The House and Senate are in session this week.
While the House has a slate of bills on the calendar for this week, the most pressing matter is the continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded. Initially, after leadership settled on a CR to give the incoming administration a chance to immediately push its priorities, the thinking was that it would run through March. Now, it appears, the CR will run through April, as the Senate will be preoccupied with the confirmation of nominees for the next administration. The current CR expires December 9.
The House will consider S. 2873, the Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes (ECHO) Act, which passed the Senate last week without opposition. The bill requires HHS to study the use of technology to expand access to health care for patients who live in rural areas.
H.R. 6427, the Creating Financial Prosperity for Businesses and Investors Act, is on the calendar for Monday. The bill, introduced by Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), seeks to improve capital markets in the United States. Rep. Garrett, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, is leaving Congress in January. Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), another member of the House Freedom Caucus, is a cosponsor of the bill. The House is also expected to vote on the Water Resources Development Act during the week.
Although the chamber is scheduled to be in session through Friday, December 16, the House may wrap up business for the year after the passage of the CR. The 115th Congress begins Tuesday, January 3 at noon. The 2017 House calendar is available here.
The Senate will take up H.R. 34, the 21st Century Cures Act. The bill, which would streamline Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations that often slow innovation and research and provide more funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and FDA, passed the House by a vote of 392 to 26. The mandatory spending originally in the bill is now discretionary spending, but the bill has become a Christmas tree and the pay-fors are largely budget gimmicks. The first vote on the bill is expected Monday evening.
After the House passes the CR, the Senate will take it up. There has been some resistance to a CR in the upper chamber from defense hawks like Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.). Others have expressed concern over the Senate’s workload, which, as already mentioned, includes confirmation hearings and votes for executive-level nominees in the incoming administration. The latter has been addressed with the CR now expected to run through April. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has already indicated support for the stop-gap funding measure.
Like the House, the Senate has released its calendar for 2017. The Senate calendar is available here.