Capitol Hill Update, 13 July, 2015

Capitol Hill Update, 13 July, 2015

House & Senate/Schedule: Both House and Senate remain in session this week, and will recess for the long August recess starting on 1 August.

Senate/Education: The Senate will spend much of this week finishing up consideration of its bill to reauthorize, with some reform, No Child Left Behind. The Every Child Achieves Act, S. 1177, will have a number of amendments voted on as well. The Senate bill is in many respects weaker than the House-passed Student Success Act, H.R. 5 – a bill that was itself problematic.

Senate/Transportation: Once finished with the education bill, the Senate may turn next to a bill to fund federal highway infrastructure spending. Funding for the Highway Trust Fund officially expires on July 31, and it is likely that a short-term extension will be agreed to in order to buy more time for a longer-term deal. The Highway Trust Fund has run a major deficit for years, and there is a danger that members of both parties will seek some sort of tax increase in order to fund what most lawmakers agree is a “must-pass” bill. Congress should, at a bare minimum, consider reforms such as Congressman Massie’s DRIVE Act, which would ensure that federal highway dollars are actually getting spent on federal roads and bridges and not diverted to other pet projects.

House & Senate/Spending: The House’s progress in passing all twelve of the normal annual spending bills has stalled, as the House was unable to finish the Department of Interior appropriations bill. Combined with the Senate’s inability to move even one of the twelve bills on their end, it is nearly certain that the government funding for the next fiscal year will be accomplished by another “omnibus” mega-spending bill, like last year.

House/Justice Reform: The full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold two hearings on Tuesday at 9:45 AM and on Wednesday at 10:00 AM. Tuesday’s hearing will feature a number of Representatives, Senators, and Governors, while Wednesday’s meeting will feature testimony from five outside experts on justice reform. The focus will be on how state reforms to prisons and sentencing have been effective and how those reforms could lead to good results at the federal level.