Weekly Washington Outlook — March 2, 2015

White House at Night

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

On Monday, the House will vote on two bills related to veterans’ issues under suspension of the rules:

  • H.R. 294 – Long-Term Care Veteran Choice Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller / Veterans’ Affairs Committee)
  • H.R. 280 – To authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to recoup bonuses and awards paid to employees of the Department of Veterans Affair, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller / Veterans’ Affairs Committee)

On Tuesday, the House will convene for a joint meeting of Congress to receive Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On Wednesday and the balance of the week the House will consider the following:

  • H.R. 749 – Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Bill Shuster / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)
  • H.R. 1029 – EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2015, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Frank Lucas / Science, Space, and Technology Committee)
  • H.R. 1030 – Secret Science Reform Act of 2015, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith / Science, Space, and Technology

It is possible that members may also vote on legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Senate:

On Monday, the Senate will resume consideration of a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security. On Monday evening, a vote is scheduled on a House motion to go to conference to reconcile differences between each chamber’s appropriations bill. Later in the week, the Senate will join the House for a joint meeting to receive Israel’s Prime Minister. It is also possible that the Senate may schedule the first procedural vote to override the President’s veto of legislation to authorize the Keystone XL Pipeline or begin consideration of S. J. Res. 8 to block a proposed rule from the National Labor Relations Board.

White House:

On Monday, the president will meet with members of his Task Force on 21st Century Policing to discuss their recommendations on how to strengthen community policing and strengthen trust among law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.

On Tuesday, President Obama and the first lady will deliver remarks at the White House about expanding efforts to help adolescent girls worldwide attend and stay in school. These efforts will build on the investments successes achieved in global primary school education by elevating existing programs and public and private sector partnerships.

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

On Saturday, the president and the first lady will travel to Selma, Alabama to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery marches. This visit will also highlight the President and his Administration’s overall efforts to mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Also this Week:

Appropriations – Last week, after the House failed to pass a three-week continuing resolution to fund the Department of Homeland Security in advance of a Friday deadline, both chambers extended their deadline seven days. This week, the Senate will vote on a House-passed motion to conference differing versions of an appropriations bill. The House version has language blocking the president’s immigration actions whereas the Senate passed a “clean” bill; as a result, this motion to negotiate between the two is almost certain to fail in the Senate. In the mean time, House leadership has not signaled how they plan to proceed to avert this Friday’s deadline to prevent a shutdown of the agency.

Immigration – As the fight over DHS funding continues, the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled on Tuesday and Wednesday to mark-up four bills, including an updated version of the SAFE Act and related legislation on interior enforcement (i.e. E-Verify).  The Committee will also consider two bills to expedite the return of unaccompanied children and make other changes to the processing of asylum claims. In the Senate, the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration and National Interest Subcommittee will hold a hearing Tuesday afternoon on “Oversight of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services: Ensuring Agency Priorities Comply with the Law.” Representatives from USCIS are scheduled to appear.

Education – In the midst of last week’s wrangling over DHS appropriations, planned consideration of the Student Success Act, a partisan bill to rewrite No Child Left Behind, was pulled off the floor. There is wide speculation that with minimal Democratic support and concerns from conservative members that the bill did not go far enough, House Leadership did not have enough votes for passage. The legislation is not scheduled to return to the floor this week and its fate is somewhat unclear at the moment.  In the Senate, HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) continue to negotiate to reach a bipartisan compromise to reauthorize the law.

Health – The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Wednesday in the King v. Burwell case challenging the legality of premium assistance for enrollees on federal exchanges. Lawmakers in the House and the Senate have signaled they may be interested in finding a “fix” if the court rules against the Administration. Last week, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) made limited details of one possible proposal public with several Senate colleagues, available in a Washington Post op-ed.  The Administration, however, remains confident the court will rule in their favor.  Additional details here: http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/king-v-burwell/.

Dodd-Frank – Richard Cordray, the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, will appear before the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday. The hearing is expected to be somewhat contentious and may address conservative proposals to change the agency’s structure.

Budget – Cabinet officials are continuing to appear before Congress to make this week defending their budget requests. Notably on Wednesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan will testify before the House Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee.

Labor – The Senate could vote as soon as this week on S. J. Res. 8, a resolution of disapproval of the National Labor Relations Board’s actions to expedite workplace union elections when unions are engaged in collective bargaining.

Weekly Washington Outlook — January 5, 2015

Photo: Harris Walker, Creative Commons

Photo: Harris Walker, Creative Commons

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

The House has not yet released its weekly schedule. On Tuesday, members will be sworn-in and formerly elect a Speaker; despite several Republican members challenging Speaker Boehner, he is widely expected to be chosen. The House will also vote on its rules for this Congress, which reportedly includes dynamic scoring of major legislation. Later in the week, the House may vote on legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and amend the Affordable Care Act.

Senate:

On Tuesday, newly-elected Senators will be sworn-in to office and a vote is scheduled to elect Senator Orrin Hatch to be the president pro tempore. At this time, there is no legislative business scheduled for the floor for this week. The Senate is expected to vote as soon as next week on legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

White House:

The White House has not released a public schedule for this week. However, on Tuesday, the president will host President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico at the White House. The two leaders are expected to discuss economic, security, and social issues. On Wednesday, President Obama will travel to Detroit to talk about auto manufacturing. On Thursday, the president will speak about homeownership in Phoenix. On Friday, President Obama and the vice president will discuss college access and affordability at an event in Tennessee.

Also this Week:

Appropriations – As part of the agreement to fund the government at the end of last year, the Department of Homeland Security only received appropriations until February 28 of this year. It is possible a Homeland Security spending bill could be on the floor next week after Republicans meet this week to discuss their strategy for continued opposition to the president’s executive actions on immigration. There has been some speculation that a border security measure could be attached, but this is not yet clear.

Health – The House could vote as soon as this week on legislation that would change the definition of full-time employment under the ACA from thirty to forty hours a week. Members may also vote on a bill that would allow employers to exclude employees with healthcare coverage through the Defense Department or Veterans Affairs Department from the employer mandate.

Budget – The House will vote this week on a package of rules for this Congress that includes a provision requiring dynamic scoring for major pieces of legislation.  Dynamic scoring takes into account the macroeconomic impact of a given bill. This policy change is motivated in part by a long-standing Republican wish to show that tax cuts are beneficial to the economy as a whole and this picture is not fully captured under current scoring assumptions. Elsewhere, new House and Senate Budget Chairs Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) are considering replacing Congressional Budget Office Direct Doug Elmendorf. His term has expired, but no decision has yet been made.

Education – While not yet officially scheduled, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee, has said he plans to hold a hearing in early January on testing as a lead-up to re-authorization the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Weekly Washington Outlook — November 24, 2014

Photo: Harris Walker, Creative Commons

Photo: Harris Walker, Creative Commons

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

The House is in recess, returning Monday, December 1.

Senate:

The Senate is in recess, returning Monday, December 1.

White House:

On Monday, the president will present nineteen recipients the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, awarded to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. The First Lady will also attend.

On Tuesday, President Obama will travel to the Chicago area to meet with community leaders and discuss the executive actions he is taking to fix our broken immigration system.

On Wednesday, the president will pardon the National Thanksgiving Turkey at the White House.

On Thursday, President Obama will celebrate Thanksgiving at the White House. There are no public events scheduled.

On Friday, the president has no public events scheduled.

This Week in Immigration Reform – Week Ending June 27

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Week Ending June 27, 2014

This week in immigration reform: Friday, June 27 marks one year since the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill, yet the promise of reform remains unrealized because House Republicans have done absolutely nothing constructive on immigration over the course of a year; Reps. Tony Cardenas and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen introduce a bipartisan immigrant-integration bill; NCLR calls for action on the humanitarian crisis of children fleeing violence; and ICE reports that over 72,000 parents of U.S. citizen children were deported in 2013.

Bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill turns one year old; in the meantime House GOP has done nothing.  One year ago today the U.S. Senate responded to the will of American voters by passing the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S. 744).”  This bipartisan bill offered a comprehensive overhaul of our nation’s outdated immigration system and included a much-needed path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

Yet despite the promise of the bipartisan Senate bill and America’s ongoing need for immigration reform, Republican leadership in the House of Representatives has obstructed any and all movement forward on immigration reform by refusing to bring similar legislation up for a vote and failing to introduce a solution of their own.  Instead, the only actions that the House GOP has taken on immigration are shameful votes to undo the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as well as fruitless, politically-motivated attempts to limit the president’s legitimate discretion on immigration enforcement priorities.

Reps. Cardenas and Ros-Lehtinen introduce immigrant-integration bill.   On Tuesday, June 24 Representatives Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) introduced the “New American Success Act,” a bill that would establish a national immigrant integration strategy. The proposed act would create a National Office of New Americans which would coordinate strategies and programs between federal agencies so as to ensure that new arrivals can effectively become contributing members of American society. The bill would also establish grant programs to help immigrants with the legal aspects of the naturalization process and for programs that facilitate the linguistic, civic, and economic integration of immigrants.

NCLR applauded the bill’s introduction and urges members of Congress to support the proposed legislation. ImmReform_update_6_27_2014Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA-29) and staff of NCLR, NALEO, and other organizations after Tuesday’s introduction of the New Americans Success Act (photo: @RepCardenas).

NCLR calls for action on the humanitarian crisis of children fleeing violence.  As the humanitarian crisis of children fleeing violence and ending up in U.S. government custody continues to affect thousands of young refugees, NCLR endorsed Senator Robert Menendez’s (D-N.J.) plan to address the crisis and also called for greater financial support of the many humanitarian, legal, and children’s organizations that have been leading efforts to assist these children.

While Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and others traveled to the border to investigate the crisis and meet with detained children, House Republicans held three hearings this week – in the House Committee on Homeland Security, the House Judiciary Committee, and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere – in which they used the crisis as an opportunity for political grandstanding.  Much of the conversation on the subject, particularly among House Republicans, has regrettably focused on blaming the Administration for the situation by attacking DACA and immigration policies as the cause of the crisis.

ICE reports that over 72,000 parents of U.S. citizen children were deported in 2013.  Reports submitted to the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee in April reveal that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported 72,410 parents of US born children in 2013, the Huffington Post reports this week.

These numbers reaffirm not only the urgent need for Congress to give America a vote on reform but also speak to the need for the Obama administration to revise its immigration enforcement priorities, given the House’s sustained failure so far to act on immigration reform.

321 Days

That’s how much time has passed since the U.S. Senate passed a historic bipartisan immigration reform bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) took to the Senate floor today to mark the occasion and to call on House Republicans to allow a vote on legislation.

Video of the two minute speech is below followed by the full text of Sen. Reid’s remarks.

Full text:

This morning marks 321 days since the Senate passed a bipartisan, commonsense immigration reform bill. For 321 days, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has done absolutely nothing to address our nation’s broken immigration system. And to the extremists in the House, the time went by just like that. So to House Republicans, 321 days doesn’t seem like a big deal. Outside of the Capitol, though, those 321 days have felt like a lifetime. To families forced to live in the shadows, each of those days brings the dread of discovery and being torn away from their loved ones. Undocumented immigrants have lived in fear for the last 46 weeks, worrying that they will have to leave the country they call ‘home.’ For the last 10 ½ months, children have lost their parents to deportations, all while House Republicans have twiddled their thumbs. I say enough is enough. It’s time for House Republicans to act. They have wasted far too much time already failing to consider a bill that the Senate considered and passed in less than two months.

A year ago the Senate Judiciary Committee was in the middle of marking up the commonsense immigration reform bill. After 2 weeks of serious debate and deliberation under the leadership of Chairman Leahy, and many votes on both Democrat and Republican amendments, the bill was reported out of committee. Within a month, the Senate passed this immigration reform bill and sent it to the House of Representatives. The Senate was able to move on immigration reform quickly because both Senate Democrats and Republicans understand the urgent need to fix the broken system. What’s House Republicans’ excuse? What are they achieving by dragging their feet on immigration reform? They claim to be working on jobs bills, and legislation to reduce the deficit. The fact is that the Senate-passed immigration bill reduces the deficit and spurs the economy more than all the House bills awaiting Senate action combined. I repeat: the Senate-passed immigration bill reduces the deficit and spurs the economy more than all the House bills awaiting Senate action combined.

So it is no wonder that even pro-Republican organizations are calling on Speaker Boehner to stop wasting time. Earlier this week, we heard Tom Donohue, the President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, say that it is in Republicans’ best interests to pass immigration reform. In fact, Donohue said of immigration reform: “If the Republicans don’t do it, they shouldn’t bother to run a candidate in 2016.” That may be true, but politics should not dictate passage of this bill.

Immigration reform is far more important than election-year politicking. Immigration reform is about families and communities. In September of 2010, I was in the midst of what some considered a tough re-election campaign when I helped champion Senator Durbin’s DREAM Act in the Senate. Though it was eventually blocked by a Republican filibuster, I did my best to pass the DREAM Act, even though some said it would cost me the election. Then, as now, I have many staffers in my state offices dedicated to helping Nevada families with immigration issues stay together. Protecting families in Nevada – all families – is my job. And I take that job very seriously. Yet House Republicans want to do just the opposite.

Recently, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman appeared on a Sunday news show and tried unsuccessfully to justify his party’s inaction. His reasoning as to why the House is dragging its heels? Republicans claim that President Obama can’t be trusted to enforce immigration law, so they will do nothing. So what Republicans are really saying is that they won’t act on immigration reform unless there are more deportations, more families torn apart. And that, in a nutshell, is the immigration platform extremists in the Republican party prefer: the more deportations, the better. I guess that’s what we’ve learned to expect from a House Republican conference whose immigration policy is dictated by the likes of Representative Steve King.

You remember him. He is the Congressman who, instead of permitting immigrants to enlist in the military and earn citizenship, would rather send them “on a bus back to Tijuana.” Congressman King also claimed that for every hard-working, undocumented student, there are 100 more working as drug mules with “calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” The fact of the matter is that undocumented immigrants are our neighbors, classmates and colleagues. Regardless of how they got here or why they lack the proper documents, these 11 million people play a crucial part in our economy and communities. And our country and our economy will benefit if we give them a chance to get right with the law.

The Senate has done its part. It’s time for House Republicans to do theirs. I urge the House of Representatives to stop wasting time and bring immigration reform to a vote. Give the American people the assurance that we are working to finally mend our broken immigration system. And give families the opportunity to stay together, and to come forward and work toward legal status. It’s the right thing to do for all of us.