THE BLOG
01/14/2015 11:09 am ET Updated Mar 16, 2015

Congress, Week 2: Do You Know What They're Working on?

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It's the 114th Congress's second week in session -- but it's going to be a short one. Both the House and Senate will be in session only Monday through Wednesday. The Republicans will be holding their joint retreat at the Hershey Lodge in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the rest of the week. Here's the scoop on what Congress will be working on during the week ahead:

Dept. of Homeland Security Appropriations

This week, the House may begin considering a bill that would fund the the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) from February through the end of the fiscal year, September. Last month, the 113th Congress passed a short-term funding bill that only funded DHS through February.

  • Dept. of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2015 (HR 240) "The bill provides $39.7 billion in discretionary funding for DHS, an increase of $400 million compared to the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. The bill prioritizes frontline security -- including all operational, counterterrorism, and threat-targeting activities, and essential tactical equipment -- and saves taxpayer dollars by reducing overhead costs and cutting funds for lower-priority programs. In addition, it is expected that an amendment will be added to the bill to address the president's recent executive action on immigration," according to the House Appropriations Committee. (Read bill text.)
The Scoop: As part of the funding bill, House Republicans plan to propose rolling back the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals Program (DACA), a 2012 order from the Obama administration that gave legal status to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. (Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) had introduced this as a bill last year: HR 5272 in the 113th Congress.) They also may propose defunding the president's November 2014 executive action that would give temporary legal status to as many as 4.5 million undocumented immigrants. (This proposal has been introduced as a standalone bill last week: The Prevention of Executive Amnesty Act (HR 31).)

Dodd-Frank Reform

This week, the House will take a second look at reforms to the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial system overhaul. The proposed changes were considered by the House last week under "suspension of the rules," which would have fast-tracked the bill, bypassing the Financial Services Committee and amendments -- but requires a two-thirds majority to pass. As a result, the bill did not pass, and may be considered again this week under simple-majority rules:

  • Promoting Job Creation and Reducing Small Business Burdens Act (HR 37) A package of 11 bills introduced individually in the 113th Congress "which make it easier for small businesses to grow and hire, creating more opportunity for all," according to the bill sponsor. The bill was passed by the House in Sept. 2014 (HR 5405 in the 113th Congress).
The package includes 11 bills that were introduced or passed in the 113th Congress:
  1. Business Risk Mitigation and Price Stabilization Act (HR 634 in the 113th Congress) --Passed the House on 6/12/13 --
  2. Inter-Affiliate Swap Clarification Act (HR 677 in the 113th Congress)
  3. Holding Company Registration Threshold Equalization Act (HR 801 in the 113th Congress) -- Passed the House on 1/14/14 --
  4. Small Business Mergers, Acquisitions, Sales, and Brokerage Simplification Act (HR 2274 in the 113th Congress) -- Passed the House on 1/14/14 --
  5. Small Cap Liquidity Reform Act (HR 3448 in the 113th Congress) -- Passed the House on 2/11/14 --
  6. Improving Access to Capital for Emerging Growth Companies Act (HR 3623 in the 113th Congress)
  7. Small Company Disclosure Simplification Act (HR 4164 in the 113th Congress)
  8. Restoring Proven Financing for American Employers Act (HR 4167 in the 113th Congress) -- Passed the House on 4/29/14 --
  9. SBIC Advisers Relief Act (HR 4200 in the 113th Congress)
  10. Disclosure Modernization and Simplification Act (HR 4569 in the 113th Congress)
  11. Directing the SEC to revise its rules so as to increase the threshold amount for requiring issuers to provide certain disclosures relating to compensatory benefit plans (HR 4571 in the 113th Congress)

The Scoop: Some Democrats in Congress have argued that the bill should not be considered under suspension of the rules because of its wide-ranging complexity. As Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), a member of the House Financial Services Committee, explained: "This is not an emergency. We have a new Congress. This bill should go through the regular order. It is absolutely inappropriate for the suspension calendar."

Keystone XL Pipeline

On Monday, the Senate will resume consideration of a bill to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said that the bill will go through "regular order," which would allow Republicans and Democrats to offer amendments -- and lengthen debate for potentially weeks.

  • Hoeven-Manchin Keystone XL Pipeline Act (S 1) -- Bipartisan -- "Authorizes TransCanada to construct and operate the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to the US Gulf Coast, transporting an additional 830,000 barrels of oil per day to US refineries, which includes 100,000 barrels a day from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana. Upon passage, a presidential permit would no longer be needed to approve the project," according to the bill sponsors. (Read bill text.)

The Scoop: The House passed its version of the Keystone approval (HR 3) by a 266 to 153 vote, with 28 Democrats and all but one Republican supporting the bill. Meanwhile, the White House has indicated the president would veto the Keystone bill because it "conflicts with longstanding Executive branch procedures regarding the authority of the president and prevents the thorough consideration of complex issues that could bear on US national interests (including serious security, safety, environmental, and other ramifications). (Read the White House statement.) Given the veto threat, the amendment process may provide an opportunity for the Senate leadership to secure the 67 Senate votes needed to override a veto.

Also in the House...

The House will also vote on these bills during the week:

  • Clay Hunt SAV Act (HR 203): -- Bipartisan -- Requires the VA to create a one-stop, interactive website to serve as a centralized source of information regarding all VA mental health services for veterans. Addresses the shortage of mental health care professionals by authorizing the VA to conduct a student loan repayment pilot program aimed at recruiting and retaining psychiatrists. Requires evaluations of all mental health care and suicide prevention practices and programs at the VA to find out what's working and what's not working and make recommendations to improve care. Establishes a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning Servicemembers with accessing VA mental health care services. (Source: Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN).) The Scoop: The House unanimously passed the Clay Hunt SAV Act last year (HR 5059 in the 113th Congress). However, in the Senate, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) blocked a vote on the bill based on his view that the VA could improve services without new legislation, which would cost $22 million.
  • Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act (HR 33): "Ensures that emergency services volunteers are not counted as full-time employees by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) under the Employer Mandate of Obamacare," according to the bill sponsor.
  • Regulatory Accountability Act (HR 185): -- Bipartisan -- To reform the process by which Federal agencies analyze and formulate new regulations and guidance documents. "Requires federal bureaucrats to adopt the least costly method to effectively implement the law," according to the bill sponsor.
  • HConRes 4: Authorizes the use of Emancipation Hall in the Capitol Visitor Center for a ceremony to present the Congressional Gold Medal to the First Special Service Force, in recognition of its superior service during World War II.

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