What's Ahead in Washington
Senate Introduces “Justice Act”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Republicans will attempt to start debate next week on the “Justice Act” (S. 3985)—proposal to overhaul policing practices. Republican Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-SC) policing bill “will improve policing practices across the U.S. and impose annual reporting requirements to FBI about cases involving serious bodily injury and reporting to DOJ about use of ‘no-knock warrants,’” according to Sen. Scott.
The Justice Act is a counterproposal to the Democrats’ package (H.R. 7120) and would provide more than $1 billion in emergency funding over five years for various efforts to change policing policy in the U.S.
Both the House and Senate measures have been introduced in response to nationwide protests after George Floyd died in Minneapolis while restrained by police. Congressional Democrats and Republicans broadly agree that choke-holds should be banned in most circumstances, but differ over whether to continue shielding police from lawsuits and the federal government’s role in overseeing police departments. From Fox News
Senate Markups of FY21 Spending Bills Delayed Over Disagreements
Senate markups of FY21 spending bills that initially had been planned for next week are being delayed due to disagreements over the coronavirus and criminal justice amendments, a Senate Republican aide says. Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee told Republicans they plan to offer amendments on additional spending for Covid-19 response and on issues relevant to other legislation on policing, the aide said. Republicans don’t believe those amendments belong in spending legislation, according to the aide. From Bloomberg Government reports
The House Appropriations Committee markups planned for July 6-July 9
Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) said she alerted lawmakers to the markup schedule in a Dear Colleague letter sent late yesterday. Lowey said markups will allow for both in-person and remote participation by its members. The panel’s subcommittees plan markups of their funding bills from July 6 to 8, with full panel markups on July 9:
On July 9, the full committee will weigh 302 (b) allocations for all the bills along with the State-Foreign Operations, Agriculture-FDA, and Military Construction-VA measures. The committee will then report out its Energy-Water and Interior-Environment bills on July 10, she said.
- On July 6, the panels will mark up the annual spending measures for State-Foreign Operations, Agriculture-FDA, and Military Construction-VA.
- On July 7, the panels will mark up annual spending measures for Homeland Security, Interior-Environment, Legislative Branch, Energy-Water, and Labor-HHS-Education.
- On July 8, the panels will mark up the spending measures for Commerce- Justice-Science, Transportation-Housing and Urban Development, Defense, and Financial Services-General Government.
From Bloomberg Government reports
DC Moves to Phase 2 Reopening, Statehood Revisited
Washington, D.C., is on track to start phase two of reopening on Monday, relaxing restrictions affecting many public places and private businesses alike, Mayor Muriel Bowser says. Restrictions on indoor dining, services at houses of worship, nail salons, playgrounds and more will be loosened under phase two and gathering of up to 50 people permitted. From NBC Washington
The House will consider H.R. 51 on June 26‑which would admit Washington, D.C. as the 51st state. The new “State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth,” named after abolitionist Frederick Douglass, would be admitted under terms set by the bill. An area including the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Supreme Court, and other federal office buildings near the National Mall would remain a federal enclave called the “Capital.” The measure is unlikely to advance in the GOP-controlled Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he opposes Democratic proposals for D.C. statehood. From Politico
House Energy, Water Bill Largely Finished
The House fiscal 2021 spending bill for energy, nuclear security and the Army Corps of Engineers is essentially finished, as appropriators race to finish as much work as possible on a condensed schedule. The Energy and Water appropriations bill is “for the most part” finished, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) said Tuesday. Appropriators are attempting to quickly draft spending legislation in time for markups starting the week of July 6.
“Ours is ready,” Kaptur, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee, said. “We are preparing for whatever, come July.”
House Committee Approves Highway Bill
By voice vote after a two-day markup, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed a $494 billion highway bill. The full house is scheduled to vote on the measure before the July 4 recess.
The legislation approved Thursday night would authorize highway, transit, and rail programs through fiscal year 2025. It also includes a number of environmental initiatives and efforts to boost infrastructure resiliency against climate change. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has said she envisions a grand infrastructure package that would spend more than $760 billion over five years, including funds for school construction and broadband access. But the highway bill presents an immediate need; the current funding authorization expires at the end of September.
Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY)— whose committee approved its own version of the legislation last summer—said he opposes the House Democratic bill. Traditionally, surface transportation reauthorization legislation is approved by six committees in the House and Senate before clearing Congress.
“The House Democrats’ partisan highway bill is a road to nowhere,” Barrasso said in an email. “Instead of working with House Republicans, the House Democrats cut them out and wrote a partisan bill.”
From Bloomberg Government reports
The House and Senate are in session the week of June 22, 2020.
No votes are scheduled at this time.
Highlighted House Committee Hearings
Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities Markup:
H.R. 6395 National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021
House Committee on Armed Services - Markup
Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Markup: H.R. 6395
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021
House Committee on Appropriations Hearing:
Member Day Testimony for FY21 Appropriations
House Committee on Armed Services - Markup
Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces Markup: H.R. 6395
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021
House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology - Hearing
Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Hearing:
R&D to Support Healthy Air Travel in the COVID-19 Era and Beyond
House Committee on Homeland Security - Hearing
Subcommittee on Intelligence & Counterterrorism hearing:
Examining the Threat From ISIS and Al Qaeda.
House Committee on Financial Services - Hearing
Subcommittee on Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship, and Capital Markets Hearing:
Capital Markets and Emergency Lending in the COVID-19 Era
Highlighted Senate Committee Hearings
Senate Judiciary Committee - Hearing
"The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Coronavirus, and Addressing China’s Culpability."
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee - Hearing
Full Committee Hearing on the Impact of COVID-19 on Mineral Supply Chains
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee - Hearing
"The Role of the Strategic National Stockpile in Pandemic Response."
Not to be missed
Senators Introduce Bill to Protect Research, Curb Espionage
Senators on Thursday introduced a bipartisan bill aimed at stopping foreign governments such as China from stealing U.S. research and intellectual property. The bill was introduced by Rob Portman and Tom Carper— the top Republican and Democrat respectively—of the Homeland Security panel’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, alongside 13 other lawmakers.
The "Safeguarding American Innovation Act" proposes to strengthen the U.S. State Department's authority to deny visas to foreign nationals seeking access to certain sensitive technologies related to U.S. national security and economic security interests.The legislation would punish those who intentionally don’t disclose foreign support on federal grant applications, and would also lower the foreign-gift reporting threshold for U.S. schools receiving foreign gifts to $50,000 from $250,000. From the New York Times
Sen. Rubio Introduces Fairness in Collegiate Athletics Act
While COVID-19 has thwarted most sporting contests since mid-March, the issue of compensating student athletes for the use of their names, images and likenesses (NIL) is running at full throttle. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill last week that will allow athletes playing for Florida universities to hire licensed agents and negotiate on their behalf for use of their NIL. The law takes effect in July 2021 and will affect student athletes at Florida’s 13 Division I and 13 Division II schools. Similar laws have already been enacted in California and Colorado and are being considered in over 30 other states.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), recognizing the need to establish one national standard on the issue of NIL compensation, introduced the Fairness in Collegiate Athletics Act Thursday on Capitol Hill. “As more legislatures throughout the United States continue to act on the issue of collegiate athletes being able to monetize off of their NIL, it is clear a patchwork of state laws will bring turmoil to collegiate recruiting, athletics and the student’s college experience,” said the Senator’s press release.
Rubio’s bill requires the NCAA to implement NIL rules by June 30, 2021, requires prompt disclosure of NIL payments to athletes and prevents a school’s boosters from using payments as an inducement in the recruiting process. The bill also preempts all state laws on the subject and—equally importantly—provides some legal protections for the NCAA and its member schools and conferences. Read the response from Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby
A safe harbor from litigation would be welcome news in light of yet another lawsuit filed on Monday this week against the NCAA and its top conferences. The suit was filed by Arizona State University swimmer Grant House and University of Oregon basketball player Sedona Prince in the Northern District of California, alleging antitrust violations and claiming the NCAA is “profiting off of students’ names, images and likenesses.” The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages on behalf of all Division I athletes who have competed in the last four years.”
Permanent Telehealth in a Post-Coronavirus World?
Lead by Republican Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), lawmakers are asking Senate leaders to permanently expand telehealth services after the coronavirus pandemic ends. The lawmakers are calling for provisions from Schatz’s “CONNECT for Health” bill to be made permanent, including allowing Medicare recipients to use telehealth services, as well as expanding telehealth to more health care providers. These provisions were included in previous virus legislation signed into law, but will expire after the pandemic ends. Telehealth helps providers care for high-risk patients who might contract the disease if forced to leave their homes for medical visits. Advocates say enhanced telehealth capabilities could result in improved service with lower fees even beyond the pandemic. From The Hill
Coronavirus Relief Round 4: Restaurant Bailout, Small Firm PPP, Clean Energy
Bipartisan and bicameral legislation was unveiled Thursday to create a $120 billion bailout fund for small food and beverage establishments, as well as a separate proposal to allow any remaining funds from the Paycheck Protection Program to be used for small firms that need the most help.
The bill introductions come as Congress and the White House are expected to negotiate a potential fourth round of coronavirus relief next month for a U.S. economy still battered by the pandemic. Applications for unemployment benefits last week showed gradual improvement yet millions are still out of work. Officials have said a next stimulus package would include additional aid for small businesses that were left out of earlier rounds or are still trying to re-open and recover.
Democrats and Republicans were no closer to bridging partisan disagreements over whether to continue providing Americans with the $600 weekly expanded jobless benefits after a House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on the unemployment crisis.
Renewable energy backers urged Congress to make the fourth time a charm by ensuring that aid for wind, solar, and energy efficiency lacking in the first three coronavirus recovery packages makes it into the next one. The energy sector lost 1.3 million jobs, half in clean energy during the ecomomic downturn. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) said any recovery package Congress crafts going forward should include an extension of renewable energy tax credits. The clean energy sector is pushing for a “safe harbor” extension to ensure that projects stalled this year and not completed by the end of 2020 can still qualify for such tax credits. From Bloomberg Government reports