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The House and Senate are in session this week.
The House is back in session on Tuesday. Legislative business begins at 2:00 pm. Votes are postponed until 6:30 pm. There are 54 bills on the suspension calendar between Tuesday and Wednesday. The suspensions this week include reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, the Guidance Out Of Darkness (GOOD) Act, and the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act. We have some concerns about one suspension, which we’ll explain below.
On Wednesday, the House will take up the Empowering Financial Institutions to Fight Human Trafficking Act, H.R. 6729. The bill has some concerning language in the safe harbor provision for entities, including nonprofits, that supply information related to alleged human trafficking.
Specifically, the safe harbor language protects these entities from any liability. The text literally says that there is “no good faith requirement.” It reads, “A nonprofit organization, financial institution, association of financial institutions, regulatory authority of a financial institution, or law enforcement agency that transmits or shares information described under paragraph (1) shall not be required to demonstrate that such transmission or sharing was made on a good faith basis in order to receive the benefit of the safe harbor provided by paragraph (1).” It also preempts state law.
The safe harbor language isn’t the only problem with the Empowering Financial Institutions to Fight Human Trafficking Act. The bill also expands regulatory power under Section 314 of the USA PATRIOT Act, essentially allowing surveillance of Americans’ financial transactions.
The FAA Reauthorization Act, H.R. 302, includes the text of the Preventing Emerging Threats Act, S. 2836. In June, the American Civil Liberties Union spearheaded a coalition letter, which FreedomWorks signed, in opposition to the bill.
The letter is available here, but here’s an excerpt: “The bill would allow DOJ and DHS to seize drones without prior consent or any evidence of wrongdoing. The bill permits DOJ and DHS to seize private drones without prior or post-hoc judicial authorization of any kind and hold private property indefinitely. Moreover, it permits the punitive measure of seizing or forfeiting of private property without any due process, showing of wrongdoing, or necessity. Absent clear judicial checks, the bill creates a clear pathway for unbridled abuses of government power and raises serious concerns about the use, or possible misuse, of authority by DOJ and DHS.”
There are five rule bills on the floor this week, probably between Thursday and Friday. The House is expected to consider the conference report for H.R. 6157, which funds Defense, Labor, and Health and Human Services. The bill also includes a continuing resolution (CR) until December 7. The Senate passed the bill last week by a 93 to 7 vote.
The three bills that are collectively called “tax reform 2.0” will be on the floor. The Protecting Family and Small Business Tax Cuts Act, H.R. 6760, would made the individual and pass-through business tax reforms permanent. The Family Savings Act, H.R. 6757, and the American Innovation Act, H.R. 6756, are part of the effort and will also be on the floor.
The House will also consider H.Res. 1071, which takes aim at San Francisco over its policy of allowing illegal immigrant parents who have children in the local school system the ability to vote in school board elections. The resolution states that “allowing illegal immigrants the right to vote devalues the franchise and diminishes the voting power of United States citizens.”
The House Rules Committee will meet on Tuesday at 5:00 pm to consider the rules for the conference report to H.R. 6157 and H.Res. 1071. The committee will meet again on Wednesday at 3:00 pm to consider the rules for H.R. 6760, H.R. 6756, and H.R. 6757.
The committee schedule for the week can be found here.
The Senate will reconvene today at 3:00 pm. Senators will consider the nominations of Jackie Wolcott to serve as the United States’ representative to the Vienna Office of the United Nations and serve as a representative on the International Atomic Energy Agency. The chamber will also begin the consideration of the nomination of Peter Feldman to serve on the Consumer Product Safety Commission for the rest of the term ending on October 26, 2019 and the seven-year term beginning on October 27, 2019. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed cloture on Feldman’s nominations last week. Feldman will likely be confirmed on Wednesday. Votes are expected to begin around 5:30 pm.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) had scheduled a business meeting for today at 10:00 am to consider Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Several district court nominees are also on the calendar. That meeting has been postponed. Judge Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, has agreed to appear before the committee. The hearing will begin Thursday at 10:00 am.
Mrs. Ford will testify first and separate from Judge Kavanaugh, who will follow and have the opportunity to respond to the accusation. He will not be in the room when Mrs. Ford testifies. It is unclear whether a female counsel will question Mrs. Ford or not. The committee has simply said, “We reserve the option to have female staff attorneys, who are sensitive to the particulars of Dr. Ford’s allegations and are experienced investigators, question both witnesses. We believe this will allow for informed questioning, will generate the most insightful testimony, and will help de-politicize the hearing.”
The committee schedule for the week can be found here.