Lawmakers have a busy few days left in this work period before breaking for next week’s Memorial Day recess. The House is aiming to take up a Senate-passed regulatory relief package (S. 2155) that intends to ease the regulatory regime imposed on small and medium-sized banks by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, among other changes. The measure is expected to pass in the House thanks to the Republican majority and a likely cadre of Democratic moderates, which will send the bill to a supportive President Trump to be signed into law. Other anticipated action in the House includes consideration of ‘right to try’ legislation (S. 204) and the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Votes start today with twelve suspension bills on the lower chamber’s docket, primarily related to health care issues at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
The Week in Review
The farm bill was the main action for the House last week, which came to an end with a surprising failed vote on Friday. The nutrition and agriculture package (H.R. 2) became embroiled in the immigration debate as the House Freedom Caucus decided to oppose the farm bill unless a vote was held on a conservative immigration measure first. Seeing the bill as one of the last major opportunities to flex their muscle before this fall’s midterms, the conservative caucus led the charge against the bill — with all Democrats also voting against due to its inclusion of work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — ultimately resulting in its failure Friday on a 198-213 vote. The failure comes as a major embarrassment for House Republican leadership, and will likely further incite the calls for votes on immigration proposals of both the conservative and moderate variety in the coming weeks.
While the Senate has already wrapped up its work for the week, some drama is left for the House, where the farm bill (H.R. 2) has become embroiled in the immigration debate and faces an uncertain path out of the lower chamber. The House Freedom Caucus has thrown up the primary road block, saying that they will vote against the nutrition and agriculture package unless a vote is held on a conservative immigration measure first. With Democrats objecting to the farm bill over its inclusion of work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the three-dozen member Freedom Caucus has the votes to hold up the package and see the must-pass bill as the last opportunity for leverage before this fall’s midterms. House leadership is reportedly still aiming to move forward with a vote on the farm bill today, but that could be pulled if leadership feels that the Freedom Caucus aims to sink it.
The Senate will finally break from its stream of judicial confirmations today for a vote on a closely-watched Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution (S.J. Res. 52) that would repeal the Federal Communications Commission’s “Restoring Internet Freedom” rule that would end ‘net neutrality’ for Internet content. While most Republicans oppose the measure, Democrats are using a procedure outlined in the CRA that can force votes on resolutions — as opposed to bills — even without the majority party’s support.
- The House and Senate are in session this week. The House is taking up a series of bills related to law enforcement and is expected to take up the Agriculture Bill (H.R. 2), which includes controversial provisions dealing with food assistance – a/k/a SNAP.
- At the House Financial Services Committee, it looks like a busy week with four different subcommittees holding hearings.
- Over at the House Education and Workforce Committee there will be a hearing on retirement policy, including the RESA bill. We hope that at least some of the focus will be on the proper pronunciation of the acronym.
- The Senate will continue its nominations routine with a series of judicial nominations scheduled.
- The Senate Banking Committee will focus on nominations of its own, with a vote on pending nominations, and a hearing on the President’s nominees to serve on the Federal Reserve Board.
- According to Speaker Paul Ryan, Thursday is the deadline for the Administration to announce to Congress that it has reached a new NAFTA deal if it wants the 115th Congress to be able to vote on that agreement.
While no votes are scheduled today, House lawmakers have a busy week ahead. The highlight will be consideration of the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2), more colloquially known as the “farm bill.” Other measures on the House’s weekly docket include a bill that would provide more harsh punishments for crimes targeting law enforcement officers (H.R. 5698) and a Senate-passed bill that would alter policy on veterans’ remains buried on federal lands (S. 2372).
The Week in Review
The week was bookended by two significant announcements from the White House on the Iran Deal and the Administration’s drug pricing blueprint, respectively. On Tuesday, President Trump announced that the U.S. would be withdrawing from the 2015 agreement with Iran and world powers – known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – in a move criticized by Democrats and Europe, but praised by most Republicans, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. That decision was followed by another high-profile announcement for the Administration’s plan to lower prescription drug prices, which is broken down in detail in our policy roundup below.
The House aims to wrap up its legislative work for the week today with consideration of a bill (H.R. 3053) that would set policy for used nuclear fuel, including by reviving licensing activities for the controversial Yucca Mountain waste storage site in Nevada. The nuclear waste measure has broad support after being approved by the Energy and Commerce on a 49-4 vote last June, but has faced fierce opposition from Nevada lawmakers who argue that the Silver State is bearing too heavy of a burden for the nation’s nuclear energy production. A final vote is expected around noon, closing out the House’s docket for the week.
The start of the primary season went mostly as expected as establishment candidates largely emerged victorious over their insurgent opponents, including in the closely-watched Republican Senate primary in West Virginia where Pat Morrissey beat the controversial coal executive Don Blankenship and Rep. Evan Jenkins. That story held true in the race for Ohio’s governorship as well as former state attorney general and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Richard Cordray defeated Dennis Kucinich, who was seen as a far-left candidate. However, the most surprising result of the night came from North Carolina where the sitting Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) lost his primary to a right-wing challenge from former pastor Mark Harris. The next set of states to hold their primaries will be Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon, and Pennsylvania on May 15.