This Week on the Hill: Bank Regs Bill in the Senate; Right to Try, Omnibus in the House; Eyes on PA-18 Special Election

Both chambers of Congress are in session this week for a significant period of legislative activity. While the House will wait until tomorrow before holding any official floor deliberation, the Senate starts today with the continued consideration of a bipartisan banking regulatory relief bill (S. 2155). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has filed cloture for the bill’s substitute amendment and a vote is expected at 5:30 p.m. today. Successfully invoking cloture would trigger a 30 hour window before a final vote on the substitute amendment, which will then be followed by a similar process for the underlying bill. Additionally, negotiations are reportedly continuing about a second substitute that would potentially include some of the nearly thirty provisions that House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) would like to see in the bill. 

The House’s work starts tomorrow with a vote on a updated version of the Right to Try Act, legislation aimed at letting very sick patients request access to experimental treatments that have not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The House version is more limited than the measure that passed the Senate in August, giving the FDA more oversight of the process. Democrats in the lower chamber are expected to provide more opposition to the bill than what it faced in the Senate, but it will likely be approved on the strength of the Republican majority.

Later in the week, the House may take up the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill, as House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has indicated that he would like to bring up the bill ahead of the Mar. 23 deadline for government funding. While Republicans are optimistic that the spending bill can pass by the end of next week, Democrats remain skeptical over provisions related to funding for Planned Parenthood and family planning programs. The funding bill may be the last must-pass vehicle that gets through Congress until the end of the fiscal year in September, meaning that lawmakers will be battling to get other priorities — such as Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization and school safety proposals — included in the mammoth package.

Finally, a special election that has gained national attention is due to be held tomorrow in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district. Recent polling in the Republican-leaning district shows that Democrat Conor Lamb has narrowed the gap considerably against his Republican opponent Rick Saccone. Both parties see the race as an important indicator for this fall’s midterm elections, and as a result, over $12.5 million has been poured into the contest by both campaigns and outside groups.