Congress is in recess this week. They will return next week and will be in session for the next three weeks. They will recess again for the weeks of June 27 and July 4.
When they return the week of June 6 their focus will be on FY23 appropriations bills, gun control legislation, January 6th insurrection hearings, U.S. Innovation and Competition Act conference negotiations, and legislation on mental health, drug pricing and user fee reauthorizations.
Amidst all of this, another thing to keep an eye out for is that the Supreme Court generally releases the majority of its decisions in mid-June.
Here’s an update on some of the biggest issues being discussed and negotiated in Congress right now.
The House will begin marking up their 12 FY2023 appropriations bills in June, with the goal of bringing them to the House floor in July. Senate Appropriators aim to mark up all of their bills in committee in July. The fiscal year ends on September 30. While Congress is unlikely to enact all 12 bills before that deadline, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ranking Republican Richard Shelby (R-AL) are both retiring at the end of this Congress and want to complete these bills before they leave DC in December. The chairs and ranking members from the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have met to discuss topline spending figures (defense vs. non-defense spending) with the hopes that this will expedite the appropriations process this year, but they have not yet reached an agreement.
Tomorrow marks the 100th day of Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. Since the beginning of the war, the U.S. has committed approximately $4.6 billion in security assistance. Yesterday, the Department of Defense announced an additional $700 million focused on meeting critical Ukrainian needs. Capabilities in this new package include:
- High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and ammunition;
- Five counter-artillery radars;
- Two air surveillance radars;
- 1,000 Javelins and 50 Command Launch Units;
- 6,000 anti-armor weapons;
- 15,000 155mm artillery rounds;
- Four Mi-17 helicopters;
- 15 tactical vehicles;
- Spare parts and equipment.
The United States continues to work with its Allies and partners to identify and provide Ukraine with capabilities to meet its evolving battlefield requirements.
January 6th Committee Hearings
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the United States Capitol is expected to begin public hearings on June 9.
The committee aims to tell a more complete story of what happened that day and what led to it. Over two weeks of hearings, they intend to showcase what they uncovered in months of work on the events surrounding the attack, such as the more than 1,000 interviews they have conducted and thousands of documents they received from witnesses.
The committee may not be able to enforce all their subpoenas before the public hearings begin next week. They are limited by the number of weeks left in the congressional calendar and the outlook that the House will be under Republican control after the midterm elections.
While the committee has not announced the roster of witnesses for the hearing, J. Michael Luttig, a former federal judge and lawyer who advised former Vice President Mike Pence, is expected to testify. Luttig served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and was a key behind-the-scenes figure in the lead up to January 6. He provided the Vice President with the legal argument Pence used to reject former President Trump’s order to overturn President Biden’s victory.
Today, the House Judiciary Committee is holding a rare recess markup of H.R. 7910, the Protecting Our Kids Act, a large package of gun-control bills. The bill prohibits the sale of certain semiautomatic centerfire rifles or semiautomatic centerfire shotguns to a person under 21, prohibits the sale of “ghost gun” kits without a background check or serial numbers stamped on the parts used in assembling the weapon, boosts penalties for illegal “straw purchases” of guns, makes it a federal offence to import, manufacture or possess large-capacity magazines, creates a grant program to buy back large-capacity magazines, and requires gun owners to store their weapons safely, especially when minors are present. The bill will go to the House floor next week. While the bill has the votes to pass in the House, there is no chance of it overcoming Senate Republican opposition.
Yesterday House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) promised to have a hearing and markup of the assault weapons ban at a future date. In the wake of the Uvalde mass shooting, a handful of House Republicans have expressed an openness to banning assault-style rifles.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has set a vote for next week on a “red flag” bill offered by Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA), H.R. 2377. That bill calls for the removal of guns from those deemed dangerous to themselves or others. It will be paired with a bill, H.R. 3480, from Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA) that encourages states to enact their own red flag laws. Nineteen states currently have such laws.
A bipartisan group of senators, led by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and John Cornyn (R-TX), is negotiating a narrower gun-control package that focuses on state-based red flag programs, school safety, and mental health programs. They met yesterday and hope to have an agreement in place by next week. Sources involved in the negotiations say interest in reaching a compromise remains genuine on both sides. In addition to Murphy and Cornyn, taking part in the discussions were Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Pat Toomey (R-PA).