Monday, December 7, 2015

Capitol Hill This Week - What to Watch For

Below are the U.S. House and Senate committees' activities currently scheduled for this week that relate to Mississippi River Basin natural resources. The House is scheduled today (Monday) to consider a bill to ban plastic microbeads from cosmetic products: H.R. 1321 – the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015. The bill would require the manufacturing of plastic microbeads to stop by July 1, 2017, and the delivery of new cosmetic products containing microbeads to end by July 1, 2018. Microbeads have been found in rivers and lakes in developed areas around the world, raising environmental degradation concerns among scientists and environmental organizations.

In addition to committee activities, and floor action on rather non-controversial bills like the microbeads legislation, lawmakers in both the House and Senate will spend much of the week rushing to conclude negotiations on an omnibus 2016 fiscal year spending bill by Friday, December 11, when the current funding authority expires. Numerous disagreements over policies remain to be sorted out, and no agreement has been reached yet on an appropriate U.S. EPA funding amount. House Democrats received and quickly rejected a GOP offer last Wednesday, largely because of its "poison pill" policy riders. Democrats prepared and sent their Republican counterparts a counteroffer, which, among other things, would eliminate many of the environmental policy riders, and reauthorize and full fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. For more details on the bill's status, see our summary here.

If reaching a deal before this Friday's deadline looks unlikely, lawmakers could pass another short term spending extension (called a Continuing Resolution); however, the House is scheduled to be in session only through December 18. A last-ditch safety net to avoid government closure may be to simply extend current funding levels for the remainder of the 2016 fiscal year, as Congress did about a year ago for the 2015 fiscal year. Known as a "cromnibus," such a measure would be a combination of a long-term omnibus spending bill and a shorter-term continuing resolution (or CR), avoiding most if not all of the contentious policy riders.

Where available, links are provided to the relevant committee web pages and appropriate pieces of legislation. Many Congressional proceedings are webcast live, and these may be, as well (follow the respective meeting or hearing link).  All times are Eastern. This information will be updated as warranted. 

Tuesday, December 8
  • House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Technology hearing on the "Future of Biotechnology: Solutions for Energy, Agriculture and Manufacturing;" 10:00 AM, room 2318 Rayburn House Office Building.
  • Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee legislative hearing to examine S. 2257 - the National Park Service Centennial Act, a bill "to prepare the National Park Service for its Centennial in 2016 and for a second century of protecting our national parks' natural, historic, and cultural resources for present and future generations;" 10:00 AM, room 366 Dirksen Senate Office Building.
  • House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing "examining the (Department of Interior's proposed) Stream Protection Rule;" 2:00 PM, room 2154 Rayburn House Office Building.
  • House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing entitled "Moving Ahead For Progress In The 21st Century (Map-21) Program Consolidation" (MAP-21 is meant to create a streamlined and performance-based surface transportation program and builds on many of the highway, transit, bike, and pedestrian programs and policies established in 1991); 2:00 PM, room 2247 Rayburn House Office Building.
  • Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness hearing entitled "Data or Dogma? Promoting Open Inquiry in the Debate over the Magnitude of Human Impact on Earth’s Climate;" 3:00 PM, room  253 Russell Senate Office Building.
  • House Rules Committee meeting to set the rules for full House consideration of  H.R. 2130, the "Red River Private Property Protection Act" (designed to settle an ongoing dispute among landowners, and the state and federal governments over the ownership of land along the Red River, dividing Oklahoma and Texas); 3:00 PM, room H-313 U.S. Capitol Building.
Wednesday, December 9
  • House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management hearing entitled "Commodity in Focus: Stress in Cotton Country;" 10:00 AM, room 1300 Longworth House Office Building.
  • Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee meeting to consider several pieces of legislation, including:  S. 1886, the Coordinated Ocean Monitoring and Research Act, S. 1935, the Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act of 2015, and S. 2276, the SAFE PIPES Act; 10:00 AM, room 253 Russell Senate Office Building.
  • Senate Budget Committee hearing to "examine moving to a stronger economy with a regulatory budget;" 10:30 AM, room 608 Dirksen Senate Office Building (no link to a hearing page available yet).
  • House Agriculture: Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research oversight hearing on "USDA's use of Census of Agriculture authority to acquire farmer's personal financial information;" 2:00 PM, room 1302 Longworth House Office Building.
Thursday, December 10
  • House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Environment and Subcommittee oversight hearing on the "Nation’s Weather Satellite Programs and Policies;" 10:00 AM, room 2318 Rayburn House Office Building.

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