Friday, December 5, 2014

Capitol Hill Next Week - What to Watch For

There is currently one U.S. House committee hearing and no Senate committee activity scheduled for next week that relates to Mississippi River Basin water resources. Lawmakers, by-and-large, are looking to clear major pieces of legislation ahead of the winter recess scheduled to begin on Friday, December 12, when the 113th Congress will effectively be no more.  The main piece of pressing legislative business remains passage of a measure to fund the federal government beyond December 11 (when the current spending authorization lapses). No details of the legislation have been released yet (House leaders plan to reveal the spending legislation on Monday).  Spending bill amendments that impact environmental programs remain a possibility (see more on this below).

In addition to the spending measure, there will likely be some other floor activity in each chamber that relates to the River Basin natural resources or to those in the nation as a whole.  Those are listed, below, along with relevant committee activity for the week.

Spending Bill
This week GOP House leaders were effective in advancing the concept of a "cromnibus" spending bill: a hybrid of a long-term omnibus spending measure and a shorter-term continuing resolution (or "CR").  The omnibus portion of the bill would fund most of the federal government from December 11 through the end of the current (2015) fiscal year, which ends next September 30. The omnibus portion of the bill is expected to combine compromise versions of most appropriations bills already drafted by Senate and House appropriations subcommittees (i.e., such as the Interior and Environment bill funding the U.S. EPA and Interior Department, and the Energy and Water Development bill funding the Army Corps of Engineers).

Legislative language has not been released and details are lacking.  However, Senate and House appropriators indicate that environmental and energy agencies would largely escape unscathed by "riders" (or amendments) attached to the year-end spending bill. GOP members in particular entertained riders in the past that sought to block implementation of various U.S. EPA, Army Corps and Interior Department rules. Just before Thanksgiving, 91 House members (all but one Republican) sent a letter to House Appropriations leaders asking that the cromnibus include a provision from the House-passed Energy and Water Development funding bill that would block implementation of the Obama Administration so-called "Waters of the U.S." rule (the corresponding Senate draft was written rider-free).  House Appropriations Interior and Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member, Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) said on Tuesday, "I don't think most of the riders are going to be included."

Only one federal agency - the Department of Homeland Security - would be excluded from the longer-term portion of the overall spending bill. Homeland Security (as discussions currently stand) would only be funded via a CR into sometime in February or March, when Republicans will control both the House and Senate, and arguably be in a better position to block implementation of President Obama's immigration executive order. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday he anticipates that some House Democrats will join with Republicans to pass the trillion-dollar spending package next week. Some Tea Party conservative Republicans continue to resist backing the bill.

Other Congressional Floor and Committee Activity
In addition to the spending legislation:
This page will be updated as warranted.

No comments:

Post a Comment