The House and Senate will both return to work tomorrow. The House will schedule no votes tomorrow before 6:30 PM, and will stay in session through Thursday, with no votes planned after 3 PM. The Senate will stay in session through Friday.
TWO WEEKS AGO ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
Before heading out of town for the Memorial Day recess, the House had a busy week.
First up, on Monday, May 18, were a series of votes on bills under the Suspension Calendar. Using this procedure, the House passed H.R. 91, the Veterans I.D. Card Act; H.R. 1313, the Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business Relief Act; H.R. 1382, the Boosting Rates of American Veteran Employment Act (and because you know I love all the staff time that goes into concocting clever acronyms for legislation, I would note that the acronym for H.R. 1382 is the BRAVE Act).
Then, on Tuesday, May 19, the House took up and passed H.R. 178, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act – that’s the human trafficking legislation that had been holding up the Senate. Then the House took up and passed H.R. H.R. 2250, the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act. And then the House passed H.R. 2353, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act – the highway bill.
On Wednesday, the House took up and passed H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, and H.R. 880, the American Research and Competitiveness Act.
On Thursday, the House took up and passed H.R. 2262, a bill to facilitate a pre-growth environment for the developing commercial space industry.
THIS WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
MONDAY, JUNE 1ST
On Monday, the House will meet at meet at 12:00 p.m. for morning hour and 2:00 p.m. for legislative business. Votes will be postponed until 6:30 p.m.
Legislation Considered Under Suspension of the Rules:
1) H.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)
2) H.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)
3) H.R. 1168 – Native American Children’s Safety Act (Sponsored by Rep. Kevin Cramer / Natural Resources Committee)
4) H.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)
5) H.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)
6) H.R. 944 – To reauthorize the National Estuary Program, and for other purposes (Sponsored by Rep. Frank LoBiondo / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)
7) S. 802 – Girls Count Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio / Foreign Affairs Committee)
8) H.R. 1493 – Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Eliot Engel / Foreign Affairs Committee)
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)
The Rule provides for one hour of general debate and makes in order the following amendments:
Rep. Debbie Dingell Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Rep. Sam Farr Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Reps. Keating / Lynch / Moulton Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Rep. Alan Lowenthal Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Rep. Don Young Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Rep. Garret Graves Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Rep. Rob Wittman Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Rep. Jared Huffman Amendment (20 minutes of debate)
TUESDAY, JUNE 2ND AND THE BALANCE OF THE WEEK
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for morning hour and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business.
On Thursday, the House will meet at 9:00 a.m. for legislative business. Last votes expected no later than 3:00 p.m.
On Friday, no votes are expected in the House.
H.R. 2578 – Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. John Culberson / Appropriations Committee)
Possible 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)
Possible Consideration of Legislation related to expiring provisions of the PATRIOT Act
As usual, the House will launch its legislative week by taking up a number of non-controversial bills on the Suspension Calendar, meaning they require a 2/3 vote in the affirmative to pass.
The House has two big-ticket items on its agenda for this week – H.R. 2578, the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, and H.R. 2577, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.
And the House will also have to be ready to deal with whatever comes out of the Senate regarding reauthorization of the Patriot Act, or amendments to the USA Freedom Act.
TWO WEEKS AGO ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
Last time we spoke, I pointed out that the Senate had three items on its To-Do list that had to be completed before skipping out of town for the Memorial Day recess: the Trade Promotion Authority bill, extending highway funding for a short term, and reauthorizing Section 215 of the Patriot Act. If the Senate didn’t accomplish all three items before breaking for the recess, there was going to be hell to pay.
Well, there’s hell to pay, because the Senate didn’t finish all three items in a timely fashion. And, as a consequence, the Senate came back into session earlier this afternoon for a very rare Sunday session, to see what kind of resolution they could figure out to extend the NSA’s authority to collect metadata in bulk.
Let’s back up a bit, because I think what happened on the Senate floor during the third week of May is instructive of how Washington works, on many levels.
First off, the schedule of the Senate is set by the Majority Leader. He has the power and authority to decide when bills will hit the floor, and when they won’t.
He knew he had two deadlines coming up – both highway funding and certain portions of the Patriot Act would expire at midnight tonight if they weren’t reauthorized before then. The Trade Promotion Authority bill, by contrast, faced no deadline other than a political deadline.
Sen. McConnell also knew he had a hard break coming up – the Memorial Day recess, which would start on Friday, May 22. And he knew the Senate has a history of finally getting around to passing things when faced with a hard break. No end of damage has been done to our principles by legislation passed under the looming deadline of a hard break.
So, rather than move the two deadline bills in a timely fashion, and put the TPA bill at the back of the line, he decided to move the TPA bill first, in the belief that he could use the upcoming hard break to jam through both the highway funding measure and the Patriot Act reauthorization while he still had the TPA bill on the floor.
But Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, who’s been here for 14 years, also understands the procedures of the Senate. She had a want, and she knew he had a need. Her want: A vote to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank; his need: Her vote to take up the TPA bill.
It was because Sen. McConnell chose to move the TPA bill first that Sen. Cantwell’s vote gave her leverage. If he had moved any time over the first five months of the year – months when he COULD have moved the reauthorization of those expiring portions of the Patriot Act – she wouldn’t have had the leverage he gave her.
So what ended up happening was predictable: He needed her vote to take up the TPA bill, and she leveraged that for a promise of a vote to be held on Ex-Im Bank reauthorization.
On Thursday morning, May 21, the deal was struck. Cantwell got what she wanted, and she led a group that included fellow Washington state Senator Patty Murray, North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, and South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham. Together, the four holdouts cast their votes to invoke cloture, and the measure passed.
So now Sen. Cantwell has a commitment from Majority Leader McConnell to allow her to bring to the floor of the Senate a reauthorization vote, offered as an amendment to legislation of her choice in June.
With the votes of Senators Cantwell, Murray, Graham, and Heitkamp, McConnell was able to take up and pass the Trade Promotion Authority bill. The key vote, to invoke cloture, was 62-38; the vote Friday, on final passage, passed by 62-37.
Meanwhile, the Majority Leader made a decision on Tuesday to move to a vote on the USA Freedom Act, which had already passed the House with 338 votes. McConnell believed that bill would be a non-starter in the Senate, and he wanted a vote to show everyone it could not pass.
So Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, Senate sponsor of the USA Freedom Act, on Tuesday afternoon sought unanimous consent to put debate on the TPA bill on hold, and take up the USA Freedom Act. But Sen. Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, blocked that move, so the Senate went back to debating the TPA bill.
On Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul took and held the floor for more than 10 hours, engaging in a non-filibuster of the Patriot Act reauthorization. It was a “non-filibuster” because the bill on the floor at the time he sought and received recognition from the chair was the TPA bill, not the Patriot Act reauthorization.
After he was done, the Senate went back to the TPA bill. The next morning, McConnell struck his deal with Cantwell and her followers, and the TPA bill was done.
That left Friday to try to get both the Patriot Act reauthorization done, and an extension of highway funding beyond its May 31 expiration date.
He achieved the latter by voice vote. Highway funding was extended for two months.
Then it was back to NSA reform.
Working late into the evening of the 22nd, and into the early morning hours of the 23rd, the Senate debated bulk collection of cell phone metadata. But it could not come to agreement.
First up was a vote at 12:05 AM on Saturday morning on the motion to invoke cloture on the Motion To Proceed to H.R. 2048, the USA Freedom Act. That fell short by just three votes, 57-42, with one Senator – Mike Enzi of Wyoming – not voting.
Forty minutes later, McConnell tried to invoke cloture on the Motion To Proceed to S. 1357, a bill to extend the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act for two months, until July 31. That motion also failed, by a vote of 45-54, with Sen. Enzi again not voting.
Then McConnell tried to get unanimous consent to extend the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act for eight days, then for five days, then for three days, then for two days. Sen. Paul objected each time, and the Senate adjourned in the wee hours of Saturday morning with no clear path forward.
All week long, while the Senate was officially out on the Memorial Day break, speculation swirled. Which of the two Kentucky Senators would yield?
On Saturday, May 30, just one day before those provisions of Section 215 the NSA used to justify its bulk collection of cell phone metadata expired, Sen. Paul gave us the answer. He declared that he would kill the offensive provisions of the Patriot Act. And, under the Rules of the Senate, he had that power.
So the Senate came back into session at 4 PM on Sunday afternoon. After an hour of debate – which featured in plain view the tensions inside the Senate GOP Conference, as Sen. McCain mocked Sen. Paul for what he averred was Sen. Paul’s lack of knowledge of Senate procedure – the two party caucuses broke for an hour of discussion amongst themselves. They returned to the Senate floor at 6 PM, at which point Sen. McConnell revealed that he was throwing in the towel – he was giving up his attempts to reauthorize the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, and would instead allow H.R. 2048, the USA Freedom Act, to come to the floor.
So the Senate moved to a vote to invoke cloture on the Motion To Proceed to H.R. 2048. That vote passed by a vote of 77-17, and the Senate went into debate on H.R. 2048. Under the Rules, the Senate will now debate for 30 hours, meaning a vote on final passage cannot happen until early Tuesday morning – UNLESS a UC (Unanimous Consent) agreement can be put in place.
Doing that, of course, would mean that Sen. Paul agrees not to object. And he’s made clear that what he wants is a vote on two amendments to the USA Freedom Act, each amendment to be considered under a 51-vote, simply majority basis … though he has NOT made clear exactly which two amendments they are.
THIS WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
On Monday, the Senate will return and will begin by continuing consideration of H.R. 2048, the House-passed USA Freedom Act. Late Sunday evening, Sen. McConnell filed several amendments, which will be the first order of business Monday:
- Substitute Amendment #1449 — House-passed bill with two changes 1) a notification requirement 6-months prior to a company changing its data retention policy 2) Director of National Intelligence must certify that the new system is available/operational
- Amendment #1450 — Changes the 6-month transition period to a one year transition period
- Amendment #1451 — Changes the section related to amicus curiae
- Amendment #1452 — Incorporates the above three amendments into one
- Amendment #1453 – Changes the effective date of the legislation
Leader McConnell filed cloture on H.R. 2048 on Sunday evening, setting up a cloture vote one hour after the Senate comes into session on Tuesday. He also filed cloture on the Motion To Proceed to H.R. 1735, the FY2016 Defense Authorization Act, which will likely become the next item of legislative business after passage of H.R. 2048.
CLINTON EMAIL/CLINTON CASH:
The State Department proposed on Monday, May 18 that it set a deadline of January 2016 to complete its review of 55,000 pages of Hillary Clinton emails. Were that schedule to hold, it would mean a delay of 13 months between the time Hillary turned over the emails and the time they were made public. Federal District Judge Rudolph Contreras rules against that request, ordering instead that the State Department would only have until May 26 to produce a new schedule for releasing her emails. When State produced that, the Judge rejected it, too, and laid out his own schedule – he gave the State Department until the end of January 2016 to produce all 30,000 emails, but said they must be produced on an evenly spaced out schedule: By June 30, State is required to produce 7% of the emails (about 2,100), then release 2,400 more by the end of July; then another 3,000 in August; then 3,600 in September; 4,200 in October; 4,500 in November; 4,800 in December; and the final 5,400 in January.
Interestingly, of the 300 or so Benghazi-related emails that were released last week, the FBI deemed classified part of one email, which contradicts Clinton’s assertion that she never exchanged classified information over her private server.
Just as importantly, others of the newly released emails indicate Hillary was made personally aware of the security dangers in the Benghazi compound in the weeks leading up to the 9/11/12 terrorist attack, despite her previous assertions that she was not in the loop about security issues. These new emails were sent directly to her personal email server, and in some cases, were from one of her top deputies.
On Tuesday, May 26, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Federal District Judge Andrew Hanen’s preliminary injunction blocking the Obama Administration from implementing President Obama’s November executive actions on deferred deportation. The three-judge Appeals Court panel split 2-1 on the ruling, with the two judges appointed by Republican Presidents (Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush) opposing the judge appointed by a Democrat President (Barack Obama).
While it’s important to note that this was not a decision on the merits of the case itself – only on whether or not the preliminary injunction ordered by Judge Hanen would stay in place – it nevertheless does not bode well for the Administration, given that the Fifth Circuit Court panel concluded that “the government is unlikely to succeed on the merits of its appeal on the injunction.”
Moreover, the Fifth Circuit Court panel also denied the Administration’s request to narrow the national scope of the injunction so that it would only apply to Texas and the other 25 states in the lawsuit. The Administration’s lawyers had argued that since 26 states were suing the Administration because of what they anticipated would be added costs related to deferred deportation, 24 states were NOT suing the Administration – and, therefore, they should be allowed to implement the deferred deportation scheme in the 24 states that had not objected. Apparently, at least two judges on the Fifth Circuit Court actually read the Constitution – they concluded that “partial implementation of [the President’s program] would undermine the constitutional imperative of ‘a uniform Rule of Naturalization’” contained in Article I of the Constitution, and, on those grounds, they denied the Administration’s request.
As discussed above, Washington Democrat Senator Maria Cantwell showed she’s learned a little something about leverage in her 14 years in the Senate. After leveraging her vote to take up the TPA bill for a promised vote on Ex-Im Bank reauthorization, she then followed up by reaching out to Speaker Boehner, asking him for his word that the House would soon hold a vote on reauthorizing Ex-Im. He denied her request, he told reporters at his regular Thursday press briefing.
Speaker Boehner has recently spoken with Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, whose committee has jurisdiction over Ex-Im reauthorization, and who opposes that reauthorization. Hensarling declared afterward, “Leadership has committed the House to regular order, which is a fair process.” Boehner said, “The only commitment I’ve made is to Chairman Hensarling that if the Senate sent a bill over, that there would be an open-amendment process and the House would be allowed to work its will.
Meanwhile, Sen. Graham suggested pro-bank forces would attempt to attach the legislation to the highway bill in July, shortly after the Ex-Im Bank’s authorization has expired.
We’re one month away from the self-imposed deadline for concluding an agreement between the P5+1 and Iran. Secretary of State John Kerry seems to be no closer to finalizing the deal on favorable terms than he was a month ago. He’ll meet with the Iranian Foreign Minister in Geneva on Saturday.
Interestingly, while the stresses on the potential agreement in the spring seemed to emanate from the U.S. Congress, as we near the deadline, it seems the stresses are coming from inside Iran – particularly from Iran’s Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who reiterated in a speech on May 20 that he would not allow Iran’s “brazen enemy” (presumably, us, the Great Satan) to visit military centers or interview scientists.
IRS TARGETING SCANDAL:
On Tuesday, the Internal Revenue Service revealed that hackers had gained access to the personal information – including tax returns themselves, going back several years – of 104,000 taxpayers. The hackers broke into a system called “Get Transcript,” which allows taxpayers access to their past tax returns. The information could be used to generate false returns, and claim fraudulent refund checks.
According to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, the IRS processed fewer than 15,000 of these fraudulent returns this tax season, costing the IRS about $50 million.
JENNY BETH MARTIN/TPP:
CLINTON EMAIL/CLINTON CASH:
EXECUTIVE AMNESTY/ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION:
IRS TARGETING SCANDAL:
TRADE PROMOTION AUTHORITY/TRANSPACIFIC PARTNERSHIP: