This Week on the Hill: Zika, Collins Gun Proposal, Puerto Rico, GMOs in Senate before July 4 Recess

June 27, 2016

With the House already on recess for the July 4 holiday, the Senate will begin the week with a noncontroversial judicial confirmation before moving on to more contentious debates on spending bills and Puerto Rico debt relief legislation. A vote is expected this afternoon on the nomination of Robert Rossiter, Jr. to be U.S. District Judge for the District of Nebraska as the upper chamber begins to wind down its consideration of confirmations ahead of this November’s elections.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has teed up a cloture vote on the House-passed Military Construction-Veterans Affairs appropriations bill (H.R. 2577) that includes a funding package to combat the Zika virus. However, Senate Democrats are likely to block the measure over additional policy riders that would limit access to birth control and suspend Clean Water Act permitting requirements on pesticide use near waterways. The White House has also threatened to veto the measure over inadequate funding for Zika and a funding offset that would be taken from Ebola cleanup funds. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called the bill “the only chance to put Zika control money to work” before the chamber’s recess for the July 4 holiday.

Senate Democrats will be pushing for a floor vote on a compromise gun control proposal crafted by moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) that would block gun sales to individuals listed on terror watch lists. The provision survived a motion to table last week, but it is unlikely to garner the 60 votes necessary to be included in the underlying Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill (H.R. 2578).

Democrats will also be critical to the possible passage of House-passed legislation (H.R. 5278) that would provide relief to Puerto Rico in its ongoing financial crisis. With a $2 billion debt payment due Friday, the island territory will need the debt restructuring authority provided by the bill in order to avoid default. While Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) has pledged to force consideration of amendments, Senate leaders from both parties will hope to speed the process by negotiating an agreement that would make any changes subject to a 60-vote requirement.

Finally, there may be time before senators leave Washington for consideration of a compromise bill (bill text) that would create the first nationwide standard for labeling foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMO). The measure would preempt stricter standards passed in Vermont that are due to go into effect on Friday.

‘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.