Washington Weekly – September 18, 2015

September 18, 2015 

The House passed HR 758, the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act; HR 3504, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act; and HR 3134, the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015. The Senate rejected three cloture votes on the Iran Nuclear Agreement (HJ Res 61) including one on an amendment that would have prohibited the President from lifting sanctions against Iran. The Senate adopted by unanimous consent S 1090, the Emergency Information Improvement Act of 2015; S 1580, the Competitive Science Act of 2015; S 2036, a bill suspending the current compensation packages for the CEOs of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; and HR 719, the TSA Office of Inspection Accountability Act of 2015.

FY16 Appropriations/Continuing Resolution (CR)

There are just five legislative days remaining where both the House and Senate are in session before the end of the fiscal year. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said this week that he has begun negotiations with the House on a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that would likely fund the government through Friday, December 11. If the House is unable to take the lead on passing legislation funding the government, the Senate may first vote on a spending bill defunding Planned Parenthood. When the Senate is unable to move that bill without the support of Democrats, the Senate would then take up a clean CR, pass it, and send it to the House.

Clean CR

House Democrats have called for a “clean” CR, however Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that he might request attaching a reauthorization of a 9/11 first responders health care bill to the CR. And the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requested several anomalies back in August that includes, among other things, $450M in emergency funding to fight wildfires in the West.

Link to OMB List of Special Funding Requests:

http://www.vantagepointstrat.com/?p=492

Link to OMB Authorization Issues

http://www.vantagepointstrat.com/?p=493

Defunding Planned Parenthood

Conservatives in the House are still demanding language defunding Planned Parenthood be included in must-pass spending legislation. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) was considering two options for dealing with this issue: 1) the budget reconciliation process or 2) a one-year continuing resolution with Planned Parenthood defunding language. Both options were met with mixed reactions within his party. Members’ concerns about a one-year CR focused on the effects of a sequester on the CR resulting in $40B in cuts to defense. And defunding Planned Parenthood in a CR would be difficult since a Senate rule enforced by a point of order prohibits non-germane amendments to appropriations bills, including changes to mandatory spending.

As for the reconciliation process, reconciliation bills would pass both the House and the Senate but likely would be vetoed by the President. And House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) has expressed some doubts about whether or not the Planned Parenthood language can be included in the budget reconciliation process. Upton’s doubts are important because the Energy and Commerce Committee is one of the three committees tasked with writing the reconciliation legislation. The committee has jurisdiction over the Medicaid program, which is where the $450M in annual federal funding comes from for Planned Parenthood.

Longer-Term Budget Deal

As for a longer-term deal, McConnell predicted that the negotiations would likely result in lifting the caps set in the Budget Control Act of 2011.

House Homeland Security Bipartisan Letter to DHS Secretary Johnson

The House Homeland Security Committee passed a bill (HR 3510) this week that would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop a cybersecurity strategy for DHS, but would prohibit the Secretary from reorganizing cyber functions within DHS without prior congressional authorization. However, DHS has already begun some reorganization plans without this prior approval prompting the committee to also send a bipartisan letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson expressing their concerns about the “lack of transparency on the proposed reorganization of the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD).”

A copy of the letter can be found at:

http://www.vantagepointstrat.com/?p=502

Political Updates

President Obama nominated Dr. Robert Califf to be the next Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at the Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Califf is the Deputy Commissioner for Medical Products and Tobacco at the FDA, a position he has held since March 2015. Prior to that position, he has served in various capacities at Duke University School of Medicine and the Duke University Medical Center.

Rep. Dan Benishek (R-MI) and Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) both announced this week that they won’t seek re-election in 2016. Benishek set a three-term limit when he first ran for office in 2010. He currently serves on the Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Veterans’ Affairs committees. Neugebauer is on the Agriculture, Financial Services, and Science, Space, and Technology committees.

Vice Adm. Frank Pandolfe has been nominated for reappointment to the rank of vice admiral and for assignment as assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. Pandolfe is currently serving as Director of Strategic Plans and Policy in the United States Delegation to the United Nations Military Staff Committee.

Next Week

The House and Senate will meet for a joint session of Congress on Thursday at 10 am to receive an address from Pope Francis. The House is not in session Monday-Wednesday, but may take up HR 348, the Responsibly And Professionally Invigorating Development (RAPID) Act of 2015 when they convene later in the week. The Senate will meet on Monday to being considering a procedural motion on HR 36, the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. The Senate is in session every day except for Wednesday next week.

Washington Weekly – September 11, 2015

September 11, 2015 

The House passed S 1359, the E-Warranty Act of 2015 and the Senate passed S 1461, a bill providing for the extension of the enforcement instruction on supervision requirements for outpatient therapeutic services in critical access and small rural hospitals through 2015; S 1629, the DC Courts, Public Defender Service, and Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency Act of 2015; S 349, the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act of 2015; S 1603, the Border Jobs for Veterans Act of 2015; and S Res 250, a resolution relative to the death of Richard Schultz Schweiker, former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania.

The House and Senate also considered measures pertaining to the Iran Nuclear Agreement. Lawmakers have until September 17 to act before the agreement automatically takes effect. Yesterday, the House adopted a resolution (H Res 411) along party lines that finds that the President has not complied with section 2 of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 and, therefore, the 60-day review period has not started. Today, the House rejected by a vote of 162 to 269 HR 3461, a bill approving the agreement, but passed by a vote of 247 to 186 HR 3460, a bill prohibiting the lifting of sanctions on Iran until 2017 when President Obama leaves office. Democrats in the Senate filibustered a resolution (HJ Res 61) disapproving the agreement by blocking a cloture vote 52 to 48 (60 aye votes were needed). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will bring the measure up for another cloture vote next Tuesday. Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has not ruled out adding language preventing approval of the agreement to a continuing resolution funding the government past Sept. 30.

FY16 Appropriations/Continuing Resolution (CR)

The end of FY15 is rapidly approaching and Congress still needs to discuss and reach agreement on the size, duration, and shape of a continuing resolution (CR) funding the federal government past September 30. The House is scheduled to be in session 8 more days in September and the Senate will be in session 11 more days. While some Lawmaker and aides believe that they will be able to pass a “clean” CR with no riders, Speaker Boehner, who began discussions this week with Republican House members about a CR, said he hasn’t made any decisions on what might be included in the stopgap funding measure. The discussions included how to handle the issue of cutting federal funding for Planned Parenthood and whether or not it should be coupled with the CR or if the reconciliation process would be a more appropriate vehicle for the issue.

FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)

As Congress returned from the August recess this week, progress on the conference on the FY16 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) remains stalled over a number of issues. House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) said that the administration’s proposal to increase Tricare co-pays for drugs ordered through the mail or in retail pharmacies is one of those issues. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) agrees with the administration’s proposal, while HASC Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-CA) says he will accept only 30% of the fee increases. Conflicting language on lump sum military retirement payments and how to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay are other unresolved issues. On a more positive note, conferees do appear to have reached agreement on proposed reductions and limitations to the military’s Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). The BAH is a subsidy given to service members to defray the costs of off-base housing. In the Senate NDAA, the Secretary of Defense would have the authority to up the total amount of housing costs shouldered by service members to 5% from the current 1%. The Senate bill would also limit the BAH for service members who live together or married military couples. The compromise provision is a gradual ramp down in the BAH, lowering the allowance by 1% per year over five years.

Executive Order on Paid Sick Leave

The President signed an Executive Order (EO) this week establishing paid sick leave for federal contractors beginning January 1, 2017. The EO requires federal contractors to provide up to 7 days or more of paid sick leave annually, including paid leave allowing for family care. Federal agencies will now include a clause in new contracts, contract-like instruments, and solicitations specifying that, as a condition of payment, all employees shall earn not less than 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Paid sick leave accrued under this order shall carry over from 1 year to the next and shall be reinstated for employees rehired by a covered contractor within 12 months after a job separation. The EO does not require a covered contractor to make a financial payment to an employee upon a separation from employment for accrued sick leave that has not been used. And the EO does not apply to independent agencies, who are “strongly encouraged” to comply with the EO requirements.

The Secretary of Labor will issue regulations by 9/30 that are necessary to carry out the EO. Within 60 days of the Secretary issuing regulations, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council will issue regulations in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to provide for inclusion of the new clause in Federal procurement solicitations and contracts.

Executive Order on Paid Sick Leave:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/08/executive-order-establishing-paid-sick-leave-federal-contractors

Department of Energy Quadrennial Technology Review (QTR)

The Department of Energy released its 2015 Quadrennial Technology Review (QTR) this week. The QTR examines the status of clean energy technologies and research opportunities to advance these technologies. It focuses primarily on technologies with commercialization potential in the midterm and beyond. The last (and very first) QTR was released in 2011.

The DOE 2015 QTR can be found at:

http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2015/09/f26/Quadrennial-Technology-Review-2015.pdf

Political Updates

Illinois State Sen. Darin LaHood (R) won a special election to replace former Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) on Thursday. LaHood, son of former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, was heavily favored to win the seat. Congress now has zero vacancies.

House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman Rep. John Kline (R-MN) announced last week that he is retiring at the end of this Congress. Because of Republican term limits, Kline would have had to relinquish his Education Committee gavel at the end of 2016. Kline was first elected to Congress in 2002. He is also a member of the House Armed Services Committee. During his 25-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps, Kline served as a helicopter pilot and earned the responsibility of flying Marine One. He also served as a personal military aide to Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Kline is the second House committee chair to announce retirement. House Administration Committee Chairwoman Candice Miller (R-MI) announced in March that she would not seek re-election. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) is next in seniority on the Education Committee, followed by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC). President Obama narrowly won Kline’s congressional district in 2012.

Next Week

The House will be in session Wednesday through Friday and will consider HR 758, the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2015; HR 3134, a bill that places a one-year moratorium on federal funding for Planned Parenthood; and a bill sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) that adds criminal penalties to people who violate the Born Alive Act. The Senate meets at 1 pm on Tuesday and will continue work on HJ Res 61, a resolution disapproving of the Iran Nuclear Agreement.

Washington Weekly – August 28, 2015

August 28, 2015

The House and Senate were in recess this week.

White House FY16 Continuing Resolution “Wish List”

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) submitted to Congress this week a list of special funding requests and a list of authorization issues in anticipation of a continuing resolution (CR) funding the government beginning October 1. The lists include, among other things, $450M in emergency funding to fight wildfires in the West, a reduction in the Department of Defense Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account to reflect the decreasing scale of operations, an extension of the Export-Import Bank’s charter, a request for more flexibility to support disability claims processing at the Veterans Affairs Department, an authorization to provide additional resources for the construction of an over-budget VA hospital in Denver, authority for the District of Columbia to spend its local tax revenue in the early months of FY16, special acquisition authority for research and development projects at DHS, and reauthorization of the E-Verify immigration program.

A CR typically extends all prior-year spending and policy provisions, so any changes to those spending levels or policy provisions must be specifically included in the CR. However, Appropriators typically keep the number of anomalies in a CR low so as to keep pressure on lawmakers to reach a final spending agreement.

The duration of the anticipated CR is still unclear. It likely won’t extend beyond the calendar year, but whether it extends until December 18 (the last Friday before Christmas and the last day both the House and Senate are scheduled to be in session), October 29 to coincide with when the highway bill expires, or November 20 (the Friday before the Thanksgiving recess) remains to be decided.

Link to OMB List of Special Funding Requests:

http://www.vantagepointstrat.com/?p=492

Link to OMB Authorization Issues

http://www.vantagepointstrat.com/?p=493

Department of Defense Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Flexible Hybrid Electronics

The Department of Defense announced that the Obama Administration is awarding a Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Flexible Hybrid Electronics to a consortium of 162 companies, universities, and non-profits led by the FlexTech Alliance. This is part of DoD’s efforts to partner with the private sector and academia to ensure the U.S. continues to lead in the new frontiers of manufacturing. The institute is the seventh of nine such manufacturing institutes launched by the administration, and the fifth of six led by the DoD. This newest institute will bring the government, industry, and academia together to advance U.S. leadership in manufacturing flexible hybrid electronics, which describes the innovative production of electronics and sensors packaging through new techniques in electronic device handling and high precision printing on flexible, stretchable substrates. The FlexTech alliance consortium includes Apple, Lockheed Martin, Stanford, and MIT, among others. The cooperative agreement will be managed by the U.S. Air Force Research laboratory (AFRL) and will receive $75 million in DoD funding over five years matched with more than $90 million from industry, academia, and local governments. In total, the institute will receive $171 million to invest in strengthening U.S. manufacturing.

Political Updates

President Obama nominated Dr. Jay Shambaugh to be a Member of the Council of Economic Advisers. Dr. Shambaugh is currently a Professor of Economics and International Affairs at the George Washington University. The President also nominated M. Tia Johnson to be Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security. Johnson is currently a Senior Adviser at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Prior to her position at ICE, she served in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, where she was the first African American female to attain the rank of Colonel in JAG Corps history.

Rick Holgate, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced that he is leaving government service to take a post as a federal analyst with Gartner. NASA could also be looking for a new CIO as sources say Larry Sweet may be retiring at the end of the calendar year. And Damian Bednarz is leaving his post as Chief of Staff in the Office of International Affairs at the Department of Energy to join a communications and public strategy group in D.C.

Next Week

The House and Senate are in recess until September 8.