December 7, 2015

Legislative Focus: FY 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, ESSA

The Senate reconvened at 2 p.m. today.

The House reconvened at 2 p.m. for legislative business but will not hold first votes until Tuesday.

Last week Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed cloture on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a conference report to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. A cloture vote is scheduled for Tuesday morning, with a vote on final passage expected later that day. ESSA already passed the House, 359-64. If it passes the Senate, the President could sign the bill as early as this week.

On Tuesday, the House is expected to vote on 13 bills under suspension of the rules, including  H.R. 158, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015. Lawmakers may also take up H.R. 644, a conference report to a trade customs bill, as well as a H.R. 3762, which would repeal portions of the Affordable Care Act and defund Planned Parenthood.

Congress may also consider an omnibus appropriations bill that would fund the government through FY 2016, though a continuing resolution may happen if a deal cannot be reached by Friday.

Key Hearings and Markups

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

·         Full committee hearing on S.2257, the “National Park Service Centennial Act.” Tuesday, December 8 at 10 a.m., 366 Dirksen Building.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee

·         Full committee hearing titled “Opioid Abuse in America: Facing the Epidemic and Examining Solutions.” Tuesday, December 8 at 10 a.m., 430 Dirksen Building.

Senate Special Aging Committee

·         Full committee hearing on prescription drug prices. Wednesday, December 9, location and time TBA.

Senate Veterans Affairs Committee

·         Full committee markup of S.290, the “Increasing the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability to Veterans Act” and S.425, the “Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Programs Reauthorization Act.” Wednesday, December 9 at 2:30 p.m., 418 Russell Building.

House Energy and Commerce Committee

·         Oversight and Investigations subcommittee hearing titled “An Overdue Checkup Part II: Examining the ACA’s State Insurance Marketplaces.” Tuesday, December 8 at 10 a.m., 2322 Rayburn Building.

·         Health subcommittee hearing to discuss pending legislation. Wednesday, December 9 at 10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Building.

House Homeland Security Committee

·         Transportation Security subcommittee hearing titled “Examining TSA’s Global Efforts to Protect the Homeland from Aviation Threats and Enhance Security and Last Point of Departure Airports.” Tuesday, December 8 at 1 p.m., 311 Cannon Building.

House Judiciary Committee

·         Immigration and Border Security subcommittee hearing titled “Oversight of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.” Wednesday, December 9 at 1 p.m., 2141 Rayburn Building.

House Natural Resources

·         Federal Lands subcommittee hearing on recreation/conservation legislation. Wednesday, December 9 at 2 p.m., 1334 Longworth Building.

House Veterans Affairs Committee

·         Full committee hearing titled “Fact Check: An End of Year Review of Accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs.” Wednesday, December 9 at 10:30 a.m., 334 Cannon Building.

The Week in Review

Economy Adds 211,000 Jobs in November, Unemployment Holds at 5.0 Percent
The U.S. Department of Labor reported the number of nonfarm payroll jobs increased by 211,000 in November, while the unemployment rate held at 5 percent. The economy experienced job gains in construction, professional and technical services, and health care. The number of long-term unemployed remained unchanged at 2.1 million, and the number of involuntary part-time workers (including individuals working part-time but looking for a full-time job) increased from 5.8 million in October to 6.1 million in November. Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 4 cents in November to $25.25, following a 9-cent gain in October.

Congress Passes Transportation Bill with Strong Bipartisan Support
Last week the House and Senate voted, 359-65 and 83-16, respectively, to approve H. Rept. 114-357, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The five-year, $305 billion highway and transit bill was signed Friday by the President.

House Approves Comprehensive Energy Bill
Last week the House passed H.R. 8, the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015, 249-174. As amended, the bill would lift the oil export ban and expedite cross-boundary oil, natural gas and electric transmission projects, which could benefit states with significant domestic oil and natural gas production. The Senate Energy and Commerce Committee recently passed its own comprehensive energy bill, though it is unlikely that legislation will come before the Senate floor this year. In a statement of Administration policy, the White House signaled the President would likely veto H.R. 8 because it would undermine initiatives already underway to modernize the nation’s energy infrastructure and detract from efforts to encourage consumers and businesses to adopt energy-efficient technologies.

Senate Approves Budget Reconciliation Bill
Last week the Senate approved a reconciliation bill to repeal portions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and halt federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Before final passage of H.R. 3762, the chamber adopted a substitute amendment that broadened the scope of the measure passed by the House in October. The substitute includes provisions that would eliminate the ACA’s Medicaid expansion in 2018, as well as subsidies to help individuals buy coverage through the insurance exchanges. The bill would also repeal the law’s reinsurance provisions and a number of taxes, including the fee on health savings accounts. The House is expected to clear the amended measure and send it to the President’s desk, rather than create a conference committee to work out the differences between the two versions. The President is expected to veto the legislation.

House Resolutions Disapprove of EPA Regulations for New, Existing Power Plants
The House voted, 242-180, to approve S.J. Res. 24, a resolution that would disapprove of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final Clean Power Plan rule for existing power plants. In addition, the House voted, 235-188, to approve S.J. Res 23, a related resolution that would disapprove of EPA regulations for new and modified power plants. The Senate passed both resolutions Nov. 18, the same day the White House issued two statements of Administration policy (S.J. Res. 23 and S.J. Res. 24) indicating the President will veto both resolutions.