Today on the Hill: Dem Sit-In Forces Early House Recess; Zika Conference Report Approved

June 23, 2016

With House Democrats staging a sit-in on the well of the House floor to attempt to force votes on gun control proposals, Republican leaders elected to formally adjourn the chamber for the week. The House is not scheduled to be in session next week, meaning that the next action legislative action for House lawmakers may be delayed until after the July 4 holiday. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), known for his critical role in the Civil Rights Movement, is leading Democrats in the demonstration on the House floor after the Senate voted down gun control proposals that were forced by a 15-hour filibuster from Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) last week. The protesting lawmakers want votes on two bills: H.R. 1217, which would establish background-check requirements for gun show purchases, and H.R. 1076, which would prohibit individuals on the FBI’s terrorist watch list from being able to purchase guns.  

In the Senate, moderate Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is trying to garner support for her gun control compromise bill that would bar gun sales to people on the “no-fly” list and another list of individuals suspected of terrorist connections. Despite opposition from the National Rifle Association (NRA), some Republicans – particularly those in tight election races – and a number of Democrats have come out in support of the bill. Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) said he’s “optimistic” that a deal can be reached before the Senate’s brief July 4 recess.

The Collins proposal would be submitted as an amendment to the Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill (H.R. 2578) that provides funding to the Justice and Commerce Departments, as well as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Today, the upper chamber may try to a second attempt at advancing an amendment submitted by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) that would provide legal clarification for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) authority to obtain electronic communication transactional records as part of their investigations. Previous consideration of the amendment ended with the provision falling one vote short of the 60 needed to be included in the underlying legislation.   

A conference on responding to the impending threat of the Zika virus is also ongoing this week, with Senate Democrats opposing an agreement struck by Republicans in both chambers. The House adopted the conference report to the Military Construction-VA spending bill – which includes the Zika package – on a 239-171 party-line vote, despite the ongoing sit-in on the House floor. The package would provide $1.1 billion to fight the mosquito-borne virus, with about half of that amount offset with spending cuts.

‘Today on the Hill’ includes updates provided by the House and Senate majority leaders, as well information derived from publications including Bloomberg Government, The Hill, Morning Consult, Kaiser Health News, Modern Healthcare, Inside Health Policy, and others.