February 28, 2015
The House and Senate passed a one-week stopgap spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which the President then signed averting a shutdown of the agency. The House passed HR 529, a bill that would expand the use of 529 educational savings plans by allowing tax-free distributions for students to buy computers and software. The House postponed a vote on HR 5, the Student Success Act, a bill to overhaul No Child Left Behind. The Senate passed a full-year, clean FY15 Department of Homeland Security spending bill and sent the measure to the House. President Obama issued his third veto of his presidency this week vetoing the Keystone XL Pipeline Act that was passed by Congress earlier this month. The bill authorized TransCanada to construct, connect, operate, and maintain the pipeline and cross-border facilities specified in an application they filed with the Department of State in 2012. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that the Senate would hold another vote to override the veto by March 3.
FY15 DHS Appropriations
Funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was set to expire at midnight on February 27, but a shutdown was averted by passage of a one-week extension of the FY15 DHS continuing resolution. The Senate passed the measure by voice vote after the House failed to pass a three-week stopgap bill. The Senate then adjourned leaving the House with the options of either accepting the one-week bill or forcing DHS to shutdown. House leaders decided to pass the one-week bill under suspension of the rules. The House vote was 357 to 60 (55 Republicans and 5 Democrats voted against passing the bill). DHS is now funded through midnight March 6.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also announced a motion to agree to the House’s request for a conference committee on a full year spending bill. The Senate will hold a cloture vote on the motion on Monday evening. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that Senate Democrats would not vote for cloture as they will only accept the clean, full-year spending bill they already passed.
Senate leaders finally reached an agreement this week on how to proceed on the FY15 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations bill after failing four times to invoke cloture on the bill. Instead, the Senate opted to pass a clean (no immigration riders), full-year DHS spending bill on Friday by a vote of 68 to 31. They then turned to S. 534, a bill that would block funding for President Obama’s November 2014 immigration executive orders. This bill is more narrow than the riders included in the House-passed FY15 DHS appropriations bill as it does not include provisions on the President’s 2012 actions affecting dreamers, 2011 memos related to prosecutorial discretion, and future executive actions. It does include provisions that would require DHS to treat any migrant convicted of domestic violence or child exploitation as subject to the department’s highest civil immigration enforcement, and expresses the sense of Congress that the executive branch should incentivize hiring citizens and legal immigrants and stop prioritizing the interests of illegal immigrants ahead of others. Cloture was not invoked on S. 534 by a vote of 57 to 42. Four Senate Democrats voted in favor of cloture on S. 534 – Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Sen. Clair McCaskill (D-MO). The other Senate Democrats blocked the measure because they do not want to debate it until the House passes a clean funding bill for DHS through the end of the fiscal year.
On the House side, after receiving the Senate passed rider-free, full-year DHS appropriations bill the House voted on a motion to go to conference with the Senate. That motion passed by a vote of 228 to 191 with 12 Democrats voting in favor of the motion. A similar motion to go to conference in the Senate will require 60 votes. The House then voted on a three-week stopgap DHS spending bill that would fund the department through March 19. That bill failed by a vote of 203 to 224.
FY16 National Defense Budget Caps
House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-CA) along with 30 (of 35 total) Republican members of the committee sent a “views and estimates” letter to House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA), a required part of the annual budget process. The letter recommends a restoration to the pre-sequestration Budget Control Act (BCA) caps of $577.0B for national defense and $50.9B for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account for FY2016. In comparison, the BCA post-sequestration level for national defense for FY16 is $523.067B. If $577.0B is not feasible, the HASC committee members recommended, at a minimum, last year’s House-passed Budget Resolution level of $566.0B for national defense for FY16 with restoration to pre-sequestration level funding in FY17. The President’s FY16 budget requests $561.0 billion in discretionary budget authority for national defense, of which $534.3 billion is for the Department of Defense (DOD), $19.1 billion is for the Department of Energy’s defense activities, and $7.6 billion is for other defense- related activities. The President’s budget also includes $9.0 billion in mandatory budget authority, and a separate request of $50.9B for the OCO account.
On the Senate side, Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) has vowed to personally oppose a budget resolution that doesn’t increase military spending above what’s allowed under the BCA. McCain says that he has been talking with Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) and working with SASC members to present a unified argument to the Budget Committee.
In the House Appropriations Committee, Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) has said that he expects that they will have to adhere to BCA sequestration caps and has asked the military services to draw up plans for abiding by the caps.
A copy of the HASC Republican letter can be found at:
Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center (CTIIC)
On Wednesday, the President issued an Executive Order directing the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to establish the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center (CTIIC). The CTIIC will be a national intelligence center focused on “connecting the dots” regarding malicious foreign cyber threats to the nation and cyber incidents affecting U.S. national interests, and on providing all-source analysis of threats to U.S. policymakers. The CTIIC will also assist relevant departments and agencies in their efforts to identify, investigate, and mitigate those threats.
Once established, the CTIIC will join the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC), the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force (NCIJTF), and U.S. Cyber Command as integral parts of the U.S. Government’s capability to protect us from cyber threats. It will support the NCCIC in its network defense and incident response mission; the NCIJTF in its mission to coordinate, integrate, and share information related to domestic cyber threat investigations; and U.S. Cyber Command in its mission to defend the nation from significant attacks in cyberspace.
No decisions have been made regarding the CTIIC’s specific location, but the current plan is to locate the CTIIC in the Washington, DC metro area in an existing Intelligence Community facility. The DNI is in the process of developing the CTIIC’s organizational structure. They expect that it will be small, consisting of approximately 50 government personnel drawn from relevant departments and agencies.
A copy of the executive order can be found at:
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12 to 8 on Thursday to approve Loretta Lynch as the next U.S. Attorney General. All Democrats on the committee voted for Lynch along with three Republicans – Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The full Senate is expected to take up her nomination next week.
Keith Hall, the chief economist for the International Trade Commission and a former Bureau of Labor Statistics commissioner, has been named the new director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). He also served as the Chief Economist for the White House Council for Economic Advisors from 2005 to 2008. Hall will replace Doug Elmendorf at CBO starting April 1. His term will expire on January 3, 2019.
Acting NIST Director and acting Undersecretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology Willie May has been nominated by the president to drop the acting and become full undersecretary. May has been acting director since last June. May was also nominated last summer but not confirmed by the 113th Congress.
Michael Bahar was appointed as the new minority staff director on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Bahar graduated from Harvard Law School in 2002 and was commissioned into the US Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps. In 2010 he joined the White House as Deputy Legal Advisor to the White House’s National Security Staff. He was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 where he advised a Special Operations Task Force. He left active duty in 2012 to take the position of General Counsel on the HPSCI.
At the Department of the Treasury, President Obama nominated Amias Gerety for Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions and Anne Elizabeth Wall for Deputy Under Secretary for Legislative Affairs.