Weekly Update: The Week Ahead in Congress (Sep. 6-9, 2016)

5 min read

Congress is back — and so is the POPVOX Weekly Update!

Congress returns with four weeks to decide whether a short-term spending bill will run through the end of this year (leaving a new Congress to pass spending for next year) or into 2017. Also on the agenda: Zika funding. This week the House considers several bills on foreign relations, public lands, and parts of the House GOP's "Innovation Initiative."

Zika Funding     |     Spending Bills     |    House Bills     |     Innovation Initiative     |     Foreign Relations     |     Public Lands     |     Technical Corrections

In the Senate: Re-vote on Zika funding

On Tuesday, the Senate will resume consideration of the conference report to accompany H.R.2577, MilCon-VA Appropriations. The $82.5 billion annual appropriations was approved by the House 239-171

H.R. 2577: Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations  (CONFERENCE REPORT)

The Conference Report would provide appropriations for military construction and the Department of Veterans Affair in Fiscal Year 2017 and supplemental appropriations to respond to the outbreak of the Zika virus. It would also include the text of H.R. 897, the Zika Vector Control Act, which would repeal Environmental Protection Act (EPA) requirements that require permitting under the Clean Water Act (CWA) for the application of EPA approved pesticides. ​

There are issues:

  1. Senate Democrats have blocked the conference report twice because they say it contains "poison pills," including limits on funding for Planned Parenthood, and reductions to environmental regulations on pesticides. 
  2. Even if the bill did pass the Senate, the White House has issued a veto threat.

For more on the Zika funding debate, see McClatchy's coverage: The day Zika deal died: A cautionary tale of congressional gridlock, by Lindsay Wise.

Spending Bill Options

It is increasingly likely that plans for Zika funding will be wrapped into a larger effort to reach agreement on a short-term spending bill. With no time left for a regular budget/appropriations cycle, Congress has to pass a "continuing resolution" (CR) to extend spending at current levels for a defined period of time. How long? That's what's up for debate (and heavily influenced by the election cycle).

"A short-term extension through December is favored by some Republican leaders and almost all Democrats. Under this scenario, Congress would work with the Obama administration after the November elections in a lame-duck session to pass a larger spending bill, called an omnibus," reports Morning Consult. However, some conservative groups and lawmakers would like to see a CR that goes into 2017.

In the House:

H.R. 4511: Gold Star Families Voices Act
Sponsor: Rep. Christopher Smith [R, NJ-4]

H.R. 4511 would amend the Veterans Oral History Project Act to allow the immediate family of certain members of the armed forces to provide biographical histories of those members through video and audio recordings. Under current law, only histories by veterans may be collected. About $2 million was appropriated for the project in 2016. Based on information from the Library of Congress, CBO estimates that expansion would result in approximately 1,000 new collections to the project, and that the cost of the expansion would be $0.6 million. Source: CBO.

H.R. 5578: Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Mimi Walters [R, CA-45]

H.R. 5578 would direct DOJ to establish a working group to develop and disseminate best practices relating to the care and treatment of survivors of sexual assault and the preservation of forensic evidence. Source: CBO.

H.R. 4245: To exempt importation and exportation of sea urchins and sea cucumbers from licensing requirements under the Endangered Species Act
Sponsor: Rep. Chellie Pingree [D, ME-1]

H.R. 5063: Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act 
Sponsor: Rep. Bob Goodlatte [R, VA-6]

H.R. 5063 would prohibit government officials from entering into or enforcing any settlement agreement for civil actions on behalf of the United States if that agreement requires the other party to the settlement to make a donation to a third party. That prohibition would not include payments to provide restitution or another remedy that is associated with the basis for the settlement agreement. In recent settlements with the United States, large corporations, such as Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, have been required to donate funds to charitable institutions as a part of their restitution. Such donations typically constitute a very small fraction of overall settlement amounts. Source: CBO.

House GOP "Innovation Initiative"

The House will vote on several bills that are part of "a legislative package aimed at helping financial technology companies expand by shielding them from emerging regulatory constraints," as reported by the Wall Street Journal. (Read more from House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, on Medium).

H.R. 2357: Accelerating Access to Capital Act
Sponsor: Rep. Ann Wagner [R, MO-2]

H.R. 2357 would make it easier for businesses to file registration statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in order to sell securities to the public. Specifically, the bill would remove certain limitations on the use of a simplified form for filing a registration statement. Source: CBO.

H.R. 5424: Investment Advisers Modernization Act
Sponsor: Rep. Robert Hurt [R, VA-5]

Under current law, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) enforces rules and requirements for advertising, transferring, and selling funds and securities by investment advisers. H.R. 5424 would provide investment advisers several exemptions from certain of those requirements. It also would prohibit the SEC from applying its rules to private funds that provide sales literature about their securities offerings. Source: CBO.

H.R. 5577: Innovation in Offshore Leasing Act
Sponsor: Rep. Garret Graves [R, LA-6]

To authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct offshore oil and gas lease sales through Internet-based live lease sales.


Foreign Relations

H.Res. 660: Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives to support the territorial integrity of Georgia
Sponsor: Rep. Ted Poe [R, TX-2]

H.Res. 634: Recognizing the importance of the United States-Republic of Korea-Japan trilateral relationship to counter North Korean threats and nuclear proliferation, and to ensure regional security and human rights
Sponsor: Rep. Matt Salmon [R, AZ-5]

H.R. 4481: Education for All Act 
Sponsor: Rep. Nita Lowey

H.R. 4481 would codify many of the practices and programs relating to education assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The bill would establish the position of Senior Coordinator within USAID to coordinate federal efforts to improve basic education in other countries, conduct oversight of those efforts, develop an integrated strategy to promote basic education, and report to the Congress. USAID has indicated that a similar position already exists but that the agency would require one employee for the additional administrative support and reports that would be required under the bill. Source: CBO.

H.R. 5537: Digital GAP Act 
Sponsor: Rep. Ed Royce [R, CA-39]

H.R. 5537 would codify many of the guiding principles and practices of the federal government’s efforts to promote Internet access in developing countries. In addition, the bill would require the President to report to the Congress on his policy to promote such access and on partnerships between federal agencies to provide access and expand infrastructure. Source: CBO.

H.R. 2845: AGOA Enhancement Act 
Sponsor: Rep. Ed Royce [R, CA-39]

H.R. 2845 would direct the President to increase public awareness of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and authorize several federal programs to encourage trade and economic cooperation with and between AGOA countries. In particular, the bill would:

Based on information from agencies engaged in implementing AGOA, CBO expects that most of the bill’s requirements will be implemented under current and ongoing initiatives. MCC indicated that allowing it to enter into concurrent compacts would not require additional appropriations nor would it significantly affect MCC’s planned obligations. Source: CBO.


Public Lands

H.R. 3881: Cooperative Management of Mineral Rights Act
Sponsor: Rep. Glenn Thompson [R, PA-5]​

H.R. 4510: Bolts Ditch Access and Use Act
Sponsor: Rep. Jared Polis [D, CO-2]​

H.R. 3480: Fort Frederica National Monument Boundary Expansion Act
Sponsor: Rep. Buddy Carter [R, GA-1]​

H.R. 3839: Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act
Sponsor: Rep. Kristi Noem [R, SD-0]​

H.R. 4202: Fort Ontario Study Act, as amended
Sponsor: Rep. John Katko [R, NY-24]

H.R. 4789: To authorize the Secretary of the Interior to establish a structure for visitor services on the Arlington Ridge tract, in the area of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial
Sponsor: Rep. Don Beyer [D, VA-8]

Technical Corrections

Congress frequently considers "technical corrections" bills to address issues with definitions, numbers, or minor policy questions. Technical corrections are usually uncontroversial and, in the House, brought up for a vote under a "suspension of the rules."

Several technical corrections bills sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte [R, VA-6], will be considered this week:

H.R. 2830: To make technical amendments to update statutory references to certain provisions classified to title 2

H.R. 2831: To make technical amendments to update statutory references to provisions classified to chapters 44, 45, 46, and 47 of title 50

H.R. 2832: To make technical amendments to update statutory references to certain provisions classified to title 52

Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill does not imply POPVOX endorsement in any way. As always, our goal is to offer one more way to help you stay informed about the complex U.S. legislative system.