The Senate is set to begin working through amendments on a wide-ranging energy bill, as Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is working to ensure the bill moves forward in a bipartisan fashion. The legislation (S. 2012) is designed to boost energy efficiency, speed construction of electric transmission lines, and streamline permitting for natural gas exports. Among the bill’s provisions, it would strengthen building codes, increase cybersecurity protections for the electricity grid, and expedite the licensing process for hydropower projects.
With Washington still shoveling out from a mammoth snow storm and the public transit systems and airports not yet back to full service, the Capitol will remain largely quiet today. The Senate’s scheduled to gavel in at 10:00 a.m. with no roll-call votes planned for the day. Senate leadership has delayed until tomorrow a vote on a judicial nomination. When senators do get back to town, Senate Republicans plan to begin floor debate on energy legislation. The measure (S. 2012), which had bipartisan support in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, includes provisions designed to boost efficiency, speed construction of electric transmission lines, and streamline permitting for natural gas exports.
The Week in Review
With the House in recess and the work-week shortened by both Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and a severe snowstorm that sent lawmakers home on Thursday, legislative business was light last week. However, on Tuesday, Senate Democrats successfully blocked a House-passed measure (H.R. 4038) that would restrict refugees from Iraq and Syria from settling in the United States. While the measure was initially slated to be subject to floor debate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) were unable to strike a deal on politically charged amendments. Republicans were hoping to include a provision that would give governors the ability to reject refugees from their states, while Democrats wanted to force a vote on presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. Leader McConnell’s reversal on allowing floor debate is likely to save fellow Republican senators from being on the record over the controversial ‘Muslim-ban’ in an election year.
Washington is still digging out from a severe snowstorm over the weekend that brought two feet of snow to the area. As a result, the week’s schedule is still in flux, with the House already calling off all votes for the week and the Senate delaying all their votes until Wednesday at the earliest. As of this moment, Senate Republicans plan to begin floor debate on energy legislation this week – if the streets are clear of snow and Washington is back to business. The measure (S. 2012), which had bipartisan support in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, includes provisions designed to boost efficiency, speed construction of electric transmission lines, and streamline permitting for natural gas exports.
This afternoon, Investment News featured analysis from Thorn Run's Jason Rosenstock on a bill sponsored by Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) that would stop a contentious Department of Labor rule related to investment advice from taking effect. Many members of the minority party have opposed the rule, but as Jason states in the article, "Democrats who may ultimately be supportive of the Roskam-Neal approach still want to see the final rule before they back any legislative remedy."
- House is in recess
- Senate is in session and is scheduled to take up the Syrian refugee bill before moving onto an energy bill that could be on the floor for a couple of weeks.
The Week in Review
With the President delivering his final State of the Union address and Republicans holding a joint retreat to plan their legislative priorities for the year, last week in Washington featured competing political visions for 2016. In his address on Tuesday, the President avoided the policy ‘laundry list’ that typically accompanies the State of the Union, instead opting for a message calling for greater political unity, a defense of his foreign policy priorities, and a challenge to the nation’s scientific community to cure cancer. Later in the week, House and Senate Republicans travelled to Baltimore to plan their legislative agenda. Topics of conversation included reconciling differences on the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Freedom Caucus’ insistence to push through tax reform and a replacement to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the viability of a budget resolution in the Senate Appropriations Committee. However, this last point already hit a major challenge when the Appropriations Committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), said that she doesn’t see the need for a budget resolution because lawmakers have already agreed to a two-year budget deal that sets topline spending numbers.
With the House in recess this week in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Senate will first vote on the nomination of Wilhelmina Marie Wright to be U.S. district court judge in Minnesota before moving on to the contentious debate over settling Syrian refugees in the United States. On Wednesday, the upper chamber will hold a cloture vote on whether to proceed to legislation (H.R. 4038) the House passed last year, which would require top U.S. law-enforcement and national security officials to affirm to Congress that each individual Syrian refugee doesn’t pose a security threat. The Obama administration contends the refugee program would grind to a halt, and has threatened to veto the measure.
After a turbulent, but ultimately successful 2015, Congress enters an election year on an upswing. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have both emphasized their commitment to receiving more input from the rank-and-file members of the party in the shaping of legislative priorities for the upcoming session. As such, specific timelines for legislation may be released following a party retreat in Baltimore this week.
Today's edition of Roll Call featured insight into the dynamics of election-year policymaking in the halls of Congress, including analysis from Thorn Run's Andy Rosenberg. According to Rosenberg, the push for regular order on spending bills, led by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), will provide more flexibility for legislating than in a typical election year. "[Regular order’s] something that opens up opportunities to do a lot more legislating," Rosenberg said. "It leaves a lot of room for monkey business and playing both offense and defense in the appropriations process."