Washington Weekly – March 20, 2015

March 20, 2015

The House passed HR 1029, the EPA Science Advisory Reform Act of 2015; HR 1030, the Secret Science Reform Act of 2015; and S J Res 8, a resolution to block a rule from the National Labor Relations Board that would speed up union elections. The Senate confirmed the nominations of Carlos Monje to be Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy at the Department of Transportation and Manson Brown to be an Assistant Secretary at the Commerce Department. The Senate failed five times to invoke cloture on S 178, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 by votes of 55 to 43, 55 to 43, 57 to 41, 56 to 42, and 56 to 42. Sixty votes were needed for the bill to advance. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said yesterday that he is planning to schedule more roll call votes on S 178 and won’t schedule a vote on Loretta Lynch for attorney general until work on this bill is done.

FY16 Budget Resolution

The House and Senate Budget Committees released their FY16 budget resolutions and marked them up in committee this week. Both budgets adhered to the spending caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) and included reconciliation instructions for repealing the Affordable Care Act. The Senate used the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund to placate defense hawks’ demands for increased defense spending as well as fiscal hawks who fought to keep the BCA caps in place. The OCO fund is not subject to the BCA spending caps. The House attempted to do a similar maneuver, but did not have the votes to pass the amendment in committee. The House will instead look to the Rules Committee to resolve the funding issue next week. Both chambers will consider their budget resolutions on their respective floors next week.

House FY16 Budget Resolution

The House Budget Committee passed its FY16 budget resolution on a straight party line vote this week, but punted on voting on a plan to increase defense spending. The House base budget plan keeps defense and nondefense spending at $523B and $493B, respectively (in line with BCA caps), but proposes $94B in OCO (or Global War on Terrorism) funding, $20B of which is included in a “Defense Readiness and Modernization Fund.” The $94B is well above the administration’s $58B FY16 OCO request, but before the extra $20B can be allocated, equal savings must be found elsewhere. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) had offered an amendment to remove the language that fenced off the additional $20B to appease Republican defense hawks, but was opposed by fiscal conservatives. So the fate of the amendment to increase defense funding will now be decided by the House Rules Committee next week. The Rules Committee will decide whether or not the amendment’s costs ($20B) need to be offset and how it will be incorporated into the rule for floor consideration. The rule could include language that would automatically make the OCO amendment in order or adopted. As Democrats are not expected to vote in favor of the budget resolution, any agreement in the Rules Committee will need to have the support of 218 Republicans for passage on the House floor. More than 70 House Republicans led by House Armed Services Committee Member Michael Turner (R-OH) have vowed to vote against the budget resolution if it doesn’t boost defense spending. But it is unclear if fiscal hawks will drop their support for the resolution if defense spending is increased.

Senate FY16 Budget Resolution

The Senate Budget Committee also passed its FY16 budget resolution along a party line vote of 12 to 10 and in line with the 2011 BCA spending caps. Before final passage, the committee adopted an amendment offered by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that increased OCO funding by $38B to $96B in FY16. But they rejected a two-year plan offered by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) to replace sequestration and raise the defense and nondefense spending caps.

Cybersecurity

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released the updated text of its Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) that was marked up in committee last week. The committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) said that he hopes to have the bill on the Senate floor after the Easter recess.

A copy of the Senate CISA bill can be found at:

http://www.vantagepointstrat.com/?p=369

A Vantage Point Strategies’ summary of the Senate CISA bill can be found at:

http://www.vantagepointstrat.com/?p=370

The House Homeland Security Committee also released a draft information sharing bill this week. The bill provides a path for companies to share cyberthreat data with the Department of Homeland Security. The committee hopes to mark up the bill after they return from the Easter recess, the week of April 13.

A copy of the Draft National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act can be found at:

http://www.vantagepointstrat.com/?p=372

And the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence held a rare open hearing this week on cybersecurity. Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) said that his committee will introduce their cybersecurity legislation “soon,” which may be as early as next week. During the hearing, private sector witnesses from IBM, TSYS, FireEye, and the Financial Services Roundtable testified about current cyberthreats, countermeasures and information sharing including liability protection and privacy.

FY16 National Defense Authorization Act

The House Armed Services Committee will begin marking up its FY16 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in subcommittees the week of April 20 with a full committee markup the following week on April 29. The committee hopes to have the bill on the House floor starting on May 13.

On the Senate side, the new Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) said that he is considering changing the way his committee marks up the NDAA to an open forum, but that he will follow the wishes of the majority of the committee members. In the past the markup was done behind closed doors.

Political Updates

Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) announced his resignation effective March 31 following several weeks of questioning about his spending of taxpayer and campaign funds. Schock was first elected in 2008 for the seat vacated by former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Schock held seats on the House Administration, Budget, and Ways and Means committees.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) announced this week that Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) was approved by the House Republican Steering Committee to serve on the Appropriations Committee in the 114th Congress. Palazzo fills the seat vacated by former Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R-MS), who passed away earlier this year.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced this week that Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), who has served as an Assistant Whip on the Democratic Whip team, has been promoted the position of Chief Deputy Whip for the 114th Congress. Castro joins the current 114th Congress Chief Deputy Whip team: Senior Chief Deputy Whip Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Chief Deputy Whips Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-NC), Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), Rep Keith Ellison (D-MN), Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL), and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

Former White House Chief Information Officer Steve VanRoekel left the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on March 13 after only six months. VanRoekel left the White House in September to serve as USAID’s chief innovation officer, overseeing the application of technology to help treat and contain the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. VanRoekel was the Obama administration’s second CIO, following Vivek Kundra. VanRoekel said that he does not have another job lined up, and was leaving to spend more time with his family.

Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Dr. Michael Vickers notified President Obama and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter that he will be retiring effective April 30. Vickers assumed this position in March 2011 earning him the honor of being the longest serving under secretary in this position in the department’s history. Previously, he served as the department’s first and only assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity & interdependent capabilities. He also served in the U.S. Army as a Special Forces non-commissioned officer and Special Forces officer, and was a CIA operations officer.

The President nominated Douglas Kramer to be Deputy Administrator at the Small Business Administration. Kramer is General Counsel at the United States Agency for International Development, a position he has held since 2013. Prior to this, he served in the White House as Deputy Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary, Deputy Associate Counsel for Presidential Personnel, and Special Assistant to the President and Associate Counsel to the President. Prior to serving in the White House, he served as Counsel in the Antitrust Division at the Department of Justice, an Associate at the law firm Covington & Burling, and as a Judicial Clerk in the Chambers of the Hon. Walter L. Carpeneti of the Alaska Supreme Court.

David Shulkin was nominated by the President to be the Under Secretary for Health at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Shulkin is President of Morristown Medical Center. He has served as President of the Atlantic Accountable Care Organization and as a Vice President of Atlantic Health. Dr. Shulkin has also been the President and CEO of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, Chief Medical Officer of Temple University Hospital, Chief Medical Officer of the Medical College of Pennsylvania Hospital, Chief Quality Officer of the Drexel University School of Medicine, Chairman and CEO of DoctorQuality, Inc., and Chief Medical Officer and Chief Quality Officer of the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

The President also nominated LaVerne Horton Council to be Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Horton Council is the CEO of Council Advisory Services and a former Corporate VP and CIO at Johnson & Johnson. She has also worked at Dell, Ernst & Young, Mercer Management Consulting, Accenture, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and State Farm Insurance. The positions Horton Council has been nominated for has been filled on an interim basis for nearly two years by Stephen Warren who stepped in after Roger Baker departed for the private sector.

Juan Garcia was nominated by the President to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs at the Department of Defense. Garcia is the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. In 2006, he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives and has served as an attorney at Hartline, Dacus, Barger, Dreyer & Kern. Garcia was a Naval Aviator in the U.S. Navy, and after leaving active duty, he commanded a unit of Flight Instructors in the U.S. Navy Reserve where he continues to serve as a Reservist today.

Stephen Welby was nominated by the President to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering at the Department of Defense. Welby is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Systems Engineering at DOD and in the past, he was Director of Systems Engineering. He has worked at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.

Next Week

Both chambers will consider their FY16 budget resolutions next week. Votes on amendments could start as early as Monday evening in the Senate. The House will also take up a measure to replace Medicare’s physician payment formula, otherwise known as the “doc fix” (HR 1470).

Comments are closed.