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Capitol Hill Update: September 9, 2019

09/09/2019

Schedule:

The House and Senate are in session this week.

House:

The House returns today. Legislative business begins at 2:00 pm. Votes are postponed until 6:30 pm. There are nine bills coming to the floor under the suspension of the rules, likely between Monday and Tuesday.

  • H.R. 2114, Enhancing State Energy Security Planning and Emergency Preparedness Act
  • H.R. 1760, Advanced Nuclear Fuel Availability Act
  • H.R. 1768, Diesel Emissions Reduction Act
  • H.R. 1420, Energy Efficient Government Technology Act
  • H.R. 2852, Homebuyer Assistance Act
  • H.R. 3620, Strategy and Investment in Rural Housing Preservation Act
  • H.R. 1690, Safe Housing for Families Act
  • H.R. 281, Ensuring Diverse Leadership Act
  • H.R. 241, Bank Service Company Examination Act

The House Rules Committee will meet today at 5:00 pm to consider the rules and amendments for the Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act, H.R. 1941; the Protecting and Securing Florida's Coastline Act, H.R. 205; and the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act, H.R. 1146. The Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act would prohibit the Department of the Interior from leasing Atlantic and Pacific regions of the outer continental shelf for oil and gas. The Protecting and Securing Florida's Coastline Act, which is sponsored by Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) and cosponsored by several Republicans and Democrats, would permanently extend the moratorium on oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico. The Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act would repeal the provision of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for oil and gas exploration.

Specifics, such as the length of a continuing resolution, are unknown, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has told the House Democratic Caucus, via a letter, that the chamber will take up a short-term spending bill during the week of September 16. The CR would keep the government open past the September 30 deadline. One would assume the CR would fund the government into November or December. As of Sunday evening, the House Appropriations Committee had not scheduled any hearing or markup on an appropriations bill. Leader Hoyer apparently criticized Senate Republicans for not introducing any appropriations bills. "As we wait for them to complete their work so that we can begin conference negotiations," he wrote, "a continuing resolution will be necessary to prevent another government shutdown like the one we experienced earlier this year." There's an update on what's happening in the Senate on appropriations below.

On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee will markup six bills, including the Keep Americans Safe Act, H.R. 1186 and the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, H.R. 1236. The Keep Americans Safe Act would establish a new criminal penalty of not more than five years of imprisonment for the importation, manufacture, sale, transfer, or possession of a magazine that holds more than ten rounds. There are some exceptions, such as law enforcement and retired law enforcement. The Extreme Risk Protection Order Act is the red flag bill that we noted a couple of weeks ago. This legislation would incentivize states to enact red flag laws. Under such laws, a family member or members or law enforcement to seek a temporary extreme risk protection order against an individual who could be a threat to themselves or others. A judge could issue an order to allow law enforcement to take possession of any firearms that the individual owns. The proposal would also create a national red flag law.

Another bill being marked up is H.R. 4018. This bipartisan bill, which simply clarifies a provision of the First Step Act, amends the Second Chance Act to reduce the amount of time an elderly offender must serve by the good time credits the elderly offender has earned. One more bill worth noting is the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act would create a three-member Copyright Claims Board to review copyright claims and assess monetary penalties. The R Street Institute has noted that the CASE Act could “encourage copyright troll lawsuits” and may be unconstitutional because it creates what is essentially a judicial body outside of the federal court system. Although the copyright claims are supposedly small-dollar, the cap on statutory damages is $30,000, which isn’t a small amount.

On Friday, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) became the 118th House Democrat to cosponsor the Medicare for All Act, H.R. 1384. This means that half of the House Democratic Caucus has cosponsored a bill that would virtually eliminate private health insurance. Among the cosponsors are two members of caucus leadership and 14 of the 20 standing committee chairs, including Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) and Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). Neither Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) nor Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) have cosponsored the bill, although the former held a hearing on expansion of health coverage, including single-payer. Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce have jurisdiction over health insurance issues.

The committee schedule for the week is here.

Senate:

The Senate returns today at 3:00 pm. Before the recess, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed cloture on eight nominees, which are listed below.

  • Kelly Craft to serve as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations
  • Elizabeth Darling to serve as the Commissioner on Children, Youth, and Families for the Department of Health and Human Services
  • Stephen Akard to serve as the Director of the Office of Foreign Missions
  • Dale Cabaniss to serve as the Direct of the Office of Personnel Management
  • James Byrne to serve as the Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs
  • Michelle Bowman to serve as a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors (reappointment for a full 14-year term)
  • Thomas Peter Feddo to serve as an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Investment Security
  • Jennifer Nordquist to serve as the Executive Director of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development

Although Leader Hoyer intends to bring a CR to the House floor next week, the Senate Appropriations Committee is currently expected to markup four appropriations bills for FY 2020 -- Defense; Energy and Water; State and Foreign Operations; and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The markup of those bills is expected on Thursday at 10:30 am. Senate appropriators appear to be trying to position itself for a hybrid CR and mini-omnibus spending bill, a "CRomnibus," as it has been called in the past.

We don’t know which nominees the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider on Wednesday at 10:00 am, but we do know a hearing has been scheduled. Currently, there are four circuit court vacancies and one nomination pending and 97 district court vacancies and 34 nominees pending. Since January 2017, the Senate has confirmed 43 circuit court judges and 99 district court judges. Thirteen of those appellate court judges and 46 district court judges have been confirmed since January 2019.

The committee schedule for the week is here.