Congress is back in session now for the balance of September, with the priority items on its agenda and likely outcomes regarding leading legislation in the area of fiscal and financial regulatory policy already clarifying.
Below, we review the highest priority bills and their probable disposition, from the must-pass pieces, to the lame-duck likely items, to those that may have cleared a chamber but won’t see action again until 2017, if at all.
- House Financial Services Committee: Markup of the Financial CHOICE Act of 2016, 10 a.m.http://bit.ly/2cA1i0l.
- House Small Business Committee: Hearing entitled “The Cumulative Burden of President Obama’s Executive Orders on Small Contractors,” 10 a.m.http://bit.ly/2c5X1pT.
- House Ways and Means Committee: Hearing on tax-exempt college and university endowments, 10 a.m. http://bit.ly/2cLDuv1.
- Senate Banking Committee: Hearing on National Flood Insurance Program mapping, 10:30 a.m. http://bit.ly/2cr3pq4.
- House Budget Committee: Hearing entitled “Growing Risks to the Budget and Economy,” 10 a.m.http://bit.ly/2craXck.
- House Small Business Committee: Hearing entitled “IRS Puts Small Businesses with Audit Wringer, 11 a.m. http://bit.ly/2craXck.
- Senate Budget Hearing: An oversight hearing to examine the Congressional Budget Office, 2:30 p.m. http://bit.ly/
• THIS MONTH’S MUST-PASS BILLS
The main tension on the Hill this month surrounds the stopgap bill to extend the FY 2016 budget three or six months into FY 2017. There is rare unanimity in Congress that not to pass a continuing resolution (CR) before October 1 to keep the federal government operating thereafter would be an unforgivable dereliction of duty, at least during an election year.
Yet there are some on the Hill making it difficult for leadership to reach a deal on a CR. President Obama has scheduled a White House meeting next Monday –early in the process — with Speaker Ryan, House Minority Leader Pelosi, and Senate Leaders McConnell and Reid to try to strike a compromise.
The main sticking point in negotiations on a CR has been regarding its term. The Tea Party (aka the 40-member House Freedom Caucus for Hill purposes) and many conservatives in the House initially sought an extension into March of 2017 for it. GOP leadership is now lining up behind the date originally offered by the Democratic leadership, December, probably December 9, though possibly the 16th, the last session day for Congress expected for 2016.
Many conservatives in Congress fear that Democrats will use a year-end negotiation — to force the GOP to accept additional spending or risk a pre-Christmas shutdown.
McConnell announced yesterday that he would agreed to a December 9 target adjournment date, which should all but settle the question.
No shutdown, but expect numerous showdowns, grandstands, stand offs, and blinking contests in late September as needed to drive home election messages to voters. The Senate will pass the CR first and go home as early as September 22 to campaign, leaving the House little choice but to pass it. The House plans to pass several “minibus” appropriations, packages of several bills together.
Congress has been debating and voting on money to help combat the Zika virus for months. But no bill has gotten to Obama’s desk. Conditions have worsened on the ground and ground zero is Florida. Something will pass. In addition, the GOP depends on Sen. Rubio’s reelection to help preserve their majority. So this is must-pass and it will.
The GOP painted itself into a corner by demanding that funding must be barred for any role by Planned Parenthood in treating Zika (the organization currently provides health services to close to a quarter of the population in Puerto Rico). It’s a less and less tenable precondition as the number of victims mushrooms. Almost 17,000 have been infected — up from 4,000 when Congress began its summer recess only six weeks ago.
• LAME-DUCK LIKELIES
NDAA and WRDA
Among the other leading bills likely to be held over to a lame-duck session of Congress after Election Day are the Defense authorization bill (NDAA) and probably the Water bill (WRDA). There’s a good chance the National Defense Authorization Act gets done eventually but has been a perennial for the lame-duck docket in recent cycles. The Water bill — which authorizes water infrastructure projects in 17 states and could test the appetite for infrastructure spending in other areas — could also pass but the House has yet to act.
Congress also plans a three-month extension for the ICANN, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.
The Energy Committees still hope to move the Energy Policy Modernization Act, S.2012, if the conference committee can ever reach an agreement, but that’s a long shot.
The House may impeach IRS Commissioner Koskinen, but the Senate won’t convict him. It’s a privileged motion, so the Senate would have to take it up if the House passed it, possibly during the lame duck.
• WAIT TIL NEXT YEAR
Leading examples of bills that have been adopted by one chamber but will almost certainly see no further legislative action would be the financial regulatory bills passed by the House today that had been reported out of HFSC with lopsided majorities.
The House has passed legislation that would create the most sweeping reforms to federal open records laws in nearly a decade. Approved by voice vote, the measure would limit exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that now allow federal agencies to hold back information.