July 11, 2005
SENATE - The Senate
convened today to consider the FY 2006 spending bill for the Department of
Homeland Security (H.R. 2360). Later in the week, the chamber may
consider a supplemental spending bill to provide additional funding for
veterans' health care.
SENATE - The Senate convened today to consider the FY 2006 spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security (H.R. 2360). Later in the week, the chamber may consider a supplemental spending bill to provide additional funding for veterans' health care.
HOUSE - The House
also convened today to consider three measures under suspension. The
chamber is scheduled to consider two
additional measures under suspension tomorrow afternoon, as well as four other
bills concerning operations of the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration. On Wednesday,
the House will consider seven measures under suspension, as well as the
Water Development Act of 2005 (H.R. 2864) which includes $10 million for water
projects and allows the Army Corps of Engineers to undertake nearly 700
projects and studies.
HOUSE - The House also convened today to consider three measures under suspension. The chamber is scheduled to consider two additional measures under suspension tomorrow afternoon, as well as four other bills concerning operations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. On Wednesday, the House will consider seven measures under suspension, as well as the Water Development Act of 2005 (H.R. 2864) which includes $10 million for water projects and allows the Army Corps of Engineers to undertake nearly 700 projects and studies.
SUPREME COURT NOMINEE CONFIRMATION PROCESS
With the recent announced retirement of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the Senate's legislative schedule will likely be adjusted to accommodate the confirmation process for her successor. Once a nominee is named by the President, confirmation hearings will begin and could last through the remainder of the summer. Consideration and floor debate is anticipated to begin after Labor Day. Conference negotiations on the surface transportation reauthorization bill (H.R. 3) and the comprehensive energy bill (H.R. 6) could be placed on a fast-track in order to allow floor consideration this month.
Senate Republican leaders have suggested that they will push to finalize the FY 2006 appropriations bills before the August recess. In September, the chamber will need to address reconciliation legislation in addition to the consideration of the Supreme Court nominee.
SURFACE TRANSPORTATION NEGOTIATIONS
House and Senate conferees on the surface transportation reauthorization bill (H.R. 3) last week tentatively agreed to a $286.5 billion funding level for the bill. In addition, negotiators appear to have determined the scope of the bill will be 90.2 percent; what funding will be considered for purposes of determining state apportionments; and, that the rate of return on highway dollars would increase from 90.5 percent (current law) to 92 percent by FY 2009. Staff are expected to work this week with the U.S. Department of Transportation to analyze how various proposals would affect specific states and programs. Those results will help determine how quickly conferees can act to resolve other policy differences when they return from recess. The current short-term extension expires on Tuesday, July 19.
House and Senate negotiators are expected to continue their work to finalize a conference report.
CONFEREES APPOINTED TO ENERGY BILL
Last week, Senate leaders appointed their conferees to the upcoming House-Senate conference on the energy bill (H.R. 6). Eleven members from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee were named: Chairman Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Ranking Member Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), as well as Senators Larry Craig (R-Idaho), Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.). Three members were appointed from the Senate Finance Committee: Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Ranking Member Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
The House has not yet appointed conferees but House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton will chair the conference, which is expected to begin sometime this week.
HOUSE PASSES TRANSPORTATION-TREASURY-HUD-JUDICIARY APPROPRIATIONS BILL
Last week, the House passed, by a vote of 405-18, the FY 2006 appropriations bill for the Departments of Transportation, Treasury, and Housing & Urban Development (HUD) as well as the Judiciary and DC. This completed work on the House's 11 appropriations bills. In response to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on eminent domain, the House agreed to an amendment that would effectively prohibit federal dollars from being used to support the ruling. An amendment also was adopted that would bar the Administration from outsourcing federal jobs.
The House also agreed (by voice vote) to an amendment that adds $68 million for the Community Development Block Grant (for a total of $4 billion) and an amendment that provides $24 million for brownfields redevelopment (funding for the program was originally eliminated by the House Appropriations Committee). As anticipated, transportation authorizers demanded that numerous programs -for highway, transit, and aviation - be stricken from the spending bill because they constituted "policy language." Among the language removed was a section to provide for the continued financing of the Hoover Dam Bypass bridge project. These sections are expected to be added back to the measure in conference.
SENATE PASSES ENERGY AND WATER APPROPRIATIONS BILL
The Senate adopted a $31.2 billion Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill for FY 2006 last week, which provides funding for the Department of Energy and the Army Corps of Engineers. The bill exceeds the President's request and the House-passed bill by $1.49 billion, and exceeds the FY 2005 level by $1.4 billion. The Army Corps of Engineers is funded at $5.3 billion, $966 million more than the President's request and $258 million more than FY 2005. The Department of Energy is funded at $25.04 billion, $1.2 billion more than the President's request and $778 million more than FY 2005. No other major changes were made to the bill. Specific provisions within the Department of Energy include:
CONGRESS PASSES EIGHTH SHORT TERM EXTENSION FOR TRANSPORTATION AND TENTH SHORT TERM EXTENSION FOR TANF
The House and Senate passed an eighth short-term extension for surface transportation program funding (H.R. 3014) through July 19, and the Senate followed by passing the bill under unanimous consent. The extension provides negotiators on the conference committee for the surface transportation reauthorization bill (H.R. 3) some additional time to finalize key issues such as the overall funding level, scope, and minimum guarantee. The House and Senate also passed a tenth extension of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant and related programs (H.R. 3021). Once signed by the President, funding for TANF, child care, abstinence education, and Transitional Medical Assistance (TMA) will be extended through September 30, 2005, giving Congress an additional three months to complete action on a full five-year reauthorization of welfare reform.
SENATE PASSES INTERIOR-ENVIRONMENT APPROPRIATIONS BILL; VA BOOST INCLUDED
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $26.3 billion spending bill for the Department of Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other related agencies for fiscal year (FY) 2006 (H.R. 2361) by a vote of 94-0. Total funding is more than the President's request of $25.7 billion, but $700 million less than the last year's level. Provisions include:
Also included in the bill is a $1.5 billion increase for veterans' health. The additional funding was provided by an amendment on the Senate floor in an attempt to quickly address a shortfall in the Veterans Affairs budget, which was disclosed last week.
There was also a commitment from the BLM to Senator Reid to work with the National Wild Horse Association (a wild horse advocacy group in southern Nevada) to develop an innovative pilot adoption program for wild horses and burros. This program will improve adoption efforts in Nevada by drawing on proven marketing and media strategies to increase adoptions and by providing horse advocates with the opportunity to shape and improve the adoption process. This pilot adoption program will build on the current successes that NWHA has had in adopting wild horses while also developing an adoption model that can be replicated at other locations.
Information taken from Senator Reid and Senator Ensign's June 30 press release:
ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT
House Resources Committee Chairman Pombo plans on introducing his ESA reform bill when Congress reconvenes from recess in time to correspond with the hearing that is scheduled, but not yet noticed, for July 13, by the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water. (Last week, the Subcommittee decided to make the focus of the July 13 hearing be landowner incentives; a separate hearing on states’ roles is now set for September.) The week of July 18, Chairman Pombo will likely hold a hearing and mark-up of the bill in his committee. Then, if the schedule permits, have the ESA on the House floor the week of July 25. Pombo's reauthorization bill will likely bolster states' roles, revamp critical habitat rules, redefine listing status and add an administrative appeal process, according to draft discussion points circulating among House members.
Mike Leavitt, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) named members to the new Medicaid advisory commission, which is tasked with issuing recommendations over the next eight weeks on how to proceed with $10 billion in cuts to the Medicaid program. Secretary Leavitt named 13 voting members and 15 non-voting members. Commission members include former Governors, state Medicaid Directors, representatives from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the National Association of State Medicaid Directors (NASMD), as well as health care provider representatives. The National Governors Association opted not to participate in the commission as Governors have formed a Medicaid working group over the past year and have drafted a working paper that offers principles and options for possible Medicaid reforms.
The Commission will issue two reports that will detail possible ways to reform the Medicaid program. The first report is due September 1, 2005 and will outline recommendations for Medicaid to achieve the $10 billion in spending reductions called for in the FY 2006 budget resolution. The second report, due on December 31, 2005 will outline long term Medicaid reforms.
There are still eight non-voting slots on the commission for congressional representation, with Congressional Members to be appointed by congressional leaders.