Capitol Hill Update: February 4, 2019
The House and Senate are in session this week.
State of the Union:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) invited President Trump to give the State of the Union address on Tuesday, February 5. The House subsequently passed H.Con.Res. 9 to formally authorize the president to deliver the message. Members are requested to be on the floor and in their seats by 8:20 pm. Senators will gather at 8:20 pm and proceed to the House as a body at 8:25 pm. The House will reconvene at 8:35 pm. The address is scheduled to begin at 9:00 pm. We’ll probably begin hearing more about themes today, but we don’t have much right now. There are several themes that are obvious, such as border security, the economy, and trade. Former Georgia House minority leader and failed 2018 gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams will deliver the Democratic response.
No votes are expected in the House on Monday. The House will return on Tuesday. Legislative business begins at 2:00 pm. No votes are expected. There are nine bills coming to the floor on suspension, although more could be added. Votes on these bills are expected on Wednesday and Thursday.
- H.R. 876, Pacific Northwest Earthquake Preparedness Act
- H.R. 866, Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act
- H.R. 543, To require the Federal Railroad Administration to provide appropriate congressional notice of comprehensive safety assessments conducted with respect to intercity or commuter rail passenger transportation.
- H.R. 831, Reviving America’s Scenic Byways Act
- H.R. 66, Route 66 Centennial Commission Act
- H.R. 494, Tiffany Joslyn Juvenile Accountability Block Grant Program Reauthorization Act
- H.R. 450, Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act of 2019
- H.R. 507, Put Trafficking Victims First Act of 2019
- H.R. 752, Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act
As of now, and this could change, the only rule bill for the week is the Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act, H.R. 840. The bill would make permanent a pilot program that provides “free” childcare to veterans during health or mental health appointments. The pilot program was created in 2011. The amendment deadline is today at 1:00 pm. As of this morning, the House Rules Committee hasn’t posted the meeting announcement for the consideration of the rule governing the bill.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee will markup H.J.Res. 37 on Wednesday. The business meeting is scheduled to begin at 12:00 pm. The resolution would direct the administration to end the United States’ involvement in the conflict in Yemen, which hasn’t been authorized by Congress. Although the vast majority of the 74 cosponsors of the resolution are Democrats, Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Ken Buck (R-Colo.), and Walter Jones (R-N.C.) are original cosponsors. Reps. Biggs and Buck are members of the House Freedom Caucus. A similar resolution was pushed last year, but House Republican leadership quashed the effort in rules governing legislation on the floor, most notably in H.Res. 1176, the rule for the Farm Bill. S.J.Res. 7, the companion to H.J.Res. 37, has been introduced in the Senate by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah). Although the effort in the House was stopped, the Senate passed the Yemen War Powers Resolution at the end of the last Congress.
The committee schedule for the week is here.
The Senate comes back today at 3:00 pm to resume the consideration of the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act, S. 1. After nearly a month of consideration and two unsuccessful motions to proceed, S. 1 may finally see a vote on final passage. Around 5:30 pm, the Senate will begin the first of three expected votes for the evening. The first vote is an amendment, S.Amdt. 96, to S.Admt. 65. S.Amdt. 96 clarifies S.Amdt. 65 to ensure that the latter is not construed as an authorization for the use of military force. After the vote on S.Amdt. 96, the Senate will vote on S.Amdt. 65, which is a sense of the Senate urging against the withdrawal of the United States in Afghanistan and Syria. The third vote will be on the cloture motion for S. 1. So, assuming cloture is invoked, the bill will be finished this week.
The process for the Natural Resources Management Act, S. 47, could begin this week. Unanimous consent to pass the lands package was blocked near the end of the last Congress by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who, understandably, wanted language added to prevent a president from unilaterally creating national monuments in Utah or expanding existing ones. He also had process concerns. Sen. Lee serves on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, but he wasn’t able to get the text of the bill or a summary until the day that Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) asked for consent. He got a summary of the bill from a lobbyist, not from the committee. The process for the bill this time around isn’t clear. Unless those justifiable concerns expressed by Sen. Lee have been addressed, it’s almost certain that he will object to unanimous consent. That leaves a few days of floor time and votes as the only option.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday at 10:00 am on the nomination of Neomi Rao, who has been nominated to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and Aditya Bamzai and Travis LeBlanc, who are both nominees to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB). All three of these nominees are important. Rao, however, stands out considering that she is filling the spot left open on the D.C. Circuit after the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Her nomination is particularly important because the D.C. Circuit is probably the second most important federal court, as it hears cases related to administrative law, including regulations, and it’s a feeder court to the Supreme Court. Currently, Rao serves as the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
The Senate Judiciary Committee postponed last week’s business meeting on William Barr, the nominee to serve as the next attorney general, and the 40 judicial nominees who were expected to be moved through the committee on their way to confirmation. Democrats asked for the delay. Barr and the judicial nominees are now expected to be considered on Thursday. The business meeting begins at 10:00 am.
The committee schedule for the week is here.