Today on the Hill: CR Text Expected Today; Dem Senators Block Unanimous Consent Bills Over Expiring Coal Miner Health Benefits

December 6, 2016

The legislative text for a continuing resolution (CR) is expected to be released today as Congressional leaders stay on track to break for the year by the end of the week. The stopgap is likely to extend into mid-April in order to provide lawmakers with enough time to consider and approve President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees early next year. Looking ahead to that process, Republican leaders are considering adding a rider that would make it easier to exempt Defense Secretary nominee Gen. James Mattis from a provision preventing retired military personnel from serving as the head of Pentagon for seven years. However, Democrats have objected to that provision, with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) saying that it could endanger passage of the CR. The released text today should clarify whether Republicans are up for one more spending fight before the new year.

In the Senate, lawmakers remain on track to approve the 21st Century Cures medical research bill (H.R. 34) after a successful cloture vote last night by a 85-13 margin. The bill remains the only measure on the Senate schedule today, however, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has already set up the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to be next in line for floor consideration. The latest iteration of the NDAA drops a requirement for young women to register for the military draft and was approved by the House on a 375-34 vote last week. While the Senate has also been clearing the decks of non-controversial unanimous consent legislation, that process has seemingly ground to a halt due to demands from some Democratic senators to address expiring health benefits for unionized coal miners. Look to see if the senators' concerns are placated by the release of the stopgap spending bill’s text, which reportedly may contain relief for the miners’ failing health plan.  

In addition to their work on a CR, House lawmakers have 21 bills lined up to be voted on under suspension of the rules today, including measures dealing with energy efficiency in schools (H.R. 756), research initiatives on childhood cancer (H.R. 3381), and promoting broadband access for veterans (H.R. 6394). Also on the suspension calendar is a Senate-passed measure (S. 2873) requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to study the viability of using additional telehealth technologies to serve rural areas. A full list of the bills to be voted on today can be found here.