October 21, 2013


Legislative Focus: WRRDA, Adoption Assistance, School Background Checks

The Senate is not in session this week.

The House returns tomorrow and is expected to consider three bills under suspension of the rules: HR 3205, which would reauthorize adoption incentives to states; HR 185, which would name a courthouse in Texas; and HR 2083, which would address background checks for school employees.

HR 3205, the Promoting Adoption and Legal Guardianship for Children in Foster Care Act, would reauthorize through FY 2016 the Adoption Incentives program, which provides financial incentives to states to increase adoption rates from foster care. It would revise the awards process and allow states to spend funds over three years instead of two. It would also extend for three years the Family Connection Grants program, and would offset this cost by requiring states to offset federal income tax refunds to recover certain Unemployment Insurance overpayments. Additionally, the bill would require states to report on the amount of state savings resulting from the de-linking of income eligibility requirements for adoption assistance, as well as how these savings are reinvested in child welfare programs.

HR 2083, the Protecting Children from Sexual and Violent Predators Act, would require state education agencies receiving federal funds to conduct criminal background checks on school employees and would prohibit such agencies from employing individuals convicted of certain crimes.

On Wednesday and Thursday the House is expected to consider HR 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA). The measure would establish a new process for determining which Army Corps of Engineers water resource projects will move forward, increase expenditures from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and modify the allocation of these expenditures. It would also revise aspects of the current environmental impact review and permitting process in an effort reduce delays, among other provisions.


Armed Services:  The Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces will hold a hearing titled “An Independent Assessment of the Navy’s 30 year Shipbuilding Plan;”
Wednesday, October 23rd at 2:00 p.m., 2212 Rayburn Building.

The Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces will hold a hearing titled “Impacts of a Continuing Resolution and Sequestration on Acquisition and Modernization;”
Wednesday, October 23rd at 3:30 p.m., 2123 Rayburn Building.

Energy and Commerce:  The Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a hearing titled “The Evolution of Wired Communications Networks;”
Wednesday, October 23rd at 10:30 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Building.

The Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act;
Thursday, October 24th at 9:00 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Building.

Financial Services: The Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee will hold a hearing titled “Legislation to Further Reduce Impediments to Capital Formation,”
Thursday, October 24th at 10:00 a.m., 2128 Rayburn Building.

Foreign Affairs:  The House Committee on Foreign Affairs will hold a hearing titled “Next Steps on Egypt Policy,”
Thursday, October 24th at 10:00 a.m., 2172 Rayburn Building.

Rules: The House Rules Committee will hold a hearing to determine the rules for floor debate for H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013;
Tuesday, October 22nd at 5:00 p.m., H-313 Capitol Building.

Small Business:  The Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee will hold a hearing titled “Examining Legislative Proposals to Reform the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,”
Thursday, October 24th at 2:00 p.m., 2128 Rayburn Building.

Veterans’ Affairs: The Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs will hold a hearing titled “Focused Issues on Dignified Burials: A National Cemetery Update,” Thursday, October 24th at 10:00 a.m., 334 Cannon Building.


Early Thursday morning, the President signed legislation, H.R. 2775, to end the 16-day federal government shutdown and lift the national debt limit, which was predicted to be reached sometime after Thursday. The Senate passed the bill in an 81-18 vote, and the House later cleared the bill by a vote of 285-144. H.R. 2775 funds the federal government through January 15, 2014, at fiscal 2013 post-sequestration levels and suspends the debt limit until February 7, 2014. In addition, both chambers agreed to create a conference committee on the budget instructed to report a broader budget agreement by December 13, 2013.

The agreement to reopen the federal government and raise the debt limit includes additional measures to verify that federal subsidies for purchasing coverage through the health insurance exchanges are appropriately administered. The provision requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to certify to Congress that the exchanges are verifying individuals’ eligibility before subsidies are made available in 2014. In addition, HHS must submit a report to Congress detailing exchange verification procedures by January 1, 2014. An HHS inspector general report on the effectiveness of procedures and safeguards for preventing fraud in exchange enrollment is due to Congress by July 1, 2014. 


Last week the Illinois Supreme Court invalidated a state law that allowed Illinois to collect sales taxes from remote sellers. The law, patterned after similar laws that have been upheld in states like New York, allowed the state to require out-of-state vendors to collect sales taxes when they used a local “affiliate” to promote their business. The decision represents a split that may encourage the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the issue. 


On Friday, the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services announced that 16 states and the District of Columbia have applied for the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC), a competitive grant program for states. Applicants include Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont. The department estimates that $280 million will be available for RTT-ELC in 2013. In FY 11 and FY 12, RTT-ELC awarded 14 states over $600 million to increase access to high-quality early childhood education programs for children from low-income families. The departments will announce winners in December. More information on RTT-ELC may be accessed here.


The President announced Jeh Johnson as his nominee to head the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Prior to his nomination, Mr. Johnson served as chief legal counsel for the Department of Defense from 2009 to 2012. His name was not previously floated in homeland security policy circles as a likely potential candidate for the position, but is generally regarded as an uncontroversial nominee. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee leadership has indicated that it will move forward on Mr. Johnson’s confirmation proceedings as quickly as possible. Under Secretary of Homeland Security for National Protection and Programs Rand Beers has been serving as Acting Secretary of DHS since former Secretary Janet Napolitano left in September to run the California University System.


The House could begin to consider the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013, H.R. 3080, as early as next Wednesday, October 23. The House Rules Committee announced that it will meet next Tuesday to provide a rule for floor consideration that would limit amendments allowed. The Senate passed its version, S. 601, in May. WRDA was last reauthorized in 2007. 


The Department of Labor issued a Training and Employment Notice (TEN) to governors and state workforce officials on permissible uses of funds for the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) given the government shutdown. The TEN states that it is permissible to use WIA funds from Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 and funds not yet allocated for Program Year (PY) 2013 to cover allowable costs incurred by states and localities on or after October 1 due to the government shutdown. Also, the department indicated that the process of distributing FY 2014 funds and remaining PY 2013 allotments to states has begun. Distribution of these allotments was previously scheduled for October 1, but was delayed due to the lapse in appropriations. The TEN may be accessed here.