October 15, 2013

THE WEEK AHEAD

Legislative Focus: Continuing Resolution, Budget, Debt Ceiling

The Senate reconvened at 10:00 a.m.

This week, Senate leadership is expected to continue work on a fiscal plan that would reportedly fund the government through January 15 and extend the debt ceiling until February 7. The plan is expected to include language that would establish a conference committee to resolve differences between the House and Senate budget resolutions (H Con Res 25, S Con Res 8) to determine FY14 spending levels. This language is expected to require a budget conference report by December 13. However, if no budget deal is reached to avoid sequester, the legislation may offer agencies flexibility to carry out the cuts.

The House reconvened at 10:00 a.m. with legislative business starting at noon. Votes on targeted federal spending for schools (H.J. Res 83) are expected between 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. and other votes are possible.

The House will reconvene today to take up a narrow stopgap spending measure (H J Res 83) that would provide funding through December 15 for Impact Aid to school districts with a large federal presence. Since the shutdown, the House has been considering a series of “mini-CRs” that would provide temporary funding to selected departments, agencies and activities. For the remainder of the week, the House may consider other mini-CRs, including one for national intelligence programs ( H.J. Res 78) and one for the National Weather Service (H.J. Res 82). These measures would be considered under a closed rule that prohibits amendments.


KEY HEARINGS & MARKUPS

Small Business and Entrepreneurship :  The Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee will hold a hearing to examine the impact of the federal government shutdown on small businesses;
Tuesday, October 15th at 2:30 p.m., 428 Russell Building.

Agriculture:  The Jobs, Rural Economic Growth and Energy Innovation Subcommittee of Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee will hold a hearing titled “Investing in Small Town America: The Importance of a Comprehensive Farm Bill;”
Date TBA, 328A Russell Building.

Armed Services:  The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing to examine the impact of sequestration on the national defense;
Date TBA, G-50 Dirksen Building.

Commerce, Science and Transportation: The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing to examine the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act regarding on scientific research and the economy;
Date TBA, 253 Russell Building.

Education and the Workforce:  The Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee of the House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a series of hearings titled “Keeping College Within Reach;”
TBA, 2175 Rayburn Building.

Energy and Commerce:  The Energy and Power Subcommittee of House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the North American Energy Infrastructure Act;
Date TBA, 2123 Rayburn Building.

The Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing titled “Challenges and Opportunities in the 5GHz [Gigahertz] Spectrum Band;”
TBA, 2123 Rayburn Building.

Financial Services:  The Housing and Insurance Subcommittee of The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on the status of the National Flood Insurance Program;
Date TBA, 2128 Rayburn Building.

Health, Education, Labor & Pensions:  The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing titled “Safe and Supportive Schools: Lessons from the Field;”
Date TBA, 430 Dirksen Building.

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs:  The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “Extreme Weather Events: The Costs of Not Being Prepared;”
Date TBA, 342 Dirksen Building.

The Efficiency and Effectiveness of Federal Programs and the Federal Workforce Subcommittee of The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the impact of the government shutdown on efficiency and the Federal workforce;
Date TBA, 342 Dirksen Building.

Judiciary:  The Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights Subcommittee of The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on “stand your ground laws” following the trial decision on the shooting of Trayvon Martin. “Stand your ground laws” provide persons with the right to use force to protect themselves if they think their life is in danger;
Date TBA, 216 Hart Building.

The House Judiciary Committee will mark up pending legislation, including HR 1447 – A bill to encourage states to report to the attorney general certain information regarding the deaths of individuals in the custody of law enforcement agencies, and for other purposes;
Tuesday, October 1st at 10:00 a.m., 2141 Rayburn Building.

Natural Resources:  The House Natural Resources Committee and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a joint hearing titled “As Difficult As Possible: The National Park Service’s Implementation of the Government Shutdown;”
Wednesday, October 16th at 9:30 a.m., 2167 Rayburn Building.

Oversight and Government Reform:  The Government Operations Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing titled “Examining the Federal Response to Marijuana Legalization;”
TBA, 2247 Rayburn Building.

Science, Technology and Space:  The Environment Subcommittee of The House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing titled “Reauthorization of the National Integrated Drought Information System;”
Date TBA, 2318 Rayburn Building.

Veterans Affairs:  The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the Department of Veterans Affairs claims process;
Date TBA, 418 Russell Building.


HOUSE NAMES FARM BILL CONFEREES
 
On Friday the House passed a procedural vote, 223-189, to begin formal talks with the Senate to reconcile differences between farm bill legislation passed by each chamber. On Saturday Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) named 17 Republican conferees, including Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.). House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) named 12 Democratic conferees, including Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (R-Minn.) and Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sandy Levin (R-Mich.). The full list of House Republican conferees can be found here and the full list of House Democratic conferees can be found here. The Senate named farm bill conferees on August 1. 


HOUSE PASSES A SERIES OF SHORT-TERM FUNDING BILLS:

House Passes Short-Term Bureau of Indian Education Appropriations Bill 
The House of Representatives passed H.J.Res. 80, a narrow continuing resolution to fund the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service through December 15, 2013. BIE operates and funds tribally –controlled schools on tribal lands and reservations in 23 states. The Senate is unlikely to take up the BIE bill, which faces a veto threat from President Obama. The measure continues a series of program- and agency-specific appropriations resolutions that have passed the House since the government shutdown on October 1.
 
House Approves Short-Term Funding for Certain Homeland Security Functions 
The House of Representatives passed legislation that would temporarily fund certain Department of Homeland Security (DHS) functions within Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Citizenship and Immigration Services, the U.S. Coast Guard, and some activities of the National Protection and Programs Directorate’s Office of Biometric Identity Management. The bill, H.J. Res. 79, would fund these DHS activities at fiscal 2013 post-sequester levels until December 15. The DHS resolution is another in a series of narrow appropriations resolutions passed by the House since the start of the federal government shutdown. 

House Passes FAA Appropriations Bill
The House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution to fund the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by a vote of 252-172. The bill, H.J. Res. 90, would fund the FAA at the sequester-reduced fiscal year 2013 level until December 15, or enactment of an appropriations law, whichever comes first. The vote continues the series of House votes on program- and agency-specific appropriations resolutions, which began after the federal government shut down. The Senate is not expected to take up the measure. 

House Passes Short-Term Head Start Appropriations Bill 
The House of Representatives passed H.J.Res. 84, a narrow continuing resolution to fund Head Start through December 15, 2013. Head Start provides five-year competitive grants to organizations, local government agencies and school districts for programs to meet children’s social, health, nutritional and educational needs. A short-term continuing resolution for the Impact Aid education program, H.J.Res 83 , was scheduled for consideration yesterday, but was not taken up by the House. The Senate is unlikely to take up the Head Start bill, which faces a veto threat from President Obama. The measure continues a series of program- and agency-specific appropriations resolutions that have passed the House since the government shutdown on October 1. 

House Approves Short-Term Funding for the Food and Drug Administration 
The House of Representatives passed legislation that would temporarily reinstate Food and Drug Administration (FDA) funding. The bill, H.J. Res. 77, would fund FDA at the sequester-reduced fiscal 2013 level until December 15 or enactment of an appropriations law, whichever comes first. The FDA resolution is one in a series of narrow appropriations resolutions passed by the House since the start of the federal government shutdown. The Senate is not expected to take up the measure, which the White House has threatened to veto.


DEFENSE DEPARTMENT APPROVES WORKAROUND TO PAY DEATH BENEFITS

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that the Fisher House Foundation, a non-profit organization, will pay death benefits to families of military service members killed in action during the government shutdown. The Department of Defense (DoD) will enter into a contract to provide the benefits, including a $100,000 death gratuity, and reimburse the organization once the shutdown ends. This announcement came on the same day that the House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation, H. J. Res 91, that specifically allows DoD to pay out the death benefits. With DoD’s announcement of the workaround, the Senate is not expected to take up the measure. The Secretary’s full statement can be found here.


VETERANS SECRETARY TESTIFIES ON THE SHUTDOWN’S IMPACT TO BENEFIT CLAIMS PROCESSING

The House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing to discuss the impacts of the government shutdown on veterans’ services and benefits provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). During the hearing, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki told the committee that a shutdown into late October would force the VA to stop or delay payments of disability, pension, compensation and education claims to most of the 5-plus million veterans, spouses and families starting November 1st. Secretary Shinseki indicated that the VA will only have about $2 billion in reserve accounts to pay for $6.25 billion in claims due on that day should the shutdown continue. As of Tuesday, 7,000 Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) claims processors were furloughed while the pay of the remaining 13,000 is covered until the end of the month by $40 million in carryover funds from 2013. Secretary Shinseki indicated that once the funds run out, he will be forced to furlough all but 1,500 VBA employees. In addition, Secretary Shinseki told the hearing that all development on the Veterans Benefits Management System, a key element in the VA’s efforts to improve claims processing and move to a paperless system, has been halted during the shutdown. More information on the hearing can be found here.