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The House and Senate are in session this week.
The House returns today and is scheduled to be in session through Friday. Legislative business begins today at noon. First votes today could be as early as 2:00 pm. As of now, 34 votes are expected to come to the floor under the suspension of the rules, though more could be added. The suspensions, which are listed below, will likely be considered today, tomorrow, and Wednesday.
Bills that come to the floor under suspension of the rules require two-thirds of members present and voting for passage. This is the most common way that bills considered by the House come to the floor. Some of these bills may be passed by a voice vote, rather than a roll call vote. Most bills that come to the floor under suspension aren’t widely considered controversial, although leadership may occasionally test a bill under suspension to gauge opposition or sneak a bill through the chamber.
As of this morning, the House Rules Committee hasn’t noticed a meeting or meetings for this week to consider the conference report for the roughly $740 billion National Defense Reauthorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2021 or whatever Congress decides to do to fund the federal government, which may or may not include COVID-19 relief. Supposedly, NDAA will be considered in the House on Tuesday. A bill to fund the federal government, for however long (more on that in a minute), would come up later in the week. It’s also possible that additional rule bills will be considered on the floor this week since last-minute legislative activity is such a thing in the closing days of a session.
The conference report for NDAA is done, and it includes a 3 percent pay raise for servicemembers. However, the conference report also includes plenty of bad provisions, such as denying funding to reduce the number of American troops and Germany and Afghanistan and beneficial ownership language that fails to really meet a constitutional standard for a warrant. Whether the NDAA gets signed into law is also an open question considering that the NDAA includes a provision that allows the military installations named after Confederates to be changed over the next three years. President Trump has threatened to veto the bill over this single provision.
What we can tell you right now is that discretionary funding for the federal government runs through Friday, December 11. We don’t really know with any certainty what’s going to happen here with government funding or COVID-19. We’re hearing rumors, for sure. Those rumors range from a one-week continuing resolution (CR) to give more time for congressional leadership and appropriators to craft an omnibus that will include a roughly $900 billion COVID-19 relief package. If this rumor turns out to be accurate, which we believe it is, Congress would be in session the week of December 14, which is currently not a scheduled session week. Another rumor is that the negotiations on appropriations and COVID-19 aren’t going well and that Congress could pass a longer CR until February or March.
The full House committee schedule for the week is here.
The Senate will return today at 3:00 pm to resume consideration of the nomination of Stephen Sidney Schwartz to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims for a term of fifteen years. A vote on the cloture motion for Schwartz’s nomination is expected around 5:30 pm. The other nomination that we expect this week is Nathan A. Simington to serve as a commission on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a term of five years from July 1, 2019.
The House will send the conference report for NDAA after its passage on Tuesday across the Capitol for consideration in the Senate. We don’t have a timeline for consideration in the Senate. Whatever agreement on government funding is reached will also be considered in the Senate. We’re making an assumption that the House will consider the funding agreement before the Senate, but a bill previously sent by the House to the Senate could be used as a vehicle, allowing the Senate to consider the bill earlier in the week.
Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) was sworn in last week. The party divisions in the Senate are Republicans and 48 Democrats, including the two independents who caucus with Democrats.
The full Senate committee schedule for the week is here.