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Capitol Hill Update: March 9, 2020

03/09/2020

Schedule:

The House and Senate are in session this week.

House:

The House returns today and will be in session through Thursday. There are ten bills coming to the floor under suspension of the rules. These bills will be considered likely today and tomorrow.

  • H.Res. 754, Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States should continue to support the people of Nicaragua in their peaceful efforts to promote democracy and human rights, and use the tools under United States law to increase political and financial pressure on the government of Daniel Ortega
  • H.Res. 410, Encouraging reunions of divided Korean-American Families
  • H.R. 2444, Eastern European Security Act
  • H.R. 1771, Divided Families Reunification Act,
  • Senate Amendment to H.R. 1365, To make technical corrections to the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act
  • H.Res. 756, Implementing recommendations adopted by the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress
  • H.R. 2877, To add Ireland to the E-3 nonimmigrant visa program
  • H.R. 6020, To require an evaluation by the Government Accountability Office of the social, economic, and historic contributions that Minor League Baseball has made to American life and culture
  • S. 760, Support for Veterans in Effective Apprenticeships Act
  • H.R. 3598, FREED Vets Act

The House Rules Committee will meet today at 5:00 pm to consider the rule and amendments for the Iran War Powers Resolution, S.J.Res. 68, and the House Amendment to the Senate Amendment to the H.R. 2486. Additional legislative items are possible, if not certain.

The House will finally consider the Iran War Powers Resolution, S.J.Res. 68. As we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, S.J.Res. 68 was amended to include language commending the armed forces, the intelligence community, President Trump for the strike against Qasem Soleimani. We’ve heard that this has opened the door to at least some Republican support. There has been some Republican support for Iran-related legislation during the 116th Congress. In fact, recently, the House passed two amendments to H.R. 550. The first amendment reflected the text of the No War Against Iran Act, H.R. 5543, and the second was the text of the legislation to repeal the 2002 authorization for the use of military force against Iraq, H.R. 2456. Only four Republicans voted for the first, but 11 Republicans voted for the second. Unlike the previous Iran War Powers Resolution that the House considered and passed, S.J.Res. 68 doesn’t include incendiary language towards President Trump.

The House Amendment to the Senate Amendment to the H.R. 2486 is the text of the National Origin-Based Antidiscrimination for Nonimmigrants (NO BAN) Act, H.R. 2214, and Access to Counsel Act, H.R. 5581. For those who don’t understand the whole “House Amendment to the Senate Amendment” language, this is essentially legislative ping pong. H.R. 2486 started out in the House as Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act, which authorized mandatory spending programs for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The House version of the FUTURE Act passed in September. The Senate substantially amended H.R. 2486 and sent it back to the House. The House is taking H.R. 2486, as amended by the Senate, and substituting the text of the NO BAN Act and the Access to Counsel Act. The NO BAN Act would limit the President’s authority to restrict immigrants from entering from certain countries and terminates executive proclamations and orders related to President Trump’s travel ban. The Access to Counsel Act would provide legal counsel to individuals who are subject to secondary or deferred inspection, such as permanent residents, refugees, immigrants in possession of a valid unexpired immigrant visa, and non-immigrants in possession of a valid unexpired non-immigrant visa.

Certain provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) are set to expire on Sunday, and legislation to temporarily reauthorize these provisions is very likely. These provisions include Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act (as amended by the USA FREEDOM Act in 2015), the “lone-wolf” provision, and roving wiretaps. Section 215 is most well known as the portion of US surveillance law that the government has used to justify the cell phone metadata dragnet spy program that was revealed to have collected the data of tens of millions of innocent Americans. This program has been shut down by the NSA for the time being, but its authorization is still on the books. Separately, Section 215 allows the collection of large quantities of “tangible” business records.

Given the long string of revealed abuses of surveillance powers under FISA (both the expiring portions and others, such as Section 702), the upcoming sunset poses an important opportunity to update the law to restore Americans’ right to due process against warrantless surveillance. President Trump has joined the chorus of politicians from both parties calling for major reform to FISA before these expiring programs are reauthorized. However, no deal has yet been reached with respect to what these reforms would look like. You can see FreedomWorks’ suggestions for reforming FISA here.

The committee schedule for the week can be found here.

Senate:

The Senate returns today at 3:00 pm and will resume consideration of S. 2657, which is the vehicle for the energy bill, the American Energy Innovation Act. The 555-page amendment with the text of the American Energy Innovation Act is available here. A section-by-section summary of the bill is here. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed cloture on the S.Amdt. 1407, which is the text of the American Energy Innovation Act. Senators have until 3:30 pm to submit amendments to S.Amdt. 1407. A cloture vote on S.Amdt. 1407 will take place around 5:30 pm.

The Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing on Thursday at 10:00 am on the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) annual report on the Nation’s Fiscal Health. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro will testify. The most recent report was released in April 2019, but the GAO did recently release the financial audit of the consolidated statements for FY 2018 and FY 2019.

The committee schedule for the week can be found here.