Weekly Washington Outlook — July 6, 2015

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What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

On Monday, the House is not in session.

On Tuesday, the House returns at 2:00 p.m. for legislative business. Votes will be postponed until 6:30 p.m. and the House will consider legislation under suspension of the rules:

1) H.R. 907 – United States-Jordan Defense Cooperation Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen / Foreign Affairs Committee)

2) Concur in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 91 – Veteran’s I.D. Card Act (Sponsored by Rep. Vern Buchanan / Veterans’ Affairs Committee)

3) H.R. 1531 – Land Management Workforce Flexibility Act (Sponsored by Rep. Gerry Connolly / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

Also Tuesday, the House will continue consideration of H.R. 2822 – Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016 (Modified Open Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Ken Calvert / Appropriations Committee)

On Wednesday and the balance of the week, the House will consider legislation subject to a rule:

  • Complete Consideration of R. 5 – Student Success Act, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. John Kline / Education and the Workforce Committee)
  • R. 2647 – Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Bruce Westerman / Agriculture Committee / Natural Resources Committee)
  • R. 6 – 21st Century Cures Act, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton / Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • Possible Consideration of a Motion to Go to Conference on H.R. 644 – Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act

Senate:

The Senate returns Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. and will consider S. 1177 to reauthorize elementary and secondary school programs.

White House:

On Monday, the president will make a rare visit to the Pentagon to meet with his national security team on the U.S. fight against the Islamic State in the Middle East.

On Tuesday, President Obama will host the head of Vietnam’s Communist Party, the first party chief to visit the U.S. as the two countries seek closer ties 40 years after they fought a war.

Remainder of the week, the president will attend meetings at the White House.

Also This Week:

Appropriations – Both chambers continue work on FY16 spending bills, but the final passage of all twelve remains unlikely.  In the Senate, Democrats have vowed to block all measures upholding sequestration funding levels. While the House is resuming consideration of Interior-EPA appropriations this week, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s memo outlining the July work period only included the Financial Services Appropriations bill leaving a number of the more controversial bills still working through the Committee process up in the air.  This includes funding for the Department of Agriculture, scheduled for a mark-up at the subcommittee level on Tuesday and full committee on Thursday.

Education – This week both House and Senate are scheduled to take up legislation reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. In the Senate, the “Every Child Achieves Act,” a bipartisan ESEA reauthorization, is slated for the floor beginning on Tuesday. The business and civil rights community is continuing to work to get support for strengthening the bill’s accountability system for minority students and English Learners.  Elsewhere, the House Rules Committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday to create a new rule allowing up to two additional amendments to the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) when it is brought back to the floor later this week.  The additional amendments are designed to garner conservative support to enable final passage.

Health – On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee will examine “Medicaid at 50: Strengthening and Sustaining the Program.” This hearing comes in the wake of a July 24 deadline for Republicans to decide whether or not to use reconciliation to repeal the tax and spending components of the Affordable Care Act.

Immigration – The Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee is holding a hearing Tuesday titled “The 2014 Humanitarian Crisis at Our Border: A Review of the Government’s Response to Unaccompanied Minors One Year Later.”

Banking – As we approach the five-year anniversary of the Dodd-Frank Act, lawmakers are evaluating the effects to this legislation, starting with a Thursday House Financial Services Committee hearing “The Dodd-Frank Act Five Years Later: Are We More Stable?”  Also this week, the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee is holding a Wednesday hearing on “The Role of the Financial Stability Board in the U.S. Regulatory Framework.” Also Wednesday, the House Financial Services Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee will focus on “Examining the Designation and Regulation of Bank Holding Company SIFIs.”

Labor – Last week the Obama Administration released new regulations regarding overtime pay. The proposed rule would more than double the salary threshold for guaranteed overtime pay to $50,440, from the current threshold of $23,660. Today marks the start of the comment period, currently ending September 4. Labor advocates say the rule is long overdue, whereas business interests insist the rule will decrease worker hours, reduce worker benefits, and shift salaries workers to hourly ones.

Housing – This Thursday the House Judiciary Constitution and Civil Justice Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “The State of Property Rights in America Ten Years After Kelo v. City of New London.” Friday, the House Financial Services Housing and Insurance Subcommittee will examine “The Future of Housing in America: Oversight of HUD’s Public and Indian Housing Programs.”

Weekly Washington Outlook — June 29, 2015

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What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

The House is in recess, returning the week of July 6.

Senate:

The Senate is in recess, returning the week of July 6.

White House:

On Monday, the president will host a working dinner with President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil at the White House.

On Tuesday, President Obama will host a bilateral meeting with President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil at the White House. This meeting will be followed by a joint press conference.

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the president will attend meetings at the White House.

On Saturday, the president and the first lady will celebrate the Fourth of July by hosting military heroes and their families for an Independence Day celebration with a barbeque, concert and a view of fireworks on the South Lawn. Staff and their families from throughout the Administration will also attend this event for the concert and fireworks viewing.

After Recess:

Appropriations – Both chambers continue work on FY16 spending bills, but the final passage of all twelve remains unlikely, with Senate Democrats vowing to block all measures upholding sequestration funding levels. With the formal appropriations process untenable, few options to fund the government remain. Congress must pass something by October 1 and a continuing resolution is one possibility. House Republicans view a CR as less than ideal, with last minute measures to avoid government shutdown reflecting poorly on the majority. Another option is to revive work on a budget deal to appease Congressional Democrats into supporting the appropriations measures. A combination CR/Omnibus spending deal seems most likely.

Education – Attention remains on the Senate as members prepare to take up the “Every Child Achieves Act,” a bipartisan ESEA reauthorization, next week upon return from the Fourth of July recess. The business and civil rights community is continuing to work to get support for strengthening the bill’s accountability system for minority students and English Learners. The future of the H.R. 5, the House ESEA reauthorization, is still unclear.

Health – Last week the Supreme Court upheld the availability of federal subsidies to those purchasing healthcare through both state-run and federally-run Affordable Care Act exchanges. In anticipation of a ruling against the government, Congressional Republicans had developed several legislative proposals subsequently rendered unnecessary by the Court’s decision. However, attempts to repeal the ACA could continue, with a July 24 deadline for Republicans to decide whether or not to use reconciliation to repeal the tax and spending components of the healthcare law. Reconciliation requires a simple majority, but the president seems certain to veto any bill repealing major portions of the ACA.

To Fulfill Their Rights

By Leticia Bustillos, Associate Director, Education Policy Project, NCLR

At the height of the civil rights movement, President Johnson gave a speech at Howard University dubbed “To Fulfill These Rights.” He recognized that extending equal opportunity to all is not enough.

If we are to “open the gates of opportunity,” he said, then “all of our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates.” This is “the next and the more profound state of the battle for civil rights.”

Watch President Johnson’s historic speech below:

These words accurately depict where we are today. As the “Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA),” which would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), goes to the Senate floor for consideration, we are reminded that the battle for civil rights has not yet ended. The skirmishes of the last 50 years have resulted in promising gains in education. Still, too many students are losing ground, unable to harness the socioeconomic benefits that come from education.

If we are to achieve true equality as President Johnson envisioned half a century ago, then we must ensure that students from low-income communities are given the necessary resources and supports. For the civil rights community, accountability must be at the forefront of our actions.

How we act is subject to debate. What is not debatable, however, is the necessity of including robust accountability measures to identify where achievement gaps exist. These provisions ensure that the progress of every child and every group is known. It also guarantees that achievement gaps remain at the forefront of the national consciousness so that everything can be done to eradicate them.

ESEAbrief_picThe need for strengthened accountability is not lost on our nation’s educators. For Dr. Vasthi Acosta, Executive Director of Amber Charter School in New York City, accountability is not a one-time measure that comes at the end of the school year. It is a central focus of her school community.

Student performance data, disaggregated by group, empower teachers at Amber to differentiate their instruction based on the needs of various students. Schooling, then, becomes about not just filling gaps in achievement but also providing opportunities to improve learning by capitalizing on the assets of students. Amber’s stated  goal is to “find those who are in need, learn what they need, and then meet that need.”

For Dr. Acosta and her team, there is no greater sign of their success than to hear the community inform them that what they are doing is making a difference.

Graduation“Recently, I received a thank-you card from a mother whose son got a full scholarship to a local private middle school,” said Acosta. “She said that she didn’t speak English and couldn’t help him with his homework, but she knew if he was doing well or not because of the scores on his assessments and the school’s constant communication with her. Together we helped that boy through a door that is often closed to so many of our children.”

For the first time in our country’s history, students from underrepresented communities now form the new majority in our schools. Their success is a testament to the investments we make in them and their capacity to positively contribute to our future well-being. To fulfill their rights, we must act with conviction.

Holding ourselves accountable for the success of our students is a principle enshrined in the reauthorization of ESEA. Giving our students the wherewithal to walk through the gates of opportunity is the charge of accountability. Seeing them on the other side of those gates is one more victory in our battle for civil rights.

Weekly Washington Outlook — June 1, 2015

Photo: Harris Walker, Creative Commons

Photo: Harris Walker, Creative Commons

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

On Monday, the House will consider legislation under suspension of the rules:

  • R. 404 – To authorize early repayment of obligations to the Bureau of Reclamation within the Northport Irrigation District in the State of Nebraska (Sponsored by Rep. Adrian Smith / Natural Resources Committee) 
  • R. 533 – To revoke the charter of incorporation of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma at the request of that tribe, and for other purposes (Sponsored by Rep. Markwayne Mullin / Natural Resources Committee) 
  • R. 1168 – Native American Children’s Safety Act (Sponsored by Rep. Kevin Cramer / Natural Resources Committee) 
  • R. 979 – To designate a mountain in the John Muir Wilderness of the Sierra National Forest as “Sky Point” (Sponsored by Rep. Tom McClintock / Natural Resources Committee)
  • R. 336 – To direct the Administrator of General Services, on behalf of the Archivist of the United States, to convey certain Federal property located in the State of Alaska to the Municipality of Anchorage, Alaska (Sponsored by Rep. Don Young / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee) 
  • R. 944 – To reauthorize the National Estuary Program, and for other purposes (Sponsored by Rep. Frank LoBiondo / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee) 
  • 802 – Girls Count Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio / Foreign Affairs Committee) 
  • R. 1493 – Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Eliot Engel / Foreign Affairs Committee)

On Monday the House will also consider H.R. 1335 – Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act, Rules Committee Print (Structured Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Don Young / Natural Resources Committee)

On Tuesday and the balance of the week the House will vote on H.R. 2578 – Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. John Culberson / Appropriations Committee). In addition the House may also begin consideration of H.R. 2577 – Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart / Appropriations Committee) as well as legislation related to expiring provisions of the PATRIOT Act.

Senate:

On Monday, the Senate will resume consideration of H.R.2048, USA Freedom Act, which would end the NSA’s bulk data collection. Later in the week, the Senate will take up its version of a defense authorization bill.

White House:

On Monday, President Obama will host Their Majesties King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands for a meeting in the Oval Office. In the afternoon, the president will host a discussion at the White House with a group of 75 young Southeast Asian Leaders on themes of civic engagement, environment and natural resources management and entrepreneurship. The group is the first cohort from the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Fellows Program. The fellows, ages 18-35 years old, hail from all 10 ASEAN countries and have just completed their five week fellowship in the United States to enhance their practical expertise, leadership skills, and professional contacts to address challenges and create new opportunities in their home communities and countries.

On Tuesday, President Obama will award the Medal of Honor to Army Sergeant William Shemin and Army Private Henry Johnson for conspicuous gallantry during World War I.

On Wednesday, the president will attend meetings at the White House.

On Thursday, President Obama will welcome the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants to the White House to honor the team and their 2014 World Series victory. The president will also recognize the efforts the Giants make to give back to their community as part of their visit, continuing the tradition begun by President Obama of honoring sports teams for their efforts on and off the field.

On Friday, the president will attend meetings at the White House.

Also This Week:

Appropriations – The House will vote this week on its Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill. The bill as passed out of Committee includes deep spending cuts to the census, juvenile justice programs, and legal services. More details are available in OMB Director Shaun Donovan’s letter to the Appropriations Committee. The House may also begin consideration of its Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill as well. Immigration policy riders are possible on both bills.

Education – Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy once again included the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) in his memo of legislation for this work period. The bill is not on this week’s calendar and timing to bring this back to the floor remains uncertain due to lack of Republican support. In the Senate, the Every Child Achieves Act could be brought to the floor as soon as next week, although many staff members believe this will slip to later in the month or July. In the meantime, the Senate HELP Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday on college affordability as part of its ongoing process to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.

Health – The House Ways and Means Committee will mark up a bill to repeal the Medical Device Tax on Tuesday. The tax was levied under the Affordable Care Act and has been the subject of intense lobbying from manufacturers. Elsewhere, the Joint Economic Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday on the ACA’s effects on employment. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts Subcommittee will hold a hearing Thursday “Rewriting the Law: Examining the Process that Led to the Obamacare Subsidy Rule.”

Weekly Washington Outlook — May 11, 2015

White House at Night

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

The House returns from a week-long recess on Tuesday to consider H.R. 1732 – Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015, Rules Committee Print (Structured Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Bill Shuster / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee).  The House will also vote Tuesday on legislation under suspension of the rules including:

  • 665 – Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu National Blue Alert Act of 2015, (Sponsored by Sen. Ben Cardin / Judiciary Committee) 
  • R. 606 – Don’t Tax Our Fallen Public Safety Heroes Act, (Sponsored by Rep. Erik Paulsen / Ways and Means Committee)
  • R. 2146 – Defending Public Safety Employees Retirement Act, (Sponsored by Rep. David Reichert / Ways and Means Committee)
  • R. 723 – Fallen Heroes Flag Act of 2015, (Sponsored by Rep. Peter King / House Administration Committee)

The balance of the week, the House will vote on the following:

  • R. 1735 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Mac Thornberry / Armed Services Committee)
  • R. 36 – Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks / Judiciary Committee)
  • R. 2048– USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner / Judiciary Committee)

The House may consider legislation relating to Congressional review of a nuclear agreement with Iran.

Senate:

On Monday evening, the Senate will take a roll call vote on S. Con. Res. 16, stating the policy of the U.S. regarding the release of U.S. citizens in Iran. On Tuesday, the Senate has scheduled a procedural vote on H.R. 1314, a vehicle to consider trade promotion authority so that the President can submit upcoming trade deals to Congress for a vote without any amendments.

White House:

On Monday, the president will deliver remarks at an event bringing together emerging entrepreneurs from across the United States and around the world  to highlight the importance of investing in women and young entrepreneurs to create innovative solutions to some of the world’s toughest challenges, including poverty, climate change, extremism, as well as access to education and healthcare. This event comes ahead of President’ Obama’s travel to this summer’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya and provides a unique opportunity to galvanize global attention on emerging entrepreneurs.

On Tuesday, the president will participate in a discussion with Robert Putnam, professor of public policy at the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government, and Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, at the Catholic-Evangelical Leadership Summit on Overcoming Poverty at Georgetown University. The discussion will be moderated by E.J. Dionne, Jr., Washington Post columnist and professor in Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy.

On Wednesday, President Obama will meet at the White House with King Salman of Saudi Arabia to build on their close consultations on a wide range of regional and bilateral issues. Later on Wednesday, the president will welcome leaders and delegations from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – to the White House. The gathering will be an opportunity to discuss ways to enhance our mutual partnership and deepen security cooperation.

On Thursday, the president will welcome the Gulf Cooperation Council leaders and delegations to Camp David to continue their discussions.

On Friday, President Obama will deliver remarks at the National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the Capitol.

Also This Week:

Immigration – The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday on securing the U.S.-Mexico border with additional fencing and technology. Elsewhere, immigration could surface as the House considers this year’s National Defense Reauthorization Act. The House Armed Services Committee adopted an amendment from Rep. Gallego (D-Ariz.) that would encourage the Pentagon to study allowing undocumented immigrants to join the military. Both Reps. Brooks (R-Ala.) and Gosar (R-Ariz.) have filed amendments to strip this language from the base bill on the floor, arguing that unless it is removed, passage of NDAA could be jeopardized.  Rep. Denham (R-Calif.) is also expected to push for a vote on his ENLIST Act; rather than a study, this language would simply let undocumented immigrants join the military to obtain status. This provision became controversial during last year’s NDAA consideration.

Trade – The Senate is scheduled to take a procedural vote to begin consideration of trade promotion authority. It is possible that support for this measure could be conditioned on whether related bills, such as Trade Adjustment Assistance, the reauthorization of Customs and Border Protection, among others, are included.

Appropriations – The House Appropriations Committee will mark-up the Transportation-HUD spending bill on Wednesday. The measure allocates $17.2 billion for transportation ($1 billion less than last year), and $42 billion for HUD ($1 billion more than last year).

Education – Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) wrote in his May memo that he still plans to bring H.R. 5, the “Student Success Act” to the floor in the coming weeks.  Without any Democratic support, however, the legislation is rumored to still be short of votes needed for passage. Acknowledging this, Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) has recently signaled openness to a different legislative vehicle for passing legislation to rewrite ESEA. The Senate is likely to take up a bipartisan reauthorization bill in early June. The “Every Child Achieves Act,” which passed unanimously out of the HELP Committee earlier in April, still faces challenges from civil rights groups and others about what has been perceived as a weak accountability system.

Financial Services – The Senate Banking Committee had originally planned a mark-up on Thursday of an extensive bill to provide “regulatory relief” to financial services entities including small and regional banks, community banks, non-banks, and credit unions.  As a result of objections from Committee Democrats over a rushed process, the mark-up has been postponed to May 21st.  Elsewhere, the House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday “The Dodd-Frank Act and Regulatory Overreach.”