This week, all eyes will be on the Senate as the chamber prepares for a showdown on President Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch.
The Senate is scheduled to return to legislative business on Monday, when members will vote on S. 89, legislation sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) to allow the Delta Queen, historic steamboat, to operate and carry passengers overnight on U.S. waters.
On Tuesday, the Senate is expected to vote on the nomination of Elaine Duke to be Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security. Additional votes on executive nominations are possible during the week.
The focus of the week will be the Senate’s consideration of the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch of Colorado to be an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The nomination is on the Monday markup agenda of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is expected to report the nomination favorably on a party-line vote. Also on the committee’s agenda on Monday are votes on the nominations of Rod Rosenstein and Rachel Brand to be deputy and associate attorney general, respectively. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has stated that the chamber will vote on Judge Gorsuch’s nomination on Friday, April 7. Before getting to a vote, however, Senate Republicans are likely to have to invoke the so-called “nuclear option” by voting on a simple majority vote whether to continue to permit the filibuster over Supreme Court nominations. Because there are only 52 Republican senators, and only two Democratic senators have expressed their support for Judge Gorsuch, Democrats appear to have the votes to block the Senate from voting on the nomination under the traditional rules of the Senate. When Democrats last controlled the chamber, then-majority Leader Harry Reid used the “nuclear options” to eliminate filibusters over nominations to executive branch positions and district and circuit court judgeships; the filibuster remained available for Supreme Court justices, but in sowing the wind, Democrats appear on the cusp of reaping the whirlwind. It is unclear whether some coalition of senators will come together and allow a vote on Judge Gorsuch’s nomination without eliminating the filibuster or whether the nuclear option will have to be invoked. There remain institutional voices in the chamber seeking to avoid the show-down, but for now it is likely by the end of the week, the nation will have a new member of the Supreme Court and the Senate minority will have lost another tool.
Across the Capitol, the House of Representatives will also return to legislative business on Monday, when members are scheduled to take up under suspension of the rules three bills reported by the Foreign Affairs Committee. The suspension package includes two measures related to North Korea: one bill to require the Secretary of State to determine whether or not North Korea meets the criteria for a State Sponsor of Terrorism, and a resolution condemning North Korea’s development of multiple intercontinental ballistic missiles.
On Tuesday, members are scheduled to consider under suspension of the rules the Senate’s amendments to a bill to improve weather research and forecasting (H.R. 353). The House will then take up H.R. 1343, the Encouraging Employee Ownership Act of 2017. The legislation would amend current Securities and Exchange Commission disclosure rules to raise the regulatory threshold from $5 million to $10 million for securities that private employers can provide as part of an employee-benefit plan before needing to provide disclosures. A previous version of this legislation passed the House in 2016. Consideration of H.R. 1343 will be subject to a rule.
On Wednesday, the House will consider under suspension a bill (H.R. 369) regarding the Veterans Choice Program. Members are then scheduled to consider H.R. 1304, the Self-Insurance Protection Act, which would clarify existing law to ensure that federal regulators cannot define stop-loss insurance as traditional health insurance. The legislation is aimed at preserving the ability of self-insured employers to purchase “stop-loss” insurance, protecting those employers from potentially catastrophic claims expenses. Consideration of H.R. 1304 will be subject to a rule.
The final item on the House agenda for the week is H.R. 1219, the Supporting America’s Innovators Act of 2017, set to be considered on the House floor on Thursday. The legislation would amend the Investment Company Act of 1940 to increase the investor limitation for qualifying venture capital funds from 100 to 250 people. The aim of the bill is to increase venture capital investments in small businesses and startup companies. A previous version of this legislation passed the House on a bipartisan basis in 2016. Consideration of H.R. 1219 will be subject to a rule.
Both chambers are expected to adjourn at the end of this week for a scheduled two-week district work period and resume legislative business during the week of April 24. Hanging over the entire week is the coming end of the current continuing resolution, which is scheduled to expire on April 28. Thus, when both chambers return to session the last week of April, members will have very few days to agree on an appropriations bill to keep the government funded beyond the week they return. To meet that deadline, negotiations are likely to be occurring during the recess. The fissures in the Republican party that helped bring down the healthcare reform legislation are likely to be problematic for the appropriations process as well, and Democrats are not likely to want to help Republicans from failing. With the country’s voters themselves still badly split, a spirit of compromise is not expected to overtake members when they are back in their states and districts during the recess; the opposite is probably more likely. And if the Senate does invoke the nuclear option on the Gorsuch nomination, there will be little comity left in that chamber to help fashion a deal to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the month.
Committees are heavily scheduled this week in order to conduct business before the break.
As discussed previously, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on Monday on the nominations of Judge Neil Gorsuch, Rod Rosenstein and Rachel Brand.
The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs will vote on Tuesday morning on the nomination of Jay Clayton, of New York, to be a Member of the SEC.
On Wednesday the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) will hear testimony from Dr. Scott Gottlieb, of Connecticut, on his nomination to serve as Commissioner of the Food & Drug Administration.
Department of Defense funding and operations are the subject of three House Armed Services Committee events this week. The full committee is scheduled to hold a Tuesday hearing where experts will provide an assessment of progress made in defense reforms and opportunities for future reform efforts. The full committee will convene again on Wednesday to discuss the potentially damaging consequences of a continuing resolution for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 on military operations. The Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Chief of Staff of the Army, Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Chief of Naval Operations are all scheduled to appear before the committee to provide testimony. On Thursday the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will meet to evaluate the auditing process for defense contracting.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will meet on Tuesday to discuss ways in which the European Union can be a partner against Russian aggression. David O’Sullivan, Ambassador and Head of the European Union delegation to the United States, is among the panelists scheduled to provide testimony to the committee.
Cybersecurity issues continue to be a focus of hearings this week. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will meet on Tuesday morning to examine the need for greater coordination and leadership on cybersecurity issues across the health care industry. Also on Tuesday morning, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on efforts to protect U.S. energy delivery systems from cybersecurity threats. On Wednesday afternoon, the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Cybersecurity will receive a classified briefing on cyber threats to the U.S.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Richard Cordray will appear before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday to report on the Bureau’s activities and will no doubt face tough questions from lawmakers on the management and actions of the Bureau. Republicans and, increasingly, some Democrats, see the CFPB as an agency in need to reform. Former President Obama strongly backed the agency, which was created out of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law. The Trump Administration has been critical of the CFPB and recently joined a legal challenge to the authority of the agency. In March, the Department of Justice submitted an amicus brief to a federal appeals court arguing that the CFPB structure is unconstitutional. Several lawmakers, including members of the Financial Services Committee, have called for the removal of the Director, setting the stage for a tense hearing in the House on Wednesday.
With the annual income tax filing deadline approaching, two congressional committees will be examining preparations being made by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on Thursday morning. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is scheduled to appear before the Senate Finance Committee to provide testimony on “Internal Revenue Service Operations and the Taxpayer Experience.” At the same time, the House Small Business Committee will hear testimony from the current Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration on the integrity of the IRS tax collection system, including methods to protect taxpayers from identity theft, systems in place to identify fraudulent returns, and customer service.
Three events related to homeland and border security are scheduled this week. The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC) is scheduled to meet on Tuesday morning to discuss fencing along the Southwest border. That afternoon the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security will hold a hearing to examine the Department of Homeland Security’s counter-network strategy to deter Mexican drug cartels and their sophisticated movements of illicit drugs across the border. Senate HSGAC is scheduled to convene again on Wednesday morning to hear testimony from Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly regarding border security and public safety.
Infrastructure modernization is again a focus of congressional committees this week and, in particular, the national aviation system. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation is scheduled to meet on Tuesday to hold its fourth hearing as part of its preparations for a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reform and reauthorization bill later this year. The hearing will be centered on new aviation and aerospace technologies and any potential challenges operators may face when trying to integrate new technology into the National Airspace System (NAS). On Thursday the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security will convene a hearing to examine issues related to the safety and robustness of access to the NAS for rural and general aviation users.
The House Agriculture Committee continues to prepare for the development of the 2018 Farm Bill with hearings this week. Its subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management will hold its second hearing on commodity policy on Tuesday morning, while the Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit will meet Tuesday afternoon to discuss credit programs.
The full details for these events and other congressional hearings scheduled throughout the week are included below: Monday, April 3, 2017
Supreme Court and DOJ Nominations Senate Judiciary Full Committee Markup 10 a.m., SH-216
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
The Next Farm Bill: Commodity Policy, Part II House Agriculture – Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee Hearing 10 a.m., 1300 LHOB
Examining Federal Support for Job Training Programs House Appropriations – Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Hearing 10 a.m., 2358-C RHOB
Assessing Progress and Identifying Future Opportunities in Defense Reform House Armed Services Full Committee Hearing 10 a.m., 2118 RHOB
Discussion Draft: Brownfields Reauthorization House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Hearing 10 a.m., 2123 RHOB
Cybersecurity in the Health Care Sector: Strengthening Public-Private Partnerships House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Hearing 10:15 a.m., 2322 RHOB
Federal Reserve’s Mandate and Governance Structure House Financial Services – Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade Subcommittee Hearing 10 a.m., 2128 RHOB
Oversight of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) House Judiciary – Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations Subcommittee Hearing 10 a.m., 2141 RHOB
First Amendment Protections on Public College and University Campuses House Judiciary – Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice Subcommittee Hearing 11:30 a.m., 2237 RHOB
Pending Legislation House Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans Subcommittee Hearing 10 a.m.
Use of Confidential Informants at ATF and DEA House Oversight and Government Reform Full Committee Hearing 10 a.m., 2154 RHOB
Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Enabling Innovation in the National Airspace House Transportation and Infrastructure – Subcommittee on Aviation Subcommittee Hearing 10 a.m., 2167 RHOB
An Assessment of Ongoing Concerns at the Veterans Crisis Line House Veterans’ Affairs Full Committee Hearing 10 a.m.. 334 CHOB
The Next Farm Bill: Credit Programs House Agriculture – Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit Subcommittee Hearing 2 p.m., 1300 LHOB
Increasing the Effectiveness of Non-Nuclear Sanctions Against Iran House Financial Services – Investigate Terrorism Financing Task Force; House Financial Services – Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade Subcommittees Joint Hearing 2 p.m., 2128 RHOB
Defeating a Sophisticated and Dangerous Adversary: Are the New Border Security Task Forces the Right Approach? House Homeland Security – Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee Hearing 2 p.m., HVC-210
Reviewing Federal IT Workforce Challenges and Possible Solutions House Oversight and Government Reform – Subcommittee on Information Technology Subcommittee Hearing 2 p.m., 2154 RHOB
Authorization of Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Programs House Transportation and Infrastructure – Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Hearing 2 p.m., 2167 RHOB
Assessing VA Approved Appraisers and How to Improve the Program for the 21st Century House Veterans’ Affairs – Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity Subcommittee Hearing 2 p.m., 334 CHOB
United States Strategic Command Programs Senate Armed Services Full Committee Hearing 9:30 a.m., SD-G-50
SEC Nomination Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Full Committee Markup 10 a.m., SD-538
Protecting U.S. Energy Delivery Systems from Cybersecurity Threats Senate Energy and Natural Resources Full Committee Hearing 10 a.m., SD-366
The European Union as a Partner Against Russian Aggression: Sanctions, Security, Democratic Institutions and the Way Forward Senate Foreign Relations Full Committee Hearing 10:15 a.m., SD-419
FDA User Fee Agreements: Improving Medical Product Regulation and Innovation for Patients Part II Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Full Committee Hearing 10 a.m., SD-430
Fencing Along the Southwest Border Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Full Committee Hearing 9:30 a.m., SD-342
National Water Hazards and Vulnerabilities Senate Appropriations – Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Hearing 2:30 p.m., SD-192
Cyber Threats to the U.S. Senate Armed Services – Subcommittee on Cybersecurity Subcommittee Hearing (CLOSED) 2:30 p.m., SVC-217
Keeping Goods Moving: Continuing to Enhance Multimodal Freight Policy and Infrastructure Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation – Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security Subcommittee Hearing 2:30 p.m., SR-253
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Agriculture and Tax Reform: Opportunities for Rural America House Agriculture Full Committee Hearing 10 a.m., 1300 LHOB
Federal Response to the Opioid Abuse Crisis House Appropriations – Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Hearing 10 a.m., 2358-C RHOB
Consequences to the Military of a Continuing Resolution House Armed Services Full Committee Hearing 10 a.m., 2118 RHOB
The Current State of The U.S. Marine Corps House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Readiness Subcommittee Hearing 10 a.m., 2118 RHOB
Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017 House Education and the Workforce – Subcommittee on Workforce Protections Subcommittee Hearing 10 a.m., 2175 RHOB
Facilitating the 21st Century Wireless Economy House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Subcommittee Hearing 10 a.m., 2123 RHOB
The 2016 Semi-Annual Reports of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection House Financial Services Full Committee Hearing 10 a.m., 2128 RHOB
Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More (RECLAIM) Act of 2017 House Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee Hearing 10 a.m., 1324 LHOB
Oversight of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Response to the Baton Rouge Flood Disaster: PART II House Oversight and Government Reform Full Committee Hearing 9:30 a.m., 2154 RHOB
Taking Care of Small Business: Working Together for a Better SBA House Small Business Full Committee Hearing 11 a.m.
FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act Implementation: State and Local Perspectives House Transportation and Infrastructure – Subcommittee on Highways and Transit Subcommittee Hearing 10 a.m., 2167 RHOB
Pending Legislation House Veterans’ Affairs – Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee Hearing 10:30 a.m.
Turkey’s Democracy Under Challenge House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats Subcommittee Hearing 2 p.m., 2172 RHOB
Pending Legislation House Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Federal Lands Subcommittee Hearing 2 p.m.
Improving the Visitor Experience at National Parks House Oversight and Government Reform – Subcommittee on the Interior Subcommittee Hearing 2 p.m., 2247 RHOB
Assessing the Iran Deal House Oversight and Government Reform – Subcommittee on National Security Subcommittee Hearing 2 p.m., 2154 RHOB
Preventing Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Senate Appropriations – Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Hearing 10 a.m., SD-192
Intelligence Programs/Threat Assessment Senate Appropriations – Subcommittee on Defense Subcommittee Hearing (CLOSED) 10:30 a.m., SVC-217
Pending Business Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Full Committee Markup 10 a.m., SR-253
FDA Commissioner Nomination Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Full Committee Hearing 10 a.m., SD-430
Improving Border Security and Public Safety Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Full Committee Hearing 9:30 a.m., SD-342
The Current State of Retirement Security in the United States Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs – Subcommittee on Economic Policy Subcommittee Hearing 3 p.m., SD-538
A Progress Report on Conflict Minerals Senate Foreign Relations – Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy Subcommittee Hearing 2 p.m., SD-419
The Decline of Economic Opportunity in the United States: Causes and Consequences Joint Economic Full Committee Hearing 10 a.m., 1100 LHOB
Thursday, April 6, 2017
Evaluating the Defense Contract Auditing Process House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Hearing 9 a.m., 2212 RHOB
Examination of the Federal Financial Regulatory System and Opportunities for Reform House Financial Services – Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee Hearing 9:15 a.m., 2128 RHOB
Enforcement Is Not Optional: The Goldman Act to Return Abducted American Children House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee Hearing 12 p.m., 2172 RHOB
The Best and Worst Places to Work in the Federal Government House Oversight and Government Reform – Subcommittee on Government Operations Subcommittee Hearing 10 a.m., 2154 RHOB
Scam Spotting: Can the IRS Effectively Protect Small Business Information House Small Business Full Committee Hearing 10 a.m., 2360 RHOB
Pending Legislation House Veterans’ Affairs – Subcommittee on Health Subcommittee Markup 8 a.m.
Southern and Northern Command Updates Senate Armed Services Full Committee Hearing 9:30 a.m., SD-G-50
FAA Reauthorization: Perspectives on Rural Air Service and the General Aviation Community Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation – Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security Subcommittee Hearing 10 a.m., SR-253
The 2017 Tax Filing Season: Internal Revenue Service Operations and the Taxpayer Experience Senate Finance Full Committee Hearing 10 a.m., SD-215
Committee Organization Joint Library Full Committee Business Meeting 10 a.m.
Committee Organization Joint Printing Full Committee Business Meeting 10:10 a.m.