April 3, 2017

Legislative Focus: Supreme Court Nominee and Foreign Affairs
The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote today on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) has said the full Senate will vote on the nomination this Friday.

The House meets to consider three foreign affairs bills regarding North Korea and the U.S.-Argentina partnership (H.R. 479H.Res. 92 and H.Res. 54) under suspension of the rules. On Tuesday the House will vote on H.R. 353, a bill addressing National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration programs for weather forecasting and alerts, and possibly H.R. 1343. On Wednesday the House considers H.R. 369, a bill that would eliminate the sunset of the Veterans Choice Program.

Senate Floor: The Senate convened at 3:00 p.m. ET to consider S. 89.

House Floor: The House convened at 2:00 p.m. to consider three bills under suspension.

Key Hearings and Markups

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee

  • Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security Subcommittee hearing on FAA reauthorization, focusing on perspectives on rural air service and the general aviation community. Thursday, April 6, 10 a.m., 253 Russell Bldg.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

  • Full committee hearing on efforts to protect U.S. energy delivery systems from cybersecurity threats. Tuesday, April 4, 10 a.m., 366 Dirksen Bldg.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

  • Full committee hearing on “Fencing Along the Southwest Border.” Tuesday, April 4, 9:30 a.m., 342 Dirksen Bldg.
  • Full committee hearing on “Improving Border Security and Public Safety.” Wednesday, April 5, 9:30 a.m., 342 Dirksen Bldg.

Senate Judiciary Committee

  • Full committee markup to vote on the nomination Neil Gorsuch to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court; Rod Rosenstein to be deputy attorney general; and Rachel Brand to be associate attorney general. Monday, April 3, 10 a.m., 216 Hart Bldg.

House Agriculture Committee

  • General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee hearing on “The Next Farm Bill: Commodity Policy, Part II.” Tuesday, April 4, 10 a.m., 1300 Longworth Bldg.
  • Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit Subcommittee hearing on “The Next Farm Bill: Credit Programs.” Tuesday, April 4, 2 p.m., 1300 Longworth Bldg.
  • Full committee hearing on “Agriculture and Tax Reform: Opportunities for Rural America.” Wednesday, April 5, 10 a.m., 1300 Longworth Bldg.

House Appropriations Committee

  • Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on “Federal Response to the Opioid Abuse Crisis.” Wednesday, April 5, 10 a.m., 2358-C Rayburn Bldg.

House Energy and Commerce Committee

  • Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on “Cybersecurity in the Health Care Sector: Strengthening Public-Private Partnerships.” Tuesday, April 4, 10:15 a.m., 2322 Rayburn Bldg.
  • Communications and Technology Subcommittee hearing on “Facilitating the 21st Century Wireless Economy,” including S.19 the Making Opportunities for Broadband Investment and Limiting Excessive and Needless Obstacles to Wireless (MOBILE NOW) Act, to provide opportunities for broadband investment. Wednesday, April 5, 10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Bldg.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

  • Aviation Subcommittee hearing on “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Enabling Innovation in the National Airspace.” Tuesday, April 4, 10 a.m., 2167 Rayburn Bldg.
  • Highways and Transit Subcommittee hearing on “FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act Implementation: State and Local Perspectives.” Wednesday, April 5, 10 a.m., 2167 Rayburn Bldg.

The Week in Review

Senate Rejects HHS Title X Rule
Last week, the Senate passed H.J. Res. 43, a resolution which removes a Department of Health and Human Services rule that modifies eligibility requirements for Title X grants for family planning. Vice President Pence issued the tie-breaking vote to advance the legislation. The House passed the resolution in February. The rule, issued in December 2016, specifies that states awarding such funds cannot prohibit a health care provider from participating for reasons other than its ability to provide Title X services. In effect, the rule threatens to withhold Title X funding from states that restrict participation by Planned Parenthood. The resolution was being considered under the Congressional Review Act and enactment of the resolution prevents the rule from taking effect.

House T&I Committee Passes Bill Killing MPO Consolidation Rule
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved H.R. 1436, a bill that would kill a rule from the Department of Transportation consolidating metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs). The rule, which was issued last December by the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration, would require the consolidation of MPOs operating within a single urbanized area. Under the rule, a planning agency working in one city could potentially require the sign off of governors in other states before spending federal funding. A companion bill, S. 496, has passed the Senate by unanimous consent.

Sec. Zinke Acts on Energy Independence EO
Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, acted on the President’s most recent executive order (EO) and signed three secretarial orders. Secretarial Order 3348, overturns a 2016 moratorium on all new coal leases on federal land and ends the programmatic environmental impacts statement originally set to be released by 2019. The second order, Secretarial Order 3349, implements a review of agency actions directed by the president’s executive order signed last Tuesday regarding energy independence and directs a reexamination of the mitigation and climate change policies across the Department of the Interior (DOI). Sec. Zinke also re-established the Royalty Policy Committee to review fair market value of and collection of revenues from Federal and Indian mineral and energy leases, as well as renewable energy sources.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Hearing on Securing Energy Infrastructure Act
Last week, the Energy Subcommittee of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on cybersecurity threats to the U.S. electric grid and technology advancements to minimize such threats, including S.79, the Securing Energy Infrastructure Act. The bipartisan bill would create a pilot program to identify and rectify vulnerabilities in covered entities in the energy sector. During the hearing, Sen. Cortez-Masto asked Dr. Bardee, a panel witnesses from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, about states’ roles in cybersecurity, noting that the federal government needs to include states in cybersecurity discussions and convey information effectively. Dr. Bardee acknowledged that the federal government has not always communicated well with the states, but is working to remedy the issue.

Attorney General Sessions Signals Cuts to Sanctuary Jurisdictions
Last week, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced at a White House press briefing that state and local governments seeking grants from the Department of Justice (DOJ) must certify that they are not sanctuary jurisdictions in order to receive funding from the department in the future. Sessions urged state and local jurisdictions to comply with federal laws, including 8 U.S.C. Section 1373, and communicated that the DOJ would use all lawful authorities to ensure that state and local officials are following them. Additionally, Sessions indicated that failure to remedy violations of federal law could result in the withholding, termination, disbarment, or ineligibility of future grants, and that the Department would take all lawful steps to claw-back any funds awarded to any jurisdiction in violation of federal law. The announcement is in line with a January executive order that President Trump signed shortly after taking office that directed the Attorney General and the Homeland Security Secretary to withhold such federal funds.