STEP Act.
Dodd-Frank: The House will take up the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, S. 2155, this week. This is legislation from Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) that reforms banking regulations implemented by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, or “Dodd-Frank,” by providing targeted regulatory relief for companies in the financial sector, especially community banks.
While FreedomWorks and other free-market groups prefer the more expansive reform bill, the Financial CHOICE Act, H.R. 10, that passed the House last year, it is this bill that has a promising path to becoming law. Its reforms, which have broad bipartisan support, would certainly open up the market to more innovation and invite new businesses and job growth. FreedomWorks issued a key vote for the bill in the Senate and will do so in the House this week.
Right to Try: Finally, after months of stalemate between the House and the Senate on which version of Right to Try would be picked up by the other chamber, the House has moved to vote on Sen. Ron Johnson’s (R-Wis.) bill, S. 204, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent last summer. About 40 states have passed their own right to try legislation, and it is once again the federal government which lags behind the states on sensible policy.
That Democrats have turned right to try into a partisan one following the president’s endorsement of the policy in his State of the Union Address is beyond despicable. As Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) said of right to try legislation that would allow terminally ill patients to access potentially life-saving drugs that have passed initial FDA safety testing, “There is no such thing as false hope. You either have hope or you have no hope.” Congress should vote to send S. 204 to the president’s desk to give these brave Americans hope.
NDAA: This week, the House will consider the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019. The NDAA is a $708.1 billion bill, which amounts to the largest defense budget since the end of World War II (adjusted for inflation). A total of 554 amendments were submitted to the House Rules Committee on the NDAA. Several amendments have been filed to address waste and transparency issues in the Pentagon budget, as well as to address problems with the defense slush fund known as the overseas contingency operation, or OCO.
The House Rules Committee will meet Tuesday afternoon at 3:00 pm for amendment consideration to determine which, if any, of the amendments which would offer even minor fixes to the bloated agency will be made in order. FreedomWorks will be tracking such amendments. Shortly thereafter, the legislation will get debate and floor time, likely followed by an up or down roll call vote.
Farm Bill: In addition to the busy schedule this week, the House has some unexpected unfinished business from last week to take care of. Last Friday morning, the House voted on the Agriculture and Nutrition Act, H.R. 2 (also known as the Farm Bill). The measure failed by a vote of 198-213. All Democrats opposed the bill, joined by 30 Republicans. Apparently, most of the GOP ‘no’ votes were because of an unrelated dispute over immigration. That being said, there were plenty of reasons to vocally oppose this expensive, wasteful legislation.
This doesn’t mean the Farm Bill is going away completely. Most of the provisions in previous Farm Bills are in permanent law, which means they will get re-authorized whether Congress votes on a new Farm Bill or not. Meanwhile, Congress is trying to negotiate, and will likely raise a motion to reconsider some time this week. That will be followed by another roll call vote.
Senate: The Senate will convene on Monday at 3:00 pm to resume consideration of Dana Baiocco to be a Commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Last Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed cloture on the following, in addition to Dana Baiocco: Motion to concur in the House amendment to Veterans Choice (S. 2372), Jelena McWilliams to be Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the FDIC for five years and to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the FDIC for six years, and James Randolph Evans to be Ambassador of the U.S. to Luxembourg.
The Senate continues to push forward on nominees, with Democrats heavily obstructing this process and forcing the full time for “debate” on nominees who end up passing overwhelmingly with over ninety votes. Conservatives continue to call on Leader McConnell to cancel August recess until the Senate is able to both confirm the nominees it is tasked with as well as complete the appropriations process in full.
The full committee schedule can be found here.