What's Ahead in Washington
House and Senate Prepare Police Proposals
Democrats are pushing a measure (H.R.7120) that would condition eligibility for several federal grant programs on meeting new use of force standards, ending choke-holds, and banning no-knock warrants for drug cases. The bill has no GOP co-sponsors. A draft version of the Justice in Policing Act would curtail the doctrine of “qualified immunity” for police activity, opening the door to more criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits. The threshold for defining police misconduct would drop from “willfully” violating constitutional rights to doing so with knowing or reckless disregard. The House is pushing for a vote the week of June 22.
A group of GOP senators led by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) is meeting behind closed doors and with the White House on Senate legislation. It is expected to be released Tuesday. Central to the package will be a new national database of use-of-force incidents, similar to one included in the Democratic bill. It’s a concept both parties support as a way to track potential police misconduct and ensure officers cannot simply transfer from one department to another without public disclosure of their records. It would include not only the tracking of use-of-force incidents but also no-knock warrants. Unlike the House Democratic bill, which would ban police choke holds, the Republican bill appears to be more focused on providing training for officers to de-escalate confrontations. It would also include “duty to intervene” provisions so other officers would step up to stop misconduct, Scott said. Read more from the Associated Press
National Defense Authorization Act approved by Senate Armed Services Committee
The Senate Armed Services Committee approved its version of the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act by a vote of 25-2 following three days of closed hearings, the committee announced June 11. The markup authorizes $740.5 billion for national defense spending. SASC Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI) hailed the bill as a show of strong bipartisan support. The committee adopted 229 bipartisan amendments after considering 391, according to the statement. Among those amendments was one requiring the Pentagon to rename military bases that were named after Confederate leaders.
Most of the bill's funding is designated for the usual defense issues, including a base defense budget of $636.4 billion within the Department of Defense. Other funds designated include $25.9 billion for national security programs within the Department of Energy, $69 billion for Overseas Contingency Operation and $8.15 billion for military construction. The bill also includes a 3 percent pay raise for troops that the administration requested. Senate aides said Thursday that they did not know precisely when the full contents of the bill would be published or when it would be considered by the full Senate. The NDAA must be passed by Sept. 30 – the end of the fiscal year — to provide the Pentagon with an on-time budget. From UPI
More State & Local Virus Aid? Not so fast.
The surprise rebound in U.S. employment numbers this week is leading some Republicans to question the need for more pandemic stimulus. Lawmakers are looking closely at more state and local virus aid under two recent proposals. Under the CARES Act, state and local governments received $150 billion to pay for unbudgeted expenses tied the COVID-19 emergency. House democrats included an additional $915 billion in additional payments as part of the Heroes Act (H.R.6800); this passed the House largely along party lines in May. Last month, the SMART Act (H.R. 6954, S. 3752) was introduced, providing $500 billion in state and local aid. The bill has bipartisan support in both chambers. Republican leaders say they’re open to more aid, but they want to make sure it isn’t used to address states’ long-standing budgetary woes. More about the SMART act from taxfoundation.org and the Associated Press.
Republicans and the White House plan to postpone formal talks over more stimulus to late July, according to CNBC reports.
Senate Moves Conservation Bill Forward
In the early morning hours Friday, June 12, Senators voted 65-19 to invoke cloture, or limit debate, on a substitute amendment to Great American Outdoors Act, inching closer to passing what supporters say is the most significant conservation legislation in a generation. The Senate will resume consideration of the measure on Monday. A vote on final passage is expected early next week. The measure would permanently finance the Land and Water Conservation Fund at its $900 million authorized level per year. LWCF funds federal, state, and local conservation projects and land acquisition across the country. The legislation also would create a five-year, $9.5 billion trust fund from unallocated energy revenues that would tackle the nearly $20 billion maintenance backlog in national parks and on public lands. From The HIll
House Surface Transportation Reauthorization
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee next week will mark up a surface transportation package that would authorize highway, transit, and rail programs through fiscal 2025. The measure would authorize $494 billion over five years, including $411 billion from the Highway Trust Fund, which would be a 46% bump over current levels, according to a committee summary. The HTF, which receives revenue from motor fuels taxes, will be insolvent after fiscal 2021 according to the Congressional Budget Office. The gas tax was last raised in 1993 and isn’t indexed to inflation. The measure unveiled by the Transportation panel doesn’t address financing, which will be included in a separate title of the bill from the House Ways and Means Committee. Timing for release of that section is unclear.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee scheduled a June 17 markup for the bill, which is called the “Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America Act,” or “INVEST in America Act.” The House could vote on the legislation July 1 or 2. Republicans on the committee said the bill lacks flexibility for states, would provide disproportionate funding increases to urban areas, and includes “numerous new green mandates and extreme progressive goals.” (from Bloomberg reports)
The House and Senate are in session the week of June 15, 2020.
No votes are scheduled at this time.
Highlighted House Committee Hearings
House Committee on Energy and Commerce,
Subcommittee on Energy, Hearing:
“Reviving Our Economy: COVID-19 Impact on the Energy Sector" (Virtual)
House Committee on Ways and Means, Hearing:
“The 2020 Trade Policy Agenda”
House Committee on Homeland Security,
Subcommittee on Transportation and Maritime Security, Hearing
“Climbing Again: Stakeholder Views on Resuming Air Travel in a COVID-19 Era”
Highlighted Senate Committee Hearings
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Hearing
Full Committee Hearing to “Examine the Impacts of COVID-19 on the Energy Industry”
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Hearing
“Telehealth Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic”
Senate Finance Committee, Hearing
“The President’s 2020 Trade Policy Agenda”
Not to be missed
Mark Menezes approved as No. 2 at Energy Department
A Senate panel Tuesday gave nearly unanimous support for President Donald Trump’s choice of Mark Menezes to be No. 2 at the Energy Department, voting to send his nomination to the full chamber. The Energy and Natural Resources Committee reported Menezes by voice vote, with one Democrat voting against his appointment as deputy assistant secretary. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairman of the energy panel, said she’s pushing for the Republican-controlled Senate to confirm Menezes quickly. Trump nominated Menezes, currently a top adviser on energy policies and technologies, in February. It is unknown when he will be approved by the full Senate.
From Bloomberg and wire reports
So-called “Gap Filings” Latest Effort to Sidestep the RFS
In a letter early this week, America’s top biofuel and farm advocates called on the U.S. EPA to offer answers on a new effort to undermine the Renewable Fuel Standard. During a Senate hearing last month, administration officials confirmed their consideration of retroactive small refinery exemptions (SREs) covering years prior to 2019. The “gap filings” are designed to reconstitute a continuous string of exemptions for select oil companies “to be consistent with the Tenth Circuit decision,” thus circumventing court limits on new oil industry handouts. From Biodiesel Magazine
Social Media Endorsements Could Mean Big Money for Student-Athletes
As the NCAA and its individual conferences contemplate what allowing players to make money off their name, image, and likeness (NIL) will look like, some student-athletes anxiously await the chance to cash in. In a study on focused on Nebraska athletics, FiveThirtyEight found that athletes could earn income from social media alone. Read more from FiveThirtyEight.
However, before players can begin cashing in on their social media fame, the NCAA and the conferences must agree on a way to do it that makes it an even playing field for all parties involved. Recently, the commissioners in the Power Five conferences sent a letter to Congress asking them not to wait for the NCAA when it comes to NIL legislation.
Just Wanna Fly?
It appears as though Americans are slowly shedding their fear of flying in the age of COVID. The number of travelers passing through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints has been steadily rising
from its low point of 87,534 on April 14 (compared with 2.2 million the year before) to 441,255 on June 7. Still, a Harris Poll conducted last month found that 48% of Americans
said they would not be comfortable taking a flight until the pandemic is over. From Today.com,
here’s how airport screenings and flying are looking in recent days.