August 1, 2014
This week the House passed HR 4315, the 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act; the conference report to accompany HR 3230, a bill to improve the access of veterans to medical services from the Department of Veterans Affairs; and HR 935, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2013. The House also passed a resolution providing authority to move forward with a lawsuit against President Barack Obama. The resolution was agreed to in a party line vote of 225 to 201.
The Senate confirmed Robert McDonald to be Secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department by a vote of 97 to 0 and John Tefft to be the next American ambassador to Russia. The Senate passed the conference report to accompany HR 3230, which now goes to the President for his signature. The Senate also first passed an amended version of HR 5021, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act, but then agreed to the House-passed version of the bill by a vote of 81 to 13 after the Congressional Budget Office reported that the Senate’s amended version was $2.4 billion short of the amount needed to offset the fund’s infusion. The bill, which keeps highway and transit programs funded through May, now goes to the President for his signature. The Senate also passed a $225 million emergency appropriation for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system Friday. The Senate failed to invoke cloture on S 2569, the Bring Jobs Home Act, and could not reach agreement with Republicans on S 2648, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act.
The Senate on Thursday blocked an emergency funding measure (S 2648) to respond to the border crisis. The $2.7 billion funding measure died on a procedural vote, 50 to 44. The bill needed 60 votes to advance.
House Republican leaders also abruptly cancelled a vote on their $659 million measure on Thursday when they realized they didn’t have the votes necessary for passage. The House Rules Committee is meeting this afternoon to consider a new plan that would call for two votes in the House later tonight. The first vote would be on a slightly larger $694 million border supplemental measure that would provide $405 million for DHS, $22 million to accelerate judicial proceedings for immigrants, $70 million for National Guard border efforts, $197 million for HHS, and $40 million in repatriation assistance to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The bill also includes policy provisions amending the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, providing authority for the Secretary of State to negotiate agreements with foreign countries regarding Unaccompanied Children, providing a “last-in, first-out” policy prioritizing the removal of minors that most recently arrived, authorizing additional temporary judges, changing the Immigration and Nationality Act to strengthen the law prohibiting criminals with serious drug related convictions, prohibiting the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior from denying CBP activities on federal land, authorizing the deployment of the National Guard to the Southern border, and prohibiting the housing of unauthorized immigrants on military bases if the use of the base will displace service members. The second vote would be on a bill that would bolster language targeting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
FY2015 Appropriations Bill Status
|Appropriations Subcommittee||House Action||Senate Action|
|Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA and Related Agencies||Subcommittee: May 20
Full Committee: May 29
|Subcommittee: May 20
Full Committee: May 22
|Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies||Subcommittee: April 30
Full Committee: May 8
House Floor: May 29
|Subcommittee: June 3
Full Committee: June 5
|Defense||Subcommittee: May 30
Full Committee: June 10
Floor: June 20
|Subcommittee: July 15
Full Committee: July 17
|Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies||Subcommittee: June 10
Full Committee: June 18
House Floor: July 10
|Subcommittee: June 17
Full Committee: postponed
|Financial Services and General Government||Subcommittee: June 18
Full Committee: June 25
Floor: July 16
|Subcommittee: June 24|
|Homeland Security||Subcommittee: May 28
Full Committee: June 11
|Subcommittee: June 24
Full Committee: June 26
|Interior||Subcommittee: July 9
Full Committee: July 15
|Labor, HHS, Education, and Related Agencies||Subcommittee: June 10
Full Committee: postponed
|Legislative Branch||Subcommittee: April 3
Full Committee: April 9
Floor: May 1
|Full Committee: June 19|
|Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies||Subcommittee: April 3
Full Committee: April 9
Floor: April 30
|Subcommittee: May 20
Full Committee: May 22
|State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs||Subcommittee: June 17
Full Committee: June 24
|Subcommittee: June 17
Full Committee: June 19
|Transportation, HUD, and Related Agencies||Subcommittee: May 7
Full Committee: May 21
Floor: June 10
|Subcommittee: June 3
Full Committee: June 5
Veterans Affairs Reform
The House approved by a vote of 420 to 5 a conference report to HR 3230, a bill that overhauls the embattled Department of Veterans Affairs. The Senate took up the measure later in the week and approved it by a vote of 91 to 3. The bill now goes to the President for his signature.
The conference report was crafted by the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee chairmen, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The $17 billion compromise bill would provide $10 billion for veterans to receive health care outside of the VA system if they cannot get medical service at a VA facility within a reasonable amount of time or live more than 40 miles from a VA facility and $5 billion for hiring new doctors and nurses and extending and increasing debt reduction payments for participants in the VA’s Health Professionals Education Assistance Program. Most of the bill’s spending (~$12B) is not offset with other cuts. The bill gives the new VA Secretary more authority to fire senior executives accused of wrongdoing (with a 21-day appeal period in which they would not receive pay), prohibits bonuses for VA employees through FY16, and authorizes 27 new “major medical facility” leases. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill would increase the deficit by about $10 billion over 10 years. Sanders said that the bill only addresses immediate concerns, and did not rule out seeking more funding increases for the VA in the future.
A copy of the conference report can be found at:
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh III this week rolled out a new strategic framework that will guide Air Force planning and resourcing over the next 30 years. The framework has three main elements: a long-term future look that provides the vectors and imperatives necessary to guide planning activities, a 20-year resource-informed plan, and a 10-year balanced budget, based on fiscal projections. The framework will be used for organizing, training and equipping the Air Force going forward, providing the strategic agility to respond to complex challenges confronting our nation. It will allow the Air Force to adapt and respond faster than potential adversaries. James reinforced that the Air Force’s top three priorities are: 1) taking care of people, 2) balancing readiness of today and readiness of tomorrow, and 3) making every dollar count.
The first document in the framework trilogy, “America’s Air Force: A Call to the Future,” can be found at:
The Air Force will release the other two parts of the trilogy – a 20-year resource-informed “strategic master plan” by the end of the year, and eventually a 10-year balanced budget that will be based on fiscal projections.
Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Program
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs approved an amended version of HR 4007, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Program Authorization and Accountability Act of 2014. The substitute amendment introduced by Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) and Ranking Member Tom Coburn (R-OK), The Protecting and Securing American Chemical Facilities from Terrorist Attacks Act of 2014, would reauthorize the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) Program until 2018, strengthen management practices to ensure no high-risk facilities are going unregulated, strengthen whistleblower protections, and simplify reporting and information sharing practices. In May, the Committee held a hearing to examine the current state of the CFATS program and the need to reauthorize it. The bill passed the House on July 8.
Custom and Border Protection
The House passed by voice vote HR 3846, the United States Customs and Border Protection Authorization Act. The bill’s passage marks the first time either the House or Senate has backed a formal authorization of the CBP and its security functions, which include the Border Patrol and customs screening. The bill would also task the agency with new reporting requirements on migrant children and the use of lethal force by border patrol agents. And, under the measure, the CBP would have to assess whether its current facilities for migrant children are in compliance with laws on housing, feeding, and providing medical care for minors.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced a new NSA reform bill on Tuesday, the Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ensuring Effective Discipline Over Monitoring (USA Freedom) Act of 2014. The bill has 13 bipartisan cosponsors and the support of the White House, tech companies, and privacy and civil liberties groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, FreedomWorks, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute. But the path forward for the bill is uncertain, as Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Udall (D-CO), two of the biggest critics of the NSA, have declined to cosponsor the bill as did Senate Intelligence Committee leaders Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA). Tech and privacy groups are concerned that Feinstein will try to incorporate a data retention mandate into the bill. Leahy will try to move the measure through the Senate when they return in September. As expected the Senate started the process of allowing the bill to bypass committee consideration and go directly to the floor. A copy of the bill can be found at:
House Passes Four Cybersecurity Bills
The House passed four cybersecurity bills this week: Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul’s (R-TX) National Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure Protection Act (HR 3696), Rep. Patrick Meehan’s (R-PA) Critical Infrastructure Research and Development Advancement Act (HR 2952), Rep. Yvette Clarke’s (D-NY) Homeland Security Cybersecurity Boots-on-the-Ground Act (HR 3107), and Rep. Kerry Bentivolio’s (R-MI) Safe and Secure Federal Websites Act of 2014 (HR 3635). HR 3696 codifies and articulates the Department of Homeland Security’s role in cybersecurity, including through the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center. HR 2952 establishes a DHS clearinghouse for critical infrastructure security technology, HR3107 requires DHS to set occupation classifications for cybersecurity and conduct a cybersecurity workforce assessment, and HR 3635 prohibits a federal agency from deploying or making available to the public a new Federal PII website until a certification is submitted to Congress that the website is fully functional and secure. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson praised the passage of McCaul’s bill stating that it is “a positive step forward for our nation’s cybersecurity.”
The vote puts pressure on the Senate to bring their own cybersecurity legislation to the floor when they return in September. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) has advanced legislation to codify and authorize DHS’ national cybersecurity operations center (S 2519), boost the recruitment and training of cyber-workers (S 2354), and update the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (S 2521). HSGAC Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) said that his bills are relatively non-controversial and could be considered on the Senate floor under a unanimous consent agreement. Carper also said that he has had preliminary discussions with Senate Intelligence Committee leaders about whether his committee will hold a markup of their Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (S 2588), but a decision has not yet been made.
Gillibrand Cybersecurity Bill
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced a Cyber Information Sharing Tax Credit Act this week. The bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code to allow a refundable tax credit for companies to offset costs of joining and participating in sector-specific Information Sharing and Analysis Organizations (ISACs). Gillibrand hopes that the bill can move either as a standalone bill or a package with other legislation later this year.
A copy of Sen. Gillibrand’s bill can be found at:
The President signed an executive order this week that will require prospective federal contractors to disclose labor law violations, and will give agencies more guidance on how to consider labor violations when awarding federal contracts. The new process is structured to encourage companies to settle existing disputes. The order also ensures that workers are given the necessary information each pay period to verify the accuracy of their paycheck. And workers who may have been sexually assaulted or had their civil rights violated would “get their day in court.” The order applies to contractors with more than $500,000, and could affect 24,000 businesses employing 28 million workers.
A copy of the executive order can be found at:
Rep. Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) last day as House Majority Leader was on Thursday. He then announced that he would also resign from Congress, effective August 18. He asked Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe to hold a special election for his seat on Election Day (November 4) so his successor could be sworn in immediately. Dave Brat, a Tea Party-backed professor who beat Cantor in the Republican primary in June, responded that if elected he would be ready to serve beginning November 5.
Elana Broitman, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy at the Department of Defense (DoD) announced this week that she is stepping down next month to spend more time with her family in New York. Prior to joining DoD, Broitman spent 10 years on Capitol Hill, most recently as a senior advisor to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and 9 years in private industry.
The Senate has confirmed Laura Junor to be Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. Nominated for the post in February, Junor has been the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness since 2011.
The Senate confirmed by voice vote Brian McKeon as Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. McKeon is currently Deputy Assistant to the President, Executive Secretary of the National Security Council, and Chief of Staff for the National Security Staff at the White House, a position he has held since 2012. His nomination initially faced some criticism from Republicans over whether he was aware of Russia’s potential violations of a nuclear treaty.
Suzy George will be named executive secretary and chief of staff of the National Security Council, stepping in to replace Brian McKeon, who was confirmed yesterday to be undersecretary of Defense. National Security Adviser Susan Rice announced George’s position praising her experience at the State Department and most recently as a principal at the Albright Stonebridge Group consulting firm.
President Obama announced that Jonathan “Jon” Samuels will leave the White House this week after six years in Legislative Affairs. Alejandro Perez replaces him as Deputy Assistant to the President and House Liaison, reporting to White House Legislative Director Katie Beirne Fallon. Perez has been in the in White House Legislative Affairs office since 2009 serving as the liaison to House Ways and Means and Education committees, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Before joining the White House, Perez was House floor director, as senior staff member to Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD). Perez was also the executive director of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and worked for Catholic Charities, Immigration Counseling Services in Dallas, the Austin-Travis County Office of Refugee Services, and the United Farm Workers in Austin.
DoD Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that Dabney Kern has been appointed director for policy, plans and requirements in the White House Military Office. Kern had been vice president for homeland and defense services at CACI International.
The Chief of Staff of the Army announced this week that Maj. Gen. Stephen Fogarty will take over as commanding general of the Cyber Center of Excellence (COE) and Fort Gordon, GA. Fogarty most recently served as commanding general of the US Army Intelligence and Security Command at Ft Belvoir, VA. The Cyber COE is the Army’s force modernization proponent for Cyberspace Operations, Signal/Communications Networks and Information Services, and Electronic Warfare (EW) and is responsible for developing related doctrine, organizational, training, materiel, leadership/education, personnel, and facility solutions.
A Florida judge has asked the state legislature to redraw the state’s congressional map by August 15, posing the possibility that Florida could postpone some or all of its House elections until after the scheduled general election on November 4. The judge ruled last month that the Republican-controlled legislature violated the state constitution by taking politics into consideration when drawing two of the state’s 27 congressional districts after the 2010 Census. After the revised map is submitted the judge will “consider additional evidence as to the legal and logistical obstacles to holding delayed elections for affected districts in 2014.”
The House and Senate are in recess until the week of September 8. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said yesterday that he plans to bring up the following bills when they return in September: FY15 appropriations bills, FY15 National Defense Authorization Act, the Internet Tax Freedom Act, the Export-Import Bank, campaign finance reform and minimum wage, Hobby Lobby, and college affordability/student debt. Reid also said that Senators should expect to work weekends in September – “every day between September 8 and September 30 is fair game” for being in session.