Week in Review

With the House out for its last week of August recess, the Senate returned to Washington last Monday for an abbreviated work week. After paying tribute to the late Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Leaders McConnell (R-KY) and Schumer (D-NY) struck a deal to expedite consideration of a slew of executive branch nominations before the Senate adjourned Tuesday evening so lawmakers could travel to Arizona to attend services for McCain. Among those confirmed was Karen Evans, who will oversee a new cybersecurity office within the Department of Energy tasked with protecting American infrastructure from cyberattacks.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Shelby (R-AL) and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) met last week to chart a course for FY19 appropriations measures before government spending authority runs out on September 30. After the meeting, Shelby indicated he is optimistic that the House and Senate will be able to complete work on the first conference report this week (for more, see a preview of the week ahead below).

House Transportation and Infrastructure and Senate Commerce Committee staff began meeting last week to discuss the differences in their FAA reauthorization bills and the prospects for passing a final package before current authorities expire on September 30. The legislation is important for the US drone industry (find more on this subject here). The FAA is currently operating under a fourth short-term extension. The House passed its bill in April, but a crowded floor schedule and a controversial provision related to meal and rest breaks for truck drivers has kept the Senate bill from coming to the floor. In the meantime, the House Aviation Subcommittee is also planning a hearing this week on emerging aviation technologies.

The Week Ahead

The House and Senate both return to Washington after Labor Day with just weeks remaining to fund government operations before current funding runs out on September 30. The House is slated to take up legislation to expand financial aid counseling. The Senate will take up another set of judicial nominations and House and Senate leaders both hope to be able to bring up the first FY19 appropriations conference report that will include the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, Energy-Water, and Legislative Branch bills. Early indications are not positive for reaching a deal, however.

Before Labor Day weekend, Leader McConnell outlined his priorities for September:

  • FY19 appropriations
  • Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination
  • Farm bill conference report
  • Opioid package

The Senate Judiciary Committee begins confirmation hearings for Judge Kavanaugh Tuesday. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Senator Portman (R-OH) will be among those who introduce the nominee. Leader McConnell aims to have Kavanaugh confirmed in time to be seated for the start of the next Supreme Court term on October 1. Farm bill conferees will meet on Wednesday. Senate Republicans have signed off on a package of legislation intended to combat the nation’s opioid crisis. If Democrats follow suit, the package is poised to come to the floor as early as this week, triggering a conference with the House.